I hear a remark from the hon. member from Halton. It is customary in the House to allow a member of the Crown to give the House information, and to answer questions; when it would not be permitted to a private member.
I have no objection to the Minister of Labour answering questions, but the minister rose time after time when there was no question asked of him, and I was surprised that a minister of the Crown should seek to get privileges in this respect that are not accorded to other members. I was deprived of the opportunity of saying something ou this motion simply because the Minister of Labour rose time after time to address the House. I have no desire to in any way interfere with the minister answering questions. I thought this was the Department of Labour, hut it seems to me that the object of the department is to shirk labour. We have a minister and a deputy minister and a staff of officials, at large cost, and instead of doing the work they should reasonably be expected to do they simply want to throw that work over on somebody else. I do not know what this committee has accomplished, but it seems to me that the Bill which has been referred to them is not very difficult to decide upon. I do not 92J
know what extra knowledge is required to assist the committee. I think this parliament is capable of making precedents foT itself without going to foreign countries. If the object is to find out whether a man working on one side of the street on a government job should work 8 hours, while a man working on the other side on a private job should work 10 hours, then I think that any man of ordinary common sense could settle that question without [DOT]the assistance of even the Minister of Labour. It seems to me that it is quite unnecessary to call in this expert at large expense, to the country, and unless the minister can give more substantial reasons for his proposal the House should not agree to it.
Mr. Skelton has been giving evidence before the committee. He has come to Ottawa at his own expense, and up to the present time the question of his remuneration has been left open. If the House decides not to concur in this report I suppose Professor Skelton will not he paid for his services. If on the other hand, it is felt that the country would not be justified in taking advantage of the professional services of this gentleman without remuneration, then, if this report is concurred in, I presume the committee will have authority to pay him for his services.
I am astonished that the Minister of Labour should have deferred until this moment the acknowledgment that so far as he is concerned, this professor has been engaged and that his services are to he paid for. I am the more surprised, in view of the fact that a report recommending his engagement has been brought down to this House and has been discussed twice, with a week intervening, before the minister thinks it worth while to inform the House that his ^ department, and therefore the government, is committed to the payment of this university professor. I submit that that is not a proper way to use the House of Commons. I submit further that this committee is not charged with any duty which necessitates the calling in of a university professor to give it advice or to convey to it any information as to the working of the eight-hour law in other countries. I agree with the hon. member for Halton (Mr. Henderson) that this parliament is quite capable of setting its own precedents and making its own laws, and it seems to me that when parliament affirmed the principle of the eight-hour day on government contracts, as it did when it gave this Bill a second reading,.
it does not well become this committee to re-open the whole question, to go beyond its commission, and to call in a professor, not to assist it in the duty with which it is charged, viz., that of perfecting the Bill so that it may be precisely what it is intended to be, but rather to give instances from other countries, with the possible result of discrediting the eight-hour movement. It seems to me that the developments have justified the question I put to the Minister of Labour when it was suggested to refer this Bill to a special committee. I then asked the Minister of Labour whether he would tell the House what might be expected from the committee, because I did think that as the committee was virtually chosen by those supposed to be promoting the Bill they would select a committee likely to be in a position to discharge the duties entrusted to it. It seems to me that this House is now asked to be a party to a hippodrome performance in connection with this special committee, and as a member of this House I object to lending myself to any performance of the kind. To my mind the Department of Labour ought to have ample information to deal with this Bill. It has been three sessions before the House, and last session the then Minister of Labour referred at some length to the legislation in other countries dealing with eight-hour laws, thus proving that the Department of Labour at that time was seized of information respecting the operation of eight-hour laws in other countries. What has become of that information between last session and this? Are the archives of the department so formidable that these facts have been lost and cannot be resurrected to make a report to this committee? It seems to me that the only effect of calling in this university professor to make diligent research and advise the committee will be to put this matter off so that it cannot be dealt with this session. I am confirmed in this belief by a statement just now made by the Minister of Labour that if he undertook to prepare this in his own department, it would take the clerks of that department away from their othec duties for a very prolonged period of time. I submit that this Bill was referred to the special committee with the idea that it should be reported on this session, and that there was no intention on the part of this House that the matter should be put off until next session by the device of appointing a university professor to make lengthened research into the legislation in other countries.
It seems to me that this committee was appointed not for the purpose of making researches, but to draft a Bill to replace a Bill which we had before the House and which did not meet with the approval of the House. We referred that Mr, J. D. TAYLOR.
Bill to a committee and some of us were bold enough to ask that there should not be too many lawyers on that committee in order that we might get a perfect Bill. Now, we find the committee, without asking permission of this House, have engaged some body to carry on this work. It is customary for a committee to come back and report progress. This committee were not able to report progress and they would not come back and report no progress, saying they had not ability to carry on the work that was assigned to them and they now say they will employ some one else outside of parliament to do the work entrusted to them. During the short time I have been in the House this Bill has been bandied about from pillar to post. Apparently this House is not prepared to deal with it, and it is thought that the best thing to do is to bandy it about among the professors. I am prepared to say that this is a question purely and simply for this government and this parliament. What does this Bill refer to? A general eight-hour day? No, it simply refers to an eight-hour day on the public works oj this Dominion, the works controlled by this parliament. That is what the Bill is intended for, and therefore I say tnat the information should- be furnished by the Labour Department, created a short time ago. I must aay that we have had more labour troubles since the department was created than ever before. Any one who looks over the Dominion of Canada for the last year will see that we have had a great number of strikes; none of them are finished yet, they are all going on vigorously and the Labour Department was instituted just in time to witness all these strikes.' What have they done to relieve the situation? This Bill was intended for no other purpose than the inaugurating of an eight-hour day on the public works of this Dominion, that is the public works being done by this parliament and under the control of this parliament. Surely we need not go to the United States, Germany or Russia, to find out what this parliament should do with a matter under their control. The Labour Department should have every bit of information possible on this subject. If we were going to deal with this in a general sense I could understand the Labour Department asking time, but I cannot understand them asking us to hand over this matter, which has been entrusted to a committee, to some professor whom they have decided to engage. I should like to know if the hon. member who introduced this resolution (Mr. Verville) is prepared to allow this Bill to be kept back for a year or two years. I think he will agree tnat we are here to try to inaugurate a system that will benefit the workingmen in this country, and in order to do that we want the federal government to undertake a
forward step, to show a good example. 1 do not wish to have our control referred to any provincial legislature or any foreign country. We should deal with these matters ourselves as they come before us. This session and in previous sessions the effort has been made to put this thing over another year or two, I do not know for how long, but that seemed to be the intention in engaging this expert assistant. Surely if we have a Department of Labour we must have some expert assistants in that department, and the only reason I can see for the Minister of Labour being put on the committee was that he would be able to furnish the expert information necessary.
It does not seem to me that a great deal of ability or expert information would be required to frame a simple Bill to be placed on the statute-books of Canada, providing that the public works of Canada should be constructed by men under an eight-hour system. I do not think a great deal of expert evidence is required for that purpose or that a great deal of expert ability is required to draft such a Bill. This House should be prepared, I am prepared, and the House should be, to decide this matter in parliament and not to go outside for any further information.
We are anxious that this Bill should be passed in such form that it will give satisfaction to all the members who expressed themselves during the discussion on the second reading. As there were apparent misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the'Bill, we called in expert advice, and the reason for bringing it before the House during this session is to enable the committee to do the work it has done and to be in a position to make a full and proper report to parliament. This we will be able to do if we are not obstructed on every occasion. This is not a question of whether a man should work so many hours on one side of the street and another man on the opposite side a different number of hours; it is an attempt to enable men to do all the work possible. I have looked into the laws of many countries and I claim that we have to go to Europe, the United States and other civilized countries for information as to suitable legislation on different subjects. I do not see why we should not go to these countries for information in regard to the labour question just as in regard to other things, and so place ourselves in a position to submit a proper report. For that reason, if this report is adopted, we will be in a position to proceed as quickly as possible with our work. Of course I would be anxious that the Bill should come back to us speedily for discussion.
I should understand from the hon. gentleman that that is what he meant. What surprises me is that from the speech he has made, he practically admits that the Minister of Labour does not know his business. I understood that the Minister of Labour was an expert in so far as the labour question was concerned, that he occupied the position of Deputy Minister for some years, that he went to very many foreign countries, to J apan and China, and that he was in England inquiring into the labour question. I should think that the Minister of Labour would be about the-best expert we could get, after all the experience he has had travelling around these countries. What work has the Minister of Labour to do? I have been trying to bother my brains and find out what he has to do in his department unless it is something of this kind, finding out what has been done in other countries. We are practically told that the Minister of Labour has to get an assistant to tell him what the labour position is in Canada from one end to the other. We have had a great many strikes in Canada, we have them in eastern Canada and in western Canada. We have had a great many strikes, both in eastern and western Canada, and if my memory serves me right, when the Minister of Labour was Deputy Minister he was sent to these different strikes. But to-day we are told, practically, that the Minister of Labour does not know anything about the position of the labour question in Canada, and he has to get a specialist to instruct him. Now, will the Minister of Labour stand up and declare that he does not know his business, that he does not know anything about the labour question in Canada?
If the House is prepared to accept the statements in regard to the eight-hour question as given by the Minister of Labour, and to accept them beyond question the Minister of Labour will be only too pleased to bring down to the House a report of the whole matter. But it is recognized that of all questions that are likely to become subjects of debate in this House, no one will be fought more keenly than this eight-hour question. In order that all appearance of unfairness might be removed in dealing with this question, it has been thought well to bring in a third party, whose opinion one way or the other could not be questioned, and ask him to interpret the decisions relating to this matter that have been given elsewhere. I would gladly give my views to the House, and am prepared to do so, if the House is prepared to accept them; but seeing this is a party
question, a question on which men hold very different views, it was thought more satisfactory to get the opinion of an expert rather than the opinion of hon. gentlemen who sit in this House.
I should say 'that the House would be pleased to have the report *of the Minister of Labour, then we could decide whether we would agree to it or not. But the Minister of Labour wants this House, wants every member, to pledge himself that he will agree to this report before he shows us what it is. The minister wants another expert appointed. I understand that he has a deputy minister now, who should be disinterested, he is not supposed to support either one political party or the other. The minister practically tells the House that this is a political question. Well, surely his deputy minister is not a politician, he must be disinterested, and why not let him get us the information? I claim that the present Minister of Labour, after all his experience, must have made some inquiries about this eight-hour question, and surely he could give us that information, and if he has a report, why don't he lay it on the table now? Perhaps, after we see it, we will not require a specialist, the House might concur in the report. I suppose the minister is afraid to let us see the report, and he wants to keep it in the dark until he gets another man to agree with him, a man who will be an appointee of his own, and then he will come in and ask us to agree with the minister. I think the whole thing is a political question, got up by an hon. member who has been moving for this eight-hour day, who had a Bill on the order paper for six or seven years. He would not move it just before the last election, but now he goes ahead in order to make people believe that he is the great defender of the labour men. I believe if the hon. gentleman had brought in that Bill when he first proposed it, instead of allowing himself to be held down by the Prime Minister, we would have had this matter settled long ago. But every one knows that the Prime Minister told the hon. gentleman: Don't bring it on now.