Many good reasons have been given why the House should not assent to this motion, but there may be other reasons why we should assent to it. The Department of Labour was originally constituted just for the purpose of collating such information as would be useful to parliament in considering a Bill of this kind, and the acknowledgment that the Department of Labour has now to go to the expense of calling in an expert to advise it is an acknowledgment that the Department of Labour is no good. I remember very distinctly the eulogies that were expended upon the Minister of Labour when he first took office. We did not know much about him when he entered the House, but we were told he was an educated man, a man who had shown great ability and industry, a man who had travelled through different countries of the world for the purpose of gaining information of an expert nature on sociological questions, and that he had devoted his life to this work. We were told we could not afford to do without his services, and that for that reason he was brought here and placed at the head of the department. We were told that he had experience as deputy Minister of Labour, that he had published the * Labour Gazette ' for some years, that he had studied these questions in Germany and other parts, of the world, and we gave him a large staff of employees to assist him. Now we are told that he is not able to furnish information with regard to a very simple labour problem. This is an admission that all the eulogies bestowed on him were not deserved. If they were deserved, then there must be a strike on in the Labour Department and they wont do their work. Now, the minister seeks to engage the services of a university professor to assist him in the work which he himself ought to do, and I am quite sure that if this professor were not a native of the country the provisions of the Alien Labour Law would be invoked to shut him out. But as he happens to live Mr. EDWARDS.
in the country he may be used notwithstanding. In view of all these admissions from the Labour Department and from members of the government, that if the department is absolutely unable to cope with this important question and incapable of giving the required information let us pass this motion and incur the expense and get some one who will give us the information that is so much needed.
I am surprised at the large number of speeches that we have heard on the Conservative side of the House against what seems to me to be a very simple and innocent proposition; perhaps I ought rather to say the large number of times we have had practically the same speech delivered. I am surprised in view of the fact that we are asked to endorse a report of a committee which was unanimous and represented both sides of this House. If I rightly gather what fell from the lips of the leader of the opposition, I think he said that to reject such a report is a very unusual course of procedure. I am surprised further because of the extreme gravity of the question we are discussing. For the House of Commons te take the course of driving a hard and fast iron ramrod into the delicate machinery which should regulate the arrangements between employer and employee is a grave course, whatever measures we may take in regard to it, and something of a new departure in this country. The gravity of this course of procedure being admitted, I think we surely should not take such a course without having the fullest possible information. I thoroughly endorse what has been said by the hon. member from Toronto (Mr. Claude Macdonell) that the more information we have on this subject the less likely we are to go astray and the more wisdom we are likely to display in the decision we finally come to.
As a member of the committee, I feel it my duty to say a word in reference to the engagement of Professor Skelton. As the House is well aware, the Bill is very broad, it takes in such a large scope that I, as one of that committee, felt it my duty to see that we should have all the information we could possibly gather on the matter. If this was a plain eight-hour day for public works only, it would not require an expert opinion, because I tbink the majority of the House are in favour of such a measure. But this Bill goes further. It covers sub-contracts and also covers manufacturers, where they come in as sub-contractors. As I said before, this Bill is so broad that in my opinion it is far better to get all the information possible before reporting to the House, and then we will be able to give the House every information it is possible to gather. I shall, therefore, vote in favour of the resolution.
I am also a member of this committee, and I realize it is a very serious matter. I think we are justified in getting all the information we can. I am not prepared to say where that information should come from, but I must say that the information we are getting is very valuable to the committee, and I think it is due to the Minister of Labour to say that the committee is entirely to take the responsibility of asking Professor Skelton to undertake this work. The minister, in my judgment, has acted fairly in the matter, and I am quite in sympathy with the course proposed.
member of the special committee which has this Bill under consideration. However, _ I have had occasion to express my views in this House when the Bill was first introduced. I was then, and I am still, of opinion that the government should give a fair trial to such legislation as regards public works, I have followed the meetings of the special committee and have realized the difficulties in the way of carrying out such a proposal, and, on the other hand, its paramount importance to all members of the House.
This very day an expert was heard on the subject, and his statement goes to show that there is such a variety of interests concerned in this labour question, that too much care cannot be taken in working out its settlement. I think the conclusion arrived at by those hon. members who make up the special committee, is based on a sound view of the public welfare, and the country as a whole will profit by a thorough investigation of the subject. In that way, will a proper settlement of the question be effected, a settlement which will be beneficial to the labouring classes as well as to all others.
I understood an hon. member to say that the farming communitv is not specially interested in such a question. _ I believe, on the contrary, that in determining what are the rights and obligations of the government in a matter of this importance, we are doing something which is serviceable to the farming community, and as representing an agricultural constituency. I cannot but approve of the suggestion made by the special committee.
Mr. Speaker, to my mind it is a question whetheT it would not have been wise to have first brought in representatives of the manufacturing interests and of the labour interests, to have secured their evidence and then have the expert give his information and answer questions that might arise from their evidence. Anyway, I am satisfied that the members of that committee are approaching the question with every intention of doing everything they can for the public interest, and as far as I am concerned, that is the way I approach it. The labour element does not affect me at all, because I have no manufacturing centres to interfere with my political interests in that sense at all, but the country generally are interested in the outcome of this whole measure, whatever effect it might have. I do not wish to discuss that to-day, because I do not think that it is pertinent, but from what I have seen of the committee and learned, I feel it my duty to at least vote for the resolution.
I wish to suggest to the minister in charge of the legislation under consideration that in the study of the labour problem, it will be absolutely_ necessary that the one who is charged with the work should understand both languages. If he is to study the conditions of labour abroad, he will of necessity have to study the conditions which exist in France,, and for that purpose he will have to know the French language. Therefore, I would suggest to the hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. King) that, if possible, instead of naming one expert, a professor from Queen's University. Kingston, he should name two, one an English speaking man, and one a French Canadian, or at the very least, that the one to be named, should be thoroughly familiar with both languages.
I do not wish to vote upon this question without stating in a few words why I am disposed to comply with the unanimous request of the committee. I have had very considerable experience in expert testimony. If anything in this world is not satisfactory, it is the evidence of expert witnesses; and I think that if any evidence could be unsatisfactory, it would be that procured bv the expert this committee has, in its wisdom, recommended to collect evidence as to legislation of this character in foreign countries. The committee has recommended that a professor of Queen's University should be employed to do this work. My own conviction is that what evidence he may procure will not have the slightest weight upon the opinions of any people in this country, either labour men or employers, and I certainly think it will not influence the judgment of this House. 1 do not wish, however, to stand for a moment in the way of testimony being procured. I have no doubt that the minister knows perfectly well the leanings- of the particular gentleman he refers to on this question.
Then I am very much mistaken in my estimate of the minister's
knowledge of the subject, because I doubt very much whether there is any one in the position of the professor he has referred to, who has formed any opinion or acquired any knowledge or experience in regard to the subject that the hon. gentleman does not know.
If I understand the hon. gentleman rightly, he has said that I was aware of the leanings of this gentleman. I know of his professional standing and exceptional ability and capacity to deal with this question in a very efficient manner, hut I do not know in what way his leanings are.
The hon. gentleman in that regard is in just about the same position as he is, in his department, with regard to the subject generally. He is what they used to call in the States, 'a know nothing.' I have no doubt that if the evidence this professor may procure in foreign countries should not be satisfactory to the labour men, they will want another professor employed to get the other side of the question; and if the evidence be not satisfactory to the capitalists they will say that the report is a one-sided one and does not amount to anything. The only question here, outside of the question whether this is a useless expenditure of public money, is whether we should override the unanimous recommendation of the committee. I do not like to vote against such a recommendation, and for that reason alone I shall support this motion.
Ordinarily I would be 'disposed to stand by the unanimous report of a select committee of the House, and would have done so in this instance had it not been for the statements which I have heard from the Minister of Labour. Those statements have convinced me that this proposal is simply for the purpose of further shelving this question and of shirking a responsibility which properly attaches to the Department of Labour. For these reasons, I intend to vote against the motion for the adoption of this report.
I only asked a question. After the answer given by the hon. minister, I can consistently only vote against the adoption of the report, and for these reasons: When this question was discussed on the second reading of the Bill, the House gave the Bill its second reading unanimously, and referred it to a special committee. I then stated that, in so doing, we had endorsed the principle of an eight hour day. But when the Minister of Mr. BARKER.
Labour, in answer to my question, told us to-day that it is the intention of the committee to select an academic gentleman, who will investigate into the merits of the eight hour day, and asked us to agree to that recommendation, he asked this House to stultify itself. After we had affirmed the principle, he asks us to employ an expert in order to find out whether we were right or wrong in so doing. As one who has taken strong ground on the question I would be rather inconsistent if I were to vote for this motion. My hon. friend from Portage Laprairie (Mr. Meighen) has given expression to my sentiments to the letter, and I wish only to add my endorsement to what he has said. For these reasons I propose to vote against this motion.
I do not think I would be justified in voting for this motion especially after the declaration we have had from the Minister of Labour. Judging from what he has said, I can only come to the conclusion that the object of this motion is to shelve the question and prevent our doing anything. I charge the hon. member for Montreal (Mr. Verville) with rank insincerity. He introduced a similar Bill last year and then withdrew it without giving any sufficient reason for so doing. That hon. gentleman charged me with not keeping faith with the workingmen although he knew I supported his eight hour Bill. Two years ago he travelled all the wav from Montreal to London to oppose my election, but the workingmen were so disgusted by his tactics that they would not go to his meetings. At one meeting he managed to collect together some thirty men, although he had engaged a brass band as an attraction, he was no more successful; and the result of his agitation against me was that I was elected by about 1,200 majority, pretty nearly all workingmen. As the object of his motion is evidently to shelve the measure, and thus deceive the working people whom that hon. gentleman pretends to represent, I shall' vote against it. If instead of getting a. college professor to report on the question of labour, the government would secure six good manufacturers, who had succeeded in building up their business by the sweat of their brow, and six good respectable, honest, mechanics, who are still earning their living by their hard day's toil, I think that these two representative bodies, seated around a table, would be able to come to a satisfactory settlement of this eight hour question without very much difficulty or delay?
one member of this House who should rise and protest against the passage of this question, it is the hon. gentleman
who fathered the Bill (Mr. Verville). One would have thought that no member of this House would dare ask hon. members to adopt a measure which he had not considered sufficiently to enable him to give reasons why it ought to pass. Yet we have the singular spectacle of the hon. member for Montreal (Mr. Verville) wanting the reference of the eight hour day Bill, which he introduced in this House, to an expert in order that he may obtain from this expert information which will enable him to decide whether the measure he himself introduced is a proper one or not. But perhaps the hon. gentleman is not so much to blame for making blunders of that kind, since evidently it is only from members on this side that any information on the labour question can be expected. We had the right hon. the leader of the House declaring to his own supporters that he could not find any one sitting behind him who was competent to preside over the labour bureau and give an intelligent opinion on questions affecting labour; and to make it more clear and positive to the people that the men behind him do not understand questions affecting labour, the right hon. gentleman brought in an outsider, who was supposed to be peculiarly fitted for the post by a lifetime spent in the interests of the workingmen. We had the Minister of Labour (Mr. King) brought in from the outside and put at the head of the labour bureau. What are the duties of that department? On referring to the statute, under which it exists, I find this laid down:
With a view to the dissemination of accurate statistical and other information relating to the conditions of labour, the minister shall establish and have charge of a Department of Labour, which shall collect, digest and publish in suitable form statistical and other information relating to the conditions of labour.
I find it in the revised statutes of 1906. So that for years we have had a department established for a particular purpose, presided over by a gentleman selected on account of his technical fitness for the position; and yet after all these years, we have the singular combination of a labour representative bringing a Bill into the House, without even having in his own mind any reason to justify it, and we have the Minister of Labour, whose duty it was to collect the very information which should be at the service of the labour representative, actually asking the House to allow him to employ another expert to instruct the House on the very questions he is supposed to know all about. It seems to me. Sir, that the American poet must have had just such a case in mind when he wrote:
In short, I firmly du believe In Humbug generally,
Fer it's a thing tliet I perceive To hev a solid vally;
This heth my faithful shepherd ben,
In pasturs sweet heth led me,
An' this'll keep the people green To feed ez they hev fed me.