February 6, 1914

LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

The Montreal Street

Railway case. My predecessor established a board in that case, and a prohibition was -applied for and the judge in the first instance refused the prohibition, but there was an appeal and the Court of Appeal of the province of Quebec held unanimously that the board -should not have been established, because those who were applying for it were no longer in the service of the Street Railway Company. A decision directly opposite to that has been given by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. In that case, under one of the clauses of the Act, a man had been convicted for supplying food to strikers while they were on strike, contrary to the law. There is a section of the Act which prohibits any one aiding or abetting, and the court held that it was illegal to support men who had illegally gone- on strike. The matter came before the Appeal Court in Nova Scotia and the contention was put forward there that the Act did not apply to these men, because, as held in the Quebec case, they were no longer in the employ of their former employers, but the court in Nova Scotia held, that'within the meaning of the Act they were still employees. We therefore have a decision on both sides. [DOT]

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

There was no board

there at all, and that is why it was illegal for them to strike. The conviction was sustained by the high court in Nova Scotia on the ground that although there was a strike, and they were no longer actually in the employ of their former employers, yet they still were employees within the meaning of the Act. These men who were to see me, did not ask, and never did ask for a board, but I casually told them of this decision, and that as I did not want to take any chances of another prohibition as in the Quebec case, I intended to propose to Parliament this session certain amendments which would become law sooner than an appeal from the judgment of the courts would likely be determined. It is not true that I ever at any time refused a board.

One hon. gentleman has read an extract from the Ottawa Citizen, and another hon. gentleman has read some sentences from a letter said to have been written by Mr. Frank Farrington. Well, I think we have all lived long enough to know that we should not place too much reliance on what we read in newspapers.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

To my mind there are mis-statements in that article in the Ottawa Citizen; several important mis-statements. I hope my hon. friends opposite will not too seriously try to palm off on this House as gospel truth everything they can find in any newspaper. As I have said, some sentences were read from a letter sent me by Mr. Frank Farrington, and notwithstanding the observations made with reference to that gentleman by my hon. friend from Vancouver, I may say that there are a good many statements in that letter that I personally know to be untrue. I may say, further, that I wrote to this gentleman, as an officer' of the United Mine Workers of America, and pointed out to him-I think it was his chief the president who referred it to Farrington, but the reply came from Farrington-I pointed out that it was illegal to strike in this country until there was a board appointed, and asked him to make application for a board that we might have all the evidence before the public and an award given by an independent tribunal of three men. He wrote back that he was not breaking any Canadian law. That is the gentleman, part of whose letter to me was read by my hon. friend.

Then, some hon. gentleman opposite made

the statement that Mr. Price denied the men the right to appear before him. There is not a word of truth in that. I know that on one occasion Mr. Price had one hundred and twenty-five men before him and gave an invitation to each and every one of them to come forward and say anything he had to say touching the matter. On another occasion I was present when he had seventeen men before him, and on another occasion when he had forty men before him. There is no manner of foundation for the statement that he refused to hear anybody. Mr. Price is not a man of that kind; he is one of the most high-minded men we have in the country, and he is so regarded by every one who has the advantage of acquaintance with him.

There are some general observations which I might make with reference to the Labour Department. I have told you that during the first year I was in charge of it there were 900,000 less days lost in strikes than there were the year before. I may state now that for twenty years before I was placed in charge of the Labour Department there was on an average a strike in the coal mines of Nova Scotia every year. There has not been a strike in Nova Scotia in the coal mines since I came into office. There have not been any other labour disputes of any significance, and every one of them has been settled by boards established under the Industrial Disputes Act. When we came into power we found that strike out in the Crowsnest Pass going on for eight months. My hon. friend from Pictou (Mr. Macdonald) was in the House at that time, and so was my hon. friend from Carleton (Mr. Carvell), and neither of them introduced any measure to amend the Industrial Disputes Act so as to settle that strike. The right hon. the leader of the Opposition was leader of the Government at that time, and there is no evidence that he suggested any additional legislation.

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

They were on strike

for eight months and it did the trick about a month after we came into power, but not before. My hon. friend, the Minister of Public Works, succeeded in getting put into that agreement a very important clause, and that was a provision that should any disputes subsequently arise within, I think five years, it would be decided by one man named in the agreement to act on behalf of the mine owners, and another man to act on behalf of the miners, and if these 36

two failed to agree on a third the Minister of Labour would appoint him.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

Did the Minister of Public Works do that?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I understand he was

the means of getting that put into the agreement.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

Then why

didn't you send him to British Columbia?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Under that agreement there have been several disputes settled in the Crowsnest Pass, and we have had no serious strike since it was entered into. My right hon. friend need not be too gay about sending the Minister of Public Works to Vancouver Island. There are some disputes more difficult to settle than others, as he has lived long enough to know. He was Prime Minister of this country for 22 months, during which there was a strike at Springhill, and he did not succeed in settling it.

He was here and saw the militia sent to three points in Nova .Scotia; yet he did not raise any disturbance about it. As far as concerns anything which has occurred since the rioting and unlawful acts on Vancouver Island, I am glad to know that the Government of British Columbia has recognized the fact that it is their duty to preserve law and order in all parts of that province, and I am very glad to know that they are vigorously performing their duty in that regard.

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LIB

David Bradley Neely

Liberal

Mr. D. B. NEELY (Humboldt):

The

Minister of Labour seems to be under the belief or suspicion that members on this side of the House are conducting a concerted attack upon these votes in order to attack the minister himself. I am sure that there is no desire on the part of any member on this side of the House to deal unfairly with the Minister of Labour or -with the vote that he has passed, or is asking this committee to pass. All that this Committee wants is a fair and reasonable explanation by the minister of the part that he and his department have played in this very serious labour disturbance that has agitated the province of British Columbia and, in fact, practically the whole of Canada during the last year and a half. It seems to me that the minister has absolutely failed to meet the point of criticism from this side. Not only has he failed, but the hon. gentlemen from the province of British Columbia, who have undertaken to defend the minister

and his department" and to show that the minister has earned out his responsibility in a proper way in this matter, have absolutely failed to meet the real point of the criticism. The minister knows very well that in my country we do not believe in putting out a prairie fire after it has devastated forty or fifty miles of country; we believe that a prairie fire is such a dangerous thing that we must attack it right at the beginning or as near the beginning as possible.

I take up this report of the special commissioner appointed by the minister, and what do I find? The minister says that we are somewhat previous in our discussions because we have not had certain returns brought down. So far as that is concerned, I might retort that the minister is previous in asking us to vote these sums of money until information, to which the House is entitled in connection with his department, is brought down.

From the somewhat incomplete report of a certain part of the events which took place on Vancouver Island in connection with this strike, what do we find in regard to the minister carrying out his responsibility as Minister of Labour, as the one upon whom devolves the responsibility of seeking to avert these unfortunate crises that sometimes arise between labour and capital? What evidence have we from the minister's own statement that he has actually seriously undertaken to carry out that responsibility? In the report of his special commissioner, so far as the inception of the trouble is concerned, we have one document signed by the Minister of Labour, that is the telegram in which he tells the contending parties on Vancouver Island, the mine owners and the miners, what their duty is under the Industrial Disputes Act. In other words, he tells them what they already know, that before striking they should have applied for a conciliation board.

In my judgment, the whole

II p.m. trend of the Minister's statement is to the effect that the men were to blame for the strike. From the facts I do not find that the mine owners communicated with the minister or with the Department of Mines of the province of British Columbia in connection with the trouble, but I find in this report four communications, three addressed to the Minister of Labour at Ottawa and one addressed to the Premier of the province of British Columbia, in which representatives of the different

labour organizations addressed themselves to the minister to see if some way could not be found out of the serious difficulty in which those miners found themselves as the result of the disagreement between them and the mine owners. So far as I am concerned, the real essence of the criticism against the minister is the fact that, from the month of September, 1912, until the strike became general on the first of May, 1913, the minister, beyond sending the telegram pointing out to the miners of Vancouver Island what they already knew to be their duty under the Industrial Disputes Act, month by month sat still, realizing that the dispute was not settled, realizing that if it were not settled it must inevitably become worse as the disease spread.

I did not notice in the House last session that the Minister of Labour-we will call him that although he prefers, I understand, to be called by another name, the Minister of Play-was so acutely and actively busy that he could not have spared two or three weeks to take a trip last winter, instead of waiting until the following summer, to investigate the conditions that prevailed. Does not the minister himself think, does not any right-minded man in this House think that, when the first trouble commenced in the mines on Vancouver Island, the minister should have gone himself or sent his deputy or some man experienced in the settlement of disputes of that kind, preferably of course the Minister of Public Works, who is the wonder of the age, judging by what his colleagues say of his ability to settle strikes? If there was any time when he should have been busy in the settlement of the dispute, surely it was before the trouble became general and not when the minister went -out last July, when he found a situation which he himself could not control and with which he found it impossible to deal.

Having allowed the situation to go so far, and having allowed the strike to become general, what do we find the minister endeavouring to do? A general strike is called on the 1st of May. Surely the hon. minister must have had advance notice of it through his correspondents. If not, I wonder what these correspondents, who in different parts of the country are paid from $100 to $300 for furnishing reports to the Labour Gazette, which this House is asked to vote money to publish- I wonder what the correspondents in Van-

couver or Victoria were doing. If they did not furnish the hon. gentleman with information as to this strike, he ought to fire those correspondents and appoint men who would he alive to the situation. For here was a strike which threw hundreds of men out of employment, and with further trouble impending, yet the minister-tells us he knew nothing about it until the announcement was made that a general strike had been called by the President of the United Mine Workers of America.

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CON

Francis Henry Shepherd

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SHEPHERD:

The correspondent at Nanaimo, I may tell the hon. gentleman, is an appointee of the late Government.

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LIB

David Bradley Neely

Liberal

Mr. NEELY:

If he is, and if he does not furnish better information than that tp which the minister refers, he ought to be fired. There is one decapitation which I can tell the hon. gentleman, we on this side will heartily endorse, if that is the way this man carries out his responsibility to the minister who is over him.

Now, when the general strike is called the minister seems to awaken out of the lethargic condition of somnolence which, apparently, like some animals, he enjoyed through the winter months. The session of Parliament over, the minister recommends the appointment of a Royal Commissioner to investigate the matter. I have no fault to find with this commissioner. I do not know anything about Mr. Price or his qualifications, but I have no reason to doubt his qualifications for the position. But I would like to ask this question: In the name of common sense what is the responsibility of the Minister of Labour, what is he appointed for by the Government? Why is there such a portfolio, why does this House vote the minister a salary year by year? Is it to sit in his office in Ottawa the year round, or to take pleasure trips to Europe or somewhere else? I have no fault to find with the minister fob taking a pleasure trip at the proper time. But why appoint a special commissioner to investigate a situation when he, as the member of the Government responsible "for the conduct of labour affairs was taking a trip to look into the situation? If I were a labouring man in Vancouver Island and saw the minister of the Crown who is responsible for looking after the interests of the workingman travelling to the seat of trouble in a private car accompanied by a gentleman to whom he had transferred a portion if not 361

all of his responsibility, I certainly should begin to wonder what sort of an administration was in charge of affairs in this thing. I say it is an extraordinary thing, it is anomalous, this appointment of a commissioner when the minister was going to the seat of trouble to investigite personally the state of affairs. I have here the report of the commissioner. I am not going to discuss it. It is somewhat extended and the commissioner's conclusions are general. Like the minister, he has come to the conclusion that nothing could be be done. When a man's house is afire, he may think it is a hopeless case and that the house will burn down, but surely he will struggle to preserve as much of his property as he can. But what do we find happens so far as the minister is concerned in the case? He comes back to the city of Ottawa and spends two or three weeks, I suppose in the supervision of his departmental affairs. Then, on the 13th of August, the press despatches contain the information that a serious condition has arisen in connection with the strike, that riots have occurred, that there is danger of loss of life and property. So serious is the matter that we find the militia are called out to maintain order. And in four days' time from that, we find the minister packing his grip and taking the first train out of Ottawa to put several thousand miles of briny ocean between him and the possible stray bullets from Vancouver Island that might reach the city of Ottawa. That may be the minister's view of the proper way to discharge his duty towards the workingmen of this country. But the workingmen, especially those in the province of British Columbia, must have heard with wonder the news that immediately the situation in Vancouver Island had become acute, the Minister of Labour packs his grip, takes the train out of Ottawa and presently is on the ocean on his way to have a little pleasure trip across the sea.

Perhaps I speak unfairly in referring to that as a pleasure trip; if I am not mistaken some one has suggested that the minister went to England to study industrial conditions and investigate conditions of labour across the sea. If the minister is prepared to get up in this House and say that the reason why he took this trip across the sea, when the real crisis of the trouble in British Columbia had been reached, was to find a solution for the labour problem in British Columbia, which, apparently, he could not find in this country, then he

would be offering some justification for his action. But I quite fail to understand how it was possible for the minister to manifest such absolute callousness and indifference in respect of this matter when the most serious crisis of the situation had been reached, by deliberately packing his grip and leaving on a trip to Europe. We have not had from the minister any report with regard to his trip to Europe. He is asking us to vote money to-night for the purpose of carrying on the work of his department. It has been said that the minister is asking for less than $100,000 whilst other ministers have the responsibility of spending larger sums. It may be quite true that the Minister of Labour is not responsible for the expenditure of a large sum of money, but I do maintain that he is the responsible head of one of the most important departments of this Government. The fact that he has the responsibility of dealing with labour disputes and of difficulties between employers and employees places upon the minister's shoulders a responsibility far greater, in my judgment, than the disbursement of money in public works. We are told that the minister went across the sea to study industrial conditions in England. There is one thing to be said in favour of the special commissioner who went to Vancouver Island; he did bring back a report, and we have it before us. I think the minister in asking for this vote should give the committee some insight as to the conclusions he arrived at as the result of his investigations in the old country. I am sure the committee would be delighted to know just what the minister discovered over there as to the best means of settling disputes of this nature. Did the minister actually look into labour conditions in England? Did he meet the labour leaders over there? Did he go down into the mines and collieries and study conditions there? Did he look into. conditions in the slums of London? I am sure we should all be glad to become acquainted with what the minister's trip to England means as far as any benefit to the people of this country is concerned. Is it the intention of the minister to bring down a report of this investigation? We are interested in this matter, because this country pays the minister for looking after his department. He has spent the money of this country not only in his trip across the continent to the province of British Columbia, but, I presume, also in his trip to Europe, and it is only fair that the minister should give us the information for which we are asking.

I wish to ask the minister if in his judgment he thinks that he used every proper and possible endeavour to prevent this strike in the province of British Columbia, which occurred in September, 1912, from becoming general, as it did, in the early part of May, 1913? That was the time to stop the trouble; did the minister take the necessary steps or put forth the needed efforts to bring about a cessation of trouble at that time? Everybody knows that a trouble of this kind, tackled at the proper time, is often very easily adjusted, but if it is allowed to grow for months and the passions of the contending parties are permitted to become inflamed by continuous friction and conflict, then it is very difficult to effect a remedy. I do not think that the minister ought to feel that he has been subjected to unfair criticism in this matter.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHEKS:

No, go on; I have no objection at all.

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LIB
LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. CARVELL:

Did this Government

pay any portion, and if so what portion, of the expenses of the militia sent to Vancouver Island? Has the minister any well defined ideas in order to meet the various conditions that exist there at the present time?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I do not think our department has paid anything towards the expense of the militia.

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LIB

February 6, 1914