February 26, 1915

LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

When the minister came back from his famous trip to England last year to learn how labour matters were conducted there, he made the statement, which appeared in the Ottawa Journal I believe, that he was going to revolutionize the existing labour legislation of Canada, and take steps to have introduced throughout this country a chain of labour bureaux. He stated that legislation for that purpose would be introduced at this session of Parliament. The minister has had the matter brought to his attention at various times, and by various labour organizations in this country. During the minister's unavoidable absence on account of sickness last year, this matter was taken up with the then acting Minister of Labour, the present Minister of Justice; and I understand that the Government gave some undertaking to at least introduce legislation at the present session of Parliament with a view to the formation of a central labour bureau with branch offices throughout Canada. This session, I understand, is going to be short,.and yet nothing has been done so far as we know by the Minister of Labour with the view of introducing these labour bureaux into Canada. Any one who is more or less conversant with the labour situation knows that labour bureaux in Europe have been a wonderful success. They have actually surpassed the expectations of the labour people of the countries where they have been introduced. The Minister of Labour is not overburdened in his department, yet, after having given this interview to the Journal last year and intimating that this matter would be taken up in a forcible way at this session of Parliament, he has until this time shown no inclination to bring down a Bill for the establishment of labour bureaux. He has agreed with the representatives of labour organizations throughout the country that labour bureaux are excellent things and that they have worked out admirably in other countries where they have been established. He did say at the time that perhaps the Government would not under-

take to pay the travelling expenses' that would be incurred in connection with the labour bureaux but that they would undertake to establish them. I have had letters from various labour organizations throughout the country asking me to bring this matter to the attention of Parliament and of the Government, and particularly to the attention of the minister, and I wish to ask him the reasons why he has not fulfilled the promise he made last year that he would introduce legislation at this session to establish labour bureaux, whether it is his intention to bring this legislation down and if not, why?

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

I do not think 1 ever made any statement to the effect that it was my definite intention to establish labour bureaux in Canada. I have often said that I had considered it, and I have considered it. My hon. friend (Mr. Carroll) refers to a trip to England. I did go to England. I am not the first minister who has gone to England. I went to England especially to look into this question of labour bureaux and I put in four weeks at this sort of work. When the labour bureaux were first introduced in England about five years ago, and for some time afterwards, they were not looked upon with favour either by the employer or the employee. After they had been in operation for two

or three years they seemed to be more in favour with both classes. At the present time I am told that they are very much in disfavour especially by the working people of England. It is very often contended that these bureaux should be established now especially by reason of the depression that exists. Every economist who has written on this subject has pointed out that labour bureaux should never be established in times of depression, that the proper time to establish them, if you expect them to work out successfully, is when conditions are prosperous. They are sure to turn out a failure if you attempt to establish them in times of depression. Another mistake is that a great many people think that the object of labour bureaux is to create employment. They never were intended for anything of the kind and they are not used for that purpose in England, Germany or anywhere else. They have had labour bureaux in Germany for many years and still they have hundreds of thousands of unemployed people to feed every winter. It is a mistake to suppose that labour bureaux create employment; they do not. They are not for

the purpose of relief or for the purpose of giving work. The only thing they claim for them is that they will assist in distributing labour. One can understand that in a time such as this where there is a surplus of labour everywhere they would not be of very much use. Suppose there is a surplus of carpenters in every town and city in Canada, a surplus of a hundred or more, and you have a surplus of 200 or 500 in the city of Montreal; what would the labour bureau do towards relieving their positions? Send them to Vancouver where they already have a surplus of carpenters? That would not be of any use in a time of depression. The principal party who is interested in the establishing of these labour bureaux is one who has been harassing not only this Government but previous Governments during the last five or six years and that person seems to be more especially interested than anybody else. That person has gone so far as to prepare a Bill, send it all around the country and say that it is a Bill that I prepared and proposed to introduce this session-I have never prepared a Bill and I have never authorized anybody else to do so. What are the facts in regard to the labour organizations? The Trades and Labour

Congress, at their meeting at St.

John, New Brunswick, last September, passed a resolution substantially opposed to the establishing of exchanges in Canada. At a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council in Winnipeg last week they were unanimously opposed to the suggestion, and they arrived at that conclusion after quite a long discussion. I have received from some local Trades and Labour Councils a resolution passed at the request of this party who is so much interested, a person who wants to be appointed to inaugurate this system at a big salary-

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LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

It does not happen to be a gentleman; it is a lady. I have received from some local Trades and Labour Councils copies of a resolution passed in favour of the establishment of labour bureaux on the assumption that they would do something to provide labour for people who are out of wo,rk. That is not the object of them at all; they never pretend to do anything of the kind. The Trades and Labour Congress, composed of representatives from all over Canada, at their annual meeting at St. John, N.B., passed a resolution in substance opposed to it; and a very, strong resolution in opposition to such a system

was passed at a meeting in Winnipeg one night last week. Many of their leading men present at that meeting opposed it, and they gave particulars why they did not want it. A great many individual men, mechanics and others, are opposed to it, because, for instance if there is a scarcity of carpenters in Ottawa, they say that tends to increase their wages, and they do not want us to send in a number of men from Toronto to compete with them and reduce their wages. That is one of the lines they take in opposition to these bureaux. It is a matter that requires a great deal of consideration. In addition to what I have said, it would be a very expensive thing to undertake. Gentlemen who have had anything to do with Governments-this or any other Government-know that you cannot rent a building in a place like Montreal, Winnipeg or Vancouver, put a staff of people in that building, and do likewise in every town and city of Canada, without an immense expenditure. We have made a calculation upon that, and that is a matter that has to be considered in the present circumstances. The general feeling, I believe, amongst the workingmen is unfavourable to the establishment of national labour exchanges in Canada.

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LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

I have asked the Minister of Labour some questions which he has not deigned to answer. There is no person in this country who will for one moment contend that the establishment of a national labour bureau, with local offices throughout the country would create employment, whether it is established in times of depression or of prosperity. The minister says that there being so much depression at present in the country, it is not the time for the inauguration of a labour bureau, hut I Hold a contrary opinion. A year ago to-day there was as much if not more unemployment in Canada as there is now, and then the Minister of Labour was loud in his praise of the idea of establishing labour bureaux throughout Canada. The fact, as stated by the minister, that two organizations in this country have passed resolutions against the inauguration of such a bureau, is not complete evidence that the great bulk of the labouring people in this country are against the establishment of such a bureau, nor does it gainsay the fact that labour bureaux have been a great success wherever they have been established, and that they would be a success were they established in Canada. I asked the minister whether last year on his return from England he prom-

ised delegations, which waited on him, that he would introduce at this session of Parliament legislation to create labour bureaux in Canada, and whether or not it is his intention to introduce that Bill in accordance with the promise so given.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

My hon. friend has

been before the public long enough to know that he should not place entire reliance upon everything he sees in the public press. I do not think I ever made a definite statement that I would introduce a Bill of that kind this session, and even if I did conditions have changed during the past year. The Poor Law Commission was appointed by the Imperial Government in 1905, and in their report they say, with regard to these labour exchanges:

They were nearly all started in times of depression, exactly the wrong time to start a labour exchange. The time to start it is when trade is going up, because then the people whom you casualize have the best chance of finding other places for themselves.

I may add that the conditions in Canada are very different from the conditions in England. In England, if a carpenter in Liverpool goes to a labour exchange and asks if there is any employment for a carpenter, the United Kingdom being a small place territorially as compared with Canada, they are able to telephone around and in a few minutes they discover that carpenters are wanted in Manchester. The man says, I can not get to Manchester because I have no money, and the Government in that case supplies him with a warrant upon the railway to get to Manchester, and the employer is notified to deduct the amount from the first wages the man earns, and to send it back. I was told a year ago, when I was in England, that they had received in return 96 per cent of the money so advanced, which speaks very highly for the high sense of honour which actuates the mechanics and labouring people of old England. In Canada we could not, for instance, undertake to supply a dozen men, idle in Halifax, for work in Vancouver. I do not think from that point of view it would he practicable for the Government of Canada to undertake to do for people seeking employment here what is done for them in England. When I was in England I was satisfied that the system was working fairly well, but I am told that within the last year the working people have become very much dissatisfied with it. Something, however, has been done in this country already towards establishing these labour exchanges. The legislatures of Ontario and Quebec have established provincial

exchanges, and I think those in Quebec are working more satisfactorily than those in Ontario. Manitoba is also adopting the system; there are many municipalities throughout the country that have. established labour bureaux, and of course there are many private exchanges. The experience is that men prefer to deal with these private exchanges rather than with exchanges established by the provinces or by the municipalities. The necessity for labour exchanges in large centres like Montreal resulted from the large number of immigrants that were coming into the country-there are very few coming at the present time-and it is complained that some of these private agencies swindled these men. I sent an officer to Montreal to investigate, and he found out that one firm had swindled immigrants out of ten thousand dollars in a few years.

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LIB
CON
LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. NESBITT:

I thought you were prosecuting them.

Mr. -CROTHERS: We had no power to prosecute them that being the duty of the province. But the Interior Department, under section 66 of the Immigration act, did pass rules and regulations for the governance of any one who had any dealings with immigrants, limiting the sum that they could charge any individual to one dollar,, requiring them to take out a license from the department, and providing heavy penalties for infringement. A great number of prosecutions have been had under these rules and regulations for the protection of immigrants, but of course they only apply to immigrants. In some cases, however, it has not worked out very well, because the immigrant desiring work will go in and tell one of these agents, when he gets to know the ropes, that he has been in the country over three years, and therefore he is not an immigrant any longer, and they proceed to fleece him, outside of the rules and regulations which we have made. It is for the province to look after these things; we have no jurisdiction. The provinces are trying to do something in the direction of getting good results out of labour (bureaux and so also are many of the municipalities. There are also a number of private agencies.

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LIB

Charles Marcil

Liberal

Mr. MARCIL:

The Minister of Labour unintentionally said that the province of Quebec had done nothing for the unemployed in Montreal, but now he says that an important bureau of labour, established in that city by the provincial Government, has done good work.

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CON
LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

The Minister of Labour has not yet answered my question as to whether or not this Government intends to bring down legislation at this session of Parliament for the organization, creation and maintenance, to some extent at least, of a national labour bureau for Canada.

I base my arguments on the fact that the Minister of Labour, in an interview which he gave to the Ottawa Evening Journal, under date of May 20, 1914, said that he was going to introduce legislation at this session of Parliament. The article reads as follows:

Drastic Legislation to be Introduced dealing with Employment Matter.

Drastic Legislation to deal with the employment question will be introduced by the Government next session of Parliament. Action will be taken by the Canadian Government along the lines by which the Imperial Government has solved the difficulty in Great Britain. It was for the purpose of studying the methods pursued in England that Hon. T. W. Crothers, Minister of Labour, visited the old country last year. Since his return he has been in consultation with representative men in the various portions of Canada, and he is convinced, he said in conversation to-day, that he has evolved a scheme adapted to the needs of this country, and which will be a great boon to employers and workmen alike.

Incidentally, Mr. Crothers stated that there would be no labour legislation this year. He has fust recovered from a serious illness, and the session is now so near a close that it is impossible to get time for adequate consideration of the legislation he has in view.

In Great Britain the Government has established a number of labour bureaux, with a central office in London. All expenses are borne by the Government, and Mr. Crothers found that they were most excellently managed and had been a godsend. These bureaux supply workers for employers and work for those out of employment. There is a perfect system of information kept regarding the needs in the various parts of the country, and the unemployed are, therefore, not subjected to tne more or less misrepresentation of employment agents.

Travelling expenses are advanced to those who have to travel a distance to obtain work, and the experience is that 96 per cent of these have kept faith in refunding the expenses.

Mr. Crothers stares that the distances in Canada render it impossible for the Government to advance travelling expenses, but he believes that he has arrived at a solution of the difficulty by getting employers to advance the money.

The Minister of Labour has found that to allow persons out of work, especially immigrants, to get into the hands of employment

agents, has not been in the best interests ot workmen. He found, after going carefully into the matter, that one employment agent in Montreal had made $10,000 in three months out of immigrants alone, charging them as high as $15 and $16 to get them a job. He has stopped this extortion by compelling agents to take out a Government license, and there is now a regular system of inspection.

Mr. Crothers intends to go still further, and will establish Government bureaux at a number of centres of population. Accurate information regarding labour conditions in the various parts of the country will be available at each office, and to these offices those who desire employment will go. Employers also will be able to secure information as to the ability and record of those whom the bureau will recommend to them.

I agree with the Minister of Labour in everything that the Evening Journal reports him as saying. I agree with him also that it would be a great hardship for any Government to pay the travelling expenses of persons going long distances in Canada to secure work. He has told us also, however, that he has solved this problem in this way, namely, that he will get the employers to advance the travelling expenses of workmen, and they will deduct those expenses from the workmen's wages. That is all very excellent; but the trouble is that the Minister of Labour apparently is not doing anything to bring into effect this fine scheme which he evolved, and has no notion of bringing it into effect. I should not like to say that he is getting cold feet, because that is not a nice thing to say; but he has backed down from the position which he took last year when he was fresh from a country where labour bureaux had been an eminent success. I have here a long list of organizations throughout the country which have endorsed this idea of the establishment of a national labour bureau, and I will read some of the names to show that the people and the organizations of Canada everywhere have endorsed it.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Has my hon. friend

got his information from the individual to whom I referred, who was seeking an interview?

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LIB
CON
LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

This petition is signed by N. J. Garland, Ottawa Board of Trade;

C. G. Pepper, Canadian Federation of Labour, of Ottawa; J. S. Adamson, Ottawa Builders' Exchange; Auguste Lemieux, C. W. Bullock, and E. St. John Wileman.

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CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

The last is the most

important of the lot.

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LIB
LIB
CON

Thomas Wilson Crothers (Minister of Labour)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROTHERS:

Did you get it from

the last-named one?

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February 26, 1915