June 4, 1917

LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

If under the British

North America Act they are not required to pay, how could we provide otherwise? We could not amend the Act.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

We are not amending it. If any provision under the British North America Act applies to the case, the provinces will still be free to assert it, notwithstanding the passage of this legislation.

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Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

I suggest that the

Minister let the matter stand until after six o'clock, when he will let us know what provinces are- affected. I am strongly of the opinion that a statute regarding this

matter was passed about ten years ago in respect of the Militia Department.

At six o'clock, the committee took recess.

After Eecess.

The Committee resumed .at eight o'clock, Mr. Rainville in the chair.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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LIB

George Perry Graham

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

This resolution is, of course, retroactive?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

Yes.

\Mr. GRAHAM: On general principles, is that good legislation?

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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

As the hon. member was not in the House this afternoon when this matter was under discussion, I will explain it to him. The object of the resolution is that goods imported 'by the Crown shall be liable to customs duties, the same as goods imported by any private individual. Up to this date there has been on the statute books no provision that goods imported by the Crown are liable to duty, although duties have been collected for eight or ten years. I have not the exact date when the Customs Department wais instructed by the Government to collect duties on goods imported by the several departments. Since Confederation duties have been collected on all goods imported by provincial Governments. In 1909 the then Nova Scotia Government took exception to the right of the Dominion. Government to collect duties on goods imported by the provincial government, and the Dominion Government of tnat day took issue with the provincial government, and the matter dropped, no further action being taken.

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Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

Were the duties paid?

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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

The duties were paid at that time and thereafter, not only by the Nova Scotia Government, but by all the other provincial Governments. The Commissioner of Customs informs me that the Minister of Customs at that time brought the matter up in Council; that the Prime Minister of the day, now leader of the Opposition, agreed with his view, and that they took the ground that the position taken by the Nova Scotia Government was not in accordance with their interpretation of the law. The matter rested until 1916, when the province of Quebec raised the same issue as the province of Nova Scotia had raised, but I took the same ground as that taken by my predecessor, and no further action was taken by the Quebec Governor, Macdonald.]

ment. Later on the Government of Manitoba took the same position, and only a month or two ago the Alberta Government also brought up the matter, so that the situation has become .a little acute in regard to arriving at a final decision as to what should be done. Section 125 of the British North America Act reads:-

No lands or property belonging to Canada or any province shall be liable to taxation.

I took the matter up with the Department of Justice, and as the matter, no doubt, will go before the several courts of the country and the Privy Council for final decision, the Department of Justice advised me that I should have the statute amended so that goods imported by the Crown as represented, not only by the Dominion Government, but by the provincial governments, should be liable to payment of duty. They advised me that it should be declared that the matter is in the same position as it has been since Confederation, so that if the case came before the courts and it was decided that the position taken by the provinces was not justified, there would not be any possibility of a claim for the duties which have been collected from Confederation up to the present time. The Department of Justice also advised me that this amendment does not affect any rights in any other way than I have mentioned.

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Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

In introducing this resolution my hon. friend has precipitated a very interesting constitutional point; and not in any political sense other than what is best as a matter of policy, I would like to point out how important it is that the House should give the matter serious consideration. During past years, and probably more particularly recently than at any other time, the provincial governments, in dealing with the particular agricultural matters under their control, have imported thoroughbred stock of various kinds for the improvement of livestock.

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Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

John Dowsley Reid (Minister of Customs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. REID:

Thoroughbred stock comes in free.

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Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

Thoroughbred stock comes in free if imported for particular purposes, I assume. There are, however, other matters which pertain particularly to the functions of the provincial governments in dealing with matters, under the British North America Act, come under their care, and for the development of which they may be compelled to go abroad for the purpose of getting machinery or other articles necessary. As I said, speaking before recess, it

seems to me that, under the old principle of law that the Crown is not affected by any legislation unless the Crown is particularly named, the right of the province to be free from taxation on importations, would be conceded.

Then there is section 125 of the British North America Act, which my hon. friend quoted, and which especially declares that no lands or property of the Crown, of Canada, or of the provinces, shall be liable to taxation. Now, unquestionably the tariff is a tax, and that being so, the proposition of my hon. friend to bring the property of the different provinces within the purview of the Customs Act is a subversion of the section to that extent. It seems to me that the advisability of a policy of this kind is worthy of the most careful consideration of the House. My hon. friend tells us that as a matter of practice this property has always been taxed in the past. I lay aside for the moment the consideration of the question of taxation of property of the Imperial Government, or of the Federal Government, because that does not seem to be in contemplation by the Act. I doubt the wisdom of the Federal Parliament entering upon a policy which involves taxation of the provincial governments through the tariff. If, as a matter of fact, the four older provinces of the Dominion did not in the earlier days have very heavy importations for this Government to tax, that does not prove anything in regard to the policy of the country. In .the newer portions of the Dominion the provinces are entering upon lines of policy which involve importations. For instance, I think all the western provinces are engaged in operating a Governmeilt-owned telephone, and the tendency in certain of our provinces is undoubtedly along the line of Government operation of public utilities. The material used in the operation of these utilities has of necessity to be imported in some cases. So the question is becoming more and more important every day, and though we are here dealing only with the resolution-my hon. friend will later introduce a Bill-I would suggest to him the advisability of looking into this section very carefully, and I should like to hear from the Minister of Justice as to the constitutionality of legislation of this kind.

In the next place, while my hon. friend speaks of the JSill as being merely declaratory in its character, it is undoubtedly retroactive. While it merely purports to say that a certain thing has been the law, it

seems to me that that is going a very long way, and although I have not given the deliberation to this question that I should like to give as a lawyer, I do not think my hon. friend should go so far as to declare that a certain thing has been the law. It is really retroactive legislation that my hon. friend is attempting to put on the statute book.

There is this third consideration which is worthy of attention. The province of Manitoba, according to my hon. friend, has raised the question whether they are liable to taxation on certain importations they have made recently, and the question of the right of the Customs Department to impose that taxation is now before the courts, or will be shortly. I submit that it is a matter of sound policy that this Parliament should not, as against provincial authority, undertake to declare what the law is in a question which is now sub judice, or which will shortly form the subject of litigation before the courts. It is only in the most extreme cases that Parliament or any legislative body should interfere in pending legislation. Having regard to the constitutional aspect involved, and the possible consequences, I think my hon. friend should hesitate before taking the position he does. Having regard to the development by the provincial governments of their operation of public utilities- and this subject has been under frequent discussion in the Railway Committee for a great many days-I submit that this resolution with all its ramifications is well worthy of the attention of hon. gentlemen before we should enter upon a policy which might give rise to grave constitutional questions as to our right to tax the provinces.

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Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

As to the policy of imposing taxation upon property that may be imported by or for provincial governments I do not know that I desire to enter into a discussion of that at the present time. The faot would seem to be that though the Customs Act does not appear to specifically mention the Crown, everybody has understood that its provisions apply to the Crown in regard to its right to tax the provinces as well as everybody else, am so far as it is a question of policy in the carrying out of the Act all the successive governments of Canada, as I understand it, have acted upon the policy of collecting duties on importations by the provinces, just as on importations made by other people. With one or two exceptions the provinces all seem to have acquiesced in

the view that the customs taxation did apply to them so it is not a question of entering upon a new policy of imposing duties upon the importations of the provinces, for that is the policy which has been consistently followed since Confederation.

The hon. member has referred to this

legislation as being retroactive, and has further suggested that there is something unconstitutional in it by reason of section 125 of the British North America Act. The latter of those two questions is precisely the one which the provinces raise, their contention being that Parliament is without power to impose taxation upon them. I ne'ed not say that this legislation will not affect their Tights in that regard in any degree. If Parliament is without power to impose taxation upon the importation of provincial governments, then the fact that we enact this legislation will not give us that power; we cannot lift ourselves by 01 own boot-straps, and the purpose of this legislation is not to endeavour to do that at all. It is necessitated by the fact that whether this Parliament has the power or not, the Customs Act, not having specifically mentioned the Crown on the principle which the hon. gentlemen mentioned, it might 'be open to any province to-day seeking to invoke exemption to claim that, even though it turned, out that this pretension that Parliament had no right by reason of section 125 to impose customs duties were entirely imfounded, nevertheless, it should succeed on what might fairly be described as the purely technical ground, that Parliament had not as a matter of fact specified the Crown, and that even if it had the power it had not exercised that power. Now the purpose of this legislation is to anticipate the raising of that question, ' which so far as I know has never been raised.

The contention, so far as I know, has not been based upon that oversight in the legislation. It raises the broad question whether Parliament can impose custom duties upon the importations by the Crown in right of the provinces. Now, as I have said, no legislation of ours will affect the law upon the question of our power to impose these duties upon the property of the Crown. The full effect of this proposed legislation, if adopted, will be to put out of the way what, it seems to me may properly under the circumstances be described as the technical question, whether the provinces can escape merely because the Crown was not mentioned in the statute. It will enable us, if we go into Court, to go upon the real, sub-

stantial question, which is, whether Parliament can or cannot levy customs duties on the importations of these provinces, and to fight it out upon that real, substantial question, [DOT] not leaving us exposed to the raising of this other pretension which, so far as I am aware, never has been raised, and which is purely technical, but which would prevent, possibly, pur obtaining tmy decision upon the broad question. Now, tfbat broad question is one that it is important to have determined. Whatever may be the policy pf Parliament, now or at any time, upon the exercise of the power, it certainly is a matter of importance to have it made clear whether th^t power exists or not, and it is purely that power on the part of Parliament that is challenged by the province of Manitoba. . Under these circumstances, it seems to me that we ought to set the law in such a condition that any issue that might be raised would turn upon this substantial question. As 1 have said, I am not aware that any of the provinces has based any claim upon the absence of mention of the Crown in the Customs Act, but on our part, as a matter of prudence, it seems to us wiser that we should make impossible the raising of that question, so that we may have the real, substantial issue alone dealt with.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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LIB
CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

Perhaps we could pass the resolution and have the Bill introduced, and the observations of my hon. friend (Mr. Pugsley) can be taken into consideration.

Resolution reported, read the second time and agreed to.

Mr. REID introduced Bill No. 67, to

amend the Customs Act. ,

Motion agreed to and Bill, read the first time.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   CUSTOMS ACT AMENDMENT.
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SUPPLY.

IMPERIAL MUNITIONS BOARD AND ORGANIZED LABOUR.


On motion of Sir Robert Borden for the House to go into Committee of Supply.


LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. G. W. KYTE (Richmond, N.S.):

Mr. Speaker, before you leave the Chair, I desire to direct the attention of the Government to certain grievances that organized labour in this country appears to have against the Munitions Board. At a meeting held in the city of Ottawa within the last few days, certain statements of fact have been disclosed which would seem to indicate that the Munitions Board is not treating organized labour with the consideration which, under the circumstances and conditions that exist to-day, it ought to be treated. The substantial grievances which the labour men allege are as fol- ' lows: ,

"1-Violation of sanitary requirements

gross negligence in regard to the protection of the health of the workers, in camp and plant construction.

"2-Lowering the wage standards already established in different sections of the Dominion.

"3-Elimination of the eighc-hour day and the introduction of the 10, 12 . and 14-hour day, and seven-day week.

"4-The unnecessary dilution of labour by the introduction of female labour, before proper steps have been taken to utilize available skilled mechanics.

"5-Where dilution has occurred no general effort has been made to maintain the same standard wages as received by the men.

"6-Substitution of cheap, semi-skilled labour from rural districts for construction work, because of their willingness to accept less than the trades union rates.

"7-A declared policy of refusing to recognize trades union representatives in determining the wages and hours on.contracts let by them.

"8-Challenging trades union officials to obtain reasonable conditions by use of their organized power instead of through negotiations which would result in strikes.

"The unanimous conclusion was reached that the time had arrived for the re-organization of this board on the basis of equal representation of labour with the employing interests."

This is "the list of complaints which organized labour has against the Munitions Board at the present time. It is of the utmost importance that harmony between the Munitions Board and organized labour should exist. Since the outbreak of the war a very large number of munition

plants h'ave been established in Canada in which large sums of money have been expended for the purpose of supplying such munitions of war as are required by the allied countries. The rate of wages, it would appear, has not been kept up in proportion to the profits which have been obtained by the manufacturers of munitions. We do know that since the outbreak of the *syar this has been an extremely profitable industry to those who were fortunate enough to be able to engage in it. The question of adequate remuneration to those engaged in munition plants is certainly one that ought to receive the consideration of the Munitions Board and which, if not dealt with by them, should receive the attention of the Government. In all works under the supervision of the Government, for instance, all contracts that are let by the Public Works, Department, there is a fair wage schedule which is a part of the contract. Under that fair wage schedule those who are employed on public works are entitled to a fair remuneration for their services. No distinction ought ' to be made between the relations existing be-' tween the Munitions Board and the Government than between the Public Works Department and the Government. Fair remuneration ought to be allowed those who are employed in munition works and reasonable hours of labour ought to be determined as constituting a day's work in that employment.

The reasonableness of the complaints which have been made by organized labour, it seems to me, will appeal to every hon. member of this House. The first one has reference particularly to the sanitary requirements which ought to be provided in these munition plants. I cannot understand how the Munitions Board could refuse to give ear to any fair representations that might be made by the labouring people with respect to that matter. It is certainly not one about which there should be any controversy if a substantial complaint is made on behalf of those people and it does appear to me that there is no reason why some such action should not be taken for the purpose of removing the grievances in that respect. I shall not go over in detail all the matters that have been referred to, the list of which I read at the beginning of my observations, and I shall do nothing further than impress upon the Government the desirability of having some action taken by the Munitions Board which will result in substantially

[Mr. Kyte.J

meeting the complaints which are alleged by the representatives of labour. At this time it would appear to be desirable that the large body of our population who have enrolled themselves within the ranks of organized labour should receive a reasonable hearing and every substantial ground of complaint ought to be remedied.

With respect to the particular grievance that arises out of the employment of women in these munition plants, I do not assume that organized labour has any special objection to the employment of women provided it is not made the subject of competition in the matter of wages between the men and women who are employed. If women are able to perform the work that is required of them in these munition plants, I see no reason why they ought not to be. employed. On the contrary I believe their service ought to be encouraged but their employment ought not to be considered a ground for reducing the remuneration of men employed in these plants. It may be argued that the demands made upon women in respect to their earnings are not as great as those on men and that they are not entitled to the same scale of wages, but if as a result the wages of the men were lowered then it is a substantial grievance. All through, the indictment which organized labour has drawn up against the Imperial Munitions Board seems to be one which is entitled to fair consideration, and I would urgently request, on behalf .of those who allege these grievences, that steps be taken to give them a fair hearing and to accede in every reasonable way to any proper demands for which they have made improvement.

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Subtopic:   IMPERIAL MUNITIONS BOARD AND ORGANIZED LABOUR.
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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

My hon. friend has put forward his observations in a very reasonable and moderate way, and I shall at once direct the attention of the Imperial Munitions Board to what is urged. We, of course, have no control over the form of contract which the Imperial Munitions Board uses, nor over the prices that they pay for the munitions turned out. Seme of these matters to which my hon. friend alludes have, however, come up, more particularly with regard to the question of wages. It has been the duty of the Minister of Labpur from time to time to make representations to the Imperial Munitions Board with regard to certain matters, and I know that oil at least one occasion the board did cancel a contract by reason ,of the unfair treatment, of which there was ample evidence, by the company's manager of

persons in its employ. I think it is not going too far to say that the Imperial Munitions Board have given pretty careful attention to representations that have been made to them on these matters, and, so far as we can judge, they have endeavoured to improve the conditions when those conditions were not what they should he. The first indictment that is set forth in the memorandum is,

*Violation of sanitary requirements, gross negligence in regard to the protection of the health of the workers in camp and plant construction.

I say at once, that there ought to be the most careful regard for sanitary conditions and for the health of employees, and if there is anything lacking in that Tegard I hope the Imperial Munitions Board will set themselves to Tedress it with the greatest possible expedition. I entirely agree that conditions such as are alleged here .ought not to be allowed to continue. Another charge is,

Lowering the wage standards already established in different sections of the Dominion.

I would not venture to make any observation with respect to that until the answer of the Board with regard to it has been received.

I may say that in December, 1915, and again in March, 1916, I brought to the attention of the British Government the importance of having inserted in contracts made by the Imperial Munitions Board a fair wage clause such as obtains, I think, in the United Kingdom and such as is used in. all contracts which are entered into by the Government of Canada. For some reason that I have never been able fully to understand or appreciate, it would seem that this has not yet been done. There was, however, a suggestion that the Government of Canada should adopt some such system as that which prevails in Great Britain with regard to wage conditions. ' We considered that very carefully and went into it at a number of interviews with representatives of organized labour. We came to the conclusion that such matters had better be dealt with in Canada along the lines which had been adopted by the late Administration and continued by the present Administration, and so we passed an Order in Council applying the Industrial Disputes Act to all disputes in connection with contracts made by the Imperial Munitions Board. We did that after a good deal of consideration and many interviews with the representatives of organized labour, and we

did it in the belief, whether right or wrong, but which I think is sound, that it would be better for us in dealing with such matters to keep along the lines already tried and tested in this country instead of undertaking to establish an organization of a character of which we knew practically nothing, which, although it might suit the British Isles, nevertheless might - not prove very satisfactory in this country. And so the course to which I have alluded was taken in the hope that it would afford a means for settling disputes with regard to various matters that continually arise in the relations between the employers and the employed in this country.

The unnecessary dilution of labour by the introduction of female labour, before proper steps have been taken to utilize available skilled mechanics,

I am not in a position, nor do I suppose is my hon. friend who has made the motion, to speak with any authority in regard to the facts. I believe a considerable amount of female labour is being availed of in this country, but nothing like to the same extent as in Great Britain.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   IMPERIAL MUNITIONS BOARD AND ORGANIZED LABOUR.
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LIB

June 4, 1917