March 25, 1924

LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

In answer to the hon. member (Mr. Arthurs), I may say that section 2 of the act reads:

In this act, unless the context otherwise requires-

(a) "Minister" means the Minister of Labour;

(b) "department" means the Department of Labour;

(c) "employer" means any person, company or corporation employing ten or more persons and owning or operating any mining property, agency of transportation or commuhication, or public service utility, including, except as hereinafter provided, railways, whether operated by steam, electricity or other motive power, steamships, telegraph and telephone lines, gas, electric light, water and power works.

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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

What is the meaning of

the exception in parenthesis in lines 13, 14 and 15, section 1 (b), which reads:

Except where the application is made by an employer in consequence of an intended change in wages or hours proposed by the said employer.

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

That parenthesis has been there for a number of years. It does not contemplate any intention of an employer to lock out his employees, but he may have a justifiable intent of serving notice on his employees of his desire for a reduction of wages, and in that case he could make the necessary declaration.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

Does the minister look upon the post office as a public utility?

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LIB
CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

Does it cease

to be a public utility because it is looked after by a department of the government?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Not so long ago it was

even held that this act did not apply to Intercolonial Railway employees because they were government employees. I think several decisions to that effect were made.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

That is what I

want to get at: The real distinction is that they are government employees, and that is why the department does not consider that the act applies.

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

One other important

reason is that they ax-e not engaged as employees of a public utility as specified in section 2 of the act.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

Why on earth

the whole act was placed in jeopardy through an endeavour to make other public officials, just as representative of the people as this body, subject to what we would not make applicable to our own people, I do not know. It is idle to say that there should be regulation of public utilities simply because they happen to be provincial in their character while on the other hand the same regulation should not apply to public utilities which are carried on by the Dominion government.

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LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

The other evening while

we were discussing the resolution of the hon. member for Centre Winnipeg (Mr. Woods-worth) I made some observations with regard to the necessity of having changes made in our constitution, the British North America Act, which would clearly define the respective powers of this parliament and the provincial legislatures with regard to labour and several other matters. The opinions of judges of our supreme courts, especially in Nova Scotia, with which I am more familiar, are such that there is grave doubt in the public mind whether parliament had the power under the British North America Act to pass this legislation. In a private discussion which I had with the minister the other day he suggested to me that there would shortly be a decision which would settle the question. I presume that he had reference to the case to which the hon. member for North Toronto has just referred. In that case the question may not be brought fairly before us whether or not the act is ultra vires. The case may turn on the question of whether it is a provincial public utility or a national public utility. I for one would like to see

Industrial Disputes

the Privy Council decide just as clearly and as quickly as it can be done whether the Industrial Disputes Act is within the power and-jurisdiction of this parliament. I am one of those who think that the Industrial Disputes Act has been a tremendous power for good in this country. Innumerable disputes which would otherwise have led to strikes and disasters have been averted through the goodwill which was brought about between employers and employees by virtue of this act, and so far as I am concerned I would be sorry if in the end it was declared ultra vires by the Privy Council. My hon. friend from North Toronto (Mr. Church) suggests that the Department of Justice has given opinions which, in effect, declare the act to be ultra vires.

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CON
LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

As against the municipality. I read some of these opinions last winter, and I am sorry to say that different branches of the Department of Justice have given different opinions as to the validity of this act. I hope the day will soon come when if this case is not taken direct to the Privy Council-and if the Department or Labour loses the case in Toronto they certainly will carry it to the Privy Council, but in case the Department of Labour wins, the people of Ontario may not see fit to carry the case to that court-

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CON
LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

Then that will overcome the difficulty. I have my own opinions as a lawyer, very serious and, I think very well-grounded opinions. I am not going to give them to the House this afternoon; I did give them more or less the other day; but I think this matter should be settled. There should not be any doubt about the matter, and if there should remain any doubt after the decision of the Privy Council, if they do not give a clear-cut decision as to the validity of the act, I think the Department of Justice should even take the trouble of having our constitution so amended as to make it perfectly and amply and fully plain that this parliament has the power to legislate on matters of this kind.

I do not think the Industrial Disputes Act goes far enough. It seems to me that in all our great industries in this country there should be the means whereby a conciliation board could be granted, in order to give employer and employee a chance to fight their differences out before such a board. Let me give an instance. In the constituency I

represent we have two great industries, the coal mining industry and the steel industry.

If differences of opinion arise in the coal mining industry, and if the conditions of the act are fulfilled, the employers may get a board, and boards h|ive done very much good in that part of the country; but if a difference of opinion arises between the steel workers and their employers, who are the very same people, the British Empire Steel Company, the poor steel worker is told that he cannot have a board to investigate his grievances, while his brother, the fcoal miner, working for the same corporation five miles away, has the right to a conciliation board.

I would draw this respectfully to the attention of the Minister of Labour. It may make for a weakness in the act so far as legislative power is concerned, but I think the day should come when this parliament should take power under the constitution to give every industry, employers and employees, the right to a conciliation board. Let not a preference, so to speak, be given to a man because he happens to be working in an industry which comes under the nomen of a "public utility."

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Section agreed to. On section 2-Relation of parties to remain unchanged pending proceedings before a board.


LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

There is one point, it semes to me, that is hardly sufficiently guarded in this clause. The idea is that there shall be no change pending an investigation. If I am rightly informed in the case of the Nova Scotia trouble a year and a half ago, a board had been asked for, but the employers took the ground that since the agreement had expired there could be no change in the conditions; that is, they had been running along under the conditions of the old agreement, but the agreement having expired the employers took the ground that everything was at an end, and they proposed under those circumstances to change the rates of pay, the hours and working conditions. It was really that that led to the so-called "ca' canny" policy-"striking on the job," the men taking the ground that since there was no agreement they were not bound to give a certain amount of work. Now it is quite obvious that the company was not carrying out the spirit behind this legislation, and I wonder whether it would not be possible to draft the legislation in such a way that no employer or employee could disregard its spirit in that way.

Industrial Disputes

Even although the agreement had come to a close at the end of the year, could not the conditions run along until a. final settlement was made? I would ask the Minister of Labour if it would not be possible to insert such a clause as that?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

1 fear it would be impossible to attempt to meet the suggestion of my hon. friend (Mr. Woodsworth), for this reason: It would contemplate coercion possibly of both parties to an agreement, and we might have just as much or even more difficulty in securing the consent of the workmen than of the employers to a provision of that kind, which would, in effect, tie them to their tasks for a certain stated or uncertain time. I am sure we would have just as much difficulty under the circumstances suggested by my hon. friend, where you would compel the workmen to continue working under the conditions of an agreement after it had expired until a board had finished its sittings and had filed its award.

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LAB
LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

We hope to secure the co-operation of both employer and employee to the end that no interruption of the industry's operations shall take place; but we would hope also to secure the co-operation of the employer and employee in seeing that agreements be not made that would automatically sever relations as between the two parties at a given time. The consistent thing,

I think, for organized labour to do now generally is to make an agreement subject to sixty days' notice of a desire for a change by either party to the agreement. That would give reasonable latitude to the interests of the parties and the public for negotiations to be held and a new agreement to be reached. .

Now, in the case my hon. friend cited the agreement expired at a certain hour on a certain given day, and, no new agreement having been arrived at, there was a complete stoppage of operations regardless of the public right in the matter, creating a situation which ought to have been avoided. But I suggest to my hon. friend that such a situation cannot be avoided by attempting to assert in this, or in any other law, a coercive restriction that will compel either the employer or the workman to continue operations, possibly in the case of the latter, at a rate he may not have agreed to.

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March 25, 1924