Mr. J. S. W 0 CXDSW OUT H (Winnipeg North Centre) moved:
That, in the opinion of this House, a wage sufficient to provide for a reasonable standard of living should constitute a legal minimum wage.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to take up the resolution standing in my name on establishing a national system of banking, but certain members of the Progressive party who wish to discuss the question are not pre-* pared to go on with it to-day. So I have passed on to this resolution relative to a basic wage. My idea in bringing the resolution before the House is that we should make statutory the guarantees of the Peace treaty. Let me read a clause from that treaty dealing with this matter:
Holding as they do that labour should not be regarded merely as an article of commerce, they think that there are methods for regulating labour conditions which all industrial communities should endeavour to apply, so far as their special circumstances will permit. Among these methods and principles, the following seem to the high contracting parties to be of special and urgent importance.
And among others we find:
3. The payment to the employed of a wage adequate to maintain a reasonable standard of life, as this is understood in their time and country.
I take it, Mr. Speaker, that most of us have given a great deal of thought to the provisions of the Peace treaty of Versailles as they relate to international boundaries. We have perhaps not recognized so clearly that the treaty refers just as definitely to certain industrial relationships and that we, as one of the signatories to the treaty, are under obligation, as are the other signatories, to carry out the clauses with regard to these industrial relationships. I can hardly hope that to-day there may be a discussion sufficiently full to lead to the adoption of so far-teaching a reform as the one which I am proposing, but I could hope that we might at least have this matter referred to our standing committee on Industrial Relations, and that a report could be brought in as to how we in Canada could best carry out the purposes of the treaty. This is one of those rather complicated questions in which the relative jurisdiction of the Dominion and the provinces is concerned. I do not know whether there has been any definite pronouncement with regard to just how far the carrying-out of this particular matter lies within the jurisdiction of the federal authorities, but we ought to have definite information with regard to that matter. It is clearly stated in this clause that labour is not a commodity. So
far in Canada, as elsewhere, we have followed the principle that labour is a commodity. We buy and sell labour in the open market; we give labour what it is worth, as we say, just as we would hire a machine for a certain purpose. We base the returns to labour very largely on what the industry will stand, rather than on what the labourer requires. If we are to carry out the purposes of the treaty we must reverse entirely the principle on which we have been working in this country, ar.d recognize another principle, namely, that a reasonable standard of living is a first charge on industry. Let me repeat that. We shall have to very clearly recognize that other principle, that a reasonable standard of living is the first charge on industry.
Although this question is comparatively new here in Canada it has been under discussion for a number of years in other parts of the uTorld. As early as 1907 Judge Higgins, of the Australian Federal Industrial Court declared that a minimum wage was essential in industry, to allow a standard of living which would give reasonable comfort and supply the normal needs of an average worker regarded as a human being living in a civilized community. In 1909 he led an investigation into the cost of family budgets, and constructed the first budget upon which a general minimum wage might be based. I hold in my hand a bulletin of the New South Wales board of trade, in which I find a report containing a statement of the principle which I would like to have adopted by this House. Part of this report is as follows:
The fixation of the living wage in New South Wales is, by section 79 of the Industrial Aifoitration Act, 1912, as amended, committed to the New South Wales Board of Trade.
"79. (1) The -board of trade shall, from year to year, after public inquiry as to the increase or decrease in the average cost of living, declare what shall be the living wages to be paid to adult male employees and to adult female employees in the state or any defined area thereof.
And again, in clause 2.
No industrial agreement shall be entered into and no award made for wages lower than such living wages.
That is, if we adopted the principle which I enunciated a few minutes ago it would become criminal to employ a man or a woman for less than would provide a decent standard of living, and this standard of living would have to be determined in some way by boards formed for that purpose. In Australia a few years ago we had a report of the royal commission on the basic wage.