March 15, 1926

LAB
CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

The hon. gentlemen never

thought protection as being a help, did he?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No, I do not think protection would answer the purpose; we would have to go further than that. I would agree to protection, but it is the protection of the worker and not the protection of the industry, which is a different matter.

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CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

It is not the same thing. If I could be sure that so-called protection would protect the worker, I might be led to look a great deal more favourably on what has been termed protection, but in some of the most highly protected industries in the United States we find the lowest paid labour.

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CON

George Brecken Nicholson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NICHOLSON:

Just as a matter of information, might I ask the hon. gentleman if he would advocate the prohibition of goods entering Canada from countries where the standards of wages were lower than the standards of wages in Canada?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I think this matter would have to be taken up in a large way. There would have to be understandings arrived at through an international body such as the League of Nations. We cannot deal directly with this nation and that nation. It is a matter of our trade with two or three or four different nations.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Why cannot we? If we want to put a prohibition on southern cotton, for instance, because the negroes work cheaply, we can do that. Why not do it?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I think it would have to be part of a larger scheme and not simply picking out one industry or one nation.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Why not deal with them all?

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PRO

Edward Joseph Garland

Progressive

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

Before we prohibit cotton, should we not first learn to grow cotton in this country?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I do not think this discussion is going to get us very far along the line of a basic wage. I would urge that before we deal with other countries, we must have in Canada a wage which forms the basis for a reasonable standard of living. I can quite understand that if we get that we can then deal with these other problems which have been proposed.

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CON

Richard Langton Baker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BAKER:

If we have a high standard of wages in Canada in order to maintain a proper standard of living, how are our people going to get work when goods are allowed to enter this country from countries where low wages are paid?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

There will be difficulties along that line. We should recognize to-day that we are facing world competition with many nations living on very low standards. There is the other side of the question, however, I might remind the hon. gentleman, that very frequently high wages- are quite compatible with great efficiency, and I am inclined to think that those industries which pay decent or even high wages are in the long run going to win out.

I should like to refer to the report of the Royal Commission on the basic wage in Australia. I must admit that legislation has not so far been enacted along the lines of the report of this commission. This commission was appointed by the government of Australia on December 8, 1919, to report on the minimum or basic wage, to ascertain what was a fair basic wage, how much the sovereign had depreciated in value during the war, and how the basic wage should be

Legal Minimum Wage

adjusted to the current cost of living, and in future be adjusted according to changes in the cost of living from time to time. The appointment of the commission had been announced by the Prime Minister,, Right Hon. W. H. Hughes, on October 30, 1919, in the following statement, and I should like to call the attention of the House to this statement which seems to me to contain a great deal of what I am pleading for this afternoon:

If we are to have industrial peace, we must be prepared to pay the price, and that price is justice to the worker. Nothing less will serve. We have long ago adopted in Australia the principle of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes and of the minimtim wage. The cause of much of the industrial unrest, which is like fuel to the fires of Bolshevism and direct action, arises with the real wage of the worker-that is to say, the things he can buy with the money he receives. This real wage decreases with an increase in the cost of living. Now, once it is admitted that it is in the interest of the community that such a wage should be paid as will enable a man to marry and bring up children in decent, wholesome conditions-and that point has been settled long ago- it seems obvious that we must devise better machinery for insuring the payment of such a wage than at present exists. Means must be found which will insure that the minimum wage shall be adjusted automatically, or almost automatically, with the cost of living, so that within the limits of the minimum wage at least the sovereign shall always purchase the same amount of the necessaries of life. The government is, therefore, appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the cost of living in relation to the minimum or basic wage.

When that commission was appointed it was decided to determine reasonable standards of comfort, not by reference to any one type or group of employees, but by reference to the needs which are common to all employees, following the accepted principle that there is a standard of living below which no employee should be asked to live. I shall not detain the House with any detailed account of the report of this commission, which I hold in my hand, but I may say that there is a very good summary of it published in our own Labour Gazette of April, 1921.

Here in Canada we have made a beginning along the line of the minimum wage, at least in so far as female labour is concerned. In Canada minimum wage bills for female workers were introduced in 1916, and have been enacted to date in seven provinces. In both Canada and the United States there is still very little legislative protection for unskilled, underpaid and unorganized1 male workers, but the principle is accepted. The proposal to have a minimum wage has been adopted so far as women workers are concerned, and further than that, we are quite accustomed to the methods by which that minimum is determined. In seven of the

provinces we are now actually carrying out this work, and it would not be very difficult to extend the methods already adopted and apply them to male labour.

We have one example in Canada of the principle being applied in the case of male labour, and that is in the province of British Columbia, which in a great many respects leads the rest of Canada-I say that for the benefit of my neighbour here (Mr. Neill). Let me quote from the Labour Gazette of January, 1926:

The only (previous Canadian legislation was contained in an amendment to the British Columbia Coal Mines Regulation Act in 1919, providing for the establishment of a Coal Mines Minimum Wage Board, but no such board was ever established under the act. The Alberta Factories Act also was amended in 1918 to provide that "no person shall be employed by any employer in any factory, shop, office or office building at a wage less than $1.50 per shift." With these exceptions, however, no minimum wage law applicable to men was in existence.

There follows in another section of this issue of the Gazette a summary of the British Columbia Male Minimum Wage Act. It provides for the establishment of minimum wages for men employed in nearly all types of industry, the minimum rates to be fixed by the Board of Adjustment under the Hours of Work Act, 1923, which provided for an eight-hour day. The original bill as introduced by Major R. J. Burde provided for a minimum wage for all workers, but later he accepted representations that the bill as it stood would be difficult to apply in practice, and substituted a new bill designed to apply only to workers in the lumber industry. The Minister of Mines desired to have the new bill enlarged to include the coal mining in-dust^, but opposed any further extensions, which he considered would make the act too sweeping and tend to destroy its effectiveness. The legislature, however, decided in the end to accept other amendments restoring the general character of the act and making it applicable to every class of occupation wdth the exception of those mentioned in the last section of the act. The last section reads as follows:

This aot shall apply to occupations other than farm labourers, fruit-pickers, fruit-packers, fruit and vegetable canners, and domestic servants.

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CON

Richard Langton Baker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BAKER:

Does the hon. member not think it would be better first to provide work for our unemployed, and discuss the matter of w'ages aftenvards?

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LAB
CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

But I submit that one of the surest ways of providing work is to increase the buying power of the people. If we had a larger amount distributed1 in the form of wages there 'would be before long a greater demand for consumable commodities, and the wheels of industry would once more be set to work

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

How can work be provided by an increased buying power simply for foreign goods?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The right hon.

leader of the opposition suggests that that is the way the principle must work. That does not follow at all. In any case, if we do buy foreign goods we must pay for them by goods we produce and this probably means increased production. The purchase of foreign goods thus provides wider markets for our own goods. There is no doubt about that. If goods come in goods must also go cut.

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March 15, 1926