Yes. It has been stated that this parliament has no power to legislate along these lines. I cannot say as to that, but nevertheless I do know that in past years the large employers of labour in this country have carried out the spirit of the act and have given to their employees the two hours provided for in the old elections act, which we are now amending. I know what has happened in the large shops out west; on election day they closed down at 3 o'clock m the afternoon, so the employees were given 78594-1961
two hours off with pay. I beiieve the same practice has been followed by other companies employing large numbers of men and women. Under this bill now before us a half holiday is declared on election day; that is something I would like to see carried out, and I believe the wording of my amendment is in accordance with the intentions of the committee. The large employers of labour usually keep open from 8 to 12, and then from 1 o'clock in the afternoon. They would probably work from 8 o'clock in the morning until 1 o'clock in the afternoon under this arrangement, and I think every large employer of labour in the Dominion would follow that practice. I am not so much concerned with the question of the powers which we have under the British North America Act, because it strikes me most forcibly that whenever anything comes up which concerns the working people of this country the British North America Act is always brought forward to their disadvantage. Under the old act the employees were given two hours and when we try to extend that by one hour we aTe told that we have not the power to do so. It was done in the past, the employers of labour carried out the spirit of the enactment of parliament and I feel quite satisfied that if this amendment is adopted they will carry out the spirit of the amendment in the same way as they carried out the provisions of the Dominion Election Act.
before me and I find that the hon. member is quite correct; I did intimate that the government seemed to be willing to accept that suggestion, but I said also that as chairman of the committee I wished to dissociate myself from it. May I repeat briefly my reason for taking that stand; it is quite true that there are provisions in the act whereby an employee may, for a period of two hours, absent himself from his work for the purpose of voting, and the act states definitely that the employee shall not forfeit his pay for that time. That provision has been in the act for some time, and there has been no protest about it. As a matter of fact, as the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps) has said, the employers all over the country have entered into the spirit of the act and have not contested the validity or the legality of that provision. The point I wish to make is this; it is of doubtful validity. In saying that I am not giving my own opinion only, because in the legal sense I do not think it would be considered as worth very much, but those who know something of our laws have
Dominion Elections Act
declared as of doubtful validity an enactment by which the parliament of Canada seeks to bind an employer to pay an employee for something, which is only a matter of contract and therefore falls within the jurisdiction of the provinces. In a matter of at least doubtful validity, when we stretch that period to three hours, the employers of labour might say, "We were willing, without going to the trouble of appearing before the courts, to allow our employees two hours' time, but three hours would be of considerable consequence to us." An employer of labour employing three, four or five thousand hands, might find that the cost would be somewhat excessive. I am under the impression that it is quite likely that some employers might not be willing to comply with the spirit of the act, and might decide to test its validity. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many whom I have consulted, if that is done it will be found to be invalid and the labourer will be in the position where he will not receive any holiday or any pay.
the half holiday would be an ideal arrangement, nor that the previous arrangement of allowing two hours is ideal, but I say that I do not wish to associate myself with the proposed change to three hours for these reasons: First of all, I do not believe it is
good law, and secondly, I do not believe it is in the interests of the labouring classes. I am not opposed to this principle in any way; if it were possible to grant a half holiday with pay I would be only too willing to do that.
the employer and the employee is a monthly one, then the employee must be paid by the month, no matter how many days are declared to be public holidays; the same principle would apply to a weekly contract.
may seem to many members to be a matter of small consequence as to whether or not payment shall be made for one hour or two hours, but I think the very fact that we have to debate this matter is an indictment of our present wages system. Many of these men have to pare things down to a very fine * point, and I take it that the real purpose which we have in view is to enable as many as possible of these men to exercise their franchise. Unless provision is made for a certain period when they can take time off, it is impossible for many of them to do so. A great many of the electors in Winnipeg work in the railway shops at Transcona, and in order to vote they must travel a distance of eight or nine miles to Weston, the western suburb of Winnipeg. Unless they have time off it is impossible for them to do that. They should be allowed several hours off, or given a full half holiday. I recognize the fact that there may be some difficulty, as suggested by the chairman of the oommittee, but I can hardly conceive that where the employers are willing to give two hours, they would go to the trouble of appealing against this legislation when one hour only is added to the free time. In case the validity of the act is tested, the worker would be in no worse a position then he would be under the proposed arrangement for a half holiday. It seems to me that we might very well take the chance and give the three hours which would actually meet the requirements Of the time necessary for voting.
The hon. member and myself are in substantial agreement, but it is only a matter of opinion. I give it as my opinion that the employers of labour, when they find they must allow pay for three hours, are not as likely to enter into the spirit of the act, as they have been in the past when they were obliged to allow two hours only. It is my impression that they will test the validity of the act, but that is only my opinion.
Mr. Chairman, the committee in presenting these amendments sought to limit them to proposals on which we were practically unanimous. We sought to avoid bringing before the house at the close of the session any issues which might be disputed.
Dominion Elections Act
Inasmuch as this trouble has arisen, I suggest that the Solicitor General give favourable consideration to the withdrawal of section 4 of this bill repealing section 14 of the original act, and allow the original section 14 to stand.
I think that would, for the present session, be preferable and would allow further consideration of the proposal made by the hon. member for North Winnipeg, when other matters are brought before the house next year, because a number of controversial issues in respect of the Dominion Elections Act must come before us next session in the bill then to be introduced, I understand, by the government.
difficulty over validity, is there not a possible difficulty in the Dominion parliament forcing an employer to give a half holiday for election purposes? It seems to me that might readily be construed as interfering with freedom of contract. If objection is taken to the payment of wages for one hour, objection might easily be taken to the cessation of work for half a day.