May 18, 1931

IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

The language which I used

was "give a lead." I did not suggest coercion.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I was not referring to

my hon. friend. I was referring to the language of the leader of the opposition.

1728 COMMONS

Treaty oj Versailles-Eight Hour Day

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

May I interrupt my hon. friend for a moment? I think he is placing upon my words a construction that they were certainly not intended to have. If by "force and effect," he means compulsion, I quite agree with him that the Dominion has no right in any way to attempt to compel the provinces to do anything. But if by " force and effect" is meant what I meant, "speaking with some degree of authority," or if we put it the other way, "not without some force or without effect," as would be the case if our own skirts were clean, then that would be the interpretation.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I cannot agree that we

could speak with authority in this matter because the authority is not in the hands of this parliament. The authority to legislate in this matter is in the hands of the provinces. I repeat: If the provinces will agree, the way is made plain for us in this parliament; but if the provinces fail of agreement, there is no way of coercing them and you cannot get an amendment to the British North America Act to give you authority to coerce them unless the provinces agree that such an amendment be made. That is the practical, the whole difficulty. There is no use in beating about the bush. No one knows the difficulty better than the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre. He is a student of these matters; he has a very wide knowledge of them; he speaks with great authority upon this question, but he realizes just as fully as I do or as any other hon. member does that there is this real practical difficulty ahead of us. But I am willing to say that when the conference is called this is one of the matters which may fairly be submitted to it. For my part I would much rather that the provinces themselves introduced such a question. I know they will introduce at such a conference many other questions which affect their rights and some which involve ours; but I believe the best way to reach a conclusion, and a satisfactory one, upon this and many other questions, is to have that conference and to have it just as soon as it can conveniently be held.

The motion is a pious aspiration in the right direction and I think the house may well agree that it should carry in its present form.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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LAB

Abraham Albert Heaps

Labour

Mr. A. A. HEAPS (North Winnipeg):

I

am glad to hear the statement just made by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie). At the present time there is no question of greater importance than that of the hours of labour worked in industry. Under the circumstances it is far better that the federal authorities take

the lead in this matter than that we wait until the nine different provinces do so. It is much easier for the central authority to assume the lead than to wait until the nine provinces can come together on common ground.

The question of hours of labour has ramifications outside the provincial aspect. The hours of labour in one country naturally affect the hours of labour in another, and the hours of labour worked in one province affect the hours of labour worked in another. In exactly the same way, as the acting Minister of Labour (Mr. Gordon) pointed out, when Ontario introduced the Workmen's Compensation Act in that province, other provinces in the Dominion followed suit. So it is with the hours of labour. I am satisfied that ultimately the hours of labour will have to be regulated, not merely provineially or federally, but internationally. For one country to be on an eight hour day schedule and another to be on a twelve hour day schedule is unfair, because it is obvious that a country where long hours are worked and the wages are low will find it much easier to compete with a country where there is a high standard of living. That is one of the reasons given why some countries cannot reduce the hours of labour or give increased remuneration to the workers engaged in industry.

I contend, therefore, that the federal government ought to make every possible effort to strengthen the League of Nations in its attempt to bring about international legislation along the lines indicated here this evening. Already several nations have carried out the recommendations of the League of Nations, not merely by adopting resolutions but actually by passing legislation. Amongst the countries which have adopted the eight hour day are Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, Rou-mania, Czechoslovakia and several others. In addition there are several countries which as yet have not put through such legislation, but the eight hour day is more or less effective as it is throughout the whole of the British isles.

The question of the eight hour day is not a new one. It has been before the peoples of different parts of the world for many a long year. In fact, when members of the present government chided the opposition for being so slow in their activities, I want to point out that away back in 1919 a commission known as the Mathers commission was appointed by the then government. It toured the country and brought in a rather comprehensive report in regard to labour conditions and legislation.

Treaty of Versailles-Eight Hour Day

I should like to quote just one recommendation of that commission. Recommendation No. 52 reads:

In many industries in Canada the eight hour day has already been adopted, and it has been recognized by the Peace treaty. We recommend that it be established by law throughout Canada, with due regard for the above consideration. Such legislation should provide for a weekly rest of at least twenty-four hours which should include Sunday whenever practicable.

So that away back in the summer of 1919 we had a commission which, after it had toured the country, brought in a recommendation in favour of an eight hour day. From 1919 until the present time very little progress has been made in Canada with regard to implementing the recommendations of either the peace treaty or the Mathers commission of 1919.

I said a moment ago that the hours of labour would be far more effectively regulated by international convention than by national legislation. Therefore I believe that anything we can do in this house to strengthen the only body in existence at the present time that is dealing with this question, should have the sympathy of all concerned. The only body of an international character dealing with these matters is the League of Nations. I believe it should be our duty to strengthen the League of Nations, and the only way in which we can strengthen it is by this house bringing in legislation implementing the peace treaty of Versailles. I was very glad indeed, therefore, to hear the pronouncement this evening of the Minister of Justice, that a conference with the provincial governments will be called at an early day. I hope that when that conference meets the Dominion government will themselves take a firm stand and go on record as being in favour of the eight hour day, and when it has been approved by the provinces, I hope we shall then be in a position to carry out the recommendations of the peace treaty.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. JEAN FRANCOIS POULIOT (Temis-couata):

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

James Herbert Stitt

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. H. STITT (Selkirk):

I hesitate at this late hour to rise and address the house but

the question of the eight-hour day was a very live issue in the constituency of Selkirk, which I have the honour to represent, and which is populated by so many working people. When I first saw this motion on the order paper I Thought it was remarkable that it should be proposed by the ex-Minister of Labour (Mr Heenan) in view of the conditions prevailing in my constituency in relation to a matter under the supervision of the late government. I refer to the fact that in the constituency of Selkirk there is a federal penitentiary at Stony. Mountain. I have not been able to understand just how it was, if the late administration was in favour of the eight-hour day, that they allowed the guards at that penitentiary to work in shifts of eleven and thirteen hours-and I may add that at the present time they are still working long hours. Many of them are returned soldiers drawing a pension for disability incurred on active service, and they are called upon to perform the task of keeping guard for eleven and sometimes thirteen hours a day. One who has had military service knows that a man who has been on guard for a period of four hours, and often less, is very much inclined to go to sleep and is not able to perform his duty adequately.

I was interested in the remark of the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) to the effect that the provinces expected the Dominion to fulfil to the letter the wording of this resolution. If he realizes that the provinces expected the federal government to live up to the letter Of this resolution, how was it that in all the penal institutions of this country the late administration allowed the guards to work for periods of eleven and thirteen hours a day? That is one thing that I have never been able to understand.

In the province of Manitoba there is also a provincial penal institution at Headingly, a very large institution housing more inmates than the federal penitentiary. In this provincial institution they have been able to establish an eight-hour day for the guards, and I see no reason why the eight-hour day could not be established in our federal penal institution as well.

(Mr. Pouliot.]

This question of hours of labour is one which is agitating the mind of every thinking man in Canada at the present time. We all know that by specialization of functions men are able to accomplish more in a lesser period of time than they were heretofore. The great problem we are facing to-day is not that of efficiency of labour, is not that of the production of the largest quantity of goods in the shortest period of time at a minimum cost. It is the problem faced at the present time by every nation in the civilized world, that of the distribution of work. As indicated the other day by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Speakman) we have to a great extent solved the problem of production, but we have not solved the problem of distribution. If the late government was really in earnest in the matter of carrying out the terms of the peace treaty, it is remarkable that this conference was not called long ago. If the late government was really honestly endeavouring to -carry out the obligation of Canada to the other nations of the world, such a conference should have been held. I realize that if the resolution were adopted and the law of the land became such that in Canada the eight-hour day should be compulsory, a great hardship might be inflicted on many of our workers. When I make that statement I am thinking of the iron and steel industry in the town of Selkirk in my constituency. In that constituency there are many men who are working-

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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LIB

Peter Heenan

Liberal

Mr. HEENAN:

I was wondering if the hon. member heard the acting leader of the government say that he was willing the motion should carry. I *would remind the hon. member that it is now just one minute to eleven o'clock.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

James Herbert Stitt

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STITT (Selkirk):

I am quite satisfied that the motion should carry if the hon Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) expressed his willingness. If the motion is carried all will be accomplished which reasonably could be expected at the present time. I have sat in my seat and listened to member after member speak on this matter. I represent a great number of workingmen in the constituency of Selkirk and no member representing my constituency could sit in this house and continue to represent those workingmen unless he raised his voice in support of this motion.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

It being eleven o'clock the house will stand adjourned until to-morrow at three o'clock.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Beauharnois Power Corporation Tuesday, May 19, 1931.


May 18, 1931