March 11, 1935

LAB

Humphrey Mitchell

Labour

Mr. MITCHELL:

I have heard arguments of this kind all my life, and I think we should get down to earth. If long hours and low

wages are the measure of civilization of any country, India and China would be the most prosperous in the world. Let us be frank about the matter. I have heard it said here several times this afternoon: There will be

a great deal of difficulty; it will be a hardship to change from these long hours for $9 a week like those the hon. member has just been discussing. The hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough said that he had the eight hour day among his employees. This bill is not intended to deal with the fair employer; it is intended to deal with the unfair employer who will not cooperate, who will take advantage of the good employer and work his men an extra couple of hours a day so as to get the advantage under those conditions.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
LIB
LAB

Humphrey Mitchell

Labour

Mr. MITCHELL:

Some do and some do not. Everybody in this country is not paid by the hour. Frankly, I do not think the bill goes far enough. I have before me a copy of World Current History which points out that a six hour day was introduced in Italy this year.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
LIB
LAB

Humphrey Mitchell

Labour

Mr. MITCHELL:

I know that was done

under a dictatorship in Italy. This is being done under a democracy in this country. I know there are many who will be opposed to a shorter day, and anybody who has experience with certain men knows that is always the case, but a start has to be made somewhere. This bill should be more comprehensive, and I agree with the hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough in that regard. There is an important industry, that of distribution, which was discussed in the price spreads committee; I refer to the chain stores, and it is more important for them to come within the confines of the bill than it is for anybody else. The federal government or the provincial governments, whichever win out on the legal aspect of the matter, are going to go a long way further than this legislation if they are to meet the needs of the masses not only in industry but in agriculture. Let us take the case of the United States. If they got back to the production capacity of 1929, there would still be 6,000,000 people out of work in that country. The question that is confronting the people not only of Canada but of the United States is: What are we

going to do about the matter? The workmen in their practical way know that the only real advance they have ever made has been in

Eight Hour Day

shortening the working day. In Italy by reducing in certain industries the working hours from eight to six they have been able to put 130,000 more people at work. In Canada, if the leadership is not going to come from this House of Commons, I do not know where it will come from. If this house is not going to say to those unfair employers, those employers who take advantage of the good ones, that certain things must be done, I do not know of any other agency that can deal with the matter. The last thing in the world for a member of this house to do is to argue in favour of anybody who would take boys off the farm and make them work twelve hours a day for 89 a week. Let us not shed tears over any such employer. Those are the conditions we have heard brought out in the price spread investigation. This legislation will apply to the Chinese or the Greeks just the same as to the native born Canadian. The intent of it is to see that everybody gets a fair deal, because everybody is equal in the eyes of the law. I do not think it becomes any member to shed tears about a man who works a boy in a restaurant twelve hours a day for S9 a week. That instance used shows all the more reason why we should have legislation of this description.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
CON

Thomas Cantley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CANTLEY:

When I referred a few minutes ago to the difficulties of the situation and said that some regulations would have to be made in that connection, I hope the committee did not form the opinion that I was opposed to an eight hour day, because I am not. For more than twenty years our practice was to have a sixty hour week; to-day I believe a forty-four hour week will produce more in the course of a year and under better conditions for both the workmen and the employer than would a longer week. If the committee will bear with me, I shall give one or two reasons why I hold that opinion. In a steel plant the repair gang is an important part of the organization. Under ordinary conditions twenty years ago when the mills ceased work at six o'clock Saturday night, the repair gang of thirty or forty men came cn, worked all Saturday night, all day Sunday and all Sunday night to get the mills, hammers, presses and furnaces into proper condition for resuming work on Monday morning. About twenty years ago some men came into my office one Saturday and suggested that Saturday afternoon during the summer months from June to September should be a holiday. I thought the idea was a good one and agreed to it. What was the result? We were able to get our repair work all completed in the Saturday afternoon and

Saturday night or by Sunday morning without any Sunday work, which the repair gang appreciated. That also meant a considerable saving so far as the cost of repairs was concerned because Sunday work was paid double time. All needed repairs were completed, whereas under former conditions there very often was not time enough between six o'clock Saturday night and Monday morning to complete the repairs. At the end of that season I decided that a half holiday on Saturday was the proper thing every month in the year, and it has been in effect ever since. To-day more goods can be produced in a forty-four hour week in almost every line of manufacture than in sixty or seventy hours twenty years ago; I think we all agree as to that. The hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough thinks this legislation is not required. It is required in some sections of the country at least in regard to some operations. There will have to be a good deal done by way of providing for the classes of labour that I referred to a little while ago, and it will be only by trial and error and changes and modifications in the next two or three years to get it working smoothly that we shall finally get the measure in such shape that practically everyone will be in favour of it.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
CON

Ambrose Upton Gledstanes Bury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURY:

I am sure that most if not all hon. members are in sympathy with the suggestion which has been made by the hon. member for East Hamilton. But I understand that this bill is drafted for the purpose of implementing an undertaking given by Canada in connection with draft conventions approved by the international labour office at Geneva. I understand that the bill on that account conforms in essence with the draft convention. My hon. friend from East Hamilton says: "But why should not this parliament go beyond the minimum requirements of the draft convention and enact a measure which will include more classes and perhaps go even further in respect to the limitation of hours?" I suggest this to him and to the committee: I understand that one of the grounds on which parliament bases its jurisdiction to pass a measure of this kind is that it is an attempt to implement a treaty agreement, and if it were not, whatever ground or basis of jurisdiction we have would be to that extent weakened. For that reason I suggest that the moment we go beyond that ground we are weakening our position in respect of jurisdiction, and that only by keeping within the limits of our treaty obligations are we safe in respect of our right to pass the legislation, so far as such obligations are a ground of our jurisdiction.

Eight Hour Day

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

Will the hon. gentleman state, as clearly as he is now stating his case to the committee, in what respect the draft convention-which by the way was not a labour convention from Geneva but comes under the treaty of Versailles- limits the power of this government to include such categories as restaurant and hotel work?

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
CON

Ambrose Upton Gledstanes Bury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURY:

My answer is that as I understand the situation, one of the grounds of our jurisdiction to pass this legislation is the fact that as a nation we have undertaken to pass legislation of this kind. That, as I understand it, gives to this parliament a jurisdiction which it might not otherwise have. My suggestion is that if that be so, the scope of our jurisdiction will be limited to the scope of our obligations derived from such undertaking. In other words if our jurisdiction depends upon or is derived from our obligation, to that extent, in order to keep within our jurisdiction so derived, we must keep within our obligation.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

But will the hon. gentleman show me how we are limited? What is the obligation? Wild he read the part that refers to that?

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
CON

Ambrose Upton Gledstanes Bury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURY:

Here is the preamble to the bill:

Whereas the Dominion of Canada is a signatory, as part of the British empire, to the treaty of peace made between the allied and associated powers and Germany, signed at Versailles, on the 28th day of June, 1919; and whereas the said treaty of peace was confirmed by the Treaty of Peace Act 1919; and whereas by article 23 of the said treaty the signatories thereto each agreed that they would endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women and children, both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend, and by article 427 of the said treaty it was declared that the well-being, physical, moral and intellectual, of industrial wage-earners is of supreme importance; and whereas a draft convention respecting hours of work in industrial undertakings was agreed upon at a general conference of the internation labour organization of the League of Nations, in accordance with the relevant articles of the said treaty, which said convention has been ratified by Canada; and whereas it is advisable to enact the necessary legislation to enable Canada to discharge the obligations assumed under the provisions of the said treaty and the said convention, and to provide for the limitation of hours of work in industrial undertakings, in accordance with the general provisions of the said convention, and to assist in the maintenance, on equitable terms of interprovineial and international trade.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
LIB
CON

Ambrose Upton Gledstanes Bury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURY:

What I am getting at is that

the whole basis of the present legislation is the treaty obligation into which this country entered, and that in so far as that furnishes the ground of our jurisdiction as a federal parliament to intervene in legislation affecting wages, which in general would come under provincial authority, we must confine our legislation within the general scope of our treaty obligation. We could not go beyond the scope of our treaty obligation without exposing ourselves and exposing this legislation in so far as it goes beyond that scope to the peril of impeachment of our right to pass the legislation at all.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
IND

Angus MacInnis

Independent Labour

Mr. MacINNIS:

The last speaker said

that the basis of this legislation is our obligation under the treaty of Versailles. What are our obligations under that treaty, according to the preamble of the bill? They are to "endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women and children." How are we limited in putting that into effect either by the convention of an international labour body or by any other convention or statute? We cannot be limited except by the extent to which we wish to go. That is the only limit, if this parliament has jurisdiction at all. So that there is no ground whatsoever for the argument the hon. member has just made. AVe are not limited as to the scope of this legislation; we can just as easily extend it. We can bring in or leave out. What we are particularly concerned with is not what has been brought into the bill but what has been left out of it.

The hon. member for Antigonish-Guys-borough made a most extraordinary statement; he said the bill was not necessary because we now have the eight hour day, and if the eight hour day bill was put into effect it would be ruinous. I cannot follow that logic myself. As has already been pointed out by the hon. member for New AVestminster, when legislation of this kind is proposed the argument is always brought forward that if it be put into effect the industries affected will have to close up and quit business. But that has been proved untrue. I ask hon. members how they are going to put back to work some 300,000 heads of families that are now unemployed in this country, and the 20,000 or more who are in camps, if they do not reduce hours of labour? As a matter of fact the people who are working now are supporting those who are not working, and it is only a reasonable suggestion that we should divide the work and let each

Eight Hour Day

one support himself. It is just as well that we should have those who are so ready to protect vested interests come forward now and do their bit, because within a very few weeks or months we shall want to know where they stand anyway.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
LIB

George Washington McPhee

Liberal

Mr. McPHEE:

Owing to the total collapse of the Postmaster General will the hon. member for East Edmonton kindly explain what the hon. member for Vancouver South has been saying to the committee?

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
CON
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

I understood the hon

member for East Edmonton to say that there is a treaty obligation and therefore we must do this and that. This afternoon at three o'clock the acting Prime Minister read a lengthy answer to a question put some days ago, and in that answer it is shown very clearly and beyond doubt that there is not the slightest obligation upon Canada to stand by that convention. It is merely a suggestion or an earnest wish on the part of the League of Nations; there is no treaty obligation whatever. It is just an occasion for the government to say "we are bound by that," but whether the government says that in a soft voice or in a very loud voice makes no difference; there is no obligation at all upon Canada to stand by that convention. I need not discuss whether this is good or bad, but I look at it from the coercive point of view. Could the league send an army to force Canada to stand by that convention? It could not. The hon. member for East Edmonton knows very well that the league will never send an army to Canada to enforce that convention, so Canada is not bound by it. That appears very clear from the answer given by the acting Prime Minister. Therefore my contention with regard to this bill -I am not discussing whether or not it is good or bad in principle-is that it makes no difference whether or not such conventions have been suggested by the league; this country, as a member of the league, is not bound by them. As my hon. friend from Hochelaga (Mr. St-Pere) said, the best proof of that is that the question will be discussed anew next June. Therefore there is nothing binding Canada in that regard. This is of the utmost importance, because if this country is not bound by that convention-

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
LIB
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

No, it is a nomination without a convention. I wonder why this is called a convention. It is more like a formula, a method of procedure, which you may take or leave alone. My hon. friend from Hochelaga says it is an earnest wish, but it is not even a wish; it is just a suggestion. Some members of the government say we are bound by it; such an eminent lawyer as the hon. member for East Edmonton says it is a treaty obligation, but there is no obligation to it. Either it is good or it is bad. If it is bad we should not bother with it, but if it is good it should be enforced. If it is to be enforced that should be done in the proper way. The only means at our disposal to find out if it can be enforced is to ask the opinion of the supreme court, just as we should do in connection with the unemployment insurance bill. Should we speak at any length when we know in advance that this legislation never will be put into operation? Sir, it is just election bait, and I wonder if many electors in this country from the Atlantic to the Pacific will be credulous enough to swallow it. That is all there is to it.

May I suggest that the Minister of Labour and the other members of the government, in the absence of the Prime Minister and the anting Prime Minister, make a decision by themselves in order to show that they are men of good judgment. They are numerous enough to constitute a majority of council, so let them decide that the only way to deal with this matter is to submit the bill to the Supreme Court of Canada now and come to the House of Commons later. If the supreme court says this bill is intra vires I will support it without making any further speeches. If on the other hand the supreme court decide that it is ultra vires of this parliament, then I will respectfully suggest to my hon. friends on the treasury benches that the legislation be dropped. If they take the stand that has been taken by the Prime Minister and the acting Prime Minister we must tell them that they are wasting the time of the house now for Tory propaganda. There are many serious things to consider, such as unemployment relief, and I submit that if they are earnest in their desire for legislation such as this they should have a decision on the matter by the highest tribunal in this country. If they do not do so every member will have the right to say, both inside and outside this house, at any time, that the government are not serious, that they are only trying to fool the people by offering bait of this kind for propaganda purposes.

Eight Hour Day

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink
CON

Donald James Cowan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COWAN:

Just before this section carries I should like to direct the attention of the minister to one other point in regard to the interpretation clause. If the minister will look at the definition of industrial undertaking he will find that it includes the transport of passengers or goods by road or rail. In reading bill 22, which has to do with the weekly day of rest in industrial undertakings, I find exactly the same words except that in the bill under discussion the words "inland waterway" have been left out. In all other respects the interpretation clause is the same. The inclusion of those words in the bill would mean that the sailors on the great lakes would come under its provisions. If the words were left out in error I submit that the matter should be considered, and in any case I believe these sailors should be included.

Topic:   C0A1M0NS
Permalink

March 11, 1935