March 25, 1935

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I had rather hoped that the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gordon) would have found it possible to get this social legislation through by discussing it on its merits, and wait until the time of the general election to make his stump speeches. However, he has evidently found the temptation too great to resist, and has sought to imply, to say the least, that the present leader of the opposition, having been one of the many advisers who were present at the international labour conference held at Washington in 1919, was to-day opposing legislation which at that time he was partly instrumental in having recommended.

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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Labour; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

I did not say you were opposing it now.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Then we will put it in this way, that I was objecting to the jurisdiction of this parliament to deal with the matter. At any rate my hon. friend found it necessaiy to depart for a time from the legislation itself and devote a few remarks to myself. Perhaps he will pardon me, therefore, if I find it necessary to say a word or two about my position in connection with that international conference, for what light it may help to throw on the present situation. I recollect very well that at the time the conference was meeting in the United States, in 1919, the Union government was in power

Eight Hour Huy-Mr. Mackenzie King

in this country, and the Hon. N. W. Rowell was a member of the administration. If I recollect aright the invitation to me to be an adviser came either from Mr. Rowell or from the late Senator Robertson, who was then Minister of Labour.

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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Labour; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

If I might interject, the notes of the conference suggest that the right hon. gentleman was nominated by the province of Prince Edward Island.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Possibly my hon. friend may be correct; I would be representing Prince Edward Island in this house at the time, but I am quite distinct in my mind that it was due at least in part to the fact that both Hon. N. W. Rowell and Senator Robertson knew I had been Minister of Labour and deputy minister for a number of years, and was interested in these matters, that the invitation came to be extended to me to be one of the advisers at the conference at Washington. My hon. friend the Minister of Labour read to the house the list of those present. As he was reading it my colleague the ex-Minister of Justice remarked that there was a very large number of representatives from Canada. I gave my colleague the answer as to why the list- was so large, and I will give it to this house. It was assumed at that time, as all of us, on this side at least, assumed up to the beginning of this year, that matters respecting hours of labour came within the jurisdiction of the different provinces, and for that reason all the provinces of Canada were asked to be represented at the international conference in Washington. That, by the way, will explain how my attendance as an adviser came to, be in connection with the province of Prince Edward Island; I was one of the provincial representatives duly authorized by the provincial government. I am quite sure that as representing Prince Edward Island at the time I would have taken and did take the position that the enactment of legislation respecting the eight hour day came within the jurisdiction of the government of that province.

At any rate I know that all those who were present, both the ministers of the crown representing the federal government at the time and the representatives of the several provinces, were of one mind with respect to which legislative body had the competent jurisdiction in the matter of dealing with hours of labour. While all were equally desirous of seeing an eight hour day generally applied in Canada, I know all were equally of the view that if it were to be part of the law of this land, it would have to be enacted via the provincial legislatures in the first

instance. The procedure laid down by the international labour organization, as fashioned by the League of Nations, was that the draft conventions, in the first instance, would in federal states come to the federal government and later where necessary because of jurisdiction would be referred by the federal government to the different provinces.

Now may I point out that this meeting in Washington was held in 1919. It was December, 1921, before the Liberal administration took office; until that time either the Union government of Sir Robert Borden or the Conservative government of the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen was in office. If hon. members will look at the records of the privy council for that period they will find that the then Minister of Justice, Hon. Mr. Doherty, was responsible for the order in council which set forth the method the government of Canada should adopt with respect to the various conventions that came from the labour conference. I placed that order in council on record when I was speaking previously, so I need not read it now; it will be found in the remarks I made at the time the first draft convention was discussed during this present session of parliament. It distinctly set out-and this by a Conservative minister of justice-that the obligation of the federal parliament with respect to these conventions concerning hours of labour and the like was to transfer them to the competent legislative authority of this country, and that the competent legislative authority with respect to the eight hour day was the provincial governments. Hon. gentlemen will find that Hon. Mr. Doherty and the Conservative government of the day fulfilled the obligation, as they then understood it, by seeing that the draft convention respecting the eight hour day was referred to the various provinces. If other governments that have succeeded have taken a similar course it is because each and every one has been advised by the law officers of the crown that that was the proper method to pursue.

The Minister of Labour says these draft conventions were kept in cold storage from 1921 to 1930, and I can only speak for that period. From our point of view they were not kept in cold storage at all; they were referred, as the law officers advised the treaty obligations required, to the various provinces. During that period of time the Liberal government had many conferences with the provinces, some of which specifically considered the question of whether among themselves the provinces coulld not agree to see that, as between themselves there would be uniformity

2056 COMMONS

Eight Hour Day-Mr. Mackenzie King

of legislation, particularly with respect to these matters which came to the provinces via the federal government, from the labour office at Geneva.

So that far from having draft conventions in cold storage we were doing our utmost during our time t'o see that they were enacted, that they were not allowed to remain mere recommendations, but that in so far as it was possible for the federal government to influence the provinces, the provinces would be influenced in the direction of carrying them out. As a matter of fact, most of the provinces had already enacted all that was requested. But since my hon. friend has spoken of cold storage, may I remind him that he and most of his colleagues have been members of the present government now for nearly five years, so according to his statement they have evidently been viewing these draft conventions as being left in cold storage. They are the ones who have taken the view that what ought to be done with these conventions was to keep them in cold storage up to the last moment because1 we have not had any of them brought before parliament until this year.

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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Labour; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

It took us four years to get them thawed out.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am afraid it wall take longer than that to get the administration thawed out with respect to a good many questions which they ought to have considered by this time. But may I say what my hon. friend the Minister of Labour and all hon. gentlemen on that side know to be the fact, and that is that they themselves have stated-the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) has stated, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) has stated-that the view as set forth by the Hon. Mr. Doherty when Minister of Justice was the correct one with respect to these various draft conventions. They believed, and so stated to this parliament over and over again, that they were fully discharging every obligation that was imposed upon the federal government when they saw that these various conventions were referred to what they stated and believed were the bodies that had competent jurisdiction in the matter. It is only this year, only after the radio broadcasts that we have had, that this new theory is advanced, that this parliament has authority in the matter.

May I say this? When I made the statement the other day that we wished to see these measures enacted, I meant exactly what I said. I did not mean that we wished to

see a lot of make-believe legislation placed on the statute books. What we wanted to see was eight hour day and other social legislation in a position in which it could be enforced in this country, a position which would not permit of any doubt arising over any question of jurisdiction or constitutionality. There can be no question at all that the provinces themselves are competent to enact this eight hour day legislation, and I think that that will be admitted by the government itself. The eight hour day could be made generally applicable from one end of this country to the other by agreement between the provinces with respect to it. Similarly it could be made generally applicable by the British North America Act being amended so as to give this parliament power to pass legislation of this kind, amended with the consent of the provinces, which I believe could be and would be obtained, and would have been obtained long before this had hon. gentlemen opposite not needed that thawdng out process to which the Minister of Labour has just referred.

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CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

What about the years from 1919 to 1930?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I say that if hon. gentlemen opposite have for the last five years entertained the view they now hold, their attitude is unpardonable in not having introduced this legislation long before this. Entertaining the view that they did, if they had had at heart at all the desirability and necessity of having legislation of this kind enacted by the federal parliament, I say that they should have and would have provided for it by having a conference with the provinces which would have brought about agreement in these matters, or would at least have brought about an amendment to the British North America Act that would have given this parliament power to act at the present time without any question or doubt arising in the matter at all.

I think it is perfectly clear just why, of necessity, the position that I personally at any rate have taken in this matter has been what it is. It has been what it has among other reasons for the one cited by the Minister of Labour this afternoon, that I was present at the international conference that met at Washington when this matter was discussed and the draft convention framed, and I know that it was the view of dominion and provincial representatives alike that the eight hour day legislation so far as Canada was concerned, if it was to be enacted and made effective, would have to be provincial legislation.

Eight Hour Day-Mr. Hanson

The government is now hanging its whole case in regard to the possibility of this legislation being intra vires on the slender thread that this house has approved the draft convention. It is not any longer on the ground of the draft convention itself. The Minister of Justice this afternoon told us that the situation had altered since this house had approved the convention. That is the slender thread on which all of this social legislation hangs. I do not wish to use a term that will belittle what is being attempted here, but I do , say that in the absence of an authoritative basis, all that we are doing at the present time is putting ourselves in the position of passing so much make-believe legislation.

I am anxious, nevertheless, to have this legislation, such as it is, given the best possible chance that it can have before the courts, and for that reason I would not wish to, prejudice its chances, however slight, by supporting the amendment which has been moved this afternoon by my hon. friend from Winnipeg North (Mr. Heaps). That amendment, as has been stated by the Minister of Labour this afternoon, is altogether beyond the scope or provisions of the draft convention, and consequently beyond the grounds on which the government says it has any authority whatever to deal with this matter. Assuming that my hon. friend's amendment were to pass and the bill were to be modified as he suggests and that later on it were to come before the courts, where the argument would be made which the government has urged this afternoon, that because this parliament has approved of the convention we have the power to legislate, and with nothing more than that to support it; what would become of the whole legislation? It would be thrown sky high on the simple discovery that there is nothing in the draft convention anywhere which touches the question of a six hour day or a thirty hour week.

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LAB

Abraham Albert Heaps

Labour

Mr. HEAPS:

Section 3 of the bill distinctly states that the hours are not to exceed forty per week.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I know, but I

think my hon. friend will find that that is a matter of legal drafting, and the less experimenting there is at 'the present time with what is purely experimental the better perhaps it will be for what may happen in the long run. The chances of this legislation, from the point of view of some of us at least, are precarious beyond all words, but I feel that the chances would be utterly hopeless if we tried to go beyond what even the government itself says is the one slender thread upon which the whole of this social legislation hangs at the moment. For that reason, in order that whatever possible chance the government may have at all in the matter may not be spoiled utterly, I am going to vote against the amendment of my hon. friend.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. B. HANSON (Minister of Trade and Commerce):

Mr. Speaker, I had not

intended to make any observations with respect to this bill had it not been for the remarks of the right hon. leader of the opposition. But in the course of his remarks he used the belittling term of "make-believe" with regard to this legislation, and that statement was the culmination of a long line of similar characterizations of the government's social legislation. In other words, before this house and before the country he challenges the sincerity of the administration with regard to all this legislation, and in particular the eight hour day bill, the day of rest bill and the unemployment insurance measure. I think that is not straining his position at all, that it is stating his position exactly. He challenges the sincerity of the Prime Minister above all, and that will be the cry in the country with respect to this class of legislation and with respect to these bills.

Well, if that be so, I wonder what the opinion of the house and the country will be with respect to himself when I recall to your mind, sir, and to the mind of the house and the country that as long ago as August, 1919, when the right hon. gentleman was elected leader of his party he put into the platform of that party-I say that he put it into the platform because he was the leading authority on social legislation in his own convention-the following plank: Limit hours of work to an eight hour day and forty-eight hour week along with a weekly rest of at least twenty-four hours. I ask the right hon. gentleman if that was make-believe, if that was put forward to fool the people and if that was put in as a test of his sincerity? The net result was that not a thing was done in all the intervening years.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

If my hon.

friend will read the whole of what was set forth he will see that that statement was accompanied by another statement that it would be in accordance with the intent of the labour articles of the league and the reference of these matters to their competent jurisdiction.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

That cannot be quite so because as I recollect it the Liberal convention was held in August of

Eight Hour Day-Mr. Hanson

1919 while the Washington convention did not take place until October or November of the same year. That argument simply will not hold water.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Read it, it is

there.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I have read it ad! nauseam for the last ten years. Not more than twenty-five per cent of the Liberal platforms was put upon the statute books and it was never intended that any more should be put upon the statute books. I would point out that section 132 of the British North America Act was in existence in 1919. I do not recall whether the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) had been a law officer previous to that time but he certainly stood high in the councils of the Liberal party and must have known, as any legal member of this house knew, that the provisions of section 132 were open to the leader of the opposition in 1919 just as they are open now in 1935. The only difference was that there had not been the ingenuity or thoughtfulness to put that section into effect in order to achieve something which could never be achieved without amending the British North America Act or having the unanimous consent of the provinces.

Did the right hon. leader of the opposition ever call an interprovincial conference during the nine years he was in power for the purpose of amending the British North America Act or to ask them to put into effect uniform social legislation?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Yes, he did.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

He did not have much success.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Did you?

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

My recollection is that he had innumerable interprovincial conferences but never had any success along the lines I have suggested. I have not had the time to go back to review the proceedings of the conferences but I venture to say that the question of the adhesion to the principles of this 1919 Washington declaration was never brought up at any interprovincial conference. During this time most of the provincial administrations were Liberal. Since 1930 efforts have been made by this government at provincial conferences to obtain uniformity of legislation in certain matters which were said to be within the jurisdiction of the provincial legislatures.

The most notable instance I call to mind at the moment is with respect to the jurisdiction over companies. My impression is that the provinces as they are at present constituted will never willingly give up jurisdiction in any matter. This is not because they want to seize or retain jurisdiction merely for the purpose of having jurisdiction, they do not want to give up any jurisdiction because they fear they might be doing something which would prove detrimental to their interests as provinces. This is the reason why nothing can be done through conferences with the provinces. They are not willing to release any part of what they consider the rights of the provinces as opposed to the central authority. I think if I were a member of a provincial government I would be bound to project the consideration of these constitutional questions along the same lines. As far as company lawT is concerned, I have always thought that it would be all to the good if the authority could be centralized and we could have a uniform law, but everyone does not agree with this point of view. We should have some regard for the opinions of others on questions which are, to say the least, controversial. The provinces have never been willing to give up jurisdiction over corporations. Even though no progress was made by my right hon. friend in connection with this matter, the way has been opened through the application of section 132 of the British North America Act. I do not think he should use the belittling term of "make believe legislation" and question the motives of his opponents who are triyng to do something for the working people of this country.

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March 25, 1935