April 11, 1935


Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (Minister of Justice) moved the second reading of Bill No. 40, to provide for minimum wages pursuant to the convention concerning minimum wages adopted by the international labour organization in accordance with the provisions of part XIII of the treaty of Versailles and of the corresponding parts of the other treaties of peace. Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and the house went into committee thereon, Mr. MacDonald (Cape Breton) in the chair.


CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

The bill is drawn pursuant to the draft convention of the general conference of the international labour organization of the League of Nations, which convention has been adopted by this house during the present session. The bill professes to follow as closely as possible, having regard to the situation, the draft convention which was submitted, and the plan under the bill is, briefly, to appoint a committee to consist of a minister, being the Minister of Labour, a representative of the employer and a representative of the employees in each particular trade, to fix a minimum wage to be paid in respect of that trade throughout the dominion. The treaty itself provides that the bill shall not became operative until after the lapse of one year after its deposit at Geneva, and a special clause is inserted to provide that in the interval before it becomes law, in any exceptional case, the governor in council may provide a minimum wage after having made inquiry as set out in the terms of the bill. Otherwise I think the bill follows pretty closely the language of the treaty which was approved by the house at the present session.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

I have listened to the

minister's explanation with regard to this bill. I wish to assure hon. members that I am among the first members of the house who have studied the question of minimum wages. I did so away back in 1928 with the assistance of Hon. Peter Heenan, Minister of Labour at that time, and also the very valuable help of my revered leader, because I was just starting to make a study of statistics and very often I had to go to the right hon. gentleman for advice. I wish to express my thanks to him in that- connection.

This bill is supposed to be based upon a draft convention which appeared on the orders

Minimum Wage

of the day of March 11 of this year. It is a draft convention and just a moment ago I heard the Minister of Justice repeat the statement that it was. I have asked for the book in which that draft convention could be found and my first question was to the acting Prime Minister. My question was asked on March 11 last, as reported on page 1573 of Hansard, and the fact that the right hon. gentleman had time enough to think before answering me is apparent in that the answer was given on the following day as reported on page 1616. He read an answer in which it was stated:

The texts of draft conventions and recommendations adopted by international labour conferences are not printed in the official journal of the League of Nations but are to be found in the official bulletin of the international labour office where, on page 121 of the issue of the 31st July, 1928, he will find the text of _ the convention concerning the creation of minimum wage fixing machinery.

This was not in the journals of the League of Nations. I have the official bulletin referred to by the right hon. gentleman, and at page 121, the page he mentioned, there are only three lines and four words, as follows:

Minimum wage fixing machinery.

And they refer to another booklet entitled:

Second discussion; international labour convention; eleventh session, Geneva, May 1928; report on minimum wage fixing machinery; first item on the agenda; international labour office, Geneva, 1928.

This booklet, which has 149 pages, I have procured from the library.

On March 19, a week after I had received the answer from the acting Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice referred me to another book which he was kind enough to lend me, but it was not the book mentioned by the acting Prime Minister, nor the one that I hold in my hand. He mentioned another book, and he brought into the matter a dark horse, a third book which contained draft conventions; in fact it was called, Draft Conventions and Recommendations Adopted by the International Labour Conference at its sessions from 1919 to 1932.

But the most important point that I wish to stress is this: that the acting Prime Minister, the present leader of the government, has referred me to the page of that booklet, the official bulletin of the international labour office of July 31, 1928, which refers to the book already described that I now hold in my hand, this one containing 149 pages. This means that this book is the basis of the legislation which is now before us. The importance of this is the way in which this country has

answered the questions which have been put by the international labour conference. These are several questions which appear on page 2:

Principle of the creation of machinery and scope of its application.

1. Do you consider that the conference should adopt proposals dealing with methods of minimum wage fixing in home working and other trades or in parts of such trades in which:

(a) No arrangements exist for the effective regulation of wages by collective agreement or otherwise, and

(b) Wages are exceptionally low?

2. Do you consider that a definition of (a) home working trades, and (b) other trades, should be included in any proposals which may be adopted by the conference? What definitions do you propose?

3. Do you consider that it is for the government of each country to decide, having regard to the conditions of the country, which are the home working and other trades covered by question one?

4. What criteria (if any) would you propose to adopt for determining in which trades there are:

(a) No arrangements for the effective regulation of wages;

(b) Exceptionally low wages?

There are first answers from Austria and Belgium, then the answer from Canada. Was it given by the Canadian government? No, It was given first by British Columbia; second, by Manitoba; third, by Ontario and, fourth, by Quebec. This means that the government of that day, respecting the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada, had decided not themselves to answer the question on behalf of the federal government, but to submit the questions to the provinces, and then the answers were sent back to the federal government and later forwarded to Geneva. This shows that the former Liberal government respected the confederation pact and acted under its provisions in regard to this important matter.

This is not the only question which was asked. There are several others, and I shall read a few of them to show that the former Liberal government were sincere in saying that when those matters were to be settled, they had to be settled in conformity with the law of the land. Another question is as follows:

Question 5:

Basis for fixing minimum wages.

Do you consider that some provision should be made for a basis for fixing minimum wages? If so, what basis do you suggest?

This is answered by Austria, Belgium, Canada. The answer for Canada is given by British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, as reported on pages 38 and 39 of this book.

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Minimum Wage

Other questions of similar importance come afterward:

Determination of the minimum wage fixing methods.

6. Do you consider that the conference should:

(a) Lay down the method or methods upon which the minimum wages should he fixed? If so, what method or methods do you propose? Or

(b) Confine itself to laying down general principles? If so, what principles do you suggest?

7. If not, do you consider that it is for the government of each country to decide, having regard to the administrative practice of the country, the method or methods to be introduced in fixing minimum wages in the home working or other trades covered by question one?

This is answered by Austria, Belgium and Canada. For Canada the answer is not given by the federal government. It is given for Canada by the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. And there are other questions of some importance with regard to the same matter; question 8 on page 52:

Do you consider that any such method should make provision for full preliminary consultation with representatives of the trade concerned, including representatives of organizations of employers and workers (if any), and with any other persons specially qualified by their trade or functions to be usefully consulted?

Answered for Canada by British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

9. Do you consider that employers and workers should be represented on the wage fixing body? If so, do you consider that they should be represented' in equal numbers?

10. Do you consider that any minimum wage fixing body should contain an independent person or persons?

11. What methods do you consider should be adopted in selecting and appointing:

(a) the representatives of employers and workers;

(b) the independent person or persons?

Answered for Canada by the four provinces already named.

12. What systems of inspection, general supervision and enforcement do you propose for insuring the payment of wages in the trades concerned at not less than the rates fixed?

The same answer, by the four provinces already mentioned.

13. Do you consider that the government should communicate to the international labour office, either in the annual report furnished in accordance with article 408 of the treaty or otherwise in the case of a recommendation, the list of trades in which the system of fixing minimum wages has been applied, together with the approximate number of workers covered, and a general statement on the minimum rates of wages and other conditions established in the trades concerned?

The same answer for Canada by the four provinces already mentioned.

14. Do you consider that the conference should proceed by way of a draft convention or a recommendation or both? If the latter, in what respects should either form of decision be adopted?

The same answer for Canada by the four provinces already mentioned.

Then there is a general survey of the question in the light of the replies of the governments. But the government in this instance was not the federal government, it was each provincial government. Some of them did not answer, but the answers which were given were in accordance with the ruling of the supreme court of this country. It is all very well to say, "We will change the social order." The social order cannot be changed so easily as that; it cannot be changed by the will of one man, however powerful he may be. It is a matter of great importance that things be done rightly; no one can escape the obligation to follow the right path. It would have been easy for the previous government to pass legislation such as this, but it was repugnant to their sense of duty to the people of this country. I believe in minimum wages; I have advocated them, and it was after the statistics which I compiled were submitted to this house and studied by the Minister of Labour of the time, who was very earnest in that regard, that an act was passed by this parliament to establish minimum wages for the men employed directly by the federal government. The federal government could not go further than that on account of the ruling of the court.

Sir, I am strongly in favour of minimum wages being applied throughout the country from one ocean to the other, and the sooner it becomes a reality the better. But if it comes it must come to serve a useful purpose, not to deceive the people. As this legislation is drafted it rests upon nothing. The very fact that it is based on the report which I have just read shows that this parliament has no jurisdiction at all in the matter. The very basis of it is the reference which has been given by the acting Prime Minister. It is most interesting to go to the rock bottom of things; there we find the truth, but at times it takes a lot of digging and excavation to discover it. When the truth is discovered no one can do otherwise than fight for it. The truth is that this legislation is- built on sand, on the sand of d(?beit. I know very well what will happen in the next election; hon. members to your right, sir, will tell the working men of this country, who are exploited: "Here we are to save you with new legislation which will increase your wages." But as soon as a

Minimum Wage

manufacturer attacks this legislation before the courts, the judiciary will do the same work as I have done; he will go to the bottom of it-if he does not he will not fulfil his duty- and he will see that this parliament has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter. Sir, that is a very serious statement to make; I make it only after having gone to the source of this legislation as presented by the acting Prime Minister. There may be some harebrained clerks in the civil service who pretend to do more than they are capable of, who bring to this government half-baked legislation, telling them that they have gone through all the previous legislation, but that serves no useful purpose. It is only deceit, and those men who have drafted this legislation deserve to be discharged at once, because it is bad, it is not even sensible, it rests on nothing and is just misleading to the working men of this country.

The government complain that there have been profiteers who have taken advantage of the working men in order to pay small wages. I admit that. But who protected these manufacturers by high tariffs since 1930? The government have done the same as the packing business; they have been fattening hogs since 1930, and now that the hogs are fat they try to kill them. We heard the Prime Minister declare at the special session of 1930 that as a result of raising the tariff there would be no unemployment in this country. The reason the tariff was raised was to decrease unemployment, we were told. What was the result? To-day the figures of unemployment are astounding. We have not yet got the whole truth in that matter, but we shall get it, and we shall see that it is most important to follow the right path of law and jurisprudence in order to do something for the working men of this country who need help. But the very best way to come to their assistance is to take some advantage of interprovincial conferences or the occasions on which the representatives of the Department of Labour have to meet the representatives of labour in the provinces and discuss these matters with them in order to come to mutual understanding.

There is something else which strikes me. According to the British North America Act the federal parliament has exclusive jurisdiction in certain matters; the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction in others. Both of them are masters within their own bounds; they are not subject to interference from the other side. What has been said here-and I regret to be unable to agree with it-is that when the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction and this parliament has no jurisdiction at all;

when on the other hand this parliament has exclusive jurisdiction and the provinces have no jurisdiction at all, although according to our constitution neither has jurisdiction in the other field, when they meet together they say, "Well, there has been an agreement about it," and it is considered just as though they had concurrent jurisdiction.

Surely the Minister of Justice has had too much parliamentary experience to insist on this legislation any longer. In addition, after having read the summary of the report of the price spreads committee as it appeared in the press, I submit that this legislation would have to be changed in order to meet the recommendations contained in that report, if it is accepted. To me it is astounding that such a tree should grow from such a seed.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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Section agreed to. Sections 2 to 5 inclusive agreed to. On section 6-Regulations.


CON

Martin James Maloney

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MALONEY:

In connection with this

section, a week or two ago a former president of the Weekly Newspapers' Association of Canada drew to my attention the fact that the weekly newspapers are the training ground for printers of all classes throughout our country, and he mentioned the fact that the apprentice starts in and must spend three or four years at the work before he becomes competent. Surely the minimum wage should not apply in that case. I notice that subsection (c) reads as follows:

-authorize the minister to permit an employer to pay wages less than the minimum rates of wages in the case_ of a worker who, by reason of his age, infirmity or inexperience, is incapable of doing the work of a, competent worker.

It will be understood that an apprentice, who is employed for the same hours as the regular employee, really is not entitled to nor can he earn the same rate of pay. I should like to ask the minister if the subsection to which I referred meets the situation about which I was consulted.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I think it is intended to meet circumstances of that kind. My hon. friend read subsection (c) of section 6. Under section 2, the definition of a worker is, " a male or female worker over the age of sixteen years." I think exceptional cases might arise in which exceptional treatment must be given, such as the case cited by my hon. friend.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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IND

Angus MacInnis

Independent Labour

Mr. MacINNIS:

There is some confusion

in my mind as to how the minimum wages are to be set, and who is to be authorized to

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set them. Under section 4 the governor in council may set up a committee consisting of the minister and a person representing employers and a person representing workers.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I fancy my hon. friend

did not listen when I explained that point. That is a special section. This act cannot go into force until one year after the treaty is deposited at Geneva. There is to be a hiatus, and during the year it may become necessary to fix minimum rates before the board authorized by this act has any authority, so for that year power is given the governor in council.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

Isaac Duncan MacDougall

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDOUGALL:

In any given community will the minimum rate be the prevailing rate?

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

The minimum rate will

be the lowest wage that may be paid in the particular trade or occupation, but if in any province the standard is higher than that fixed under this act, the higher provincial standard shall apply.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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Section agreed to. On section 7-Inquiry by minister as to minimum wages required.


IND

Angus MacInnis

Independent Labour

Mr. MacINNIS:

This section states:

The minister may at_ any time on the application of representatives of employers or workers conduct an inquiry as to the minimum rates of wages required to enable a worker to obtain the necessities of life according to a decent standard.

Who is to define a decent standard of living? Will the government define the income necessary for a decent standard of living or will that be left to the committee that sets the minimum wage?

Mr. GUTHRIE.: On the committee there will be a representative chosen by the workmen and a representative of the employers. If the minister has any doubt about it he may appoint a commission to inquire into what is a fair standard of living, under the Inquiries Act.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I have been trying to connect up this section with section 6 (a). Suppose one district differs very materially from other districts; suppose in one district the cost of living is lower than in another. Will there not still be a minimum wage for that area in which the cost is lower?

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Yes, that is provided for, Geographical areas are provided for in section 6 (a). Undoubtedly there may be districts in Canada in which a trade is carried on under very different conditions and where

standards are very different from those in other districts. These may be taken into consideration by the commission fixing the standards and the wages in those districts.

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Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

My understanding was that such an area might be excepted, but in the case of such exception is there not still a minimum that will be required in that area?

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

There is; that area will have a minimum.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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Section agreed to. Sections 8 to 10 inclusive agreed to. On section 11-Provincial rates to prevail if higher than relevant rates under this act.


LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I should like to ask the minister a question at this point. This section recognizes that the provinces may have minimum wage boards and that they have the right to fix minimum wages. Is it now to be understood that the government take the view that there is concurrent jurisdiction with respect to the fixation of minimum wages, as between the dominion and the provinces?

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

No, that view will not prevail when this bill becomes law. My opinion and the opinion of the government is that when this bill becomes law it will override any provincial minimum wage law in Canada, under our treaty making power. But the bill recognizes that should a legislature or commission in any province fix a minimum wage, they being in a special position to understand what the minimum wage in that province should be, if the standard they have adopted or fixed is higher than the standard which might be fixed under this bill, the provincial standard shall be the minimum wage under this bill; that rate shall be adopted under this bill. It is not a recognition of jurisdiction.

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

If the provincial rate is lower, what happens?

Topic:   MINIMUM WAGE
Subtopic:   BILL BASED ON DRAFT CONVENTION OF INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION AND TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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April 11, 1935