Perhaps at this point the minister will give us a short statement regarding the operations of this statute. The courts said the Lemieux act was ultra vires. We did certain things purporting to be done under its authority. Then the provinces passed legislation. I should like a statement of how it stands at the present time, because the other day I was asked in regard to something that was happening, and apparently I have not as clear an appreciation of it as I thought I had. Perhaps the minister will state how it does work in practice.
I believe the answer would be that after the decision of the judicial committee in the Snider case the authority of the compulsory sections of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act became limited to the setting up of boards to deal with disputes
in dominion undertakings or interprovinoial undertakings. That meant in effect that its operation was contracted with respect to disputes which previously had fallen within its scope, namely, disputes occurring in public utilities wholly within provincial jurisdiction. To meet that situation my understanding is that, following the decision in the Snider case, provincial legislatures enacted enabling legislation which gave the industrial disputes act full force and effect with respect to disputes arising on public utilities within provincial jurisdiction. I believe two provinces since then have enacted legislation which has had the effect of withdrawing disputes in provincial public utilities from the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act-British Columbia, and, New Brunswick.
That then clearly raises the issue to which I wish to direct the minister's attention. Is it competent for the legislatures of the various provinces to enact legislation which would have the effect of amending the constitution as interpreted by the court of last resort? And secondly, what is the effect of the withdrawal of two of the provinces by statutory enactment, if as suggested the effect of the original action was to confer jurisdiction in what had been decided by the courts to be an unconstitutional field for the dominion to occupy?
As to the first point, the right hon. leader of the opposition is more competent to express an opinion than I am on the legal question involved. But so far as I am aware no objection was ever taken to the efficacy of the provincial legislation, which did bring industrial disputes of the character described within provincial jurisdiction under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act. I know of no case before the courts in which that question was ever raised. Certainly since the decision in the Snider case the industrial disputes act has been invoked in practically all provinces. I should think that the withdrawal of the two provinces I have mentioned would have no effect other than to restrict the operation of the act within their respective boundaries.
is necessary for this in view of the Snider decision. I was acting for the people at the time. If that decision had not been as it was there would not be a public utility municipally owned in Ontario to-day. It is all right to have this amount of money provided for work on the dominion government properties or railways, but the minister must not forget that by the Snider case property and civil rights, the law of employer and employee and the law of contracts are involved. Why did the minister interfere in the Oshawa case? It seems to me this department is very largely a technical department. It is difficult to get any satisfaction when there is any real dispute on; they back out and leave it to the province.
answers I should like to make one statement. I confess that this matter is one of great difficulty. I have myself, without analysing it more carefully than I have been able to do from time to time, the very gravest doubt whether by acts of all the legislatures you can change the constitution of this country. Certainly there is no power to amend the British North America Act lodged in any parliamentary organization or institution other than the parliament at Westminster. To say that a legislative act on the part of all the provinces could have the effect of conferring constitutional power upon this parliament which the courts have said it does not possess is a proposition which I regret to say I cannot accept. In view of a conversation I had I looked up section 94 of the British North America Act, to which I think Professor Scott of McGill made some reference. This clearly applies to three provinces only:
Notwithstanding anything in this act, the parliament of Canada may make provision for the uniformity of all or any of the laws relative to property and civil rights in Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and of the procedure of all or any of the courts in those three provinces, and from and after the passing of any act in that behalf the power of the parliament of Canada to make laws in relation to any matter comprised in any such act shall, notwithstanding anything in this act, be unrestricted; but any act of the parliament of Canada making provision for such uniformity shall not have effect in any province unless and until it is adopted and enacted as law by the legislature thereof.
I cannot think this is one of the statutes that falls within the provisions of that section. Therefore I question whether we have any right at all-and I think that was the view held in my time by certain of the law officers -to undertake industrial disputes investigations except with respect to-(a) matters
within the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the parliament of Canada, and (b) such matters as relate to the operation of industrial or other activities in two or more provinces. That is my understanding of it.
This is a matter of some importance at the moment. Recently I noticed in one of the morning papers that some difficulty had arisen in connection with one of our canals, and the tie-up of one of our ships. Obviously canals are solely within the jurisdiction of this parliament. A canal is a public work owned by the Dominion of Canada. I have no doubt about our jurisdiction in that regard under this statute, and I cannot think that the province has any jurisdiction at all with respect to it, although their officer did go down.
My information, gained from reading the press, was that an investigation was ordered by this government, by the Minister of Labour. And since I read it, certain papers were sent to me, and I propose to mention the matter at the appropriate time. This could not seem to be the time, because the Department of Transport is also involved; it is not a matter relating solely to the Department of Labour. But I am interested in the large question of jurisdiction. It is constantly arising. It did not arise for the first time with this government, but ever since the Snider decision that question has arisen. It was the opinion of certain of our legal advisers that we had no jurisdiction in one case, although we thought that peradventure we did have, and the province thereupon took the appropriate steps to conduct an investigation. The reason I ask is that in consequence of certain correspondence I was asked what the present position is. I have stated my understanding of it to the minister; but I have added to it this, that I do not believe it is competent for the legislatures of the provinces of Canada, in effect, to confer upon this parliament legislative jurisdiction with respect to a matter which the courts have said is beyond our constitutional competence. In other words you cannot indirectly effect an amendment to the British North America Act, which in my judgment can be brought about only by an act of the parliament at Westminster.