Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, there is a very real consciousness in every part of this house, as I believe there is in every part of Canada, that we are met here to deal with the most serious situation of its particular kind that has ever confronted the parliament of Canada. It is a problem which must be tackled with speed, frankness and good will. As has already been said, it will not be solved by a display of heat. It should also be said that it will not be solved satisfactorily unless there is the most complete frankness in the discussion of the problem and in the examination of the legal effect and implications of the bill we are asked to adopt.
I am certain that every member of the house is equally anxious to take such just and proper steps as are necessary to assure the resumption of rail services throughout Canada at the earliest possible moment. On the other hand, we must examine the bill with a full sense of our great responsibility to the people of Canada, and with a very keen appreciation of the danger which inevitably exists that, in the most earnest desire to act with speed in the face of an emergency, faulty legislation may sometimes be adopted because of general agreement as to the purpose of the measure. I hope that in our discussion no member who fulfils his bounden duty as a representative of his own constituency and of the people of Canada will be exposed at any time to the suggestion that in so doing he indicates any desire to delay the earliest possible solution of this most urgent problem.
Any attempt-and I am not suggesting that any would be made-to restrain the frankest and fullest discussion of the bill, and the circumstances which make it necessary, by indicating that criticism is based upon a desire to delay a solution, would in itself be a challenge to that parliamentary freedom which we should most jealously protect at this particular time. I think it is impossible to overemphasize the gravity of the situation. From the Atlantic to the Pacific the normal movement of our natural products, our goods, machinery, industrial production and the daily requirements of the people in all the homes of this country, is at a standstill. In British Columbia, Vancouver island is almost completely isolated from the mainland, except for the airlift which has been established. Fruit growers, farmers, workers in the forests, fishermen and all others are being seriously affected, and those effects become more extensive every day. So it is on the mainland of that great province. Mines, factories and other operations upon which the employment of thousands of people depend have been forced to close.
The prairie provinces face a very special problem. There they see the danger of not being able to deal with their great wheat crop unless this problem is settled immediately. Nor is that the only special problem they have there, where distances make communication and transport by bus and car more difficult than in the more concentrated centres of population. In Alberta hundreds of oil wells already have been closed, causing not only a loss of fuel supplies but also of employment. In Ontario many of the largest industries are shut down, with resulting loss of employment to thousands of men and women. Farmers are unable to ship their products, and some of the finest crops in the history of this province are going to waste. In Quebec the same situation exists. As in Ontario, the great pulp and paper .mills are having immense difficulty in carrying on that business upon which so much of the economy of this country depends, as well as the employment of thousands of people.
In the maritimes there is severe disruption of normal activities because of the substantial dependence of so many places in those provinces upon rail service. Prince Edward
Maintenance of Railway Operation Act those railway organizations that same good will and co-operation which has existed in the past.
I am sure that the people of Canada want the railway workers 'to be adequately rewarded for the work they do, and to work under satisfactory conditions and with satisfactory working hours. As has already been said, no country in the world is more dependent upon its railways for its very existence than is Canada. We would not today be sitting here as representatives of one great nation occupying a subcontinent were it not for the promise of the construction of the intercolonial railway, for the assurance of railway connection with Prince Edward Island, and for all the services that were incidental to the main lines of the railways themselves. Neither would that original concept of confederation have been extended across this land from Newfoundland to the most remote part of British Columbia, had it not been for those great transcontinental railways which were extended to the west. They are the vital arteries which carry the lifeblood of our nation. Not only must those arteries be protected; not only must they continue at all times to function, but at the same time they must be in a healthy condition to undertake the task they perform.
Without attempting in any way to assess the merits of issues which must be decided elsewhere, I am sure that the view shared by the railway workers as well as by the people of Canada generally is that this must not happen again. I am perfectly sure that the railway workers have no more desire to find themselves affected by a situation of this kind than have other Canadians. Certainly all Canadians wish to see those steps taken which will mean that we shall not again be confronted with this procedure in the face of a crisis.
The bill before us is one which as yet we have had but little time to consider.' It reflects the very way in which the bill was drawn that it was seen for the first time by the members of the house only last night at eight o'clock. That did not give the members an opportunity to deal with the bill in a way that might have been desirable. On the other hand, we all recognize that consideration of the measure must proceed as rapidly as possible. The legislation before us reflects the fact that amendments were still being made to the bill as 'recently as yesterday. We must therefore carefully examine its contents.
The bill itself does provide a way in which work on the railways can be resumed. That is the main desire of everyone here. After the recitals and the name given to the bill,
there is the important provision that the railways shall resume operation and the workers shall return to their duties within forty-eight hours of this bill becoming effective. Then in section 3 the bill goes on to deal at least partly with one of the points in issue. Section 4 simply provides certain legal assurances that the agreements will continue in effect. Section 5 is one which I am sure must have caused surprise to most members of this house when they read it. Section 5 definitely and without any reservation provides for compulsory arbitration. There are many who believe in that procedure, and it is a view that everyone has a right to share and to express. But compulsory arbitration, which is a principle that has not been regarded as acceptable in labour legislation in this country, is not something which, it seems to me, should be suddenly introduced in dealing with an emergency of this kind. It can be said, and it has been said, that this is not compulsory arbitration in the ordinary meaning of those words. I must confess that I do not understand the reservation.
The arbitrator is to be appointed by the government unless there has been settlement by the parties to the dispute within fifteen days or an arbitrator has been appointed by agreement within that time. Then that arbitrator is to have authority to examine the issue in dispute and to make his findings. Those findings are not only to be binding upon the parties, but the parties are ordered by the bill itself to conclude a new collective bargaining agreement in accordance with the findings of the arbitrator.
There is no time limit on the length of the agreement. It may well be that the government knows that some additional terms have been agreed upon. If they have been, then I think they should be indicated to this house. But if this legislation is simply a statutory interpretation of a conditional agreement which is to be implemented by this bill, I think we should know that as well; because if it is not, then it is difficult to understand the inclusion of some provisions and the exclusion of others.
After examining this bill very carefully it does seem to me that it is drafted on the assumption that the arbitration provisions of section 5 are not going to be invoked. I cannot imagine anything more likely to create the very kind of situation that none of us would desire than to find that it had become necessary for the government to appoint an arbitrator to act under the wide, unlimited and unrestrained powers contained in section 5. It is not enough to say that no arbitrator would do certain things. Under that section an arbitrator can say that the
the majority of the members. The government must bear a grave measure of responsibility for this strike. There is a reason why this is the first general strike of this kind in Canada's history. The reason was indicated during the recital of events given to the house last night by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg). This is not the first time that the railway workers have failed to accept the decision of a conciliation board. It is not the first time that the workers and management have failed to reach agreement in the negotiations which have taken place prior to the date set for a strike.
The reason why there has been no previous strike of this kind, and of this extent, is quite clear. It is clear from the pattern which has been established throughout the years. The reason, is that at a certain point in the negotiations the government intervened to find a solution; that is what happened in 1948 and on other occasions. The workers and the people of Canada have all come to expect government action to avoid a strike in a situation of this kind. Last night the Prime Minister said that no one expected this strike. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that it was the duty of the government to act with recognition of the fact that there might be a strike. It no more indicates the early expectation of a strike to prepare for one than it indicates the early expectation of death to take the precaution of making a will in plenty of time before you die. This would have been a sound and wise act on the part of the government.
There was an indication that at least one department did take the sound course, because the Postmaster General (Mr. Rinfret) took steps that were appropriate to prepare the Post Office Department for a strike, and as a result the Post Office Department since the strike was called has taken extraordinary measures to maintain its service. I am glad that hon. members on the other side of the house applaud that statement, because it would have been a commendable thing if the rest of the government had followed precisely the same course. Whether or not this system of settling such disputes is wise; whether or not the past record of settlement is one which the government as at present constituted approves, the fact remains that the public generally, and apparently the government as well, expected a solution right up to the last moment. After all, practice establishes precedents. If the government did not intend to intervene as it did on earlier occasions, it should have indicated that to the parties to this dispute, and to the people of Canada so that they would have been prepared for this situation.
Maintenance of Railway Operation Act
What is more, if the government held the view that it now holds, that it is not possible to contemplate paralysis of this kind in the nation's economy, then the time to take the appropriate steps to prevent that paralysis was well in advance of any possibility of a strike, so that the workers, management, and the people of Canada would know what the situation would be. After all, this strike did not suddenly emerge as a surprise to the people of Canada beyond the fact that the strike actually took place. The government well knew, as all Canadians who carefully followed the press knew, that strike ballots had gone out early in June. This house was sitting in June, and sat for three weeks after it was known that the strike ballots had gone out. If it was the intention of the government to depart from the practice which it had established, then at that time we could have given this matter careful consideration and sat as long as was necessary to deal with it in a quiet, cool and orderly way. To suggest that there was no occasion to consider such a possibility simply means that the government was assuming this problem could be settled in a different manner from that in which it had been settled in the past, unless the government was prepared to intervene.
The people of Canada as a whole are those to whom we owe our first responsibility. But let us also remember this. We are not dealing with a situation created by people who have any desire to wreck or destroy the economy of the country in which they live. There is no Canadian who does not recall the loyal and magnificent service given to this country by the railway workers during the years of war. There is no Canadian who is not aware of the co-operation and good will that has existed within the great railway organizations of this country, which have been held before the people of Canada as a model of what labour-management relations should be. In this case we are not dealing with all the railway workers of Canada. This strike does not involve the running trades. It does involve the other workers in the railways who are in a different category. These people love their country; they are loyal to it and will serve it in any way, as much as any one of us in this house will do. Recognizing our paramount duty to the people of Canada, and making it perfectly clear that the daily home life of our people must not be undermined by a dislocation of vital services and the paralysis of transportation throughout the country, I submit that in finding a solution it will be in the best interests of every Canadian if we do so in a way that will, in the years ahead, maintain within
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Maintenance of Railway Operation Act Island is almost isolated from the mainland because the great railway ferry can only operate by permission of those representing the unions. Special hardships also are being felt in Newfoundland. Everywhere throughout Canada the people face mounting difficulties and realize that if this disruption of service continues much longer we face a disaster almost beyond imagination.
It is essential that for the very security of the home life of our people action be taken without delay. Every member of this house can multiply many times the instances to which I have referred, from his own experience in that part of the country in which he lives. Just to emphasize how serious this is, may I point out that at this very time the special United Nations force has been divided into three different groups, which for a time could not be brought together by rail and for which much of the heavy equipment required could not be supplied. That is a situation we cannot regard with equanimity at a time like this, when the very survival of our way of life is threatened throughout the world.
Our first duty, which should be discharged without delay, is to take such steps as are necessary to restore these vital services to the people of Canada, with justice to all Canadians-and I repeat, to all Canadians. It is not possible for us, meeting hastily as we have done, to pass judgment upon the issues which have precipitated this disastrous situation. What the people of Canada want us to do is get the railways working as quickly as possible. I believe that is the spirit of every member of this house. Collectively those who sit here represent all the people of Canada. It makes no difference what party we support in our own community; we represent all the people. Therefore we here have the great and proud and heavy responsibility of speaking for all Canadians. The well-being and security of the whole Canadian community is our supreme responsibility. When the wellbeing of the people of Canada is threatened in this or any other way, parliament, and the government, which is its executive branch, must take those steps which will preserve the national economy and the security of the home life of all our people.
In meeting that obligation, however, it is imperative that we should protect the general welfare of the nation without destroying the established and fundamental rights of any part of the community. Admittedly that is a difficult task. If it were not a difficult task we should not be meeting here today. The very urgency of the situation, the gravity of the problem we are called upon to face, require careful and at the same time prompt action by this house. It need hardly be
repeated that this is the highest court of the land. It is the supreme authority of the Canadian people, supported by the democratic vote and decision of those people. Denunciation here of one side or the other in this dispute would only contribute to the difficulty of settling it. It is extremely important that we all remember that adoption of the legislation we are called upon to pass in this special session will not settle the dispute. That is merely a preliminary step. Its one vitally important result will be to start the railways operating again. We must all bear in mind, however, that in taking steps to have the railways operate again we must do nothing that will make it more difficult to settle this dispute and establish that measure of cooperation and good will within the railway organizations themselves upon which the efficiency of that vast service depends.
It seems to me that recognition of this factor is essential in considering the legislation with which we must deal. Our first consideration is clear; that is our responsibility to the people of Canada. However, we also have the responsibility of making sure that those traditional rights upon which our society has grown and become strong are not impaired, regardless of the urgency of the situation, by any hasty action on our part, no matter how necessary haste may be in dealing with the matter. As we consider legislation to bring to an end this disastrous situation, I believe it would be very unwise and seriously prejudicial to the best interests of all our people if we attempted to pass judgment upon issues which must still be settled after that legislation is passed. So this matter should be dealt with in a way that will facilitate the settlement of these issues, not only in the interests of those directly concerned but in the interests of the whole nation. I believe that the welfare of Canadians generally will be best served if, no matter what our opinions may be, we reserve expressed judgment until those who have the responsibility of making further decisions are able to reach those decisions coolly and calmly after this first step has been taken. I think it is desirable that all of us bear this in mind. I hope that the people whom we represent will also bear in mind the obvious and important reason why we here in this house do not seek today to pass judgment at a time when we shall be called upon to refer the responsibility of settlement to others.
Having Said that, I think it is appropriate to make certain comments about the legislation itself, and also about the responsibility of the government, which after all is merely the executive branch of this house and under our principles of responsible government must at all times act in accordance with the advice of
agreement would be for twenty-five years; under it the arbitrator can fix any hours of work; under it he can fix any hourly wage; he can fix any working conditions he sees fit, and there is nothing to define his responsibility in that respect; management and the workers must accept the decision, and it is binding. Compulsory arbitration! That is a moderate term. I do not believe that any legislative body in this country, federal or provincial, would ever in its cool and calm senses consider for a moment the introduction of compulsory arbitration of this kind with no definition of the terms under which it was to be carried out.
This bill is far from complete. I heard a description of the bill over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network at eight o'clock this morning. In that description the broadcaster said: "The emergency bill does not contain penalties for failure to obey its provisions."
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR RESUMPTION OF RAILWAY OPERATIONS AND SETTLEMENT OF LABOUR DISPUTE