July 2, 1940 (19th Parliament, 1st Session)


Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Finally, I want to put on the record what the miners of Nova Scotia have to say about the situation in a brief which their union has prepared and which was presented by the miners to the conciliation board that is sitting at the present time in Pictou county and endeavouring to iron out the situation there. This is what they say:
In determining the amount of wages payable we believe that in the past the human factor has been required to take second place and that profits, dividends, and investment earnings have been given first place, and have been the principal aim and concern of the management. Perhaps that is natural under our economic system, yet we believe that there is need for a change. What is demanded of the workman is his labour, and when he has given that he

The Budget-Mr. Gillis
has cooperated with the owners by giving all that is demanded of him. The workman does not share in the management of the industry, he does not control its policy or direct its destiny, he does not decide what dividends shall be paid, what borrowings shall be made, what expansion or development shall be undertaken; has had no voice in deciding corporate set-up, appointment of managers, or directors, or affiliations with other industries. He gives his labour, others manage the industry. Sometimes an industry fails due to factors over which the management has no effective control and often it fails as a result of bad management. In either case the workman is not responsible for the failure. He has given his labour, he has done what was demanded of him, and having done so, he should be the last to suffer, and he should not be obliged to suffer if his suffering can be avoided by action within the control of the management.
It is said that investors are entitled to a return on their money invested. We cannot agree that that is always so. Often the money invested is surplus money which the owners do not require for the reasonable needs or even luxuries of themselves or their families, they have it to spare and have invested it in order to make more money. Often, too, the money is inherited, money not earned by the investor. We believe that a reasonable living wage for the workman who gives his labour and who needs such a wage in order to get even the minimum requirements of subsistence should take precedence over earnings on such invested capital, and that profits and returns on invested capital should not be regarded as more important than payment of proper wages.
That is the principle which we support. I believe that this is the principle which the people of Canada support. But I know from my own life and from the lives of thousands of other workers in Nova Scotia that the opposite principle has been applied in practice. As a result, the people of my province have no confidence in the corporation which controls them. ,
We must win this war. To win we must have the whole-hearted cooperation of the workers of this country. They are ready and anxious to give that cooperation. But wealth must be made to pay its share. Monopolies should be investigated and controlled. Otherwise they will make fortunes at the expense of the people.
My endeavour in presenting the case as I have at the present time is to bring to the attention of the government and particularly the Minister of Finance a situation that now exists in Nova Scotia. The Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation is a large corporation that controls the destinies of twenty-six other companies with ramifications throughout eastern Canada. Since I have come here, telegrams, letters and resolutions have been sent to me and, I believe, to other hon. members of parliament, demanding that
something should be done in Nova Scotia with respect to an investigation into the management and general financial structure of this corporation. The action now taken by the government for the purpose of probing for a solution is in my opinion misleading and not going to arrive at any permanent solution.
At the present time there are four conciliation boards set up in Nova Scotia, bound by certain terms of reference, beyond which they cannot go. I think the terms -of reference relate to the ability of the respective subsidiary companies of the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation to pay the wages demanded, on the basis of their earnings for the past year or two. While these conciliation boards may serve some purpose and have done so in the past, in my opinion they are not going to serve any purpose, or will serve very little, at the present time. After thirty odd years of experience working for that corporation and its subsidiaries and dealing with them through the medium of unions and so on, I believe that the people of Nova Scotia generally, not only the miners, have completely lost confidence in the word of the people who head that organization, and are sceptical as to what will come from these conciliation boards. What is now required is an exhaustive survey carried on under the jurisdiction of the federal government into the financial structure of that corporation and labour conditions under its management. The boards that have been set up are in my opinion not able to do that because of their terms of reference.
For the past eighteen months the miners all over Nova Scotia have been endeavouring to come to some understanding with the corporation on the question of wages. We have been signing contracts now for a period of thirty years. In this war effort every endeavour should be made by the company with respect to both signing agreements and carrying them out and pushing that industry to its highest capacity, because coal and steel are necessary war commodities. The steel operations are in just the same position as the coal mining. For the last two years the steel company at Sydney and the workers have been at loggerheads; no agreement, no understanding, spasmodic strikes, lack of confidence and general demoralization. The brief presented by the Carroll commission should have a thorough investigation from the federal government, in view of the fact that the federal government is paying relief to people left destitute by virtue of the manipulations as shown by the commission. For the past six or seven years the people of Nova Scotia have been endeavouring to present their case
The Budget-Mr. Brunelle

before some responsible body that will try to find a solution for a problem which affects practically all the people of Nova Scotia, because steel and coal are basic industries of that province and ramify into every phase of its economic life.

Full View