Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement to the house with respect to amendments to the wartime wages control order, P.C. 9384, of December 9, 1943.
On February 10, I informed hon. members that it was the intention of the government, after receiving representations from the leading labour organizations, and considering all other representations, to make amendments to the wartime wages control order, (P.C. 9384 of December 9, 1943). I now table a copy of order in council P.C. 1727 which embodies the amendments. It was enacted today.
The amendments seek to meet the criticisms of the original order, as far as is consistent with the maintenance of the government's policy of preventing inflation.
Under the order as amended, the provision for enlarging the national war labour board has been removed and provision is once more made for a three-man board, with one member representative of the point of view of labour and one of the point of view of employers.
The national war labour board will retain the right to review and revise decisions of the nine regional war labour boards in order to secure uniformity and consistent administration across Canada. However, the national board shall not vary decisions of a regional board without giving notice to interested parties who, before changes are made, will have the right to make representations to the board.
An amendment revokes the provision placing the onus of proof of compliance with the regulations, upon the employer or employee charged with an offence under the order.
The national and regional war labour boards retain authority to authorize wage increases in cases where special circumstances exist. The limitation in the original order, which permitted wage increases only within the ability of the employer to pay without price increases, has been modified. Under the amended order, a greater latitude will be permitted for adjustment of certain wage rates.
I would not be frank with hon. members or with labour if I did not say that in making, these amendments to the order, the government recognizes the risks ^involved in relation to the whole stabilization policy.
No part of the community has more to gain from continuing success in the battle against inflation than labour, or more to lose by failure to prevent inflation. The government realizes that the fight against inflation can be won only if all groups in the community are prepared to give their active support and cooperation to the price ceiling policy.
If the government's policy of price stabilization is to be effectively maintained, it is clear that employers and labour organizations must
Wartime Labour Regulations
cooperate in supporting this policy by limiting applications for wage increases to what should be a relatively small number of cases where special circumstances apply.
The government is not prepared to adopt a policy of paying subsidies to employers to meet the higher costs resulting from increased wage rates. An attempt to follow this course would soon break down because of the administrative difficulties involved. Similarly, the granting of price increases to offset increased Wage rates, if the cases involved were to reach any considerable number, would confront the wartime prices and trade board with an impossible task, and would destroy the price ceiling.
In December last, when I announced the principles underlying the wartime wages control order, I said:
The policy of the government is that all practical measures will be taken to keep the cost of living at present levels.
I went on to say:
If the cost of living rises more than three per cent and remains at that level for two consecutive months, the government will review the whole programme of price control and wage control and take appropriate action.
The government will endeavour to keep the cost of living from rising more than the three per cent mentioned. We shall stand by the pledge that if the cost of living exceeds the level of October, 1943, by more than three per cent and remains at such higher figure for two consecutive months, the government will review the whole programme. I must emphasize, however, that if, under the amended order, the cases of wage adjustments which result in increases in the cost of goods and services should prove to be too numerous, the margin of three per cent would soon be exhausted. The government would then be faced with the unfortunate task of having to review, and to consider the practicability of continuing, the whole stabilization policy.
Let me repeat: the government is determined to do all it can to hold down the cost of living, and to safeguard the public against an inflationary rise in prices. In this it cannot, however, succeed without the support of every group in the community.
On the orders of the day:
Subtopic: WARTIME WAGES CONTROL-AMENDMENTS TO ORDER IN COUNCIL P.C. 9384