December 9, 1909 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)

?

Mr. A.@

VERVILLE (Maissoneuve) moved the second reading of Bill (No. 21) respecting the hours of labour on public works. He said: In moving the second reading of this Bill, I do not propose to go at length
into details, inasmuch as a discussion took place last year when this Bill was before the House. At that time it was proven conclusively that the hours of labour ought to be shortened. Of course, during that discussion it developed that some hon. members were in favour of the measure, and some were opposed to it; others stated that they had not had time to give to the Bill the careful study which a measure of its importance deserved. I think, Sir, that if the hon. members of this House gave as much care and as keen study to this Bill as some of them give to Bills of private interest, this measure would already have been enacted into law. Now during the discussion last year it was stated that by shorten! ng the hours from 10 to 8, or from 9 to 8, we would probably diminish production by one-fifth. At that time the Minister of Labour, then the Postmaster General, stated that he had not studied the measure, but he believed that it would have the effect of reducing production by one-fifth. It was proven clearly by those who spoke in favour of the Bill that such was not the case. It was also shown on that occasion that the deputy Minister of Labour had made investigations in British Columbia, and recommended the adoption of an eight hour law for the miners. It was also proven that in Alberta they had adopted an eight hour day, and that a commission had been appointed in other provinces to study the question.
Of course, it may be said, that we should leave this question to the different provinces to discuss and pass laws upon. I claim that this government must be a model employer, that we should start at the head and pass a law on this subject so that we can at least study the question from observing its operation. During the discussion last year some hon. members of this House said that long hours of labour had no effect mentally or physically upon man. Is it reasonable to believe that long hours of labour, especially in some of our large industries, will not have a detrimental effect, morally, physically and otherwise, on our working people? The question of the rate of wages has nothing whatever to do with the Bill before the House. Some hon. gentlemen say that if you shorten the hours of labour organized labour will want more money. I want to know if this House has anything to do with that question. Let the working people ask what they think is right and let them discuss it with their employers. The hon. member for Chicoutimi (Mr. Girard), when we were discussing this question last year, remarked that fifteen hours of labour was not any too long for farm hands. I claim that there is a vast difference between working on a farm, or in the open air, and working in the large industries of the country. Then, some one made the statement that the best way to

solve the problem was to abolish day work altogether and let everybody work by the hour and work as long as he chose. Are we in this twentieth century going to allow every man to work as many hours as he likes? Are we not supposed to protect the weak members of society? That is why ten, and nine hour laws have been passed in different states of the United States., Last year, while this discussion was on, one hon. member of the House-I believe it was the hon. member for Halton (Mr. Henderson-made the statement that this was class legislation. I would like to know what kind of legislation we generally pass if it is not class legislation. It is all class, legislation. There are classes of one kind and classes of another kind, but we never specify it as being class legislation unless it is legislation in the interests of labour. It was stated that I wanted to make a lion of myself by posing as a defender of labour in this House. I have nothing to fear and I have nothing to hide in connection with my conduct and the labour movement in this country or in this House, tinder these conditions it is absolutely unfair to bring such a charge against me. To command the respect of my fellow workers in this country it is not necessary, as some hon. members have asserted, to bring a measure of this kind before the House and I am not actuated by any such motive. If I have brought this measure before the House it is because I am perfectly convinced that it is absolutely necessary for this and every other parliament to study this question and study it at as early a date as possible in order to bring relief to those who are labouring to-day under trying conditions. It was stated further that the country is not quite ready for a measure of this kind. The question was also asked: Why should we give more leisure to the men who are working for the government than to others, and why should we be asked to adopt legislation of this kind in the interest of government employees any more than for any body else? That will be fopnd on the * Hansard ' of last year. I believe that it was the hon. member for Halton who used these words. I am a young man, I am not as old a parliamentarian as my hon. friend, but I studied the rules of this House when I came here and I saw that it was impossible under the British North America Act for any body to present legislation in respect to this subject except it had reference to the men who were working for the government. When it is asked: How is
it possible to grant an eight hour day on one side of the street and a ten hour day on the other, I reply that this parliament has nothing to do with that. All we have to do is to consider whether it is necessary to have a shorter day. I shall not take up the time of the house by quoting., from magazines and books, but I could present Mr. VERVILLE.
a great deal of evidence to prove that there is an almost universal call for a shorten working day. It was stated that it will demoralize production. Are we willing to admit that it will demoralize production especiallv when it was proven last year that we could produce as much with a shorter day than we can under present conditions? Then, there is the question of the unemployed, and it will be admitted by all that we want to make more work so that those who are now unemployed may have something to do. But, it may bq said, if you agree that we can produce as much in a short hour day as in a long one, how is it possible that we are going to give work to the unemployed? I answer by giving greater purchasing power to a man than he has at the present time. Is it not reasonable to believe that if a man is not working his purchasing power is diminished, while if you give a man a chance to work it will create a demand for larger production because he will have more means and therefore greater purchasing power. If you give more leisure time to those who now work such long hours you will give them a chance to better their condition. Is it not a fact that as soon as we improve our condition we are anxious to get a little better living. This is a perfectly legitimate 'desire on the part of everybody and therefore by improving the conditions of the workingman you are increasing his purchasing power and consequently increasing the need of greater production. Over production? During the great financial depression of last year, or the year before, it was said in the papers and in other places that labour was to a certain extent responsible for that great financial depression? I would like to ask any member of this House if the workers were not as steady at their work then as they were before? They were, but notwithstanding that we had depression. When depression comes over-production comes as a result of it. During the depression to which I have referred the stores were full of goods from top to bottom and every man in the country was wearing as many clothes as he was before. There was over-production because there were too many hours of labour in the . different industries. With the improved methods and machinery that we now have at our disposal there is liable to be overproduction, especially during good times when, in the large industries, people are sometimes working night and day. They believe they will make money by doing this. But, if they believe that they can make more money by increasing the hours of work they make the greatest mistake of their lives, because they are over-producing, and when the market is full of goods they are obliged to close our doors. If they close the door of an industry for two or three months the purchasing power of men

who are idle for a space of time is not the same as it would be if they were working steadily. The shortening of the hours of labour would to some extent solve the difficult problem of the unemployed. I am ready to thank the government for having appointed a Minister of Labour who can devote all his time and energy to the study of labour questions, and the fact that the labour people of this country have asked for the creation of such a portfolio for years and years past shows the necessity for it. When the Minister of Labour takes part in the debate to-day I hope he will he able to assure us that the eight hour day movement will be recognized by the government. Now, a couple of years since the hon. member for Hants brought before the House a resolution asking this government to aid in the prevention of the white plague. Is it not well known to the medical men of this country that it is in the large industrial establishments that the white plague starts, and very often finishes? Would not one of the best means of preventing the white plague be to give the workingmen of Canada a chance to breathe the pure air of Heaven? How often is it that you see labour men go to the country for a few weeks or even a few days in the summer, by the lake shore, or the sea shore or in the forest; it is very seldom indeed they can afford to get a day's vacation. If we shorten the hours of labour we will enable the working people to enjoy some of the privileges which Providence has placed at the disposal of human beings, and I am sure hon. gentlemen will agree with me that this is all the more important in regard to factories where female and child labour is' employed. Further, I think that if any gentleman in this House study the conditions of labour in America and Europe as well as in Canada, they will come to the conclusion that ninety per cent of the people are not clothed as they ought to be. I shall practice what I preach and be brief in my remarks, and in conclusion, I hope that the Minister of Labour will have something to say in favour of this measure, and that it will not be pushed along on the road to the cemetery as a good many similar measures have been. I beg to move the second reading of this Bill.
_ Mr. A. C. MACDONELL (South Toronto), i agree with the hon. gentleman (Mr. Ver-ville) that this is an extremely important measure, but at the same time I have to remark that the hon. gentleman himself has not been wonderfully active in promoting the best interests of the Bill. I made a short examination of the previous fates of this Bill and I find that it was first introduced by the hon. gentleman (Mr. Verville) on the 11th of December, 1906, when he said:
The object of the Bill is to establish an eight hour day upon all public works throughout the country. It is not my intention to discuss the merits of the Bill at the present time as they will be discussed on the second reading. The Bill as it stands has no effect on wages to be paid on public works.
Then the Bill was read the first time, and the last time for that session. The Bill was again introduced by the hon. gentleman on the 14th of February, 1908, when it was read a first time, and that was the end of it. Then we come to last session when the hon. gentleman (Mr. Verville)-the Bill having been introduced previously-on the 27th of April, 1909, very shortly before the close of the session, moved:
That order 35 of the Public Bills and Orders for the second reading of Bill (No. 22) respecting hours of labour on public works be now called for the purpose of it being discharged on the Order Paper.

Topic:   HOURS OF LAROUR ON PUBLIC WORKS.
Full View