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


Alphonse Verville



Because its discharge will enable me to bring the matter before the House this session in another form. The question as to the hours of labour on public works is, I consider, of considerable importance at the present time.
The Bill then made its exit for the third time and was not again introduced as a Bill or in any other form that session. Now, Mr. Speaker, this question is before the people of this country as it is before the people of the neighbouring republic, and as a humble member of this House I think parliament should dispose of it in some businesslike manner. The American Congress has been dealing with this question for a great many years, and Bills have been introduced and discussed. I have in my hand a copy of what I think was the last Bill introduced during the , session of 1904, and I see by a recent utterance of the president of the United States that he has declared his intention of in some way having the matter dealt with at the approaching session of Congress. One reason why I say this present Bill should be dealt with by parliament is that if you look at its contents you will find that its name is a misnomer. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Verville) has persistently called it 'an Act respecting the hours of labour on public works,' but as the Bill is submitted to the House it contains provisions of the most drastic nature. It is not a Bill regulating the hours of labour upon public works of the country, and if it were I think there are many hon. gentlemen in this House who would be willing to go some distance to regulate the hours of labour which the government would permit on its works or which it would allow its contractors to exact. I believe that such a proposition would be favourably considered by a great many members in this House, but the Bill sub-

mitted by the hon. gentleman (Mr. Ver-ville) is not designed to earry out that object. As a matter of fact this Bill as it is worded-as any gentleman of the legal profession will see if he reads it-would prohibit the government or the contractors for the government from going into the markets of the world to purchase any material whatsoever which was produced under a system which required the workmen who produced it to work more than eight hours a day. The government might make a contract to purchase uniforms in one department or to purchase groceries in another department, and if any of the work on any of the component parts of any articles the government so purchased were not confined to an eight hour day, then the whole contract would be void, and no matter how much value was given to the government under it, the contractor would not be able to recover one dollar, and the result would be disastrous. In other words, the Bill before the House would void and vitiate every contract the government might make for the purchase of materials, provided that any of the articles so purchased had been turned out of a shop or factory in which work of more than eight hours a day had been exacted. Now, that is altogether impossible and not at all in the interest of those who are asking for this legislation. The American Act has been drawn with much more care. That Act on more than one occasion has gone to a select committee of the Houae of Bepresentatives, and an immense mass of testimony has been taken by that committee on the prospective operation of the Act. There have been at least, as I have found, two commissions on the subject. The report of the last commission, appointed during the year 1904, I hold in my hand. It is entitled:
Eight Hours on Government Work-Hearing before the Commission on Labour of the House of Representatives on the Bill H.E. 4064, intituled, a Bill Limiting the Hours of Daily Service of Labourers and Mechanics Employed upon Work done for the United States, or for any Territory, or for the District of Columbia or for Other Purposes.
The Bill is a very much more modified form of legislation of this nature than the Bill before this House. I will not burden the House by reading it, as it is somewhat lengthy. After dealing with the main features of the legislation intended to be enacted, it provides that the Act shall not extend to the following matters:
Nothing in this Act shall apply to contracts for transportation by land or water, or for the transmission of intelligence, or for such materials or articles as may usually be bought in open market, whether made to conform I to particular specifications or not, or for the | purchase of supplies by the government, whe-

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