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


Mr. J. W.@

EDWaRDS (Frontenac). There are one or two features of the Bill introduced by the hon. member for Maison-neuve (Mr. Yerville) to which, in the interest of the people I represent, I wish to draw attention. The proposition to reduce the hours of labour on government works to eight hours a day will, in my estimation, undoubtedly have an effect on other labourers. I can imagine that as soon as the system was introduced on government work, labourers working on other jobs would in a short time be agitating for an eight hour day also. That seems to me only reasonable. But the point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is that this will undoubtedly affect the agricultural classes. It is well known that one of the great problems in Ontario and the older provinces is that of getting farm labour. We also know that it is utterly impossible to have an eight hour day on the farm. It seems to me, therefore, that the passage of a Bill of this kind could not fail to have the effect of increasing the difficulty which farmers now experience in obtaining the labour they need so very much.
As regards the plea made by the hon. member for Maisonneuve (Mr. Verville), on which he grew particularly eloquent, that of giving opportunity to the labouring men to breathe the pure air of heaven, I might say that his argument only applied to a part of the population, because, according to the principle laid down very clearly and decisively by the Minister of Finance not later than yesterday, none but Grits, so far as government work is concerned, need apply, so that the pure air of heaven, though it might be given to Grit labourers under this Bill, would still be denied to any who happened to be of the Tory persuasion.
Another feature to which I would call attention is this. This measure must inevitably interfere with labour in large manufacturing concerns. Suppose it should pass and be applied to government contracts, if the government contracted with a large cement firm for some thousands of barrels of cement, is it not likely that the men employed by that firm would make a demand that they should be given the eight hour day, inasmuch as the work they were doing was to supply a government contract? That is all I have to say in connection with this Bill except this, that I cannot agree with the hon. member for Maisonneuve (Mr. yerville) that a man will do as much in eight hours as in nine. Carry that out to its logical conclusion, and it will mean that 39
a man will do just as much in one day as in two. In any event there is a feeling throughout the country that men employed in government work, do not kill themselves, that they take things comparatively easy, and there is also the impression that in many cases men are employed on government works a few months before the elections, and employed solely to get their votes. I might refer, as an instance of this, to the facts in connection with the construction of the Newmarket canal, on which the number of men employed was very considerably increased just previous to the last election. In conclusion I would repeat that the passage of a measure such as this would make the obtaining of farm labour still more difficult than it is to-day, and that is my chief reason for addressing the House on the subject.

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