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


Arthur Samuel Goodeve

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. S. GOODEVE (Kootenay).

I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. member for Maisonneuve (Mr. Verville) in introducing this Bill. I have read also the hon. member's remarks on introducing a similar Bill last session. The hon. member has gone to a good deal of trouble in carrying out research upon this question, and in bringing before the House facts concerning the hours of labour. In the province of British Columbia, in the year 1901, we dealt to some extent with this question in relation to the mines. Then, as now, there was the struggle between the two great parties interested, the employer on one side and the workmen on the other. But we were fortunate in that we introduced then an eight-hour law, and I am glad Mr. GUTHRIE.
to be able to testify here that the results of the operation of that law have been eminently satisfactory. I can state from personal knowledge that, up to_ the introduction of the Eight Hour Bill, in that portion of the country with which I am most familiar, the mining district of the Kootenay, only a small percentage of the labouring men owned their homes, or, apparently, took any interest in their homes. Any one familiar with that district at that time is aware that the homes of miners were usually shacks and the occupants paid little attention to the improvement of the surroundings, or of the home itself. Since the introduction of this eight hour law, that has been greatly changed. A large number of miners have purchased and now own their own homes and are active in improving their surroundings. They have a certain amount of daylight at home, which,
under old conditions, they could not have. With the ten hour day in the mines, it meant practically twelve
hours, as any one will understand. Men had to rise long before daylight in the morning to get to their work, and they usually did not return until after dark. It was generally said, and very truly, that the men hardly saw their families in daylight from one end of the year to the other. Since the introduction of the eight hour law that has been changed. The effect has been a marked change in the men of the mining district, as I have described. That is an argument that ought to be of weight with the House. Surely, in this advanced age,-with our great improvements in machinery and our rapid advance in -many lines of economic improvement, the labouring men should have some share in these improvements and the benefits to be derived from them. It has been said that the adoption of such a measure as is here proposed would lead to shortening the hours of labour in other avocations, and it is inferred that it would be detrimental to the agricultural interests. I venture to think the conditions of work in agriculture are altogether different from those of the classes of labour to which this measure is intended to apply. Their harvest makes special demands upon those engaged in agriculture, and during certain seasons they naturally work from daylight till dark. But, during a considerable portion of the year, they have time for recreation and improving their minds. This Bill, if I understand it aright, is meant primarily to apply to those engaged in labour under factory conditions or in the building trades. I have listened with pleasure to the arguments of the hon. member for South Toronto (Mr. Macdonell). Speaking as a layman, it seems to me that the hon. member's argument carries considerable weight. It is right and wise that, in a case of this kind,

we should carefully consider all the circumstances and get all the light possible. I would not undertake to dispute the arguments advanced by the hon. member for South Toronto and the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie), who are, of course, well informed on the legal aspects of this question. On the contrary, I think it would be in the interest of the Bill itself that we should move very carefully. Should any mistake be made, instead of advancing the interests of labour, which, of course, is the object sought by the introducer of the Bill, the very purpose in view might be defeated. Therefore, I think the suggestion made by these gentlemen was a very wi-se one-that we should carefully weigh all the facts in this case, so that when we place a measure of this kind on the statute-book it may be one that we are sure will be of advantage to working men generally and will be accepted by all fair-minded men as promoting the best interest of all classes.

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