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


Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)


I made a few observations on this Bill when it was discussed before the House last time, and I wish to repeat them, or some of them now. Looking over the Bill, as far as my judgment enables me to determine, it is quite impracticable. It is a Bill which never could be put into operation without any amount of trouble as the result. Under a portion of the Bill, any institution that was turning out goods which it had contracted to supply the government would be compelled to grant its men an eight hour day. The Bill aims at that, it seems to me, if it aims at anything. If that be the case, it appears to me that it would bring about no end of trouble. But there is another reason why I oppose it. While I think that in many avocations of life eight hours -a day is ample, and more than enough, for any labourer to work, in other lines he can work eight, nine or ten hours, and neither do himself any injustice nor his health any injury. In mining, when a man has to go under ground, eight hours is a fairly long day, but if you are working out in the open

air where you have conditions of a healthgiving nature, open air and good surroundings, and working at an occupation which is not too severe, a ten-hour day is not an unreasonably long day, and I think there is no injustice done either to the individual or to his physical or mental vigour in expecting him to work that length of day. If all could obtain a living by doing the same thing, that is, work eight hours a day, it might strengthen the argument that you should only allow men to work eight hours a day. But, the strain of life is so great and the demands upon the resources of one's labour so exacting that many are obliged to work ten, eleven or twelve hours a day in order to supply themselves and those dependent upon them with the necessaries of life. Suppose that these people were engaged on government work, you would say to them that they shall not be allowed to earn what they could, or what their physical powers would enable them to earn, or what the demands upon their resources would require them to earn. Therefore, they must stint themselves in some lines because of the effect of this Bill. I say it is wrong. Then, there is another feature of it. If you bring the provisions of this Bill into operation in regard to public works, what will be the result? Go to the city of Toronto, or to the town of Col-iingwood, if you like, and there are public works going on; maybe there is a post office or a customs house going up, harbour works going on, or perhaps there is an armoury being built. Labouring men who can get employment on these government works, receive, say $2 a day, and work for only eight hours a day on one of these pubilc work will not labour in any other line in these places, refuse to work 10 hours a day. Therefore you make it almost impossible for men in other lines of life to get labour and have the labourers work the reasonable number of hours which is supposed to bring a fair return to the contractor. They cannot get men. You can go farther. You can go to the farming community around these places. You cannot employ labourers to go out and work on the farm ten and sometimes eleven or twelve hours a day and accent" the same wages as the man who is only working 8 hours a day; or if you can get labourers to take the wages they will only want to work eight hours a day. i know that it is very troublesome for the farmers around rur towns and villages, where there are factories with shorter hours of labour and paying equally as high wages, to obtain labourers. But, there is another phase of the question wdiich has attracted my attention several times. The agricultural classes of Ibis country represent about fifty per cent of the whole population. There are about
3,500,000 people, depending upon agricul-Mr. SPROULE.
tural pursuits for their sustenance and they are obliged to work long hours. No man can successfully run a farm if he is only working eight hours a day. It has been said that they may work longer during the busy season but that most of the time they can take it easy. The up-to-date enterprising farmer is just -as busy with his work every day in the year as he is during harvest and haying. He is always overcrowded with work instead of having too little to do. Therefore, he is obliged to work long hours. He cannot pretend to run his farm and work only eight hours a day. There are farmers who are obliged to work twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen or even sixteen hours a day during the busy season of seeding, haying and harvest. I have known them to do that over and over again and for what? *-to pay for the implements that are made in the factory where, if this Bill becomes law, the men who make these implements will work only eight hours a day. K is an injustice to the farmer. It is unfair, unreasonable and improper, and it will strike at the great agricultural class just as much as it will at any other class of the community. The factories that are turning out threshing machines, binders, reapers, mowers, seeders, and all such agricultural implements will be obliged to give an eight hour day just as soon as this Bill passes. But the farmer cannot have an eight hour day because he is obliged to work longer hours. He has, therefore, to contend with the difficulty that he meets in the hiring of labour, and he is also confronted with the difficulty that he is obliged himself to work very long hours to pay for the productions of men who do not work as many hours in the day as he does. The farmer cannot get men to work for him to-day.
I admit, speaking from the standpoint of medical observation and examination, that there are those who advocate what is called the ideal division of time. What is that?-that humanity shall labour eight hours, sleep eight hours and have eight hours for rest and recreation during the 24 hours of the day and night. Three times eight make twenty-four hours the length f'f the day. That is an ideal division of time, but where, in any capacity of life, can that ideal division of time be carried out? Is it not the fact that the conditions we have to contend with in our individual capacities and our environment determine the number of hours during which we are compelled to work? There is such a great demand upon the production of our labour or what we make out of our labour, in one case than in another. Therefore, we are obliged to work longer hours to supply that demand or else those dependent upon us will suffer. So you find that in the various lines of work many are obliged to work longer hours to support them-

selves and their families, and if they were not permitted to do this they would suffer in consequence. The hon. member for Kootenay said that they had tried the eight hour day' system in British Columbia and that while people predicted trouble from it the system was working all right now. Well,
I was in British Columbia immediately after that law came into force and in every mining district I visited I was told that mining operations were literally paralyzed by it. For two years after its passage the mining operations of that country were a failure and many engaged in the industry had to go out of business. That is bound to be the case until an adjustment takes place between what is paid a man working eight hours this year and what was paid the same man working ten hours the year before. I say you cannot establish to the * mind of any intelligent man that a working man will do as much in eight hours as he will do in a ten hour day. Of course I recognize that a man may work 10 hours in one kind of labour and not be overworked while in other branches a man may work only eight hours and be overworked, if you are going to try to even it up by a levelling system of eight hours a day you are certainly bound to do an injustice to some classes of labour. There are employers of labour in this country who themselves are obliged to work more than eight hours a day and more than 10 hours a day, and if he expects his employees to do as he is doing he is inflicting no injustice upon them. Now, we are apt to be too much afraid to deal with a question of this kind as we think it ought to be dealt with for fear it will work mischief against us when we come before our electors. I like to see a man with enough moral courage to do what he conscientiously believes to be right regardless of consequences. I believe that the men who are supporting this Bill are supporting it from conscientious convictions, but I believe also that if many hon. gentlemen expressed their opinion of this measure as freely as they do on other measures there would be very strong argument advanced against this Bill.

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