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


Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


My hon. friend is rather non-committal. It seems to me that the question resolves inself into this. The government either have or have not the information; if they have not, there have been four years during which this matter has been mooted more than once in parliament, and one would have thought that in that time they would have appointed a royal commission to obtain the necessary information, as was done by the government of Nova Scotia two years ago. When the question was first mooted in parliament four years ago my hon. friend was deputy Minister of Labour. Where have been hi.s affections for the labouring men of this country during these four years? But there is another very curious circumstance in connection with this matter. The government are to-day acting in absolute reversal of the position they took in 1907, when they brought in a so-called Conciliation Act. I asked at that time, by a resolution which I moved at the beginning of the session, and afterwards on the third reading of that Bill, that all matters touching disputes between employers and employees should be referred to a committee of this House in order that both sides might be heard. I took the ground then, which I am prepared to stand by to-day, that in these matters it is only fair that both sides should be heard before legislation of such great importance should be dealt with by parliament. What was the answer at that time? It was that the government had all the information in their possession. I have the words of the Minister of Labour of the day, Hon. Mr. Lemieux, under my hand He said:
I therefore believe that, at the present time, with the information we have before ns, with the reports of the Royal Commission of 1903, with the montHy reports which we receive from our correspondents from all parts of Canada, and with the ample reports that are presented to this House by the Labour Department, it is quite unnecesary to appoint a Committee of this House to take evidence in connection with this Bill.
My hon. friend from Nanaimo was at that time very strongly in favour of the position the government took, that there was no need to appoint a commission or to have any hearing before a commission. My hon. friend, I remind him in all kindness, takes a different stand to-night. He says that although the information is there, we should have a special committee for the purpose of passing on it and reporting to this House. I would ask my hon. friend if that is a good arugment to-day, why was it not a good argument in 1907? I urged that very argument myself in 1907, but I did not succeed at that time in securing the ear of my hon. friend, because I had the misfortune of seeing him vote against me, both on the motion I made in the early part of the' session, and on the motion I made on the third reading of that Bill.
This subject, as my hon. friend from Medicine Hat (Mr. Magrath) has truly said,_ is one that must be met. In common with every member of this House, I am disposed to give the most sympathic consideration to every measure that will improve the condition of the labouring men in this country. We want our labouring men to live and prosper under fair conditions so that, as has been well said to-night, we shall have a strong virile population, not doomed to work to the last limit of their physical strength, or to compete on unfair conditions with the pauper labour of any other country. We ought to give every possible consideration to their claims in this regard and I am disposed to do that. The question is one which must not be shelved by any proposal to submit it to a committee. I am willing that it should go before a committee for exactly the same reasons that I gave when I asked for a special committee on the Conciliation Act of 1897. I think that Act should have gone before a committee in order that both sides might have been heard; and had that course been followed, there would have been infinitely less dissatisfaction with that measure and it would have worked out infinitely better and have been very materially improved. I am disposed to send this Bill to a committee of the House, not in order that it be shelved-because we must have a satisfactory understanding from the government that it will not be shelved-but in order that employees and employers may be heard, and in order that any information in possession of the government-if they have any, if they have had enough

interest in the subject to collect information-shall be put before the committee, and in order that the committee, after giving a fair hearing to all parties, may make a report to the House. Under the circumstances I would accept the proposal, on the distinct understanding from the government, that the committee will meet at once and expedite its work and bring back a report to the House to be dealt with before the end of the session.

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