April 29, 1902 (9th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Arthur W. Puttee

Independent Labour


If I understood the minister aright, there would be only one board in each province which would deal with matters in every city of that province that has an electric street railway. That I presume will take that class of industry altogether out of the operation of the Conciliation Act. I may say that I consider this Bill to be a very important measure indeed.
It seems to me that this is perhaps the most serious attempt along this line of industrial legislation that has ever been introduced into this parliament. I think we can congratulate ourselves, as well as the Minister of Labour, that all interests likely to be affected by this legislation are now in a position to fairly consider the measure: and that there is no antagonism at present between the parties in this country who will come under the scope of this Act. We may congratulate ourselves that there is also in Canada a decided leaning towards the progress of conciliation and arbitration, and that seeing that the Bill is not going to be pressed this session, we may in the meantime have the Bill fully considered by those parties who are interested. In 1900, when the Conciliation Act was introduced, I then was bold enough to say that I did not agree to the principle of voluntary conciliation; that I did not think we were justified in going to the trouble of passing a voluntary Conciliation Act of that kind. I went on record as being absolutely in favour of giving the principle of compulsory arbitration a trial. Since that time I have freely acknowledged that there has been some good accomplished by the Conciliation Act, and for my part, I have always been ready to assist it. I am pleased to say that the Conciliation Act has done some good, but at the same time I have not in any way revised my opinion that is is the most ineffective method we could take to deal with the very numerous cases of labour disturbances of one kind or another, that are bound to occur in this country as well as in other countries. I believe that a proper understanding and a proper application of the principle of compulsory arbitration, will affect a greater number of these cases than can any other system. The weakness of our present Act was apparent last year, when two of the greatest disturbances we have had in the country occurred; one on the Canadian Pacific Railway, extending from coast to coast, and the other in the mines of the mountain country of British Columbia. As a matter of fact, strikes are by no means always traceable to the employees, although that phase of the question is not given much attention. There is more than a suspicion that strikes are some times brought about on account of the needs or interests of the stock market for instance, and this has been charged to be the case in reference to some of the disturbances that have occurred in British Columbia. Our present Conciliation Act cannot even get started to investigate such matters. If I understand aright the proposition that has been put forward this afternoon, as far as the transportation companies are concerned they will mechanically come under the operation of this Bill should it ever become law. The minister has said that it involves the policy of compulsory' arbitration. I did not expect that it went

so far as that. I gladly welcome that however, but at the same time that very principle raises the question immediately, of the amount of caution that must be given to the consideration of this law. There must be nothing added to arbitration that will strengthen the fears of those who think that arbitration is only an extension of the method of going forward in the direction of striking a dead level in the matter of men's employment; or, that the law can be used in any way as an utter bar to progress along the lines that organized labour seeks to adhere to. The organization of labour is not now simply based on restlessness. Organization is now gone into on a business basis. Men give up their time and their money to it. They hire others from their own ranks to give their whole time and attention to the advancement of their interests and they expect to reap the benefit of that. They expect through their organization, througli everything they can command to coordinate their interests, that they are going to get what every business man expects to get from his business-a return for the effort put forth; and in no way must the impression go out that the operation of this measure is going to bar the legitimate progress which the labour organization seeks for. As a matter of fact, it need not; but at the same time the opponents of the method now adopted by organized labour may seek to spread the impresion that it aims only to maintain the dead level. If this Bill should finally become law, its scope will be wider than I had dared to expect the Minister of Labour would put before parliament, because I was told two years ago that these matters were beyond the jurisdiction of this parliament; but if it shall extend to street railways, the scope of the measure will be sufficiently wide to enable us to see how this principle does operate; and I, for one, hope it will be found so satisfactory that we may then feel warranted in extending the operation of the principle to other industries.

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