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


Ralph Smith


Mr. RALPH SMITH (Vancouver).

Mr. Speaker, it is impossible for the members of this House to form anything like an intelligent view of the proposition before them, not having seen the Bill. The only acquaintance we have with the principle at all is obtained from the explanation that has been given by the minister this afternoon. If I understand him aright, the great principle of the Bill is to make strikes impossible on railways. That principle of compulsory arbitration is an experiment in this country, one which has never yet been introduced in any degree in the Dominion of Canada-in fact, I may say on the American continent; but the principle of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of labour disputes is a very common principle in New Zealand and other of the Australian colonies, Mr. PUTTEE.
and a very successful principle at that. I think the minister has acted wisely in not seeking to apply such an important experiment to all the industries of the country. 1 am not certain that even the organized labour men of the country would support the general principle of a national compulsory arbitration. But I think he has acted very wisely in seeking to apply the principle to the operations of railways. A labour dispute on a railway is not like a labour dispute in any other business. We may have, for instance, a strike in a factory, the evils of which are practically confined to the people who live and work in that factory. We may have a strike in a coal mine or in any other kind of mine, the evils of which would be practically confined to the operations of that mine. But in the case of a labour dispute in connection with a railway, we are reminded that the most important factor affected by the outcome of the trouble is the great travelling public. Therefore the minister has acted wisely, when introducing experimental legislation of this kind, in attaching it to that industry which stands not only in greater need, but in absolute need of compulsory arbitration. If the public are to be safeguarded in travelling upon railways, it must be made impossible to have labour disputes on railways. The safety of the public is dependent on a good understanding being maintained between employers and employees on railways, and the only, good reason that can be given for the application of the principle of compulsion in the settlement of disputes between the two parties is that there is a greater party than either which is seriously affected by the operation of a strike. And, Sir, all legislation practically, I may be permitted to say, rests on the principle of compulsion. In almost every instance its purpose is to protect the great public against the peculiar and special interests of private individuals or corporations; and I know no case in which the principle of compulsory arbitration can be applied so successfully as in the operation of railways. I think the minister has acted wisely, too, in permitting this Bill to be printed and circulated through the country for the consideration of the people affected by it. I do not think it would be a proper thing to apply an experiment of this kind without affording the parties affected by it an opportunity of looking into the matter and expressing their opinions upon it. In fact, I think that would be a good rule to follow in connection with all measures of (vast importance-that they should be submitted for the consideration especially of the parties whose interests are likely to be affected by them. That is particularly desirable in a case of this kind, so that the men on the railways and the companies will have an opportunity of looking into this measure fully, and the members of this House will know by next session exactly what the interested parties think of

it, and will then be in a far better position to deal with it. I believe that if this Bill is circulated throughout the country, it will be demonstrated that the employees on railways almost to a man will endorse the'prin-ciple of compulsory arbitration. In my experience, in nine cases out of ten, the labour men all over the country are willing to submit their grievances to arbitration. As a matter of fact, the most important incorporated unions on the American continent have provisions in their constitutions seeking to bring about the settlement of dis putes by arbitration. The whole difficulty about voluntary arbitration in the past has been the objections which corporations have had to the principle. I contend that this is where the government ought to step in, in the interest of the public. It must be admitted by the members of this House that a serious strike on any railway endangers the life of the great public. We must remember this, too, that a strike in a mine may stop the operation of the mine ; but the only people affected toy it are the people directly employed. But a railway must operate. If tha employees refuse to work, or if the employers refuse to concede what they think is their proper claim, the railway must operate all the same ; and there is where the necessity exists for provisions whereby serious troubles on railways may be averted. I think the minister has introduced a principle which will be endorsed by the labour men all over this country, and'I hope he will take every means of circulating this Bill among the interested parties.

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