March 26, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


John Best


Mr. JOHN BEST (Dufferin):

Mr. Speaker, representing an agricultural county as I do, I cannot see where this Bill is going to do any good. If the hon. minister who introduced the Bill had lengthened the time out one hour, then I could see where we might get a little benefit out of it. If the hon. members who spoke this afternoon are sincere in the statement that they want to have greater production, I cannot see why they cannot work an hour longer in the morning as well as at night.
Now, the hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Tweedie) said that in Alberta they have legislation whereby they take a halfholiday once a week. I presume he means that that applies to the cities and towns. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that with all the talk that there is about greater production and the scarcity of food at the present time, I believe the Government is misled in the cause. It is not in the last two or three years that it has occurred, but it is just such legislation as the hon. member for Calgary said has been in force for from five to fifteen years that is taking the young men away from the farms. They want to go to the cities where the hours of labour are short, and where they can have pleasure in the evening. This has been going on until, at the present time, the farms are almost depleted. The county I have the honour to represent at one time had a population of 24,000, and I think the population now is about 17,500.
I 'believe that this Bill will affect production and affect it seriously, because there is not the slightest doubt in the world that if men in the towns and cities quit work at five o'clock and the hired men on the farms are compelled to work until six o'clock the latter will 'become dissatisfied. I want to say that during the last two years a farmer dare hardly 'tell his hired man how he wished anything done; if he dad that .man would tell him to go where there was no winter and do it himself. I have seen the statement in the papers, I think
it was by an employee of the Government, that it was expected there would be about a million acres more under cultivation in the province of Ontario. Now, if you ask the farmers of Dufferin and Simcoe counties and the adjoining constituencies as to that, they will tell you that that man ought to be in the asylum. I agree veTy largely with the remarks of my hon. friend from South Ontario (Mr. Smith) as to the Bill, except that I do not concur in what he said of the Government. I believe the Government is trying to do what is best for the interests of Canada as a whole, hut I do say that in this matter their information 'as to the sentiment behind this Bill mu6t have been obtained from towns and cities, and not from the farmers. I do not know of one farmers' organization in Canada today that is asking for this measure. I remember quite well the feeling that was expressed about it last year when county and township councils, as well as many farmers' organizations, passed resolutions in opposition to it. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the farmers of this country are just as loyal to the Empire as any other class, and they are just as willing to do what they can to advance production. I think production is the greatest issue there is today in Canada, but the fanners do not want legislation put on the statute book that will affect their labour, and there is no doubt at all that this legislation will do so. Having farmed all my life, I know that if some of my neighbours allowed their men to quit work at five o'clock the rest of the hired men would clamour to be allowed off at that hour also. There is not a farmer within my hearing who will not agree with me that from the time when haying starts until the harvest is all in the bams no man can take a binder in the field before seven or eight o'clock. If he does so, his grain is wet with the dew, and must be kept out until it is dry. He cannot put his hay in the barn or it will spoil. Therefore, he must wait until about eight o'clock to commence operations. Now if on the average he cannot get to work before eight o'clock and his men quit work at five o'clock, how is he going to get his work done? Some hon. gentlemen from cities have been urging shorter hours for the working men. All I want to say is that if the farmers in the province of Ontario with whom I am acquainted had not worked longer hours than the men in cities their farms would not be half cleared to-day and they would not be producing such crops as they are producing. As a matter

of fact they generally work from twelve to sixteen hours, and if this legislation is enacted it will surely restrict the labour for which they are willing to pay, and pay good wages at that. I think it is time the farmers of the country were consulted before legislation such as this, in which they are so greatly interested, is introduced.

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