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


William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Shelburne and Queens):

A fellow-member has called my attention to- what he regards as an important fact; that in this flood of interesting debate no representative from the best province of the Dominion has yet uttered a word. If the debate were to conclude without a single word being uttered from Nova Scotia there might be some doubt as to the legality of the Bill after it had gone into operation.
However that may be I find that there is a conflict here between representatives from the cities and towns and those members coming from the country districts. It is very useful in such a case to be able to get the dispassionate opinion of some absolutely unbiased person. I do not happen to have any large city within my own constituency. I am sorry for that, I should be very glad if there were. We have a couple of pretty 'little towns, but no very large farming population. I do not believe my people are going to be affected by this Bill one way or the other to any considerable extent. I know that our people go to bed earlier down there. Just at this hour when we are discussing this Bill, in my constituency all respectable people are going to bed. Whatever you may do with this measure-and I may say that I am in favour of it-I do not think it is going to be a matter . of serious consequence to my constituency. In any event the fishermen, the lumbermen and the shipbuilders there are going to start in and work just the same no matter whether this Bill passes or not; but I do feel that, strong as the argument is from the point of view of the farmers on this

question, and there is much force in it, there is . a very strong argument in the appeal made on behalf of the workmen in the cities. I do not for a moment say that their claims are equal to those of the farmers, but the conditions of the workmen in our cities and towns surely entitle them to much consideration. It is admitted, I think, on all hands, that so far as the workmen in the cities and towns are concerned this will be a useful measure, and to that extent it is certainly deserving of our most serious consideration. If I believed that the Bill was going to prove an injury to the farmers of the country I would not for a moment support it. Although there is no very great farming vote in my constituency I realize that, looking at this question broadly, the farming interest is the great and paramount interest at all times, and never more so than at this moment. But the farmers, most of us know, are conservative-with a small "c" remember. They are not ready as a rule to make changes, they look with suspicion upon everything of the kind. I am not surprised that in this case they have been in doubt, and that that doubt has crystallized in some cases into strong opposition to this Bill. The history of this legislation everywhere shows that in its early stages it was received with doubt. Over in England that very strong workingmen's advocate, Mr. Willett, drew the attention of Parliament to this matter some years ago. He was laughed at and jeered at, but, nevertheless, although poor Willett did not live to see it, his proposition now forms a very important part of the legislation of the Mother Country. After it has been adopted there, and also adopted in the United States, surely our farming friends will admit that this legislation must have some considerable merit. I think the farming interest is needlessly alarmed. The condition of the farmer is such that he is not going to be governed by the clock but by his own convenience.
There is something in the argument that the farm labourer, the hired man, will be unwilling to work after the hour when he thinks that his fellow workman in the city has ceased to work; but I think, taking it all in all, the farmer is in a better position to act independently. In the cities and towns the various classes of labour are more or less inter-dependent, one branch of business, cannot go on unless the business across the street is going on at the same time. It is not so with the farmer; he can arrange his own business, and he need not care what his neighbour is doing.

I appreciate the force of the argument about the farm labourers, but I think that the arguments in favour of the Bill are so strong, and the experience of other countries so greatly in favour of it, that it is reasonable to ask our farming friends to allow the Bill to be passed and give it a trial. If the measure does not prove to he as good as we hope it to be, as good as it seems to be in other countries where it has been tried, we shall have time to repeal it before much harm is done.

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