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


Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)



I must direct the attention of the House to the fact that if the hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce exercises his right to reply, he will close the debate.
Mr. D. D. McKENZdE (Cape Breton and Victoria): Before the minister speaks, I
wish to state I have no decided views on this Bill, and for that reason I would like to have more information in regard to it than we have so far received. It would appear to the outsider that this Bill did not receive the consideration in the Cabinet, or in the Government, that it should have received before being introduced in this House. There are certain gentlemen with certain portfolios in the Cabinet who should enlighten us to some extent, or give us their views upon this subject, which is one of very great importance. We have in this Cabinet a Minister of Labour who is supposed to be in close touch with the views of labour all over this country. Labour in all its phases has the right to look for guidance and help to the Minister of Labour, and I am sure that hon. gentleman is disposed to be as useful to the great body of people he represents as he can be, and if the Minister of Trade and Commerce applied to him for the views of labour on this subject, I presume he would be in position to put himself in touch with the proper avenues of information in connection with the various associations which represent labour and give the Minister of Trade and Commerce the consensus of opinion among that very important class. We have not heard from the Minister of Labour, (Mr. Crothers) and I am afraid that, if he were asked for the views of the bodies he is supposed to represent in this House, he would have no very live or fresh information from them. In this I may be mistaken, but the hour is not too late, and if the Minister of Labour has any well defined views upon this subject, and if he has
gathered proper information from the different bodies that he is supposed to represent, we would like ta hear from him on this very important question. We have another gentleman representing another department in this House, the Minister of Agriculture. He is a farmer, I understand, and in the widest possible way and in the most concrete manner represents the farming interest and communities, and is in touch with the farmers of this country. As an outsider who has been brought up on a farm, and in close sympathy with the farmer, although a lawyer hy profession, I would- expect the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Crerar) to tell those of us who are not so well versed in the requirements of the farm as we ought to be, what his views are. We would not be going too far if we expected the Minister of Agriculture to be in his seat, closely watching what was being said by hon. members who are here. He is here to represent the vieiws of the farmers and to impress them upon this House, and the Cabinet, and he should give this House the conclusions which he has reached and the advice which he gave hie brother minisr-ters in the Cabinet before this Bill was introduced. We have no such information and no such light from men whose business it is to be well informed upon questions of this kind. For that reason it is somewhat puzzling to a person like myself to know whether I am serving well my constituency by voting for or against this Bill. I represent a large body of labouring men, perhaps about as large as in any other rural constituency, as I may call my constituency. I represent also a large 'body of farmers, a mixed community. I am honest in stating that I cannot say now, with all the study this Bill has received, which way I could really vote on it in the best interests of'my constituents, and if I had any advice to give the Government it would be to withhold this Bill for a while, and get in touch with the different interests of the country and ascertain positively hy the best means what is the real sentiment of the country upon this question. I can assure the hon. minister that there is mo. well-matured or well-defined public opinion upon the question., and that, so far as the province from, which I come is concerned, the question hae never been carefully considered.. I venture to say that Nova Scotia is in. much the same position as the other provinces of Canada as far as diue deliberation, onthis.question is concerned. I desire to say to the Government, and to the hon, gentlemen in chaTge of this Bill, that there is at least danger, hy fore-

ing this Bill upon, farming communities, that he is going to create dissatisfaction and dissension in the country, and this is a time when no friction of any kind should be created which can possibly (be avoided. We want to have the farmers, labourers and everybody in this country with their minds on the one thing, and one thing only, namely, that every ounce of strength and everything we have, without any disruption or disturbance, should be guided and directed to the one object of winning the war. In the community from which I come, where there is a great deal of steel and co^l producing, they are in fixed grooves about the divisions of the day. I never in my life spoke to the .hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce with more sincerity than I do at present. Everybody knows me in this House to be a hard-shell partisan, and there is no mistaking what I am, hut I talk earnestly and deliberately to the minister, because this is not a party question. Nobody is taking a party view of it, and I am not. In the coal mines and steel works the day is fixed in certain divisions. Certain classes of men have to get up at four o'clock in the morning, and some at three o'clock in the morning, .go down in the mines and operate, and prepare the way for workmen to come on later in the day. I am afraid that, with the tension that is upon our people now in the production of steel and coal, with every man at his post at certain divisions of the day, and at certain hours, if this Bill is passed it will be throwing them largely out of joint, and creating a condition of things that might cause friction and dissatisfaction. Things are going along in a first-class way, and I would, in all sincerity say to the minister and to the Government that it is only a year ago since we had this Bill before us, and there was nobody in the House who would stand as godfather for the Bill. It had to go unbaptized without receiving any ceremony or sacrificial blessing at all. I am surprised that a man of the hon. minister's experience and caution, unless there was a great cry or demand for it, should force it upon this Parliament again within such a short time, without having satisfied himself that he was on a much safer ground than he was on before. I was in this House when the Bill was introduced last year and said something about it. I remember the complexion of the House, and I see very little difference. There are more people in favour of it now than there were then, but I see that the men who were against it then are against it now,
and there are no converts to the cause of this Bill of those who were in the House when it was introduced before. The minister is going to force this Bill to a division; he is going to make a serious division in this House, and he is forcing upon the farmers and other classes of the community legislation for which they are not asking and which many of them are opposing. If this is an experiment, as the minister himself and the best friends of the Bill say, I venture to tell the Prime Minister and the Government and our friends in this House that this is no time for experiments; it is a time for the best use of such machinery as we have and for the putting forth of every power we have along the old lines looking to the best possible results.

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