April 23, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


John Hampden Burnham



It would be a great calamity if this legislation should not pass. It may be quite true that not all that could be desired is comprised within the four corners of this Bill, but if we are advancing we are doing something.
Section 3 states that:
The Minister is authorized and1 empowered,-
(a) to aid and encourage the organization and co-ordination of employment offices and to promote uniformity Oif methods among them;
(to) to establish one or more clearing houses for the interchange of information between employment offices concerning the transfer of labour and other matters;
(c) to compile and distribute information received from employment offices and from other sources, regarding prevailing conditions of employment.
Surely no one can object to that broad, general and comprehensive statement, and, at the same time, have a real idea as to the requirements and development of labour conditions in this country. If we do not have co-ordination, we have confusion. Coordination is, therefore, very plainly, absolutely necessary. It is also very plain that, in the past, we have not had co-ordination. That is one of the weaknesses of the Federal system of government. The rapprochement of the provinces with the Dominion is one of the most difficult of things to bring about. Therefore, everything that leads up to that, to the identification and consolidation of their aims and actions in a matter of this kind must surely be viewed with an encouraging eye. A clearing house for information is, of all things, the most necessary and the most sane. To sit down and discuss what is actually taking place means, with sane people, that the difficulty will shortly be removed. Not to have a clearing house means that when men sit down to consider
the question they will not really know what they are speaking about, and their actions will be in the future as thgy have been in t'be past, very largely a misfit and a misfire. People, scientifically minded, will at once admit that your information must be accurate and carefully gathered. Then, if it is not properly dealt with, that is due to the mental weakness and incapacity of those who assume the reins of government. But it is impossible for the wisest man, for the man with the moist acute intellect, to deal properly with anything on wrong premises, and unless such a clearing house is established no Minister of Labour can possibly do justice to labour conditions.
The third clause regarding the compiling and distribution of information follows from those preceding it. It enables the minister to deal with the problem of aiding and encouraging the organization and co-ordination of employment offices and the establishment of clearing houses, for the interchange of information between employment offices. The rest of the Bill, apart from the earlier provisions which I have mentioned, is merely a statement of technicalities. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that I have ever seen a determination upon the part of this House to clothe the Minister of Labour with ample power and to justify his existence.
When this Bill is passed and a clearing house is established, the minister will be ,able to find out just how and when and where labour should be employed, and he will have every means within his grasp for dealing with the labour problems of Canada. After he has made known to working men the conditions and circumstances throughout the country, it will be for them to come forward and deal with them in an individual way, and as loyal *and enterprising citizens, as we know them to be, they will do it. But if we do not empower the minister to deal with these matters, we are simply asking labour throughout the country to look in vain to the directing power. To appoint a Department of Labour under such conditions is really to mock labour, and to show that labour conditions throughout the country are not regarded seriously. It would be showing an entire lack of a scientific grasp of the situation such as, if it were exhibited in medicine or in law, would result in anarchy in those walks of life at once. It has taken years and years to sweep away misconceptions and to make the slightest progress in the way of a sympathetic coordination of the various rival interests

*in the employment of labour. Now, we have the chance to empower a 'apable minister *to look into these matters, and from the serene height of his federal position to tell the country what are the facts, and I say that to fail to give him this power and to back him up by such an Act as this, would be a calamity of the direst possible kind.

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