March 30, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)


Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)


There are a lot of things evidently as to which we are all agreed. But apparently there is a situation in Nova Scotia which is an unfortunate one and something ought to be done to relieve it; but seemingly we cannot agree as to what ought to be done or, indeed, as to whether anything can be done. I do not for one minute question the stand taken by my hon. friend (Mr. Mackenzie King) in many of the aspects of the case. But the fact remains that we have this serious trouble, and that we are doing

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absolutely nothing to remedy it. Suppose we test this case on any of the grounds put forward by the hon. gentleman. Suppose we take the ground of public necessity. Here is a great big public interest involved, not only in connection with the men and wages, but also in connection with the mining of our coal. There is a public interest with respect to the coal, which we urgently require. It is not only Nova Scotia that is interested, but the whole of Canada, up to the city of Montreal is vitally interested in the question of the production of Nova Scotia's coal.
The case is absolutely parallel to the case my hon. friend refers to, where he justified the royal commission of 1907. My difficulty is to find out just exactly why we cannot do something. Only two nights ago, when the estimates for the Labour Department were under consideration, an hon. member, speaking from this side of the House, asked the Minister of Labour whether, in his opinion, labour disputes could not be better settled by men of strong common sense, who knew human character, and how to deal with men rather than by men of scientific attainments, and I understood there was a very cheerful assent given to that proposition by the hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Murdock). But there is no such man on the job. He has today given us two reasons why this request is refused. The first reason, is that the request was made by representatives, not of the men, but of the people down there, that they were not in a position to say that the men were to be bound by anything that was done, that they did not know the companies would be bound by anything that was done, and because these people came here, not representing the men, a royal commission could not be granted. That was his first point. Later on, as the theme developed the real reason apparently was that, upon a very vital question, in the minister's mind, a question of policy in connection with the railway matter, the attitude of the men as represented by Mr. McLachlan, was such that he would not give them any commission. I do not know which was the real reason for refusal, but I know the grounds were absolutely inconsistent, one with the other.
The Premier gives illustrations, and makes an argument, for example, as to the peculiar position of this company, the peculiar complaint, and the peculiar interest the province has in connection with it He refers particularly to the school question, but there was much more than
the school question. It is quite true my hon. friend did refer to the school question, but the memorandum refers to lots of things that are very largely in the hands of this Parliament. The memorandum says for example-
We feel that, unless prompt and effective action is taken by the Government, matters too long drifting may break out into open hostilities to the lasting injury of the entire province.
Surely, Mr. Speaker, that is something which at least concerns, and very closely concerns, the Dominion authorities. But we are not driven to that one particular thing; there are many grounds that could be raised. What is the idea of a Labour Department? That is what we are concerned with. Is it to say that, because one party to the controversy is utterly and entirely unreasonable, no attempt shall be made to bring him to his senses? Is it because the issue is grave and difficult that the department is rendered absolutely impotent to take action? That apparently is the attitude. Nothing is to be done because one of the parties to this issue is entirely wrong. Well, to the extent of the wrong, I should have thought there was all the more work for the Department of Labour to do, if that department is to properly function. Here is a very serious labour dispute, and we have not a single suggestion made by the Minister of Labour as to how that dispute is to be settled, except that somebody else is to take up the job, and that he iis not worrying about it. He will not go into it, the thing is too serious and the department will not deal with it, because these men are going to such absurd lengths that the department will not have anything to do with it.
How are you ever going to get people into a reasonable and proper frame of mind, assuming they are all wrong, unless you apply some of the excellent principles to be found so splendidly set out in the firsi part of the Prime Minister's book. He says in that book that the first underlying prim ciple in the settlement of industrial dis putes is that of the open conference which, he points out, cannot be applied unless you first bring the parties together, and at least try to make an honest attempt to settle across the table all differences. It is admitted here that this board of conciliation did not go upon the ground, or at least did not familiarize itself with the local situation. I do not know that the Government is to blame for that. I would not blame it for that at all. The Prime Minister in his argument to-day, asked,"How is the Govern-
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ment to blame for that?" The Government was not to blame for it. Absolutely not at all. There is no question of blaming anybody, but what we are finding fault with is the lack of action. The Government was not to blame one way or the other for what that commission did or did not do, and that commission may be absolutely all right, but the point is that the people there do not think it is all right. You have a deadlock. You have a Labour Department appointed for the purpose of breaking deadlocks, and I would have thought the more serious that deadlock, the more suffering entailed by it, the more necessary direct and urgent action on the part of that department.
I think the House is entitled to at least some statement from the Minister of Labour as to how this condition is to be properly handled, and to whom he has on the job, if he has anybody there. Apparently he has nobody there, and why? Because it is a mess, because it is a difficult proposition, the people ought to be left absolutely and entirely to their own resources. It is said that Nova Scotia can look after itself. You might say that about any labour trouble in any province in this country, but why have we a Labour Department? We are maintaining a Labour Department to settle these matters.
The saime argument might be made as to the Alberta trouble. The Labour Department took action in that case and brought peace and production to the coal fields there. They did not do that by saying "We have no jurisdiction." They did it by going on the ground, and getting the parties together.

Topic:   SO, 1922
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