Mr. G. A. TURCOTTE (Nicolet).
In rising to speak on this question, I do not intend to detain the House at any great length, but simply to add a few observations to the elaborate and brilliant speech of my hon. friend (Mr. Verville). The speech which has been delivered by the labour member in this House is of such ability as to fully demonstrate what education may perform in the working portion, or labour classes of the community, and to what a high grade of development that class may attain in favourable circumstances. I sincerely congratulate the hon. member for the remarkable way with which he has treated the subject interesting us presently.
I am happy and proud in addresing the House to-day, that it should be on a question of such importance and that I should be called to support the eight hours' movement, a labour problem which is stirring all socially to improve the welfare of thousands of people, the labourers, who are the fulcrum of democracy. I have drawn, in my youth, from the source of paternal education, the knowledge and love of sound democracy, and I am happy, I again say, to do perhaps something in its favour. The eight hours' movement directly results from the growing prosperity and intelligence of manual workers throughout the civilized world; it is no new fad of a.few agitators, it is rather a recurrence to a state of things which prevailed in early ages and as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries. England, more advanced in her industrial development, has done a great deal to meet the new problems of modern times, and presently the eight hours' movement is agitating alike England, the western part of the continent of Europe, and the United States. The whole current of thought that led to the great French Revolution was one of hatred and bitter hostility to the tyranny of the past. Everywhere men saw the possibility of a new and wider field opening before them; everybody had in his heart that profound hope which awakes courage and burned with, eagerness to break the inherited chains of despotism. This great social commotion was morally felt through the whole world, and its consequence was that more freedom and large concessions were bestowed on humanity in general and on the labouring classes in particular. From that day democracy felt in its bosom a sense of vigour, and the great voice of the people was heard over all others, claiming redress for long standing evils and asking for more protection and welfare.
England has done a great deal in favour of workmen, and a complete, minute and voluminous code for the protection of labour now exists in that country.
The eight hours' labour question, Mr. 188}
Speaker, has been dealt with from a statistical and economical standpoint, and I wiii only say a few words in this direction, my intention being to view the theory of shorter hours in another aspect, just as important, in my way of thinking, that of upholding or raising the workmen by way of education and by giving them a larger share of rest, comfort and liberty.
The question before the House is an economic experiment in this country, as it demands only that this reform be applied to the government's servants, and I am of opinion that the Liberal party would give an instance of great interest in the labour ing classes in adopting it, and would raise a general cry of satisfaction among thousands forming the grand army of toilers. But of course there is another side to the present debate, a counterpoise, and this brings the question to its real point. The action of the government in favour of shorter hours would, there is no doubt, widely open the door to a demand for legislation in favour of generalizing the system, and then would appear the formidable forces of manufacturers and industrials. Capital and labour would be then in presence and would fight a great battle.
The hon. member from Maisonneuve (Mr. Verville) has proved satisfactorily that capital had nothing to lose by the reduction of labour hours. Numerous experiments have shown that production did not diminish at all, nor cost of production increase; that prices had in no case been affected, or the volume of trade reduced by the adoption of shorter hours of labour. In some cases a reduction of profits had taken place, but this must be attributed to the fact that business rivals were left free to work longer hours. In no case does the adoption of the eight-hour day appear to have been followed by any economic disaster
The fact is asserted by the highest authorities in economy, that successive reductions of the hours of labour, which this country has witnessed, have been attended, after a very short interval, by a positive general increase in individual productivity, and in many cases it has been found that the workers did more in ten hours than their predecessors in twelve. The possibility of maintaining the total amount of the product, notwithstanding a reduction of working hours, may seem most incredible to many, but it is nevertheless proved by too much evidence to allow of doubt. In the face of experience and probant testimony from all parts of the world, it seems no longer possible to infer, on purely theoretic grounds, that the product must necessarily be diminished hy a further shortening of the working day. Mr. John Ray, an eminent writer, who is very
frequently quoted in questions of this kind, has put forth the probable consequences of reduction of hours in a very exhaustive article in the 'Contemporary Keview' of October, 1891, in which he points out that the present very long day in many trades and occupations is a product mainly of this century, the fruit of the factory system which the industrial revolution brought in its train.
For the last sixty years, he says, we have been slowly learning the lessons that the prolongation of working hours, which was nearly eating the heart out of the labouring manhood of England, was, from the standpoint of the manufacturer's own interest, a grave pecuniary mistake.
He then goes on to give copious evidence from actual experiments, that a workman can do as good work in eight hours as in nine or ten or more; and he argues that the sources from which the compensating progress in the labourer's personal efficiency had proceeded in previous experience and are still far from being exhausted. Among the sources which he mentions are the increased energy, contentment, and intelligence of the workman, "the saving of time lost through sickness, unpunetuality and the breaks for meal times.
One may ask, Sir, how it is that shortening the hours of labour does not affect productivity. It is because shorter hours tell on the vital and mental energies of the workmen, who soon discover the secret of making up for the diminution of work hours by improved arrangements of the work.
The main point in connection with any proposed further reduction of the hours of labour is the question of the probable effect of the change in the personal efficiency of the workpeople. If productivity was to be lessened by short hours, profits and wages would also be lessened; and good wages are quite as necessary to the improvement of the working class as more leisure. But then shorter hours may not in reality mean shorter product, for they may so better the quality of labour that as much is done afterwards in the short day as was done before in the long one. A French manufacturer once said to M. Guizot, one of France's most renowned historians and statesmen: 'We used to say it was the last hour of labour that gave us our profit, but we have now learned it was the last hour that ate up our profits.' This admission, it seems to me, is most significant and most conclusive.
The majority of writers on this economical subject agree that the eight hour movement ought to obtain a legal recognition of the general social^ interest in every labour contract, and it is generally admitted that no other power but parliament can secure an effective reduction.
It seems to me that the questions now Mr. G. A. TUECOTTE.
under consideration, if it comes to a favourable conclusion, would be, on the part of this Liberal government, a generous as well as an inviting effort towards securing a general settlement of this most interesting and important subject; and is it not the duty of the state to set an example in this present occasion?
It is not in the scope of my remarks to go further in the direction of giving an economical demonstration of the eight hour system, but if we admit, as the available evidence and sound reasoning in political economy make it most reasonable to believe, that the eight hour day of labour has no blight to cast on the economic prosperity of the working class or of the nation at large, while it will be certain to contribute greatly to the moral and social elevation of both, then it is the task of those who stand at the head of the people as leaders, to see that the great class of toilers be protected, either by means of concessions from employers, or through the trade union agency, or by means of legislation..
We must bear in mind that human society is a moral body which has a heart as well as the individual; so says Victor Cousin. Generosity, goodness and fairness, consequently are expected to be found in every political organism.
I will now, Sir, attempt to view in a few words the question oi shorter hours of labour from another aspect; that of building up the welfare of the manual labouring class by giving it time and leisure to benefit from education, making each man, as much as possible, a better, if not a competent judge of the great questions that parliament has to decide. Every man in the country is virtually called to share in the work of government. But are the men thus called upon to rule capable of understanding the task set before them? All wellthinking and experienced public men will unanimiusly answer that a very large number of our labouring fellow citizens are not, under present industrial conditions, capable of forming a fair, conscientious and accurate opinion on the point at issue. And where is the remedy to the evil, if not in the raising of the intellectual capacity of the electorate! An eight hours day will give more daily leisure to the bulk of voters and thousands of working men will have the opportunity of becoming competent for their duties of citizenship.
Let us not forget that the ruing power lies in the greater number who thus become the real masters of the country when the ballot day arrives, and it is necessary to educate such masters by giving them all possible opportunities of thinking of and learning the important liabilities incumbent on their supreme prerogatives. The workingmen are not mere machines to be used, I could *ay illused, till they are completely
ruined and then cast away, no, they are human beings with hopes dear to them and fears, legitimate aspirations, sentiments, and all are the attributes which are common to mankind.
In this country, Sir, when human energy has come to be of such a whirling activity, when aspirations towards wealth, comfort and enjoyment have become, in individuals as well as in all classes of society, a passionate flight carrying away humanity to a more perfect state of things, it must be remembered that one of the most promising expectations regarding the future conditions of the human race is the true improvement of man.
Now the toilers being the largest portion of the community must be looked after in the direction of giving them certain hours of liberty that they will be induced, in the course of time, to devote to instruction. In so acting they will raise their moral, intellectual and physical standing. In their leisure hours, they will also be able to indulge in a more intimate intercourse with the higher and more refined classes of society, and they will derive from it great benefits for themselves, as well as for the community at large. This may appear to be a Utopia to those who have no faith and no hopes in this democratic doctrine, but I am not of that number, and I sincerely believe that, sooner or later, the ideas that I now advocate will be a great factor in the building up of the national advancement of all civilized countries. 1 do not think to stray when I submit that the future progress of the world rests mainly on the more or less good will of legislators to incite education in the lower classes. Let the toiler know the great lessons of hygiene, let us teach him the duties of a leader in his family, let us impress on hi? mind the knowledge proper to a citizen and let us urge him to make it a point to perform faithfully and scrupulously what is to be expected from a member of the sovereign. To arrive at this, Sir, it is of absolute necessity that a new horizon be opened before the working classes, that hours of rest and liberty be granted to them during which they will be in a position to consider and to understand that their energies must not be directed only in the way of becoming more skillful workmen, but that it also belongs to them to become useful and able citizens and men in the widest acception of the word. The free hours given to the working man will awaken in him new faculties and this will be all to the advantage of the social body. And when the day comes during which thousands of workmen stand before the ballot box to cast their vote, the country will have the guarantee that the judgment rendered by this great portion of the community is one given by men able to discriminate with a sound mind and a cultivated intellect the great political questions debated before them. In a country like ours, having a political organization coun-teidrawn on the English constitution, the most admirable of all constitutions in the world, I venture to say that it is of very great importance that the people be induced to self-government either in the individual sphere, or in the domain of the family or that of the work shop, or in the intercourse between citizens. Every man ought then to be guided by principles involving regard for the dignity of man, this meaning to do nothing against the liberty of the citizen and to love his country.
These are, Sir, sound democratic principles that the boy should learn at school, for their knowledge will become more and more necessary as time goes by, witnessing the great economical evolution of society as a whole.
Generalizing the right of vote as it is done to-day, and extending it more and more to the masses, is assuredly handing the power to the pebple at large and what will be the consequence of thig when difficult political problems are left to fee discussed, weighed and decided without appeal by a majority of electors ignorant and having no idea of what is put before them.
The duties of an elector have to be learned and it is absolutely necessary that the man who votes should know what he has to do, so that his action be of some advantage to him and to his country. Ignorant, we believe everything and any party can lay hold of us and make us blind partisans; educated, a man considers and thinks before depositing his ballot in the ballot box, he knows what he is doing, and consequently acts as a true citizen.
Any attempt to better the condition of the labouring classes which does not ultimately raise their standard of comfort and enlarge their intellectual capacity, will be useless, and any cause which stands to lower it, should, if possible, be removed.
Our constitution confers to the people the great and sublime mission of ruling by suffrage, and it is of vital importance that this people, in the hands of whom the destiny of the country is entrusted should be qualified by education to perform this sovereign duty. It should be the effort of every nation to secure, as far as possible, good and contented citizens; and forces which contribute to this in any way should not be disregarded. The nation feels a direct interest in securing the advancement of the health and education, and the morality and well-being of the whole community. The improvement of the labouring classes has now become a matter of fundamental interest to every nation, as regards its supremacy as a nation. It will be to the nation which builds up, by a wise policy in
this direction, an honest, sturdy, self-reliant and intelligent class of labourers, that the prize of industrial supremacy will come. In just so much as each individual labourer creates wealth more than he consumes, does he increase the wealth and prosperity of his country. Civilization and progress today, more than ever, rest on the integrity and welfare of the family. Home comforts and home life must be given to the workers so as to render indissoluble the ties of family formed by the intimate and unremitting intercourse of the father with the children. Family is the most admirable of all government, and it is in its bosom that children, the citizens of to-morrow, must learn the lessons of wisdom and experience, and well understand that the prosperity of society is based on that of the family. The father is the natural teacher at home, and it is to better fulfil his duty as such that he claims a few hours of rest and liberty. Let us have the ' eight hours labour ' reform as advocated in this House to-day, and sooner or later it will come to have such a beneficial effect on public opinion, it is my firm belief, as to impress on our legislative ^powers the conviction that it is of sound politics to have all toilers of this country benefit by it. Such liberal legislation would secure for millions of tired workers an hour or two of leisure otherwise spent in toil; it would enable many, who would otherwise have plodded the daily round of monotonous labour, to obtain access to some share in that larger life from which they are now relentlessly excluded; it would protect the future generations of the race from physical degeneration or mental decay; it would make brighter the lives of those who have toiled, and then a large class amongst us might have education, and holidays, and culture.
In concluding, I claim for the hard working class, standing as a very essential part of our social organism, its share of a beneficial and philanthropic legislation. I am advocating the cause of those who labour, toil and moil and suffer day after day, and ask for them their legitimate, although small, portion of what is enjoyed largely by those more fortunate. Let us bear in mind, I would humbly submit, that it is the duty of those now in power, not only to legislate on actual questions interesting presently the community, but, that it is also of vital importance to all, that legislative action be taken to prepare the future welfare of the people at large, and the question now under consideration is such as to be the foundation stone in the future building of more favourable, larger spirited and democratic legislation. To us it belongs to prepare the future; it will be what we will have made it ourselves.
When we first meet with the labourer in history, he is a mere serf, but this condition did not last and was doomed, by its very Mr. G. A. TUKCOTTE.
nature, to vanish. After centuries of everlasting efforts and of hard struggle, the labourer was delivered from the stigma of legal inferiority and won freedom. But, I am sorry to say that the workmen of the twentieth century are still slaves; in some respects they are not under lash of unmerciful masters, it is true, but there are serfs through the exigencies of the present conditions of labour, in many cases. Thousands of children of our working fellow citizens, in most of pur large cities, have never yet seen their father by daylight. To the eyes of those little ones, the father is no better than serf, having no time to devote to home functions and paternal duties. Are we justified in calling right this condition of industrial life? Let us bear in mind that the social body has no better guarantee of its future improvement than the proper intellectual and moral training of children in the family bosom.
Improve the educational standard in the people and we will have better citizens, capable of judging the merits of their claims and their duties. In the spread of education, evils of all kinds are, if not annulled, considerably reduced. Let brain come to the front and we will find men well informed of the laws regulating social and industrial conditions; violence and disorder will disappear, we will see the ultimate adjustment of many industrial difficulties and come to the solution of most of the labour problems. Capital and labour will arrive mutually to better understanding and the great commotions that shake the social structure now and then in its very foundations, will be avoided.
Pasteur, the immortal Pasteur, one of the most surprising geniuses that humanity has ever produced, whose intellect seems to have been more directly enlightened by a divine ray of wisdom and knowledge, be it said to the glory of France, Pasteur's contention is that peace and science will triumph over war and ignorance; that all nations will unite and act in concert not to destroy and to ruin, but to build and to improve, and that time to come will belong to those who will help in raising the labouring classes by way of giving them educational advantages, and to those who will alleviate the sufferings of mankind. Labour has the undeniable right to be treated at least as well as any other source of power. Let us then set an example and give the first impulse in the direction of shortening the hours of labour so as to offer to the working people facilities for attaining to intellectual enlightenment.
This step towards real progress is undoubtedly a part of the Divine economy by which a new factor would be added to the evolution of humanity towards its industrial as well as intellectual development.
Little has been done up to the present, time, in favour of the lower classes, compared with the considerable and important legislation passed by parliament in the way of endowing capital and the higher classes of the community. However I must say that the Liberal party has done a great deal more in that direction than our friends of the opposition when in power, and I am particularly pleased in availing myself of this opportunity of congratulating the Hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Lemieux) for having erected on a broad basis of justice, a tribunal where industrial conflicts can be settled and where labour and capital can meet and come to terms.
I fully understand that the eight hour agitation may be rather premature, and may be a source of difficulties to the government, its present bearings on production and wages being matters of serious study and discussion. But the economic current which it indicates is a sure guarantee of its coming sooner or later to a favourable issue, and Liberalism, I venture to say, would inspire a strong feeling of admiration and attachment to those who have partly in their hands the destiny of Canada, if shorter hours of labour were granted.
Topic: SUPPLY-HOURS OF LABOUR FOR WORKING MEN.