Mr. E. W. Brunsden (Medicine Hat):
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Timiskaming is to be congratulated at least on his tenacity, for this bill has the look of an old friend. We have heard a good deal about it in the last few years. I should like to say that I am quite sure that, regardless of where he sits, every member of this house will subscribe to the principle that the worker is 26207-1-189J
worthy of his hire. Underlying the presentation of this bill I presume there is that wish to see that the worker receives due reward for the energy he expends. Yet at the same time I find it very hard to reconcile certain statements made by the hon. member who introduced this bill, and certain phases of the bill, with the progress that my hon. friend hopes may be made when the bill is passed.
I am particularly concerned at the moment with clause 2(b) which states that "employee" means a person of any age. It is conceivable that in certain departments or in certain avenues of work juniors would be preferable. I can think of a great many young persons in my own community to whom I certainly would not wish to pay $1.25 an hour. Mention was made of the fact that in one area the minimum wage is 48 cents an hour. I am not saying that is a proper wage. However, I believe that we are imposing a handicap when we say to any employer, "You will pay $1.25 an hour for labour regardless of sex and regardless of age". A young man, possibly of the age of 16 years, having left school and receiving $1.25 an hour for a seven hour day, would receive $8.75 a day. If he worked five days a week he would receive $43.75. That amount may not appear to be excessive. Perhaps it is not excessive. However, I say that it represents a figure which may be out of balance with the wages received by the older person. A young man 25 years of age I think would automatically consider that, if his younger brother of fifteen years or sixteen years can receive $43.75 a week, he is being underpaid at $60 or $65. I find it extremely difficult to embrace this bill in the broad terms in which it has been outlined.
A moment ago I said that the worker is worthy of his hire. We all subscribe to this principle. However, how does one determine worthiness? That point seems to be the key to the matter. If this provision was to apply to a specially trained group, a group with certain known qualifications, or if it was to apply to certain specialized work, there might be more justification for that particular clause than there is now. However, you cannot get qualification and you certainly cannot get experience in a young head and a young body. I believe there should be some amendment to this bill-and I am not going to propose it- which would take out of the bill itself this question of sex and age and which would put the bill on a firm basis with respect to the type of labour for which it is intended.
I agree with many of the things said by my colleague the hon. member who last spoke. We are in sympathy with this type of legislation. We wish to see the people of this country obtain a decent living. Regardless of where
we sit in the house, I am quite sure that all of us would applaud any forward looking step which would place the extremely low salaried worker-particularly the more adult worker -on a basis of comfort and equality consistent, of course, with services rendered. However, times change. I can remember, Mr. Chairman, when my father came to this country in the early part of this century, when I was a very small boy. He worked for a dollar a day and he was glad to be able to work. I myself can remember working for 50 cents a day and working long hours. It is true that the dollar or the 50 cents meant a great deal more then than it does today. I will grant that fact. However, those were the days of competition for work. We were obliged to get out and find our own jobs. Many of us worked on farms in western Canada for $25 or $30 and our board a month, and we were the better for it as we learned that it was necessary for us to produce something in the way of constructive labour in order to enjoy the advantages of a wage at all.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, with all kindness and with all respect for the mover of this bill I say that the hon. member might be well advised to take a second look at it and to bring into it some clarification as to the persons to whom it basically should apply.
I am sure there are many other members of the house who would like to speak on this bill. It is an important one. We are all interested in workers. Most of us are workers ourselves. I do not intend to monopolize the time of the house. In closing let me say this. Regardless of party, experience, or outlook and particularly regardless of economic position, I am sure there is not a man or lady in this house who will not endorse the basic principle of this bill.
Topic: INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
Subtopic: PROVISION OF MINIMUM RATE OF WAGES FOR EMPLOYEES