Mr. MACKENZIE KING:
I am glad my right hon. friend has asked that question, because I think the letter which I wrote to Sir Wilfrid Laurier will, perhaps, show, in words clearer than any that I can now use, what the position was. There is on Hansard a copy of the letter which I wrote to Sir Wilfrid Laurier. After that letter had been completed-and it was written after the strike was over altogether-a postscript was added, the postscript being written a day or two afterwards. The hon. member for Dufferin (Mr. Best) asked the other night if there was a postscript, and I think I said that he was somewhat tin a fhurry to get through. Let me read what the postscript says:
I see by the press that Mr. Hays is proposing to consider as cancelled all obligation
which his company may be under in the way of pensions, partially or all but fully earned by any of the men who may have gone out on strike.
If the question of pensions had been mentioned during the negotiations which I have outlined in the letter to Sir Wilfrid Laur-ier, would I in a postscript have directed Sir Wilfrid's attention to the fact that I saw by the press that Mr. Hays was pro-^ posing to consider as cancelled the obligations which his company was under in respect of pensions to the men who had gone out on strike? The reason for my postscript was that the first I saw of the intention of the company not to live up to its obligations was in the press, and the minute I saw it, I took the position that I take now, namely, that Parliament should see to it that such an attitude on the part of the Grand Trunk towards its employees was made impossible. Let me read the rest of the postscript:
A pension has always been considered a reward of service-not a manacle to fetter personal liberty. Some of the men who have been out on this strike have, I understand, given thirty-four years of their life to the company's service. They, according to Mr. Hays, are to lose every cent of their pensions and start in as new men.
Mark those words, "according to Mr. Hays." Not according to the terms of any agreement or understanding made the time, but according to what Mr. Hays said after the strike was over.
Unless Mr. Hays, or those who control his company, are prepared to recede from this position, my own individual view is that the Parliament of Canada would be justified in refusing to grant any company with which Mr. Hays is concerned any further consideration of any kind, and that the Government should lead Parliament in this view.
It was exactly that which Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Government did. It refused to give Mr. Hays several millions of dollars because he had not reinstated the men.
If, as Mr. Hays will probably say, he cannot legally grant the pension, Parliament might help to rid him of this limitation by enacting legislation which will give him the legal power he requires. It is to be hoped for the sake of the interests of the company, to say nothing of the rights of others, that his directors will not allow him to persist in a stand of this kind.
That is the position I took then; that is the position I have taken all along; that is the position I take now. The only difference is this: that whereas, as my hon.
friend from West Elgin (Mr. Crothers) has said, we did not know at that time, and he did not know at the time he was in office, that the question of pensions was
going to be raised in this important way, we all know to-day that these men, every one of them, have been deprived of their pensions for a period of ten years, and we know further that this is the last opportunity which Parliament will have to state definitely that the men are entitled to their pensions, and to remove all doubts as to their rights in that matter. That is why I bring this matter up on the third reading of this Bill, which relates to the Grand Trunk Railway company and its acquisition by the Government. Before the railway passes into the hands of the Government I want its just debts to be paid. I do not wish to see tlhese men defrauded of their pensions or the country saddled with a liability which belongs to the Grand Trunk. I want the Grand Trunk to carry out its obligations, and in my opinion it is up to every member of Parliament to see to it that the Grand Trunk Railway Company is compelled !to do so, if any voice of this Parliament can help to bring that about.
Let me read the terms of the Grapd Trunk Railway ComDany Act which gives the Grand Trunk the right to establish this pension fund. "An Act respecting the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada," assented to 12th April, 1907; Chapter 89, 6-7 Edward VII, (has certain sections regarding the pension fund. Secion 5 is a,s follow: [DOT] _
The company may, for the purpose of making provision for the payment of allowances to employees after leaving the service, establish a fund to be known as " Grand Trunk Pension Fund." and may from time to time contribute thereto out of the gross earnings of the company such amounts as the directors determine.
Section 6 provides:
Any sum contributed to the said fund by the company shall be considered as, and form part of, the working expenses of the company as defined by the agreement set out in the schedule to the Grand Trunk Act, 1893.
There is the law on the question of this pension fund. It gave to the Grand Trunk Railway Company power to set aside certain funds for a specific purpose, namely, that pensions might be given to the men when they retired from the service. That money was to be regarded as part of the working expenses of the railway. What does the Grand Trunk Railway Company propose? It proposes to take that money, which ought to be charged up to the working expenses of the road and ought to be given to the employees who are entitled to it, and, instead of carrying out its obligations in that regard, to distribute that money among
its shareholders. I say that is a step we should not permit. I say that the Grand Trunk Railway Company should be compelled to regard as part of its working expenses all the money which was set aside in that pension fund up to that date, and to see it applied as it was intended to be applied, to pensions for the men when they retired from the service. I have here a copy of the Rules and Regulations as to the Pension Fund of the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada, Pensions Department, and I notice in these Rules and Regulations this clause:
It is intended that in future all officers and employees shall be compulsorily retired on reaching the age of 65 years.
In other words, the Grand Trunk Railway Company adopted that pension fund so that they could retire their employees at the age of 65. They were to retire them after they had served a number of years, but were to give them the benefit of a pension. That was the only justifiable purpose of the pension fund, but that purpose is altogether defeated unless we make it perfectly plain that so far as the pension fund iis canoemed the terms of the settlement must be lived up to. All advantages that should accrue to the men through long and continued faithful service, they aire being deprived of an a mere pretext.
What ils said in the Rules and Regulations Concerning service?
" Service " means up to and immediately preceding date of retirement.
I say that the only interpretation that can properly be placed upon the rules and regulations of that pension fund is that men who were in the service of the company become entitled to pensions at the time of Itlheiir restiiremeinit unless there iis some specific statement or specific term in some agreement !to 'the effect that they are to lose their pensions. There was no such clause in the 'agreement that was reached. In a letter I placed on record ;tbe other evening I made that clear from a communication sent by Mr. Hays to me during the course of negotiations. This letter contains a somewhat significant statement, and I shall read it to the committee in order that hon. members may see that even Mr. Hays himself at that time did not contemplate pensions as in question. The letter was addressed to Sir Frederick Borden and myself, and iis dated August 1, 1910:
Gentlemen : I have your favour of date July 31st in re dispute between the Grand Trunk Railway Company and employees in train and yard service, with memo of terms of proposed [Mr Mackenzie King.]
settlement of existing difficulties. I think we are all actuated by the same motives, viz, the restoration of full service on the Grand Trunk railway with every possible consideration to the men who went out on strike.
Then follows something which is irrelevant to this discussion The letter is signed, "Yours truly, Chas. M. Hays, President." Note those words:
I think we are all animated by the same motives, namely, the restoration of full service on the Grand Trunk railway, with every consideration possible to the men who went out on strike.
Can any one in this House for a moment say that depriving the men of their pensions is "restoration 0i full servicer" Gan any one say that depriving the men ot their pension's iis showing "every possible consideration to the men who went out on strike?" The whole action of the Grand Trunk Railway president in this matter is as dishonourable as any act can possibly be, and being dishonourable, it is placing this Parliament and the Government of this country in a false position before all the working classes of this country, for the simple reason thait the Government of the country undertook to vouch for the terms of that agreement. If it comes to a question between an endeavour on the part of the Government to carry out justice, and an endeavour on the part of a private corporation to defeat justice, there can im such case be only one decision to reach in -the interest oif isocd-al justice and public honour, and that is to see thait right and the supremacy of the Government in the matter of carrying out justice are mamtadnied at all costs. That ils the real question at issue at the present moment.
J ust a word as to the consequences of any failure on the part of Parliament to take the step which I am proposing Parliament should take to-night. In the first place, if Paxliiam-emt should refrain from stating in specific language that nothing so far as that strike of 1910 is concerned shall effect, the pension rights of these workingmen, a large number of workingmen throughout the whole of this Dominion and their families as well, may be deprived of pension benefits. Is that a course which this Parliament wishes to take? Do hon. gentlemen opposite desire to be a party to any omission which may have the effect of depriving thousands of working men and their families of pensions to which they are justly entitled? I say" that unless Parliament goes on record in this matter we have no guarantee that the men will get those pensions. The question of the Grand Trunk's liabilities and assets is about to be referred to arbitration.
This is a matter upon which Parliament should express itself independently of arbitration altogether, and it should not be for the arbitrators to decide whether there is a just case here or not, when the honour of ministers of the Crown and of Parliament is at stake. It is for Parliament to protect the rights of the workers in this matter, and we should leave no door open by which those rights can by any possible chance be ignored.
Now let us assume that this matter goes before the Board of Arbitration through any failure on the part of this Parliament to express its opinion, and that the board has nothing to guide it other than such rep e-sentations as may be made to it. And let tte suppose thait The hoard finds there is some legal technicality that prevents it from regarding as a liability this whole matter of pensions. Then what happens? Why, of course, this money which was put into a pension fund for the good of the employees becomes at once an asset of the company, to be counted as part of the property of the shareholders. That, I think, was never intended in the law which was framed for the purpose of establishing the pension fund. There is no justice in such a situation. Then there is the other alternative that possibly the board may find that there is no legal obligation, but that there is one from a moral standpoint. What happens in that event? One of two things may occur: Either the whole matter may drop there, or else the Government, coming into possession of tlhe railways, may be called upon to assume this moral obligation; and then we shall have the question as to who should pay the pensions put up to the Government as the sole owner of the road. Should the Government, as the owner of the road, undertake to make good the pensions, it could only do so at the expense of the taxpayers, and I say emphatically that such a step would under existing circumstances be unfair to the people of the country. These pensions are a liability that belongs to the Grand Trunk Railway Company, and that liability should be met by the company.
My right hon. friend (Mr. Doherty) the other evening was somewhat annoyed, I think-at any rate, his manner seemed to me to imply that he was-because I intimated to the House that I had gathered from his words that what I have said was the course the Government would, pursue. I said I had gathered that my right hon. friend had said, when the subject was up for discussion in connection with the resolution urging that the Government should do all in its power to have the board of arbitration consider the merits of the case, that he would have them consider the matter from the legal and the moral standpoints, and that if the legal point of view were found to be such that the men could not get the pensions, then of course the Government, being sole owners of the railroad, would have to consider the moral obligation. And I gathered from his words that by that he meant and intended to convey this meaning to the mover of the resolution, that there was no necessity to press the resolution because sooner or later the men would get their pensions anyway. My right hon. friend took exception to that statement, and said that I had misinterpreted him or was wilfully trying to do so. Let me read his words and ask the House to judge whether or not I was right in the inference I drew.
Subtopic: BILL TO CONFIRM AGREEMENT WITH THE COMPANY.