Mr. MACKENZIE KING:
If my hon.
friend construes my words as intending to imply that the Government itself was wilfully deceiving the men, I at once retract any statement that may be open to such a construction. I should be most unhappy to have the minister think that I imputed any motives to the Government. I am not imputing any motives one way or the other. All I ask is that my hon. friend be indulgent enough to listen to his own words and gather from them what the workingmen, who are interested in the question of pensions, would be inclined to consider them to mean. I shall read the hon. gentleman's words, and ask him to say whether they would not mean, to those who are interested in the matter, just what I have suggested, namely, that unless the pensions were granted by the board of arbitration, in all probability the Government itself would assume the responsibility for
them. The minister's remarks will be found in Hansard of April 12, at page 1179 of the unrevised edition. He said:
I am quite prepared to say on behalf of the Government that before that board of arbitrators we shall see to it that the claim that this is an existing liability ds put forward with every facility for establishing it, assuming it to be susceptible of establishment, and that every opportunity will be given to establish it and to press it on the consideration of the board.
I would be willing to go further and to say that I think it will be quite justifiable that it should be pressed not only in so far as it can be sustained as being an absolutely legal claim, but that it should be pressed upon the consideration of the arbitrators from the point of view even of a moral or equitable claim, and that they should be asked'-of course we cannot give that instruction-that it be given every possible weight in order to assure justice being done to these men. What would be the situation if that procedure proved ineffective to obtain the recognition of the claim, it is perhaps unnecessary that we should go into it now? What the position will be when the stock has passed absolutely to this Government, and this Government is in the position of being the sole stockholder, and what will perhaps be the position in view of the provisions of section 17 of the agreement, X think we need not stop now to consider. For the present, the proceeding now to take place affords an opportunity of having this matter gone into and having the justice of the claim that is put forward established. That is the one effective method that is open to us and on behalf of the Government I am quite prepared to undertake that it shall be adopted.
The foregoing were his words in one .place. Here are his words, even more emphatic, in another, and I ask hon. gentlemen :to dnaiw .their own inference as to their meaning. At page 1180 of the same issue of Hansard:
Now in reference to what X said with regard [DOT]to urging this matter as a moral claim, I am not prepared to lay this down as an absolutely legal position; but I myself would feel justified in urging upon the Board of Arbitration that they should consider If. in their opinion, this was a claim so strong in equity that the Government, coming into control of the railway, could not do otherwise than do what it would be a perfectly fair thing to 4C-estimate and determine the value of the claim. I am not laying that down as an absolute legal position to be followed, but I would feel like urging that upon the board. In. that situation, if the Board of Arbitration find that they cannot take into consideration anything but an absolutely legal claim I do not want to undertake to say now what will be done. What I am at present pointing out is, that the Government is in the position of being the sole shareholder of the company with regard, to which company it has been found that there did not exist this strong moral claim. I fancy that the Government in that situation would find itself in the position where it would not necessarily have to consider a claim of that kind.
Any one reading that language can see haw involved At ds. I (confess that rereading
it alt the moment I gather only one impression from dlt-that iif the board of arbitration do not find that the men are legally entitled to pension and do find that there is a moral obligation somewhere, then in all probability the Government that has to do with the question will find that that moral obligation should be met by paying the men the pensions. Now to come down to the concrete thing, assume that this means anything at all, what happens? This matter is referred to the board. The board finds there is neither a legal obligation nor a moral obligation. Then the men lose their pensions altogether, and the Grand Trunk is exempted from that liability. Or, assume that the board finds that there is a moral obligation but not a legal one, and that the Government, becoming the sole owner of the road, assumes that moral obligations. In th-ait case you have this situation: The men will be paid their pensions but paid out of the public treasury and at the expense of the taxpayers of this country, not at the expense of the Grand Trunk Railway Company. I say that either of these positions is unjust. One is unjust to the workingmen, the other is unjust to the taxpayers. There is only one just position, that is that the company which promised to take back these men without prejudice after the strike should make good that undertaking; and that Parliament, here and now, should take the action that will remove this particular obligation altogether from the arena of doubt. It is unfair and unnecessary that the board of arbitrators should be called upon to consider it. The facts are known, there is no doubt about them, there is no question in disputp one way or the other; it is a matter of simple and honest justice.
Now let me say just this one word in conclusion. My right hon. friend may argue, perhaps, that in suggesting a step of this kind I am taking a somewhat radical position, that I am trying to interfere in some way or other with the sanctity of comitraclt. It is the sanctity of contract that I am seeking to preserve. I saw that contract drafted, I was present alt all the negotiations, I know what was said between the parties; and the whole intention and meaning of thfit contract rwas that the men were to be pu't back into their former positions which meant they remained entitled to their pensions.
I wish to say this further: This question, after a period of ten years, has now come into a very different position in the public
mind from that which it occupied at the time of that particular strike. Then it was a matter between the Grand Trunk Railway Company and its employees, as to which was going to prove more powerful. Now, the question is whether, as between the Grand Trunk Railway Company and the Government of Canada, the company is to have the last word in helping to defeat justice or the Government is to have the last word in helping to maintain it. If there is one thing above another which is rasiponsible for movements in the present day such as those described as direct action or Bolshevist it is attributable to the lack of faith which some people are coming to have in parliamentary institutions as standing for the rights of tlhe people as a whole. Nothing will held to lend color to such an impression more than for the government or for ia parliament-with all the facte and all the knowledge before them in regard ter a concrete ease such as Ithis-to stand back with complete indifference. I say this amendment is necessary on grounds of public honour and social justice. There is only one course for this Parliament to take. We have had this question before us for ten years. This is the last moment at which iwe can settle it in a way that is honourable to the men, honourable to the company, and honourable to the country and its representatives in Parliament, and we istauld take the necessary (step. I hope that hotn. gentlemen opposite will support us in this attitude. I beg to move the following resioluftibn:
That this Bill he not now read a third time hut that it he recommitted to the Committee of the Whole House with instructions to amend the same by adding the following section:
" Any right or interest of any employee ot the Grand Trunk Railway Company existing in the pensions fund prior to the strike of the company's employees which occurred in July, 1910, is hereby declared not to have been affected by such strike or any circumstance or condition arising out of or in connection therewith."
Let me point this out. This amendment does not involve the re-opening of the agreement. We have been told by the Minister of Railways (Mr. Reid) that the agreement is signed, sealed, and delivered, and that nothing that this Parliament says, one way or the other, will cause the Government to re-open it. That being the case it js impossible to insert in the .agreement itself any provision which will convey what is the unanimous view of this Parliament as to the rights of the parties concerned. For that reason I have framed the amendment so that it may be added, 31.1st as was 99
the amendment of the Minister of Justice a few moments ago, as an extra clause to this particular Bill. It expresses the view which, I think, was unanimously expressed by Parliament when a resolution on this subject was discussed a day or two since; it is necessary to maintain justice in this particular situation and to give effect to what is essential to public honour and a sense of public obligation.
Rt, Hon. C. J. DOHERTY (Ministe- of Justice): I had hoped that I had sueceeded the other evening in bringing home to the mind of the hon. gentleman-
Subtopic: BILL TO CONFIRM AGREEMENT WITH THE COMPANY.