Mr. Ray Perrault (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Manpower and Immigration):
Mr. Speaker, I think the intervention by the hon. member for Hillsborough (Mr. Macquarrie) was hardly beneficial to the matter of considering the bill before the House and discussing its merits or shortcomings. And, of course, the official opposition had to seize on the opportunity to attempt to drum up the spurious idea that somehow the government is working against the best interests of national unity and national institutions. It was not the kind of attitude we expected on a day such as this.
The purpose of this bill, Mr. Speaker, is to increase the number of paid general holidays provided for in the Canada Labour Code from eight to ten by adding a day in each of the months of February and August, to be fixed by proclamation. At the present time, another day could be substituted for any of the holidays listed in the statute.
This is not the first time the hon. member has advanced a similar proposal; indeed, similar bills have been introduced on five previous occasions. What is the present situation? The Canada Labour Code in part III, labour standards, provides for eight general holidays with pay. It should be observed that this standard which came into effect on July 1, 1965-just about seven years ago to the day-was far in advance of the standards obtained by collective agreement in federal industries. The government then, as it has done in so many different areas affecting the working people of Canada, gave real leadership.
It is equally true that this agreement required a substantial adjustment by the employers under federal jurisdiction. As desirable as the proposal for ten holidays may appear to be, it is still far in advance of the general norm, although it is true that since 1965 there has been an increase in the number of employees receiving in excess of eight days' holiday. No federal government can be unmindful of the norms which prevail in the various regions of Canada. We have a responsibility to consider
Canada Labour Code
provincial implications and this responsibility extends as well, for example, to such areas as minimum wage legislation where there is substantial variation in minimum wages from east to west across the country.
According to the survey of working conditions conducted by the Canada Department of Labour on October 1, 1970, 71 per cent of all non-office workers in Canadian industries as a whole were receiving nine holidays or more in 1970. For office workers the corresponding figure was 84 per cent. The figures for ten days or more, however, were only 37 per cent of non-office employees and 51 per cent of office employees in 1970. Comparative figures for 1965 were, 44 per cent of non-office workers and 63 per cent of office workers receiving nine holidays or more, while those receiving ten holidays or more numbered 10 per cent of non-office workers and 40 per cent of office workers.
When we compare the proposal before us with existing provincial legislation, we see that only three provinces, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta, have legislation similar in principle to the federal holiday provisions. Three other provinces, Manitoba Ontario and Nova Scotia, have laid down requirements regarding pay for work done on public holidays. Saskatchewan and British Columbia provide for eight public holidays and Alberta provides for five. Both Manitoba and Ontario require payment of overtime pay for work done on seven public holidays. The Nova Scotia provisions, which are contained in minimum wage orders, require payment of overtime for work done on public holidays but do not stipulate the number of public holidays covered.
In the United States, the matter of paid general holidays has been left to collective bargaining. In the area of paid general holidays, the government of Canada, in establishing a minimum of eight paid days, may still be said to be in the forefront in this country, and indeed on this continent so far as legislation is concerned.
Part III of the Canada Labour Code dealing with labour standards is aimed at providing an acceptable minimum standard, and not at setting the pace for collective bargaining. Hon. members are aware that there has been no unwillingness on the part of the government to advance the boundaries of reform. When we talk in terms of providing better working conditions for Canadians wherever they live, we should remind ourselves that the minimum wage was increased by this government only a short while ago and may well be increased in the near future.
Maternity leave has been enacted for the women of Canada. There have been strengthened provisions for equal pay for equal work. Measures to provide protection against the adverse effects of technological change have been introduced, and today were passed by this House. We can look at the new unemployment insurance legislation which provides for sickness benefits, maternity benefits, and so on. There are few governments in the world which have advanced so much useful social reform in such a short period of time.
The government has concerned itself with progress and with the rights of the individual. When we look at the legislation as it exists with respect to the public holidays, we see that an employee in an industry to which the federal code applies is entitled to holidays with pay on
Canada Labour Code
each of the following general holidays: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Dominion Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Remembrance Day and Christmas Day. The code also provides that under certain conditions an alternative holiday may be substituted for any of the eight holidays specified.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic: CANADA LABOUR CODE