- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Jan 1920, p. 1-19
- Parsons, S.R., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The issue of the eight-hour day. The welfare of the worker as the chief consideration in this regard. The national Industrial Conference held in September in Ottawa. Who was represented at that Conference; what was done with regard to the eight-hour day. The International Labour Conference in Washington, attended by the speaker. The labour portions of the Treaty of Peace, worked out by a Commission. Delegates to the Commission from nine nations. Samuel Gompers of the United States appointed as President of the Commission; his findings adopted with some changes at the Congress. Lack of understanding as to why organized Labour as a class should be included in the League of Nations and the Treaty of Peace more than any other class. What has been said in the Senate of the United States concerning the provisions included in the Treaty of Peace with regard to labour: some wide and sweeping reservations. The difficulties of international disputes. Regulations set forth for the Conference itself. Delegates, representatives and advisers. Canada's delegation. The structure of the meetings. The application of the principle of the eight-hour day or forty-eight hour week as the chief item on the agenda. Details of discussions. The economic soundness of the eight-hour day for Canada. The ratification procedure. Other issues that came up at the Conference. Proposed legislation as an attempt to apply the principles of Unionism to all the world's work.
- Date of Original
- 7 Jan 1920
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE IN WASHINGTON
AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY S. R. PARSONS, ESQ.
Before the Empire Club, of Canada Toronto,
Wednesday, January 7, 1920
The President, MR. ARTHUR HEWITT, in introducing the speaker, said,-Those of you who had the privilege of attending the annual meeting some weeks ago are quite agreed, I think, that nothing could possibly be more encouraging. The meeting was full of good fellowship, and at this opening meeting of the new year I want to express to the members of the Club my sincere appreciation of the great honour you have done me in making me your President for the coming year. I am very thankful for that; but I am going to be far more thankful for the help and good fellowship of the Empire Club, and particularly for the promised co-operation of Mr. Stapells. (Hear, hear)
Gentlemen, I want this Club to be a brotherhood; I want it to.be a fellowship; I want you to come here if it is only to meet the other fellow. Comradeship is one of the greatest blessings we can enjoy on earth. We are out to advocate and support a united Empire. We must first advocate and support a united Empire Club. (Applause) Mr. Marriott once told a little story of a pilot on whose ship there was a sailor not quite in harmony with the views of the pilot as to how the ship should be run. This poor fellow didn't know any better than to go down and try to scuttle the ship. I do not care how much fault you find with the pilotthere will doubtless be lots of room for it-but, Gentlemen, don't go down below and try to scuttle the ship. All the tributes that could possibly be paid to a President and Executive for last year's splendid work were presented at the annual meeting. All that words could be found to express was said there, and yet there was not a word said too much. In the first few days of my entering upon the duties of this office, I realised what a human dynamo your last year's President was. And there is something that pleases me and will please you very much; Mr. Stapells has undertaken to do this year as much work as he did last year, and more (hear, hear and applause), so that unless your new President is a minus quantity, you are going to have as great a success this year as you had last year, and that, to me, on the night of the annual meeting appeared to be an impossible proposition.
I think Mr. Stapells said he took twelve minutes at the opening meeting last year. I am not going to take that long, but I do want to remind you that there is a very definite object in our gathering, aside from the good fellowship and the camaraderie of which I have spoken. As citizens of a great City, a great Country, and a great Empire, we are all anxious to learn something new that will be helpful to us in the discharge of our responsibility for this great citizenship. (Applause) I can conceive of nothing that would be more helpful to this end than our gathering together from week to week, listening to men who have a particular message or a particular theme that is adaptable to and usable in our daily life. (Hear, hear)
Gentlemen, this is not intended to be a talk-fest; it is intended to be, if you will, a bureau of information from which we can sift out for ourselves useful facts, and apply them to our needs. Life is too short for us to be absorbed these days in anything but the essential things. There is no time, and in my judgment it constitutes an economic waste, if time that can be well spent on the gathering and disseminating of information for the public welfare is spent in idle uselessness instead of active usefulness. I want also, on the first opportunity I have, to express what I have observed and appreciated during the past year, namely, the general sympathetic and intelligent interest taken by the press in the affairs of the Club, and the publicity given to the Club through the newspapers. (Hear, hear and applause) The usefulness of this Club can be multiplied a thousand-fold by the hearty and sympathetic co-operation of the members and whenever they find a message that is of special public value, if they will cause it to be circulated among all the people, they will be multiplying the influence of the Empire Club and discharging a responsibility resting upon them. (Hear, hear)
I want to tell you of an incident that looked like a disappointment for our first meeting. On Tuesday morning the Chairman of our Speaker's Committee received a telegram from Mr. Radcliffe, who was to speak to us today, saying that he had assumed that the vaccination regulations would not interfere with his getting out of Toronto without being vaccinated. Well, that was a good deal to assume. (Laughter) I have not been able to assume it, and I have wanted to go across the line for several months, but it could not be done. We tried to persuade Mr. Radcliffe to come, and told him we had a number of clever Doctors in our midst who would vaccinate him very successfully. However, he did not like the vaccine needle and decided not to come. That disappointment was of very short duration because in looking over the membership of the new Executive Committee, we remembered that we had one gentleman there who could be depended upon, not only to fill the vacant position but to do it very effectively; he not only could, but we were quite sure he would. (Applause)
Mr. S. R. Parsons is among the most respected citizens of this City, (hear, hear) and from my knowledge of his activities and his work it is a great pleasure for me today to be able to tell you that in place of Mr. Radcliffe, Mr. Parsons has promised to tell us something about the Conference held in Washington recently, which continued for a whole month, and was attended by Mr. Parsons. It was the first International Conference authorized by the Treaty of Peace. It is most important to us as citizens that we should be informed upon such an important Conference, better informed than we could be from the more or less general references in the public press, and Mr. Parsons brings to us at first-hand the report of that International Conference. I have now much pleasure in calling upon him, and I want you to join in a hearty welcome, because Mr. Parsons has come to us at almost a moment's notice to take the place of one who has had to fail us.
MR. S. R. PARSONS
Mr. President and Fellow Members of the Empire Club--The warmth of your reception today overwhelms me. I was asked to come and speak on account of your disappointment in connection with Mr. Radcliffe, whom we were all looking forward to hearing with very great pleasure and profit. Whatever I may say this afternoon, whether you agree with it or not, we will make common cause in our disappointment that Mr. Radcliffe is not here. (Applause)
When I was asked to say something about the International Labour Conference which has just been concluded in Washington, I stated that I had already spoken to a meeting of employers a couple of weeks ago, and had given them a report in connection with that Conference, and that I would prefer, perhaps, to take another subject, such as the eight-hour day, and speak in some off-hand fashion about it. However, it was thought that as but few of those here today would have heard me the other day, and as many have said that from newspapers and magazines they have obtained but an imperfect view of that Conference and its work, it was thought that it would be better for me to deal with that question.
I think that possibly my attitude in connection with the chief matter which came up at the Conference has been misunderstood-that of the eight-hour day. Let me say at the outset, therefore, that in the plant with which I
am connected we have in large measure the eight-hour day, and that in no section of the plant do workers work longer than forty-nine and a half hours a week; so you will see I have not spoken in any selfish manner or because of interests with which I any connected. I believe, first and foremost of all, that the welfare of the worker is the chief consideration. (Hear, hear) I believe that the time has come when we can all say, with that great novelist, Charles Dickens, "When men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people around them as though they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys," this is a rational view of the relations which should be sustained between employer and employee. (Applause) However, I fear that in these days, if we followed all that was said by certain labour leaders, many of them extremists, we would feel that we were reaching a point rather rapidly when men felt that there was no longer any necessity to toil or to spin.
Of course the eight-hour day in itself is not the great question. We all believe, fully and completely, that where men work hard, where the duties are arduous and take out of a man a great deal of his physical and mental vigour, the hours should not be as long as in other occupations; otherwise the welfare of the worker is bound to suffer. It is the universal eight-hour day that is objected to-I was going to say particularly by employers of labour; but I think many of us will feel that the universal eight-hour day, as it is sought to be applied in certain quarters, is a thing that is going to bring the world into a condition of far greater need than it is in at present.
In the month of September, in Ottawa, we had a national Industrial Conference. At that Conference there were represented first of all the workers, the so-called workers of the country. I do not like that term "workers," because it separates certain classes of people who work, and I claim to be just as much of a worker as any man living-(hear, hear and applause)-and I hope I shall always be a worker until the time conies to shuffle off, because I think I shall have a better time right up to that event, and possibly thereafter, if I do my work as well as I can. (Laughter and applause) At that Conference we had represented the so-called workers, the employers of all classes including manufacturers, builders, miners, even some farmers, though they were not very much in evidence then. Lumbermen and other seasonal industries were also represented. Then we had a third class composed of representatives of governments, municipalities, and others. At that Conference we studied very carefully the eight-hour day question, and all the employers' representatives agreed that they could not vote for the eight-hour day without giving it greater consideration. What they did was to join in a motion asking the Government to appoint a Royal Commission that would give thorough and earnest study to this question to see how it would apply to all our industries in Canada from sea to sea, and to the workers themselves; on this Commission should be represented an equal number of employees and employers, and then, when its report was brought before the Government, we would have something to work on rather than dealing with the question in any haphazard manner. I was therefore fully fortified in taking the position I did in Washington, on account of the Conference at Ottawa.
People say, "We have pretty much an eight-hour day in Toronto and other places; what difference does it make?" I do not know that we have any figures that are actually available covering statistics in Canada as to the eight-hour day, but we are very much as the United States are in such matters, and the United States census of 1914 shows that 11.8% of the seven million industrial workers there worked forty-eight hours per week. That is, less than 12% of all the industrial workers of the United States, in 1914, worked forty-eight hours a week and less. It is supposed by those who have followed this matter very carefully that this proportion has increased, and that today probably 20% of the industrial workers of the United States work forty-eight hours a week-I speak of workers, not "I won't workers" (I.W. W.) (Laughter)
It is sometimes said that there are two million railroad workers alone in the United States, but in a report issued since the Washington Conference by Director-General Hynes of the United States Railways, the statistics for July-the latest that there are-shows that while the running trades in the railroads are supposed to have an eight-hour day, the average time actually worked was forty-three hours. Now, what does this mean? It means that in some cases the workers desire an eight-hour day as a basic time in which to work, and that beyond that eight-hour day they get additional pay for additional hours worked. Other workers, again, really feel that they do not want to work more than eight hours a day; they want more leisure, and some of them do not work that long. Let me read to you a statement which Tom Mann, the great Labour Leader, gave out the other day in Britain in speaking of the fact that he thought there would not be work enough to go around in particular trades. He says:-"Two days a week free from toil, the other days to be of six hours, is a practical levelheaded proposal, and when applied it will secure a higher standard of life with more leisure and higher producing power." I cannot follow some of these statements very well; I cannot quite understand how that is to come, but he adds, "Higher producing power, better educational facilities, will carry us near to the full solution of the labour problem."
Well, Gentlemen, you will want to know something of the International Labour Conference, and I have before me what is in the nature of a report rather than an address, but I am sure you will be interested in portions of it which I will give you. First of all let me say that the labour portions of the Treaty of Peace were worked out by a Commission. They are not a part of the Treaty of Peace except in the sense that they were accepted. The Commission was composed of delegates from nine nations United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Cuba, Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. All those countries joined. Mr. Samuel Gompers, of the United States, was appointed President of this Commission, whose findings were adopted with some changes at the Congress. It is interesting to know, in passing, that the French and Italian delegates wanted to have Agriculture included in their programme, as well as Industry, but in this they were unsuccessful. Now, as organized Labour quite correctly speaks of itself as a class, I ask you why any one class should be included in the League of Nations and the Treaty of Peace more than any other class. I cannot understand why. I think I am stating what is the generally accepted view when I say that the view presented by organized Labour was that, if provisions of this nature were not included in the Treaty of Peace, there would be anarchy and even revolution in the different countries of the world. These provisions, however, were included, and I would like to draw attention to what has been said in the Senate of the United States concerning them.
Hon. Senator Thomas of Colorado, speaking of what he terms the impossibility of the nations of the world joining in unanimous regulations concerning Labour, etc., says, "Class legislation is deplorable in domestic jurisdictions; it will prove intolerable when it becomes international." Then he goes on to say that if, in the words, "Industrial Wage Earners of the World," you include any class-suppose you included farmers, who number 13,500,000 in the United States as compared to about 4,000,000 of organized wage earners--the provisions would apply to the farmers equally well as they apply to the labour people, but that there would be such an outcry upon the part of the United States citizens and all the world, if farmers were included, that at once such a provision would become ineffective. His reasoning is as follows: Why should the labour people be included? Many Senators, in speaking on this question, feel that even Part 4 of the Treaty does not go far enough to protect the United States. Possibly some of you are so busy that you have not read Part 4, but it is of great interest to note that in the Treaty itself the United States is exempt from so many questions that you would think they would be almost glad to sign the Treaty at once, just to make clear what the provisions are, I will read that part:-
"The United States reserves to itself exclusively the right to decide what questions are within its domestic jurisdiction and declares that all domestic and political questions relating wholly or in part to its internal affairs, including immigration, labour, coastwise traffic, the tariff, commerce, the suppression of traffic in women and children and in opium and any other dangerous drugs, and all other domestic questions, are solely within the jurisdiction of the United States and are not, under this Treaty, to be submitted in any way either to arbitration or to the consideration of the Council or of the Assembly of the League of Nations or any agency thereof, or to the decision or recommendation of any other Power."
There you have wide and sweeping reservations, and yet the United States does not consider that those provisions are ample and sufficient to protect them so that today, as you know, they are busy at work on the Treaty, and while they have not accepted it, it seems to be the belief of those in touch with senators and public men of the United States that within a very short time the Treaty will be accepted. However, there will be reservations which will protect them in all domestic matters, and it will apply more or less to questions of war and peace. I think there is no doubt in the minds of the public men of the United States, as far as I can judge from speaking to a large number of them, that the Treaty will very shortly be ratified with those exceptions.
It has also been said in the Senate that those international disputes will be countless as the sands of the sea once this Treaty is ratified. For instance, if the Horseshoers' Union in Melbourne, Australia, feels that the United States Government has been derelict in its observance of one of those Covenants, it may cable their officials indicating its grievance, upon which the United States will be respectfully asked to show cause why the complaint of the Horse-shoers' Union should not be affirmatively considered. (Laughter)
Now, as to the Conference itself, the regulations set forth that it would be held in Washington in October, and should be the first one of similar annual conferences. The regulations provide that each country participating should send four delegates, two of them representing the Government, one the Employers of the country and one the Employees of the country. These delegates were allowed to have not more than two advisers for each of the five leading questions on the agenda; that is, outside of the Japanese delegation, which was unusually large, the four delegates had about twenty advisers altogether; and in the Conference where great matters were coming forward and where it was impossible to be in two or three places where business was being transacted at the same time, you will at once see the wisdom of having advisers so that at the time any great questions were being discussed, they would be soon at hand and the delegate could talk over with his own advisers what particular action they would take.
Canada's Delegation consisted of Hon. Senator Robertson and Hon. Mr. Rowell, representing the Dominion Government; your speaker representing the Employers of Canada and Mr. P. M. Draper representing the Employees. The delegates and advisers from Canada, all of whose names have appeared in the Press, numbered twenty-six. On account of the fact that the United States was not officially represented, the Hon. Mr. Rowell and Senator Robertson felt that they were under an obligation to welcome to this Continent and entertain the delegates to the Conference in various ways, and they certainly earned a well-merited tribute of praise for their actions in this regard. (Applause) Canada will be much better known in foreign countries on account of the social duties that were so well performed by the Government delegates, assisted to some extent by their associates. I think I can also speak well of the Labour delegates,--Mr. Draper and Mr. Tom Moore headed them--and they and others, as we all know, are very sane and sensible men, and we all felt that it was a credit to have such splendid representatives of Labour at the Conference. (Applause) Before we pass on, however, I would like to say in reference to my friend Mr. Tom Moore, with whom I generally agree-for he and I are always good friends-that when he goes to the newly-formed Government of Ontario and says that Labour does not desire to have included in any programme of legislation the recommendations of the Royal Commission which investigated police matters-in other words that policemen should be free to join in the labour organizations, if they desire to do so,-then he has reached a point where we would not agree. I do not believe that there is a man in this room that will think our policemen ought to be in any way affiliated in organizations which could possibly result in their being less independent in performing their obligations to the public. (Loud applause)
There were thirty-nine Nations represented in the Conference, and delegates and advisers made a total number of about 250. The meetings of the Conference were held in the magnificent Pan-American Building erected some years ago by Mr. Andrew Carnegie with the help of the South American Republics as well as the United States. The delegates were seated according to countries at long tables, each delegate being permitted to have two advisers just in his rear. The other advisers were seated elsewhere in the Hall. Mr. Wilson, the Secretary of Labour in the United States Administration, took the Chair and gave the opening address, in which he spoke or Moses as the first walking-delegate of the Brick-makers of Israel. (Laughter) He emphasised the necessity of proceeding by slow process of experiment. Later, Mr. Wilson was appointed President of the Conference, although his country was not officially represented. The 'United States was asked to send official delegates, but Mr. Samuel Gompers, representing Labour, was the only one who appeared even temporarily. The official languages used were French and English-I should say English and French, as it was found that there were eighteen delegates speaking Spanish, but they were all familiar with French. It is said that more countries and languages were represented in this Conference than at any gathering hitherto held in the world's history. The President of the United States being ill, the Conference had the pleasure of hearing an address from Vice-President Marshall. Elsewhere Mr. Marshall used this striking phrase, "I want an industrial democracy, but we are, not going to get one until we have an industrious democracy." (Hear, hear) The only entertainment which was accorded to delegates by the United States was a trip on the President's Yacht to Mount Vernon, Washington's old home, and return. The plate on the machinery bears ample evidence to the fact that they think British boats are good boats. (Loud applause)
The Employer delegates entertained each other at dinner to a considerable extent, in fact almost every night, so that they got pretty well acquainted and understood better the many conditions governing their activities in the various countries of the world. The Employers held meetings every morning in the large Navy Building near the Pan-American Building, and at those meetings there was much frankness in our discussion and in our talks. I may say that I think this view generally prevailed-it was spoken quite openly by the delegates of European Countries-they said this labour legislation, this whole programme, is being forced upon us and our governments, first of all by the workers themselves from inside, and then by outsiders, largely socialistic, who are pressing upon the workers. They said quite frankly, "Now we do not believe in much of this proposed legislation; we do not think it is good for the workers themselves and we do not think it is good for industry; we have been forced into it however; and we feel compelled to support it." Quite a number of them were frank enough to say to me that if they were in our position, in the position of Canada, on this continent, they would certainly try to keep out of this programme of legislation as long as possible, as they did not believe it wise, especially in the interests of a new and rapidly developing country like Canada. However, as one delegate said, "being in the soup ourselves, we naturally like to get others into it, you know, and we would like to see the United States and Canada join in."
The chief item on the agenda was the application of the principle of the eight-hour day or forty-eight hour week. This question was introduced by the Right Hon. Mr. Barnes of Great Britain, a very sane man. Although all of us could not agree with him, we were charmed with his personality. If it had not been for the smallpox epidemic he would have been here and given us an address at this or some other Club. Mr. Barnes stated that in Great Britain the men were promised during the war that, if they would remain loyal, they should have shorter hours and better conditions when the war was over. He spoke of this understanding as a bond that must now be fulfilled. He further stated that this was not a proposition for a mere basic eight-hour day with additional pay for additional hours; what the work people wanted was more leisure, not pay. It is interesting to note that the Labour Leader of France, Mr. Jewell, said the workers were not in favour of overtime even in building up the devastated areas of France and Belgium; that they did not want to work overtime in any way. Mr. Barnes admitted there were difficulties in bringing forward in all countries uniform Labour legislation, but thought this could be overcome very largely by the spirit of good-will. Later, however, he made a very notable admission when, speaking of the effect of the reduction of hours in Japan, he said: "If you bring Japan down to the same level as other countries-and we all- know that the hours of Labour are too long in Japan, thy are shockingly long, and unfair burdens are placed upon the workers both men and women and children, as they are in all Eastern Countries-you would be asking Japan to reduce her production 60%, and you would be asking other countries to reduce theirs probably by about 10%."
To digress for a moment, I should say that the Employers' delegate of France, M. Carrie, stated that, since the working hours in France had been reduced by law from ten to eight hours a day, there had been a corresponding reduction in output. Now, this gentleman is one of the first manufacturers in France, a public-spirited man who was charged by Mr. Hoover with the distribution of food products in the devastated areas, so you will see that he is a man who speaks with some authority and with knowledge backing his statement, and he speaks from the standpoint of a man whose words mean something. He, however, stated that many workers themselves have become thoroughly dissatisfied with the law, and were working eight hours in their regular occupations, then putting in an hour or two at special work. When I got back from the Ottawa Conference, I was coming down in one of Mr. Fleming's cars, and the conductor said to me, "You have got back from Ottawa, Mr. Parsons; what about the eight-hour day?" I said, "Well, that was passed at the Conference." He said, "Well, I don't believe in it." I asked why, and he replied, "Now, take my case; I start out early in the morning; I finish my work early in the afternoon; and then I have just got to sit and look at myself for the rest of the day." (Laughter) And he went on to say, "Now, I cannot do that; what I do is take on extra work in the afternoon, for two reasons, first because I cannot be idle, and next because I need the money." Is not that a sensible man?
This question of the eight-hour day was referred to a Commission of fifteen which, after sitting for many days, brought in a draft convention, or bill as we call it. Now, Gentlemen, I must hurry through, and I will finish in ten minutes or go on a little longer just depending upon your interest in this subject. (Voices: Go on) I may say that when this question came to a vote, I felt that, as representing the Employers of Canada, I should ask to have placed upon the minutes the objections which I understood the Employers themselves would have voiced had they been there, and I will just read them to you:-
"While in many industries, the eight-hour day is already in operation, especially in the building trades and in manufacturing where the work is laborious, yet the general application of the shorter working day would, according to actual experience, greatly lessen the total production. At the present time when the Government of the country is calling upon labourers to increase their output in order to meet the heavy national obligations, nothing should be done which would tend to hinder them in their efforts. Only by increased production can the cost of living be reduced to all classes. To ignore this fundamental principle is to blind our eyes to actual facts. Even Mr. Appleton, the President of the International Federation of Trade Unions, points out that phrases and catch-words are everywhere taking the place of production. He says, unless the world produces it cannot live. He says the State is often described as a ship; today the ship is on the leeshore, and all hands must work at maximum speed if she is to be saved from utter wreck. Well, having regard to world-wide interests, it must be remembered that Canada is a young and undeveloped country. The attempt to put her upon the same footing as old-world countries with entirely different conditions is like placing a young and vigorous giant on the same footing as a man advanced in life. We should have the opportunity of directing our own life and managing our own affairs to suit our circumstances, and if we can achieve more in this way as a nation, it is surely not only our privilege but our duty to do so. Why should our national life and development be dwarfed? An ancient philosopher has well said, 'That which is not well for the bee-hive, cannot be well for the bee.' The compulsory reduction of hours militates against the establishment of new and small industries, and if the working man is to be hampered in his efforts to rise, a serious blow is struck at the national life of a young and rapidly developing country. The attempt was made in the Eighthour Day Committee of this Conference to include in the draft convention all purely commercial undertakings as well as industrial, such as wholesale and retail stores, banks, etc. This proposition did not carry a majority in favour of it, but it will be considered again at a later Conference. It has also been announced that Agriculture has already been included in the programme of some countries proposing to come under this legislation. Evidently what is aimed at is an attempt to drive all the workers of the world like a flock of sheep into the eight-hour pen regardless of the world's requirements. It is not suggested for a moment that a general acceptance of the eight-hour day will settle now or permanently our social and industrial problems including hours of work. Under the proposed legislation, Governments will be called upon to deal with economic questions to a much greater extent than ever before It is quite conceivable that influences are likely to be brought to bear upon politicians from one direction or another in connection with legislation and the administration thereof which would not make for national soundness or prosperity. There is much truth in the statement that a Government governs best which governs least."
I did say that if it can be demonstrates that the eight-hour day is sound economically as applied to Canada, and in the interests of all classes including the workers, I feel safe in saying that the manufacturers and I believe also the Employers generally will be glad to co-operate in bringing it into being.
And I say in closing:-It is generally recognized that unless the United States accepts similar legislation, it would be placing an unfair burden upon Canadian Employers, and the entire country would be bound by the terms of the proposed Convention.
This Convention, as I have already intimated to you, passed by an overwhelming vote. I was going to deal with it at length, but I have not time, yet I will note in passing that Hon. Mr. Rowell's remarks made clear that, speaking for himself and Senator Robertson as representing the Government, we are going to vote in favour of the eight-hour day because upon the Government rests the responsibility of finally dealing with the question, and that the Government of Canada, having accepted and ratified the Treaty of Peace, considers it is bound to carry out the Labour Provisions, although you will understand that in view of what occurred at the Conference at Washington, those Provisions respecting Labour have to go before the Government of each .country concerned, and there be ratified before they can become effective. If Mr. Rowell correctly represents the opinion of the Dominion and Provincial Governments, no doubt his views will carry.
We remember what a magnificent address he gave us in this matter a few weeks ago, touching in general the work of the Conference and the great questions connected therewith. Mr. Rowell said further that Canada didn't wait for the United States to enter the war, so in this case we would not wait for the United States to agree to the Labour Provisions of the Treaty. This all sounds very well, but in view of the fact that it is generally conceded that Labour legislation devolves upon the Provinces and not the Dominion, it would be a great pity for our reputation if this were simply "passing the buck" from the Dominion to the Provinces. If this should happen to be the case, it would not be the first time in the history of our Dominion that such has been done. However, should it occur in this case, of course it would be an additional proof of our moral leadership. (Laughter) If it is ascertained that the Dominion has, jurisdiction,-this is, a point to which I call particular attention-will it deliberately turn from its recent campaign utterances on an avowed policy of production and thrift? On the other hand, if the Provinces alone are competent to deal with Labour legislation, and Quebec or Nova Scotia or any other Province does not pass the proposed eight-hour day convention, will such Province or Provinces be boycotted?
I think you will all agree that our exchange situation of today has proven that we cannot be altogether independent of our great neighbour on the south. It was the pronounced opinion of at least one Canadian Labour representative at the Conference, as well as of some Provincial Government representatives, that Canada could not afford to ignore the action of the United States in this matter of working hours of the day.
Now just let me pass on and close hurriedly. When it is considered that there were motions and propositions advocating the application of the eight-hour day to Commerce and Agriculture, and that in one convention Agriculture was actually included by an amendment carried in the Conference, it will be seen that the general proposition is to have all the workers of the world tied up to an eight=hour day. In the next Conference, it is my humble judgment that they at least will carry the question of the inclusion of Commerce, and possibly Agriculture. In fact a motion was presented to include Commerce and Agriculture as coming under the eight-hour day in the next Conference, and it obtained a vote of forty-four for and nine against. So many refrained from voting that the total vote of sixty required was not reached. It is a fearful shrinkage and reduction that might thus be brought about. Is it a wise thing that by legislative effort all workers using hands and brain should be treated as having interests opposed to the rest of society? Are we rapidly approaching the time when by the application of the eight-hour day to all classes of workers, there will be brought about conditions as set forth by the Master of the Dominion Grange recently when he stated that it would mean butter at $1.00 a pound, potatoes at $2.00 a peck, wheat $5.00 a bushel, milk 30c. a quart, etc.?
In the United States and in France, I talked with leading business men and others, and they stated that the United States found it necessary twenty years ago to regulate Capital that was then assuming a menacing attitude in forming Trusts which were believed to be not in the interests of the country as a whole. They further stated that now they were determined not to have an autocracy of Labour, and that the United States would regulate Labour so that the people as a whole would not be brought under the unfair domination of either Capital or Labour. They desired to be perfectly fair, and would give Labour its full rights, but that recent Strikes like the Boston Policemen's Strike, the Steel Strike, and then the Coal Strike, had led them to see that the tights-of the public must be guarded.
I have not time to deal with the other matters that came up, but let me say in closing, in a general way, that the other Conventions. were those in which we practically all agreed. They were of a humanitarian character, and there was very little discussion upon them. We felt that they were wise and right, and therefore generally speaking there was agreement upon them. The proposed legislation, as I understand it, is an attempt to apply the principles of Unionism to all the world's work.
I would like to quote a word or two from the Master of the National Grange in the United States who said recently:-"There is today too much tendency among our people to Class endeavour--Class thinking, Class legislation. The interest of the Nation demands the destruction of such unworthy ideas, whether they be voiced by the Labour Unions or a group of Farmers."
Gentlemen, I think you will all agree with that-that today the curse of Canada as well as other countries is that we are divided up into Classes, that we think in Classes, and work in Classes, and agitate in Classes, instead of standing together for and emphasizing our unity and the fact that all Classes of the world should realize that they have interests in common. I said to my friend Mr. Tom Moore, down at the Washington Conference when we were sitting next to each other one day, "Mr. Moore, you and I will some day get together on this platform; we will say, 'What is good for the Country at large? What is good for the Nation?--and will declare that what is good for the Nation and what is good for the Country, is going to be good for the Manufacturers and all Employers, and all Labour.'" And that is where we need to get today, Gentlemen. (Loud and continued applause)
The President expressed the thanks of the Club to Mr. Parsons for his very instructive address.