Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)
Hon. HUMPHREY MITCHELL (Minister of Labour):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to table copy of order in council P.C. 2432, passed June 20, 1946, further amending the wartime wages control order, P.C. 9384.
In connection with this amendment I wish to make the following statement:
Canada's anti-inflation programme, established in 1941, can, I think, be regarded as being something in the nature of an experiment. It can now be said that many economists did not think it would succeed and would break down because it ran contrary to the economic forces. However, for the most part it did succeed. In large measure that success was due to the unqualified acceptance of the programme by the people of Canada.
While it was a difficult enough task to put into motion the machinery needed to implement the anti-inflation programme, it is squally difficult to gear down that machinery and modify the programme. On previous occasions it has been stated in this house that the government's policy is to move out of the price control-wage stabilization field just as rapidly as it is considered expedient to do so. The current problem is one of timing the steps to be taken in decontrol.
In respect of wage stabilization, steps have already been taken to modify the wages order, ,and a further step is about to be taken. It is concerning this latest modification that I wish to speak in particular.
The important change proposed concerns section 20 of wartime wages control order 1943, P.C. 9384. That is the section which gives war labour boards the power to authorize or direct adjustments in wage rates.
The original clause (a) of subsection 1 of the section limited the board's powers to increase wage rates only to the extent necessary to rectify "a gross injustice or gross inequality". In January of this year that section was changed so as to enable boards to authorize or direct increases in any wage rates which were found to be low in comparison with wage rates generally prevailing in the locality. The amendment further empowered a war labour board to authorize an employer to increase wage rates on such other basis, and to such extent, as in the opinion of the board is reasonable in the circumstances and con-
sistent with the maintenance of existing prices of the goods and services which the employer sells.
While this amendment served its purpose during the period it has been in force, changing conditions during this transitional period have made it appear to us that the wage adjusting formula should be modified to permit war labour boards a wider discretion than they have had.
Under the present amendment, war labour boards may authorize or direct increases in wage rates if and to the extent that such boards find the proposed increases are "just and reasonable". The amendment cuts away from the over-all wage fixing formula some of the previously existing restrictive conditions. It places upon war labour boards a greater discretion-a discretion which, I am satisfied, will be fairly exercised by representatives of management and of the major branches of organized labour in Canada, who as members of those boards have had a vast amount of experience in administering this part of our anti-inflation programme.
Much has been said of Canada's contribution to the war effort. In my opinion this is not the time to review that contribution. This is the time to direct our thoughts to the present and the immediate future. The progress of Canada will depend largely on the process of reconverting the country from a wartime to a peace-time basis.
The next two or three years will be critical ones for the future economic development of Canada. If we fail to pursue sound economic policies during that time, damage will be done which will jeopardize our progress for years to come. I can tell you that the task of maintaining a reasonable degree of stability in our economic affairs at this time is much more complicated and calls for a much greater degree of judgment than was the case when we were fighting for our very existence.
Thanks to our policy of economic stabilization, which ultimately met with the active support of industry and of the great majority of organizations in the labour movement, we came through the war well. That has been true to date in this transition period. It is the responsibility of all Canadians, whether they be in the managerial group or the labour groups, to see to it that we do not have a repetition of the inflation that struck this country in the early twenties. We must not loss of sight of the fact that the forces which brought about the chaotic conditions of boom and slump after the last war are present in our economy now. An abandonment of control now would let loose forces which could
wreck the economic life of the country at a time when an orderly transition to peace-time conditions is a primary necessity, and the country would be worse off than if stabilization controls had never been imposed.
I have been in the labour movement long enough-
Subtopic: WARTIME WAGE CONTROL-AMENDMENT OF P.C. 9384