Mr. David A. Croll (Spadina):
Mr. Speaker, I want first to extend my good wishes and congratulations to the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg). None of us in this house envies him the task with which he was confronted at the very moment he took office. His position demands two qualities in particular, which he possesses in full measure. They are courage, and, in its broadest sense, liberalism; and I am sure they will sustain him through this very difficult period.
We are meeting here today in an air of crisis that has swept over this country as I have never known it before in peacetime. Usually tension and hostility create the worst possible atmosphere in which to settle a labour dispute; yet something must be done and done now in order to end this creeping economic paralysis. I support, as do other members of this house, the resumption of railway service at the earliest possible moment. Speaking in this house yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) was careful to make it very clear that this bill is not to be considered a precedent; that it is not compulsion in the usual sense or as it is commonly understood; that no sanctions are involved. I was horrified at the suggestion made in the press some time ago that there might be loss of pensions and seniority, or even jail, as the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) suggested. That is not so. The Prime Minister made it clear that the right to strike is in no way being affected by what we do in connection with this bill.
To me those are very comforting words; yet in principle I consider this a dangerous bill, less because of what it attempts to do now than because of what in other hands it might be made to do hereafter. We have all heard it said that the free trade union movement is the foundation stone of democracy. We have perhaps heard it said so often that the words have lost their significance, but to me, and I know to many other members of this house, they remain the literal and absolute truth. Let us first admit that this is an ad hoc bill designed for one specific purpose, to settle one specific strike. Let us admit that at this late date, in the light of all the tragic happenings that have gone before, the government sees no other course in the national interest than to enact this measure. Yet this bill could be construed as saying
Maintenance of Railway Operation Act to the trade unions that in such and such circumstances you are no longer free to exercise your rights. If in the exercise of your legal rights and accepted privileges you jeopardize a large number of your fellow men, then we, the government of this country, will endeavour to strip those rights and privileges from you.
On those grounds, Mr. Speaker, I believe the bill is wrong. In its potentialities it is destructive of democracy. I do not believe we can introduce into this limited field, for a limited time and with a limited objective, this sort of bill without doing harm to the concept of collective bargaining.
At the outset I made it clear that I support that portion of the bill which starts the railways in operation again, but I hesitate to go beyond that. The bill has a fault in that it falls far short of accepting the minimum proposals made by the railways. I should have thought the bill would include the assurance that there will be a forty-hour week, at a date agreed to already. In any event there should have been a floor on the work week. I thought it should have included the assurance that there will be forty-eight hours' pay for forty hours' work. This much should be said for the government, that the bill goes beyond the proposals of the railways in that it includes the hotel and water transportation personnel. For that the government is entitled to a high degree of commendation.
I find it difficult to accept the section referred to by some members in this house as "compulsion" and by others as "determination". I have always thought that there was another way out. We all agree that the railways ought to commence operating immediately. We all agree that the parties ought to go back and negotiate, but while they are negotiating the railroads must continue to run. It seems to me that if they are unable to reach an agreement we shall be back here in January, and we can then deal with the problem as it appears before us. By that time the parties to the dispute will have cooled off; we shall have cooled off; and the Canadian people will have cooled off. At that time we can take the appropriate action. I feel certain that by that time no action will be necessary, because an agreement will have been reached, an agreement which will give the men retroactive pay for the time they were negotiating.
If we are guided by what we have read in the newspapers, and what we have heard in this house, we must come to the conclusion that mistakes have been made, and that the graver mistakes have been Mr. Gordon's rather than the unions'. I believe he handled the negotiations with something less than
skill and dexterity. He demonstrated repeatedly that he was accustomed to dealing with a type of individual a little more docile than the trade union member. He carried the ball during the discussions, and unfortunately for us he fumbled it.
The newspaper account of the interview with Professor Mackintosh was, in my opinion, telltale. He said that both sides were childish; that was' a damning thing to say about grown men meeting to conduct responsible and far-reaching negotiations. His report, presented to the house last night by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg), was a shocking one. It is reported at page 20 of Hansard. Human and labour relations on the railways have deteriorated to the point where they cast their dark shadows on the collective bargaining process. In his report Dr. Mackintosh says:
The work of the mediator was made extraordinarily difficult by (1) the almost complete lack of confidence between the parties to the dispute; (2) the number and variety of the unions which were attempting to bargain as one unit; (3) the very low level of effectiveness of collective bargaining in the industry; (4) the fact that the rapidly approaching menace of the strike created confusion between genuine bargaining and attempts to make statements of positions before the work stoppage took place.
We send people to the bargaining table and we find that they are fighting this out with public relations officers to see who can get out the best statement, who can get out the last statement, or who can lay the blame on the other person. "Childish" is hardly the word for it; it is much worse than that. It seems to me it is downright negligence. I share with the members of this house the view that one man is particularly responsible for it.
Let us finally consider the bill for a moment. Neither today's government nor today's opposition in this house can undertake to say what the effect of passing this bill will be, though we say it is confined to a particular strike in 1950. There it is for all of us to see in the future. We ask ourselves the question, will it not be extended in the future by administrations less friendly to labour than our own? Will not the principle of public interest be extended to cover other unions-perhaps first in the transportation field, in the trucking industry, or the seamen? Will not this same principle be used in other industries which may be declared essential to the public, such as the packing industry, baking, steel, or mining?
A segment of the press of this country has for some time been conditioning the minds of the people to compulsory arbitration. It
seems that the beachhead will be public utilities. I believe much comfort and much support will be derived by them from section 5 of this bill. If any of you have read the Montreal Gazette this morning you will find that the lead editorial already says:
The time is bound to come when that principle will have to be broadened from this particular, present dispute to all disputes that concern the nation's lifelines.
The editor is talking about compulsory arbitration. For some time other papers throughout the country have been saying the same thing, so we might as well meet this issue now and declare our stand. We should do what we can towards achieving the goal that we consider to be in the public interest. I believe it would be nothing short of a national calamity if we were to substitute something else for the collective bargaining process. I was heartened to hear the Prime Minister say that was not proposed in this bill. On the other hand, are we not being asked to take a long stride down the road whose end is neither trade unionism nor democracy as we know them? It is true that compulsion can force the parties to submit to a given procedure. It may even force them to accept unwillingly certain results. But I think this house knows very well that forced obedience generates resistance and hostility. Far from being a cure, it is a source of further conflict and it multiplies strife instead of preventing it. Compulsion never removes the cause of the strife. Forced obedience against the will of those concerned sows the seeds of bitterness and resentment and in the end aggravates the very condition it was sought to cure.
I believe that compulsory arbitration means the death of collective bargaining. It is all very well to say that we shall apply this principle only in this case, but we have done damage to a fundamental principle of freedom. The right of the wage earner to refuse to work is a legal right and a fundamental human right; and the exercise of that right is an essential ingredient in a free and vigorous economy. I believe that under certain conditions a strike may be far less harmful to the state and to industry than peace maintained by statutory tyranny.
I shall vote, Mr. Speaker, against what I consider to be compulsory aspects, as contained in section 5 of this bill.
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR RESUMPTION OF RAILWAY OPERATIONS AND SETTLEMENT OF LABOUR DISPUTE