Walter George PITMAN

PITMAN, Walter George, O.C., O.Ont., B.A., M.A., LL.D.

Parliamentary Career

October 31, 1960 - August 2, 1961
  Peterborough (Ontario)
August 3, 1961 - April 19, 1962
  Peterborough (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 90 of 90)

December 1, 1960

Mr. Waller Pilman (Peterborough):

Mr. Speaker, my formal opening remarks in this house must begin with words of thanks both to the Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) and to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Pearson) for the extremely kind welcome which was accorded to me a few days ago.


Would you kindly extend my thanks to the hon. member for Berthier-Maskinonge-Dela-naudiere (Mr. Paul) for having so cordially and wittily greeted me.


One of the great contributions of a great prime minister and a Conservative government in the nineteenth century was the creation of a national transcontinental railway system. That prime minister attempted to marshall the private enterprise of this nation in order to create this system. He failed both economically and politically. Then this great prime minister made a courageous decision. He realized that it was a national necessity and that the resources of the nation, both in land and in money, must be given to this enterprise. Thus the principle was established that, in the cause of a national necessity, all Canadians should bear the responsibility and the cost.

The maintenance of a national transcontinental system is Canada's price of union.

[Mr. Martin (Essex East) .1

Other nations have a price to pay. Some must maintain dikes. Others must maintain costly defence on their borders. Others must must maintain canals. Canada must maintain a national transcontinental system based largely on rails of steel.

This principle has been forgotten, namely that the price of union must be paid by all Canadians, not by the few men who happen to be paid by and in the employ of the national railways of this country. That is the group who will be paying this price-I refer to our price of union-at least until May 15. I say this because the wages of these men are being frozen by this legislation on the basis of the minority report, as the hon. member for Essex East (Mr. Martin) has suggested.

These men are being underpaid by any standard which you wish to accept, and several have been attempted. These men have been forced to accept a durable goods standard which they themselves do not want. They are now being forced against their will to continue working at a wage which has been set by a minority report when they indeed would be less than willing in some ways to accept even that given by the majority report; and there is no assurance that this situation will change. The government has said that it is not taking sides. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that by freezing wages it is taking sides and that a government, in maintaining the status quo, does not relieve itself of responsibility.

The suggestion has been made that the royal commission report will have a great effect on these negotiations next May, that there will be a more favourable atmosphere. Let us assume for a moment that in spite of all the railways have said to the contrary, that after adjusting freight rates fairly, after raising freight rates in certain parts of Canada, that report does allow the railways to raise the wages of these men. May I suggest that now we have a new standard, not a durable goods standard, not a Wood-Gordon standard, or any of the other standards; we now have a standard based on a royal commission decision with regard to freight rates, and we now have a decision that the ability of the railways to pay is going to be the basis of what the railway workers will be paid.

Certainly in the area of private enterprise this has great relevance, but we are not dealing with anything that can be called private enterprise; we are dealing virtually with a public utility; we are dealing with national necessity. Indeed, this makes the entire issue at variance with what we have been speaking about today. What if next year the railway income goes down? Where does that leave the unions? It is now completely undecided whether the railways can pay, and

certainly nothing has been set until May 15. If the railways are unable to pay, then railway workers will henceforth pay Canada's price of union.

Let us assume that the royal commission decided that, as the railways suggest, no increases or adjustments are possible. Where do we go from there? As the hon. member for Port Arthur suggested, we have no standard. I fail to see why next May 15 there will be any more favourable atmosphere. But what has happened in the meantime? Canadian labour has been deprived of a basic right, the right to strike when it feels it must. The right timing to decide is just as important as the right to strike, and the railway unions have been deprived of that right.

The Prime Minister has suggested that if a subsidy were given it would in a sense be putting a gun to the head of the government, and would force all Canadians to pay in order to prevent a national emergency and national economic chaos. But who else ever pays for a national emergency? We now have a precedent that the government will postpone action on the basis of the status quo whenever there is a national emergency or a similar situation under such circumstances.

The Minister of Labour has suggested that this is in the public interest. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, it is. No one wishes to see a railway strike. But justice, as well as economic necessity, is in the public interest. This government has been greatly concerned with civil liberties, and rightly so. I suggest that the whole process of negotiation has been damaged. This action has brought into suspicion the whole process by which labour and management resolve their differences. Also, I think, as the hon. member for Essex East has already indicated, it is a reflection upon the efficiency and the proud record of those intelligent and responsible men who lead the unions of this nation.

It has been suggested that it is ridiculous to strike for an increase of $3.80 a week, or $61 until next May. This is always the argument on the part of management whenever a strike is suggested. Men do not strike for immediate gain; they fully realize the loss it will mean both to themselves and their families. Men strike for the benefit of the whole movement, for the benefit of the whole craft, and essentially for those who are to follow. An argument on this basis would prevent any forward movement of the entire labour organization. The aim should be to prevent a strike as soon as possible, but at least the government should have guaranteed out of public revenue the right of these workers to what was set out in the majority

Maintenance of Railway Operation Act report. Then a decision could have been made which would not have prejudiced either side, either management or labour.

A subsidy is not popular; it is not the easy way out. Indeed, it is politically the inexpedient way out. Sir John A. Macdonald found many times when he was making a decision that it would hurt him politically, but he took the way of courage. What is needed now is a complete look at our transportation industry. I hope, along with many other hon. members, that this royal commission report will be the first step. Certainly we must also find out what is the place of the private trucking industry in this area.

I can only say in conclusion that there is something worse than subsidy. Indeed, there is something worse than a strike. Canada presents herself to the world as a model of democracy, and her labour legislation is a part of the image which she has presented. I think, and I hope, that I speak for all Canadians, not only labour leaders and union members but also for farmers, business and professional people who will take a second, sober look at this legislation and realize that Canadian democracy has suffered a serious loss.

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November 29, 1960

Mr. Pitman:

My final remarks in regard ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE

to other matters which the hon. member for

Bow River mentioned I should like to make uplands airport-reported seizure of station when it is in order to do so. newspaper

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November 29, 1960

Mr. Walter Pitman (Peterborough):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of personal privilege. I should like to reply to the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Woolliams) in regard to the remarks he made last night. I have checked the report with reference to myself, and I should like to say I did not make the statements so reflecting upon the relationship between the member and his constituency. I should like to place upon the record that I have the greatest respect and admiration for hon. members and their relationship with their constituencies.

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November 29, 1960

Mr. Pitman:

With regard to the other matter, Mr. Speaker-

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November 18, 1960

Mr. Waller Pitman (Peterborough):

I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Labour. Is the minister now in a position to indicate whether the additional work referred to while he was in Peterborough during the by-election will soon be announced?

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