ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED | APRIL 1, 1920 | THE FARMER'S ADVOCATE
The fact that the eight-hour day was dragged into the Peace Conference does not dress it up in any more attractive form to present to the Canadian electorate, and it is evident that our parliamentarians and legislators realize how ill-timed any eight-hour day legislation would be at present. In fact, none of them show any desire to risk burning their fingers by enacting an eight-hour day, which they must know is not in the best interest of agriculture, manufacturing industries or the nation as a whole. This is a time for work. The need of more work is becoming apparent every day, and we should cease looking for that substitute for work, in the search of which so much time has been lost and so much trouble caused during the last year or two. There is a good deal of quibbling going on regarding the powers of the Provincial Government or the Dominion Governments to enact such legislation. In more colloquial language, they are all “passing the buck.’ The Minister of Justice is not sure who has the power to enact the eight-hour day, and a conference between Dominion and provinces has been suggested. Premier Drury took the stand in the Legislature that it is more of a federal than provincial matter, and he furthermore opined that possible eight-hour-day legislation would be efficient and successful only on an international basis.
One thing is certain, Canada or her provinces would be ill-advised to enact the eight-hour day and attempt to compete with other nations which have not gone so far as to adopt this legislation. Capital will naturally flow to those countries which have the fewer hampering restrictions. There may be certain industries where the eight-hour day will be quite in keeping with the nature of the work, but our legislators should know full-well that the eight-hour working day at this time does not harmonize with the demands for greater production. There are certain lines of work in industry where eight hours is plenty long enough to work, and we believe that legislation regarding the hours of labour in certain lines of work would meet the needs of the country better than legislation covering industries in their entirety. The object of such legislation should be to protect the laboring man against undue exposure to injurious conditions under which he works, and this could be effected quite as well by specifying the lines of work which are injurious rather than naming industries with all their branches.
Some of our academic legislators are explaining that agriculture would be exempted from the influence of this legislation. Such a stand is ridiculous, for any set length of day or conditions of labor covering a broad field will influence the whole market, and agriculture would, in the end, be obliged to conform to any legislation enacted. Farmers cannot consider employing labor on the eight-hour-day plan; therefore, if our legislators, federal and provincial, wish to see a well-balanced, productive nation, they will leave this eight-hour-day bug-aboo strictly alone.