Hitherto no statesman has arisen in Canada who remotely sensed the impending evil, much less made an effort to avert the doom that has come like a cloud above the well-being of every modern country. The man who makes it a national policy in Canada to attract the settler to the soil rather than to the city hovel will in the future annals of this great nation be rated above a Napoleon or a Bismarck. This to me is the crux of the very greatest and most acute problem confronting the Dominion’s future destiny.
In a country where organized labor numbers only 176,000 out of 7,800,000, labor problems can hardly be set down as acute. They do not split society asunder as they do elsewhere. I am glad of it. I am glad that in Canada up to the present labor is only capital in the inchoate. I should be sorry if the day ever came when labor was the serf, and capital the robber baron, as—let us frankly acknowledge—it is elsewhere.
In this connection three points should be emphasized. Whether they should be praised or blamed I do not know; but the points are these:
The Senate in Canada being appointed for life has acted as a breakwater of adamant and reinforced concrete against all labor or capital legislation that has arisen from the passions of the moment. More than once when labor or capital, holding the whip handle in the Commons, would have forced through hasty legislation as to compensation, as to liability, as to non-liability—the leaders in the Commons have said frankly in caucus to the Senate: We are dependent on the vote for our places here. You are not. We are letting this fool bill through, but we are letting it through because we know you will kill it. Kill it!
In the next place, “the twilight zone” between federal and provincial power in matters of labor has proved an unmitigated curse. When the syndicalists of Europe, known in America as the Industrial Workers of the World, succeeded in tying up railroad construction and almost ruining the contractors of two transcontinental systems in British Columbia a few years ago, endless delay in terminating an impossible situation occurred through the province trying to throw the burden of dealing with the matter on the Dominion, and the Dominion trying to throw the burden on the province. Both province and Dominion were afraid of the labor vote. The losses caused during that three months’ strike in the construction camps indirectly afterward fell on the Canadian people; for the embarrassed transcontinentals had to come to the Dominion government for aid; and the Dominion government is, after all, the people.
“I pray God,” said a Cabinet Minister in Ottawa to me at the time, “that Imperial Federation may never come; if it adds to our woes another ‘twilight zone’ as to Dominion and Imperial powers.”