William Lyon Mackenzie King

By Robert Macgregor Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
MINISTER OF LABOUR

EVENTS in the Department of Labour after Mackenzie King became Minister differed little from those when he was the Deputy-evidence, no doubt, of his dominant influence over its policies in the preceding years. There was, however, an increase in the Department's general prestige, of which the change in its legal status was the open acknowledgment. By placing the Department under its own special Minister the Government had recognized the importance of the work the Department was doing and shown that it was conscious of owing a special obligation to the working man and his problems. "In the Department of Labour," Mackenzie King told the Commons in 1911, "we have taken as one of the objects before us, as part of the work which I trust it will be possible to carry on through the years to come, this important question of the preservation of health, the conservation of human life, the protection of the working people the great mass of the people of this country from occupational or other diseases which help to undermine the strength of the nation."1

Despite many difficulties, King endeavoured to discharge this obligation during his twenty-eight months as Minister. The measures which arose for consideration were varied, but most of them were clearly designed to improve the health, knowledge, or economic position of the working man: the creation of a Royal Commission on Technical Education; the provision of better statistical information, especially on industrial accidents and on wholesale and retail prices; a proposed eight-hour day in public works; a scheme of workmen's compensation, and laws to prevent phosphorus necrosis, an industrial disease of the match industry.

These were not all initiated by Mackenzie King, but they had his warm support. The proposals regarding the Royal Commission on Technical Education and the eight-hour day in public works had been

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