May 17, 1916

CON

Robert Rogers (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROGERS:

Because I have here a

memorandum prepared by Mr. Colwell giving the history and the story of the letter that was written by Mr. Sherwood, and recounting all the facts here. It seems that my hon. friend was a very regular attendant at the office of Mr. Colwell during the session, where he was able to have the assistance of Mr. Colwell in placing certain orders on the Order Paper from time to time. I have no desire to go into the details. Mr. Colwell has admitted to the Speaker that he wrote certain memoranda which I shall not trouble the House byreading, because it would be only a retailing of affairs that I would regard as unworthy of the House. Therefore, all I have to say is that we have evidently been fortunate, according to Mr. Col-3 p.m. well, in having secured the services of a man so eminently qualified to fill the position; and if it is filled as well as Mr. Colwell says it will be, by Mr. Sherwood, then $1,600 a year is a very reasonable salary. I may say that when Mr. Colwell was appointed a few years ago he started in at once, in the same position, under the reign of hon. gentlemen opposite, with a salary of $1,800.

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Robert Rogers (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROGERS:

As chief of the office, but he started in at that, and he was not as 'well qualified and prepared at that time as apparently Mr. Sherwood is to-day, after his four years' experience. I do not think my hon. friend has much to complain of or very much reason to take the time of the House in bringing up this trivial matter, because I am sure the record of the present administration stands high-at least, it ought to stand high in the estimation of hon. gentlemen opposite-for the manner in which we have respected their appointments both in Ottawa and elsewhere. That is a condition of affairs which I do not approve of myself, and I frankly acknowledge it here in this House. If we are going to have, in return for that record, insult added to injury, then I for one will endeavour, with whatever little energy I may possess, to correct this condition of affairs by cleaning out a lot of the staff we have in Ottawa and elsewhere who devote 90 per cent of their time, as Mr. Colwell has been doing, to political affairs rather than to the duties of the offices to which they are appointed. I think, therefore,

that hon. gentlemen opposite have no grounds for complaint. .

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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

I think it is only fair

to Mr. Colwell for me to say that this matter was brought to my attention by half a dozen civil servants outside of the House of Commons altogether, and I went to Mr. Colwell for information, just as I would go to any other chief clerk or deputy minister when I wanted information in connection with anything concerning their departments. It is absolutely unfair to Mr. Colwell if he has been suspended and is going to be dismissed, as my hon. friend suggests, if he can bring it about, on the ground that he gave me information, because he gave me no information that I did not go to him and ask him for.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

The very

natural observations which have been presented to the House by the hon. member for Assiniboia have been met, I am sorry to say, by the Minister of Public Works in a manner which I hope he will, on reflection, regret. It is useless to wrangle over this matter. When he insinuates that the late Government did not deal with civil service appointments as they should have done, I retaliate by calling his attention to the manner in which dismissals have been made by the thousands in certain departments. I will make an offer to my hon. friend in this matter. We have a law which regulates the Civil Service. I ask nothing more than that law shall be observed, for the Civil Service or against the Civil Service, as the case may be. Is he prepared to do anything else? Does he not think that is a reasonable offer? Does he not now think that appointments should be made according to the law which we have laid down in reference to this matter? This appointment is an exception to the law which has been laid down for the regulation of the Civil Service. It was made on the application of Mr. Speaker, and I call the attention of the House to the manner in which it was made. This is a letter addressed by the Speaker to Dr. Flint, the Clerk of this House. It has been read, but I shall read it again, because the whole germ of the difficulty is to be found in it:

re H. C. Sherwood.

Dear Sir,-I am in receipt of your letter of the 14th instant, and thank you for your information.

Will you kindly communicate with the Finance Minister and tell him that I desire to give the position of assistant clerk in the Orders and

[Mr. Rogers.3

Records Office of the House to Mr. H. C. Sherwood at the salary of $1,600 per annum, and that I would like to have direct legislation naming Mr. Sherwood in the Appropriation Rill for that office.

Why is it that the Speaker asks for an appointment of that kind and asks to have a special appropriation of Parliament?

Why is it? Simply because the gentleman in question is not qualified under the Civil Service Act. No one questions his ability. Mr. Colwell gave him a good certificate, and upon that certificate it was quite within the province of the Speaker to recommend his appointment. But there is a condition attached to such appointments; it is that the man who is recommended for the position should qualify for that position as the law requires. The law was passed in 1908, with the concurrence of both parties in the House, to put an end, as was suggested, and, as I believe, rightly suggested, to appointments being made matters of patronage. That law was passed, and it requires that every man, before being appointed to an office, must pass an examination. Is that a fair regulation, or is it not? Is it not quite proper that an applicant for a position in the Civil Service should, by passing an examination, show that he is competent to serve the country? Mr. Colwell wrote this letter on the 26th March. I do not know the circumstances. Mr. Colwell evidently wanted to be agreeable to the Speaker. The Speaker wanted this young man appointed. I do not inquire what were the circumstances. It is stated that he is the son of an official of the Conservative Association in Ottawa.' That does not matter, if he was entitled to be selected. They say that he is intelligent. My hon. friend says that he is also in business. Evidently he has given more attention to his business than to his studies, because he knew that to get the appointment he must pass the Civil Service examination, and he took that examination and failed. If he wanted to be appointed, having failed once-that he is intelligent is admitted- he should have applied himself to the studies which would have qualified him to pass when he tried again. It was open to him to go to his books and acquire the necessary knowledge, and apply again to the Civil Service Commission. But to-day, after this young man has failed in his examination, after it is recorded by the Civil Service Commission that they cannot give him the certificate which the Speaker must have in order to appoint him, he very

coolly asks that Parliament should appoint him, thus setting aside the law altogether. I ask, can anything be said in reply to the observations which have been made by my hon. friend from Assiniboia, that this is not the way to improve the Civil Service? Is it to be believed by anybody that a man can disregard the law relating to the Civil Service and that, for some reason or another, he can override that law and obtain his appointment from the party in office? Does any one believe that this would be conducive to the dignity of the Civil Service, or to the good administration of the country? My hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce during this session, spoke very forcibly upon the evils of patronage. Nothing could have been more charming than what he said on that occasion. This is an example of the evils of patronage. Can my hon. friend justify this appointment which is in direct disregard of the law? I think my hon. friend will not rise in his seat in defence of such a course.

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

Will the right hon. gentleman say whether or not, from 1908 till 1911, officials were named in the Estimates under his Administration, just as this man is named in these Estimates?

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William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

I ask the question. My right hon. friend says the law is being violated because we are naming an official in the Estimates. I ask my hon. friend whether or not, from 1908 till 1911, a similar course was not pursued in regard to any official or officials.

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Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

Let us assume that several appointments were made in that manner. Certain officials in the customs and other officials have to be appointed in this way; but here we have a man who failed to pass his examination and who is trying to pass over the rules of the Civil Service Act. I do not think that such an appointment was made by the late Government. I may be in error; perhaps my hon. friend has something in his mind, but I do not think so. I will put another question to my hon. friend: does he approve of this Government doing wrong because we did wrong when we were in office? Is that what he told the people of this country in 1911? Where would it lead

to if a party coming into office disregarded its pledges and said, "Our opponents did the same?" I repeat that I do not believe -I do not know, because matters which took place between 1908 and 1911 are far away from my memory-I do not think the late Government was guilty of making an appointment under the circumstances in which this appointment has been made. If my hon. friend has a case in mind I shall be glad to hear of lit. Even if we had done so-and I do not believe it-would that be a precedent or a justification for what the Government is doing to-day? Let us follow the Act or abolish it. Everybody knows that we must have a good Civil Service if we want to havie the affairs of this country properly administered. Nobody will deny that. My hon. friend will be the first to admit that. We 'have an Act; let us follow it. There are circumstances in which some justification might be made for disregarding the law. I am not so positive, or so dogmatic, as to say that there is to be no exception, but the exceptions must be justified, and in this case there is no justification at all. It is an abuse of the rules of the Civil Service, an abuse of the law passed 'by this Parliament. When it is considered that this man attempted to qualify himself and failed, and that he will not attempt to qualify himself, I say that there is no possible justification for such an appointment.

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

My Tight hon. friend, like the rest of us, occasionally loses his sense of proportion, and this is one of the occasions. He suggests that the Government is doing something wrong in inserting the name of this man in the Estimates. The Government is doing nothing wrong. The Civil Service Act is in full force and effect, and it would be impossible to appoint this man to the position to which he has been appointed without the sanction and authority of Parliament. If Parliament approves of this Estimate the Civil Service Act is to that extent repealed with the consent of Parliament, so that I entirely dissent from the view put forward that anything wrong is being done. Here we have 'before us an exceptional case, the case of a -man well qualified for the position, but unable, presumably, to pass the Civil Service examination. What has been done in this case has been done in fifty, in a hundred cases since 1908, namely, where a man is qualified for the position and ds not able to

pass the Civil Service examination, an exception is occasionally made and the man's name is inserted in the Estimates. I may say that I do not know this man.

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William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

My hon. friend produced some correspondence which had taken place between the Speaker and myself. The Speaker passes on t'he name of the party whotn he thinks suitable for the position. The presumption is that the Speaker has given the matter consideration, or that the Committee on Internal Economy 'has given it consideration. It comes before the Minister of Finance, who inserts the item in the Estimates, and it is considered by the Treasury Board and by the Council. The question asked is whether the man is qualified, whether he has had experience in the office. According to the letter read by the hon. Minister of Public Works from the chief of the department, this man as eminently qualified for the position. The salary is $1,600 per annum.

From the way that the hon. member for Assiniboia brought the matter forward one would imagine that this was a question of international importance instead of being that of the appointment of a $1,600 clerk to a position requiring the skill and experience which apparently it does. The Civil Service Act, while serving a useful purpose in regard to the great majority of public appointments, is inflexible to a degree. Cases arise continually, and it is perfectly clear to any one who has common sense, in which the service is debarred from taking on men well qualified for the positions because they are not able to pass an academic examination. One case wa-' brought to my .attention the other day in which a first class messenger-and they are d'fficult to get to-day

was debarred from taking a position in the Civil Service because he could not do long division. I doubt very much whether my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition could pass the examination at which this would-be messenger failed. He could not be a messenger because he was not able to divide 5,685 by 334.

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William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

I think better than my hon. friend can; my hon. friend could not pass that examination. I doubt very much if any of these hon. gentlemen could qualify for the 2nd division. I doubt

if any hon. gentleman opposite, even my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition, could to-morrow pass the matriculation examination. They could do it once, but they could not do it to-day. I am just instancing this case because it illustrates how the Civil Service is suffering by a strict adherence to the letter of the law. I agree that the Act is a useful one and that its provisions generally should be observed, but to regard in the letter all the provisions of the Civil Service Act and to make no exceptions, such as that which is being made to-day, would, instead of being to the advantage of the Civil Service, prove a detriment to it. It would prevent the Civil Service from obtaining desirable appointees who might not be able to pass the examination although eminently qualified for the .positions in question. A business man seeking a clerk for his office does not submit the applicant to a test such as that to which he is subjected by the Civil Service Commissioners. He inquires generally .as to tlhe education he has had, and then he estimates whether he is qualified for the position. While I am saying this in regard to exceptions to the Civil Service Act, I desire to say that I regard the Civil Service Act as a highly desirable enactment, but that no exceptions should ever be made to it would appear to me to he against the public interest rather than advantageous, and I am quite certain, although I 'have no particular eases in mind, that I could find fifty eases from 1908 to 1911 in which parties who could not pass the Civil Service Act were named in the Estimates of my right hon. friend. My right hon. friend to-day has put forth the common law view, the fixed view of the letter of the statutes. I know that he, like myself, is an admirer of Abraham Lincoln. I would commend to him an extract from a letter which Abraham Lincoln once wrote to one of his officers in the Northern army on behalf of a junior officer whom he desired to be promoted. In that letter he said something like this to the commanding officer: I want you, if you can, to consider favourably the promotion of So-and-So to such a rank irrespective of whether or not he can tell the shade of Julius Caesar's hair. What he had in mind was that he wanted him to be appointed to this office oii his merits, but he did not want him to be necessarily debarred from the position by reason of his not being able to pass an examination as to the military history of the Romans.

At AY 17, 1916

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George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

It is said that

Caesar wore a wig.

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Edmond Proulx

Liberal

Mr. PROULX:

There is one phase of

this question that has not been touched upon by the lion. Minister of Finance (Sir Thomas White) or the hon. Minister of Public Works (Mr. Rogers). My hon. friend from Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff) said that under the Civil Service law this appointment came under 2B, where the minimum salary would be $800 and the maximum $1,600. It was changed to 2A. I do not know at whose direction this was done, but he is getting $800 more than he should have received. When we are told that poor messengers getting only $500 cannot get any increase to enable them to support their families, notwithstanding that they are employed not only during the session, but the whole year round, a man with a business in town is appointed at .a salary of $1,600 instead of $800. While an appointment of this kind is made poor men are starving with salaries of $500 and $600.

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John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

The hon. Minister of

Public Works and the hon. Minister of Finance have laid stress on the point that this was a particular appointment needing skill and ability. Let me read again to my hon. friends the statement of the Clerk of the House of Commons, who knows what the office requires. Here is what Dr. Flint says to the Speaker on February 16:

The office does not require a person of professional or technical or any peculiar qualifications, at it is, like most all the clerkships of the House, a mere ordinary clerkship, requiring no professional or technical qualifications whatever.

I have nothing to add to that.

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May 17, 1916