March 11, 1921

CON
L LIB
CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

My hon. friend is a little " previous" about that. I am coming to that a little later on. But I am frank to say this, that in the multiplied work of Dominion administration over three or four thousand miles of territory, there is an area which can well be canvassed as to whether it shall be undertaken by the Civil Service Commission under their rules, or whether it shall be done in some other way.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

"Hear, hear." That is a loophole which was opened by my

hon. friend-a loophole which would be opened by every frank man on that side or on this side of the House.

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L LIB
CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

When you come to the appointment of a petty officer up in the Yukon, such as a caretaker or something like that, it is debatable whether you shall tie up everything to three men here in Ottawa in order to have that appointment^ made according to its rules. Do not let us forget to be frank and straightforward with each other in that respect. Now, in so far as there may be betterments in administration, I am open to the adoption of those betterments, but I am absolutely against putting patronage back either here or in the Outside Service, except under very exceptional circumstances, and there may be those very exceptional circumstances. It is a good thing to take advantage of the experience of others, and I take the experience-to go no further-of Great Britain and of the United States, both of whom have evolved, through centuries, Civil Service systems which are very effective and of a very high order. We can come' to that same thing here in Canada. I do not want to go back to the old system of patronage. I felt my heart throb in response to sentiments expressed by the member for Ottawa (Mr. Chabot), when he faintly adumbrated the joy and the pleasure of living in Ottawa as a public man in these days as compared with the times when patronage had full sway. My experience goes exactly on all-fours with his in that regard. Speaking from my own experience alone, under the system of patronage the member of Parliament is subjected to continual pulling and hauling, hectoring and domineering, all going to make up a process which goes on when the patronage gate is half open and the multitudes who would like to pass through have to be shaved down to the fractional number that can pass through-and the burden, compared with which the burden of Atlas was a holiday recreation-is borne by the member of Parliament.

Now, let me come just for a moment to the remarks of my hon. friend from Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe). When I came to consider the equipment necessary to the taking of the census, I approached the subject with a mind prepossessed in favour of having the Civil Service Commission take the matter in hand, but, like a good minister, I also had the exigencies of the service to take into account. I sat down with the Civil Service Commission; we can-

vassed the whole matter thoroughly, and then I asked the commission to make their will evident to council. They recommended that, so far as the census was concerned, being an emergent work distributed over the whole country and involving over 13,000 appointments, it would be impossible for them to undertake that work and do it in accordance with the exigencies of the situation. It is true that my hon. friend and all representatives in this House were asked by the Dominion statistician to furnish some information as to the boundaries of their constituencies and their relation to the boundaries of census commissioner districts. They gave that information, and it was utilized. When it came to the appointment of census commissioners and census enumerators, that under the law, is placed under the Minister of Trade and Commerce. I am responsible in the end for all these appointments, and as the quickest and most satisfactory way of dealing with the matter, I went back to the experience of all Governments from 1867 to the present time, and adopted the same policy. If I had had more time to think about it I might have thought out a scheme of my own, but I relied on the experience of the Fathers in that respect and trod in their footsteps. If my hon. friend had only written me a little earlier he might have received the answer that I would take into the very best consideration possible the representations that he had made. He was a little disappointed in that respect, but that must be attributed to the fact that he did not get an answer giving assurance of full and serious consideration. But, honest Indian, as they say, if the member for Quebec East had been in my position and I in his, would he have done very much differently?

I do not think I will labour the point any further. My main object, Mr. Speaker, was to clear up a slight misapprehension, which existed more widely than it should, as to the work which is being carried on in the reorganization of some departments.

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L LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland

Laurier Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

May I ask my right

hon. friend how he comes to say that there will be about twenty-four thousand appointments? Is the estimate based on the number of polling districts in the country?

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

It comes about in this way: there are about 230 members in the House, some representing double constituencies, but most of them representing single constituencies. So that, at the least, you will have one census district for every member of Parliament in point of numbers. Some districts are so divided for economic or geographical purposes that you have to have more than one census commissioner for a district, but broadly speaking there will be about 230 commissioners. The enumeration has to take place within a very short time, and you have to have sufficient enumerators in each district to cover the ground in the period allotted. Altogether, the enumerators will number over 13,000 we do not know exactly how many there will be.

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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Shelburne and Queen's) :

I have no intention, Mr. Speaker, of interfering in the interesting quarrel between the right hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir George Foster) and his friend the senior member for Ottawa (Mr. Fripp). According to the representations made by my friend from Ottawa, there has been in this Civil Service business gross mismanagement, gross extravagance, gross waste of public money. That is a statement made not by any hon. member on this side, but by a supporter of the Government, one who is in close touch with governmental departments here in Ottawa. At all events, if he has not made correct statements in the matter, it cannot be because of any lack of opportunity to get the facts. I leave that, however, as a matter between the right hon. gentleman and his friend from Ottawa.

So far as the Government have honestly endeavoured to abolish patronage, my sympathies have been with them. I raise no objection to it from the point of view of those who desire to exercise patronage. But my complaint is that the Government have not abolished, patronage, although they have professed to do so. The Government of which I was a member introduced an effective Civil Service reform when they appointed a Civil Service Commission to deal with the Inside Service at Ottawa. I do not mean to say that the system then adopted was such a vast improvement in every department; even the old system of patronage, if you call it so, was capable, under wise administration, of giving to the people in general honest and faithful service. I shall speak for my own department, because it is the one of which I have the best knowledge. When I retired from that department, I believe I left, in the public service, a body of men, many of them appointed by me, many of them by my predecessors, as well qualified to administer the public service

as any men that could be obtained under any system of competitive examination. That is my conviction, and I know my successors in office have testified to the quality of the men they found there. Although I mention what is the case in my department,

I have no doubt that the same thing will apply to other departments as well. The principle, however, of examination _ is a good one; you have to have it; it is not perfect, but I do not know that anything better can be offered. I confess that within my opportunities and observation, I should like to have a man come into my office and sit down and talk to me, so as to let me have some knowledge of what he knows, what he is capable of doing, his capacity, his temperament, all that enters into the best qualities of a man. I should like to have that opportunity if I could. In the absence, however, of any better system, the system of examination seems to be the proper thing; at all events it gives you a test of a man's education and his qualifications from the educational point of view. Therefore, I agree with and support the principle of competitive examination as applied to the Inside Service at Ottawa. I believe that principle could properly have been extended, as the hon. member for Maisonneuve (Mr. Lemieux) said this afternoon, to the large cities and towns, wherever you could adopt the principle of competitive examination. The Civil Service Commission was never intended to be a patronage distributing body; it was intended to conduct competitive examinations and to award prizes according to the marks achieved. That system could be followed out in the case of the Montreal customs house, the Montreal post office and such offices in St. John, Halifax, Toronto, Kingston and other of the larger cities. If the Government had gone that far, I think they would have made a further step in the right direction. They have gone a good deal further than that; and while I am not objecting to that, I do not think it is working out very well. When you undertake to appoint a petty officer of some sort-I am using the words of my right hon. friend (Sir George Foster) when he spoke of a petty officer up in the Yukon-say a minor postmaster in one of the towns away down in the far-off districts of New Brunswick, how is the Civil Service Commission going to appoint that man? What knowledge can they get about him? There is no competitive examination. They put up a ticket stating that the office is vacant, and Tom, Dick and

Harry put in their applications. How can the Civil Service Commission adopt any system that will enable them properly to judge of those men's qualifications? They have to refer to somebody. What I suppose they will do to-day is to refer to the post office inspector of New Brunswick, and he will go down into that district and make inquiries of somebody in the neighbourhood. But he must be guarded; he must not, for his life, ask a member of Parliament, because the latter knows something about the matter. He has to ask somebody who knows nothing about it. The system is very much like the system of examining men for a jury. You crossexamine men as to their knowledge of the case, and by the time you are through, you almost reach the conclusion that only imbeciles are qualified to be on a jury at all. That is pushing the thing to the extreme. The absence of patronage does not worry me. When the Government went beyond where they could use the competitive examination, I think they went rather too far. Under the old system, if a vacancy occurred in a little post office in the constituency of one of my hon. friends opposite, he was notified and he selected some one on the advice of his friends and neigh-hours, and in nine cases out of ten the man whom he recommended was a decent, honest man. If he had not been so, he could not have been appointed. Under the new system, there is so much red tape that it takes months to fill a vacancy, and that in itself is an argument against the system. While I think the Government went further than necessary, I have no complaint to make except to point out that where there is no opportunity for competitive examination, I do not see how you can apply the system for which the Civil Service Commission was created. The point, however, which I desire to make to my hon. friends opposite is not that they have abolished patronage; my complaint is that they have not abolished patronage. The meanest kind of quality in mankind is hypocrisy, and it is just as mean in politics as it is in social life. Hon. gentlemen opposite made a great virtue of abolishing patronage; they put that plank in their platform; they talked about it throughout the country and in this House; they spoke about the glorious record of this Government in abolishing patronage. But what do we find? My right hon. friend (Sir George Foster) comes here to-day, and admits that in another month or two, in his own department 24,000 men are going to be

['Mr. FiBiding.]

appointed under the old patronage system. My right hon. friend has truly said that he has always denounced political patronage ; but if he has been constant in denouncing it and then he practises it, what are we to think of him? I have in my hand an extract from a speech of my right hon. friend, in which he is giving us a picture of the evils of patronage. Perhaps, his picture is a little coloured, but he not only pictures the evils of patronage, but speaks of the great harm that is going to come to those who practise it, and I want him to take that to heart. This is a speech made by my right hon. friend some years ago. It will be found in the Hansard of 1916, at page 907:

Si.r George Foster: Now, as to patronage, I have been thirty-four years in public life; I have been a pretty close student of political parties and political history in this country, and I have simply this to say-I give it as my individual opinion-I have long felt it and I feel it now-that in the whole course of my political life I cannot point to a single instance where political patronage ever raised the status of the bench, ever promoted the efficiency of the Civil Service, ever helped to economy in administration or enhanced the status of public administrators, no matter what functions they performed, ever helped a member of Parliament in reality, or ever strengthened a Government in reality.

I would draw my right hon. friend's attention to that. Even the present Government will not be strengthened in reality by his 24,000 appointments.

On the contrary it almost always causes the dry rot and disintegration that break up government after government and party after party,-

Think of that, 24,000 appointments made which will introduce dry rot which is going to break up the Government.

-and I wish now, in the white heat and light of this great contest and struggle and the selfsacrifice that we are called upon to make, that we might speak from the heart out, and make an agreement in this country between both parties, that hereafter patronage shall not be applied by political parties in the administration of our public services. Now, that is a frank admission. Some may say to me that I have no right to make it. I presume upon my grey beard and thirty-four years in public life, and I make that statement for what it is worth. I will Just append to that one single sentence, and it is this; that if there is any laxity in the public virtue of this country to-day, if there is any canker of public corruption, in ninety-nine eases out of a hundred you can trace it to the baleful effect of political party patronage.

Having reflected upon these pious utterances made not many months ago, the right hon. gentleman immediately, as he says himself, goes back to the old system and appoints 24,000 people under the system of patronage.

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L LIB
UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

The old dry rot, the

old corruption, and my right hon. friend will see now, if he applies his own words to the situation, the end that is awaiting him. I had a little experience like that of the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe). I have referred to it already;

I may enlarge upon it now. A man in my constituency had heard somewhere that the members for the counties were going to nominate the census men, and wrote to me about it. I wrote him that I thought he was mistaken, but I would inquire. So I wrote to my right hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Sir George Foster) intimating that I had had this question, and I would be glad to have an answer.

I said I could understand that possibly the Civil Service Commission was going to make the appointments, and if so, I had no objection to make, but if for any reason -and I anticipated they would find a reason-they were not going to have the Civil Service Commission do it, I said perhaps the suggestion of my correspondent was all right-that if patronage had been abolished the members representing the various counties, irrespective of politics, should make the nominations. I got the answer that my hon. friend from Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) did. They were going back to the old game. They were going to take nominations only from the members supporting the Government.

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter. I admit there might have been a difficulty in the Civil Service Commission making these appointments in the way they make others. Considering how long it takes to appoint a country postmaster, I do not know how long it would take them to appoint 24,000 officers, so I will not quarrel with my right hon. friend for assuming they could not do the job. But if he wanted to be honest in the matter why did he not say:-This is a case in which I will ask every member of Parliament to make nominations, no matter what his politics. Then he could have fairly said he was trying to abolish patronage. No, he could not do that. He has gone back to the old game. He has boasted and tried to take credit for the abolition of patronage, but he has returned to it now. How can he expect that the Government will be respected in this matter by the community at large in the face of the acknowledgment he makes to-day that he is not going to allow any hon. member on this side of the

House to make any nomination? He is not going to abolish political patronage. He is going to use these 24,000 appointments in connection with the census as a corrupting agent, a canker, a dry rot, as he describes it here. He is going to use them in the old way. Yet he is going to stand before the people of this country and say: Oh, give us credit, for we abolished patronage.

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UNION

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Unionist

Right Hon. C. J. DOHERTY (Minister of Justice):

I am not quite sure whether I am lost in admiration of the indignation-

I wonder how real it is-of the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) , or whether I am covered with confusion, confusion in some measure for myself, but in large measure for my right hon. friend to my left (Sir George Foster). Woe is my right hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce, for do we not all know that it is written, it is necessary that scandals should come, but woe to the man that bringeth them, even to the least among my children. It were better for him that he should have a millstone hanged about his neck and that he should be cast into the sea than that he should have given scandal to even the least among my children. And lo and behold, my hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce hath given scandal to one who counts among the greatest, the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's. That hon. gentleman is overwhelmed with indignation. He sees the coming back of the dry rot and the corruption that is going to undermine all that is good in this world. Why? Because on one occasion, which he himself admits is an occasion when the Civil Service Commission could not properly have made the appointments in question, the Minister of Trade and Commerce in the performance of his duty undertook to make them. My hon. friend is scandalized because in the making of those appointments the Minister of Trade and Commerce did not think it necessary to consult the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's or the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) who, we notice, was very ready to nominate his political friend. I wonder how it would have worked out as political patronage if application had been made to the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's and the hon. member for Quebec East, and the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's as the hon. member for Quebec East had already done, absolutely without regard to considerations of political patronage, had found it

absolutely impossible for him to nominate anybody save one of his most active political supporters for the position. I wonder how different the situation would have been then. I wonder whether his scathing language about hypocrisy does not find some landing place on the other side of the House.

But, Mr. Speaker, let us get down to com-monsense, I respect the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's too much to believe that he was serious-he actually admits he was not serious, see the smile on his face -in the expression of indignation for which he could hardly find words. Why, he had just admitted himself that if there was fault to find with this Government in its Civil Service legislation, it was that it had gone too far. He pointed out, and, speaking for myself, he pointed out with a good deal of force, that when you have got to the stage where the competitive examination system is applied to the making of classes of appointments where that system could not find its application, he was bound to question whether you were not carrying the principle too far. I am prepared to concede that it is open to question, and that there is room for consideration in that regard. He had just admitted that, and then he treated us to all this mock indignation over the fact that census commissioners were chosen by the minister. So far as there has been reference to those who were chosen, we have been told they were eminently fit people; the hon. member for Quebec East gave us testimony in that regard, and then my hon. friend from Shelburne and Queen's raises his hands in holp horror because there are going to 24,000 enumerators appointed, all eminently fit people, by the commissioners whom the Minister of Trade and Commerce selects, and he speaks of the dry rot and corruption coming back again. Let us be serious. Let us proceed to the question with which we are concerned.

In so far as the principle embodied in the Civil Service legislation is concerned, for my part it commended itself to my judgment when that legislation was adopted. It commends itself to my judgment still. I do think that there are evils attached to purely political patronage against which the law should provide some system of check, and that, as I understand it, was the principle which underlay the Civil Service legislation as we have it at the present time. The principle is absolutely sound, in my judgment, but it is well to remember that when you come to put principles into practical application, how-

ever good those principles may be you must at the same time have the application of sound common sense. There was once a very great artist who was asked what he mixed his colours with to produce such beautiful results, and his answer was: "With brains, Sir." Now, when you come to apply any principle you must exercise common sense. We have had three years of experience in the working of this particular Civil Service legislation, and I see in that experience no reason to depart from the principle that underlies it, although I think that in the carrying out of the Act certain things may have developed that make it proper for us all to consider whether in the practical application of the principle there is not room for improvement, and whether you would not, perhaps, obtain better results, from the point of view of efficiency in the public service as well as from the standpoint of economy-which, after all, is the objective' of those who are held responsible for the working of the system,-if certain of the provisions of the Act were modified. The hon. member for Maisonneuve (Mr. Lem-ieux) has indicated a line of consideration, and the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) quite agrees, I understand, with the view implied therein, that is, as to whether the application of the principle indiscriminately to all classes of public servants is wise in the interests of the efficiency of the public service. Just to take one class that occurs to my mind at the moment. I am not expressing any final conclusion as to what ought to be done, but I think it is fair for us to put before the House things that present themselves to our minds as indicating a possible necessity for modification in the law as it stands. Let us take one class-a numerous one-those men who have to be employed in purely manual labour. Now, there is a case where certainly you cannot apply any system of competitive examination, and it seems to be a question that calls for serious consideration whether it might not be advisable to withdraw that class of people from the operation of the provisions of the present Civil Service Act. Reference has been made to rural postmasters. Possibly, it might be to the advantage of the public service that they should be withdrawn from the control of this Act; and in the very carrying out of the Act itself it would seem to me, while adhering to its principle, while seeing to it that proper precautions are taken against abuses of political patronage, that at all

events, we should consider the wisdom of making such provision for the exercise of direction on the part of those who are ultimately responsible to the public as would create some corresponding relation between that responsibility-which, under our system of government, both governments and members of Parliament cannot avoid-and some measure of opportunity for being heard in connection with those things for which they are held responsible.

We have heard a good deal this afternoon on the merits of this suggestion. None of us can have his eyes closed to the situation created by the Act, and it is not impossible that, in the first fervour of the desire for absolute reform, some things may have been overlooked that should have been taken cognizance of, and perhaps the pendulum was allowed to swing too far in one direction. These are things that call for consideration. They have been receiving the attention of the Government, and with the additional light which has been thrown on the subject this afternoon, it is the purpose of the Government further to consider the question as to what modification, if any, might in the public interest be made in the present law, and more particularly in the present system of its application. And in view of this declaration which I am now making, I understand -and this, I believe, was anticipated-that the hon. gentleman who made the motion, is prepared to withdraw it.

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L LIB

Lucien Cannon

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LUCIEN CANNON (Dorchester) :

Before the hon. gentleman who has introduced the resolution either withdraws it or puts it to the decision of the House, I wish to offer a few remarks on the subject with which it deals. I cannot support the resolution because I contend that it is vicious in principle and unfounded in fact. The assertion that it is vicious in principle I base upon the remarks that have been made by previous speakers during this debate. There is no doubt that a Civil Service which is to offer the required standard of efficiency should be a service altogether outside of the evils of patronage. This has been recognized in every truly civilized country. It has been recognized for years in Great Britain. The system has been introduced in the United States recently, and, so far as Canada is concerned, this reform, as in the case of practically every other great reform in this country, was first talked of and then put upon our statute books by the Liberal party, under the leadership of the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The reform of the Civil Service

in regard to patronage is, therefore, I say, a good one, and this legislation aiming at its abrogation is vicious in principle. I said that the resolution was not only vicious in principle, but that it was, as regards the present Government, unfounded in fact, and I will explain that contention. I see no reason why Government supporters on the other side of the House should complain that political patronage has been taken from their hands. Every day, every month, every year since 1911, and particularly since 1917, political patronage has been rampant. It has blossomed and has flourished under the present system. No appointment of any importance has been made in this country except through political patronage, and only appointments of no importance have been left to the Civil Service Commission. The reason for this is quite obvious. Why, even when a law is being introduced in this Parliament, we find patronage prevails. If it provides for appointments to important positions carrying with them fat salaries, in most cases a clause is inserted in the Act, and special provision is made in the estimates, providing that the appointment shall not be subject to the Civil Service Act.

I do not wish to detain the House very long, I merely desire to say this further: Not only on general lines has this Government preserved and maintained the system of patronage, but in the province of Quebec especially, patronage has always existed since 1911. And when I was listening to the hon. gentleman who spoke of the Department of Justice I was wondering if he really wanted to be serious or whether he was trying to be humorous. In the cities of Montreal and Quebec, in every city of importance in that province, not an* appointment is made in any branch of the service without the political leaders supporting the Government being consulted. We all know that. My hon. friend from Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) has referred to judicial appointments. The judiciary in our province is highly respected, and that is because it deserves to be respected. I desire to say, however, that as far as the Minister of Justice is concerned, since he has had to choose the judges in our province his choice in the majority of cases has been most happy. I therefore do not wish to offer any criticism, but simply to call attention to one instance which shows that even when appointments to the very highest posts are made politics are not excluded.

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UNION
L LIB
UNION

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Unionist

Mr. SPEAKER:

I hope the hon. gentleman will not refer to that one instance. It is a well-established rule that nothing shall be said in debate which in any way reflects upon the judiciary. If it is desired to call in question any such matter there is a well-known rule of procedure to be followed.

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L LIB

Lucien Cannon

Laurier Liberal

Mr. CANNON:

I do not wish to reflect upon any member of the Bench, Mr. Speaker. I simply want to call the attention of the House to the fact that not very long ago a gentleman highly respected, a gentleman recommended by all the members of the local bar and who was the batonnier of our province was not appointed to the Bench, and the reason given why he was not appointed, notwithstanding ,all his qualifications, was that he happened to be the partner of a Liberal minister in the provincial Cabinet. Mr. Speaker, I say that when such a condition exists the Government supporters ought to-

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UNION

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Unionist

Mr. DOHERTY:

If the hon. gentleman will allow me, in view of the statement which he has made, I presume I am responsible for the fact that the gentleman referred to was not appointed.

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L LIB

March 11, 1921