June 1, 1921

UNION

James Alexander Calder (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. CALDER moved:

That the following subsection be inserted in the said Bill immediately after subsection two of section three thereof:-

"(2a). The said section three is amended by adding thereto the following subsection:-

'Section (6). In case there are any special circumstances relating to the appointment, employment, length of service, remuneration, salary or allowance of any officer or employee to be retired under the provisions of this Act that in the opinion of the Commission should be taken into consideration in determining the gratuity or annuity of such officer or employee the Commission shall report the same to the Governor in Council, indicating to what extent, if any, such special circumstances should be taken into consideration in fixing the gra-

tuity or annuity of the officer or employee to be retired, and upon approval of such report the gratuity or annuity in question shall be fixed accordingly.' "

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Motion agreed to.


UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

Has the minister seen that the amendments in the resolution have been incorporated in the Bill?

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UNION

James Alexander Calder (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. CALDER:

Yes.

Bill reported, and read the third time and passed.

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CIVIL SERVICE ACT, 1918, AMENDMENT


On motion of Hon. Mr. Spinney, the House went into committee to consider Bill No. 122, to_ amend the Civil Service Act, 1918, Mr. Boivin in the Chair.


L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

This Bill is as reported by the Select Special Committee appointed to consider the same, and is reprinted as reported by the said committee.

On section 1-Act not to apply to employees on railways or ships.

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L LIB

Joseph Arthur Calixte Éthier

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ETHIER:

The special committee appointed to consider this Bill made a report. I may be mistaken, but I am not aware that this report has been concurred in by the House. How is it that we are going on now with this Bill in committee without having concurred in the report of the majority of the special committee? I understand that the minority intend to bring in a report also.

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UNION

Edgar Keith Spinney (Minister Without Portfolio)

Unionist

Mr. SPINNEY:

It has been decided, I think, to have the committee deal with the Bill directly. I do not think it is compulsory to have the report dealt with by the committee as it has been laid upon the table of the House, and it is quite within the power of hon. members to study it.

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L LIB

Joseph Arthur Calixte Éthier

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ETHIER:

In discussing the Bill we have the right to discuss the report of the special committee?

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UNION

Edgar Keith Spinney (Minister Without Portfolio)

Unionist

Mr. SPINNEY:

Yes. Before the committee deals with this Bill, I want to encroach upon its time very briefly. When any legislation is presented to Parliament for enactment, it is logically necessary that some justification should be given for such application. In the introduction of Bill No. 122, to amend the Civil Service Act, 1918, it is my desire, as its sponsor, to inform the committee on that point.

I first wish to state that it is conceded that when the Civil Service Act was framed and enacted in 1918, the commission was

given powers and obligations far in advance of those entered into by either the United States or Great Britain, imposing duties beyond the ability of any commission, however efficient they may be, to accomplish without some sacrifice to the public service.

On account of serious complaints against the administration of the Civil Service Commission, for reasons already assigned, from both inside and outside Parliament, it was deemed advisable to appoint a special committee of the House to make careful inquiries into actual conditions, and, if necessary, to offer practical suggestions in order that a remedy might be applied. As these complaints were in connection with the three classes in this Bill, while they were incorporated in a tentative form with an expressed understanding that they were not to be regarded in any manner to influence the action of the committee, yet they would form a basis on which to direct their inquiries, the committee entered upon and gave faithful consideration to the duties imposed upon them.

The committee held eighteen meetings and examined twenty witnesses, carefully weighing the evidence submitted.

In dealing first with Class A, Manual Labourers, there was a genera 1 agreement by all the witnesses that it was unnecessary and inadvisable for the Civil Service to intervene, as this class of labourers are required usually for a limited time all over Canada; much of their employment is of an emergency character and was usually engaged locally. It was generally agreed that responsible officers in charge of Government work could more quickly and more advantageously employ such labour than could the commission sitting in Ottawa.

The operations of the Civil Service Commission in regard to this class were shown as in the report issued by the Department of Agriculture, that an average delay of 91 days prevailed in filling the appointments by them.

Class B consists of postmasters whose remuneration consists, in full or in part, of a percentage of the receipts of the office; the task of drawing the line between the classes of postmasters was most difficult. Some postmasters, although paid on a percentage basis, by virtue of the size of the office and of the town in which the office is located, are more nearly on a par with permanent members of the Civil Service Commission than are postmasters in smaller towns and country localities.

The method employed in making such appointments to vacancies in smaller towns or rural post offices is through the post office inspector of the province where such vacancy occurs. He proceeds to the locality, investigates the conditions, consults prominent people in the locality, makes his recommendations to his chief, then is brought before the Civil Service Commission, which invariably acts on the recommendation. Members of the Civil Service Commission agreed that their intervention in a large number of these appointments is perfunctory, and admitted that these were now practically in the hands of the departments concerned.

In a statement received from the deputy postmaster general, it- was disclosed that in the case of appointments of city postmasters an average delay in confirming these appointments was only 16 days, yet in the case of rural postmasters the average delay was 74 days, in many cases causing inconvenience and loss to the people relying upon that service in order to carry on their business operations.

With reference to class C, professional, scientific and technical officers employed for the performance of duties as such, much difficulty was experienced in defining precisely what "scientific and technical officers" might be. -'"'fto form of examination by itself alone can disclose the fitness of the applicant for a professional position. In some branches where appointments of this class are required, other qualities than those determined by competitive examinations were necessary. It was also pointed out by some witnesses that professional men in good standing were in some instances reluctant to submit themselves to competitive examinations, fearing that, if unsuccessful, a certain reflection would be cast upon them. The evidence disclosed that in many cases where scientific and professional men of special qualifications were required, the deputy heads of departments would induce competent persons to forward applications to the commission, and in the majority of cases thus secured the appointment of the class of men they required. The system now employed being in a measure unnecessarily deceptive to those applying through advertised requests, such applicants would practically have no chance for appointment, thus involving the country in a very heavy expenditure./ ;

The commission agreed that there were a number of classes which might be removed from their intervention. What

these classes were the commission was unable to say-before coming to a conclusion they must consider what the effect would be, not only on the classes which might be removed, but upon all classes which remained.

From the evidence submitted, the committee concluded that it is desirable in the public interest that the commission in consultation with deputy heads of departments should undertake a careful review of the entire service with a view to determining what classes of employees should be exempted, in full or in part, from the jurisdiction of the commission and the provisions of the Civil Service Act. The committee concluded that it would be unwise at present to attempt to name or define these classes by statute.

From the mass of evidence given, the committee finally reached the conclusion that the problem was not only complicated but involved longer examination and study than the time at its disposal would permit, and that the wisest course to pursue was to suggest certain amendments to the existing law that would leave no doubt as to the power of the commission in this regard, and that the commission itself before another session of Parliament should, in conjunction with deputy ministers, give careful study as to what classes of appointments and promotions might properly be removed in full, or in part, from the operations of the Civil Service Act, it being understood that in all such cases the commission retain the power as contained in the Act to make such regulations as are deemed advisable. This, in the opinion of the committee would ensure a proper procedure, whereby the advanced measure of Civil Service reform adopted by Parliament three years ago may be modified and adjusted to meet the actual needs of the Civil Service without impairing 'the chi^f object Parliament had in view in enacting the Civil Service Act. With that object in view the committee has reported Bill No. 122, an Act to amend the Civil Service Act of 1918, with amendments.

Before closing my remarks I wish to draw the attention of the members of this committee to a statement made by myself in my brief introduction of this Bill, as follows:-

If the introduction of this Bill amending the Civil Service Act of 1918 leaves the impression on the minds of any hon. gentlemen of this House that the Government has receded from the main principle of that measure, namely, the abolition of patronage, they may dismiss it.

This statement was emphatically endorsed by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. The unwarrantable attack on that announcement both by some hon. members of this House, and very largely by the press of Canada, the cause for which may very easily be defined, was most unjustifiable, as shown by the report of the committee dealing with this investigation. An unprejudiced effort was undertaken for the purpose of eliminating such inconsistencies as now exist in the administration of the Civil Service Act, as was demonstrated in the evidence recently taken, with the earnest desire that the public interests may be better served.

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L LIB
UNION

Edgar Keith Spinney (Minister Without Portfolio)

Unionist

Mr. SPINNEY:

No, it is my statement.

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

As a member of the Special Committee appointed to consider the Bill to amend the Civil Service Act, I desire to state my reasons why I am opposed to the amending of certain clauses of the Act. I might also say that it was expected on the part of those menibers of the committee who were opposed to the amendments that the report would be brought into the House and here debated. In fairness to the members of the committee it should be understood that the report presented by the hon. minister was not a unanimous report-that some six members, at least, of the committee of sixteen were opposed to the report as presented.

As stated by the minister, the committee examined a considerable number of witnesses, among whom where the Chairman and the Secretary of the Civil Service Commission, the deputy heads of departments, as well as the heads of other branches of the service. It is due to them to say that they gave their evidence in a frank and satisfactory manner. It is also fair to say that with a few notable exceptions -two or three, and one in particular-the majority of the witnesses favoured the retention of the present method of appointments to the Civil Service. It was the general impression of the committee that it is not readily practicable for the commission to appoint the manual labourers referred to as class A. The evidence showed that, under the present powers of the commission, the difficulty had been very well overcome by a common-sense working arrangement between the commission itself and the heads of the departments concerned. With regard to

postmasters of the lesser class, the evidence showed that possibly some change in the method of appointment might be adopted. But even here it was admitted, or rather the evidence showed, that no public interest was prejudiced by the present method of appointing postmasters. Technical, professional and scientific * employees, it was generally felt, should be appointed with the advice of the deputy heads of the departments. It should also be understood that in all cases of appointments of this kind, the deputy ministers have been consulted, and their nominations and advice have been usually followed by the commission. In that connection, I should say that in one case at least-perhaps in more than one case-the deputy head showed a decided disinclination to co-operate with the commission in making appointments in his department. While it is true the evidence showed that there was considerable delay in many cases, it did not show, as the report would indicate, that this was the fact in any preponderating degree. Indeed, speaking generally, the evidence showed that only in very few instances was the delay of such a nature that the public interest was seriously prejudiced. While there were some complaints of matters which might very well be remedied in connection with the application and administration of the Civil Service Act, it is fair to say that, according to the evidence, most of the difficulties resulted from the re-classification of the service, and these will disappear in due course. Despite the complaints and difficulties' that have been encountered, however, the majority of the witnesses were still of the opinion that the safeguards and advantages provided under the present system far outweigh the disadvantages. I feel also that some features of the evidence as presented in the report rather unduly stressed some of the evidence as against the present system. While those of us who are opposed to the Bill favour one amendment which is proposed, and agree with a good deal of what is said in the report itself, personally I disagree absolutely with the amendment proposed to clause 38 of the Act. In that disagreement I think perhaps I come in conflict with members on the other side, not as to the advisability or otherwise of restoring the practice of political patronage, but as to the meaning of the amendment itself. For my part, I believe that the amendment proposed to section 38 of the present Act does make it possible to destroy the vital principle of the Act, namely, the abolition of political patronage.

Section 38 of the Civil Service Act reads:

It is provided that, in any case where the Commission decides that it is not practicable to apply this Act to any position or positions, the Commission, with the approval of the Governor in Council, may make such regulations as are deemed advisable, prescribing how such position or positions are to be dealt with.

The word that is to be noted here particularly is the word "practicable." If the commission decide that it is not "practicable" to apply the Act in certain cases, they may exempt such cases from the operation of the Act. That provision gives powers sufficiently wide for all purposes consistent with the principle of the Act.

In 1918, when Parliament decided that certain policies in connection with the Civil Service were in the public interest, chief of which was the abolition of political patronage, Parliament crystallised that decision into what is known as the Civil Service Act. When that Act was passed, it was an affirmation of the principle that there should be no further political patronage. That, to my mind, is the central principle and purpose of the Civil Service Act. The Act itself was intended to serve as a text, the practical working out of which was entrusted to the Civil Service Commission. The Act was a declaration of policy, and the work of the commission was merely administrative in its nature, just as the work of the builder is to cary out, in a practical way, the design of the architect. That law was the definite legislative decision of Parliament on a well-considered policy. The Civil Service Commission was placed merely in the position of an executive, or administrator of the Act. In considering the amendment to section 38, I contend that it makes possible the transfer of the legislative function from Parliament itself to the Commission. It makes it possible for th e subordinate body to nullify the intention of Parliament.

I have already read that portion of the old Act which refers to this subject. I will now read the amendment:

In any case where the Commission decides that it is not practicable, nor in the public interest, to apply this Act to any position or positions, the Commission may exclude such position or positions, in whole or in part, from the operation of the Act.

That is the vital part of the amendment. In the old Act the commission could exempt from the operations of the law any positions which it found impracticable to deal with. In the proposed amendment it is given power to divest itself of the functions it has held, not only when it does not deem their exercise practicable, but when it does not

consider it in the public interest to apply the Act. My contention is that the inclusion of these words "in the public interest" gives to the commission a power which is really legislative and not executive. For example, if the commission honestly thought that the removal of any portion of the Civil Service were in the public interest, they could do so, patronage would be restored, and thereby the policy which this Parliament has laid down would be destroyed. That is admitted by the majority of members of the special committee. I know that a good many members of the House felt that the clauses enumerated in the original Bill 122-that is the clauses relating to labourers, to postmasters, and to scientific, professional and technical officers-were entirely too broad, and that under the term " technical officers " a great many employees could be included that it would not be wise to include, or that it would be proper to exempt from the operation of the Civil Service Commission. I saw in the press a day or two ago the headlines stating that the Spinney Bill was wiped out. That gave an impression to the public that all danger of the service going back under the control of political patronage had disappeared. Yet it is the fact that the members of the committee, including the vice-chairman, were of the opinion that the inclusion of the words now inserted " nor. in the public interest " opened the door wider, and made the powers of the commission a great deal broader than they were, under the clauses as they originally stood in the Bill.

Now I have stated my chief [DOT] objection to the Bill itself. I believe that it transfers from the superior body-the Parliament of Canada, the legislative body-to the inferior body, the administrative body, powers which Parliament ought to retain for itself.

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L LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

Did any of the commissioners who were heard before the committee express any desire to widen the powers of the commission?

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

In answer to that question I may say that the chairman of the commission was in favour of leaving the Act as it is. I do not think there is any doubt about that at all. I know that is the case, I know that is his preference.

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UNION

James Alexander Calder (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister presiding over the Department of Health; President of the Privy Council)

Unionist

Mr. CALDER:

Would you quote his

evidence to that effect?

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

I have not his evidence before me. The fact is as I have stated and the minister may give his view of it

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REVISED EDITION. COMMONS


as he likes later. The Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, and perhaps the secretary-who were the only men connected with the commission that were examined-prefer that the present Act . shall stand and lbe given another year to demonstrate what can be done. The chairman, desires that because, by reason of the difficulties arising out of the reclassification, the Act has so far not had a chance to be shaken down into proper working order. If he cannot have that, then I am quite sure the chairman of the commission is quite willing to have some change made that will perhaps vary or qualify his power. I do not believe that he has any desire that the words referred to should be inserted in order to give him the power that would be given him under the amendment. Now I contend further, that under section 38, of the present Act, the commission has all the power that it should be given in order to carry out the legitimate purposes of the statute. The commission have had the conviction and the impression that they should not lend themselves to the exercise of political patronage. That view is being recognized by the public. As to the degree to which they have been able to carry out that conviction in practice, members may have different opinions. For my part, I am under the impression that the commissioners have tried to carry out the Act honestly and in accordance with what was expected of them by Parliament. - The report suggests that during the recess the commissioners themselves should consult the deputy heads of departments, with a view to deciding what other employees may be exempted from the operations of the commission. While I am entirely in accord with that proposa', they should not, in the meantime be given power to do as they please with regard lo these exemptions. I quite agree-as I chink all the members of the committee do -that there are certain employees who might very well be removed from the control of the commission.


June 1, 1921