John Allister Currie
I do not think you are
entitled to ask me a question without allowing me to answer?
I do not think you are
entitled to ask me a question without allowing me to answer?
I have not asked a
The hon. gentleman has
asked a question.
With regard to the
practice in the House of putting questions to members on the other side, without giving them an opportunity to .reply, strictly speaking, under the rules the member has the right to do so. The hon. gentleman who is not in possession of the floor must wait his opportunity.
I did not ask the hon. member a direct question, or I would have been only too pleased to have given him the floor. In connection with this matter, it was pointed out by other officials before that committee that patronage was practised to a great extent in this country prior to 1918, and I believe that with the inclusion or insertion of these words in section 38 (b) of Bill 122, there is the chance that we will revert to that condition; and for that reason I am absolutely opposed to it, and hope the committee and the House will not accept this Bill. This matter is well sized up in an article appearing in the Ottawa Journal, Monday, May 23, entitled "The Commission and the Evidence." The article reads:
Opponents of Civil Service reform and critics of its administration by the Civil Service Commission were pleased when it was decided to bring on an inquiry into the operations of the commission by a committee of the House of Commons. Members of the Commons desiring a return to patronage believed they would condemn the commission and the merit system in
this inquiry. They would, they felt, have little difficulty in showing up the evils of the present system under cross-examination of witnesses before a committee of themselves.
What, as a matter of fact, did the inquiry in this committee of the House of Commons bring out? Why, just the opposite of those expectations.
The test of the present system was the experience under it and the opinions regarding it of those who are affected by it in the operation of the public service. There could be no better test. Nothing could have been a better guide to the committee than what might be termed the expert evidence of those especially qualified to testify as to the functioning of the Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Commission-deputy ministers, heads of branches, representatives of Civil Service organizations. And this expert evidence, contrary to previously mentioned expectations, was almost unanimously favorable to the present system and to the commission. The burden of the testimony was that, except in some minor respects, the merit system as administered by the Civil Service Commission had improved the service and been to the advantage of the public interest.
In view of the very heavy task it has had and! the amount of criticism to which it has been subjected, lit is gratifying that the Civil Service Commission should receive such a splendid testimonial, such a fine "character", from the inquiry. And it is well that this result of the inquiry should be impressed on the public, because of the importance of the successful administration of the Civil Service.
That editorial sizes up my view as to the evidence adduced before that committee, and I cannot see any reason why we should interfere with this matter at this time. There are certain things in connection with the service that if given time I believe the Commission will work out and give a real service to this country.
It is not my intention to discuss this Bill at any great length, but I rise to answer the statement the hon. gentleman has read from the Toronto Star. He might have looked in Hansard at that period and he would have found an answer to that very statement. The facts are that Mr. Bell, of Stayner, took the public platform against me. He was warned absolutely that if he did he would lose his position, and he lost his position. And what are the facts? Under the law he had a perfect right to call for an investigation as to whether he should he thrown out of this position or not. He had not the courage to make application for this investigation, because he knew very well he was absolutely guilty. I never took anybody out of a public office. Under the old law if a civil servant took the public platform, or engaged in canvassing against a member of Parliament, he knew he forfeited his head. To-day the same thing is in effect.
He did not take the platform.
1 saw him on my opponent's platform. My word is as good as his. He never even challenged the statement, and never asked the department to investigate the facts, as to whether he should be dismissed or not. If he thought he was not guilty he could easily have asked for an investigation. He knew very well there were hundreds of witnesses who would have told the truth about it, and he was guilty of this thing. He took his chances and he had to take his medicine, he and two others, and there was not one of them ever applied to the postal deparr-ment for investigation. If a civil servant to-day under the Act has the audacity to go out on the platform against an hon. gentleman in this House, I would be the first to say that man should lose his position. That absolutely justifies what I did. The Star is playing politics, as we all very well know. It was the most partisan journal all through the fight, and sent out a wagon load of its literature into my riding. Every farmer got two or three copies, but they voted for me just the same because they did not believe what the Star said. With reference to the Bill, I to some extent agree with the hon. gentleman who seconded that motion. I thought and I believed that the Bill should have been brought down, but I was confronted, and we were confronted before that committee all the way through, with the statement that the Civil Service Commission were unable to meet the situation through press of business. The question was summarized towards the close of the evidence by Mr. Calder who asked Dr. Roche at the close what he thought should be done. It will be found on page 365, and Dr. Roche stated there that he thought the proper thing to do, instead of adopting the Bill that we had there, was to make an amendment to clause 38, just as we have done. We have taken the advice of the commission, and it is up to the commission. This is what they wanted. They did not want to have a Bill with a long list in it. They wanted this amendment, and we granted them this amendment, doing exactly what they wished. For that reason, I do not see that there is any justification for anybody to rush out with a speech of an hour and a half defending the commission. I am quite willing to give them a fair chance, and that they should have another year, to see if they can get a classified list and to see what shall be done. I am quite willing
to say that there shall be an amendment, if it should come to that, added to the Bill, requiring the Civil Service Commission to report every year. I would go much further than the committee has done, because I believe we are building up a great big bureaucracy, which is the antithesis of autocracy. We have taken away from the people in the constituencies any right to say who shall be appointed, who shall' govern, and who shall act. We are taking everything in the way of administration away from them altogether. And we shall find the same condition will obtain in this country in a year or so as obtains in Great Britain, that nobody can become a member of this House unless he is able to spend $4,000 or $5,000 in his riding to maintain an organization. That is not democracy to my mind, and if anybody in this House searches his heart he will realize it is not. Under the old law the members of the committee in the various polling subdivisions were not clamorous for the various offices, but they thought they had something to do with governing the country, and they liked to feel that they would be consulted occasionally as to appointments. You have taken away all interest in parliamentary work from them with these bureaucratic methods, which are the absolute antithesis of democracy.
Does the hon. member
think that if this amendment passes it is a step towards the old conditions which he would like?
I do not for one minutej but I am fair enough. I charged that commission with various things, and in the evidence everything was proven. I charged that people were not appointed by examination, that they were chosen, and that others came to write on examinations when the jobs were already filled. That was proven. And it was also proven that the commission could not cover the appointments of postmasters and other small appointments. Mr. Foran, who is a very clear-headed man, on the matter of these appointments said that it would require an expensive organization all over the country if the work was going to be done thoroughly. The hon. gentleman himself said that he would rather have the original than this Bill. But I do not want to be considered as desirous of going out and saying that this commission was acting wrongly; they were not.
I did not say I approved
of that Bill, though.
They thrust upon this
commission work which the commission was incapable of doing, and the evidence of Dr. Roche and Mr. Foran is to that effect. They were asked why they could not take this list and classify various positions, and they replied that they were busy with other classifications, and, besides, that if they did it they would be violating the law, and they required that the gate he widened, as was stated several times throughout the evidence. I am trying to deal fairly with this commission; I want them to get a chance. I do not think they can succeed. I am frank to say that another year will show this House and the country that it is impossible for the commission to carry on the work the way they are doing it now, but I am quite willing to give them the chance. I will guarantee that so far as hon. gentlemen opposite are concerned, if the fates of war should decide in their favour at the next election, the commission will not last twenty-four hours, from what I am told by members on the other side. They are practical politicians. I understand them very well, and they should be frank with the House. When Dr. Roche came down he gave rebuttal evidence before the committee against every witness we had heard, but when he finally came to a conclusion-the hon. gentleman has read his evidence at the beginning-and was asked to give his views as to what he thought should be done, he was frank enough to acknowledge that after hearing all the evidence he would suggest that these words he added to the Bill. This is the suggestion of the chairman of the commission. The evidence is before all the members and they can find out. We are doing exactly what the commission require, and for that reason I think the House should be united in its action.
A good suggestion was made by an hon. member on the other side, that the commission should report annually to this House. I think they should report annually in a full and comprehensive manner, not only on this but on everything they have done, so that every year we can discuss their report and find out whether they are properly discharging their duties or not. But we have placed this commission above this House-that is the idea of the commissioners themselves-and I say no commission and no individual in this or any other British country is above the House of
Commons. That was demonstrated two hundred years ago. Now, let the commission have their way this year. If the result is not satisfactory to me, I am going to bring the matter up again next year, and I am going to try to take the Outside Service out of the hands of the commission entirely.
I have listened with a great deal of attention to the remarks made this afternoon, and I wish to say briefly that I am opposed to this Bill in toto and shall vote against it. My hon. friend from North Simcoe (Mr. Currie) says there is no power in the country above the House of Commons. That is true. In England also, there is no power above Parliament, yet there he would not find one single member who would belittle himself by looking after patronage. It is admitted that they have in Great Britain, after seventy-five years' experience, the most efficient Civil Service in the world. In the United States they have copied the British system. And Canada ought to strive to imitate what the Mother Country has done in this regard. Therefore I say in reply to my hon. friend's remark as to the paramount power of the House of Commons, there are things which this Parliament must do and will do, but there are otper things that it can well refrain from doing, and that above all should be the distribution of political patronage.
The evidence of the commissioners themselves is to the effect that we have gone further in one year than Great Britain or the United States did in fifty years, and that the bulk of appointments in those countries are not under their Civil Service commissions at all. Those are facts which were given under oath. Has the hon. gentleman read that evidence?
I have read the evidence from day to day and have followed very closely what took place in the committee.
Surely the hon. gentleman saw that?
But I know under what circumstances the commissioners appeared before that committee. We know there is an attempt to discredit that commission in order to reach once more the goal which some people have in mind, namely, a return to patronage. Well, I am opposed to political patronage. If ever chance wills it that members on this side of the House shall pass over to the other side, I want the Liberal party, just as I want the Con-
servative party, to look after the real business of the country and leave to an independent body the management of the Civil Service. My hon. friend says that we have undertaken to do in one year what it took several years to do in the Old Country. There is some truth in that. A wave of reform-and, I should say, of folly-* has been sweeping over the country during the last few years. We have adopted woman suffrage, and we may regret it some day. Prohibition has been adopted in many of the provinces, and many already regret it. We have done many other things on the crest of that wave of folly, excitement and passion which has been passing over the country. Indeed, there is much force in the old saying that "too much of a good thing is good for nothing." There is also an evil which since the war discredits the name of the nation-the divorce evil. We have the record during the present session of one divorce a minute dealt with by the committee of the Senate. Sir, it has made of Ottawa the Reno of the northern part of the American continent-that is not a very enviable fame. Yes, my hon. friend is right: we have undertaken too much. But if any drastic reform could be regarded as proper it was the establishment of the Civil Service Commission. I speak very frankly on this matter: at first I was personally opposed to the stand taken by my hon. friend from Halifax (Mr. Maclean) when two years ago he introduced that measure, but since the functioning of the commission and the placing of the whole Service under its control I have found it a great relief to members of Parliament. I am willing to accept the challenge of my hon. friend from North Simcoe; I suggest that the Act be allowed to remain as it is for another year, and when that year shall have elapsed my hon. friend will be one of the first to say that the machinery of the Civil Service Commission has come to run smoothly.