The question is-can the right hon. gentleman indicate to me one individual case of a civil service regulation where this House ever assumed the authority or taken the unquestioned authority to reduce a salary specified by the Civil Service Commission as equitable for a classified position? I want to know of one concrete case, and as a youthful person, inexperienced in a parliamentary way, surely, if there is going to be criticism, I am entitled to that.
What the hon. gentleman asks is this-Has there ever been a case where a Government, coming in with its Estimates, which followed the Civil Service classification, has had the estimate of a salary reduced?
That is not what I asked at all-a Government coming in. My question was whether it had happened in the past.
Mr .MEIGHEN: That is the case. The Government comes in with its Estimates, and the Government's Estimates, the hon. gentleman says, are supported by the Civil Service Commission and in accordance with the classication. I do not know of a case where the Government did not stand by them, or where the salary of a single man was reduced; but that was because the House supported the Government; the House never sought to evade its responsibility, never in the world, until the hon. gentleman came into office.
I said that I was informed it was done. I do not know of any case where, on a Government coming in with its Estimates, there was a reduction in the Civil Government Estimates, if an estimate had behind it the Civil Service classification. But the Government is responsible for presenting its Estimates; the Government can recommend to the House reductions. If an hon. member moves that the salary of any civil servant be reduced, the Government can accept the reduction, and that fixes the salary of the man. That is what I am concerned to have the members of the committee understand. Does the hon. gentleman say that that is not right?
My right hon. friend is perfectly right in making the statement in the form in which he is now presenting it. Certainly, as I have listened to what he has been saying, he has been endeavouring to convey a wholly different impression of what the minister had in mind when speaking of his responsibility. Let me put the matter to the House in a way that, I think, will make per-
4 p.m. fectly clear what the minister is seeking to demonstrate. The present Government comes into office and finds certain salaries attached to certain positions. It finds that thpse positions have been graded by the Civil Service Commission; that the previous government has asked for certain sums of money, and that Parliament has appropriated those sums for the particular positions mentioned in the Estimates. The minister, when he is about to prepare his estimates for Parliament, calls in the permanent head of the department, his deputy minister, and he asks him to state what, in his opinion, are
the estimates required to carry on the work of the department. The deputy minister presents his estimates. The minister asks him: "Are there any increases here other than those which are required by statute? Are there any new appointments? Has any clerk been given a promotion which he should not have received or which he is not entitled to? Eplain the estimates in that way." The deputy minister then makes his statement, informing the minister that the estimates are entirely in accord with what they have been in the previous year; that the only increases are those that are required by statute, and that all have been approved by the Civil Service Commission. The minister may take one of two courses. He may say: "I am anxious to keep this whole matter out of Parliament. I am desirous of having the Civil Service feel a sense of security, knowing that there will be no interference on the part of the Government or the minister. Therefore, I will come to Parliament with the estimates exactly as they have been prepared and presented to me by my deputy minister." That is what my hon. friend is doing >
at the present time. On the other hand, he may take the opposite course. He may say: "I am minister of the department now; I am going to look into the salaries; I am going to cut down so many clerks, promote other clerks, ignore the Civil Service Commission altogether. I am master of this particular department at the present time, and I propose to exercise my authority in that way." That is the kind of responsibility that the Minister of Labour (Mr. Murdock) has refused to exercise. As my right hon. friend says, he as the minister has the power, but to exercise it is to begin to interfere from a political point of view, and that is what hon. members on this side and members of the Government have refused to do. They have sought to respect the Civil Service as being outside of politics altogether, and, in the Estimates which they bring before the House, to be governed by the recommendations of the permanent heads of departments who know the service, and by the approval of the Civil Service Commission. My hon. friend has stated that, during the course of the year, once the ministry has been in office for a time, opportunity will be afforded to the different ministers to see whether there is a necessity for retaining in some of the departments the large number of clerks who are there at the present time. Up to the present, no minister has had the opportunity to become fully acquainted
with his department. But at this moment, to strike out of the Estimates some sums which may be necessary for clerks who are there at the present time, might be to do a great injustice to many members of the Civil Service. All we are asking is that Parliament vote what it voted in previous years, plus the regular statutory increases, and allow the ministers time to look through their departments; and when we meet Parliament again, or before we meet Parliament again, if some of those services are overmanned they will be reduced and the money will not be taken out of the public treasury. But there is a great deal of difference between a minister saying: "I will not take the responsibility of interfering with the recommendations of my deputy head, those recommendations having been approved by the Civil Service Commission," and one saying: "I do not take any responsibility at all."
any sentence of the hon. member; what he has said is precisely the truth that I was trying to express myself; but it is precisely the responsibility that the language, if not the intent, of the minister was designed to make the country believe he did not have.
He has that responsibility. It is true, if he takes this man and that man and reduces their salaries and recommends those reductions to the committee, he might be charged with favouritism, with politics. That is what the Prime Minister fears. But the responsibility is the minister's. I would suggest to him that if he really favours reduction and does not want to be charged with favouritism or politics, there is another way in which he can act. He can come to the committee and recommend a reduction of ten or twenty per cent all along the line. That is quite within his power; the responsibility of the recommendation is his; the responsibility of the decision is his and this committee's for every salary in the list. I am ready to accept the minister's plea that he has not sufficient knowledge of his department to convince him whether there are too many clerkships or not, whether the salaries are too high or not; but I cannot help making this reflection, that hon. members, before the last election, had much greater knowledge of those departments than they have now. Before the last election we heard all sorts of talk about the "barnacles of the civil service". Why, the Civil Service was cluttered and clogged,
and you could not get through, and salaries were too high, and all the rest of it! They had their information sufficient to warrant them in making these assertions broadcast. Yet, three months and more after they have taken office, almost four months after the election, they do not know enough about the departments to make any changes at all. If they know less now than they knew three months ago, how much less will they know a year from now? The progress of ignorance seems to be rapid. I accept the hon. gentleman's argument that he has not been in the department long enough to find out whether it is overmanned or overpaid. Nevertheless this is not the only respect in which the loud-sounding phrases of the manifesto fell down in realization.
Then he comes to the rescue of his friend the ex-Minister of Finance (Sir Henry Drayton), just as if he had not said enough. If it had not been for the remarks of the Prime Minister, I leave it to hon. members to say whether they would not have been misled by the statement of the right hon. leader of the Opposition. He implied that it was in the discretion of the Minister of Labour to move the reduction of the salaries of civil servants that had been fixed by the Civil Service Commission, and that that would do no harm. Why, it* would practically repeal the Civil Service Act to that extent, because the act provides, in effect, that these salaries shall not be left to the minister to fix, nor shall the appointments be left to him to make, but that both the appointments shall be made and the salaries fixed by the Civil Service Commission.