March 6, 1925

LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

I can only tell my hon.

friend that in the United States they have not any difficulty in applying that system even to the lowest-paid service, and apparently they are applying it with satisfaction.

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LIB
LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

If you will give me the position you want filled, I will indicate how it is done. I do say that the merit principle is fundamental. The second principle involved in connection with the operation of the Civil Service Act is that an independent body, a non-partisan body, a body freed from political control, should have the carrying into effect of the merit principle. Now, I am frank to admit, that in my humble judgment the civil service commissioners have failed in their duty, and I think they are chargeable before the people of this country for their failure to properly apply these two principles. I do not hesitate to say to hon. members of this House that I had thought that probably the proper thing to do was to present a resolution before the House advocating the discharge of these commissioners. But the failure of these officials to perform their duties is altogether different from saying that the merit system should not apply. I think in the Civil Service Act a mistake was made in appointing three commissioners. I think only one should 54i

have been appointed, and this country should have been searched high and low in order to get an individual to fill that position who would have commanded the confidence and the esteem of this country. I think that in the application of the merit principle to the services of Canada we made a very sad mistake at the outset in restricting ourselves to political considerations in filling these high positions.

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LIB

Alfred Edgar MacLean

Liberal

Air. MacLEAN (Prince):

How would you apply the merit system to the outside service where a competitive examination is really a matter of form, and where one man is just as well qualified to fill a vacant position as another?

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LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

If my hon. friend thinks there should be a separate test applied-for example to an audit clerk who wants a position in Ottawa-I think he is entirely mistaken. If a test is necessary it should be applicable all over the country, and not restricted to applicants for positions in the city of Ottawa alone.

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LIB

Alfred Edgar MacLean

Liberal

Mr. MacLEAN (Prince):

My hon. friend has not grasped my point. I did not refer to such positions as audit clerks, bookkeepers, and the like; I was referring to lighthouse keepers, lock tenders, or occupations of that kind throughout the country, in regard to which my hon. friend must admit the qualifications of one man are just as good as those of another. I do not see that the merit system would be of any benefit in such cases, and to put in force a costly and elaborate system of competitive examinations for the selection of men to fill these positions is entirely unnecessary. I should like my hon friend to give us his opinion on that point.

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LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

There must be ten or twelve thousand such positions that are entirely exempted from the provisions of the Civil Service Act.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No, no.

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LIB
LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

Anything below $200 is exempted from the provisions of the act but positions carrying with them a higher wage are subject to the Civil Service Commission.

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CON

James Dew Chaplin

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHAPLIN:

The hon. member (Mr. Maclean, Prince) gave a concrete example of the class of cases he has in mind. He referred to the position of lock tender, and there are possibly one hundred lock tenders in my county. Would the hon. member kindly state what qualifications the Civil Service Commission have for making these appointments?

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LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

I must say that I do not know what a lock tender's duties are. If they are of an engineering character there would be no difficulty in determining by competitive examination the fitness of the applicant for the post. If it is merely a labourer's position my suggestion is that the Civil Service Commission adopt the plan which is followed in many states of the American Union: Simply have some qualified official, already in the public service, decide the fitness of a particular individual for any task however minor it may be.

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LIB
LAB

Joseph Tweed Shaw

Labour

Mr. SHAW:

I think hon. members should ask to be excused from all such duties. As I understand a member's duty he is not elected for the purpose of filling minor positions in the public service, nor, for that matter, any position. It is his duty to come here and represent the wishes of his constituents so far as legislation is concerned. He should not be saddled up with additional work which not only interferes with that duty, but makes it impossible for him to properly function in the position to which he has been elected.

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UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

What I had intended

to say has been well covered already by Other speakers. However, I should like to stress one phase of the question. We have heard a good deal about the necessity for a reduction in the number of public employees. I am absolutely convinced of the necessity for such a reduction. But what are we to do in the face of the situation I am going to describe. Let me give an illustration, it will be very familiar to every hon. member. As I drew my mail from the post office box this morning I pulled out a couple of familiar brown envelopes. I think we receive practically every day a brown envelope sent out by the Civil Service Commission containing a notice asking for applications for men who will take examinations for a certain position. These requests come pretty nearly every day, all the year round; the commission is continually flooding us with these notices. What does it mean? It means that every year, every month, every day the people of this country are being invited to apply for entrance into the civil service. Now, in view of the fact that the ministers are continually making the statement-and in 5 p.m. many instances the statement is correct-that reductions in the service are being carried out, and that there are so many fewer employees in individual departments, I wonder what becomes of the thousands of misguided applicants who seek

admission into the public service? What happens to them after they take their examination? Does it mean that notwithstanding the protests on the part of the members of the government, notwithstanding the express desire of the House itself, notwithstanding the growing intensity of feeling throughout the country for the practice of economy, the civil service is actually increasing and growing all the time? I think a very sound suggestion has been made that for two or three years the issuance of these brown envelopes shall cease, and that if men are required in a particular department the proper officers in that department shall go to another branch of the public service and say "Can you spare us a man, because the law will not permit us to bring another person into the service?" I believe that would be the soundest way to proceed. I realize the difficulty of saying to a man who has been in the service of the country for many years "You are no longer necessary, you must go;" but nevertheless through deaths, sickness and retirements it is possible to reduce the number of appointments, and I would suggest that we should make a hard-and-fast rule for a certain time that these brown envelopes should stay at home, and that no more applications for admission to the service shall be sought for that period and no more admissions permitted. Let us try that system, and also endeavour to fill vacancies necessary to be filled by transfers from other departments.

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CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

I have a word to add to

the discussion in the way of a suggestion. The matter is of interest to the country generally, and if you ask citizens at large what they think of the public expenditure along this line they will ask "Why is not something done?" But the system complained of goes on year after year and nothing is done. I am told by a certain person who is an authority on these matters-I do not claim to be an authority myself-that one method that would be helpful in the reduction of expenditures would be along this line-I think perhaps the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens) may have referred to it: When

positions need to be filled supernumeraries should be transferred from departments where the volume of business is less than it formerly was. I am told that the work of some departments was quite extensive years ago necessitating the employment of a certain number of men, but of recent years the business has fallen off and! yet the same sized staff is maintained althrough in certain cases the men are no longer needed. I suggest that those men Who are drawing their salary and

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doing little or nothing should be placed on a supernumerary list, or some special list, and when vacancies occur in other departments they should be filled by appointments from this list after the proper examination required by the civil service has been passed. The hon. member for West Toronto (Mr. Hocken) has truly said that we can well declare a holiday for three years in the matter of additions to the public service, just as we could declare a holiday in many governmental expenditures. Because the need for economy is urgent and has been urgent for some years. We must have a reduction in the public expenditures when many people are practising the strictest economy in their private affairs and even undergoing actual privation. Surely it is time for the government to make a real advance and show the country that they are in earnest in practising economy not only in this department but in all the other branches of the public service.

The other day I had occasion, during the progress of the estimates of the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell), to examine previous estimates and the Auditor General's reports. In a very large number of items one finds each year an increase. Surely these increases can be stopped, and the government is the body to take that course. The person chiefly responsible for taking the initiative in that work is, of course, the minister. I am not saying that in this case the Minister of Public Works has had sufficient opportunity _ to do that, but in many departments the ministers can take that step. I make these few remarks, because I believe that in doing so I am voicing the thoughts of ninety-five per cent of the citizens of my constituency and, indeed, of my province.

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LIB

Lewis Herbert Martell

Liberal

Mr. MARTELL:

Would the hon. member be in favour of scrapping the whole Civil Service Act and the Civil Service Commission and starting out anew?

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CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

No, I would not. I am

not one of those who believe you can create something after a great deal of thought and work, and then, in some fit of mental aberration, wipe it out entirely and create some new structure. That is what they tried to do in Russia and they failed. We have an existing institution which has a great deal of merit. It has made some reforms which have been of advantage to the country. In my judgment, the proper course to take is to correct the deficiencies of this institution as we have it. By experience they can learn where the weak spots are, and by aggressive action on the part of those in control, they can eliminate the weak spots, transform them by strong methods,

and enable the commission to carry on the work. Let us keep the structure that we have, develop it, build it up and make it more efficient, so that it can, perhaps, effect greater economies.

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PRO

Milton Neil Campbell

Progressive

Mr. CAMPBELL:

I find myself much in harmony with the hon. member (Mr. Ladner) in regard to the civil service. Our aim and object should be to develop rather than to destroy. The Civil Service Commission was created on account of a desire for it in the country. The change of officials with every election was something that the people of Canada were heartily sick of. There was a point, I believe, that was missed by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Speakman) when he spoke of this continual deluge of brown envelopes. Most of those competitive examinations mean simply a readjustment within the service itself, and the elimination of those would be one of the first things to destroy confidence in the whole system. For instance, a man may be working in the Customs department, and a position is opened up in the Department of Finance. Supposing this man who is looking for promotion is entitled to that, it is only through a competitive examination that promotions and readjustments can be effected in the civil service. The question has been asked here this afternoon who should appoint men in the outside civil service, such men as those attending the locks on our canals. I would say that the only official to appoint them would be the man under whom they are working, the man responsible for their actions. Take, for example, the position of postmaster. There is no competitive examination for the position of postmaster. But the matter is left, in almost every case of which I have known, to the post office inspector of the district, the man who should know the necessary qualifications, the man who visits the district. If there are four, five or six applicants, as there are in most cases, he will interview the men, find out something about their educational qualifications, their ordinary business ability, their standing in the community from the point of view of integrity and in other regards, and he will make his recommendation to his department. Those recommendations are forwarded to the Civil Service Commission, and in every case I have had occasion to look into, the recommendation of the post office inspector has been accepted by the commission. That is perfectly right. The Civil Service Commission is subject to a good deal of criticism from the fact that many sections of the country want the old party privileges again,

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patronage and nothing else. I would like to see some members come out more frankly and state what is in the back of their minds, because I think that is what it is.

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LIB

Lewis Herbert Martell

Liberal

Mr. MARTELL:

Can the hon. member

show that, as a result of the Civil Service Commission, better or more efficient men have been appointed to office than was the case when they were recommended by members of parliament, representative of either of the two old parties in this country?

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March 6, 1925