April 17, 1929

CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

Would he be

good enough to tell the house when inquiry was first made as to BowyeEs residence? My reason for asking is that the first I find in the file was in December after these reports had been sent to the commission and long after the six months had expired.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

I do not feel that I should attempt to confine myself to dates. I do know that orders were issued to have this matter of his residence looked into long before that date.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Why is it not on the file?

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

We do not always issue

orders in writing. You call your officials in, direct them what to do, and they do it. That is done in every department. That I think was what was done in this case.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition) :

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the house

is much edified by the self-adulation of the Postmaster General. There is a saying, somewhat old, "Let another praise thee."

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LIB
LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am sure the Postmaster General has not heard that saying, or if he has heard it he has not profited by it. A very considerable part of his speech consisted of self-adulation, self-glorification, a statement of his consistency in matters political, an affirmation of his convictions, and the great claims he had to public recognition because of the merits of the services he had rendered to Canada. I do not consider that to be at all relevant to the matter now under consideration. -

The next part of his speech consisted of allegations in respect of dismissals that had taken place under former administrations. Some of them related to the time when there was no Civil Service Act, and, speaking for myself, a large number of those that he mentioned were cases in which dismissals were made because of violations of the terms and conditions of an order in council approved by the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier, providing that where civil servants, including postmasters, bad been guilty of offensive partisanship, as certified by a member of parliament, dismissal should follow. This was the case in Willow Bunch last year; the offending postmaster was dismissed. It was the case in Cochrane and in Carstairs. That should be the case with respect to the chairman of the tariff board- and one day possibly will be.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Will my hon. friend permit me? Why is it right when my hon. friend does it-and I do not question his right -and wrong in the case of the member for Willow Bunch and some other members? I am puzzled by the distinction.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I did not for a single

moment, Mr. Speaker, suggest it was wrong.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

With that nice choice

of English that always characterizes the mem-

1670 COMMONS

Simcoe Pontmastership-Mr. Bennett

ber for Saskatoon, he has asked a question. But it is difficult to hear it. It is something like his objection a few days ago in connection with the conduct of this house-very violent in one place, very restrained here.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

But at any rate, Mr. Speaker, I have not found any fault with respect to what has been done where there has been justification within the terms of the regulations to do it. What we are contending to-day is that the Postmaster General has himself given reasons why this house should censure him. The reasons that he himself has given this afternoon would of themselves be ample ground for the motion now launched, if there were no other reasons in the world; for I say no dispassionate, judicial body listening to the Postmaster General's speech could fail for a single moment to record the judgment which we ask this house to record, namely, that his conduct has been oppressive, unfair, and contrary to the spirit and intent of the Civil Service Act with respect to Whittaker, the applicant, for the postmastership of Simcoe.

This, like many other matters mentioned by the Postmaster General, to him seems to be just an insignificant instance in the history of a great country such as this. In that regard I cannot express my views better than by quoting from an editorial in the Toronto Globe:

During the past few days, in the consideration of this unusual and intensely human issue, the Globe has learned how largely the so-called little things of life loom in the public estimation-the tug on the heartstrings, the poignancy of sympathetic memories, the keen sense of decency and justice. There is nothing the matter with the sentiment and the spirit of Canadians. They have not forgotten, nor has the oft-deplored materialism of the age warped or destroyed the British instinct for fair play. The communications from women-from mothers - -in all parts of the province are most impressive, and it is a good omen for the weal of our Dominion that party politics are pushed into their proper place. A very considerable share of the protests-the most emphatic protests -are from Liberals. One mother whose eldest son is sleeping in France says that she was "brought up in a Liberal home, and have always worked for the Liberal cause, but gratitude and justice to the dear boys who sacrificed themselves for all of us come first. If Mr. Whittaker does not receive justice, then I am a Liberal no more, or at any rate not the kind of a Liberal who will support a party -who does that sort of thing."

That quotation from the great organ of Liberal opinion indicates how it regards this matter, small though it may be in importance

TMr. Bennett.]

so far as the great number of cases is concerned, but tremendously important as affecting the life of Whittaker.

Now, sir, it has been apparent during the latter part of the address made by the minister that his principal object in speaking as he did for the last twenty minutes was to attack the Civil Service Commission. He hurled complaint and criticism against that body. The Civil Ser vice Commission was set up by parliament in an endeavour to remove from this country the bane of political patronage. Whether or not it has succeeded remains to be seen. But every enemy of the commission cheered vigorously the observations of the Postmaster General, and every hon. gentleman who desired that the patronage of this country should be exercised on the basis of merit freed frrnr political control was silent during those attacks. For some reason that I cannot understand the bon. minister as one of his instances cited what took place in November of last year when he'said that a man who had disability as a returned soldier was passed over by the commission and someone else put in his place. The statute has never said that, being a returned soldier alone qualified a man for a position in the civil service. It merely said that preference should be given to him. I cannot understand why these attacks are being made against the Civil Service Commission, this continual sniping, the members of the commission not being here to answer for themselves, the attacks being in a sense a reflection on the administration itself, because it is the duty of the minister of the crown under whose department the Civil Service Commission may fall to see that the commission is defended in this house and ample opportunity given it properly to present its case to this tribunal. That opportunity was not afforded to the Civil Sendee Commission this afternoon. An attack was made-

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The Minister of Finance defended that board. An attack was made against the Civil Service Commission this afternoon by the Postmaster Generail, and no attempt was made to point out what were the conditions applying to the cases he cited. I would remind him of this, the very procedure to which he had recourse in this case, namely, the refusal of his deputy to give his approval, has always been open to the minister with respect to all the cases he mentioned. Then why should he point out this case as one in which he exercised those powers and fail to state that he could have invoked those same powers in the other cases in refer-

Simcoe Postmastership-Mr. Bennett

ence to which he attacks the Civil Service Commission? That is the position which I am sure will suggest itself to every hon. member. I confess I cannot understand why he should have taken that course.

What are the facts of the Whittaker case? That is the case under discussion this afternoon, and upon the principle involved in the failure of the department to appoint Mr. Whittaker to the postmastership at Simcoe a motion of censure against the Postmaster General has been moved. He has seen fit to deal with a 'large number of cases in New Brunswick, Ontario and various other parts of Canada, and if the facts as he related them are correctly stated, and, as he said, he had to deal with them very hurriedly, then certainly this vote of censure should not be limited to the Simcoe case but should be general in its application to the whole conduct of the hon. gentleman as Postmaster General.

Now. let us look for a moment at the advertisement. It contained these words:

According to law preference is given among candidates possessing the necessary qualifications, first, to persons who are in receipt of a pension on account of disabilities received as a result of war service, who by reason of such service are unable to continue their prewar occupation, and who have not been successfully re-established: and secondly, to persons

who have been on active service overseas or on the high seas.

Those terms are an integral part of the advertisement upon which Mr. Whittaker and others offered their services to the country. It gives a preference-mark you, not necessarily the whole preference, but a preference- first to the disabled man and secondly to the man who is not reestablished.

There were several applicants for this position. Amongst those applicants were Mr. Whittaker and Mr. Charles Rex Bowyer. Mr. Charles Rex Bowyer did not come within the first description of the preference mentioned in the advertisement. He was not a disabled soldier; he was not in receipt of any disability pension. That you will find at page 70 of the return. Therefore, so far as Mr. Bowyer wa3 concerned, he did not come within the conditions of the advertisement under which a preference was to be given. I do not think there will be any difficulty about that; it is clearly established. And that may be the explanation for the cases mentioned by the minister this afternoon when attacking the civil service. It may have been that the cases to which he referred, of returned soldiers having applied for other positions, were cases in which they were not disabled and therefore were not entitled to first preference.

78594-100j

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

My hon. friend is not

leaving the impression that returned soldiers who are not disabled have no preference?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

If my hon. friend had

followed me he would not ask that question.

I read the two sections of the advertisement.

I am sorry I read so rapidly; I will read them again for the minister.

According to law, preference is given among candidates possessing the necessary qualifications, first to persons who are in receipt of a pension on account of disabilities received as a result of war service, who by reason of such service are unable to continue their pre-war occupation, and who have not been successfully re-established.

That is the first. The second is:

To persons who have been on active service overseas or on the high seas.

Preference therefore is given to returned men, but there is a first preference given to disability cases, which preference does not attach to other returned men. But added to the disability there must be the other secondary conditions, namely, not having been successfully reestablished, and being unable to take up previous occupation. Mr. Bowyer came within the second class of cases. He was not in receipt of a disability pension, although he was a returned soldier.

Now the minister dwelt at some length on the fact that Bowyer enlisted under the name of Musgrove at the age of sixteen. The record shows that such was the case, stating that he was a minor. It also shows that Mr. Whittaker enlisted at the age of sixteen, presumably with the consent of his parents. Further, it is perfectly clear that when the applications came in, so far as the Civil Service Commission was concerned, they showed that there was no man named Bowyer who had war service. Therefore Mr. Bowyer did not come within the class entitled to first preference as returned soldiers. But the minister says it was disclosed later to the commission that he had a record as a returned soldier under the name of Musgrove, under which name he received his medals, his discharge and his recommendation. That was cleared up. But the Civil Service Commission had no knowledge of it. The minister said he had; and why did the minister intervene? Is not this the fact? The member for that riding, as I shall presently show, and the Liberal organization in that county, said, "We must interfere and get this job for Bowyer". That is the record, as I shall show in a moment. The name appears of Mr. Taylor, the member for the riding, and certain statements he made were printed in the Globe newspaper. It is clear that what transpired

1672 COMMONS

Simcoe Poslmastership-Mr. Bennett

was this-that friends came ito him as they come to all of us. And why should they not come to us? They come and ask to have certain appointments made. I am not going to be so unfair to the member for that riding as to suggest that it was not in good faith that friends of Bowyer came to him and proposed that this was a position he could fill, expressing (the desire that this man should be appointed as postmaster at Simcoe. But it was apparent, when this effort was made, that there was no man named Bowyer wlho came within the preferential class; and the facts were then uncovered, which appear on the file, showing that Bowyer had served in the war as Muegrove. But still there was a difficulty. The Civi-l Service Commission made a recommendation. Mark you, it is not denied in this house that Mr. Whittaker came to this city of Ottawa and met the Postmaster General, that he walked with him down the corridor in these halls and indicated to him jiust how well he could walk, how great his disability was, what his injuries were, and how fit he was to discharge the duties of the office at Simcoe. That is not denied. And bear in mind further that the Postmaster General, on the very thresh-hold of the matter, saw fit to write a letter in which-and I say this in fairness to him- he placed himself on record as indicating on whom he believed the responsibility rested. For in 1927, on February 28, he wrote a letter in which he said:

I am in receipt of yours of 21th instant with reference to the postmastership at Simcoe, and I note what you say in favour of Mr. Whittaker, who is an applicant. As Mr. Whittaker is a disabled returned soldier-

Mark these words, the minister himself drawing the distinction.

-and as the act gives a great deal of preference to such, no doubt he will stand an excellent chance before the Civil Service Commission, who have the absolute control in a position of this kind.

Now, those are the words the minister used, and which he used again this afternoon. Is it any wonder that a resolution is now before this house censuring him for his conduct, when he writes a letter in which he states that the Civil Service Commission has absolute control in a position of this kind? The Civil Service Commission, having the absolute control, having received the applications and having regard to the terms of the advertisement, sent out their notice in due course to Mr. Whittaker under date of May 29, 1928. However, before that notice was sent it is well for this house to remember that two mem-

bers of the Civil Service Commission, Doctor Roche and Mr. Tremblay, had seen Mr. Whittaker and that the minister himself had seen Mr. Whittaker, who had walked up and down the corridors of this building to indicate that he could walk without a cane, although he had had amputations below the knee in both cases. The knee joints articulated on both legs, as the minister pointed out, one leg having been amputated below the knee and the other below the ankle. Mr. Whittaker demonstrated that he could walk, and according to his affidavit which was read into the record this afternoon, and which in his solemn, sworn statement, the minister told him he could not see any reason why he was unfit to be postmaster. That statement has not been denied.

This is a serious situation. What happened? You have several applicants, one of them a disabled returned soldier, who therefore is entitled to first preference. In the second place you have a returned soldier who is not disabled and who is working on his father's farm; he does not come under the first preference but is included in the second preference.

Then my hon friend reminds me of something else of which I intended to speak. The advertisement required that applicants should reside in that locality. At the time it is quite apparent that Mr. Bowyer was residing at Mount Albion, which is not far from Hamilton, Ont., while Simcoe is some considerable distance from that city. According to Mr. Bowyer's own letter, which was read this afternoon, he would not take the responsibility of saying he was a resident of Simcoe; he had moved away to this place where he was looking after a farm. His residence would be designated as Mount Albion according to any standard which might be applied in order to determine residence, but he still had some property at Simcoe and he said, " I think I might be said to be a resident of Simcoe because I have property and am assessed there." That was the way he put it; he did not attempt to deceive anyone but merely stated the facts. Under these circumstances the following notice was sent to Mr. Whittaker: Civil Service Commission of Canada Notice of Appointment of Postmaster Date: May 29, 1928.

Post Office: Simcoe, county of Norfolk-Elgin, Ontario.

Name of appointee: Mr. George Edward Whittaker, O.A.S.

Address of appointee: Simcoe, Ontario.

The late Hon. J. W. Edwards

Salary rate: $2,040 per annum, with an

annual increase of $120 until a maximum of $2,280 has been reached.

(Appointment subject to physical fitness.)

Then the certificate goes on to state:

This is to certify that you have been selected to fill the position named above, after examination, in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Service Act, 1918, as amended, and of the rules and regulations thereunder; and that you are qualified to be appointed on probation at the salary shown above.

Please note that no arrangements should be made to report for duty until instructed to do so by the Post Office department. In this connection your attention is especially called to section 13 of the Civil Service Act, and to the interpretation of that section given by the law officers of the crown, as quoted below.

By order of the commission,

Secretary.

There is no doubt that Mr. Whittaker received notice that he had been selected by the Civil Service Commission for the postmastership of Simcoe; that is quite clear. It is also clear that in the notification he received it was stated that he was not to go to work until he received notice from the Post Office department, and that his appointment might be only on probation. There can be no doubt on that point. That did not involve his appointment, but the Postmaster General says this afternoon-and I cannot understand any minister of the crown endeavouring to take that position-"I have no right to do this; it is the deputy minister who can approve or disapprove of these appointments, not the minister." I cannot conceive of any minister trying to shelter himself behind his deputy, because a deputy who would do what the minister did not permit or authorize would lose his position forthwith.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

I would like to offer a word of explanation, because I think my hon. friend misunderstood me. I am not trying to shelter myself behind my deputy; I take full responsibility.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Not for a moment would I think the Postmaster General, after his strong statements as to his great courage, would endeavour to hide behind the skirts of anyone else in a matter of this kind, but the fact is that he blames the deputy minister and will not accept responsibility himself.

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April 17, 1929