May 4, 1933

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It has been the custom

to commence these institutions or commissions by appointments made by the government of the day. That involves the government being censured for the appointments which may be made and criticisms may be offered so as to destroy public confidence in the body. If we desire to assure ourselves that political considerations will be eliminated, the panel system offers the only method. Should a vacancy occur it is contemplated that the remaining trustees along with the chairman of the Board of Rail-

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way Commissioners and the president of the exchequer court shall prepare a list from which the appointments would be made. It seems to me that that is as far as you can hope to get if there is an earnest desire to eliminate purely political factors. I think the view of those who are responsible was that if we could we would remove temptation which might arise from the desire of those who felt they had claims upon the government to have such claims recognized by appointment to such a position as this. It is true that the government has a majority but if a substantial body of this committee is of the opinion that the panel system as indicated in this bill is not desirable, we are not concerned about it. However, I want to put it fairly to the committee.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I submit that my right hon. friend has used a phrase which hardly describes the situation accurately. He asks whether it is desirable to have future appointments made by a political party. I submit that what he should have asked was whether it -was desired to have future appointments made by the government of the day. It is the government and not political parties that makes appointments and the government of the day is the one body to which the people have a right to look for appointments. What the complexion of the government of the day may be rests entirely with the people of the country and it seems to me that their voices should be heeded in these matters. I must say that I think it is a very unfair reflection for the Prime Minister to make when he assumes that, when any political party comes into office its members are not going to be actuated by motives quite as high as those which have actuated the government of which he himself is the head. I said the other day quite frankly that we all agreed with the Prime Minister in his view that it was difficult enough to obtain for those high positions men who were equal to the task and that if such persons were secured any government, it seemed to me, would be only too pleased to retain them in office; there would not be any desire to change them. I think that is quite true. I say to my right hon. friend that I believe we might well agree that all governments will be actuated by motives equally honourable, that the obligation upon one government should be just the same as upon another, and that full responsibility should go with office in the matter either of retainr-iiig those who may in part be administering the nation's affairs or in replacing them. The

government cannot free itself from that responsibility, and the only way in which it can properly be held responsible is by leaving it free to act as it thinks best.

As regards this panel, I do not think it amounts to anything; it is a mere sham, a mere pretence and for that reason it is worse than nothing. No one will believe that appointments are being made as a result of a non-political panel when those who are filling the offices that are named as those of the persons to select the panel, have all been appointees of one political party. Apart from that altogether, I submit that the president of the exchequer court, however able he may be, does not begin to have the same knowledge of the persons best equipped for the position of trustee of railway, that members of a government have. I do not see why a government should give to some group, inferior to itself, the responsibility of making what perhaps would be the most important of all the appointments to be made. I would ask that, so far as possible, the fundamental principle of ministerial responsibility be observed in these appointments.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I wonder whether the

right bon. gentleman realizes that by his observations in the last part of his speech he contradicted the first part of it and he used exact words in contradiction. He said that appointees were the appointees of the government; then he said that the two, who would have to be half of the four, are appointees of one political party. Which does he mean? The first or the last? If he means the first, then he separates the government from a political party. If he means the last, he and I are wholly in agreement. He said that he thought I was reflecting upon the honourable capacity of governments to make selections. I was pointing out that governments selected those who generally supported their political party. The words he used were that the two would be appointees of one political party and that they would select as additions to the board men who were in accord with t'heir party. It was in order to prevent that, if possible, that this provision was inserted. It is in order to provide that by the joint selection of four men a panel might be prepared that would not necessarily be merely the selections of one political party. It is always well to discuss practical matters in a practical way. I could cite as an outstanding illustration of what I mean the commission that constructed the National Transcontinental. It was a political commission.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, that is what I am trying to point out, and the results that followed are reviewed in the Gutelius report.

I am only pointing out that there is no desire to avoid ministerial or governmental responsibility, but if there is a wish on the part of the 'house that we should have a panel of names that commended themselves to four persons, from which panel the government might make a selection-and the house may reconstitute the method of selection in any way it pleases-to escape the evils that have followed from purely political appointments, we should adopt the course I suggest. Who will say that this country has not had too long an experience of the political type of appointees that built the National Transcontinental? No man, free from political bias, who will just look at the facts, the classifications that were approved and the costs involved, will say that that is not so? It follows in the necessary sequence of things that would be so. It was to avoid such a situation that this suggestion was made. If this committee this afternoon is of opinion that an effort should not be made to divorce from politics, if possible, the class from which selection should be made, by limiting it to persons approved by a body consisting of the two trustees, for instance, who would remain, and the gentlemen named, well and good. Certainly neither I nor the government desire to press it upon the committee or the house. We only wish to carry out the purpose which was in the mind of the commission when they made their report in which they said that members of parliament should not be eligible, and which aim was to divorce the administration of the system from politics, and to say that the government must assume responsibility for all the acts of the board is to beg the question, because the hope was and is that a body will be created that will discharge all the functions of a board of directors free from control or restraint so far as governments are concerned and conduct the business of an enterprise that means so much to this country as though it were a private undertaking, with the benefits that would accrue from the exercise of the best business judgment they have in dealing with the problems before them. That is the reason the provision was inserted in the bill with regard to members of parliament, senators, etcetera. It has not been unusual in all parliaments to provide by legislation for the exclusion of certain classes from appointments to certain offices. It may not be generally known, but there was once in Great Britain a statute that all lawyers were

excluded from the House of Commons. It may be interesting to some hon. members to know that it was discovered in a very short time that parliament could not get along without lawyers. I mention that merely as an illustration. There have been other restrictions of a similar character.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That is exactly the name by which it was known. Although the government has a majority with which to carry out its will with respect to this matter, we shall keep faith with the principle on which we brought this bill into the house, and if it is the wish of the opposition that the panel provision be eliminated, we shall not waste time in trying to force it through.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

May I say to the Prime Ministier that his argument, if it carries any weight at all, is equally applicable to the first appointments; I do not think that can be denied. I think he should be chivalrous enough to concede to his political opponents a desire to be just as fair in making these great appointments as would be the members of any other government. He has cited formeT commissions, I am not going to take up the time of the committee in saying what might be said on all sides of the question, but there have been commissions appointed by his political opponents that commended themselves even to my right hon. friend, for example, the board of grain commissioners Who were appointed by the late Liberal administration. Hon. gentlemen opposite have retained them in office because they found that they were acting impartially and fairly. Without question one of the strongest influences to compel those likewise situated so to do would be the thought that they would wish to commend themselves to the successors of the government that might at the moment be in office as well as to the government in office.

I mentioned the other day 'the International Joint Commission. There again hon. gentlemen opposite had made appointments that might be regarded as very strong from the point of view of political partisanship, if you wish to term it such. One of the gentlemen appointed had been Conservative premier of his province, but he received that appointment to the commission and he was retained in that office during all the time the Liberal administration was in power. Another member of that commission who was retained

C.N.R.-CJ>Jt. Bill

throughout by .the Liberal administration had been a Conservative member of this House of Commons.

The same thing is true of judges. Over and over again it had been said that judges when they assume office on the bench give up their partisan politics, although they may not altogether change their personal feelings.

Reference has been made this afternoon to what was termed an ignoramus parliament. I do not see why we should constitute ourselves an ignoramus parliament at the instance of the commissioners who have made this recommendation. I do not like any commission appointed by a government to say that the government of the day is not capable of honourable action with respect to the discharge of public affairs. That is my strongest objection, to this provision proposed, I do submit that the government ought not to try to have it both ways. Either make this panel, if it amounts to anything and signifies anything, applicable at once to immediate appointments, or if it is not of so much significance, allow to all subequent ministries with respect to the filling of vacancies the same authority and responsibility that the ministry is taking to itself at the moment.

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LIB

William Daum Euler

Liberal

Mr. EULER:

As I have said before, if this provision of a panel for the selection of trustees ensured to any reasonable extent that politics would be eliminated in the appointment of these trustees, I would be disposed to favour it, but the objection I made previously to that clause as it stands was this, that while it does provide for a panel of eight for the filling of subsequent vacancies, the original appointments are made by the government itself, and s-o I think these two provisions are entirely inconsistent with each other. If the government would so alter the bill that the selections of the original trustee board would also be made from a properly constituted panel, I for one would be inclined to favour it. I know that that conflicts perhaps with the opinion of my leader in that there is not government responsibility there, but there would still be left a reasonable measure of government responsibility because after all from the panel of eight the appointments must be made by the government itself, and to that extent ait least there is government responsibility. But I admit that I would go some little distance even at the sacrifice of what might be called government responsibility if thereby we could ensure that there would be very little of political influence or political patronage in the selection of that board of trustees, but I do submit that the two provisions, the first appointments by the

(Mr. Mackenzie King.]

government and future appointments from a panel, are entirely inconsistent with each other. If the government so desired to have it, and I am not accusing them of that, the first board might be an entirely political board if the government makes the first selections, and I submit that now is the time if ever that the management of the Canadian National Railways should be as free from political influence as it is possible to have it, because the railway is in the most critical period of its history. So I would say if it is not possible to amend the clause so that we may have non-political appointments from the beginning, I would just as soon have that provision wiped out altogether and let the government take the responsibility. But if the government can provide for a non-political panel right from the outset I would be inclined to support that.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

In view of the concluding remarks of the Prime Minister and in view of the arguments which have been advanced by the right hon. leader of the opposition, I should like to say that I think there is a very substantial body of public opinion on this side of the house as well as on the other side which, having regard to the doctrine of ministerial responsibility and the manner in which the first trustees are to be appointed, is of the view that the panel system should not be included in this bill. I have no doubt in the world that the government will be held responsible for the success or lack of success of the principles underlying this bill. Hon. gentlemen opposite will see to that if the legislation fails, and hon. gentlemen on this side of the house, if it succeeds, will claim any merit there is in it. That being the case, and human nature being what it is, I strongly suggest to the Minister of Railways that if he has evidence that there is a substantial body of opinion in this house that the panel system should be eliminated, it be eliminated forthwith.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

In support of what my hon. friend from North Waterloo has said, may I say that if these trustees are going to have such an important office as has been represented, and I believe they are, I do not agree that the government should select the appointees from among the men who according to the Prime Minister would offer their services as having been good supporters of the party in power. I think that for an office of this kind conscription rather than voluntary service would be the best system. The government should go after the best men available for the office, and how can that be done by means of a panel system? How can the

C.N.R.-C.PJI. Bill

Exchequer court judge or the president of the railway commission properly go and ask men to accept the office who according to their own view would be the best qualified to administer the Canadian National Railways? How could they go after those fellows and ask them whether they would accept the office or not? They would have to form a panel of the persons who would be best qualified according to their views, but how would they know whether those persons would accept the office? My own experience is that for an office of this kind the minister who is responsible and his colleagues are seeking out the man who would accept, and I think that is the best way. Even in the appointment of the board of trustees we should maintain ministerial responsibility, and not entrust the task of forming a panel to those gentlemen who will merely put names down without knowing if the men will be available for the office or not.

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LIB

James Malcolm

Liberal

Mr. MALCOLM:

I should like to say that I appreciate very much the attitude of the Prime Minister in dealing with clause 7, in leaving the question of a panel or ministerial responsibility to the judgment of the house. I thoroughly agree with the remarks made by my hon. friend from North Waterloo, but I should like to submit to the members of the committee that there are worse kinds of patronage than political patronage. Very often there exists a good deal of executive patronage within organizations, which is harder to deal with than political patronage. If an executive is appointed with any feeling of entire independence of the government of the day, I do not think that such a relationship is desirable. I believe that whoever is appointed, if appointed by the government in power, will be the very best selection that can be made from the material available. I believe with my leader that parliament has made some of the best selections for commissions that could possibly be made, as is evidenced by the lack of criticism of many selections. Nor do I think that in a matter as important as the administration of the national railway any government of the future will select a man who is not competent and capable of administering this great trust.

My abject in rising, however, was to point out to hon. members of the house what was pointed out by the senior member of the house, the hon. member for Bonaventure (Mr. Marcil) only a few days ago, and to which I referred the other evening. There is no reason why we should run Canada like a soviet. There is no reason why we khould put the most important department of administration in this nation under men over whom this house would have no control.

If we are going to administer the affairs of Canada according to British parliamentary practice, we are certainly going to have parliamentary control over the administration of government. Someone said only recently that in a very few years we could turn Canada into a soviet, just by appointing a chief commissar, and that there were already commissars for every department of government. I believe the people of Canada will trust this government; I believe they will trust succeeding governments to make as good selections as can be made. If a panel were to be appointed to select names for submission to the government I can see no reason whatever for the existing commissioners having any say in recommending their favoured friends. The remaining commissioners will no doubt make friends. If future appointments were to be made by a panel, I think the chairman of the railway commission and a judge of the exchequer court could make recommendations to the government. I do not see, however, how even they would have any better opportunity of knowing the men available than would the Prime Minister and his Minister of Railways.

I do submit that the hon. member for Quebec East brought out the very point to which the Prime Minister referred only a few days ago, namely, that the men who are wanted will have to be sought after. It will not be the men who are applying for the job that the Prime Minister will want. No doubt to-day he and his Minister of Railways are canvassing the situation to see what men are available who W'ould meet the necessary requirements. I do not believe anything is to be gained by parliament or the government giving up its responsibility for a great national asset and appointing men who do not owe their appointments to parliament, which after all represents the owners of the road, and who do not owe their appointments to the administration in power, which after all must be responsible to the people for expenditures of money on the railroad.

I believe the government will be following the wishes of the country if they maintain British parliamentary institutions, and make appointments by governor in council of the men who are to be appointed in the first place, and the men who are to succeed when the original appointments expire.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

Mr. Chairman, I wish to be brief and to avoid covering the ground which has been previously covered by hon. members from this side of the house. When speaking on the introduction of the bill I remember the Prime Min-

C.N.R.-CI>Jl. Bill

ister made the statement that the appointments would be made much in the same manner as the appointment of judges. Undoubtedly Canada has been particularly fortunate in the appointment of judges. Naturally, when these men receive their appointments they bear the political complexion of the party in office.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Not always.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Edmonton):

Perhaps not always, but there are very few exceptions. Despite that fact however, I believe I may say without fear of successful contradiction that most of them, indeed all of them, have fulfilled their duties to the entire satisfaction of the litigants appearing before them, and to the public generally. However, I look upon these appointments from a different standpoint altogether. Judges are appointed to interpret the law and to settle disputes. In this instance, the men appointed will have to spend a very large amount of money. They will have to be business men, in the real sense of the word. No doubt what the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) has said is quite true. Personally, while I would not trust the judgment of the Prime Minister in all matters, in the selection of these gentlemen I should prefer his judgment linked with that of the Minister of Railways to that of a panel, as is set out by the provision in the legislation.

Moreover, if three gentlemen are to be selected who are going to spend and have control over as much money as the government of Canada spends annually, and if the enterprise is likely to remain in that position, then surely the government of Canada through the governor in council should retain control over appointments. I cannot, see that any good purpose would be served by delegating to any body, no matter how worthy a body it might be, the naming of the men from whom selections are to be made. There must be governmental responsibility, if this railway system is to remain, as we now term it, a national railway. So long as it is the railway of the people of Canada the government of the day must take responsibility for it. If they do not, my fear is that we will have the privilege of voting the necessary funds for the carrying on of the railway, but will have no control whatever over its management.

For those reasons I want to voice my opposition to the suggested' method of selection. I should very much prefer to leave such selection in the hands of the governor in council. May I say that I heartily agree with and concur in the protMr. C. A. Stewart.)

vision for the reduction of the board to three members, Further, I do not believe that so-called political patronage has had very much effect upon the operation and administration of the railways. True, there is some justification for the statement made so frequently to the effect that municipalities and different parts of the country exercise some influence upon the railways. With two competing railway lines in existence, that influence will be exercised again. However, I do not believe that is the reason that the national railways have suffered. As a matter of fact I am not prepared to admit that the national system has suffered much more than the privately owned system now running in opposition. I do sincerely trust that the government will agree to have control remain where it has been, namely in the hands of the governor in council.

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UFA

Robert Gardiner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARDINER:

Mr. Chairman, inasmuch as the Prime Minister has been good enough to ask for the opinions of hon. members in regard to this important matter, I shall state my opinion very briefly. The proposal to create a panel does not appeal to me at all, inasmuch as the two remaining trustees will have probably the greater say as to whose names shall be submitted as part of the panel. I am fully in accord with those hon. members who have suggested this afternoon that parliamentary control should continue. I am quite willing to trust any government which may be in power to find the proper men to put into these positions, when vacancies occur. One of the objections I have already voiced to the bill has been the taking away from parliament of practically the whole control over the national railways. So long as we have our present parliamentary institutions, with members of parliament responsible to their electors, parliament should exercise control. I believe the house would do well to ask the Prime Minister to accede to the request which has been made, namely that the governor in council should be responsible for all appointments made to the board of trustees, either in the first instance or to fill vacancies.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Mr. Chairman, I shall not speak until the hon. member for West Middlesex (Mr. Elliott) has spoken.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

If the minister is about to say that the government has decided to have the appointment of the original trustees and of those who are appointed to fill vacancies made in the same way, then it is not necessary for me to urge what I have stated on a former occasion. Having the power to appoint

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the three trustees, I believe the government should have power to fill the vacancies. If on the other hand the three are appointed from a panel, which I believe restricts the class from which they can be drawn, then in my view further appointments should be made in the same way.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

In view of the opinions expressed from all sections of the house the government has decided to accept the suggestion of doing away with the panel. Unfortunately the amendment as moved by the hon. member for Quebec South does, not fill the bill because, no doubt unintentionally, he moved that the whole clause after the word "occurring" be stricken out. Since the hon. member is not here to withdraw the amendment I shall have to ask the committee to vote it down, and then I will have an amendment moved simply striking out the words after the word "occurring" to the end of the sub-clause.

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CON

Armand Renaud La Vergne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

The CHAIRMAN:

That is the way the

amendment reads now, to strike out all the remaining words in the section.

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May 4, 1933