Hon. C. H. CAHAN (Secretary of State) moved the second reading of Bill No. 4, respecting the bureau for translations.
He said: This bill has been the subject of rather violent criticism in certain sections of the public press. These criticisms, I believe, are due to lack of information as to the provisions of the bill, or an entire misapprehension as to its purpose. The government, let me asure you, is not endeavouring to destroy the confederation pact, or to preclude the use of the French language in the debates of parliament, in the reports of proceedings of parliament, or in the administration of the several departments and agencies of the government of Canada. I am hoping I may be able to remove some of these misunderstandings, and for that reason I beg the indulgence of the house while briefly I review the circumstances which convinced the government that the public interest demanded the moderate measures of reform embodied in this bill.
As soon as I became Secretary of State in 1930 I was informed, as the minister responsible for the administration of the Department of Public Printing and Stationery, that the publications of French translations of public documents were frequently so long delayed as to impair, if not to destroy, their usefulness to the government and to the public. A cursory review at that time showed that a very considerable number of the documents translated into and published in French were not published until at least six months after the English edition had been issued, and later the
Translations Bureau-Mr. Cahan
treasury board in making an investigation through an investigator appointed by them ascertained that a considerable number were not published and distributed until one year, at least, after the issue of the English edition to the public. These delays, it was urged, destroy the usefulness, to the people who were most interested, of these documents published in the French language. Oftentimes the documents could not be used in the French language until six months or more after the English edition had appeared. In a province, such as ours, and a city such as Montreal, which is now doing a very considerable business with European countries in which the French language prevails, it was reported to me that their business operations were hampered by the fact that the French editions were not available at an early date for transmission to their correspondents in France, Switzerland, Belgium and other countries.
I also received complaints from the heads of various departments that the cost of printing at the Department of Public Printing and Stationery was frequently in excess of the estimates obtained by them independently from printing establishments in Toronto, Montreal and also in Ottawa.
Such personal investigations as I was able to make into the conditions prevailing in the printing bureau convinced me that its overhead expenses were excessive, due I think chiefly to the fact that for many years under successive governments important appointments had been made to the printing bureau on the ground of political services rendered, rather than that such appointments were absolutely necessary for the efficient administration of that branch of the public service. Other important matters absorbed my attention, particularly matters dealing with reparations and matters relating to my ministerial duties as custodian of enemy property, and as you all know, in 1930 I had to proceed to Berlin where I was engaged for some time in making a settlement and an adjustment with the 'German government as to the respective liabilities of the two governments arising out of the war.
Again, after I returned, the matter came up and I was informed that the cost of printing, particularly the cost of printing translations into French, was frequently increased by the carelessness, if not incompetence in the preparation of the copy which was submitted by translators to the printing bureau for printing. After the type had been set up in the French language in accordance with the typewritten copy received by the King's Printer, such excessive alterations were fre-
quently made in the printed text as in some cases to double the cost of typesetting by way of corrections. I then ascertained that little if any governmental or administrative control was exercised over the preparation of translators' copy for the printers.
These matters, coming up from time to time, were brought to the attention of council by my colleagues and discussions were invited, I having to assume responsibility largely for the delays and excessive costs as minister in charge of the printing bureau. But the obvious remedy then seemed to be entirely beyond my official control. Nevertheless in the summers of 1932 and 1933 it was found impossible to give full-time employment at the printing bureau, especially to those who were employed by the month at prevailing rates. Out of the five hundred employees of that bureau I think four-fifths are temporary employees who have been so employed on monthly prevailing rates for ten, fifteen and even twenty years.
To meet the lack of employment we were compelled during those two summers to reduce the hours of labour at the bureau. We reduced the number of working days a week. Then we reduced the monthly employment by one week's compulsory vacation out of four, and finally it came down to two week's compulsory leisure or vacation in each month. This reduction bore heavily, in fact most severely, on compositors and others whose maternal language is French because, as is natural, they are largely engaged upon compositions in the French language at the printing bureau. The customary delays in the delivery of French copy for the printers, due largely to delays in furnishing the translations into the French language, prevented the bureau from working continuously on French composition during June, July, August and September.
Hon. members will recognize that the printing bureau is an absolute necessity during the session of parliament in order to cariy on the printing and publishing of debates and of the proceedings in parliament, but the summer time is the time when, to keep the printing bureau employed, it should have available for printing blue books, parliamentary returns, and other documents which are not immediately related to the work of the session. The delays in the delivery of the copy for these blue books, so called, gave rise to very considerable hardship, and especially to those employed at the bureau whose maternal language is French.
The printing work of the bureau, exclusive of cost of material, has been somewhat curtailed by a restriction of the activities of the
Translations Bureau-Mr. Cahan
administration in various departments. Although the public printing done outside the bureau in the printing houses in this and in other cities has been reduced from $462,000 a year in 1930-31 to $140,000 a year in 1932-33, a decrease of over $320,000 a year, nevertheless the printing done at the printing bureau has been reduced from $1,211,000 in 1930-31 to $1,056,500 in 1932-33, a reduction of $154,500; that is, a reduction in the cost of wages at the bureau. That is to say, that of the receipts of the bureau $154,500 less was available for the payment of salaries and wages of the people so employed. As a result of this in less than five months it became necessary to reduce the number of employees by 77, including 5 deaths, and these 77 were receiving aggregate annual salaries of $155,286. That was done in order to balance the account at the bureau. A few were retired by death but nearly all because they had reached the age of sixty-five or over. Many of those who were retired were under the Superannuation Act, and in the case of those who were not under that act an effort was made to give them a reasonable solatium. Of that entire 77 only six were hand compositors who had reached the age limit. There still remain in the bureau for hand composition alone 87 compositors and 36 linotype operators out of a total staff of 595, of whom 415 are temporary employees, so called. That is, they are employed on monthly wages at the prevailing rates in printing houses in Toronto and Montreal; but they are not under the Superannuation Act, and if they receive a month's notice they have to go out under the law without any compensation. Nevertheless I assure the house that I made every effort to keep these printers engaged by the month at the prevailing rate. The situation was somewhat relieved by a reduction in the large overhead expenses to which I have referred, an overhead which was greatly in excess of the reasonable needs of the establishment.
In October last, the copy, especially for the French copies of the so-called parliamentary returns and bluebooks, was not coming in. Notice was given in that month to forty employees who were on prevailing rates at a monthly wage that their services would be no longer required although the working hours and the days in the week worked had been reduced. These employees were notified of their retirement on December 31. On November 27 I went away for a month's holidays and returned on the day following Christmas. I was reliably informed that some of the employees under notice of dismissal had been unable, through lack of employment, to
save up sufficient during the summer to provide their families with fuel and food during the month of January. Hon. gentlemen who sometimes discuss in boards of trade throughout the country the necessity of reducing employment in the public service cannot realize the sense of personal responsibility which lies upon a minister when he approves of forcible retirements under such circumstances. These representations were made to me by clerical gentlemen and others who knew the condition of these families, and, when I reflected upon the hardship which would be imposed upon them by retirement, I found I could not sleep the Saturday night before New Year's day. In the morning I got in touch with the King's Printer and asked him to notify these forty employees to return to work on the Tuesday following. We decided to make some division of labour which would enable these men to keep their families warm and provide them with food during the succeeding winter months. These employees were brought back but there had to be a sharing of work by other employees with the result that they and others in the establishment could be given work for only two weeks during the month.
These facts have been before the government for nearly two years. I say deliberately that after giving conscientious supervision to the work of that department I find it impossible to give a continuous and fair measure of employment unless all departmental reports both in English and French are furnished as soon after the close of the session as possible in order to provide work for the intervening months before the opening of the next session.
I was absent from this country from the autumn of 1932 until the first week of February, 1933. During my absence complaints with respect to the furnishing of French translations from the printed translations by the printing bureau became so acute and other complaints as to the cost of operating the printing bureau under these circumstances became so numerous that the matter was brought up for careful investigation and reconsideration. On March 3, 1932, some
rumours with regard to the condition which then prevailed must have got abroad because I was asked in this house a question as to what recommendations had been made for a reduction in or the centralization of the translation services in the government departments and in parliament. I replied that an arrangement had been made for the appointment of an official in the Department of the Secretary of State who was to take charge of the translation of languages other than