March 10, 1936

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am coming to that. I pointed that out to the civil service commission and to the committee which was subsequently appointed for the purpose of considering the matter. It was at once seen that some improvements should be made, and an improvement was made. In other words, the civil service commission accepted responsibility to a greater extent than it had theretofore done, so that some local person who was favourable to the appointment of a particular individual was not able to ensure his appointment regardless of other considerations.

As the matter stands to-day, there is a competitive examination, and there are, we will say, half a dozen candidates. As a result of the examination A is first, B second, then C, and possibly D. D, being a returned man, gets the preference and secures the position. The objection to including in the category of returned men those who have served in other branches of the service than the Canadian forces is not one about which I think the house would worry. I should fancy that most of us would realize that under present conditions the necessity that induced the framing of the law in the terms in which it was framed has largely disappeared and that possibly if the preference is rather for Canadians, those who enlisted in Canadian units, the difficulties would be overcome. But there are still other difficulties that arise in respect of men from other countries enlisting in our forces in the earlier stages of the war. However, I pass that by.

But when it comes to a question of taking the outside service entirely away from the commission and putting it into the hands of the government and the members of the House of Commons, that would in effect be providing that whenever there is a change of government there is a change in the outside service of this country. Stripped of everything-and we might as well look it fairly in the face-that is just what it means. For my part I cannot bring myself to believe that is the proper thing to do, and I do not believe any hon. member, calmly and quietly sitting down and considering this matter from the standpoint of Canada, will conclude that that is a desirable thing to do; nor do I believe many hon. members on second thought will regard it as desirable even in their own constituencies that that should be done.

There is a third class which is dealt with by this bill which introduces patronage perhaps in its worse form, and that is with respect to professional and technical appointees. It is provided in reality that the minister of the day of any particular department can remove anyone in that department he pleases, and, having removed him, can appoint whoever he pleases in his place, certifying that the person is qualified for the particular duties of the position. Now, under existing law the governor in council determines whether a man should be removed from office for cause; that is, the governor in council takes the final action. But this bill would substitute

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for the governor in council the head of the department, the minister, and I do not believe, sir, there is any minister who desires to be charged with that responsibility. I know what the pressure would be; there is not a member of this house who does not know what it would be.

I go a step further. I turn to the last section of the bill on page 3, and although it is not within the rules to discuss the bill section by section when dealing with the principle on the second reading, it is quite clear that the only way in which the real significance of the proposed section 64 of the Civil Service Act can be appreciated by the house is to look at the section itself, which reads:

Professional and Technical Positions 64. (1) Whenever, in the opinion of the head of a department, or the deputy head, the knowledge and qualifications required for a position in the civil service are, wholly or in part, professional or technical, the commission, on the request in writing of the head of the department, may appoint to the said position a person mentioned in the said request-

In other words, the commission is then bound to appoint the person named by the minister. The section goes on:

*-provided the head of the department has stated in his request that the person recommended possesses the required knowledge and qualifications and is duly qualified as regards health, character and habits.

In one case that I know of where an effort was made to obtain the appointment, during the last five years, of a certain person, this was suggested as a very desirable way in which to accomplish it; that isj, that the appointment would still be made by the commission but that the minister would name the person to be appointed and he would be appointed forthwith by the commission. Now, are we prepared, sir, to do that? Is the house prepared to accept that principle?

I think I can speak with some degree of, shall I say, painful understanding of this matter, for if any man has suffered by reason of not yielding to that particular form of attack in connection with the civil service, that man was the head of the late government. The effort that was made to do away with what has been done during these years was very great, and it required a good deal of resistance on the part of members of the administration to thwart that effort. But why was it resisted? It would have been easy to introduce a bill such as this, have it passed through the house and thereby create a new patronage list for the outside service and professional technical men. Why

did we not do this, and why do I suggest that this government will not do it?

First of all, we are endeavouring slowly to build up in Canada a civil service of which we can be proud. This has been a slow process. If any hon. members look back to the days when this country was formally established, from 1870 down through the eighties and the early nineties, and realize how difficult a task it has been to try to get into the minds of the people themselves the desirability of having a civil service that would be permanent in their positions, of supplying some provision for their old age, and of making the service a career, they will realize that we have made real progress. Having made progress up to this point, to compare our civil service with that of Great Britain is very much to our own detriment, because there it has reached the point at which no member of the British House of Commons would think of suggesting appointments in connection with postmasterships and matters of that sort in his constituency. Somebody might casually mention it, but that is not a matter that members deal with; it is entirely out of their hands; they do not desire to deal with it. How are we going to create in Canada a similar state of public opinion to that which prevails in Great Britain in connection with their service? We can do this only by frowning down measures such as this.

To give second reading to this measure at this time means that I, from my place in this parliament, have approved of the principle of patronage being restored in Canada. That is what it means. I suggest to the hon. gentleman who has introduced the measure that, if he were to abandon the latter part of his bill-the two should never have been put together-and keep the first part, there is something which the committee might discuss fully and carefully, and upon which it might arrive at a conclusion, one that would be in the public interest to arrive at and report to this house upon. But to ask us now to approve this means that the committee can do nothing more than say yes or no to it. A committee that is set up by the house to consider this question must be a committee that is going to say: We must have patronage returned. That is what it means, and that is the reason I say that we ought to look at it fairly. Do not let us blind ourselves with any specious reasoning about the matter, because there is no getting away from what it means. A committee such as the Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) has suggested, if it were set up to deal with this bill, must of necessity say,

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if we give the measure second reading: There will be a return to patronage in the outside service and the professional technical services of this country.

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LIB

Ross Wilfred Gray

Liberal

Mr. GRAY:

At what stage did the right hon. gentleman refer the Gagnon bill to a special committee?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

At the very start of it, and the reason was obvious. I have already given the reason; I do not know whether the hon. gentleman has followed me. The Gagnon bill dealt with two problems. One of them was this: It dealt with the question of merit, and I undertook to point out why I was willing that the bill should go to a committee. The reason was that I was desirous to have it settled once and for all whether the civil service commission could divest itself of its responsibility by sending somebody off somewhere a thousand or twelve hundred miles from here to ask a question upon which the ultimate appointment would depend. We set ourselves against that as strongly as we could, not because it meant the return of patronage in the worst sense, but because it would be injurious and inimical to the interests of the service as a whole.

There is one way in which this matter might be dealt with. If the hon. gentleman would take the trouble to look up the proceedings-I have not looked up the debate since that occasion-we would be relieved from committing ourselves to a principle of the bill-

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Which was done on several occasions in the last five years.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, but that was not what was before us.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No; the Secretary of State did not say that; he said quite the opposite. This bill could easily be brought within the provisions of such a suggestion. As it stands now it. contains, as I say, two distinct principles, one of which is arguable and can easily be disposed of, the other of which will be disposed of ultimately in this house- this question whether or not we shall see a so-called return to patronage. By following this course the Secretary of State commits himself to no principle and relieves himself of any obligation. I know in how difficult a position a government is in regard to a question of this kind. I have been through the same difficulty. Do not think that I do not appreciate the position of members of the treasury benches with regard to this bill.

If the members of the house commit themselves to no principle, with the understanding that they are not in any sense agreeing to the return of patronage or to placing the outside service in the hands of members of parliament or of the administration, I am not going to embarrass the administration by pressing the question of the principle involved in the second reading. I think it would be very wrong for me to do so, because during the last five years, when we were hurrying legislation through, frequently-

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

If the

right hon. gentleman will allow me to interrupt, that very thing was done when the central bank bill went through the house. The . leader of the opposition at that time said that we were in favour of the principle of having a central bank, but not of the principle of private ownership, which was contained in that bill.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

There was the wheat board bill; I recall several of them. But it was stated that, if it went to committee, there was to be no acceptance of the principle nor acquiescence in the principle. I can only say for myself-I cannot speak for others-that I have no desire to embarrass the administration, but I wish to make it abundantly clear as far as this bill is concerned that I am unalterably opposed to its principles, as I was in regard to the Gagnon bill. At that time I made it abundantly clear both in and outside the house that we were not prepared to return to patronage in the outside service, or to abandon the technical men to the ministers, or to leave the appointment of deputy ministers to the caprice of any minister, however eminent he might be. If the suggestion conduces to the orderly conduct of business, and the minister makes this point abundantly clear, I personally, though I cannot speak for anyone except myself, would agree.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

I desire to state that that is the very thing I had in mind. I tried to make it clear that we were not committing the house; that the house was not committed to the principle of the bill, but as some sections appear to be good, and others very debatable, I suggested as a means of understanding that the bill should go before a committee. I repeat again in the name of the government that there is no desire whatever to have the house committed to the principle of the bill except in so far as it is expedient to study further the matter of the civil service appointments.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. C. G. MacNEIL (Vancouver North):

I am astonished and dismayed to learn from the remarks of the minister (Mr. Rinfret) and the sponsor of the bill (Mr. Boulanger) that the government is even willing to entertain the idea of a return to patronage.

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. CRERAR:

No; that is not right. That is not the case at all.

Mr. MacNEIL; As I read the bill, one section excludes from the jurisdiction of the commission the outside service; other sections deal with promotion within the service and the manner of appointment to professional and technical positions.

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LIB

Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. CRERAR:

The government has not

accepted this bill; let me make that clear to my hon. friend.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

As I understand thematter, second reading of this bill would commit the house to the principle of thebill. As explained by the bill certainly the principle thereof is a return to patronage in so far as it affects the outside service, professional and technical appointments, promotions within the service -and dismissals from the service. The sponsor of the bill laidspecial emphasis upon the preference given former members of the allied forces. In that I think he dealt with a point of minor

consequence. I find on consulting the records that in recent years comparatively few in this category have even attempted to claim the preference, and as I understand the situation, organizations of ex-service men would offer very little objection to some slight amendment in this regard. These organizations, however, are alarmed at this moment at the suggestion that the outside service should be removed from the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Act. Such a step would abolish the principle of competitive examination with regard to these appointments, and the preference formerly extended exservice men would not be applicable in anything like the same degree.

It is well known to those who have studied the statistics in this regard that under the patronage system ex-service men have not enjoyed the preference of which they have been assured by the government. I point out to hon. members that at this time, when Canada is faced with the grave problem of caring for physically handicapped men, for the government even to consider a step that would not give them the preference that enables them in a degree to overcome these physical handicaps, would leave little ground for an appeal to employing interests throughout the country to absorb at least

a small percentage of those disabled through war service.

I am not in the least misled by the phraseology of this bill. It is polite fiction to suggest that in all instances ministers should make these appointments. Recommendations actually are made by political patronage committees, and it has been the sad experience of ex-service men seeking, through local patronage committees, employment in the public service, that the preference of which they have been assured under the order in council governing same has not been extended to them as generously as has been the case under the provisions of the Civil Service Act. As. the bill is phrased it would work some injustice to quite a large number of men, because it suggests that those who had their domicile outside Canada when they enlisted should be excluded from the preference. It is a fact that some men with previous Canadian residence enlisted in the Canadian forces while abroad, and in my opinion they should not be excluded from the preference under the Civil Service Act.

It is true, as the hon. member for Belle-chasse (Mr. Boulanger) has suggested, that there appear in the estimates from time to time items providing for exemptions from the Civil Service Act, but it is noteworthy that in- many of these instances the departments concerned have not exercised the authority so obtained but have actually referred such appointments to the civil service commission for selection through competitive examination. I might refer to the appointment of inspectors for drawback claims under the Department of National Revenue. The department referred these appointments to the civil service commission and secured excellent results from competitive examinations. I believe also that a number of appointments in the Department of External Affairs were made in this manner with excellent results, even though authority previously had been obtained by the department to make the selection without reference _ to the civil service commission.

The sponsor of the bill made some reference to delays and levelled some criticism against the manner in which the civil service commission has made appointments. If we study carefully how step by step parliament has endeavoured to accomplish civil service reform, how step by step it has established throughout the public service of Canada the merit principle based upon competitive examinations and how step by step it has endeavoured to assure civil servants of some security of employment, we must agree that

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it would be a serious, retrograde step at this time to abolish the merit principle to any degree and to place some 25,000 of these employees under the patronage system. I think it is not generally recognized that this bill would affect something like 25,000 employees of the outside service, and would abolish as far as they are concerned the assurances formerly given with regard to promotion on merit, dismissal only for good cause or for other than political reasons and so on, together with protection against appointments being made for purely political reasons. I suggest that at this time the proper step is to consider not the abolition of the merit principle but those steps that may be taken to improve and strengthen the facilities of the commission and to establish more definitely the merit system in appointments to the public service. Only in that way can that preference be assured which the country has generously extended to the ex-service men.

Some criticism was also directed against the commission with regard to their methods of conducting examinations. The sponsor of the bill stated that it was absurd to expect that three men could pass on all the applicants for any position in the civil service. It should be understood that the attempt is not made by three men to examine all these applicants. As a matter of fact, if we carefully analyze the work of the civil service commission we shall find that, to the extent that they have been provided with the necessary means, they have built up an expert examining staff. Provision has also been made for these examiners to visit various points in Canada to conduct either oral or written examinations. The manner in which improvement may be brought about is in the extension of these facilities rather than in their wholesale abolition as is suggested in this bill.

With regard to appointments to technical and professional positions, I think it is well to note that under the provisions of the Civil Service Act the commission from time to time has appointed advisory boards of experts, on which the departments have been represented. In this way departmental interests and the efficiency of the public service have been adequately safeguarded. I think if we take the long view of the situation we shall find that this procedure has resulted in the selection of the most competent men available for the positions and, in a very marked degree, has enhanced the efficiency of the public service.

Stripped of all its disguise, this bill suggests a return to the "spoils" system, and I am at a complete loss to understand why the government should even entertain a bill drafted in this form, definitely adopting the principle of patronage as applied to the out-12739- 60J

side service and definitely suggesting that political influence should dictate dismissals from the public service and the manner in which promotions should be made within the service. It would destroy for civil servants all semblance of permanency of employment, and would tend to drive away qualified young men by minimizing the attractiveness of a career within the public service. In my opinion this bill if adopted, even in principle on the second reading, spelling a return to patronage, would mean the undoing of the work of classification and organization which,, at a cost of thousands of dollars, has put the service on somewhat of a businesslike basis. It would suggest the creation of unnecessary but highly paid offices to satisfy the demands of political workers, the result being greatly increased expenditures which fall upon the shoulders of the taxpayers of the country. It would mean extravagant salaries, out of all proportion to the services rendered. It would mean an inefficient public service. The merit system not only attracts candidates of the best calibre for government positions, but also, by fair competition, selects the best available persons.

The bill, if adopted, would mean the abolition of the preference now accorded to returned soldiers in regard to government appointments. Ex-service men are not fooled in this regard. If appointments to the public service are made through patronage committees, no one is made aware of the positions to be filled except the favoured few who enjoy the good will of the party in power, and unless positions are widely and fairly advertised the preference to ex-service men is ineffective. The adoption of the patronage principle would be in every sense a retrograde step. In this connection it is interesting to note that even that powerful political organization in New York known as "Tammany" most definitely supports appointments by the merit system. Even the charwomen scrubbing the floors of the city hall must be certified by the civil service commission of that city.

Going back over the years I note that practically every parliamentary committer dealing with the matter of appointments ro the civil service has recommended that such appointments be based on merit only, and every one of those committees has definitely expressed opposition to the patronage system of appointments. It is recognized throughout the years that the efficiency of the public service clearly depends upon competitive examination of candidates and appointment by merit. It is interesting to note the history in this regard during the early years of cod

Civil Service Act

federation. As far back as 1877 a committee of this house stated:

The practice of making appointments by political patronage was considered by most of the witnesses to be bad both in principle and in results.... This system has been found to lead to great practical evils....

It was suggested at that time that recommendations for appointments should be by an independent commission. That is important evidence when we consider that it was given in the days when patronage was rife and when if at any time they were in a position to recognize any merits there might be in appointments under the patronage system.

Subsequently in 1881 a committee made some very definite recommendations against patronage and in favour of appointment by merit. This was done again in 1892 and in 1908. Then there is the report of a committee dealing with the Spinney bill, and later still the committee of which the late Hon. James Malcolm was chairman, who said:

Your committee is of opinion that the two fundamental principles of the Civil Service Act are the merit system and the system of appointment by competitive examination, and that both these principles must be preserved.

I have a note also of observations made more recently by our political leaders. Right Hon. Sir Robert Borden stated:

We must not shut our eyes to the abuses that have arisen and to the general denioraliza-tion in the public life of the country when the reward of office is regarded as a fair exercise of the party power.

We want in Canada a system of appointment by competitive examinations.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) on a certain occasion stated that:

The whole purpose of civil service reform was to remove altogether the possibility of ministers acting in a partisan way. If a measure of this kind (the Spinney bill) is permitted to pass it is setting back in a very real and substantial way the efforts of the past few years in the direction of civil service reform.

Again on another occasion the Prime Minister, speaking against the Spinney bill, said:

It is a step entirely in the wrong direction.

On March 30, 1933, the Prime Minister, dealing with a suggested amendment to the act with regard to appointments to the penitentiary service said:

This resolution involves the introduction of a bill which means a departure from the merit system and a return to the discredited patronage system with respect to appointments in connection with the penitentiaries of our country. In a word, it will make political

(Mr. MacNeil.]

machines out of the penitentiaries, and I want therefore to take very strong exception, at the very outset, to the passage of this resolution.

Again on the same date he said:

Although there are certain distinct limitations with respect to the manner in which the civil service commission has operated, nevertheless if we weigh the advantages against the disadvantages, particularly in regard to the great majority of appointments, the argument would be wholly in favour of retaining the merit system and promotion under it, rather than introducing the old system of having appointments by patronage.

In view of all these recommendations of various parliamentary committees and these statements by the Prime Minister and others I find at very difficult to understand why the government should even entertain the suggestions in this bill. With some dismay I heard the remarks of the Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) this evening. There can be no doubt that the bill suggests a return to patronage with respect to some 25,000 to

30,000 appointments in the outside civil service. It deals largely with the Post Office Department and the customs service, large institutions which have achieved some efficiency because they have been freed in some degree at least from the interference of party politics.

For these reasons I find1 it impossible to support the bill on second reading.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

The hon. member for Belle-chasse (Mr. Boulanger) has been very ingenious in the bills lie has introduced this year. In each case he has combined two separate bills. The first one was with regard to the post office services. I was in favour of one section of it, that referring to the possibility of doing away with the old tender system and having the carriers of mails paid on some regular basis. I think a good many of us were in favour of that aspect of the bill. But I have a suspicion that that was put in to cover up the other principle contained in the bill, that is the return to patronage, and some of us are so much opposed to the patronage system that we had to vote down the entire bill for that reason. We did not get a chance to discuss the first part which in my judgment was good.

Regarding the bill now before the house, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) said that the hon. member for Bellechasse the other night spent almost all his time discussing one particular phase of his bill, that is as to what particular class of returned men would come under the provisions of the measure. I myself think what the hon. mem-

Civil Service Act

ber for Bellechasse said had a great deal of merit. But it was only a little sugar-coating, as I think most hon. members recognized, in order that he might get away with the second part of the bill which is very vicious indeed. I am more than surprised that members of the Liberal party at large should countenance a bill of this kind. I think particularly of hon. members that I know from the west. I see the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Crerar); he is actually willing to concede the point and let this bill go to the committee. I am astonished that he should take such a position. I look at some other hon. members. I know there are certain members of the Liberal party who are willing to go to almost any length in reverting to the patronage system. I had hoped, however, that there would be a large number of hon. members of the Liberal party who would not under any conditions accede to any proposal of that kind.

When I saw the bill I thought probably it was just one of those bills which from time to time come before the house, and upon which a few private members have a chance to air their views and possibly to secure some publicity. I am disappointed indeed that the government, speaking through the Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret), whose remarks were to some extent evidently endorsed by other hon. members of the cabinet, can possibly consider anything of the sort. I know there are one or two members of the cabinet who in the past as private members have unblushingly advocated a return to the patronage system. As a matter of fact I now see one of them smiling at me across the floor of the chamber. We rather admired the frankness of the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) who, while a private member, expressed such views. I submit, however, that he must now remember that as a member of the cabinet he occupies a different kind of position, and has responsibilities which as a private member he could not possibly have felt.

I take it that in advancing to any degree the passage of a bill of this sort the government assumes a decided responsibility. The right hon. the leader of the opposition has referred to that section dealing with professional and technical positions which, under the bill, would be given over to patronage. I should like to deal for a moment with the possibility of doing away with the control of the civil service commission over outside service. If that is good for the outside services it is just as good for the inside services.

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LIB
CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The hon. member for Bellechasse (Mr. Boulanger) admits that. I take it that this bill represents the thin end of the wedge, and if it could possibly be passed this year-I think that is almost inconceivable -or if it could even receive consideration in committee this year, or next year, or at a later session, we would undoubtedly have another bill to do away with the control of the civil service commission over inside services. As a people are we prepared to take a retrograde step of that kind?

I confess that when I saw Liberals in this chamber holding such a large majority I became fearful that at this session, if not indeed for the whole parliament, we would have a stand-pat policy. I confess, however, that I did not realize that they would lend themselves to retrograde policies of this kind; I could not have conceived it. I think there are at least a certain number of hon. members in the Liberal party who have higher ideals for the future of their country.

Let me read section 49 as it stands to-day? The first part of it reads:

Promotion is a change from one class to another class with a higher maximum compensation, and vacancies shall be filled, as far as is consistent with the best interests of the civil service, by promotion.

Surely that principle is a good one.

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LIB
CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Someone suggests, "If it works." I am aware that our civil service commission has not been as efficient as it should have been, and one reason, as we all know, is the pressure of hangers on who have continually been trying to undermine the commission. We know that. It has not been as efficient as it should have been.

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

Is the fault not in the commission itself, and in its organization?

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March 10, 1936