February 21, 1939

LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

What does the hon. member mean by "party heeler"? Would he apply that term to the late Hon. Martin Burrell?

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

One who has given good party service. That was the trend of the discussion to which I listened to-day.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Where did you hear

that discussion?

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Never mind; let

me finish my statement. I say that undoubtedly in this country the general feeling is that appointments, especially to certain classes of positions, are made because of party services. I would take that very library position as an illustration, if you like. Most of us liked the late Martin Burrell very much. We thought he was a fine man. He was a literary man, but I would venture to say that Mr. Burrell had no special training as a librarian. He was a splendid literary critic, and possibly it may be a good thing that we should occasionally give some sort of emolument to literary people in this country in order to encourage them to continue writing. I have no particular objection to that, but I have some objection to anyone being appointed to the position of librarian who is not a qualified librarian. That is my position. It is a technical post to which should be appointed a man with the highest technical qualifications.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

I rise to a point of order. Mr. Burrell was a privy councillor; he is now dead, but he was a most able man.

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LIB

Charles Benjamin Howard

Liberal

Mr. HOWARD:

May I ask a question?

Just because-

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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. If the hon. member who has the floor does not give consent, he should not be interrupted.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Mr. Burrell's name was mentioned from across the floor. I was dealing with a general principle and as an illustration said that only an hour or so ago I heard that matter under discussion. It illustrates my point, namely, that to-day a great many appointments are made primarily in order that certain people who have given party service may be rewarded. That is my submission. I could give very many other illustrations; it just happened that this was the matter under discussion at the moment. My point is-and I think that I rightly interpret the feeling of the majority-that the people of Canada are sick of this kind of thing.

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LIB

William Rae Tomlinson

Liberal

Mr. TOMLINSON:

Did you ever ask for anything?

Mr. WOODSWORTH : No.Mr. TOMLINSON: Yourself?Mr. WOODSWORTH : No.Mr. TOMLINSON: Your party?Mr. WOODSWORTH : No.Mr. TOMLINSON: Any of your

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Not that I know of.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

The hon. gentleman is as firm as the civil service forms require.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I do not claim any

particular credit for that, simply because we are not in a position where we can expect to get favours.

. An hon. MEMBER: That is the simple

reason.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

It may be the simple reason, but I am speaking about a principle. I care not whether the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the Conservatives, the Liberals or any other party may be involved; the principle is that in this country we should have a system by which appointments should be made on merit after competitive examinations. That is the policy which I think ought to be maintained. We are constantly in danger of encroachment upon even the degree of non-partisan appointment that has so far been attained; for everyone knows that again and again in connection with certain appointments we have the phrase, "notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Civil Service Act." This matter is brought to our attention

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constantly, and I am really surprised that my good friend from Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) should have the courage, at this stage in the development of our political institutions, actually to plead or demand that we should go back to an earlier state of affairs from which we thought we were at least beginning to try to escape. I regret exceedingly the speech of the hon. member for Temiscouata and I desire to dissociate myself entirely from the sentiments that have been expressed.

There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. I submit that in so prejudging the work of the committee the hon. member has definitely disqualified himself from acting on the committee to which he is to be appointed for the present session. It is not so long since the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) quoted from Beauchesne's parliamentary rules and forms, as follows:

It shall always be understood that no member who declares or decides against the principle of a bill, resolution, or matter to be committed, can be nominated of such committee.

The Prime Minister went on to say:

Each hon. member of the committee will be expected, on his honour, to investigate fully the matter which has been referred to the committee of which he is a member. He will be expected, as one who is privileged to sit on the committee, to form his judgment with respect to what should be reported to the house.

And again:

no hon. member who had expressed views in this house which prejudged the situation would be entitled to sit on that committee.

That seems to me fairly clear. This motion is distinctly with regard to a certain special committee. We have the chairman of last year, who according to frequent custom would naturally be the chairman this year, prejudging the case. I would say that he has absolutely disqualified himself from serving on-that committee.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

I have refused to act as chairman.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

From sitting on the committee, I said.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

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

Mr. Speaker, as a back-bencher who served on the committee last year, I cannot let this occasion pass without saying a word or two. May I remind the house that a very searching inquiry was made into the operations of the Civil Service Act by the committee under the chairmanship of the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot). As the hon. member has indicated, a report which was unanimously assented to by all members of the committee was tabled in this house last

session. It was our expectation that there would be a motion for concurrence in the report and that on such motion there would be a debate with regard to the principles involved. It is a matter of personal regret to me that the hon. member should seize this occasion to anticipate the decision of the house with regard to the report and draw his own conclusions with reference to the evidence heard before the committee. May I make this point, and make it most emphatically: The conclusions which he has presented to the house this afternoon are not incorporated in the report of the committee as unanimously assented to by all the members of the committee.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

If my hon. friend will permit me? The report of last year is not before the house. I am simply expressing my personal views on the motion of the minister, which is entirely different.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

The report was agreed to by the hon. gentleman as chairman of the committee and it appears on the records of the house, although it is not formally before us at this session. I draw the inference from the motion of the Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) that it is the intention to proceed with the inquiry where we left off last session.

I have just this point to make, and other members of the committee can express their own personal opinions. Since the matter has been opened up this afternoon I submit that the weight of evidence indicated that during the past few years the staff of the civil service commission had been making a very honest and efficient endeavour on the whole to carry out the merit system of appointments in the civil service. That was the impression I gained personally as a result of listening day by day to the evidence presented before the committee. No charges of inefficiency or irregularity were made, and certainly there was nothing in the evidence to indicate that there was any less efficiency in that department than in any other department of the government. After hearing the members of the staff of the civil service commission, it was the general impression of members of the committee that after all they were efficient, that they had integrity of purpose with regard to the work entrusted to them, and that they were doing a first-class job.

May I make this point? The chief handicap imposed on the commission has been imposed by hon. members of this house who are determined, to force political patronage upon the civil service. One of the most

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astounding revelations made before that committee was that which showed the growth of political patronage in connection with appointments to the civil service under the present administration. We were presented with long lists containing thousands of positions which had been exempted from the provisions of the Civil Service Act, first by statute, again by the estimates, and again by orders in council. This has had a demoralizing result within the civil service, since we have attempted to merge two systems, a merit system under the civil service commission, and a political patronage system, with all the conflict and confusion thus involved.

Those of us who sit in opposition have knowledge of the method by which appointments are made by defeated Liberal candidates. We know of the antagonistic public opinion that has been aroused by reason of the interference of political patronage with regard to appointments to the civil service. The civil service commission has made an honest attempt to establish the principle that appointments to the civil service of Canada should be available to every citizen of the dominion, and that appointments should be secured by open competitive examination. There is no proper system of qualification, there is no suggestion of competition, when appointments are secretly made on the recommendation of a sitting member, a defeated candidate or a political committee. We have a sad state of affairs in the civil service, but that sad state of affairs is due to the deter. mination to foster political patronage. I should like to refer again to the evidence given by Sir Francis Floud, then high commissioner for the United Kingdom. He spoke very eloquently and very convincingly of the British tradition of appointments now maintained in the United Kingdom. I think that when we heard his evidence many of us desired that the day should come soon in Canada when we would have a similar tradition in the Canadian civil service and get away entirely from all the miserable intrigue that is associated with political patronage.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

I did not wish to interrupt my hon. friend when he was speaking, but there is just one statement I should like to make in order to make clear a certain situation. He referred to orders in council which had been passed taking a number of employees out from under the jurisdiction of the civil service commission, and the impression that might be left with the house would be that

71492-74$

the government itself had initiated that procedure or that particular course of action. I think I am right in saying that wherever that was done, and it has been done in some cases, it was at the instance of the civil service commission itself. The commission reported to the government that in its opinion there were certain classes of appointment in connection with which it would be much better for the government to accept responsibility rather than the civil service commission, and action was taken accordingly. I am certain I am right in that.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. J. E. LAWSON (York South):

Mr. Speaker, before the Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) speaks I feel I should make a comment or two with respect to the subject matter under discussion, in view of my past experience in connection with the civil service. I was originally a member of the committee which sat last year, but I had myself replaced because of the fact that other committees of which I was a member were meeting at the same time as the civil service committee. So I was not a party to the report made last year.

In 1932 I had the honour to be chairman of a small special committee of this house which conducted a somewhat extensive investigation into the administration of the Civil Service Act. I will be frank to confess that when I first entered upon that inquiry, representing as I do a constituency some 275 miles from Ottawa, I had the general impression which seemed to prevail in that part of the country from which I came that a civil service job was something of a sinecure, and that the best-off people in this country were the civil servants. From my experience in that exhaustive inquiry and from experiences I have had before and since in departments of government, I would be unfair and unjust did I not say that, taken by and large and all round, I think we have in the civil service of Canada a group of men of whom we can well be proud. I will admit quite frankly that I have gone into offices in some departments of the government service here and seen practices prevailing which would not be permitted or tolerated in private enterprise, but such cases are very few and far between. I am always-I was going to say amazed, but I will put it in this way-I am always surprised at the ability and the energy displayed by a great many of our civil servants in the course of their duties, having regard to the comparatively small remuneration which many of them receive.

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Having said that much, I concede that there are many absurdities in the so-called merit system. As pointed out by the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) I did when I was chairman of the civil service committee, realize the absurdity of attempting to select floor sweepers and window cleaners and truck men on any so-called merit system and competitive examination basis. I want to be frank and say that much of the report which I as chairman moved in the house in 1932 did not contain my views in their entirety with respect to the civil service. In order to obtain unanimity in the committee there had to be a considerable amount of give and take, and in the long run my job as chairman was to present not my own views but those of the majority of the committee.

So far as the civil service commission itself is concerned, I am confident that they are making a real effort to carry out the job which this parliament has assigned to them. But when you assign to them the job of selecting people for minor positions involving manual labour, I think it is a huge joke to fill these positions on a competitive merit basis.

I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether my hon. friend from Temiscouata intended to convey in his remarks his opposition to nonpartisan appointments for civil service positions in general. If he did I must say that I do not subscribe to that policy. It is a great blessing that we have not in force in the Dominion of Canada a patronage system without any qualification attachments thereto, and I for one shall not advocate such a system. But I am free to say that many improvements might be made in the system which now prevails, particularly in two respects: (1) Eliminate from the so-called merit system minor positions where physical effort and physical labour are required; and (2) change the whole basis of examination for many of the minor positions in the civil service in respect of which examination now prevails.

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February 21, 1939