February 21, 1939

CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. ANGUS MacINNIS (Vancouver East):

Mr. Speaker, I have I think been on every special civil service committee that has been appointed by the House of Commons since 1936. I sat on the committee last year, and I am rather sorry to hear the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) say many of the things he did this afternoon. It was reminiscent of some of the committee's meetings last year. I think he will agree with me that after the committee had had a number of sittings and said a number of things, some

of which I think should not have been said, we got down to business and I believe did some very good work.

I was also sorry to hear the hon. member for Temiscouata make certain references to employees under the civil service commission. I do not think the evidence given by these persons when they appeared before the committee last year bears out the statements that he made in regard to them to-day. If there was anything that stood out in the committee last year it was that these employees demonstrated to the committee that they were fully qualified to deal with the matters with which they were called upon to deal.

I do hope that when this year's committee is organized and gets down to work we shall give our attention wholly and solely to matters with which it is necessary to deal in order to have the civil service function in the best possible way. I have too much respect for the business instincts and business ability of most members of the cabinet to think for one moment that they are not in favour of the merit system, and of appointments to the civil service being made on the basis of ability and merit. The patronage system would make their work even more difficult than it is to-day, and we must all admit that it is difficult enough as it is.

The hon. member for York South (Mr. Lawson) referred to the great blessing of not having an absolutely unqualified patronage system. Now if it is a blessing to have a merit system, even if it is not a complete one, if we have a good system through having eliminated a great deal of patronage, surely we could have a better system if we eliminated all patronage. That is a matter which the committee can go into this year. Before I sit down I must again say that I deeply regret that the hon. member for Temiscouata made the references he did in his remarks to-day to certain members of the civil service.

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LIB

Charles Benjamin Howard

Liberal

Mr. C. B. HOWARD (Sherbrooke):

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to detain the house on this question at the present time. I am entirely in favour of setting up a special committee on the civil service this year, as there are certain defects in the present system which I think it is important to remedy and in respect to which I hope the committee now to be appointed will recommend appropriate action.

On the question of patronage I would say to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) that I cannot see that it would be worse to place the patronage in the hands of the elected representatives of

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the people of Canada than to leave it in the hands of an irresponsible body, one which is not responsible to the electors in a democracy. I am entirely in favour of the merit system and of the educational test. I think nobody questions that, but I do say to those who approve that system one hundred per cent that at a time when we are appealing to our manufacturers and industrialists not to let men out because they are over age, thereby throwing them on the country for support, we have no right to limit the age for appointment to the civil service and say that because a man is over thirty-two he shall have no opportunity to get this or that particular position, especially when it is a junior position. When this matter is brought up I can submit two cases.

Let me say further that during my fourteen years as representative of the city of Sherbrooke I have been but twice to the civil service commission: once, when I first arrived here, to be introduced to the personnel, which has since changed; and once when I went down on an appeal in such a case as that to which I have just referred. In the administration of justice in this country we have courts of appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada and the privy council; but we have set up a civil service commission beyond which there is no appeal. In this respect, and it goes to the fundamental aspects of the matter, the principle is entirely wrong. I will give an example. Not very long ago an examination was set by the civil .service commission in English, and quite properly so; then the English paper was handed over to departmental officers to be translated into French so that French-Canadian students could answer the questions in their own language. In the translation they used in one question three words which changed entirely the sense of the question, so that French-speaking candidates did not have the same chance as the English-speaking ones. I have been to the civil service commission three times, and they refuse to rectify the mistake, which they admit, saying "We will just take that question out"-but they refuse to hold a new examination.

I am entirely in favour of a civil service commission, but I think it has been going too far. I hope that the committee to be set up this year will see to it that there is a court of appeal from the commission, responsible to the parliament of Canada, where grievances such as I have just mentioned can be redressed.

Another thing: Let us not forget that,

while the maximum age of appointees has

been limited to thirty-five years, and an educational test has been provided, there is another factor which to my mind is more important than any other, and it is the suitability of the candidate for the position he is to occupy. In the constituency I represent, which is eighty per cent French-Canadian and Catholic, I defy anybody, no matter what part of the country he comes from, to show that there is any one as well qualified to tell which man is best suited to a job as the elected member of the constituency of Sherbrooke, who at this time happens to be myself.

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?

Thomas Miller Bell

Mr. COLDWELL:

What about the defeated candidate, if there was one?

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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

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LIB

Charles Benjamin Howard

Liberal

Mr. HOWARD:

Well, he is not responsible. From 1930 to 1935, when the Tories were in power, I was still the elected member for Sherbrooke. Let me tell the hon. member who just interrupted that during that time I was perfectly satisfied that the defeated Conservative candidate, who happened to be a supporter of the then government, should make the appointments, and during those five years you will not find one single word of criticism from me of his having done so. But I do say this, that when it comes to the aptness of the candidate to suit the mentality of the people he is going to serve, whether you have a civil service commission or not, whether the choice is made by the elected member. Conservative, Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, Independent, Labour or Liberal, where is there as good a judge of the suitability of the candidate as is the representative of the people?

Several other points occur to me, but I am not now going to take time to discuss them. I hope that when this subject goes to the committee it will be considered from a nonpolitical point of view, a businessman's point of view, and that we shall set up or increase the machinery in such a way as to render to the people of this country a service which will be more in line with real democracy.

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SC

William Hayhurst

Social Credit

Mr. WILLIAM HAYHURST (Vegreville):

Mr. Speaker, I was not a member of the civil service committee, but as a new member of this house, after listening to the arguments which have been set forth, it seems to me that there are some factors which we must develop in the merit system administered by the civil service commission. The last speaker remarked that appointments should be non-political. Possibly most hon. members are in favour of non-partisan appointments, but they feel also that they can be

Civil Service-Special Committee

made in a business manner, after appraising the educational and tactual equipment of the candidates.

Speaking educationally, it is generally understood, that there are two general types of people: those who respond to mental tests -the intelligence quotient, if you like-the sum of the qualities making for the mental personality; and those whose physical personality is the primary essential. The latter is adjusted more to responses due to ability to learn to do things in a physical way-for instance, to learn to ride a bicycle and make a good errand boy; whereas by intelligence tests you select and determine the mental efficiency of an applicant. Consequently we must consider the question from the standpoint of psychology.

Let me say as a new member that I have found the most efficient and courteous services rendered to us by every civil servant whom we have approached in the House of Commons and the houses of parliament generally.

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SC
SC

William Hayhurst

Social Credit

Mr. HAYHURST:

So we feel that some good has been accomplished through the merit system. At the same time we believe that in regard to the appointment of persons whose work requires tactual skill, the selection is best made by a committee which will test the tactual ability as well as give consideration to his personality from the point of view of the mental qualities required in the particular position.

Certainly we should not overthrow the merit system. The civil service requires an entirely different personality from political life: I

believe that a politician would be about the last person who could successfully pick out candidates to fill certain civil service posts. I wish to place myself on record as being fundamentally in favour of the merit system, with probably some additional consideration given to the type of person required for jobs other than those in which mental capacity is most important.

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CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. H. C. GREEN (Vancouver South):

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Temis-couata (Mr. Pouliot) with his usual alertness, has placed the rest of us at a great disadvantage, because he came down to the chamber to-day prepared to make a detailed and comprehensive speech, whereas all the rest of us are taken by surprise. In fact, as he was speaking on personality, I could not help feeling that he would be certain to get one hundred per cent of the marks for that quality, no matter who might be the examiner.

It was my privilege last year to serve on the special committee to consider the civil service of Canada. We went into the matter very thoroughly. I believe we held over fifty meetings. Some of them were exciting. Certainly they were all interesting. The members who served on the committee learned a good deal about the civil service. But the committee meetings lasted so long that a report was not brought in until a day or two before the house closed and there was no opportunity to consider the report. It was our understanding, however, that the government at this session would afford an opportunity very early in the proceedings of the house to discuss the report. I suggest most earnestly to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) that he provide an opportunity for the discussion of last year's report before going on to set up a new committee. If the former report were considered many points would be cleared up and the work of this year's committee would be greatly simplified. No doubt, the Prime Minister will see what advantages would follow from such a course, merely from the discussion that has taken place here to-day.

My impression was quite different from that of the hon. member for Temiscouata with regard to the findings of last year's committee. There were many things on which we did not agree, but I think that the civil service commission came out of a most searching investigation with flying colours. We were unable to consider the examination branch, and yet to-day the member for Temiscouata has attacked the work of that branch without the committee having considered it in detail last year. I think he will agree with me that this is correct. It is most unfortunate, and I am afraid that such an attack hurts our civil service. I do suggest to the members of the house that the merit system, instead of being inefficient, instead of having broken down, was shown by last year's investigation to be so good that it should be extended. For example, it should be extended to the employees of the national harbours board. It should be extended to the small post offices which were taken out some years ago.

I do not agree with the hon. member for York South (Mr. Lawson) that the positions of cleaners and helpers should be removed from the operation of the act. We debated that point in the committee last year. We fought over it for a long time and in the end the majority opinion was that the positions of cleaners and helpers should be kept under the act where they are at the present time.

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Let me make this suggestion in conclusion. Democratic governments are on trial to-day as never before, and democratic government cannot function without a first-class civil service. After all, members of the house and of the senate are only one part of the democratic system. The civil service is a very important part of the system, and we cannot have good government without a first-class civil service. I believe that in Canada to-day we have a first class service, and I hope that this parliament will do everything in its power to give that civil service a chance to go ahead and do its job.

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LIB

William Rae Tomlinson

Liberal

Mr. W. R. TOMLINSON (Bruce):

I did not intend to speak on this question this afternoon, but after listening to some of the remarks that have been made, especially by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), who describes the committee as more or less a joke, I must say that the members of that committee who sat last year for a period of four months, two hours a day and sometimes four, were not sitting there for the good of their health. I remember quite well going into that committee as a new member of the house, as one who had discussed the whole civil service question with Mr. Parker of the commission in Great Britain, and who had some idea of the civil service in Great Britain, and I had a very high opinion of the civil service commission in Canada. I still have a very high regard for the merit system in Canada. I do not desire anyone in this house or anyone in the country to feel that I have in my mind no other idea than to go back to the old patronage system.

May I here refer to what Sir Robert Borden did in 1918. I did not know him personally but I had read about him and I honoured him. When he came back from Great Britain he immediately placed under the civil service commission all the positions in Canada, but he had no sooner done so than he realized his mistake. He saw that there were certain small positions in regard to which merit did not enter, and we have since seen certain exemptions made. For instance there are positions of $200 and under which are not under the commission, and there are revenue post offices of $3,000 and less which are not under the commission. Why are they not under the commission? Because the people are becoming tax conscious; that is why. We set up a civil service commission to make appointments on merit, that is, with regard to positions that require merit. But when you tell me-and I spoke on this question in my maiden speech in this house-that I cannot

appoint somebody to a little lighthouse, a lighthouse keeper who lights the lamp in the evening, turns it out in the morning and cleans it, when you tell me that I am not capable of making such an appointment and that we must have someone from Ottawa, from the civil service commission, travel up there, or have a high school principal in Port Elgin or Kincardine make the appointment, then I say we are simply wasting the money of the people of this country for the reason that members of this house will not take their own responsibility. The people of Canada are to-day conscious of that fact.

During the sittings of the committee I was perhaps the one who brought forward the question of taking out the small positions from the civil service commission. I questioned the chairman of the commission, a man for whom I have a great deal of respect, because he gave his evidence in a straight forward manner. He is a man who knows what he is talking about, and he informed me that the small positions in the civil service caused more trouble than anything else that they had to deal with. I believe that. He said, " We would be glad to get rid of them." That is correct. When the matter came before the committee, as mentioned by the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green), the majority of the committee decided that all the positions should be under the civil service. That is ridiculous, but I had to abide by that decision and naturally the report came in with that recommendation. *

I did not come down prepared to speak on this subject. However, I do not like the insinuations from the third party in this house in connection with patronage. Nobody in my riding can accuse me of patronage.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

William Rae Tomlinson

Liberal

Mr. TOMLINSON:

Let them prove it.

Not one of them can. I do not like that insinuation from parties who have never had the responsibility of government. They have never had that responsibility. But they desire to spread throughout this dominion the idea that they never ask for a favour. Let them stand in their place and tell me they have not asked a favour on behalf of their constituents; I would tell them that if they do not look after their constituents they are not representing their ridings as they should.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

I should like to ask the hon. member a question. What does he mean when he says that hon. members do not carry the responsibility of their constituencies, do not look after their constituencies?

Civil Service-Special Committee

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LIB

William Rae Tomlinson

Liberal

Mr. TOMLINSON:

I did not say that. I said if they stand in their place and say they never asked a favour on behalf of their constituents-

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Thomas Miller Bell

Mr. COLD WELL:

A right.

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LIB

William Rae Tomlinson

Liberal

Mr. TOMLINSON:

-a right, whatever you wish to call it, they are not looking after their constituents. Correct? I say that.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

What would be the use of asking a favour when the defeated candidate in each constituency has complete control over even the smallest appointment?

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LIB

William Rae Tomlinson

Liberal

Mr. TOMLINSON:

I do not know about the hon. member for Grey-Bruce-

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IND

James Samuel Taylor

Independent

Mr. TAYLOR (Nanaimo):

If we are called upon to rise in our places I rise in mine and say that I have never asked any patronage favours for my constituents.

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LIB

William Rae Tomlinson

Liberal

Mr. TOMLINSON:

The hon. member can speak after I have finished. I am not in favour of this patronage system without proper qualifications. I try in every instance, and I think every hon. member does, to present a man who is fit, and work for that particular man. And I believe the civil service commission as it is now constituted renders a useful service. It has control of salaries, it has the recommendations for reclassification, one may say; and I think it renders a great service. As I have indicated, I sat on this committee last year, and I admit I brought in no recommendation or minority report as to the qualifications of the commissioners. But I did notice that in 1932-I see the hon. member is not present now-and in 1934 the committee recommended the removal of all the civil service commissioners. In our report did we recommend the removal of the civil service commissioners? No. Everyone knew there was one commissioner that I would remove if I had the opportunity; I refer to Mr. Potvin, and I stood in the committee and said so. I say that he is not capable of acting on the commission because of his own admissions in that committee. He admitted that when he was appointed he had no special qualifications. He admitted that he went to Montreal and charged 8125 for taxi fares. He was appointed in the spring of 1935 by the former government, and was supposed to represent the French-Canadians. His residence of course is Manitoba. This civil service commission should include a properly qualified person from the province of Quebec; it would save a great deal of the difficulty we are now having. The province of Quebec, the French-Canadian citizens of this country, are entitled to proper representation, but they

are not receiving it. A man who would place a note on the files before they came over here, to the effect that "this young man cannot be appointed because he belongs to a drama league"-that was his reason for not agreeing to, the appointment-how ridiculous it is that a man like that should be on the civil service commission! He should be removed immediately and a proper appointment made from Quebec in whom the French-Canadians would have faith. I say these things because they appear to me to be very important.

The chairman of the committee of last year did not agree with everything I said, and of course I did not agree with everything he said, but it was the first committee of the house on this subject, regardless of 1932 or 1934, that actually conducted its investigation without an eye to political expediency. I say that without fear of contradiction. There was no question in our investigations last year of pulling out files to try to affect the Conservative party. But we did try to ascertain what was the difficulty with the merit system as it now stands, and I was surprised when a certain witness-I may as well mention his name; it was Mr. Phelan, the head of one of the civil service federations,-admitted that he could not answer our questions properly because of certain effects that might follow. Is that the way the heads of these federations should present their case to a committee that is trying to investigate? They should be prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, without fear. That is why we are there; we are not sitting there for fun-at least I am not.

I shall be pleased to act on this committee and to cany forward the work of last year. And I want it to be known that it is not for patronage that I am sitting on the committee. It is a nuisance, but it will be done in the service of the country.

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February 21, 1939