April 20, 1943


On the orders of the day:


?

Thomas Miller Bell

Mr. M. J. COLD WELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

I should like to ask a question of the Minister of Justice. I have been informed that on or about April 7 an act of the Alberta legislature known as the Land Sales Prohibition Act was disallowed. . If that is so, will the minister table in this house a report of that disallowance?

Hon. L. S. ST. LAURENT (Minister of Justice): I shall be glad to do so.

Topic:   ALBERTA LEGISLATION
Subtopic:   DISALLOWANCE OP LAND SALES PROHIBITION ACT
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PARLIAMENTARY ASSISTANTS TO MINISTERS


The house in committee of supply, Mr. Brad'ette in the chair.


LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS


116. To provide hereby, notwithstanding anything contained in the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act or the provisions of the Senate and House of Commons Act respecting the Independence of Parliament, for payment out of the consolidated revenue fund to each member of the House of Commons appointed by the governor in council to be a parliamentary assistant (which appointment shall not render such member ineligible or disqualify him as a member of the House of Commons) to assist a minister of the crown in such manner and to such extent as the minister may determine and to represent his department in the House of Commons in the absence of the minister therefrom, a salary of four thousand dollars per annum and pro rata for any period less than a year, $40,000.


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 should like to have this item amended in order to clarify its meaning in one or two particulars. I shall ask my colleague, the Minister of National Defence, if he will move the amendment. I should like to give the item in its amended form to the committee in advance:

That vote No. 116 of the main estimates for the year ending March 31, 1944, be amended to read as follows:

116. To provide for payment out of the consolidated revenue fund to each person appointed by the governor in council to be a parliamentary assistant to assist a minister of the crown, and to represent his department in the House of Commons, in such manner and to such extent as the minister may determine, a salary of $4,000 per annum and pro rata for any period less than a year: provided however that notwithstanding any act or other law to the contrary payments made hereunder shall not render any such person, if he be a member of the House of Commons, liable to any penalty or disqualification, or vacate the seat of any member of the House of Commons or render such member ineligible to sit or vote in the said house and no person receiving payment hereunder shall thereby be disqualified as a candidate at any dominion election, $40,000.

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The house is

being asked to appropriate the amount mentioned in order to implement the undertaking which appeared in the speech from the throne on January 28 and which reads as follows:

You will be asked to make provision for the appointment of parliamentary assistants to those of my ministers whose duties have become particularly onerous because of the demands of war.

In asking the house to make an appropriation for assistants to ministers the government is not putting forward a proposal that is by any means a new or novel one. For many years in the British House of Commons there have been parliamentary under-secretaries to ministers of the crown. We have felt that the designation "parliamentary assistant to the minister" would be more appropriate as applied to our parliament than would the term "undersecretary". The designation "under-secretary" is used in the British house largely because at Westminster most of the ministers of the crown are known as secretaries of state. There is a secretary of state for foreign affairs, a secretary of state for war, a secretary of state for air, a secretary of state for the colonies, a secretary of state for home affairs, a secretary of state for India and the like; the members who are appointed as their parliamentary assistants are known as under-secretaries.

In the United States similarly the executive heads of departments are known as secretaries, of state, of the treasury, of war and so on. But in Canada ministers of the crown are not so designated. We have one Secretary of State, who begins and ends there, and there is the Secretary of State for External Affairs, but they are the only two who are designated as secretaries of state. The other ministers are ministers almost exclusively so designated in relation to their several offices. It has seemed more appropriate that the assistant to a minister here, the one who will hold a corresponding position to parliamentary under-secretary in the United Kingdom, would be best designated as parliamentary assistant to the minister of the department specified.

I would remind the committee that appointment of assistants to ministers was made at the time of the last war under Sir Robert Borden's administration. At that time Sir Robert selected two members, one of whom was known as parliamentary secretary of militia and defence. Mr. McCurdy, who was at the time member for Shelburne-Queens, received that appointment. Later he was appointed parliamentary secretary of soldiers' civil reestablishment. Then there was the appointment of a parliamentary secretary of state for external affairs. That position was held for a time by Mr. Hugh Clark, Bruce

Supply-Parliamentary Assistants

North, and later by Mr. F. H. Keefer, Port-Arthur-Kenora. Provision for these appointments was made by order in council of July, 1916. They were subsequently confirmed by legislation which lapsed at the close of the war.

I have in my hand copy of the statutes of 1917 which contains the legislation relating to those appointments.

Shortly after the Liberal administration came into office in 19211 sought to have the ministers at that time adopt the practice of having under-secretaries. No provision was made by parliament for their payment, but I thought a beginning might be made by appointing members of the house who would be prepared to act for a time at least, in a voluntary way as do parliamentary private secretaries in Great Britain. I appointed at the time as undersecretary for external affairs Mr. Lucien T. Pacaud, the then member for Megantic. Mr. Pacaud was of real assistance to me in the course of the session. But my colleagues did not follow my example at the time, and I was not in a position to compel them to, especially as there being no salary attached to the position, members were not too keen about giving the extra time required without some emolument.

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

May I ask if the gentleman to whom the Prime Minister has just referred was formally appointed as assistant, or was it done in an informal way?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Just in an informal way, much as is done in the case of the parliamentary private secretaries to ministers in the House of Commons at Westminster. Mr. Pacaud was subsequently appointed to an important post in the high commissioner's office in London. His association with the Department of External Affairs helped to qualify him for the appointment which he subsequently received.

I am obliged 'to my hon. friend for his interruption, because it recalls to my mind that in the British House of Commons the practice prevails for all departments of the government, of having associated with the ministers of the crown in parliament not _ only under-secretaries to the secretaries of state but also parliamentary secretaries and parliamentary private secretaries in the House Commons or the Lords. The parliamentary private secretaries receive no salary, but the parliamentary under-secretaries and parliamentary secretaries do receive salaries. In some of the departments in the United Kingdom there is more than one parliamentary secretary or under-secretary. In the case of some ministries in Britain there are joint

parliamentary secretaries, in some cases parliamentary under-secretaries in the House of Lords as well as in the House of Commons. There are also financial secretaries. All this has been found necessary because of the extent of the work that has to be performed by the administration, and in order to provide parliament more promptly and with more in the way of the information which hon. members are anxious to obtain than would otherwise be possible.

I have mentioned the first attempt in this parliament to appoint under-secretaries. The next was in 1936. The speech from the throne of that year contained the following paragraph:

A bill to provide for the creation of parliamentary secretaryships will be submitted for your consideration.

I mention the 1936 intention to appoint parliamentary secretaryships because for many years I have personally felt strongly that it would be of great advantage to parliament and also the country to have younger members of parliament become familiar with the work of the different government departments, that this would also assist parliament itself in getting information in a more comprehensive way than might otherwise be possible, and would afford ministers assistance they certainly require. It is a little difficult for me to explain just why the appointment of undersecretaries was not proceeded with at the time, but I think I may be able to make the matter fairly clear. In the first place there is always some hesitancy in introducing anything in the nature of an innovation, particularly when dealing with institutions as old as our parliaments, but that was not the main difficulty as I see it. In the appointment of parliamentary under-secretaries it is necessary that responsibility for the appointment must be shared. The Prime Minister himself has to take the responsibility of making the appointment, but it is imperative that he should make it in consultation with the minister who is at the head of the department in connection with the affairs of which the under-secretary will be called upon to serve. I have found, in forming governments, that there is no task in the world more difficult, and in some ways more unpleasant than, having to select some persons as colleagues, and to pass over others, because of considerations of which we must take account in this country in most of the appointments we make, considerations of geography, considerations of race, religion, and the like. In the case of selecting under-secretaries, I found that when it came to having individual colleagues make selections these considerations seemed to occasion them a good deal of em-

Supply-Parliamentary Assistants

barrassment. There was also this third reason. I believe a selection could have been made more readily if there had been provision for a number of appointments being made at one and the same time. Hon. members will see for themselves how hesitant ministers are likely to be when called upon to make an individual selection here and there, and in so doing seemingly pass over a number of other members of parliament.

There is the further reason that, in earlier years, the need has not been as imperative as it has become since the outbreak of war. There has been a growing recognition in parliament and in the country of the great need for the appointment of assistants to ministers. We have had resolutions in this house, one moved by the hon. member for Wellington South (Mr. Gladstone), who has discussed at different times the importance of having appointments of this kind made. The hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Slaght) spoke at considerable length in 1936, and also more recently in February, 1942, in connection with the desirability of making appointments of this character. Never before have we had so large a measure of agreement on the necessity of these appointments as we have at the present time. I need not remind my hon. friend, the leader of the opposition, that at the convention in Winnipeg his party, if I am not mistaken, came out quite strongly for the appointment of assistants to ministers or undersecretaries in the House of Commons. At all events, its new leader has, and I know the leaders of the other parties in this house have also expressed the view that such appointments would be of assistance to all concerned. I take it therefore that at the present time the. House of Commons, while it may disagree on some details, is generally of the opinion that assistants to the ministers should be appointed at least for this time of war.

That causes me to say a word as to why I am asking the house to vote the necessary supply by an item in the estimates rather than to support a bill setting out more or less in detail the duties and functions of those who are to fill these positions. I believe the experience of the past, particularly that at the time Sir Robert Borden made an effort to establish under-secretaryships, has shown that it is preferable in time of war, and for the year immediately following war, to regard these as more or less temporary positions. Undoubtedly the house will in the interval become accustomed to the practice of having parliamentary assistants to ministers. We will see the advantages and disadvantages of the practice, and I should hope that, as soon

after the war is oyer as possible, a bill might be passed which would serve to perpetuate the system, and which would be so drafted as to make quite clear the functions and duties of those appointed to this office.

In regard to the salary, it is proposed that the salary of an assistant to a minister should be 14,000 a year. This means that the duties of those so appointed will not be confined merely to* the service they may render in the House of Commons. The word "assistant" is used with very evident design. Those of us who are in charge of departments of government which have to do more particularly with the war, realize that there is not a month or a week in the course of the year when some questions do not present themselves in connection with which it would be of great value to have someone who could assist the minister in looking into matters pertaining to them, and help to give the necessary explanations to the House of Commons when it is in session or to the country when the house is not in session. It is expected that the hon. members who will be appointed to these positions will be prepared to give their time not merely by way of assistance to the ministers when parliament is in session but as well during other months in the year. It may be that in some months their services will not be required to the same extent as in others, and some of them may not be in a position to give their services the year round. In that event the payment will be pro rata for the time during which their service is given. I have already indicated the functions of the assistants to the ministers, that the assistant to a minister would be expected to help the minister in any way the minister may think his services are likely to be most advantageous. And just here let me add something which I omitted to say a moment ago, namely, that a parliamentary assistant to a minister, in the very nature of things, will have to be someone who will be persona grata not only to the minister himself, but also to the deputy head of the department. A parliamentary assistant will have to be in close touch with the department with which his position is associated and indeed with the government itself. His relations will be of a character which will make it necessary for him to be persona grata to the deputy minister as well as to the minister.

The minister of course will be responsible for all the official acts and1 utterances of his assistant. That is one reason why, under our system of responsible government, an assistant to a minister would have to be chosen from among the supporters of the administration. The relationship of the

Supply-Parliamentary Assistants

assistant will be highly confidential, on occasions possibly involving his .presence in cabinet council. The position will afford opportunity for the parliamentary assistant to get into close touch with the affairs of the department and into the confidential relationships which one so closely associated with a minister must enjoy.

Obviously when responsibility is on the minister for whatever is said or done officially by his parliamentary assistant, the minister must have an opportunity of selecting someone from the following to whi.ch he himself belongs, and1 from which the government derives its power and authority.

Speaking of qualifications may I make it clear that while it is and will be necessary to have regard in a general way for the considerations I have mentioned, such, for example, as the fact that we have nine provinces in the dominion, and that it will be expected that these new posts will not all go to any one or two, but be distributed, the prime qualifications for appointment will be those of availability and suitability of the person selected for the particular position for which he may be chosen. It would be impossible to agree that these appointments should be made on the basis of geography, religion, race, or an.y consideration other than that first and foremost, they will be made on the basis of the ability and suitability of the individual selected to meet acceptably the requirements of the position.

May I add that the appointment of parliamentary assistants to ministers is not to be understood as in any way implying that it gives preferment in the matter of subsequent appointments to the cabinet. There will be a number of hon.. members in the house- I know several of them:

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

They would have a head start, though.

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

They might and they might not. It would be a help, undoubtedly-probably, over a period) of time, a very great help. But there are some hon. members who to-day are, and through the years will be too much engaged in professional or other duties, to feel free to act in positions of assistants to ministers. Also may I add that some hon. members may prefer to maintain more of what they would consider to be complete freedom of action in the house. The appointments should not in any way affect one's freedom to express one's own view; but there are some hon. members who would prefer, I know, not to fill the positions of assistant to ministers in

parliament, but who might be quite prepared to fill positions of ministers, if such appointments were to be offered to them.

There is this further fact, that a number of hon. members in the house who would be well qualified to fill the positions of assistants to ministers and, indeed, appointments to the cabinet, to-day are serving in His Majesty's forces in other parts of Canada, and abroad. If I am not mistaken some seventeen members of the house are in His Majesty's forces, fourteen of whom I am proud to say are hon. members from this side of the house. There may be more than that, I am not sure, but those are the figures I have. Certainly these hon. members, in virtue of the part they are taking in the war, will be among those that the government-and governments of the future -will wish to consider in all possible connections.

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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LIB
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It is expected that the departments to which appointments will be made for the present will be limited to ten.

I, myself, in the position of president of the council would wish to have an assistant. Under war conditions a government must deal with many questions which do not fit into the traditional departmental pattern. They maybe of great concern to the government as a whole. Hon. members will realize that at a time of war there is as a consequence a tendency for functions of government to be centralized under the direction of the prime minister or president of the council. For example, there are the wartime information board, the joint board of defence, the joint economic committees, the economic advisory committee with its reconstruction and planning responsibilities, and other bodies which recently have been placed under the president of the council because they relate to or need the complete cooperation of different or all departments of government. The nature of the subjects, and policy implications make it inadvisable to assign these bodies to individual administrative departments. The president of the council is assumed-and I believe rightly-to be in a better position than any other individual member of the cabinet to assume responsibility for them. It is physically impossible for any one person to give them the supervision and direction they require.

Then, there will be appointments of parliamentary assistants for the Minister of Finance, and for the Ministers of the Defence Departments, the army, the air and the navy; for the Minister of Munitions and Supply, and for the Minister of Labour, agriculture, justice,

Supply-Parliamentary Assistants

and pensions and national health. Each of these departments has had additional, heavy responsibilities thrust upon it during the period of war. Some of these departments have been more closely associated with the organization of the war effort, while others, such as the Department of Pensions and National Health, are dealing with matters connected with postwar organization, rapidly pressing to the fore, and which will be of first importance in the post-war period.

I believe there is a very special need for the appointment of assistants to ministers who will be concerned with post-war matters. We are faced with problems of social security and reconstruction, problems which cannot be planned too carefully or organized too effectively. The more completely hon. members of the house can make themselves acquainted with all their aspects and the measures necessary to meet them, the better it will be for all when we come to deal with these problems in a practical way.

As hon. members know several of the ministers-and I might mention, for example, the Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent)-are members of the war committee of the cabinet. Much of the time they would otherwise devote to the problems of their own departments must be devoted to the consideration of special questions confronting the war cabinet. Problems of a legal character continually arise. They are indeed among the most important problems which the government, is obliged to consider.

I need not elaborate upon the necessity of securing assistance for the ministers of the defence departments,, of the Department of Munitions and Supply, the Department of Labour and the Department of Agriculture. It must be obvious that in all those departments very heavy additional burdens have been thrown upon ministers.

I shall be happy to answer questions, if any should be asked, respecting the duties or responsibilities of the gentlemen who may be appointed to these offices. For the moment may I repeat that the appointments are being made, first, because of the necessity of giving much needed assistance to the ministers at this time of war; secondly, to do something by way of meeting the wishes of hon. members of the House of Commons to be as fully and as promptly informed as possible on matters with which they are immediately concerned and, thirdly, to afford to members of parliament an additional opportunity of becoming familiar with the whole organization of public administration and

questions which are most pressing in order that they may be able to give to their country in parliament that additional valuable service which comes from experience and which is needed in these times to a greater degree than ever before.

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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NAT

John Ritchie MacNicol

National Government

Mr. MacNICOL:

I have listened with much interest to the Prime Minister's remarks, but I am sorry I cannot agree with them. The Prime Minister said that ever since 1921, some twenty-two years ago, he has been considering the advisability of appointing what he now calls assistants to the ministers. I notice that he referred to them once as assistant ministers, which is an entirely different thing from assistants to the minister. On former occasions he referred to them as under-secretaries. I would have hoped that the Prime Minister would continue to play with the subject and not bring on this vote, particularly at this time. Twenty-two years is a long time to think it over. I must confess that I do not believe the Prime Minister is in favour of it. He says he is, and I will accept that, of course; I accept his statement.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I was trying to get everybody else to agree.

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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NAT

John Ritchie MacNicol

National Government

Mr. MacNICOL:

In any event I prefer to think that he is not in favour of it. No. prime minister who has served this country has had perhaps the arduous duties which the Prime Minister has had to perform, and certainly no prime minister has been-I was going to say harassed, but perhaps I should not use that word.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

That is a pretty good word.

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NAT

John Ritchie MacNicol

National Government

Mr. MacNICOL:

He has been besieged and importuned by an enormous majority of some sixty-seven, a wholly unnecessary majority, in size.

Topic:   LEGISLATION-HOUSE OF COMMONS
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April 20, 1943