May 3, 1948

TRANSFER OF CONTROL AND SUPERVISION

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I should like to table the following orders in council. The first, P.C. 1929, transfers the control and supervision of the government telegraph and telephone services, except the telephone exchange service for government offices in and about Ottawa, and the functions of the Minister of Public Works under part I of the Telegraphs Act, to the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply. The second order in council, P.C. 1930, transfers the control of the government telephone services for government offices in and about Ottawa to the Department of Finance. The orders are under the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Aot.

Topic:   TRANSFER OF CONTROL AND SUPERVISION
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PRIVILEGE

HR. CHURCH-PRESS REPORTS AS TO REMARKS IN DEBATE ON APRIL 30

PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of privilege in reference to the debate that took place in this chamber last Friday evening from eight to nine o'clock respecting the Bell Telephone bill, and the reports appearing in several newspapers. I gave my opinion of the bill; I said I would support the motion to send it to a committee; but the newspaper reports are not correct. At five minutes to nine I understood no vote would be taken; I had an understanding with an hon. member that I would not vote that evening, and I did not think there would be a division. If I had voted, however, I would have voted against second reading, for the reasons I gave at that time.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   HR. CHURCH-PRESS REPORTS AS TO REMARKS IN DEBATE ON APRIL 30
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MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS

LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. COLIN GIBSON (Secretary of State) moved:

That the organization and establishment of the permanent positions on the staff of the House of Commons, 1948, laid on the table on Thursday, 29th April, 1948, be approved.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. STANLEY KNOWLES (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words with respect to this resolution before it is adopted. First I want to make clear that I support the resolution and shall vote for it, and that also goes for the other two resolutions which I understand the Secretary of State will move today.

One little word of explanation on my own behalf, which I should like to give at this time, is this. There is in existence all the time what are known as the commissioners of internal economy. There is also in existence at the present time a temporary committee headed by Your Honour having to do with a revision of the rules of the house. Apparently there are some who have confused these two groups.

I am a member of Mr. Speaker's committee on the rules, and within the last few days I have actually been asked whether as a member of that committee I approved the contents of these documents that have been laid on the table. I think it should be made perfectly clear that the group referred to is the internal economy commission, which consists of Your Honour and four ministers of the crown.

With regard to the proposals contained in the document we are now being asked to approve, I am sure we all agree that what is in the document is good. Some of us, however, feel a sense of disappointment at some of the things that have not been included. I refer in particular to the repeated representations which have been made on the floor of the house for some kind of pension plan for sessional employees of the House of Commons. I have pointed up this problem by referring to House of Commons stenographers; but there are other sessional employees who should be similarly covered.

As hon. members know, every time we have raised this question-and it has been raised by all parties in the house-we have run into certain difficulties. When we address our representations to cabinet ministers we are told that this is a matter which comes under the control of the House of Commons itself, and therefore that we must deal with our own officers-in fact that we must make our representations to Your Honour. On the other hand we all know that since this does involve an expenditure of money, to which the government must agree-and that, I understand, is the reason for the internal economy commission-the officers of the house have to tell

House oj Commons-Staff

us that side of the story. The result is that we seem to make headway very slowly.

Last year the question of a pension plan for sessional employees of the house was discussed on the floor of the house a number of times, with the result that we were finally given the assurance that it would be given consideration. After the close of last year's session I wrote the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and placed in his hands a memorandum setting out one way in which this matter could be dealt with. That was not necessarily the only plan, but at least it was a concrete suggestion. The Prime Minister acknowledged receipt of my communication and assured me that consideration would be given the matter.

Several months went by without any announcement 'being made, so I wrote the Prime Minister on December 16 asking what had happened in connection with the matter. On December 23, 1947, he replied to me as follows:

Dear Mr. Knowles:

I have delayed acknowledging your letter of the 16th instant until there was an opportunity to discuss with the Minister of Finance the question of what further consideration has been given, during my absence from Canada, to the representations you made at the close of the last session of parliament with respect to the establishment of some kind of pension plan for House of Commons stenographers.

This is merely one aspect of the general question of the establishment of the House of Commons which is under active consideration at the present time. Mr. Abbott advises me that every effort is being made to see that consideration is sufficiently advanced to permit of decisions being reached and announced soon after the resumption of the session in January next.

Yours sincerely,

W. L. Mackenzie King.

A little while later, on February 14, 1948, having heard nothing further, I wrote again to the Prime Minister. The pertinent paragraph of my letter on that occasion is as follows: You suggested to me in your letter that any plan for pension arrangements for House of Commons stenographers would have to be part of the whole question of establishing of the House of Commons staff. I take it, therefore, that the announcement forecast in your letter would relate to the broader question, but I trust that it will include provision for a pension plan for House of Commons stenographers. May I inquire whether this announcement might be expected at an early date?

The Prime Minister did not reply to that letter in writing. But at his request one of his assistants telephoned me a few days later and told me on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance that my assumptions were substantially correct. The information I [Mr. Knowles.!

was given at that time was that two things were in prospect. One was an enlargement of the establishment so far as the House of Commons staff was concerned, and the other was the drafting of some kind of special plan for the sessional employees who are not covered under civil service permanency.

Subsequently-only a few days later; on February 23-1 asked a question of the Minister of Finance when the orders of the day were called. This is my question as recorded at page 1489 of Hansard:

I should like to ask either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance whether it is possible to indicate how soon we may expect an announcement about a pension plan for House of Commons stenographers.

To which the Minister of Finance replied: The officials of my department have been looking into the matter and have prepared certain recommendations which will be considered at an early day by the internal economy commission of the house, which has jurisdiction in these matters; and I should hope it would be possible to make an announcement very soon.

I held my peace for a considerable time, in fact until March 24 of this year, when an opportunity to discuss the matter arose in connection with estimates then before the house. Mr. Speaker was before the committee of supply, and I asked him specifically whether these matters were under consideration. His Honour said, as reported at page 2592 of Hansard of that date:

The positions of all employees of the house are being considered at the present time by the internal economy commission of the house.

.And later:

I have every reason to believe that all the employees will be perfectly satisfied.

I took it from what Your Honour said on that occasion, referring as you did to all employees, also from the correspondence I had with the Prime Minister and from the announcement made in the house on February 23 by the Minister of Finance, that we could expect at this time something along the line of a pension plan for sessional employees of the house.

I want to say I am disappointed, and I think hon. members generally will be disappointed, to find that what has been laid before us does not include anything for that purpose as was promised to us.

Since I have brought up the matter I believe I should say one further word. It should be clear that there are ways in which this could be done without putting sessional employees under the civil service. The House of Commons is jealous of the rights it exercises over its own employees; and we wish to retain

House oj Commons-&tafj

..nose rights. The employees themselves want it that way. I would point out however that it would be possible to follow one of two or three different courses. On the one hand a plan could be worked out by which sessional employees could start, from the beginning, to make payments into a pension fund, on the understanding that if they left in less than five years they would get those payments back, and nothing more, and on the further understanding that if they stayed longer than the period of five years they could begin to build up something in the nature of a pension.

Another plan would be to treat sessional employees, such as our stenographers, upon whom we depend so much, in the same manner in which we treat our Hansard reporters. The Hansard reporters are paid an annual salary. They are subject to duty in the House of Commons only during the time the house is sitting. They have permanency on that basis, and they also have freedom during the period when the house is in recess.

I suggest that would be a fairer and a better way to treat our House of Commons stenographers. Instead of paying them so much per day for the length of the session, as we do at the present time, I would like to see them paid an annual salary of, let us say, 81,800 a year. Give them permanency on that basis, and freedom between sessions, the same as wre do in respect of the Hansard reporters and certain other employees of the House of Commons. In this way they would have an opportunity to build up some protection for the years when they should be retiring.

As I have already said, we in the House of Commons are jealous of our rights to maintain jurisdiction over our own employees. We want the stenographers to be available when the house is sitting. We count on the fact that many of them will come back from year to year. I know that there are some who come only for a session or two, after which we do not see them any more, but I am more concerned about those who serve this House of Commons faithfully over a period of years.

It does seem to me that members generally should get behind a move of this kind. In anticipation of this matter coming up this afternoon I read again the debates which took place on March 28, July 7, and July 17, 1947. At that time we were pushed from one side to the other. We were told by the government that this matter was under the control of the house, and we were led to believe by the officers of the house that since it was a money matter, in the last resort we would have

to go to the government. In my view it is a matter for which the government will have to take responsibility. I do not see how Mr. Speaker can be asked to work out and be responsible for a pension plan. Obviously that is a matter for which responsibility should', be taken by the superannuation branch of the Department of Finance.

As I say, I do not like this idea of telling, us that these things are under our control when we know that the final control is in the-hands of those who have control of the money -I hope hon. members generally will support some pension proposal. I do not ask that the particular plans that I have offered be followed; I merely suggested them to indicate that something definite could be done and that we should urge the government to take action along these lines.

There are many phases of this whole question on which one could speak. There are many phases of it in which I am interested, but I shall not go further at this time. My reason for leaving it at that is the hope that by so doing we may make progress in connection with this one particular problem.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. G. A. CRUICKSHANK (Fraser Valley) :

Mr. Speaker, I have not spoken before in this debate but speaking I believe on behalf of the Liberal party and the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), whom I happen to have the honour of following, may I say that he is taking the right example in this connection. I understand that in August he is leaving for a younger man.

There are means available that would overcome these difficulties. I am not in the fortunate position that some are, but one who has. been closely associated with me made arrangements to overcome this difficulty in connection with stenographers and secretaries who have served us so well and faithfully. He has provided one with a pension for life. May I suggest to the Prime Minister that more young men be elected to parliament and then the secretaries will be looked after.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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LIB

Jean-Thomas Richard

Liberal

Mr. J. T. RICHARD (Ottawa East):

Mr. Speaker, I want to say only a few words with regard to this report. I agree that basically the report is satisfactory; it is a step in the right direction. But I do not think that enough hon. members of this house are familiar with the proposed establishment to criticize properly the plan which the internal economy commission of the house has submitted.

It is easy for us to pose as champions of the well-being of the employees of the house. I am one of those who perhaps has suffered

House of Commons-Staff

considerably through being around the House of Commons at all times. I have had to share with employees, who feel that they are aggrieved, their feeling of sadness because of their unfortunate position. However, as I look at the rest of the service outside of the House of Commons I must say-I think the employees of the house will agree with me-that conditions for employees in the House of Commons are not bad at all. Indeed 1 think this house gives employment which is remunerative. If the service of an employee is satisfactory he has a feeling of security which he would not have anywhere else.

Something has been said about pensions ' for stenographers. I am in favour of everyone having the benefits of a pension plan. However, I suggest to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) that he consider employees in the Department of Public Works and other departments who are employed at prevailing rates and who work the year round instead of four or five months and who do not have the benefit of any pension plan.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

Shame.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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LIB

Jean-Thomas Richard

Liberal

Mr. RICHARD (Ottawa East):

That is why I suggested at the beginning of the last session that a committee of this house should carefully study the conditions of work, pension plans, rates of pay and so on, not only of the civil service but of all employees hired by the crown. I agree that this plan is good because it is a step in the right direction.

I agree with the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre in one regard. The members of this house should have something to say as to the establishment of positions, as to rates of pay, and as to any pension plan which may be adopted. I suggest again that at the next session a committee similar to the one which I proposed last year should be set up. In the meantime I intend to support the plan proposed by the Secretary of State.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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PC

George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. R. PEARKES (Nanaimo):

Mr. Speaker, when this report was tabled on April 29 I asked the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) if the veterans preference would apply when appointments were being made to complete the establishment. I should like to draw the attention of the Secretary of State (Mr. Gibson) to the fact that there are a number of veterans, both English-speaking and Frenchspeaking, who are employed on the staff during the session. These men may have been employed when war broke out, at which time they went overseas and thus lost their opportunity of being placed on the permanent staff of the House of Commons. I put in a special

plea for those men who served overseas and who have returned to the staff on a sessional basis. They should be given consideration and be permitted to compete for vacancies which are now being created, along with those who did not have an opportunity of serving in the armed forces during the war, who are not veterans but who had an opportunity of being employed on the permanent staff during the war.

I ask the Secretary of State that these veterans who are employed on a sessional basis be given opportunities equal to those given to the employees on the permanent staff.

Mr. JOHN R. MacNICOL (Davenport): Mr. Speaker, I rise to support largely what the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) has said, and also the additional remarks of the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes). I did not hear the proposal made by the minister, but I am sure it is a good one and is in the right direction. I do not know whether the stenographers who have been on the staff for some years are included in the list of those to be made permanent. If so, I am in accord with that.

I know there are a number of stenographers who have been here quite a few years. If they are not on the list, some provision should be made for them. It always struck me as being most unfair that these women who served us so faithfully in taking care of our mail should be turned out at the end of the session. Some consideration should be given to them. Whether they are to be put on a yearly rate or not is a matter for the government to decide, but I rose merely to say that I agree with the suggestions that have been made. I hope that in making the selection all employees will receive fair play, particularly those who have been here ten years or more. In my opinion they should receive more consideration than those who have been here only a year or two. I presume the minister will take that into consideration.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. A. L. SMITH (Calgary West):

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

We have not reached the increases yet. They are provided for in a separate motion.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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PC

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLURE:

The wording here is salary increases and establishment of the house. There is something radically wrong when even the minister does not seem to know what it is about. In view of the fact that none of us know anything at all about it, I think it should be laid aside for a little while until we get some information.

There is another question I should like to ask. How many years of service on the House of Commons staff have some of the stenographers who are now being made permanent? Why are the senior members of the stenographic staff not included in the list? I know of several stenographers who have had more than fifteen years of service on the staff but who are not included. There is discrimination somewhere. I think this matter should be left over until we get some information at least as to who these people are, why they are being appointed and a few other points of information that every member of the house has a right to have.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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CCF

John Oliver Probe

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

Mr. J. O. PROBE (Regina City):

Undoubtedly, Mr. Speaker, the report that is before the house at the present time is sketchy. We cannot get away from that fact. It is also true that many of the members have been made aware of certain pay inconsistencies and various kinds of inequalities. It is appropriate that some more detailed investigation should be made of the whole matter of temporary employment by the House of Commons, as well as by the various departments of government throughout the country. While I agree with the hon. member for Ottawa East (Mr. Richard) that there should be a committee set

up to look into this matter, my opinion is that it should not be delayed until next year but should be undertaken at the earliest possible opportunity.

It comes to my mind in the discussion of temporary employees that at one time I personally took up in this house with the Minister of Labour (Mr. Mitchell) certain aspects of it.

I asked him why there should be so many employees in his department who were listed as temporaries, and how long it would be necessary for them to work as temporary civil servants before their appointments were made permanent. As I look at the estimates for 1948, I find a limited change in that regard. It would seem to me that five years on a staff as a temporary employee should be long enough to enable it to be decided whether the employee is or is not suitable to be taken on the permanent staff.

There is also the matter that was mentioned by the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes). We have no assurance in this report, or no comment of any kind, as to what the position is with respect to the veterans preference for those who are on the House of Commons staff. Mention has also been made of the fact that there is no provision for pensions for members of the temporary staff, no matter how long they may be employed. There is also no indication of provision for automatic increases from year to year of service. As I look at this report, it appears to me that those at the top of the scale are fairly well looked after while those at the bottom are ignored.

I want to remind the house, with respect to the remuneration of temporary civil servants-and this is true right across Canada- that in some provinces temporary federal employees are paid salaries or wages which are below- the minimum wage of the province. That condition is backed by force of law, because provincial wage statutes-as for example, those in Saskatchewan-are not enforceable with respect either to employees of the dominion government or to persons who have contracts with the dominion government. A court decision was rendered recently in Saskatchewan to the effect that a temporary Christmas employee of a postmaster was not subject to the minimum wage laws of Saskatchewan, because the federal government was the employer. Those employees were getting less than the $18.50 a week minimum provided for by the statutes of my province. Such matters should be investigated by this committee.

Then with respect to employees of the House of Commons who are working part time only, provision should be made that after a few years they be put on an annual salary;

House oj Commons-Staff

and if it is necessary for them to travel to Ottawa from a distance, travelling allowances should be provided to and from Ottawa.

There is one final bone of contention, Mr. Speaker, that I should like to throw into the laps of the members of the House of Commons. In this building and elsewhere in the public service there are long-service employees who enlisted in His Majesty's forces. By regulation of the civil service commission, they were cut off from superannuation rights at that time, and on their re-employment those superannuation rights were and still are denied to them.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

Mr. PROBE- I see that Your Honour is rising, and I intend to take my seat. But I say that these questions should be settled now.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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CCF

Thomas John Bentley

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

Mr. T. J. BENTLEY (Swift Current):

I wish to say just a few words, Mr. Speaker, in connection with this motion. The matters referred to in the motion made by the Secretary of State (Mr. Gibson) are, I believe, contained in sessional paper 139B. While I am not going to oppose the motion, I think a great deal is left to be desired. Even though I may not have any great amount of information about the operation of the various staffs in the House of Commons, and in that respect am in the same position as the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Smith), nevertheless I have the ordinary powers of observation. In one place I notice that the head of a staff of five has a salary increase from S3,420 to $3,900. I do not think that is too much. But I also notice that in the next case, that of the head of a staff of which 150 people are employed, the salary increase is only from $3,600 to $3,900. It seems a little inconsistent that a person who is expected to maintain discipline and keep happy and harmonious relations in a body of people 150 strong or thereabouts is paid at the same rate as one who has far less responsibility.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

On a point of order, may I say that the hon. member is discussing the wrong motion.

Topic:   MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF ORGANIZATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT POSITIONS
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May 3, 1948