April 7, 1967

LIB

Jean-Thomas Richard

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Richard):

Is the

house ready for the question?

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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PC

Gordon Minto Churchill

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Churchill:

What is the question?

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

Jean-Thomas Richard

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Richard):

That the bill be read a second time. Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the said motion?

Motion agreed to and bill read the second time.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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PC

Richard Albert Bell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell (Carleton):

In view of the manner in which the house has dealt with the bill might I ask for unanimous consent that it now be referred to the committee of the whole house rather than to another committee?

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

That is automatic.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

Jean-Thomas Richard

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Richard):

As I

understand it, it has been suggested that the other resolution be brought forward at this time.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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PC

Richard Albert Bell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell (Carleton):

My remarks refer only to this bill.

Parliamentary Secretaries Act Amendment

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllrailh:

It was suggested that the bill be referred to the committee of the whole house. That we may be clear about the procedure, Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the motion should be that this bill be referred to the committee of the whole house.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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PC

Marcel Joseph Aimé Lambert

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Lambert:

With the greatest respect, this is a private member's public bill and the automatic referral is to the committee of the whole house.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllrailh:

I stand corrected.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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PC

Richard Albert Bell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell (Carleton):

I stand corrected, also. I have been misled.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllrailh:

For the purposes of regularizing the procedure, this is the stage at which I would ask to revert to public business to move the resolution standing on the order paper dealing with this subject. If that is not agreeable to the house I would have no objection, because this is a somewhat unusual procedure. But this is the point at which it should be done. It requires unanimous consent.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

Jean-Thomas Richard

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Richard):

Is it

agreed that the house revert to public business?

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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PC

Gordon Minto Churchill

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Churchill:

Mr. Speaker, I raised my objection earlier and I do not want to be pressed on this. I am quite content to proceed with the bill presented by the hon. member for Carleton, but not beyond that.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Mcllrailh:

In view of that I withdraw my request.

The house in committee, Mr. Richard in the chair.

Clause 1 agreed to.

On clause 2-Short Title.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

John Ross Matheson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Malheson:

I wish to say a word on clause 2.

[DOT] (5:40 p.m.)

I should like to endorse from a personal point of view exactly what we heard from the hon. member for Carleton (Mr. Bell). I think that we have heard today an extremely thoughtful speech. The fact that this bill was on the order paper impelled a number of members to carry out research to some extent into the office of parliamentary secretary, originally that of parliamentary assistant. What has been presented to the house is so factual and well documented that it almost

14692 COMMONS

Parliamentary Secretaries Act Amendment compels most of us now to remain in silence. This was a very scholarly address we heard, and a useful one from a comparative point of view.

My predecessor as parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Coast-Capilano, (Mr. Davis) was able to carry out duties of a unique character, as I saw them, during the period at the beginning of the present administration while I was serving as chairman of the standing committee on external affairs. My predecessor as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, a man who holds five university degrees to the level of doctorate, high post-graduate degrees in different disciplines, was able to devote many thousands of hours of work for Canada at the time of the exhaustive study which was being conducted into the Columbia River treaty.

It was not easy for a new administration to step in and discuss adequately at the political level an arrangement which had been the subject of months of research by the previous administration.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. Herridge:

That is a matter of opinion.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

John Ross Matheson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Maiheson:

I see that my dear friend from Kootenay West does not share that view. But I believe the country as a whole would agree that this great step forward was assisted substantially by the expertise of a parliamentary secretary who was both an electrical engineer and also, through his training at Oxford, a highly qualified economist.

During my period of service to the Prime Minister, since January 9, 1966, I have had until very recently the privilege and honour of sharing accommodation with the person who is now the Minister of Justice (Mr. Trudeau)-another ardent scholar, the product of Harvard University, the University of Paris and the London School of Economics.

I know something of the work this parliamentary secretary did for Canada and if he had never assumed the high appointment he presently holds his contribution to Canada, as I see it, would already have been substantial.

Whatever may happen in the future to any parliamentary secretary, the experience of serving actively in one of the departments or in the department of the Prime Minister is no cause for bitterness-I think that is the expression in one of the quotations used by the hon. member for Carleton. On the contrary, it represents a great challenge and one which stretches most of us to the very limit of our

DEBATES April 7, 1967

abilities. I fully agree with the view expressed by the hon. member for Carleton in that the name has been an inconvenience. It is true that the word "secretary" has certain connotations in the United Kingdom which it has never enjoyed in Canada. Indeed, upon my appointment as parliamentary secretary I received a number of letters of congratulation upon my stepping out of politics into the civil service. Some people thought I would never have to go through the rigours of a political contest again. The name certainly has been a cause of confusion. Many people misunderstand what the office is. I feel this bill makes a useful contribution to parliament.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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LIB

James Hugh Faulkner

Liberal

Mr. Faulkner:

I would agree with the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) that in the centennial year there are grounds for greater co-operation and that when the house is presented with an opportunity, as it was a moment ago, to do something constructive which is recognized on both sides as having merit, it is regrettable we do not seem to have the stuff necessary to do it. As a new member of parliament and, no doubt, an inexperienced one, I think this is regrettable.

The hon. member for Carleton (Mr. Bell) presented cogently and at times movingly a compelling argument for improving the status and the role of parliamentary secretaries. I cannot but concur in the argument he presented on behalf of this bill. The practice in Canada has been that parliamentary secretaries or assistants are not junior ministers as is the case in Britain. Their roles are determined largely by the ministers themselves and necessarily vary from one ministry to another. If I felt that a change of title would lead to an improvement in the status I would agree wholeheartedly with the hon. member for Carleton.

If the words which the hon. member quoted from our late distinguished prime minister, Mackenzie King, were put into practice by ministers there is no doubt that the role of parliamentary secretary could become a more useful and positive one both in government and in the House of Commons. We shall not bring this about simply by increasing the numbers of parliamentary secretaries. I object to the provision which speaks of 16 and envisages possible changes in the future.

This is a role which has to be examined. At present it is something of a no-man's-land. It is not clearly defined and, as I said earlier, it seems to vary from department to department depending on the particular portfolio to

April 7, 1967 COMMONS

which a parliamentary secretary is attached. My main point is that the role of parliamentary secretary or assistant has not been developed as fully as it should be. Every minister needs a parliamentary assistant and I cannot think of one good reason why any minister should refuse one. The responsibilities which ministers of the Crown presently bear must really be back-breaking and there are areas in which a parliamentary assistant could clearly be of help.

What are those areas? I was surprised to learn of some of them as put forward by Mr. Mackenzie King, in what I thought was a highly contemporary piece of thinking. Parliamentary assistants could do a lot more in the way of receiving briefs from interested parties and from pressure groups outside government circles. They could also do a great deal in the way of receiving individuals who always seem to want meetings with ministers. If their role were clearly laid down they could serve as effective liaison between members of parliament and their ministers.

[DOT] (5:50 p.m.)

It would be difficult for me to make suggestions about departmental responsibilities which they might assume. I am not familiar enough with what happens in this area to know, but I would think there would be areas where a parliamentary assistant could do some useful work within a department itself.

In respect to duties in the House of Commons it is perfectly clear that what we expect of our ministers today is more than we should reasonably expect in terms of attendance and responsibility. I would suggest it is unrealisitc and inefficient to expect ministers to attend here as well as to administer the large and complex government departments it is their lot to administer. Parliamentary assistants could serve an extremely useful purpose in relieving their ministers of some of the time those ministers are presently required to attend in the house.

In fact I would hope that parliamentary assistants could be charged with the responsibility of piloting through the House of Commons bills which are not of a particularly controversial or political nature. The hon. member for Carleton very rightly expressed the possibilities for apprenticeship that open up in this area. We are all too cognizant of how important that apprenticeship is in preparation for ministerial responsibilities, and particularly for duties within the House of Commons.

Parliamentary Secretaries Act Amendment

In recent years it has been our sorry lot to witness what can be the consequences to individuals who are over-worked or, in some cases, inexperienced when faced with the responsibilities and the challenges posed by becoming members of the front bench in the House of Commons. No one needs to elaborate on that point. No one needs to apportion blame. It is a fact of life of which all of us should be cognizant and about which we should be concerned. Therefore I would see considerable possibilities for parliamentary assistants in the role that I have just described, that of relieving ministers of some of their duties and responsibilities within the House of Commons.

Another area where a parliamentary assistant could do some very useful work, if given the opportunity, is in assuming some of the responsibilities we presently require of ministers outside the House of Commons and outside their departments. I am thinking of official openings, speaking engagements, and the like. These are very important functions which have to be performed. National organizations, and indeed constituency organizations very often like to have ministers present at their annual meetings to discuss departmental policies, and how they relate to those organizations. Parliamentary assistants could do useful work in this regard.

One final area in which they could do some useful work is in the area of long term policy planning within departments. It is not realistic to expect civil servants to be responsible for projecting in what direction a department is to move in the future, and what are the alternatives or options in policy matters. These are things which are a political task and a parliamentary assistant could do some useful work in this regard.

All I would like to say in closing is that I fully support the arguments presented by the hon. member for Carleton. However, I feel that if this bill passes, the authority vested in parliamentary assistants must be made much greater. Not only must a parliamentary assistant appear to have the confidence of his minister, but he must have that confidence. He must have access to confidential papers and to meetings which his minister has with departmental officials. In short, a parliamentary assistant must become the alter ego of his minister.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. Herridge:

Mr. Chairman, I wish to express my support for the bill and to congratulate the hon. member for Carleton on his speech, but I do hope it will not take

146S4

April 7. 1967

Business of the House

another 100 years before we exhibit this centennial spirit, when private members bills are being considered in the house. I hope this will establish a precedent whereby bills will be dealt with on their merits, and I hope we continue the practice of referring them to committees more and more in the days ahead.

Topic:   PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES ACT AMENDMENT
Subtopic:   CHANGE IN DESCRIPTION AND TENURE OF OFFICE
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April 7, 1967