May 31, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


James Allison Glen

Liberal Progressive

Mr. J. A. GLEN (Marquette):

Mr. Speaker, I desire to pay a sincere compliment to the chairman of the civil service committee, not only for the comprehensive and explicit manner in which he has explained the report, but also for his conduct during the deliberations of the committee. At all times he exhibited that courtesy which is a characteristic of his race, and showed ability and knowledge of civil service matters which proved very helpful to the committee. I believe it is the unanimous opinion of members of the committee that .the hon. member for Hull (Mr. Fournier) will

take a greater part in the public affairs of this country as the years go by, a view which has been supported by his presentation this morning.
I am in almost complete agreement with the report itself. It is true that we had a great deal of discussion, some of it acrimonious, with regard to certain features of the report, and it contains one or two features with which I am not wholly satisfied. For instance, in paragraph 4 we depart from the established rules in that we create exceptions in regard to people formerly in the service who, for reasons of their own, left to enter some other line of activity. In the past it has been found that many of these people, not meeting with success in that other business, desired to return to the service. They possessed qualifications which fitted them for the positions such as they formerly occupied, and the recommendation now made is that as long as the public interest is protected these people should be allowed to reenter the service without examination. I am not entirely pleased with that recommendation, but these matters can be ironed out in the committee next year, and perhaps no serious detriment will result to the public service if this procedure is followed in the meantime.
There was difference of opinion in regard to several other matters, and I was very much concerned in particular as to the question of patronage. In paragraph 8 of this report we have what I believe is the second invasion of the merit system since it was established in 1918. Strenuous objection was taken by many of us to this recommendation. Last year in discussing this matter in the committee I took the position that we should bring back under the statute those positions which had been taken out by the committee of 1932, I think. It will be remembered that up to that time only post offices where the revenue was under 8400 were under patronage, and that in 1932 that limit was increased to 83,000, which meant a large extension of patronage and a diminution of the powers of the commission. As I say, I took the position in the committee last year that all post offices should come under the jurisdiction of the civil service commission. Those of us who supported that view succeeded in having it adopted by the committee, but as hon. members know, concurrence in the report presented last year was not moved, so we were faced with the same situation this year. When the question again came up we found that those who supported this view were in the minority, and as a result that recommendation does not form part of this report.

Civil Service-Report of Committee
Again this year the question of such positions as lighthouse keepers, cleaners and so on was brought up in committee, and the majority in the committee were of the opinion that these positions should be taken out from under the commission; hence the recommendation contained in paragraph 8 of the report. I view this matter not from the point of the number of positions concerned, which according to the evidence of Mr. Bland would be only about seven hundred, but from the point that one invasion of the merit system has occurred in connection with post offices, and now we are faced with another. I am not so much concerned with the particular jobs affected, or their number, or the salary involved; I am dealing with the matter solely from the point of view of the merit system. The chairman of the committee has stated in the house, as he did in the committee, his point of view, and has indicated that he would be against any amendment that might be moved, knowing I intended to take that action. Let me explain that I intimated in the committee that I would again bring up the question of the post offices, but it seems to me that in these dying days of the session, with so many hon. members hway, it would not be possible to have a proper discussion of the matter, and that I might be defeating the very object I had in mind, namely the continuation of the merit system as far as those positions were concerned. For that reason I came to the conclusion that I would not introduce any amendment in regard to the post offices, but if there is a committee appointed next year, and we are all here, I shall certainly bring up the matter then.
We in the committee did consider the effect on members of parliament when they have to become an employment agency in connection with the civil service. Last year Sir Francis Floud, the British high commissioner, gave evidence before the committee, which evidence I believe has been fairly well disseminated throughout the dominion. When he was asked with regard to political influence in the English civil service he said that if any applicant wished to destroy his chances of obtaining a position the best thing he could do would be to obtain the recommendation of a member of parliament. In the old country the approval of a member of parliament simply means that the application is refused. The chairman of the committee referred to the recommendation made at the end of the report. While that does not go as far as I
should like it to go, I am always content with half a loaf when I cannot get the whole loaf. This recommendation number 19 reads:
That in order to remove all appointments from political influence, all advertisements for applicants shall contain a notice advising the applicant that he must not seek political assistance to further his application.
I am quite satisfied that, if adopted, this recommendation will be of considerable benefit, not only to the applicants and members of parliament, but also to the civil service commission. If the extension of that principle is made to a greater extent than is provided for in the recommendation, I believe the day will come when members of parliament will be able to attend to their duties as legislators without this outside interference.
There are one or two other matters which are not referred to in $ie report but which ought to be the subject of discussion. We discussed for some time the question of the entrance age limits for each of the respective classes, the types of examination papers, the advisability of holding examinations at dates fairly close to the annual graduation dates of our educational institutions, and other matters. Throughout the whole dominion, and especially in Manitoba, there are many young men in the colleges and collegiates who are looking for places where their educational abilities may be utilized. In our province there are not many young men preparing themselves for these examinations. There are many bright men who if they were directed in the proper way would be of considerable value to our country. There seems to be a general ignorance of the civil service. As a matter of fact, there is a feeling throughout the country that the civil service of Canada is open only to persons in the larger cities, and especially Ottawa. The consequence is that very few young men and young women in the far west are candidates for the civil service.
The suggestion has been made that some endeavour should be made to advertise vacancies in the civil service for some considerable time before they are filled. These advertisements could be placed in the newspapers so that young men would know when vacancies within the service are likely to ' occur and could direct their studies in an effort to qualify. I think this would be done by the civil service commission if there were a further extension of this principle. The educational authorities throughout the whole dominion should be made aware of these positions so that young men and women from all parts of the country could ultimately enter the service. In our report we have

Civil Service-Report of Committee
not referred to what is done in the old country in connection with the administration branch of the civil service. The young men who enter the administrative branch of the civil service in the old country really form the backbone of that service. They are not political appointees, and no matter what government may be in power they are ready to render the same service. When the labour government in Great Britain first took office and Viscount Snowden became chancellor of the exchequer, he was struck by the type of service he obtained from civil servants who up to that time had been unaccustomed to a Labour government, having worked only under Liberal and Conservative governments. He refers to this in his autobiography.
We have many extraordinary good men in the civil service to-day. I was amazed at the amount of material that was supplied to the committee during the two years in which it sat. The officers of the civil service commission appeared before us, and, without any reservations, submitted all the material facts they were called upon to submit. I was particularly struck by the attitude of the chairman of the commission. Several committees have been sitting during this session before which many outstanding officers of the government have had to attend. I do not think it would be out of the way to refer to Mr. Towers, who appeared before the banking and commerce committee, and Mr. Finlayson, the superintendent of insurance. In Mr. Bland I think we have a man who is as capable as any other member of the civil service. Mr. Bland rose from the ranks; he was not a political appointee, he was simply a civil servant who by the force of his own character and ability became the chairman of this commission. He is an example of what should be possible within the civil service. I make this commendation now because I believe in giving a bouquet to a man when he is alive, not after he is dead. In the chairman of our civil service commission we have a most distinguished public servant.
I should like to read some of the evidence given by Mr. Bland in connection with paragraph 8 of the recommendations. It has been said that the civil service commission is not in as good a position as a member of parliament or the defeated candidate to make appointments to small positions, such as lighthouse keepers and cleaners; that these positions should be taken out of the civil service commission. The question of cost was also referred to. In the committee the hon. member for Bruce (Mr. Tomlinson) had moved a resolution, and he wished to ascertain

whether its form was in accordance with what Mr. Bland thought would be proper. I should like to quote from page 120 of the minutes of proceedings and evidence of the committee taken on March 30, 1939. Mr. Bland was a witness, and he was asked by Mr. Tomlinson:
Q. Mr. Bland, I should like to ask you if the wording of that resolution is such that it protects all positions in which merit is involved or promotion? Does it protect those particular classes?
A. I think, Mr. Chairman, there might be two small amendments to clarify the motion.
Here is the pregnant sentence.
As the committee knows, from my evidence before it last year, I am of the opinion that it is in the public interest that all positions- even the lower grade ones-should be filled by competition. I do not think that I need to reiterate that. The committee knows what I think.
By Mr. MacNeil:
Q. Would you mind repeating that answer?
A. As I said before the committee last year, I am of the opinion that it is in the public interest that all positions-even the lower grade ones-should be filled by open competition. That is simply a statement of general belief.
Further on I examined Mr. Bland, and I quote from page 123 as follows:
By Mr. Glen:
Q. How long have these appointments been under the jurisdiction of the civil service commission?
A. Since 1918.
Q. Have you had any difficulty in operating the act with regard to these particular appointments?
A. Our main difficulty has been lack of sufficient funds to send examiners to hold tests for these particular classes, they being local appointments.
Q. If you had sufficient funds, there is nothing so extraordinary in the appointments but that they could still be made under the civil service commission?
A. No. I think they could be made satisfactorily if we had sufficient funds to employ sufficient examiners.
Q. Has there been any objection made with regard to the appointments under the act with regard to these positions?
A. As I told the committee last year, I think that positions of caretaker are more subject to criticism, because they are local positions in which residents of a small town or village are particularly interested. There has, I think, been perhaps more expression of opinion about appointments of caretakers than there has been about any other classes of that kind.
Q. So far as the general principle of the merit system is concerned, it has worked satisfactorily with you since 1918?
A. I think so.
Q. And if you had sufficient money wherewith to conduct proper examinations, are you of the opinion they should be within the Civil Service Act?
A. Yes, I am.
Q. Definitely so?
A. Yes.

Civil Service-Report of Committee
Further, on page 124, I asked Mr. Bland this question:
Q. I am going to ask you a question, Mr. Bland, and I do not know whether you wish to answer it or not. If you do not wish to answer it, of course, you will say so. We have heard a great deal with regard to the merit system in the civil service. Would you care to say that a recommendation such as is proposed by this resolution this morning is a breach of the merit system, as you understand it, under the civil service commission?
A. I believe better employees would be secured under open competition than by this system.
Q. You do?
A. Yes.
Q. Would you fear that there might be the danger, in the reopening and the taking out of the jurisdiction of the commission such appointments, that there might be other demands made in order to make a breach in the merit system?
A. I think that might be the natural consequence, yes.
On page 125 the hon. member for Bruce asked this question of Mr. Bland:
Q. Mr. Bland, why would you say that this affects the merit system?
A. I do not think I could put it any more clearly than I have put it.
Q. I think you will have to, to make me understand it.
A. Well, I shall try to say it again in another way. As Mr. Pouliot has said, we are expressing our own opinions. My opinion, based on my thirty years of experience, is that better appointments are made under open competition than under the other system.
Further on, in answer to a question by the hon. member for Bruce, Mr. Bland said:
A. I think this question can only be answered on the basis of general experience. I would not be prepared to say that you would not appoint as good a man as I would at all. But I do say that, taking by and large most of the appointments that have been made, my opinion is that better appointments are made when there is open competition than when there is not.
Q. Do you not realize that, as a rule, there is open competition with the average member?
A. I would not say it was open competition.
Mr. Lennard: No, it is not.
Mr. Tomlinson: You have not had any
appointments to make yet.
Mr. Lennard: I would say it is certainly not open competition. It is very much otherwise.
On the question of expense, Mr. Bland, the chairman of the commission, in a letter addressed to the chairman of the committee dated May 5, 1939, said:
Ottawa, May 5, 1939.
Dear Mr. Fournier,-
At one of the sessions of the committee I was asked to supply an estimate as to the approximate cost which would be entailed if the commission were to send a member of its examining staff to hold tests for the smaller positions, such as lightkeepers, caretakers, etc.
I have asked the chief examiner to estimate the approximate cost, and he is of opinion that $5,000 would be sufficient to provide for this work.
Yours sincerely,
C. H. Bland,
I submit that $5,000 is a very small sum to pay in respect of a matter which involves,
I contend, a breach of the merit system in order that these positions may be retained under the civil service commission.
While the present act has been in force since 1918, I do not know whether many members or people outside this house know what difficulties there were in the civil service before that act was put upon the statute book.
I have here an address on the Problem of an Efficient Civil Service, which was delivered by the Right Hon. Sir Robert Laird Borden on May 26, 1931, to the Canadian Historical Association. Discussing the question of dismissals when a new party gets into power, Sir Robert Borden said:
There began to spread abroad the realization that wholesale dismissals followed by appointments based largely on party service were a serious detriment to the public interest. But this spirit was of comparatively slow development-
These are the words to which I particularly direct attention:
-and I doubt whether any administration, other than one founded on the cooperation of both political parties, could have secured the enactment of the Civil Service Act of 1918.
With that I wholly agree. At that time the act could have been passed only by such a government. From that day to this the Civil Service Act has remained on the statute book until it has become really worth while.
On the question of patronage, with which members are so familiar, Sir Robert Borden on page 4 of his address points out what I think is common knowledge to everybody in this dominion, and it is the basis upon which I form the conclusion that these post office positions should be retained within the jurisdiction of the civil service commission. Sir Robert Borden said:
This system was supposed to function in the interests of the member or the defeated candidate, but in truth it frequently operated to his disadvantage. Perhaps twenty supporters would seek a certain appointment and, although he might endeavour to throw the onus upon his patronage committee, yet he was held responsible. Thus, instead of twenty strong and active supporters he found himself confronted with the loss of the active political services of the officer whose appointment he had recommended while nineteen disappointed office-seekers would fail actively to support, if they did not actively or passively oppose, his interests during the next electoral contest.
Civil Service-Report oj Committee
I am sure that every member of the house, especially those on the government side-and those opposite have been in that position- can endorse every word there said by Sir Robert Borden. I know I certainly can.
In connection with the appointment to small positions such as caretakers, the argument is made that the sitting member knows more about these things than the civil service commission, and c'an therefore make better appointments. On page 9 Sir Robert Borden says:
I do not for one moment venture to say that appointment by competitive examination will always result in the best selection, hut I do say it will conduce to the public interest and that it will result in better appointments than those made simply by reason of party pressure and for partisan reasons.
That is almost the exact language used by the chairman of the commission which I quoted a moment ago.
I do not think I need say much more. I think the temper of the people of Canada to-day is that, wherever possible, patronage should be excluded from our civil service system. I believe that paragraph 8 of the committee's report, if adopted, would be an invasion of the merit system, and should therefore be refused by the house. The rest of the committee's report is worth while and should be concurred in. The only objection I have is to paragraph 8. Public men in all spheres of life in every country where there is a civil service, and especially in the old country, are satisfied that wherever there is the slightest indication of a breach in the merit system within the civil service it militates against the efficiency of the service and is a disadvantage to the country. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I am moving, seconded by the hon. member for Halton (Mr. Cleaver):
That paragraph 8 of the report of the special committee appointed to inquire into the operation of the Civil Service Act which reads as follows:
"8. Your committee recommends that all positions for which the maximum salary rate is $700 or less, except the positions of office boys, or others usually subject to promotion, shall be excluded from the operation of the Civil _ Service Act, and that the governor in council be empowered to make regulations for the control and direction, organization, classification and compensation, appointments to and general conditions of such positions." be deleted from said report and be not concurred in.

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