February 24, 1943 (19th Parliament, 4th Session)


Jean-François Pouliot



I will ask the hon. member to keep peace.
And, sir, they cannot complain about me. I did my best for them. I remember that in 1936, the session which I have already mentioned, I gave them four lectures on parliamentary procedure, from ten o'clock to eleven; and to my great pride and satisfaction those addresses were attended by sixty members. I hope that one of those who

The Address-Mr. Pouliot

came to my lectures will remember that I never told them to act as the hon. member did while another member was speaking.
But now, sir, going back to those dark days when K. B. Bennett was the big boss in this house, I remember that there was one member who was standing alone against Mr. Bennett and all his social legislation-and against his own party-one.
The party policy at the time was to criticize Bennett behind closed doors, criticize him in the house and vote for him when the legislation came before the house, under the pretext that we were for the principle of it although it was said that it was just good propaganda prepared by brother-in-law Herridge. Therefore to be logical with myself, in 1936 I had the opportunity to see one of these pieces of legislation that had not been submitted to the supreme court for legal consideration, and I asked for its repeal.. I remember very well when Sir George Perley, acting- prime minister, was piloting that legislation in 1935, and I was interrupted by the late Mr. Lapointe. He told me it was useless to discuss that legislation. The next day the Ottawa papers had some little notes about my humble self: " 'Pouliot silenced by Lapointe,' reads the headline. This ranks as the week's most notable performance."-the Journal. "Pouliot silenced, the sun extinguished, Niagara stopped."-the Citizen. Of course I did not pay much attention to that; I found it very funny. But aft,er Bennett was overturned and after this party came to power I moved the repeal of that act, entitled, The Economic Council of Canada Act, 1935. Of course it was pretty difficult on account of the views expressed by our own leaders when Sir George Perley piloted it through this house, but, after a broadside in the morning, the bill was passed in five or ten minutes, second reading, committee, third reading and up to the senate.
Mr. Bennett's idea was to have a subgovernment composed of the deputy heads of some departments, to advise the government about what was to be done by the government. It was the first suggestion of government by remote control. Those individuals were to meet together to draft policies that afterwards were to be adopted by the government and then given to us to swallow. I objected to that. And now, sir, hon. members will find that statute, which is a very short one, repealing Bennett's economic council of Canada. It is 1 Edward VIII, chapter 5. It was a symbol of what had to be done with regard to bureaucracy in this country, killing in the egg the idea of an economic council, a brain trust. That was the idea.
Now, sir, we have gone pretty far. Why? Precisely because the men Bennett put at the control are precisely those who are at the controls to-day, especially in the Department of Finance.
After that it was not long before I had the honour to preside over the parliamentary committee on the civil service. You also, sir, were a distinguished member of that committee. I can tell all the hon. members who belonged to it that that committee, with one exception, that is myself, was the cream of the House of Commons. But, sir, you know as well as my hon. friend the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier) and my hon. friend the Postmaster General (Mr. Mulock) how assiduous was our work, how difficult it was. You know the trouble that we had to secure files transferred from the civil service commission to the House of Commons and the trouble we had to quote before the committee what was in those files. I was not believed when I told the government, and not only the government, but when I told the Liberal party fifteen days ahead, that we would have a unanimous report. But we had that unanimous report, owing to the sense of duty of the members of that committee, who understood that that report could not be perfect in the view of each one, but should represent an average view of parliament on the matter of the civil service.
That report, sir, is still on the shelf covered with dust. Nothing was done. The civil service commission has contended that the recommendations of the report have been acted upon, and I see my friend the hon. member for Huron-Perth (Mr. Golding) who was also a distinguished member of that committee-I have not time to mention them all. It was just a smoke screen.
Afterwards when the Prime Minister asked me to sit again as chairman of the committee I said to him: Provided the unanimous report is acted upon, all right, sir, I shall be happy to do that, although it takes much of my time. And, Mr. Speaker, you know what happened. It was suggested that we proceed without any other base, that the matter should be considered again without the first report being adopted. Then the committee brought in a second report, a unanimous report, the same as the first. That was in 1939, and nothing was done since.
It was not surprising that bureaucrats jeered at parliament. When we considered together with the other members of the committee the question of the civil service it was the first time in the history of parliament that the question of the civil service was considered from the point of view of the service that

The Address-Mr. Pouliot
each civil servant can render to the state. The same thing was done under the chairmanship of my hon. friend the Minister of Public Works. We achieved the same result. But our work was in vain. It served no purpose except to give those bureaucrats an opportunity to glorify themselves once more.
I do not wish to take too much time, but there is something else I must mention. Once there was a meeting of an organization called the professional institute, composed of civil servants who receive fat salaries and who are sure that they are all experts. They took the opportunity to criticize parliament, and I got in touch with the ministers of the departments in which they were employed. I was able to get satisfactory replies from the late Hon. Mr. Rinfret, who was then Secretary of State, from the present Minister of Mines and Resources (Mr. Crerar) and the present Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner). On November 9, 1938, I wrote one other minister a letter in which among other things I said:
During last session at several sittings of the civil service committee I brought the attention of the members of the committee to the fact that the civil servants must always respect our parliamentary institutions. Personally I pay no attention at all to what may be said about my own self, but on the other hand I cannot remain indifferent to the remark passed by one of your employees- .
I mentioned the name.
-president-elect of the institute, who spoke about the proportion of high-minded members of the committee on that occasion. I enclose a list of the members of the committee. Will you please tell Mr. So-and-so to be more precise and indicate those who according to his views are high-minded gentlemen and those who are not.
I thought it very improper for any civil servant, whether belonging to the professional institute or not, to make a distinction, between high-minded and low-minded members of parliament. The minister to whom that letter was addressed is not in the house now, otherwise I would name him. He has an inferiority complex with regard to bureaucrats; he thought every time a civil servant said or did something it was perfect, and that members of parliament should bow to them. Of course we bow on the street but not in. this house.
Then, sir, I did something else in an attempt to clean up the statute books. Of course the act repealing the measure creating the economic council did not cost the state anything, since there was no litigation, but it was different in connection with the other legislation. Those other acts were submitted to the courts for a decision. In order to deal with 72537-44 i
this point I have to go back to the dark times of Bennett. Mr. Bennett was the lord of this country before he entered the House of Lords. It was impossible to make him change his mind in connection with the draft legislation prepared by Mr. Herridge. The only recourse, when Mr. Bennett had the power in his hands, was to move that his legislation should be submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada for a decision as to its validity. I did suggest that this action be taken, and later it was taken by the leader of the Liberal party, who was then leader of the opposition. At the time, however, his motion was voted down. After the Liberal party was returned to power, however, in spite of the fact that every Liberal candidate throughout the country had decried that legislation as being only blah-blah, as being political expediency and political propaganda, the government decided to submit the legislation to the courts, with the exception of the measure to which I have referred, which put the government in the position of agreeing with the principles of the legislation, though they had said it was merely political expediency.
These matters were submitted to the courts, and at no small cost. If the government had acted in connection with all the so-called legislation of Bennett as it acted in connection with the economic council measure, a great deal of money would have been saved. I have before me the details as to the cost of that litigation before the Supreme Court of Canada and the privy council. I am not going to mention any names, but this may be surprising to you, Mr. Speaker, though you are a prominent counsel. One gentleman received $23,928.92, which is pretty good. That was in connection with the litigation before both our supreme court and the privy council. In connection with the supreme court litigation only, Mr. Justice Rowell's account amounted to $13,267.35, while Mr. Justice Robertson's account in connection with the appeal to the privy council was $12,219.03. There were other lawyers as well. The fourth charged $6,742.52; the fifth, $3,122.99 and the sixth, $2,844.02. Then there was something for the stenographer, something more for printing and so on, making a total of $66,042.64 which was spent to have the supreme court and the privy council decide that Bennett's so-called social legislation was just a fake. This was money that should have been given to the unemployed, because it was spent at precisely the time the government refused to give the provinces any assistance in connection with unemployment relief.
That is not all, sir. The very day I heard that these so-called social acts had been de-
The Address-Mr. Pouliot

dared ultra vires by the privy council in London, I placed several bills on the order paper. If hon. members would like to check what I am saying I would refer them to the evening sitting of March 2, 1937, when I moved five bills to repeal five acts that were on the statute books and that had been declared ultra vires.
I remember that same afternoon I met a minister. He was trembling and shaking, and he said, "What will happen if you go on with this? Mr. Cahan will surely speak." Nobody ever understood anything he said. I moved the second reading of each bill. The debate was adjourned, and hon. members may see in Hansard that the debate on each bill was adjourned by the Prime Minister. Of course that debate was never resumed. My idea was to make a clean-up in the statute books, and to get rid of legislation that was no good. That was so much the condition that when it was decided to pass unemployment insurance legislation we had to go to London to get permission, because otherwise our legislation would have been ultra vires. That is an extraordinary thing. When the new unemployment insurance measure was passed the old one was repealed by the same statute. And, even more peculiar, it was the old act which was rejuvenated in a new one exactly the same as the old one. The four others are still on the statute book.
What is the use of legislating? Certainly some very strange things happen. In view of the possibility of future debates on the point I bring to the attention of the house a letter I wrote the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) on March 13, 1939. I shall not read it again, because it is already reported at page 4599 of Hansard for 1939. Since the beginning of the session the hon. member for Richelieu-Yercheres (Mr. Cardin) has told many truths. But in order to enjoy to the full our parliamentary rights members of parliament must be in a position to say what they have to say about any civil servant or any high official. They are paid from moneys voted by us, and it is essential to have a check upon them. We are here for that purpose, and to prevent any abuse of authority on the part of those operating under the government and parliament. Otherwise we would have no order here or in the country.
It is most difficult for a private member to sponsor legislation of a public nature. I know of course that it is very easy to sponsor divorce bills. In these days however we do not have the same privileges in connection with public legislation. In view of that condition I would ask the government, and particularly the Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent)

to see to it that members of parliament are not called here merely to vote taxation, but that they are called to do some legislating for the welfare of the Canadian people at large.

Full View