March 11, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)


Right Hon. C. J. DOHERTY (Minister of Justice):

I am not quite sure whether I am lost in admiration of the indignation-
I wonder how real it is-of the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) , or whether I am covered with confusion, confusion in some measure for myself, but in large measure for my right hon. friend to my left (Sir George Foster). Woe is my right hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce, for do we not all know that it is written, it is necessary that scandals should come, but woe to the man that bringeth them, even to the least among my children. It were better for him that he should have a millstone hanged about his neck and that he should be cast into the sea than that he should have given scandal to even the least among my children. And lo and behold, my hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce hath given scandal to one who counts among the greatest, the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's. That hon. gentleman is overwhelmed with indignation. He sees the coming back of the dry rot and the corruption that is going to undermine all that is good in this world. Why? Because on one occasion, which he himself admits is an occasion when the Civil Service Commission could not properly have made the appointments in question, the Minister of Trade and Commerce in the performance of his duty undertook to make them. My hon. friend is scandalized because in the making of those appointments the Minister of Trade and Commerce did not think it necessary to consult the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's or the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) who, we notice, was very ready to nominate his political friend. I wonder how it would have worked out as political patronage if application had been made to the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's and the hon. member for Quebec East, and the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's as the hon. member for Quebec East had already done, absolutely without regard to considerations of political patronage, had found it

absolutely impossible for him to nominate anybody save one of his most active political supporters for the position. I wonder how different the situation would have been then. I wonder whether his scathing language about hypocrisy does not find some landing place on the other side of the House.
But, Mr. Speaker, let us get down to com-monsense, I respect the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's too much to believe that he was serious-he actually admits he was not serious, see the smile on his face -in the expression of indignation for which he could hardly find words. Why, he had just admitted himself that if there was fault to find with this Government in its Civil Service legislation, it was that it had gone too far. He pointed out, and, speaking for myself, he pointed out with a good deal of force, that when you have got to the stage where the competitive examination system is applied to the making of classes of appointments where that system could not find its application, he was bound to question whether you were not carrying the principle too far. I am prepared to concede that it is open to question, and that there is room for consideration in that regard. He had just admitted that, and then he treated us to all this mock indignation over the fact that census commissioners were chosen by the minister. So far as there has been reference to those who were chosen, we have been told they were eminently fit people; the hon. member for Quebec East gave us testimony in that regard, and then my hon. friend from Shelburne and Queen's raises his hands in holp horror because there are going to 24,000 enumerators appointed, all eminently fit people, by the commissioners whom the Minister of Trade and Commerce selects, and he speaks of the dry rot and corruption coming back again. Let us be serious. Let us proceed to the question with which we are concerned.
In so far as the principle embodied in the Civil Service legislation is concerned, for my part it commended itself to my judgment when that legislation was adopted. It commends itself to my judgment still. I do think that there are evils attached to purely political patronage against which the law should provide some system of check, and that, as I understand it, was the principle which underlay the Civil Service legislation as we have it at the present time. The principle is absolutely sound, in my judgment, but it is well to remember that when you come to put principles into practical application, how-

ever good those principles may be you must at the same time have the application of sound common sense. There was once a very great artist who was asked what he mixed his colours with to produce such beautiful results, and his answer was: "With brains, Sir." Now, when you come to apply any principle you must exercise common sense. We have had three years of experience in the working of this particular Civil Service legislation, and I see in that experience no reason to depart from the principle that underlies it, although I think that in the carrying out of the Act certain things may have developed that make it proper for us all to consider whether in the practical application of the principle there is not room for improvement, and whether you would not, perhaps, obtain better results, from the point of view of efficiency in the public service as well as from the standpoint of economy-which, after all, is the objective' of those who are held responsible for the working of the system,-if certain of the provisions of the Act were modified. The hon. member for Maisonneuve (Mr. Lem-ieux) has indicated a line of consideration, and the hon. member for Shelburne and Queen's (Mr. Fielding) quite agrees, I understand, with the view implied therein, that is, as to whether the application of the principle indiscriminately to all classes of public servants is wise in the interests of the efficiency of the public service. Just to take one class that occurs to my mind at the moment. I am not expressing any final conclusion as to what ought to be done, but I think it is fair for us to put before the House things that present themselves to our minds as indicating a possible necessity for modification in the law as it stands. Let us take one class-a numerous one-those men who have to be employed in purely manual labour. Now, there is a case where certainly you cannot apply any system of competitive examination, and it seems to be a question that calls for serious consideration whether it might not be advisable to withdraw that class of people from the operation of the provisions of the present Civil Service Act. Reference has been made to rural postmasters. Possibly, it might be to the advantage of the public service that they should be withdrawn from the control of this Act; and in the very carrying out of the Act itself it would seem to me, while adhering to its principle, while seeing to it that proper precautions are taken against abuses of political patronage, that at all

events, we should consider the wisdom of making such provision for the exercise of direction on the part of those who are ultimately responsible to the public as would create some corresponding relation between that responsibility-which, under our system of government, both governments and members of Parliament cannot avoid-and some measure of opportunity for being heard in connection with those things for which they are held responsible.
We have heard a good deal this afternoon on the merits of this suggestion. None of us can have his eyes closed to the situation created by the Act, and it is not impossible that, in the first fervour of the desire for absolute reform, some things may have been overlooked that should have been taken cognizance of, and perhaps the pendulum was allowed to swing too far in one direction. These are things that call for consideration. They have been receiving the attention of the Government, and with the additional light which has been thrown on the subject this afternoon, it is the purpose of the Government further to consider the question as to what modification, if any, might in the public interest be made in the present law, and more particularly in the present system of its application. And in view of this declaration which I am now making, I understand -and this, I believe, was anticipated-that the hon. gentleman who made the motion, is prepared to withdraw it.

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