June 1, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


Edgar Keith Spinney (Minister Without Portfolio)



Yes. Before the committee deals with this Bill, I want to encroach upon its time very briefly. When any legislation is presented to Parliament for enactment, it is logically necessary that some justification should be given for such application. In the introduction of Bill No. 122, to amend the Civil Service Act, 1918, it is my desire, as its sponsor, to inform the committee on that point.
I first wish to state that it is conceded that when the Civil Service Act was framed and enacted in 1918, the commission was

given powers and obligations far in advance of those entered into by either the United States or Great Britain, imposing duties beyond the ability of any commission, however efficient they may be, to accomplish without some sacrifice to the public service.
On account of serious complaints against the administration of the Civil Service Commission, for reasons already assigned, from both inside and outside Parliament, it was deemed advisable to appoint a special committee of the House to make careful inquiries into actual conditions, and, if necessary, to offer practical suggestions in order that a remedy might be applied. As these complaints were in connection with the three classes in this Bill, while they were incorporated in a tentative form with an expressed understanding that they were not to be regarded in any manner to influence the action of the committee, yet they would form a basis on which to direct their inquiries, the committee entered upon and gave faithful consideration to the duties imposed upon them.
The committee held eighteen meetings and examined twenty witnesses, carefully weighing the evidence submitted.
In dealing first with Class A, Manual Labourers, there was a genera 1 agreement by all the witnesses that it was unnecessary and inadvisable for the Civil Service to intervene, as this class of labourers are required usually for a limited time all over Canada; much of their employment is of an emergency character and was usually engaged locally. It was generally agreed that responsible officers in charge of Government work could more quickly and more advantageously employ such labour than could the commission sitting in Ottawa.
The operations of the Civil Service Commission in regard to this class were shown as in the report issued by the Department of Agriculture, that an average delay of 91 days prevailed in filling the appointments by them.
Class B consists of postmasters whose remuneration consists, in full or in part, of a percentage of the receipts of the office; the task of drawing the line between the classes of postmasters was most difficult. Some postmasters, although paid on a percentage basis, by virtue of the size of the office and of the town in which the office is located, are more nearly on a par with permanent members of the Civil Service Commission than are postmasters in smaller towns and country localities.

The method employed in making such appointments to vacancies in smaller towns or rural post offices is through the post office inspector of the province where such vacancy occurs. He proceeds to the locality, investigates the conditions, consults prominent people in the locality, makes his recommendations to his chief, then is brought before the Civil Service Commission, which invariably acts on the recommendation. Members of the Civil Service Commission agreed that their intervention in a large number of these appointments is perfunctory, and admitted that these were now practically in the hands of the departments concerned.
In a statement received from the deputy postmaster general, it- was disclosed that in the case of appointments of city postmasters an average delay in confirming these appointments was only 16 days, yet in the case of rural postmasters the average delay was 74 days, in many cases causing inconvenience and loss to the people relying upon that service in order to carry on their business operations.
With reference to class C, professional, scientific and technical officers employed for the performance of duties as such, much difficulty was experienced in defining precisely what "scientific and technical officers" might be. -'"'fto form of examination by itself alone can disclose the fitness of the applicant for a professional position. In some branches where appointments of this class are required, other qualities than those determined by competitive examinations were necessary. It was also pointed out by some witnesses that professional men in good standing were in some instances reluctant to submit themselves to competitive examinations, fearing that, if unsuccessful, a certain reflection would be cast upon them. The evidence disclosed that in many cases where scientific and professional men of special qualifications were required, the deputy heads of departments would induce competent persons to forward applications to the commission, and in the majority of cases thus secured the appointment of the class of men they required. The system now employed being in a measure unnecessarily deceptive to those applying through advertised requests, such applicants would practically have no chance for appointment, thus involving the country in a very heavy expenditure./ ;
The commission agreed that there were a number of classes which might be removed from their intervention. What
these classes were the commission was unable to say-before coming to a conclusion they must consider what the effect would be, not only on the classes which might be removed, but upon all classes which remained.
From the evidence submitted, the committee concluded that it is desirable in the public interest that the commission in consultation with deputy heads of departments should undertake a careful review of the entire service with a view to determining what classes of employees should be exempted, in full or in part, from the jurisdiction of the commission and the provisions of the Civil Service Act. The committee concluded that it would be unwise at present to attempt to name or define these classes by statute.
From the mass of evidence given, the committee finally reached the conclusion that the problem was not only complicated but involved longer examination and study than the time at its disposal would permit, and that the wisest course to pursue was to suggest certain amendments to the existing law that would leave no doubt as to the power of the commission in this regard, and that the commission itself before another session of Parliament should, in conjunction with deputy ministers, give careful study as to what classes of appointments and promotions might properly be removed in full, or in part, from the operations of the Civil Service Act, it being understood that in all such cases the commission retain the power as contained in the Act to make such regulations as are deemed advisable. This, in the opinion of the committee would ensure a proper procedure, whereby the advanced measure of Civil Service reform adopted by Parliament three years ago may be modified and adjusted to meet the actual needs of the Civil Service without impairing 'the chi^f object Parliament had in view in enacting the Civil Service Act. With that object in view the committee has reported Bill No. 122, an Act to amend the Civil Service Act of 1918, with amendments.
Before closing my remarks I wish to draw the attention of the members of this committee to a statement made by myself in my brief introduction of this Bill, as follows:-
If the introduction of this Bill amending the Civil Service Act of 1918 leaves the impression on the minds of any hon. gentlemen of this House that the Government has receded from the main principle of that measure, namely, the abolition of patronage, they may dismiss it.

This statement was emphatically endorsed by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. The unwarrantable attack on that announcement both by some hon. members of this House, and very largely by the press of Canada, the cause for which may very easily be defined, was most unjustifiable, as shown by the report of the committee dealing with this investigation. An unprejudiced effort was undertaken for the purpose of eliminating such inconsistencies as now exist in the administration of the Civil Service Act, as was demonstrated in the evidence recently taken, with the earnest desire that the public interests may be better served.

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