Mr. J. E. FONTAINE (Hull) (Translation) :
Mr. Chairman, I have no intention at this late hour to speak at length; moreover the ground has fairly well been covered by the hon. members who 'preceded me in this debate; nevertheless this question concerning the Civil Service is so important that I deem it my duty to give to this House my views on the subject. Let me first state that I have nothing against the commissioners of the Civil Service; they are eminent men in whom I have confidence; however, I believe that the late government overburdened them with work and perhaps even with excessive powers. Mr. Chairman, it has always been an element cf surprise to me to hear the hon. ministers, in answering questions asked by members, state that they could not be held responsible for the present state of things, and that their authority was very limited over a great number of their employees; the same could be said with reference to their salary; finally that they were entirely in the hands of the Civil Service Commission. Perchance, would that Commission be more important than the Government? Again, I believe that the Borden government invested this commission with too much power. The thought which guided the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in establishing the Civil Service Commission was to give the commission, so far as positions were concerned, control of the inside service; that is to say that examinations
would be held and the most successful candidate would be given the vacant post. 'So far as this went, it was quite correct. But a great blunder was made in 1917, when the late government handed over the control of the outside service to the Civil Service Commission. I cannot see how the members of that commission can, with efficiency, choose workmen, elevator men, carpenters or persons belonging to other trades. I believe that members are better judges of those who have such qualifications to fill these positions. I repeat, in my opinion, that it was a mistake to give the control of the outside service to the Civil Service Commission. Now, I wish to pass a few remarks in regard to the famous re-classification which was made, a few years ago, by Griffenhagen and Company.
I always thought it bad policy that the Borden government considered it wise to fetch foreigners from the United 'States to perform work that they should have done themselves. I contend that the heads of departments were sufficiently qualified to classify the employees. I fail to understand how these foreigners in the course of a few weeks could size up the qualities r.eeded or the value of the work of such employees. Accordingly many complaints have reached us ever since this classification was made. No one was satisfied; all the employees complain and say they have been unjustly dealt with, and I believe they are perfectly right. To my personal knowledge, I am aware that employees having important duties to fulfil, receive, according to this famous re-classification, very inferior salaries. I was anxious to protest against the work done by these gentlemen who have upset everything in the Civil Service and created discontent everywhere they set foot. It seems to me that salaries amounting to six or seven hundred dollars per year are not equitable. I do not believe that an employee can live in a decent manner with a salary of fifty or sixty dollars a month. I cannot understand how these gentlemen who had charge of the reclassification could have discovered positions at such paltry remuneration. I am convinced that the grievances are well founded and ask the Government to start anew, at least for some parts of the service, this re-classification made with such lack of knowledge and very often unjustly. I am aware that the Government must protect the interests of the ratepayers, but on the other hand they must be just towards the employees of the Civil Service. They are an important
class of servants; they are for the most (part able men, and once more, I repeat it, I believe they have cause to complain of the manner in which things were conducted.
A short while ago, I heard some hon. members on the Opposition side make the statement that in their counties there had been no dismissal of employees when the Conservative party assumed power, in 1911. I have no knowledge of what occurred in my neighbour's counties but I can state that in my constituency many employees and competent ones, who were irreproachably fulfilling their duties, were dismissed for the simple reason that they were Liberals. I know that in my constituency, as well as in the county of the hon. member for Bonaventure (Mr. Marcil) a great number of postmasters were removed without cause, simply owing to their connection with the Liberal party; I also know that a great number of employees, in the different departments were dismissed. I might cite the case of a lock watchman, belonging to my constituency, who was discharged because he was a Liberal. Moreover a great number of workingmen of Hull, who were employed by the Public Works Department, were dismissed for the same reason: they were Liberals. The Borden government, between the years 1911 and 1914, dismissed 11,000 employees, under the guise of economy, yet, it found it possible to replace these 11,000 by 23,000 employees who were taken into the service during the same period. It goes without saying that these gentlemen now in the Opposition have made a frightful abuse of patronage. After dismissing our friends, they overcrowded the departments with their own friends, and some time later they passed this famous legislation abolishing patronage, knowing fully well that they would be defeated in the election as it so happened, however making sure beforehand of the permanency of their friends.
I want to protest against this way of doing things, and I feel fully confident that the present Government, which is prompted by a desire to render justice to all groups, will find means to ameliorate the present situation and will amend the Civil Service Act in a way that all political parties will be put on the same footing. I do not believe that it is in the country's interest that the party in power alone should have the right to distribute favours, as it was practised by the Conservative party.
Once more, in the name of my electors and those of the whole country, I ask the
Government to amend the Civil Service Act in such a way as to pay equitable salaries to employees, so that like all other citizens of this country, they may be placed in such circumstances as to enable them to bring up their families decently.