Mr. Robert McCleave (Halifax-East Hants):
Mr. Speaker, the other day in the House of Commons I followed up a question I had originally addressed to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Lang) with regard to Bill C-6 which would transform a Crown agency, the National Harbours Board, into a ports authority. I had an answer, and then I had a debate with the parliamentary secretary, and I must tell the hon. gentleman that he outshone me. He did extraordinarily well and I did extraordinarily badly the last time we hooked up. Nevertheless, I shall try his mettle again. At any rate, the minister, his boss, said he was not pre-judging the will of parliament and that the department was merely carrying out pre-planning as far as possible and indicating to people in the employ of the National Harbours Board the opportunities which would be available to them under the proposed ports commission.
Following the exchange that evening I had calls from various people and visits from various other people, and I am now in a position to know that what I thought was happening is much more serious than I had imagined. It is serious, at least from the standpoint of those who are employed by the National Harbours Board and some of those who have been brought in from private industry to fill positions of extraordinary responsibility.
For example, I heard of one case where, under the screening process now being adopted, a man was found inadequate to occupy the position that he held formerly if he were to be transferred sideways to the new ports structure. On the other hand, he was asked to stay around for a while so that he could instruct his gifted successor on how to carry out his responsibilities. When things like that happen, Mr. Speaker, you have to wonder if the world is upside down, cockaloop or what.
In any event, I said I would return to this question and perhaps this is my last chance to speak on the subject, but I speak on it because we are dealing with a human issue. Once the decision was made to disband the National Harbours Board and appoint a ports commission and instead of having a Crown corporation, to have a body which was under the wing of the minister, I am still wondering why this could not have been done by some sideways transfer rather than putting all of these people, as I said the other day in my question to the minister, in the position of competing against themselves and others for their own jobs.
I do not think the minister wants to downgrade parliament or to denigrate the role of this place, but I think the procedure being used goes beyond the "pre-planning wherever possible" phrase which the minister used, and gets into a new operation, and in that sense I think the minister is outside the law. As a result I have no hesitation in bringing his gifted parliamentary secretary into the House this evening.
The other point is: Who set up the deciding group in what really becomes a competing faction within the Public Service
November 29, 1977
of Canada? I did not say the "civil service" but Public Service in the sense that the National Harbours Board group is being pitted against the ports group within the Department of Transport. I do not know what assurance can be given that people can be guaranteed that they do not get shafted, to the favour of some other group.
Let me put it this way, Mr. Speaker, if I have one minute left. Years ago I wrote an exam on marine law, believe it or not, which is rather close to this particular topic. I walked out of Dalhousie Law School on that afternoon more bloodied than bowed, or perhaps I should say both bloodied and bowed, and decided I would never write an exam for a job again. So far I have stuck very religiously to this. I know people both in the National Harbours Board and in the marine division of the Department of Transport who would share exactly that philosophy. They went through this job writing business about 30 years ago and they just do not want to get themselves mixed up in it now. Unfortunately, I think they are being mixed up in it.
I think it would have been much simpler if we had had some act of parliament which would have transferred, melded or wedded these groups together, rather than putting them in the position of fighting with each other for positions, I gather fighting very bitterly and to the detriment of a great Crown agency which is still in existence.
Topic: PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic: NATIONAL HARBOURS BOARD-ALLEGATION ACTION IN ANTICIPATION OF PASSAGE OF LEGISLATION DAMAGING MORALE OF EMPLOYEES