I must admit, Sir, that I am not able to understand how any member of Parliament can really desire to return to the old patronage system, at least if he has had any personal experience therewith. Moreover, may I remind the House that this has a far wider importance than its bearing on the personal fortunes of individual members? Its baneful effects are so well known and acknowledged throughout the country-and nowhere so emphatically as in this capital city-that it needs no assertion nor argument on my part. Every political pary has in succession claimed to have considered its abolition of so much importance that it has been made a prominent plank in every platform for many elections. Some of the greatest minds that have adorned these benches have expressed themselves in no uncertain terms in condemnation thereof. And, further, I am satisfied that in so expressing themselves they have given voice to their honest and well-matured conviction-but alas! until some three years ago partisan pressure was too severe and their good intentions perforce became abortive.
Parliament itself, Mr. Speaker, is responsible for the legislation now on the statute book and for the splendid reform which was inaugurated less than three years ago and which has since been on trial. Parliament did not take this step hastily. It knew what it was doing, and surely nothing very serious has occurred in the interim to modify, much less change, the principles or the view then so generally expressed and so definitely given effect to. Of course, it is outside the limit of human power to satisfy in their entirety the expectations or demands of the Civil Service of Canada or of any other country.
In the course of this debate the House has listened to considerable criticism of the Civil Service Commission, and many harsh things have been said and-may I add?-many ill-founded assertions have been made of its actions. But if the House will consider a moment I think hon. members will agree with me that Parliament imposed upon the Civil Service Commission an almost impossible task when it assigned to it the duties called for under the Act of 1918. At that time the staff of the Commission consisted of some fourteen or fifteen, housed in quarters and equipped with machinery adequate for the more or less routine and perfunctory work of which it at the time had charge. In the interim that staff has been increased to a strength of 225, every man and woman of which is working at high pressure and an appreciable percentage of whom find it necessary to put in many hours of overtime. I claim that that shows beyond the last doubt that the duties of the Commission have become more numerous and more important.
In the comparatively brief interval since that Act was passed machinery has been organized and a staff built up which has practically reorganized the service and put the entire machinery of Government on a new, modern and more efficient basis. Undoubtedly some mistakes have been made. Some temporary disturbance of work and some passing inconvenience to the departments must inevitably attend a reorganization so drastic, and indeed revolutionary, but in my opinion the result has been eminently satisfactory. What has been aimed at and what has been actually accomplished is being better understood and more thoroughly appreciated every day, not only in the service itself, but throughout the country, and I cannot imagine it would be possible to make a greater mistake than to stop the work of progress and reform which has been so well started and so assiduously developed.
The Civil Service itself-and I know whereof I speak when I make the statement-is opposed to any return of the patronage system, notwithstanding the remarks made by my worthy colleague that a great deal of unrest exists in the service itself. I should like to read to this House a letter which I received only to-day, and which I think shows that my hon. colleague has either been misinformed or is labouring-under a delusion. This, letter, which is dated the Uth instant, is addressed to me by the Secretary-Treasurer of the Civil Service Association of Ottawa and by the Secretary-Treasurer of the Civil Service Federation of Canada.
Dear Sir,-The undersigned, on behalf of the Civil Service Federation of Canada, representing the Outside Service from coast to coast, and the Civil Service Association, representing the Inside Service at Ottawa, respectfully but urgently beg to draw your attention to our views with regard to the question of patronage, which is at present before the House In the form of resolution.
We are emphatically opposed to patronage in any form. We regard the abolition of patronage as the most outstanding and beneficial reform in the history of the Canadian Civil Service, and we desire to express our gratitude to you for the enactment of the present Civil Service Act, which embodies the Merit System, and in doing so, we voice the undoubted sentiment of an overwhelming majority of the service.
It has been the experience of the service in the past that under the patronage system influence predominates and worth counts for little. We are convinced that under the Merit System, meritorious service will be rewarded and toadyism will disappear. It is true that during the present period of transition conditions are inevitably somewhat chaotic, and the advantages of the reform have not yet been realized. We feel sure, however, that if the Merit System is given a fair trial effective and satisfactory methods of administration will be evolved and carried out.
L. H. Lamothe,
Civil Service Federation of Canada.
J. H. Ryan, Secretary-Treasurer,
Civil Service Association qf Ottawa.
Every thoughtful elector in the country is antagonistic to patronage as a manner of appointments to the public service. The system has'been condemned by every commission appointed by the various political parties that have held the reins of power in this country. I have already pointed out, that the leading public men of all political schools of thought have expressed themselves unmistakably in favour of the competitive system. In every progressive country in the world to-day this is the system which is followed in recruiting the public service, and I would therefore re-
gard any interference with the present methods that are being developed in our federal service as a retrograde step which can only result in disaster.
Feeling as I do, Mr. Speaker, that patronage as it existed some years ago was unsatisfactory, unbusinesslike, undemocratic, and in some cases unfair-and a last but not the least argument in support of my contention, that it has been one of the chief causes of the downfall of almost every Government since Confederation-I cannot support the resolution of my hon. and gallant friend, the member from Victoria. [DOT]
Topic: POLITICAL PATRONAGE IN THE CIVIL SERVICE.