June 3, 1921

UNION

John Allister Currie

Unionist

Mr. CURRIE:

Let us go easy on this thing. The witness says that he thinks the Minister of Justice made the recommendation. Let us ask the Minister of Justice who made the recommendation.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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Joseph Arthur Calixte Éthier

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ETHIER:

I may suggest to the

hon. member for Simcoe-

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Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

There is a wellknown rule of procedure that two hon.

gentlemen cannot occupy the floor at the same time.

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Joseph Arthur Calixte Éthier

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ETHIER:

I will suggest to the hon. member for East Simcoe (Mr. Currie) that, if he wants further information, he should ask for the laying on the table of the House of all correspondence with regard to that appointment, and he will get the information. As I was saying before, the only change made in the Act is the insertion of the words "nor in the public interest." I contend that these words should not be inserted, because

5 p.m. they mean the delegation of the powers of Parliament to a third party which is not responsible to Parliament. The ,hon. member for East Simcoe says: "But this is subject to the approval of the Governor in Council." I answer him by saying that the Governor in Council will, as heads of departments have always done, suggest this to the Civil Service Commission: "You will do such and such a thing, because the present condition is not in the public interest." They leave out the word "practicable". If this section is not amended every branch of the service could be taken out of the hands of the Civil Service Commission and be brought under political patronage, simply by the Government declaring that sue a a step was "in the public interest". I think that this Parliament should not be deprived of the right of declaring whether or not it is in the public interest.

I do not agree altogether with my hon. friend the Minister of Immigration in his remarks the other day, but I do agree with what he said at the end of his speech, which seems to directly contradict the principle of the Bill which he has presented to the House. What did he say?

Personally, I am inclined to the view, although I doubt if the commission themselves

are, from discussions I have had with them,_

not before the committee, but more or less offhand after our meetings-that we should put the exemptions that are made in the statute; but probably it would be better for a year or two to elapse before that is done. Let us first work the thing out a little further.

I quite agree that it would be advisable, for the protection of the commission, and of Parliament, and of the public, that these exemptions should be reported upon to Parliament, setting forth the reasons why the exemptions were made in particular cases.

I agree with that, and I think my hon. friend from North Waterloo (Mr. Euler) would be satisfied if that were done, or if these words " nor in the public interest " were struck out. Let the commission prepare a list of the classes which it seems impracticable for them to administer and [The Chairman.]

let those classes be approved by this Parliament and put in the statute.

Mr. Chairman, I regret to have occupied so much of the time of the committee, but I considered that it was my duty to make these remarks. I have done so solely from the point of view of the public interest, and from no other motive. I trust that the amendment of my hon. friend from North Waterloo will be accepted. I have no objection at all to seconding it.

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John Best

Unionist

Mr. BEST:

I want to say a very few words on this question. It seems strange to me that the tan. member who has just taken his seat (Mr. Ethier), who was a member of the special comimiit-tee that considered this Bill, should find fault wnith the Bill that is now before the House in the way he has. I also have some fault to find with it, but the fault I find is that it does not go far enough. When I heard the hon. gentleman not more than five minutes ago speak of this Parliament delegating powers to two or three men who are not responsible to the people, and not responsible to Parliament, I thought he was telling pretty near the truth. What has this Parliament done? It has delegated to two or three men in Ottawa all the powers of a federation that is the strongest in the Dominion of Canada to-day. We have a federation here for which the people of this Dominion pay $67,000,000, and the amount is increasing every year. These are people who tell us what we are going to do, and where we get off at. I went to an office in the West Block a few days ago with two other hon. members, and we were discussing the expenditure of money on highways. I said that it had reached"such a stage that the people were beginning to find fault with the extravagance, and no wionder. What was the answer I got from that civil servant? The answer was " To hell with the public." That is what he told me. They tell you to-day, and they tell the people of this country, where we get off at. The Parliament of Canada has no say over them at all.

. CALDWELL: Which cabinet minister was it that made that remark?

. Mr- BEST: I did not say it was a Cabinet Minister. I said it was a civil servant that made that statement. The hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains (Mr. Ethier) was a member of the special committee that considered this Bill, and he has told us of the witnesses that appeared before that committee. It is strange that the only witnesses called before that committee were

deputy ministers and civil servants. There in the committee room was the Chairman and the Secretary of the Civil Service Commission sitting listening to all the evidence that was given by men who were under that commission. There were men who told me "We dare not give evidence. If we told the truth, our heads might go off." Is it not strange that the only ones who gave evidence were the parties interested, and that the Chairman and the Secretary of the Civil Service Commission should he right there watching them and listening to every word they said? I do not think there ever was a committee appointed by this House where such a ridiculous thing occurred, and where witnesses gave evidence before those who controlled them. If they did not tell what was expected of them, off would go their heads, if the commission wished.

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William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

Does not the hon. gentleman realize that the witnesses gave their evidence under oath?

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John Best

Unionist

Mr. BEST:

I certainly realize that, but I know that many would try to save their 'bread and butter even if tkey had to stretch the truth. I do not think there should be a law compelling men to give evidence under the eyes of the men who have control over them. It is not right. There is not a court in Canada where that would be done.

Probably patronage was abused in the past, but I do not think that the people of Canada ever expected that this delegating of power to the Civil Service Commission would go as far as it has. I am informed that there is no other country in the world where such great power is given to the Civil Service Commission. I do not see how we in Canada can boast of our democracy, if we are going to hand over the business of Parliament to two or three men, and have no say in it whatever ourselves. I heard an hon. member a few weeks ago say that the civil servants in one province, I think it was in New Brunswick, were all collected in one county, and that they should be scattered around, but of course he had no say, and the Government had no say, as to how those civil servants should be distributed-the Civil Service Commission appoints them just where it sees fit. And strange to say their salaries are increasing all the time. We are paying out $67,000,000 on the Civil Service now and the people's representatives have no say as to what shall be paid. The commission regulates that matter for us, and if things go much further, they will very soon be regulating everything else. Hon. gentlemen opposite have often told me that they believe the present system of running the Civil Service had worked great injury in many cases. I believe it is not in the interest of the public that two or three men should have power to run this country for us. I am opposed to commissions. I have stated on several occasions in this House that the Government has appointed too many commissions. Nor do I believe in Orders in Council; I am opposed to them, although sometimes, of course, they are necessary. I believe in the people's representatives ruling, but when the Civil Service Act was passed, there was more taken out of their hands than all the other measures that have been introduced since Confederation have withdrawn from the control of members of Parliament.

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William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

The hon. member criticises very severely the fact that the witnesses gave their evidence in the presence of the Civil Service Commissioners who, he states, are their superiors or masters. Does the hon. gentleman know that the witnesses consisted almost entirely of deputy ministers, who are not appointed by the Civil Service Commission at all? I do not think that after any civil servant is appointed he can be dismissed by the commission.

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John Best

Unionist

Mr. BEST:

Were not many of the witnesses the heads of different branches'?

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William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

Not many; most of them were deputy ministers; but even if they were, the commission has no power to discharge them.

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John Best

Unionist

Mr. BEST:

The commission decides who are to be the heads of different departments.

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Joseph Arthur Calixte Éthier

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ETHIER:

The deputies are appointed by the Governor in Council.

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John Frederick Johnston

Unionist

Mr. JOHNSTON:

As a member of the special committee, I want to say a few words on the Bill. I am opposed to the Bill, in the first place, because of the addition to section 38 of the Act of the words "in the public interest," I believe that a very broad interpretation can be placed on those words, and I fear that if they were put into the law that interpretation would be placed on them. Now, in my opinion there was really no justifi-

cation for the Government's introducing this legislation at all, and I believe it was introduced at the direct request of certain members supporting the Government who want the patronage. The evidence given before the committee proved, to my mind at any rate, that at this time there is no need whatever for the change asked for in this Bill. The member for Dufferin (Mr. Best) stated that there had been a huge increase in the cost of the Civil Service. I want to tell him that, shortly after the election of 1911, some 1,000 or 1,100 persons left the Civil Service of Canada, and their places were taken by as large a number as 2,000 or more. That was dona before the Civil Service Act of 1918 came into force, and under a Government of which the hon. member was a supporter. I do not think, therefore, that his criticism should be directed at the Civil Service Commission. I think that every one recognizes that patronage, as we had it in Canada prior to the enactment of the Civil Service Act of 1918, was a real evil, and the Union Government, in its manifesto to the electors in the fall of 1917, declared that they would abolish it. In the session of 1918, the Civil Service Act was introduced and enacted. That Act placed upon tha commission a very heavy duty, and in addition to the regular work which the Act involved, the reclassification of the whole service threw upon them many extra duties. I think that this reclassification was well done, and the appeals under it have been fairly disposed of. In view of the onerous duties which were cast upon them, it is not surprising that there should be room for some criticism of the commission, but in my opinion, if given time, the commission will prove to Parliament and to the people of the country that they can evolve a really efficient service which will mean a great saving to the country.

I would bring to the attention of the House some of the things that transpired under the old patronage system. At page 332, of the evidence given before the committee, Hon. Dr. Roche was asked this question:

Do you know of many cases where postmasters, or other Government officials, without sufficient cause, have been removed on account of the Government going out of power?

His answer was:

Scores and scores.

Hon. Dr. Roche had experience both as a member of Parliament and as a minister of the Crown, and therefore his evidence comes with all the more weight Now, if we wanted a specific illustration of how

patronage prevailed in this country, I could read to the committee an article which appeared in the Toronto Daily Star of January 4, 1912, shortly after the election of September, 1911. The article in question is an editorial under the caption "Major Currie's Firing Squad." The article states:

Yesterday we made some references to Major Currie, M.P., and the bountiful favours which he said the Borden Government would proceed to confer on Collingrwood.

Collingwood, I may say, is in the riding of North Simcoe, which the hon. member represents.

We quoted an interview in which he deplored the evils of the patronage system, saying it has been the curse of the country. "Surely,'' he exclaimed, "something should be done to mitigate this evil!"

At that very time the major appears to have been mitigating the evil in his own way. We are informed by correspondents that Mr. D. G. Bell, postmaster of Stayner, in (Mr. Currie's constituency, received notice on Friday last of his dismissal from that position and the appointment of a successor to take office on Monday morning.

No previous notice had been given, no charges made, no investigation held. The Liberal postmaster was dismissed from office on three days' notice, and a Conservative successor appointed. Mr. Bell's standing in the community is shown in the fact that on the day his dismissal went into effect he was elected mayor of (Stayner by a large majority over his opponent, a leading lawyer in the town.

But the case, as it has been given to us by indignant correspondents, is more flagrant than this bare statement makes it appear. When the Liberals came into office in 1896 the postmastership of Stayner was held by an appointee of the Conservative Government and for fourteen years of the Laurier Administration the widow of the postmaster was left in undisturbed possession until in September, a year ago, she wished to retire. The postmastership was offered to Mr. D. G. Bell, on condition that he purchase the building from her and continue the office in the same premises. He bought the building and became postmaster on October 1, 1910. iNow he is dismissed on three days' notice, the office is taken to other quarters, and the building is left on his hands.

Mr. Bell is a Liberal, but claims that he took no part in the recent elections beyond casting his own ballot. It is reported from Stayner that two other postmasters in the district, who had received their appointment while the Liberal Government was in office, have received the same peremptory dismissal. "And this," says one of the correspondents "in a constituency where three, if not four, of the principal post offices are filled now and were filled through the whole term of the Laurier Government by appointees of the Conservatives when last in office." The spoils system, he says, was unknown. Now it has been introduced in its most ruthless form.

"Party patronage," says Major Currie, M.P.,

"has been the curse of the country. Just think,

this system has given over eighty-five per cent

of the Government jobs to the Grits, eighty per cent of them heelers. Surely something should be done to mitigate this evil." Then he smiles and gets busy. He calls for a list of the spoils of war and proceeds to apportion them among his captains. He seems to have a military man's idea as to how to treat a conquered country. Where there is not a vacancy a firing squad can soon make one.

I submit to you that if the hon. member for North Simcoe could do such work as an ordinary major, what will he do now that he is a full-fledged colonel?

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UNION

John Allister Currie

Unionist

Mr. CURRIE:

I will give the hon. gentleman his answer if he will kindly take his seat.

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June 3, 1921