June 16, 1922

LIB
LIB
PRO
LIB

Paul Lacombe Hatfield

Liberal

Mr. HATFIELD:

I think my hon. friend will admit that I have not bothered the House very much this session.

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PRO
LIB

Paul Lacombe Hatfield

Liberal

Mr. HATFIELD:

Under the conditions that my hon. friend from Digby-Annapolis (Mr. Lovett) mentioned, where there is a vacancy in a rural district and it becomes necessary for the inspector to select a suitable man, is it not within the bounds of reason that the elected representative of the people would be in a good position to give a recommendation which should carry weight?

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

I see no objection to inquiry being made of the member for the district as to who would be a suitable person, but the responsibility for the recommendation should lie with the officials in the department, and I think they can discharge that responsibility. Further, if there is any dissatisfaction with appointments made in that way, it will very soon be voiced by people in the district who are not getting the service they should get, and in that way you will develop throughout your services an efficiency and a singleness of purpose to secure the best men possible that in a few years will bring those services to a much higher plane of efficiency than can be maintained on any patronage basis. That is the argument I am trying to make. I think there are defects, as I stated a moment ago, in the Civil Service Act, and in my judgment those defects should receive the attention of Parliament and, if possible, be cured.

Let me repeat that I adhere absolutely to my opposition to anything that savours of a return to the patronage system as far

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as the administration of this country's affairs is concerned. Lay down the conditions under which people shall come into the service. If your Civil Service Commission is not functioning as it should, if it is not efficient-and I am passing no reflection upon the present commission- then get a commission which is efficient, but do not charge any defect in administration against the soundness of the principle. That is the point I wish to make.

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LIB
PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

In any case Parliament is supreme in the matter. I shall deal now with an observation or two made by my hon. friend from Centre Winnipeg (Mr. Woodsworth). I think one of the defects of the service is that it is over-staffed and over-manned. I believe that applies not only to the inside service, but very often to the outside service. That is inevitable when your service is built up, as it has been largely in the past, under the patronage system, because jobs were often found for people whether they were necessary to the service or not.

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LIB

Lewis Herbert Martell

Liberal

Mr. MARTELL:

Would not my hon. friend also admit that this over-manning is due to improper organization, that one person will not touch another person's work as he would be compelled to do in an ordinary business establishment?

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

I think my hon. friend is probably right in that observation, but when I contemplate the increase in the cost of running our civil government, it makes me reflect that something must surely be wrong. My hon. friend from Centre Winnipeg has stated that there are a great many servants underpaid. That may be. He also criticized the difference that exists between the salaries of low-paid and high-paid civil servants. I do not think his criticism in that respect is well founded. Objection has been taken at times in this House to paying government officials good salaries. Take, for instance, the department of my hon. friend, the Minister of Finance-possibly the greatest single administrative department in the country, having to do with the collection of hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Can you say that it would not be profitable for the minister to get one, two or three men, if necessary, and pay them $12,000. $15,000 or $18,000 a year-men with the business ability to organize that great tax-collecting machine all over this Dominion and have it run more efficiently

and economically than is the case at the present time? I think many of our higher and more responsible public servants are underpaid rather than overpaid, and I believe it would be money in the treasury in the long run to secure men of marked organizing capacity and business ability to handle our service in an effective and efficient manner.

I have had some experience in business administration, Mr. Chairman,-not in a very large way perhaps, but still in a considerable measure,-and I have invariably found that when I selected a man because he was cheap and put him in a responsible position, he turned out to be an expensive man in the end. My experience has been that the greatest efficiency can be secured only by paying the necessary salary to get the man who possessed the requisite ability to fill the position. And the same thing will apply to government administration. You cannot always put government administration on the same basis as the administration of a private business, because the two things are often in their nature essentially different, but nevertheless it is possible to go a very considerable way towards placing the administration of the government service upon the same basis as the administration of private business and have the same considerations obtain.

I believe it is the desire of every hon. member to have the administration in the inside services here at Ottawa as well as in the broader field outside, placed upon a thoroughly efficient basis, and the cost of running the government machine cut down to the lowest point possible consistent with maintaining the necessary efficiency. That is very essential when we consider the terrific tax burdens the people are carrying to-day. Every thousand dollars, every million dollars that can be cut from the cost of administration is that much saved for the tax-payers. In my address on the budget I offered some suggestions to the Government in regard to the reorganization of the government service. In considering the estimates not only this year but in previous years I have been struck with the evident overlapping of work in the various departments. If the whole proposition is tackled in a broad, vigourous way I think great economies can be effected, and unquestionably the people of Canada are expecting this Parliament and Government to practise economy in the public services wherever it is possible to do so.

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LIB

Lewis Herbert Martell

Liberal

Mr. MARTELL:

Does my hon. friend not think that it is the duty of the Civil Service Commission to see that governments do not put half a dozen men in to do the same work in different departments -work that should be coordinated? Does he not think that in the fulfilment of its proper functions the commission should see that that sort of thing is not done? That is what they are there for.

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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

No, I do not concede

that that is the business of the Civil Service Commission. I do not think that the commission should in any sense be an administrative body.

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LIB
PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

That may be; I am

stating what I think-that it should not in any sense be an administrative body. Its duty should be to see that only persons with the necessary qualifications are admitted to the Civil Service; * that being done, the responsibility for the efficiency and economic management of the various departments must rest upon the Government and the ministers in charge of those departments.

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LIB

Onésiphore Turgeon

Liberal

Mr. TURGEON:

Mr. Chairman, if I

take the liberty to express my views upon this important subject, it will be only to repeat what I said in the last Parliament; for I have not changed my opinion since. This matter must be considered from many angles. We have to secure not only the efficiency of the service, but the greatest possible economy in the making of appointments as well as in the general administration of departments. Since 1918, when the disposition of appointments was put entirely in the hands of the Commission, the cost of administering the Civil Service has tremendously increased. It is well known that before that time appointments to the outside service did not cost the Government one cent. The recommendation of a person for appointment to a position in the Government service is a great responsibility on the part of the member of Parliament. I had the patronage of my county for many years, and I have been elected on each occasion with increased majorities; had I used bad judgment or recommended the appointment of inefficient or dishonest persons, I would have been defeated when the next election came on. I say it is a great hardship to have the exercise of patronage in your county. A member has to be on his guard all the time; when a vacancy occurs he has to be sure to select a man who is capable and efficient, but

one who is in public life should be prepared to give his best energies to his county and to his country; if he is not prepared to assume that responsibility, let him stay at home. From the aspect of economy, I may point out that when a postmasters in a rural district dies or leaves his position, it takes two or three months for the Commission to appoint another man in his place, and the cost runs up to two or three hundred dollars. Under the old system, during the fifteen years that I had the patronage of my county I simply wrote a letter to the Postmaster General or to the minister of the department concerned, and the appointment was made without one cent of cost to the country. In the last four years it has cost thousands of dollars to appoint men in my county who have no more right to the positions than anybody else. We are responsible for the expenditures of public money, and we should protest against sudh a system as this. During the last three or four years I have had a rest because I have not been consulted in matters of! patronage in my constituency; and in the case of some of the appointments made the officers are certainly not the most efficient. But there would have been no use in my complaining to the commission; I would not have been listened to. In the earlier years* following the placing of all these matters in the hands of a commission, I took the trouble to make recommendations for appointments, naming men whom I personally knew to be well qualified for the positions concerned, but not one man recommended by the member for Gloucester was appointed. The hon. member for St. John (Mr. Baxter) knows that I know very well every man in the county of Gloucester, his qualifications and his efficiency. The member for the county is the one who best knows his constituents. I do not know the families in the constituency of my hon. friend (Mr. Baxter); I could not make recommendations for appointments in his constituency, neither could he make selections for appointments in mine. The post office inspector, to whom the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Crerar) referred, is in the same position; if he lives in the city of Halifax, what does he know about the local conditions in Amherst and other places? Now, what should be done? Men appointed to positions in the outside service must be efficient and of good character. Take the case of fishery officers; every fishery inspector or guardian occupies, in his own little district, a judicial position. He has power

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308.3

to impose fines, he must be a man of sterling honesty. But how does the Commission know of his qualifications in that respect? They find out whether he knows that two and two make four-that is what it amounts to.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

A small man for a small hole.

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LIB

Onésiphore Turgeon

Liberal

Mr. TURGEON:

The commission has

lately stated that it might be well if appointments to positions involving a salary under $200 were recommended by the member for the county. It may not have been so intended, but I look upon that as the greatest insult that could be offered to the representatives of the people in Parliament. It is an insult for a member of Parliament to be told that he is not fit to make appointments carrying a salary of over $200. I see the ex-Minister of Agriculture in his seat. It is an insult to him and hon. gentlemen opposite just as much as it is to me. If I am not qualified to nominate a man for a position worth $1,000 or $2,000, I do not want to choose a man for a position worth $200. My hon. friends of the Progressive party, led by my hon. friend from Marquette, say, let us do away with patronage, but in ten years' time they may find that the public service in the prairie provinces has been degraded because no responsibility for it attaches to members of Parliament, and before that time comes, it will have cost millions of dollars to the country. If a member is not willing to accept this responsibility, let him not seek to be elected to Parliament. He is the only one who can be held to account for the proper carrying on of the public service in his constituency, and he should be ready to accept that responsibility. This same Government that after 1911 put out every public official in the Dominion of Canada who was a Liberal or Liberal appointee-[DOT] and they cannot deny that, every such official was dismissed, and the only exceptions in my county were the postmasters in five or six places where there were no Conservatives in existence-

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CON

William Alves Boys (Whip of the Conservative Party (1867-1942))

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BOYS:

Does the hon. member say that that state of affairs existed throughout the whole of Canada?

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LIB

June 16, 1922