I do not intend to repeat what I said last year. Many hon. members
in this house expressed the view that a change should take place. I think the best change which could be adopted would be one recommended by a non-partisan body, and the findings of the committee of this house appointed to investigate this act will receive my humble support.
I do not pose as a reformer. I did not draft the amendments which appear in this bill; I embodied the recommendations of the Senate committee of 1924 and some of the recommendations of the Malcolm committee of 1923. Should my bill be amended, I will not object; I am striving only to arrive at the best method of remedying a situation.
I am not against the merit system, but I do contend that the Civil Service Commission in its administration of the act does not recognize that system. Only a few weeks ago applications were requested for the position of chief page in this house. I have been informed that the examination embodied an essay on the League of Nations. Last year the position of expert mechanic in the marine signal branch of the Department of Marine at Quebec was vacant. There was a large number of applicants for the job. Two or three young men took lessons from a professor of chemistry at Laval university in order to learn the different problems involved, because they felt that to be good mechanics in the signal department, they must be acquainted with the action of salt water on buoys and similar matters. The successful candidate was the janitor of St. Patrick's church in the city of Quebec, and I am told by some of the applicants who submitted to the examination that they were asked only three questions. First they were asked if they were married or single; second, "What salary do you want?" Third, "When will you be ready to 'take the job?" One man after having passed the written examination got 95 points, but after answering these three questions successfully he received only ninety points. Why should a man be deprived of five points after having answered successfully the three ridiculous questions that I have already quoted? I could cite numbers of examples like the above.
Let me point out another aspect of the matter. I have already complained that neither the three commissioners nor the inspector or examiner inquire into the qualifications and characters of the candidates. After they have sat for the written examination, all the papers are sent by the inspector to an employee in the department and this employee, after making certain ratings and gradings, sends a report to the Civil Service
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Commission to the effect that candidate A should be first and candidate B should be second. Why, according to that so-called merit system, should the minister or the head of the department be deprived of the right of making an appointment, when the Civil Service Commission gives the power to a second-rate employee, who receives a salary of perhaps only $1,500 a year, to make an appointment in lieu of the minister?
The other day we read in the press that Mr. Renaud, who was an appointee from the province of Quebec in the Department of Justice and who has always been a good and efficient servant, died. The question arises as to who is to fill his place. Of course applications will be asked for throughout Canada and any lawyer who has practised his profession will be entitled to be a candidate. As regards Dr. Roche, who is a physician, Mr. Tremblay, who is a journalist, and Dr. Mac-Tavish, who is also a journalist, what are the qualifications of those three gentlemen to judge as to the respective merits of the lawyers who will be applicants for the position which Mr. Renaud formerly held in the Department of Justice? The civil service commissioners will do as they have done in the past; they will ask a lawyer from Ottawa or somewhere else to act for them; they will delegate their powers to him to find out who is the best lawyer to fill that vacant position in the Department of Justice. I consider legislation which deprives a minister of the right to make an appointment and empowers a lawyer who is not even an employee of the Department of Justice to fill a position in that department, is unwise, unsound and ought to be amended.
I could speak for hours and days giving examples like the one I have already mentioned, showing that this so-called merit system is not based on true merit. I assure hon. members opposite that I am not approaching this question in any partisan spirit, because while some bad nominations have been made under Liberal administrations, some bad nominations have also been made under Conservative administrations. I want to approach the question in a broad spirit. It is all very well to say: We do not want to return to the patronage system. We want the nominations to be aboveboard, but while we are desirous of having the merit system, let us find a scheme which will be based on true merit and let the true merit system prevail. Let us do away with that camouflage system which has produced such bad results and has given birth to complaints all over Canada.
I do not want to dwell at length on this question; I think I have made my point sufficiently clear, and I ask that this bill be now read a second time.
Before the hon. member concludes his address on this particular bill, would he be good enough to explain to the house the reasons for the major change urged in 'the bill, namely, the exclusion of the outside service? That is an aspect of the bill he has not yet discussed.
answer briefly the question put by the hon. member for Bow River. I have already stated that the three commissioners sitting at Ottawa cannot really be the best judges of the qualifications of all the different employees living outside the city. I have already pointed out that these three men cannot be an encyclopaedia of science. They are not properly qualified to ascertain the qualifications of a man who wants to be appointed caretaker of a customs house in Vancouver, or a postmaster in the Yukon or a customs officer in the port of Gaspe. Therefore I think in the best interests of the civil service itself, it is better that the three commissioners sitting in Ottawa should devote themselves to applications and nominations for positions in the inside service alone. They will find that a hard enough job, because in the inside service theTe are at least 18,000 employees. The appointment of a postmaster, for instance, in any part of Canada could be better made by the minister of the department than by the Civil Service Commission. I might point out to the hon. member for Bow River that on the twenty-fourth of June of last year the leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) himself stated that in the legislation of 1918 they had gone too far in putting the postmasters throughout Canada under the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission. It is not necessary for me to speak any longer, but I think the public interest will be best served by taking the outside service out of the jurisdiction of the commission; or, if the committee which is to be formed prefers, by devising other ways and means of appointing candidates to the outside service.
I do not think that at this stage of the proceedings it would be proper for me to answer all these questions, especially
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in view of the fact that there will be ample opportunity to answer them in committee. I am pleased to see that my hon. friend is a member of the committee because I am sure he will have some very good suggestions to offer.
I am astonished, but at the same time I am not surprised, that this evening we should have a proposal from the ranks of the Conservative party of a character that is calculated almost entirely to destroy the Civil Service Act which that party is responsible for putting on the statute book of this country.
It is also interesting to note that until I asked him the question after he bad sat down the first time, the mover of the motion (Mr. Gagnon) did not give any explanation whatever of the most .sinister proposal in the bill, that of turning *over to the greediest of hordes the patronage [DOT]of the various constituencies throughout this 'dominion. The Secretary of State (Mr. Caban), when he spoke a few moments ago on an amendment that was ruled out of order, proposed that this bill and the resolution standing in the name of the hon. member for Muskoka-Ontario (Mr. McGibbon) should be referred to a special committee, and he gave two chief reasons for that. The first was that there were certain sinister reflections upon the present Civil Service Commission which in the public interest should be examined into and cleared up.
Yes. He said that neither the representatives of the Civil Service Commission nor those of the rank and file of the civil service had had an opportunity to defend themselves in connection with these allegations. The other reason he gave was that we might devise ways and means of improving on the Civil Service Act and its administration.
In regard to all these proposals of the Secretary of State, I, and I believe my colleagues are in complete accord. We think it advisable that there should be an examination into the actual conditions under which the administration of the civil service is being conducted to-day by the Civil Service Commission, and I will go so far as to agree with
my hon. friend from Dorchester (Mr. Gagnon) and join hands with him in a dismissal of the present civil service commissioners. I have no hesitation in saying that, from what meagre knowledge I have of what has been going on for some years and is now beginning to come out in the public press; but to destroy the merit principle-never. This country cannot afford to do that at this stage.
It is within a few minutes of eleven o'clock, Mr. Speaker, and as I wish to discuss the principle of this bill at some length, I ask you to call it eleven o'clock.