June 4, 1942

NAT

George Black

National Government

Mr. BLACK (Yukon):

We have just been listening to observations on the lobster industry and lobster cans, and on methods of government expenditure. I am going to call the minister's attention to an item which he will probably never find in the auditor general's report and which he and the auditor general will probably never hear about, but it is really too good not to be told.

At the magnificent airport at White Horse in Yukon, the government has established, very properly, a meteorological station. There has been some delay in getting the necessary instruments for that station, but a short time ago a big package arrived at the airport by air express, which is probably the most expensive method of transportation known. The manager called in the staff to see these wonderful instruments unpacked. Mind you, they were sent by air express from eastern Canada away up to northern Yukon. What do you suppose was in that package?

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Lobsters.

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NAT

George Black

National Government

Mr. BLACK (Yukon):

No. Two perfectly good garbage cans! Can you imagine that? Two garbage cans which could have been bought up there at that village for an infinitesimal fraction of the cost of transporting them there by air express. I say this to the minister and to the government: if the officials responsible for that have not been liquidated, as they would have been so efficiently in Russia, they ought at least to be consigned to one of those garbage cans.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Mr. Chairman, first I must express my sympathy with the minister. I am sorry for him over what is going on now. At the present time it seems that everything is cooked in the Rideau club, that the council room in the east block is just a pantry, and that this chamber is a cafeteria for the queer ideas of our intelligentsia. Everything that was done in years past has changed. Now we have a different kind of government. A decision is very seldom made nowadays by the government. It is made before the matter ever reaches the government. The decision is made by experts.

Last winter the door of my office was open and I heard a queer noise downstairs. I did not know at all what it was, so I went down there and discovered that it was being made by the intelligentsia of our country, professors of economics from our Canadian universities who had gathered do\yn there to draft a financial policy. Judging by the size of their

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heads I thought I was in a vegetable garden. They were all there, taking themselves so seriously. Members may laugh, but they cannot realize how grieved I was to think that these people had been asked to assume such responsibility.

Of course the duty of the government is just to act as a pendulum between consumers and producers, and to try to redress all wrongs so that the social life of our Canadian citizens may be as good as possible. When we discuss matters the way they were discussed in years gone by, people who are for the newer fashion in government business find it strange and consider us out of date. I am amongst those who are thus out of date, as are other members both on this side and on the other side of the house.

I take this opportunity to congratulate very warmly the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church) upon the excellent remarks he made yesterday afternoon. I have met several of our colleagues who said that he expressed views that were very generally held by his colleagues. I thank my hon. friend the member for Davenport (Mr. MacNieol) for his kind remarks this afternoon, and I also congratulate him. I do not pretend to take any credit for having brought that matter up several times. It seems to be of no use, and yet these are most important matters. In a democratic system the people are told that they are the ones who govern; in fact, once every four or five years they are called upon to express their views about candidates and to vote for one or the other. That is the only opportunity they have to speak. True, they have representatives; they elect members of parliament who are supposed to check government expenditures, and of course the checking of government expenditures by members of parliament is one of their main duties. But how is it possible for us to check expenditures when the auditor general says that there is no record? It is impossible to check the expenditure because at times there are no records and no vouchers of expenditure, and the personnel of the auditor general's branch is numerically less than one-tenth that of the treasury board. It is pretty hard for one person in the auditor general's branch to check expenditures for all cheques prepared and made by ten officials.

When I think of all this I recall what happened when the branch of comptroller of the treasury was created by no less a genius than R. B. Bennett. He is the one who changed the whole picture, not for the public good, not for improving the accounting of dominion finances, but just on the spur of the moment because he was displeased at not having got some information right away. He said in

TMr Pouliot.l

one of his outbursts, "I will change the whole system because one employee did not answer me as soon as I asked him for some information." And then the change was made not by legislation, but by order in council. That was done by Mr. Bennett, with the agreement of most of his supporters. About the same time, perhaps a little earlier, he saw someone who had come from the United States and who said to him, "Mr. Bennett, you are a very great man. What is to be regretted is that you are not recognized as you should be by American universities; they should confer degrees honoris causa upon you." Mr. Bennett said, "What a bright idea," and he began to have a kind of soft spot for that fellow. He said, "Here is one who appreciates my great personality and my great genius. I will make him my deputy minister of finance." It happened that afterwards Mr. Bennett left the house very often to go to the United States to receive these degrees which were being conferred upon him by universities that had ignored him-all of them-until they were told by that person that he was a great man. And now, sir, we are in the hands of this very same official. I have been told often that it is a bad thing for us to complain of certain officials when they are not here. This was his opportunity to be here, so that hon. members could have another opportunity to see him. Hon. members who are listening to me now will understand why for years I have been fighting a junta of the Department of Finance, those who have been installed there by Mr. Bennett when he decided to change the face of dominion politics. It will take a very long time to forget all the evil that R. B. Bennett did to the Canadian people just on account of his ill-temper and his vanity.

I wonder whether it is of any use to remember the errors of the past now, when they cannot be corrected. It is impossible to alter the state of things which existed during that dark period when R. B. Bennett was leader of the government and when the present leader of the opposition was one of his colleagues. It was a very dark period. All these people were put into high functions by this gentleman, and those who supported him have the responsibility for it. I except the hon. member for Broadview, who was not sitting in the house all the time during that period, and I admit that many other hon. members acted in good faith, believing that the thing was done for the best. But now we see where we are. Is it possible to have any reform made? I doubt it; but it is time to apply the brake.

I have complained many a time about those who are professors of economics, social science, political science and who have no experience of the world. They know nothing

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of applied psychology. They do not meet the people, they do not see the effects of their schemes on the people. They are here in their offices and they think all the time of new schemes, most of the time to improve their own positions.

Who are those who work in the public interest in the civil service? There are some, but they are fewer and fewer compared to what there were when I entered politics years ago. At that time when we had the other audit, we had Mr. Fraser, we had Mr. Gonthier, we had others; things were not so bad. There were civil servants who had been trained under the fathers of confederation, who had taught young men to use their time for the benefit of the state, and they were doing an excellent work. They were quiet, unassuming, trustworthy, modest, sincere. They were not thinking of themselves at all; they considered that it was an honour to occupy a position in the federal government and they served their country to the best of their ability. Of course they took advantage of raises in salary and other improvements which are legitimate, but they were not thinking only of that. Now it is very sad to think that there is not the same spirit among all high officials in the service. There are exceptions, I admit. There are some civil servants who still have that spirit, but it is not as general as it was. What is the result? The result is that the little fellow tries to find a scheme that will give him an opportunity to have two maids instead of one, and, when it was not so difficult to exchange automobiles, to have a new car each year. Then he had great ideas.

Now how does it work in having new legislation introduced? Everyone knows. The Prime Minister meets his colleagues and tells them that the session will open on such a day. He says, "If you have suggestions to offer for the speech from the throne, please let me have them." And then the minister meets his deputy and says the same thing to him. He says, "My dear deputy, the session will start on such a day; have you any suggestions for a new policy?" Then the deputy calls all the chiefs of branches and makes the same little speech. Who of them has an idea? But the chiefs of branches may ask the little fellows, promising young men, bright graduates from universities, whether they have anything to offer. They say, "Have you not something to suggest to us as an idea for the next speech from the throne?" Then some young man scratches his head and says, "Yes, I have an idea. I have been thinking of it." And the idea is to surround himself with a

staff; because, as you know, sir, and as everybody knows, in the civil service, and according to the principles of the civil service commission, a man is not paid according to his worth; he is paid according to the size of his staff. Therefore what is important to a young man who gets into the service is to have a large staff around him, and when he has it, he becomes himself the chief of a branch with a chance of promotion. Therefore there may be a slight amendment to a statute or the suggestion is made that there should be created a new organism which will give this bright, promising young man an opportunity to show his ability by being surrounded by a larger staff and getting a higher salary, which will permit him to have two maids instead of one, and, if not to change his car for a new one, at least to make a nice trip to British Columbia or Halifax or somewhere else.

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LIB
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Yes, sir. It may seem strange in a certain respect, but I understand that the $2,000,000,000 appropriation is for war departments and it seems that this is altogether different. It is the overdraft of departments that are not war departments and it is in excess of the estimates that have been voted for the year 1941-42.

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

The hon. member will find it at page 2920.

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LIB
LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

He will see that the war appropriation is for the period 1942-43 and is to cover expenditures of various departments connected with the war effort. There will be the ordinary current budget for the year 1942-43, but we are now dealing with the appropriation for war purposes for 1942-43.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Yes, sir; but in this appropriation departments are mentioned that are not war departments.

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

There is a break-down and we are now on the item relating to the auditor general's office.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Yes, sir; and of course the duty of the auditor general's office is to check expenditures in all departments. I have the report of the auditor general for the year ended March, 1941. It is trhe last report I have, and, as I say, the duty of the auditor general is to check the expenditures of all departments. If there is an item under which it should be permissible for a' member of parliament to discuss matters such as those I have mentioned, it should be the auditor general's report, especially when, at page 540, the auditor general has this to say:

The status of those who serve without remuneration is indefinite for executive travel regulations purposes. The audit disclosed cases of travel expenses being paid, although the records do not establish that the individual holds any public appointment. The trend of policy now is to have such individuals certified as appointed without remuneration. More generally, appointments without salary are made by an executive order which stipulates, as a rule, a per diem allowance which may be claimed in lieu of a detailed accounting for subsistence and shelter. But cases were noted of accountings being made without employing the permissive per diem rates. Neither departments nor the treasury insisted on non-salaried officers submitting claims in the detail required from salaried officers. Likewise, the standards of travel to be observed by salaried officers were not strictly applied to those who serve without remuneration.

When you called me to order, Mr. Chairman, I was talking of young men who tried to improve their condition in order to travel around. I wonder if they do not fall into that category. As you know, the auditor general's report covers the expenses of all departments, and it covers expenses in the war departments. However, I will summarize what I have to say and try and make it as brief as possible.

This is one of the most important matters we may have to discuss during any session, and when taxes increase, the constituents of any one of us will have the right to ask us why they are paying more in taxes. It is a legitimate question for any of them to ask. This is a most serious matter, and it cannot be treated with indifference. I have exposed some cases of intrigue, but they are not important; it is the whole system that is important. And the whole system of government responsibility to parliament and parliament's responsibility to the people we cannot cut out. At any meeting held by a member of parliament or a candidate during an election campaign, or at other than election times, the electors have a right to ask the speakers, or any speaker: "What have you done or what has been done with the money you have gathered in taxes?" In years gone by it

[The Chairman.]

was possible to answer that question by referring to the auditor general's report. Now in many cases-in most cases-it is impossible. It is impossible for two reasons. We have no estimates for the war departments; what is called an estimate is a very broad headline for hundreds of millions of dollars. Besides, we have no public accounts for less than $35,000, which means that as to those who are clever enough to have many contracts, even several hundred, of less than $35,000 each, nothing will appear in the auditor general's report. That is bad. It is bad for the reason that it is the people who give us the authority to sit here as their representatives. The government is a committee of parliament, a little different from the committees which are appointed each year; nevertheless it is a committee of parliament to which parliament delegates part of its powers, under this proviso, that a check be made by the members of parliament, who are representatives of the people. When we have no information before the expenditure is made and no information after it is made, unfortunately but inevitably it leads to abuse. I am not in a bitterly critical mood; I am trying to offer constructive criticism. When a traveller is on the wrong road, going the wrong way, the thing for him to do is not to go further on the wrong way, but to return to the right way and then proceed in that way.

Why should we be afraid and ashamed to go back to an honourable past when there was less abuse than there is to-day, for the very reason that parliament and governments respected British parliamentary traditions more than we do now? Mr. Churchill, who has a high respect for parliament, would not stand for it for five minutes; neither would Mr. Roosevelt. The other day I had in my hand the budget of the United States, containing the report of Mr. Roosevelt to the congress. Opinions are free. One might think that affairs of expenditure for our war effort should not be disclosed to the public. Mr. Roosevelt thinks differently. So does Mr. Churchill; so does Mr. Hepburn; so does Mr. Godbout; so do premiers of all the other provinces of Canada.

Many times I have made the suggestion that civil servants should have respect for parliament. I was unsuccessful most of the time. But in my humble view all those who are in the employ of the dominion government should have respect for parliament. They may not care about this and that hon. member; that is of no importance, but

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they must respect parliament as an institution. And parliament can be respected only to the extent that it remains true to the honourable traditions of the past.

One may say: Well, it is pretty hard to do something unpleasant to one or two or four or five or ten high officials; it would hurt them; it would be embarrassing to them. But what is one man in a crowd of a hundred thousand?

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LIB
LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Or ten in a hundred

thousand; perhaps my hon. friend is right. What is said is that a man shall be allowed to stay in office because he is such a nice fellow, or it would be hard for his family if he were not. No one thinks of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Canadian citizens who suffer perhaps on account of that very individual, who suffer on account of the weakness that is shown in not firing him at once. I name nobody in particular. But it is rather hard to discharge one you work with, because you know him, you know his family, you know his past-

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Order. I must again draw the attention of the hon. member to. the fact that he is wandering too far afield. The item before the committee is the special vote ' for the expenditures incurred by the auditor general's office on account of war. The hon. member is not addressing the committee on that point at all.

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CCF
LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

I should like to say something if the hon. gentleman is finished.

The hon. member for Temiscouata seems to object to the form of the public accounts.

I wish to make a distinction clear. The statement of the public accounts is one document; the auditor general's report is another. The public accounts are published on October 31, the same day as that on which the auditor general's report must be issued. The public accounts are presented to the Minister of Finance by the deputy minister of finance, for issue and publication. The auditor general's report is tabled through the Minister of Finance. The deputy minister of finance is the permanent head of the Department of Finance; he is a civil servant, an official of the government, in the employ of the government. The auditor general on the other hand is an officer of this parliament and answerable to this parliament.

I have made inquiries as to the form of the public accounts. I find that the public

accounts are in the same form and practically of the same dimensions as they have been for a great many years. I think when hon. gentlemen talk about the public accounts, in many instances they have in mind the auditor general's report. That certainly was true of the remarks of the hon. member for Davenport this afternoon. He referred several times to the volume which he held in his hands, as the "public accounts." That volume was the auditor general's report. If hon. members of the house are criticizing the form of the auditor general's report, it is something they have a right to do. I think it is true that in the auditor general's report he does not give a detailed statement of individual expenditures of less than $25,000. I also believe it to be true that he does give a statement of civilian expenditures in greater detail. At the present time the question whether the form, the amount of detail, in both the public accounts and the auditor general's report should not be changed is under active consideration, and it may be that we can make changes which will be beneficial. It may be that parts of the material now published in the auditor general's report should be incorporated in the public accounts, to let the Minister of Finance take direct responsibility for it as head of the Department of Finance. That is under consideration at the present time, and a little later I think I may be able to make some recommendations to the house in that regard, which the house may debate if it wishes to do so. I do not mean within a week or so, or even within a few weeks, but I just want to tell the committee that this matter is under active consideration.

I do not want to say very much more about the speech of the hon. member for Temiscouata, but I do think I ought to say something about the deputy minister of finance. I do not need to do this for the sake of the general public or the great mass of people who deal with the Department of Finance. I am not saying this out of any sense of loyalty or sentiment, or anything like that; but if hon. members of this house are interested in my views I want to give it as my opinion that in respect of ability, in respect of character and in respect of devotion to duty I have never met anyone who ranked higher, and I have met very few who ranked as high. I want to say that about the deputy minister of finance. I have no personal knowledge as to the circumstances of his coming here, but I believe he was sought after, and almost anxiously sought after, because of his high reputation. I did not work with him, of course, when the previous

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government was in. power, when the Bank of Canada was established, when the housing legislation was launched, or when any of those important measures-and they were important measures, which have proved beneficial during the course of the years-were gotten under way. I know that he had a great deal to do in assisting, and probably in suggesting, that those measures be undertaken. But in recent years, since the outbreak of war, both as acting Minister of Finance and as Minister of Finance, naturally I have worked in very close association with my deputy. We have gone through some very serious times; we have undertaken some very large and comprehensive measures. You cannot set up a great organization such as the national war finance committee, or the foreign exchange control board, or the wartime prices and trade board, without doing an enormous amount of work, when you must have good advice and when you must have with you a clear thinker, a hard worker and a patriotic citizen. The deputy minister of finance is all of that.

Consider some of the things that have been done by the Department of Finance-and I am not saying this to pat that department on the back but rather to give hon. members of the committee some idea of the magnitude of the work. In our financial arrangements with Britain we broke entirely new ground and did an unprecedented thing which I feel sure has the approval of this and other countries. We undertook a comprehensive programme of getting foreign exchange into this country and of conserving foreign exchange by making scores of agreements, some of them involving very large sums of money, under the War Exchange Conservation Act-a most trying kind of work; meeting individuals and companies from all over the dominion and making agreements with them for amortization, depreciation, and so on. We have been dealing with the provinces for the last year, negotiating agreements with them resulting in the provinces vacating the income and corporation tax fields, something in which a sister dominion is now attempting to follow us, as the United States followed us in regard to our price ceiling policy. You cannot do things like these without the help of a person who is a good man. I am willing to give some scope to hon. members of this house in what they say about civil servants, but in regard to this particular civil servant, even though it may not be strictly in order I feel that I owe it to him to state what I have stated, for what my opinion is worth.

I do not think any comment is necessary with regard to the other things mentioned by

[Mr. Ilsley.3

the hon. member for Temiscouata, such as the passage of the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act, and so on.

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

At this stage I should like to point out to hon. members paragraph 305 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, which states:

All references to judges and courts of justice and to personages of high official station, of the nature of personal attack and censure, have always been considered unparliamentary, and the Speakers of the British and Canadian houses have always treated them as breaches of order.

In the remarks of the hon. member for Temiscouata I did not find any direct attack, but certainly there were indirect insinuations affecting the character of these high officials. I should like to draw the attention of the committee to the fact that attacks of this kind are out of order.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I do not propose to break the rules, Mr. Chairman, though I think some of the criticisms offered this afternoon by the hon. member for Temiscouata with regard to the public accounts were well taken. The public accounts committee should be functioning; there should be a thorough investigation by parliament of the expenditures made by the government. I do not think we are doing our duty in this parliament when we fail to examine the public accounts in committee. May I say, too, that if this procedure were followed I believe we would facilitate the business of this house. I think we all feel that the business of the house has been dragging along during the last couple of weeks in a way that is a reflection upon all of us, and I should like to see a speeding up of the business. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, with your permission I am going to say everything I have to say on this matter at the present time.

I rose primarily this afternoon to speak of the staff in the auditor general's office and of the personnel under the civil service commission, which is covered in. the next item. I have been greatly alarmed by the influx of young people from western Canada into Ottawa, and the lack of accommodation for them. I have before me at this time-and I will not give the authority, although I shall be glad to give it to the minister-a report which has been prepared by a reputable social service organization in this city, outlining some of the conditions found here. The war has brought a very large number of people into this city. I suppose each one of us, irrespective of where he sits in the house, knows a number of young men and young girls who have come in from his own constituency, many of them from rural communities, and have found work in

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the various government departments under the civil service commission. Most hon. members know that the conditions under which many of these girls have to live at the present time are deplorable. For example, we hear about the high prices charged for board and room, about the overcrowding and even in some instances about the poor board these girls are getting.

I shall give only one or two examples of many I have before me. Let us first take the ease of three girls-and may I say that each one of these I am about to mention can be thoroughly substantiated. These three girls share a bedroom, and each pays $35 a month for room and board. The landlady is thus getting $105 a month for one room, and board for the three girls.

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NAT

June 4, 1942