June 3, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


John Frederick 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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