We have listened, Mr. Speaker, to rather a remarkable speech from my hon. friend, the Minister of Justice, on the great question of the reform of the electoral laws of this country. That is the subject which it became his. duty to present to us this afternoon. but two-thirds of his speech has been devoted to a consideration of how many voters were disfranchised by the thin red line of 1904, and a very large portion of the balance to more or less irrelevant details of the electoral methods in the province of Manitoba. 1 do not propose to follow my hon. friend into many of these subjects. I do not propose to waste the time of the House by discussing the number of voters disfranchised by the thin red line in 1994, because that has already been discussed in this House over and over again, and there are other matters of much Mr. AYLESWORTH.
more moment in which our time may be occupiel.
There can be no doubt that the election law of this country requires amendment. We have been urging its amendment for the last three or four years. In this connection, I very much regret that the government have not seen fit to bring down, at the same time as they brought down this measure, an additional Bill for the purpose of simplifying the Dominion Controverted Elections Act and doing away with some of those delays and useless proceedings which have rendered the administration of the law a by-word and a disgrace. The government have not seen fit to take that step and I am sorry for it.
My hon. friend from Prince Edward (Mr. Alcorn) has Introduced a very elaborate Bill which contains many valuable provisions, and I regret that the Bill now submitted contains but very few of the valuable and useful provisions embodied in the Bill of my hon. friend. I do not say that the measure brought down is without merit in some respects. I approve entirely of sections 2 and 3, especially section 3, which supplies a want that has been long felt, namely, the obligation to furnish an address at which all legal processes, notices and other documents can be served on any man who becomes a can didate under the Dominion Elections Act. That will do away with a great many difficulties in regard to service which we have had in the past. It will do away with all those cases in which, by a judgment of a court of the province or a court of appeal, some hon. member of this House, against whom a petition may have been brought, may have escaped any inquiry whatever into his election simply by reason of some technical point raised in connection with the nature of the service. I approve also of section 19 of the Bill, which is a reform we have advocated ; and the object aimed at in sections 18 and 21 is no doubt a very good one, though I do not think these provisions are adequate to. the purposes intended. Section 21 provides :
Every person, including the candidate, and every partnership, association or company making, on behalf of a candidate at an election, any contribution otherwise than to or through the agent of such candidate, is guilty of an indictable offence.
That does not seem to me adequate because the expression ' on behalf of auy candidate ' would leave a very wide loophole whereby those who ought to be punished might escape.
Section 28 seems to me rather to lend itself to the making of political contributions by organizations formed for that purpose than to bring about any reform of the law such as has been attempted by my hon. friend from Prince Edward (Mr. Al-[DOT] corn). However, as that and other sections
come to the observation of the committee will later on, we can then discuss them more fully. For the moment I can only say that, for the purposes intended, section 28 seems to me absolutely inadequate.
So far as section 17 is concerned, it does away entirely with the secrecy of the ballot. And I, for one, am absolutely opposed to any such provision. The guiding principle of the Dominion Election Act has been the secrecy of the ballot, conveying the assurance to each voter that when he marks his ballot, either for one candidate or the other, his choice will remain a secret within his own knowledge and not to be disclosed. When we find the Minister of .Justice proposing to amend the Dominion Election Act by adding thereto the following words :
Provided, however, that no ballot paper shall be rejected on account of any writing, number or mark placed thereon by any deputy returning officer.
-we are face to face with this situation: that if it is desired that the vote of any particular elector shall be known, and the manner in which he marks his ballot shall be known, any partisan deputy returning officer can mark upon it, ' This is John Smith's ballot' and that will be an absolutely good ballot. I see no jurisdiction for any such amendment to the law as that. And I say it is far better to continue the system we have at present, a system which may bring about the voidance of elections now and then, but which will not do away with the secrecy of the ballot, which secrecy is the safeguard of the country and of the voter.
Now, I commend also the provisions of section 11 so far as they go. There has been an attempt there to provide that the forms of oath which ought to be administered in any case to any elector coming for ward to deposit his ballot shall be set forth in the instructions so clearly and unmistakably that no deputy returning officer, no scrutineer and no voter shall have any doubt upon the subject. I approve of the principle embodied in that section, but I say that the section is not sufficiently explicit, not sufficiently definite, and I shall, therefore, ask that it be amended when we get into committee.
I greatly regret that my hon. friend the Minister of Justice-and the government, for that matter-have not embodied in this Bill certain provisions contained in the Bill of my hon. friend from Prince Edward (Mr. Alcorn), some, but not all, of which I shall now enumerate. There is no provision in this Bill for the holding of by-elections within a reasonable time, nor is it provided that, where several by-elections are pending, they shall all be held upon the same day. There is no provision by which the respectable character of returning officers shall be assured, and we know from
some experience in the past that this is an extremely important desideratum to the end that we shall have fair elections. There is no amendment doing away with the provision of the law by which certain elections in the province of British Columbia and the province of Manitoba shall be held at a time subsequent to the general election, The time has long gone by when these elections should be delayed. In the province of British Columbia, the provincial elections in every constituency are held on the same day. After examining into the matter very carefully, after going to all the sources of information available, I am thoroughly convinced that there is no reason for delaying these elections in British Columbia, or in any other province beyond the time at which the general election is held.
My hon. friend from Prince Edward (Mr. Alcorn) introduces very elaborate provisions respecting contributions by corporations and contractors, and I regret to see that the corresponding provisions contained in the Bill introduced by the government are not at all effective to my mind and require very important modifications before they can be said to fulfil in the slightest degree the purpose alleged to be aimed at. There is provision in the Bill of my hon. friend from Prince Edward with regard to civil servants taking part in elections. Its effect is simply to embody in the statute law a principle which has been accepted by the government and affirmed by unanimous vote of this House. I see no reason why it should not be placed on the statute-book that he who runs may read and that the civil servant may know that he must not take an active and offensive part in elections. Then, there is no provision In the Bill now before us against bribery by promise of expenditure of public money, or the withholding of that expenditure, according to the election or defeat of any particular candidate. The provisions in this Bill of the government with regard to compelling payments through official agents are not effective, while those in the Bill of the hon. member for Prince Edward are effective and valuable. The Bill introduced by the government omits the statutory declarations respecting expenditure which are required under the Bill of my hon. friend (Mr. Alcorn).
So much for the details of the Bill-and I pass over them very hurriedly for the reason that it will be our duty to go into them more thoroughly when the Bill is in a later stage. Let me pass now to one or two of the reasons given by my hon. friend the Minister of Justice, and deal with the ostensible reason assigned by him to-day for clause 1 of this Bill which has undoubtedly provoked a great deal of discussion and a great deal of adverse comment throughout the country. Now my hon. friend either said too much to-day or he said altogether too little when he introduced this Bill. For, I
have read most carefully liis remarks on the occasion of the first reading, and I find that he did not allude by one single word in that speech to the preparation of new lists or the revision of any lists whatever in the province of Manitoba or the province of British Columbia. He brought this Bill before the House, and made a very innocent speech with regard to its provisions. We did not know at that time what its provisions were. The hon. gentleman simply pointed out the difficulties that had taken place in Manitoba in 1904 in cases where the boundary of a Dominion riding cut through some local polling division, and he pointed out the necessity of some provision by means of which the distribution of voters to one or another Dominion division could be made in accordance with the law by proper officers and so as not to create any suspicion of unfairness or injustice. But, as to the preparation of new lists in Manitoba or British Columbia, the Minister of Justice on that occasion said not one word in explanation of the Bill the second reading of which has been moved to-day. Well, we have more information on that subject to-day from the hon. gentleman.
I will pass very briefly over a few of the remarks by which he has endeavoured to sustain the recession of his government and his party from the position they took as far back as 1885, when the Dominion Franchise Act was under consideration in this House; which they reaffirmed in most emphatic words in 1893, when they laid down their platform here in Ottawa; and which they reiterated ad nauseam when they introduced and passed, in 1898, the Bill repealing the Dominion Franchise Act. My hon. friend the Minister of Justice declares that there is no provision in the Dominion Flections Act for the case of overlapping, as he termed it, the case where the boundary between two Dominion ridings cuts through a polling division as established under the provincial law. I may not have gathered the intent of the hon. gentleman's remarks in that respect, because, as he proceeded with his argument, lie seemed to refer more or less to the registration districts in Manitoba, and to the cutting of these by the boundary between two Dominion ridings. I do not know what the consideration of registration districts has to do with his explanation of this Bill, because I do not find in this Bill the slightest reference to the overlapping of any registration district, but I do find a reference to the overlapping of polling divisions and to the consequent necessity of distributing the voters of any particular polling division to one riding or the other. Why then did the hon. gentleman spend twenty minutes of his time in discussing the cutting in two of registration districts in the province of Manitoba by the boundary between the two Dominion electoral divisions. I do not see Mr. B. L. BORDEN
the pertinences of the hon. gentleman's remarks. As concerns the cutting of a polling division in two, there is a provision in the Dominion Elections Act under which it was sought to justify, in the province of Manitoba, that which was done, not by the returning officers, but by Mr. Leach, the head of the Liberal provincial organization. I will quote from the Dominion Elections Act two sections :
24. The polling division _ shall except as herein otherwise provided, be there estab-ished by or under the laws of the province for the purposes of provincial elections within the territory comprised in the electoral district for which the election is held.
25. Where any provincial polling division, as constituted at the time of the receipt by the returning officer of the writ for an election, lies only partly within the electoral district for which such election is to be held, the part thereof within such electoral district shall, for the purpose of that election, form a separate polling division, or it may be attached by the returning officer to an adjoining polling division; and the returning officer shall, as soon as possible after the receipt of the writ, prepare from the existing voters' lists a separate voters' list containing the names of the persons entitled to have their names placed on the list for such part of such polling division.
That law can be carried out without any difficulty provided you have honest returning officers, provided you have officers disposed to do their duty, and who do not hand over their functions to be discharged by the Liberal organizer in any province, whoever lie may happen to be. The Minister of Justice speaks of the province of Manitoba as if that were the only province in which this overlapping occurs. Does he not know that it occurs in other provinces as well? Does he not know that in the city of Toronto, as I am informed by memebrs of this House from that city, there is exactly the same overlapping? The boundaries of the Dominion divisions are not coterminous with the boundaries of the provincial divisions, and the result is that polling divisions established for provincial purposes are cut through over and over again by the boundaries established for the purpose of Dominion elections. It is not in Manitoba alone that this difficulty occurs, it may occur iu any province, and whenever the legislature of any province sees fit to change the boundaries of the provincial riding this difficulty always occurs and probably always will occur, and that difficulty will have to be met in some way. How is it met in Manitoba to-day ? In 1906, when something of the same difficulty had arisen, it was met by legislation, and I will quote from the statutes of Manitoba for 1906, chapter 23, section 7.
In the event of territory comprised within or partly comprised within an electoral division being changed and included in another electoral division, or other electoral divi-
sions whether newly created or not, a judge of one of the county court divisions of the province, to be nominated and appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, shall subdivide the names appearing on the list of electors, as so finally revised, according to the altered boundaries or limits, and make a complete list of electors for the electoral dvisions affected, as aforesaid, and appropriately divide the names of the electors and allot the territory between suitable polling subdivisions, as shall in the opinion of such judge, be just and equitable.
If any amendment is required it is sufficient to follow the lines of that Manitoba statute, and provide that where the boundary between two Dominion electoral divisions cuts through a provincial polling division in the province of Manitoba, then the voters in that polling division shall be al-loted, by a county court judge, to that particular Dominion electoral division to which they properly belong, and according to the place where they reside. That is required, if anything is required, and nothing more. When the Minister of Justice in his observations to-day endeavoured to make the people believe that anything more was required by the exigency of the case, he attempted a task which I think even his great ability is unable to accomplish.
Now, the hon. gentleman made a very laboured argument-I do not exactly see the pertinence of it, but it was to this effect, that the two systems of preparing voters' lists which prevail in Canada to-day, had their division line in the boundary between Ontario and Manitoba; west of that boundary line there was a system of registration, east of that boundary line there was a system of municipal lists, of lists made up upon the assessment rolls. As I understand his argument, he appeared to draw the conclusion that because of this system of registration in the west, his proposal as embodied in section 1 of this Bill ought to be favourably entertained by this House. Let me point out to my hon. friend that in the province of Ontario to-day there is a population probably fifty per cent in excess of the population of Manitoba, 500,000 or 600.000 people, in respect of whom the voters' lists are made up, not upon assessment rolls, but by a system of registration. His argument either goes too far or not far enough. The city of Toronto, the city of Hamilton, the city of London, all the cities and towns of Ontario with a population of over 9,000, have, I understand, a system of registration and not a system of preparing voters' lists upon assessment rolls.