May 5, 1908

?

Edward Frederick Clarke

Mr. CLARKE.

I refer to my own experience.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT AMENDMENT.
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CON

Edmund James Bristol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRISTOL.

people of these provinces, and which permit an appeal to judicial authority, the right hon. gentleman should find it necessary to receded from every principle he has laid down in the quotations he has just read and ask parliament and the country to consent to the preparation of lists by this government. in absolute disregard of those prepared by the provincial authorities?

At six o'clock, House took recess.

After Eecess.

House resumed at eight o'clock.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Mr. Speaker, I desire to refer to the argument with regard to the boundaries of registration districts of Manitoba which are supposed to be not coterminous with the electoral divisions or with the polling divisions. I hold in my hand the Manitoba ' Gazette ' of 25th April, 1908, in which appears an order in council passed by the Manitoba government shortly before, setting forth the names and post office addresses of the persons appointed to act as registration clerks for the several electoral divisions of the province. I observe that registration clerks are not appointed for registration districts, but for the electoral divisions. In certain of the electoral divisions only one registration clerk is appointed, in others two, in others three, and in others a larger number. The territorial limit of their jurisdiction in each case is that of the electoral division. I am also informed by my hon. friends from Manitoba on this side of the House that under this system which prevails in Manitoba the lists are made up for the several polling divisions as established under the provincial enactment. So the argument of the Minister of Justice seems to have been based upon a consideration of the enactments as they formerly were and not upon the enactments as they are to-day. His argument does not carry any force as it does not apply to present conditions.

If there is nny difficulty about the overlapping of polling sections, to which I have already alluded, let it be borne in mind, in the first instance, that it is not confined to Manitoba and British Columbia. It should be borne in mind, in the second place, that any such difficulty can only be properly met by providing for the allocation of the electors by the county court judge upon such principle as that contained in the Manitoba Act to which I alluded to-day.

I would like to remark once more that no unfairness in making the lists for any province has been brought to the attention of the House except in the srate-ment of the Minister of Justice based upon a hypothesis which he has not been able to prove. It has been stated to me that the Prime Minister of Manitoba has challenged, both inside and outside the legislature, his political opponents or any person Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

within the province to bring to his attention the case of any man who has been unfairly deprived of his franchise in that province. Further than that, I am informed on the best possible authority that during the recent session of the legislature in Manitoba he asked his opponents whether they had any amendments to suggest to this Act and no amendments were suggested. One would suppose that, if the condition of affairs described, by the Minister of Justice prevailed in Manitoba, the active, vigilant opposition in that province would have moved in the legislature for the amendment of the Act. I am not aware that any such amendment has been proposed, or that any reasonable amendment has been proposed which has not been accepted.

Further than that, if the government of the Dominion after having adopted, as they did in the most unequivocal way, the provincial lists, have come to the conclusion that the effect of the Manitoba enactments was not in the public interest and operated unfairly or to the disadvantage of persons in the province who were entitled to vote, or operated unfairly in another way by retaining on the list the names of persons not entitled to vote, such a government, desiring to adhere to the principles of 1885, or 1893 and of 1898 would have brought these matters to the attention of the Manitoba government and would have asked that government to propose to the legislature such amendments in the electoral law of Manitoba as would reform the evils alluded to. But I am not aware that such a proposition has been made, either by the government of Canada of by the Liberal opposition of the province of Manitoba.

Now, what objections can there be to the Manitoba lists and to the British Columbia lists ? In the first place there can be no possible objection on the ground that the lists are not recent. In British Columbia they are revised every six months and in Manitoba yearly. I understand that, if an election were held this autumn, say in September or October, the Manitoba lists used would be those prepared this year, while in Ontario the lists used would be those prepared last year. So far as time is concerned, therefore, there can be no objection to the lists either in one province or in the other.

There can be no objection on the ground of want of appeal, for appeal to independent judicial authority is allowed in every province except Nova Scotia, to whose case I alluded this afternoon. Any one who has any knowledge of the way in which matters work out in practice is surely aware that the real contest in regard to adding names to the list or excluding names therefrom takes place before the final court of appeals. That is my own experience at least in the province of Nova Scotia, and I suppose it would work out in the same way in the province of Manitoba.

No petitions have been received by this House, no public meetings have been held in Manitoba to protest against the alleged iniquities. I do not know how many electors there are in Manitoba; I suppose from 50,000 to 75,000, assuming the population of that province to be about 400,000. Of the 50,000 or 75,000 electors in Manitoba not one has come to this House by way of petition asking for any redress at the hands of this parliament, and not one name has been given by my hon. friend the Minister of Justice this afternoon of any man in the province of Manitoba who has been unjustly deprived of his vote. I would like my hon. friend opposite to give any names, to adduce any instance in Manitoba or in British Columbia which would justify the interposition of this parliament. I can readily understand that under any system, whether a municipal system of preparing voters' lists based upon assessment, or a system of registration, you will undoubtedly now and then And that the names have been improperly omitted from the list or improperly added to it. I have run three elections in the county of Halifax where a municipal system prevails. At every one of those elections I met dozens of Conservatives whose names had been omitted from the list. X cannot give the names of all of them to-night, but I can assure the House that I am stating the fact. I can give the names of some men who were disfranchised at the last election in Halifax. In 1904, John W. Payment, a leading citizen, possessing large property interests in the city of Halifax and outside, found his name was not on the voters' list. Yet he was a very prominent man, president of the Bank of Nova Scotia, and a man actively associated with many business enterprises in the city. Fortunately he discovered that in a remote district, some distance away his name had been put on in another polling division, but in the division where he usually voted his name was omitted. Then there was Mr. George S. Campbell, one of the leading citizens of Halifax, a merchant possessed of a very large amount of property, who found in the last election that his name was not on the voters' list. Dozens of other illustrations could be given of men who, under that system, were deprived of their vote in that election. This does not necessarily prove that the Dominion parliament should intervene, after it has once adopted the system of relying upon provincial voters' lists. I do not care whether you have a municipal system or a system of registration, notices must be given, proceedings must be taken in order that justice may be done and that names may be struck off the list or added to it. My hon. friend the Minister of Justice has not given any names of persons deprived of their votes; X have, and I happened to remember just by chance this

afternoon that some papers were sent to me a year ago from the province of Nova Scotia touching the default of a revising officer in not posting a list of names sent to him for the purpose of an application to strike them off, and another list of names sent to him for the purpose of having them added. By reason of the default of that revising officer, fifty-five names were left on the list which should have been struck off, and eighteen names remained off the list which should have been added. The case went before the revising officers for consideration and they decided that the fifty-five names should be struck off and that the eighteen names should be added. The case went upon appeal to the sheriff of the county, a gentleman appointed by the present government, and a strong partisan, and that official decided-I am not impugning his decision- that because the revising officer, without any default whatever on the part of the men who were seeking to make these changes in the list, happened to neglect his duty, the list could not be touched, and the fifty-five names of persons who should not be upon the list remained there, and the eighteen names of persons who should appear on the list disappeared therefrom. Instances of this kind will occur under any system. But I respectfully submit that even if such instances were brought to the attention of the House in respect to the list of Manitoba, there would be no more ground for interfering with the list of that province than there would be for interfering with the list of Nova Scotia under the conditions to which I have alluded.

My hon. friend the Minister of Justice says that if this Bill does not pass it will be impossible to procure returning officers who will undertake the duties of their office. Let me say to my hon. friend the Minister of Justice and to the government, that any returning officer in this country who observes the provisions of the law need not have the slightest apprehension. It is only the man who surrenders his functions to the organizer of a party, and who may thereby be called to account in the criminal courts, that need have the slightest possible fear as to any consequences which will result to him by reason of his undertaking this responsible office. I might retort to my hon. friend the Minister of Justice that if this Bill does pass it will be impossible for the Conservative party to get candidates to remain in the field, or to enter the field, either in Manitoba or in British Columbia. What would they expect? They would expect that some gentleman such as Mr. Leach, or an organizer of that character, would, under the apparent sanction of the law, accomplish in 1908 or 1909 what was accomplished without the sanction of the law in 1904. Although I do not desire to take any but a reasonable attitude in regard to this Bill, I do submit to the Prime Min-

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ister and to this House that we are entitled to treat this Bill exactly as if it provided in terms, and not merely in intent, that no person other than a supporter of this government shall be elected either in Manitoba or in British Columbia. A very prominent member of the Liberal party in 1885, in debating whether the Dominion Franchise Act ought to pass, used this language :

Give us the power of appointing the revising officers and we can determine beforehand who will command a majority in this House.

Now, if there were any cause shown, any reasonable cause shown to this House why we should interfere in Manitoba or British Columbia rather than in Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, or Ontario or Quebec, there might be some ground for considering this Bill and treating it as a reasonable measure. But when we realize that it is precisely the same Bill as that which it was intended to introduce in 1904, and when we know that the proposed introduction of that Bill was the signal for the intimation to the Liberals of Manitoba in the spring of that year that they need not pay any attention to the lists because there would be lists prepared by Dominion officials for the election of that year; when we realize that the interference with the lists of the province of Manitoba and the province of British Columbia is altogether unauthorized and unjustifiable; and when we realize that my hon. friend the Minister of Justice put it very frankly this afternoon when he said that the lists prepared under the Manitoba statutes were not very acceptable to some members of the Liberal party in that province; when we realize all this, we cannot treat this measure otherwise than as an intensely partisan one. Show me, in the first place, the wrong that has taken place under the Manitoba Act; show me the wrong that has taken place under the statutes of British Columbia relating to the preparation of the lists; show me that you have brought those alleged wrongs to the attention of the governments in both provinces and that they have refused to redress them; show me that this government has made any representation whatever on this subject to the government of either British Columbia or Manitoba, do this, and you make the foundation at least for the consideration of some measure of amendment, some measure of reform. But until you have done that, until you have furnished to the House something more than the hypothetical statements of the Minister of Justice this afternoon, I venture to think that my right hon. friend the Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) on reflection will come to the conclusion that this measure, so far as the particular section is concerned, ought not to be pressed.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for having trespassed so long on the attention of the Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

House. So far as the proposed Bill effects any reforms of the electoral law of this country, I am prepared to give to the government a hearty and earnest support in their endeavour to improve existing conditions. But so far as concerns those provisions of the Bill which take away the secrecy of the ballot and provide for an unjustifiable interference with the voters' lists in British Columbia and Manitoba, I for * my part will give them as strong and vigorous resistance as my physical strength and energy will permit.

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LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. THOMAS GREENWAY (Lisgar).

Mr. Speaker, I may be pardoned for taking the first opportunity that presents itself to offer a few remarks on the subject which is now before the House, because it was one of the first subjects upon which I had the pleasure of addressing the House when I came to this parliament. I pointed out then the difficulty under which we laboured in having no lists for the Dominion in the province of Manitoba, and I make that statement now. My hon. friend (Mr. R. L. Borden) is a lawyer and I am not, but I will take issue with him in saying that there is no provision in the law by which we may legally have a voters' list for the House of Commons in Manitoba. My hon. friend devoted a good deal of time to what the right hon. the leader of the government (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) said years ago, that he was in favour of the provincial franchise. That may be right or it may be wrong, I have never had very strong convictions upon it either way, but I do know that the use of the provincial franchise places the electors sometimes in an anomalous position. I am going to suggest to the government now a matter to which I have given a good deal of consideration. I refer to the case of people from other parts of the Dominion, from Ontario for instance, moving to Manitoba, people who have lived all their lives in Ontario, people who have always been British subjects, and who have all the qualifications necessary to vote in Canada, but who, if they go to Manitoba, are immediately met by the Manitoba law which provides that they shall not be upon the list unless they have resided 12 months in that province.

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CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT.

The Act in Ontario was the same for years until this year.

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LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. GREENWAY.

I cannot help that.

I believe in some respects it works that way now, but I do say that there ought to be, if it can be worked out, some provision by which persons of that kind should be able to go and register their votes when the time comes. Whether that should be done by supplying them with a certificate from their previous place of residence, or by some other method. I leave to others to work out, but anything that places a man

in that unjust position appears to me to be an unjust law.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Tbis Bill would not redress that?

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LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. GREENWAY.

Not as far as it has gone, but I had hoped that something might be suggested.

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CON

John Barr

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARR.

Would my hon. friend suggest that foreigners and others coming in should have the right to vote immediately on arriving there?

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LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. GREENWAY.

I was not talking about; foreigners, I was talking about British subjects, about citizens of Ontario. I take the position, and I think I am correct in taking it, that we have no provision for making a list for the constituencies of the House of Commons in Manitoba, so that if 1 am correct and I think I am, my hon. friend will see upon reflection that there is not such a provision as he quoted this afternoon.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

There is the same provision in Manitoba as elsewhere. The Franchise Act provides that the provincial lists in all the provinces shall be taken.

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LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. GREENWAY.

If my hon. friend puts the construction he does upon the law he read to us this afternoon, and as a lawyer he ought to be capable of construing it, why was it that we had those prosecutions in the province of Manitoba?

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LIB
LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. GREENWAY.

Why was it that the Attorney General of Manitoba prosecuted the returning officers for doing what they might have done, according to my hon. friend, under the law? It would be well for my hon. friend to answer that.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I would refer my hon. friend to the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Rex vs. Duggan, which set forth very distinctly what the difficulty was.

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LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. GREENWAY.

I was very much pleased with my hon. friend in the first part of his remarks. It did me good to hear my hon. friend say: I do not propose to discuss the red line. That is a subject out of which my hon. friends since the year 1904, have tried to make more capital than anything else I know of, and for that reason, because my hon. friend would not discuss it, I propose to say something about it before I sit down.

I was referring to my hon. friend's speech in reference to the right hon. the leader of the government and other Liberals who took the ground in 1885 that it was proper to have the provincial franchise. I presume that my hon. friend believes that to-day, but he does not find the machinery by which he can do it. There is no machinery by

which he can do it, and I defy my hon. friend or any one who supports him to take the lists we have in Manitoba and compile from them a correct list for any Dominion constituency. The voters upon'the list are not sufficiently designated to enable that to be done. My hon. friend asked this afternoon with a good deal of gusto why were men disfranchised ? I will tell my hon. friend why they were disfranchised. It is because they had no opportunity to get on the list. I have here the proclamation to which my hon. friend refers in which the government of Manitoba undertake to show they are going to deal very fairly with the people and to give them a little more time than formerly for registration. But what are the facts? Here it is under date April the 25th. They provide a registration booth for the class of people they don't want to give an opportunity to of getting registered, and if they do register they compel them to travel 100 miles. That is what my hon. friend calls a square deal.

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CON

William D. Staples

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STAPLES.

Would the hon. gentleman say where, in this registration that is to take place in the near future, a man will have, in one instance at least, to travel 100 miles to register?

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LIB

Thomas Greenway

Liberal

Mr. GREENWAY.

In Selkirk, and my hon. friend who represents that constituency will verify what I say.

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CON

William D. Staples

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STAPLES.

The hon. gentleman is entirely wrong.

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?

William Frederic Kay

Mr. GREEN WAY.

I hope my hon. friend (Mr. Staples) will continue asking questions ; he asked me this afternoon about the registration clerk coming to a district and spending two hours for the purpose of revised the list. I knew what I was talking about, I lived in Crystal city where it was done. The Minister of Justice spoke about registration districts, but in those days there was nothing else although we were asked to make a voters' list upon the polling subdivisions which the government had made. I have the evidence of that right here too. Let us have another sample of the fair play of these gentlemen, and here, it is on their own record. In the large local division of Springfield, situated in the constituency of Selkirk, they have a very large amount of business to do if they make a correct list because there are a large number of foreigners-to whom my hon. friend has referred1-who are not on the list, and so far as the Manitoba government is concerned they are very anxious they should not be on the list. In this district of Springfield they have a number of places for the registration clerk to meet, and the last place he meets is at Springfield on the 6tl) day of June and the court of revision for the whole district-to be wholly completed in one afternoon-is held on the 12th of June. Let me say another word about a

square deal. In the old days when we prepared a list we got it printed, we sent it to the school houses and the post offices and the other places designated in the Act, thus giving the people an opportunity [DOT] to see whether some were omitted, or voters that should be on. We gave thirty days for that. But now we have a registration clerk, he goes to the office and he does his work there, he is supposed by law to make a list of what he has done, and when he goes outside the door he tacks the list on the door and that is all the notice you get. That is what the hon. gentleman calls a square deal. Then, if you are going to complain of any one who Is on the list you are supposed to furnish the registration clerk with his name and post office address and that complaint is to be sent by registered letter to the person complained of. I have here a list of the local constituency of Mountain and upon that list there are 2,194 names and of that number 1,459 have no post office address. The gentleman who complains comes before the judge and he is asked : to what place was the notice sent containing the complaint ; because the judges are very particular and some of us knew how difficult it is to take a name from the list unless we have conclusive evidence. He answers tin-judge: I gave the registration clerk notice that the complaint should be sent to such a post office, and I think that is the right address. Then he is asked if he knows It is right, and if he tells the truth the complainant has got to say that he does not know. My hon. friend was kind enough to remind me of something else and that is that although I have looked over a large number of the lists for the province of Manitoba there was only one so far found where the post offices are given. The hon. gentleman said that this Manitoba government which takes such care of the voters was good enough upon one occasion to solemnly pass an Act of parliament to place certain individuals upon the list in order that they might vote. Well, I have that Act here. An election was coming on and I suppose somebody suggested that perhaps they were going to be shy a few votes in that district, and they had better make a few. Now, this was a premeditated mode of doing business and I am going to show how they made the voters. I am told in reference to this, but I do not know as to the truth of it, that the registration clerk had omitted to put 25 names on the list, but there are not 25 mentioned in this Act of the legislature. The Act reads:

Now therefore His Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the legislative assembly of Manitoba, enacts as follows:

1. The names of Eugene Derby, Thomas Smolok, John Craigie, Hanson A. Larson, John George Thomas, Petro Kosar and Frederick Orris are hereby added to the list of electors for said polling subdivision

of the electoral division of Kildonan and St. Andrews.

And the names were added with no address or designation of any kind, and somebody went to try and find them and they could not, and the only time they had ever been seen was upon polling day, so I am told. Will my hon. friend say that it is right to put names on the list without any designation whatever, as to where they are to be found, or where they can be complained of,, or where they can be canvassed if somebody wanted to canvass them? That is what my hon. friends, I presume, would call a square deal.

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May 5, 1908