May 12, 1908

CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Let my hon. friend not be in such a hurry. I know that he was born in a hurry, and since these timber limits and timber leases are concerned, he is not disposed to wait. He will get all he wants if he is just patient as I go through with this question. What I ask now is was there any indication of hostile legislation in that of Mr. Hugh John Macdonald, passed in 1899 or 1900. comparing it with the legislation which Mr. Greenway had in force in that province before ? You have an absolutely unpartisan board. You have your board of iudges appointing your registration clerks. You have your board of judges appointing also the revising barristers. It appointed nineteen Conservatives and sixteen Liberals, and the other five constituencies went to the judges themselves. They themselves

were the revising barristers. Could anything be more unpartisan or fairer than that board and that registration? Under such a board, the lists were absolutely made anew. No man got on the list under that board unless he came up and made his application anew. Am I not right in that ? Consequently, on that revision, done in that unpartisan manner, you had an absolutely new and an absolutely clean list, so far as you can ensure it, by a non-partisan board of judges acting on their own responsibility throughout.

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LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Oh, yes. That is not an answer to my question. Does that, I ask, show hostile legislation as compared with the previous legislation ?

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LIB

Samuel Jacob Jackson

Liberal

Mr. S. J. JACKSON.

How long did it last ?

Mr. FOSTER, There is another impatient man. There is a class that is always impatient. A strong man waits and bides his time and takes what the gods give him and when they give it to him. Why cannot my bon. friend wait ? Now changes were made in that legislation.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS

Hear, hear.

Mr. FOSTER, One thing, however, was not changed. Under the succeeding legislation, under to-day's legislation, the judges are the revising board and they revise the lists themselves or the revising barristers that they themselves appoint. Is that true or is it not ?

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CON

William James Roche

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. J. ROCHE (Marquette).

I would correct my hon. friend to this extent, that in practice, the last two years, the judges do not appoint any revising barristers. They do all the work themselves.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

That is still better. I have waited for an answer and have got no denial. Changes were made in that legislation, but one thing remains to this day and that is that the revising board is made up of judges and that the judges do the whole of the revising, either by themselves or by the revising barristers they appoint, and for the last two yeais they have done the whole business absolutely themselves. Is that hostile legislation? Will mv right lion, friend rise in his place and say that frauds under such revising and such a board of revisers were practised on the voters in Manitoba ? He dare not do it; that would be to impugn the judges of bis own appointment, the judges of the land. But there may be disabilities, there may be cases of hardship. Some men may not get on the list, some men may not get before the revising barrister-all this may be true. It is true in Ontario or any other province ; it is true wherever you have an election Jaw. There must be due diligence on the

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

part of the elector, or he will be left off. But, says the Prime Minister, the men at Lac du Bonnet did not get in, and the revising officer, going there under 'the circumstances, put himself out of court. But was there any disability that prevented the electors of Lac du Bonnet from coming to that registration's clerks office in proper time and putting in their applications? If they did not exercise due diligence, that is their fault. The only possible grievance can be that the local government does not provide a sufficient number of registration booths to properly and reasonably provide for the necessities of the counties. One gentleman declares that a man has had to walk a hundred miles to get his name before the registration clerk. Are you going to condemn the law because that happens? In a county of great distances and small population, one, or two, or three, or a dozen, may lie at some extreme point of the constituency, and it may be impossible to have a registration booth for them. But is that to govern the whole matter? Because an isolated case of this kind happens are you going to declare that fraud is committed and that there is hostile legislation? Let us come to the present legislation as it stands, what is it? There is a registrar for each polling subdivision or nearly so. The registration is not by registration districts today in Manitoba, but by polling divisions, and from six to twenty registration booths are open in every local constituency. And it is said, on fair authority I think, that the present distribution and number of registration polling booths are sufficient for the wants of these constituencies. But, even so, it may happen that some men may have to travel very many miles in order to get their names on the register. Is it hostile legislation that you have to register when you have a registrar for each polling subdivi- ' sion, or nearly so, and that you have from six to twenty polling booths in each local division and that you have that distribution in every part of the province? You may say that, in some cases, it is inadequate. But that is not evidence of hostility or fraud. Now, the registration clerks are local men. Is my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) in favour of that principle? Does he not think it better that local men should be the registration clerks than that strangers should hold those positions? We may have a difference of opinion on that point, but there is no hostility or fraud involved in a condition of that kind. These registration clerks sit for the time named in the proclamation. These times are sufficient in the main, and every one of these registration clerks is bound by the law under penalty to extend the time of the sitting provided there are applicants in the place to have their name put upon the registration list. Now, is that an evidence of hostility? The duties of these registration clerks are not judicial in any sense, they

are absolutely and simply clerical duties. The clerk must receive every application which comes. The applicant comes and answers the interrogatories, signs a paper and swears to it before the clerk, and the clerk has to receive it and enter it ; he has no power to reject it. If a man be absent through illness or necessary cause, a friend may make application for him, and the application must be received by the registration clerk. Is that not a fair provision ? The applicant has to swear before the clerk himself to these full interrogatories. Moreover, both political parties are represented at that booth. Each party has its representative there. The candidates past and prospective are allowed, and twelve other people, the limitation, I suppose, being designed to keep these booths from being overcrowded. But ail this means that the proceedings are as open as the dal-ail are conducted in the open light and before witnesses for both parties. Nothing could be fairer. The applications must be received. And the hours of sittings for this registration are from nine to ten a.m. and from one to six. In cities they open at eight o'clock for the labouring men and if at the end of the hours there be persons ready to make their applications, the registration clerk has to take their declarations. The lists are all posted up on the outside of the registration booth by the clerk. They are sent to the clerk of the executive, and from there they go to the revising barrister. There are heavy penalties upon the registration clerks for any non-performance or mal-performance of their duties. Could you have a fairer, more open, more reasonable method of carrying on the registration in order to get these people's names into the hands of the revising judges? I ask the right hon. Prime Minister if this is sufficient for a crisis. I ask him if he can say that this is hostile legislation so that we are called upon to act and that we should be recreant to our duty if we did not deal with the situation?

But my right hon. friend says, if fraud is committed. If fraud is committed against whom ? If fraud is committed intentionally as it must be, where is the right hon. gentleman's basis for an attack upon the system, for the imperatively demanded action of this House ? I assume because fraud is committed in the province of Manitoba. Is there any evidence of it? Is there sufficient evidence of it, is it general or is there now and then a single case ? If the fraud is committed it is committed on your provincial voter. Your provincial voter is within walking distance of Winnipeg, in Winnipeg the legislature sits and his representatives are there. Can we believe that if fraud is committed in Manitoba to any extent at all upon the provincial Liberal voters, his grievance has not yet been aired and that he has not made it known throughout the length and breadth of Manitoba and in the 266

political and legislative home of that province ? I think that is conclusive; it is conclusive in the reasoning of my right hon. friend as applied to 1898. Down in Nova Scotia the sheriff revises the list and I have heard reputable people say that appeals have been refused by the sheriff in Nova Scotia. I have heard and read allegations that hundreds have been refused revision by the sheriff and have consequently been deprived of their votes. Let the right hon. gentleman use his argument of the natural right there. It is a natural right that a man should have his ballot. It has been denied to him in Nova Scotia. Then this government has a right to interfere and see that the legislation in Nova Scotia is changed. Does my right hon. friend propose to do that ? Some one has told me that for every case of lack of proper action on the part of the revising authority that you can bring in Manitoba he can bring ten to meet it in Nova Scotia and reputable men make statements of that kind. Does my right hon. friend think that is sufficient ground for interference and seizing the franchise ? Why not advance the argument of natural right there ? My right hon. friend knows that we are governed by laws which in the main work out justly but under which injustice and wrong, as far as natural right is concerned, may happen to many individuals in the commonwealth under the action of those laws.

We now come to the question of revision. Does my right hon. friend find that fraud is committed in the revision ? The revision is by the judges. The last two years judges and judges alone have done it. Judges are dispensers of justice, and a man when he goes upon the bench and is engaged in looking after the interests of justice and of the people forgets, I think in ninty-nine cases out of one hundred, all partisanship and is animated by the desire to do right. Show me an instance where a charge has been brought of breach of faith or fraud committed by one of the revising judges in Manitoba. if fraud is necessary as a foundation for such action bring the evidence of it. bring the proof of it. Where is the evidence ? Where is the proof ? In the press of Manitoba, in the legislature of Manitoba, in the action of the Liberal party in Manitoba ? Not a reasonable basis . It is here, by indiscriminate statement in a way, but where is the evidence of fraud ? My right hon. friend has absolutely no answer. All appeals are disposed of. My right hon. friend hangs his case upon one single occurrence that is possible, namely, that the judge may be revising, the hour may be up and he has no right to extend the hour That is the only point on which my right hon. friend can hang his case with reference to the judges. Will he cite an instance where that has been done ? He brought forward one instance that has been ex-

plained but will he consider it fair to condemn the whole system, root out the whole legislation, replace it by something new, because in an individual instance an injustice has been committed, and committed unwittingly because no judge would commit it of malice aforethought. But, Sir, we contend that the judges as the revising board have the absolute authority to extend the time and they can do it under their powers. It is a fair contention and we ask for the proof that these judges have abused their authority ns revising officers and have committed fraud upon electors.

I have made my plea with reference to Manitoba ; let me say a word with reference to British Columbia. We have beard very little from British Columbia. So little has been said about it that I imagine my hon. friends opposite have no case from British Columbia. The Minister of Justice said there was little grievance from British Columbia. The member who spoke yesterday from British Columbia (Mr. D. Boss) said they had a way of playing fair there, that they were not dishonest and that as a rule every one thought the game was played fairly and honestly. He told how the lists were made and surely there is publicity enough. Your registrar, who is generally a mining recorder, receives the applications. Every application must be by swearing to and signing of a blank form. The revisions are made twice a year which surely is often enough and two months are given between the time for the applications to come in and the revision. The revisions are made, in the first instance, by the registrars. A notice containing every name has to be posted on the outside of the registrar's office, on the court house, published in the ' Gazette ' and in three conspicuous places in the electoral division, so that people may know when the revision goes on and then, after the revision takes place, there is an appeal to the county court judge and from the county court judge there is an appeal to the Supreme Court bench. Surely as a general scheme of registration and revision that is an open, honourable, reasonable scheme. But my hon. friend says the people take no interest in the registration. That is more the fault of the people surely than the fault of the system which is provided for registration.

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LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

If my hon. friend will read the speech lie will see that he conveyed the impression-he conveyed it to me at least

that the people took little interest in the registration. However, if he says he did not, it is a matter which does not amount to much.

What are the circumstances of fraud or hostile legislation in the province of British Columbia which make it necessary for Mr. FOSTER.

this House to take over the franchise of British Columbia and Manitoba in regard to voters for the Dominion elections ? Iii what have they become recreant to their duty ? Fraud ? Where is the evidence of it ? Hostile legislation as to the lists ? Where is the evidence of hostile legislation ? Where is the necessity of the action founded upon fraud and upon hostile legislation in the provincial legislature ? Can it be pointed out now in the province of British Columbia ? Not so much as it can be even in the province of Manitoba : absolutely free from either of these so far as we have any evidence presented. And yet I doubt not that that there are many cases in that province of men not having a vote. They wake up on election day to find that they are not on the list. It happens everywhere. To-day, in the city of Toronto, there are 45,000 names of male adults that are not upon the regular lists and the process of registration is now under way which will end in as many of these as wish, if they have the qualification, being placed upon the voters' list.

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CON
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Commencing, I think, next Monday and going on until the Saturday following with two days intermission.

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LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Four days. Tha booths are not scattered everywhere, but they are fairly numerous, there are notices given in the newspapers and otherwise and the two parties are actively, I suppose, at work trying to get the voters registered. But the work of the municipal officers with reference to these people does not amount to anything. That vast number of people in the city of Toronto are to-day looking to the manhood registration, as it is called, in order that they may get upon the list and be able to vote. In every city in Ontario of over 9,000 people there will be an opportunity to register under these conditions during the next two -weeks.

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CON
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Yes, four days are given and there is a chance for an appeal to the court of revision. I have made these remarks directly to the subject in hand and the consequences may be a little more momentous and more important than the right hon. First Minister thinks of attempting to seize in this way the franchise for Dominion purposes and for the partisans of the government in two provinces and make an invidious distinction which the history and the work of these two provinces in the matter of the preparation of their lists give no warrant for at all. If I lived in Manitoba and were singled out for this invidious action on no better basis than that which has been given, I would feel like fighting against that invilious distinction I would

feel like fighting for fair treatment, for being placed on the same basis as my brother from Nova Scotia and my brother from Prince Edward Island and my brother from Ontario. Why should you single out these two young provinces for this invidious legislation? It is demeaning, it is humiliating, it is insulting and I tell the right hon. First Minister, for he may not know it, that he has raised up a storm against himself and his party in these two provinces that it will take (many many years to allay, and I mistake the temper of the people of these provinces if they do not make their dissatisfaction known -when the proper time comes.

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LIB

Theodore Arthur Burrows

Liberal

Mr. T. A. BURROWS (Dauphin).

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of attention to the very able speech delivered by the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster). But I was not able to find out from him whether he was in favour of accepting the very fair offer made by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) or whether he was going to vote against his suggestion. He went on to discuss the Bill which is before the House, paying no attention whatever to the explanation (made by my hon. friend the Minister of Justice (Mr. Aylesworth) in his speech, and, in so far as I could make out, he paid no attention whatever to the suggestion which my right hon. friend made this afternoon to the effect that if the opposition felt there was any intention on the part of the government to have a partisan voters' list in the province of Manitoba they were prepared to suggest that the whole matter be placed in the hands of the judges so as to prevent one side or the other from getting any particular advantage. To this suggestion I do not see how anybody could object.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Will the government do the same for the province of Nova Scotia?

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LIB
LIB

May 12, 1908