May 12, 1908

LIB
LIB
CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I know something about it.

Topic:   190S
Permalink
LIB

Theodore Arthur Burrows

Liberal

Mr. BURROWS.

The Bill now before the House provides in its first clause for two things so far as the province of Manitoba is concerned, viz.: A complete and full revision of the Manitoba provincial lists and their proper application to Dominion constituencies, thus removing the difficul-

206i

ties the returning officers had to meet in 1904, when it was necessary for them to use the thin red line in readjusting polls where local constituencies overlapped Dominion constituency boundaries.

The opposition say we are singling out Manitoba for special treatment and treating that province differently from the others in regard to the voters' lists and that our action in this regard is exceptional and indefensible.

The explanation and justification are found in the character of the lists themselves. The Ontario lists are compiled by (municipal councils and are, in point of fact, complete and impartial, While the Manitoba lists are incomplete, defective and partisan. The law governing the compiling of lists in Ontario is permanent, stable and well understood, while the Manitoba election law, which formerly placed in the judges' hands the power to make and revise voters' lists, was repealed in 1904, and full power was placed in the hands of the executive to appoint partisan registration clerks and control the date, time and place of making and revising the lists. It therefore can be called partisan. For instance, in 1903, when the law was administered by the judges, 430 registration clerks sat for six days each taking applications, or an average of eleven registration booths, held for six days each in every local constituency to put names on the list, while in 1905, under government direction, there was only one place in each local county allowed where a registration clerk sat for only one day to take applications, followed by a one day revision in each count}'.

There was only one registration clerk appointed for each constituency; that is, 40 registration clerks for the whole province of Manitoba, and they sat on one day in each constituency, or 40 days in 1905 to take the applications for the whole province of Manitoba as against 2,000 in 1903. 'The hon. (member for Marquette stated that the chief aim of the Bill was to place the preparation of the lists in the hands of partisans. In justice to the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Aylesworth) I would call attention to the remarks he made at page 8102 *of ' Hansard ' where the Minister of Justice said in introducing the Bill that he did *not intend to place the making of these lists in the hands of partisans.

We have lists that ought to be submitted to the work of a revising officer, a county judge or a barrister according to the Manitoba system, with time given him within which ^ he can effectively do that work of revision, within which he can effectively purge the lists of dead men and of absentees.

Again the Minister of Justice said :

We prefer to adhere to the provincial lists, and accordingly, in the Bill I am submitting, the lists as established in the provinces, shall be taken in the preparation of the lists for

Dominion purposes, and to them shall be added the names of any persons qualified to vote which are not on them and from them shall be struck the names of all those who are not qualified. The lists so prepared, subject to the revision of a county court judge, shall be allotted and distributed to the polling divisions, to be used in the Dominion elections. That is in brief the outline of this clause.

It will be seen that the Minister of Justice was careful to point out that the government intended to adopt the laws of Manitoba with regard to the making of the lists and that the lists were going to be revised by the county judge. I have noticed that all through the debate, hon. gentlemen opposite referred to clause 1 of the Bill as being designed to take the power of making the list out of the hands of the judges and to place it in the hands of partisans. That is an unfair presentation of the case, because we know that the Minister of Justice provided that exactly the same machinery that is adopted by the province of Manitoba will be adopted by the Dominion government in making the lists.

Topic:   190S
Permalink
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Would the hon. gentleman point to the clause of the Bill which provides for that.

Topic:   190S
Permalink
LIB

Theodore Arthur Burrows

Liberal

Mr. BURROWS.

Clause 1 which says :

In the preparation of such lists the provisions of the laws of the province regulating the preparation and manner of revising and bringing into force the provincial voters' lis-ts in the like cases shall as far as possible be observed and followed and no person whose name is not included in the voters' lists so prepared and revised shall be entitled to vote.

Topic:   190S
Permalink
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

Exactly ; ' as far as possible.'

Mr. BURROW'S. The Minister of Justice stated in his speech explicitly what line would be followed iu that regard and nobody could arrive at any other conclusion from the remarks of the hon. minister, but that he intended to follow absolutely-not as far as possible, but absolutely the law as it was in the province of Manitoba.

Topic:   190S
Permalink
CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

May be my hon. friend will explain to the House how it is possible in the time intervening between the issue of the writ and the polling, to carry out absolutely, as he says, the Manitoba law.

Topic:   190S
Permalink
LIB

Theodore Arthur Burrows

Liberal

Mr. BURROWS.

That might be answered by my stating that at present in Manitoba they do not take any more time to make their lists than the time which would ensue between the issuing of the writ and the election. However, so far as that is concerned, I would say that the time given is pretty short in some parts of Canada and I have no doubt that when this Bill is considered in committee that point will be gone into and that the government will meet any suggestion which will result in giving us a working basis which will be satisfactory to both sides.

Topic:   190S
Permalink
LIB
CON
LIB
LIB

Theodore Arthur Burrows

Liberal

Mr. BURROWS.

If it is clearly shown that tlie time given in the court of revision is too short I have no doubt that a remedy will be provided in the Bill. I know cases in Manitoba where the two opposing candidates agreed among themselves that in order not to subject their friends to the trouble and inconvenience of coming to court they would go to the revising officer and put iu a certain number of names on each side. They did go to the revising officer but of course he expressed his regret that he could not agree to any such proposition. However, that goes to show that in a country of such distances it is necessary to resort to some means to get voters on the lists because of tlie great inconvenience that may be caused by those wishing to register travelling very many miles to tlie registration booth. Another great objection we have to the Manitoba law is tlie fact that it is unstable and unreliable. Its administration is erratic, unreliable, and defective. There has been no permanency and tlie conditions regarding the preparation of tlie lists have been changed from year to year to suit tlie whim of the Manitoba government. In 1905 there were seven Dominion election protests pending and the preparation of the lists that year was a farce. They only had one day in each county on which they received applications and only one day in each county when the court of revision sat. and if any of those gentlemen whose elections were protested had had to run a by-election the election would have taken place on these very imperfect lists. I have a clipping here from a prominent western newspaper which gives a brief sketch of the working out of the Manitoba election law. It says :

In 1905 there was only one registration clerk for each constituency, and the registration lasted for only one day at one place. In Mountain constituency an elector, not on the list, had to journey to Baldur to protect his franchise. In the city of Winnipeg, with thousands to register, there were only three booths open for the one day only.

In 1906, with an election pending, there was a registration clerk for each polling division; but the booths were kept open, not for six days, hut for two only.

In Winnipeg, in February, 1907. when there was a special registration, prior to the elections, the booths were open for three days only. *

In 1907 the government reverted to the device of the perambulating registration clerk, one for each constituency, who stopped here and there for an hour or so.

It will therefore be seen that there is nothing stable in the manner of making up the lists in the province of Manitoba. Some years you may have a good revision and some years a very imperfect revision. As

a matter of fact since the present law lias come into operation there has only beeu two years in which sufficient time was given for registration ancl revision and these were the years 1903 and 1906, immediately preceding a local election, when the local government found it necessary to male pretty good lists for themselves.- But at any time between these local elections the revising of the lists is merely a matter of form. The Manitoba government held no annual revisions until the year 1904, when they decided to revise tile lists annually in order that they might be able to control the preparation of the lists on which Dominion elections would he held, and that action on the part of the Manitoba government was a piece of political sharp practice. They do not require to incur the expense of revising the lists annually for provincial purposes, hut they deemed it necessary to do so in order that they might have these lists used in Manitoba elections. In Manitoba the revision and preparation of the lists is not in the hands of judges as has beeu represented by our hon. friends opposite, for the government has power to decide from time to time what kind of a revision they will have and whether it will be a complete revision or a partial revision. I submit that the policy of placing in the hands of five men who form the executive of any provincial government the absolute-power of saying from time to time what kind of voters' lists we are going to have for the election of members to this House of Commons is a policy which this Parliament should not submit to. But yet, if we retain the lists as they are in Manitoba that is just the policy we would be following. The hon. leader of the opposition and other gentlemen opposite have challenged us to show where any person was left off the list of electors by any official of the Manitoba government, or where any complaints had been made against the lists that had been prepared. My hon. friend from Selkirk gave last night a good many instances of this kind, but I might refer in addition to the incident at Balsam Bay where 28 voters applied to the registration clerk to put their names on the list, but they could not get the registration clerk to receive their applications and they were disfranchised. The registration clerk, in making the return, wrote to his friend, who was the candidate for the constituency, and said : ' Nobody had applied but a few

Grits, and you bet I did not put them on.' There was a case where some electors were disfranchised. In the city of Winnipeg a large number of electors could not get on the list in 1904, in West Winnipeg, in North Winnipeg and in South Winnipeg, there were about a hundred who could not get on the list. Some 28 were in the registration booth at the time it was closed. I have here an affidavit, made by George John

Lovell of the city of Winnipeg, which reads as follows :

Dominion of Canada-Province of Manitoba.

In the matter of the preparation and revision of voters' list for Winnipeg Centre, prior to the last provincial election in 1903.

I, George John Lovell, of the city of Winnipeg, province of Manitoba, agent, do solemnly declare: .

1. That I was organizer for the Liberal partv for Winnipeg Centre prior to and during the compilation and revision of the list for Winnipeg Centre in May and June, 1903, and as such took great interest in and closely followed all matters pertaining to the said compilation and revision.

2. That at several of the registration booths, .

owing to the large number of persons registering, several persons qualified to register as electors were unable to apply for registration during tbe week set apart for registration (viz.: May 25 to 30 inclusive) although several of the aforesaid persons presented themselves on various occasions at the registration booths for the purpose of so registering. . .

3. That in particular at the booth in registration division No. 6 in the neighbourhood of 100 persons were unable to apply to be registered as voters during the said week on account of the large number of persons in the booth waiting to apply at the time when the said 100 persons severally appeared.

4. That I was present at the court of revision for Winnipeg Centre held on the 15th day of June, 1903, and at some time during the day over 160 persons favourable to the Liberal party and fully qualified to he registered as voters in the electoral division of Winnipeg Centre appeared in the court of revision to he registered as voters but on account of the dilatory manner in which the court of revision was conducted by the revising officer, and on account of the unnecessary delay caused by the counsel appearing for the Conservative party, and permitted by the revising officer, only some 45, or at the most, 50 of the aforesaid 160 were registered when the court of revision was closed at 5 p.m. .. .

5. That at the hour of" 5 o'clock the revising officer closed the court of revision notwithstanding the fact that there were over 30 persons then present in the court room for the purpose of applying to he registered, 23 names of whom are as follows:

I will not read the names, as it would take too much time.

6. That, in accordance with what was apparently a well-prepared scheme on behalf of the Conservative party, over 87 appeals were made against voters of which not more than 20 at the very outside could be sustained, such being entered for tbe sole purpose of taking up the time of the court of revision so that Liberal electors appearing at the court of revision for the purpose of being registered would not have an opportunity to register. My reason for believing that this was premeditated is the fact that a large majority of the parties appealed against were old and well-known residents of the city of

Winnipeg, well known to be Liberals and fully qualified to register to whom there could be no possible exception taken.

And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the 9ame to be true and knowing that it is of the same force and effect as if made under oath and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act, 1893.

Topic:   190S
Permalink

GEORGE JOHN LOVELL.

CON
LIB
CON
LIB
CON
LIB

May 12, 1908