December 9, 1909

CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

It was set aside because a marked cheque was put up for the deposit, instead of cash.

Mr. AYLESWORTH, I am referring to the election in which there was a question as to the return as between the present member for Durham and his opponent. That election went to trial at Cobourg and -the election was voided and a new election ordered on account of a corrupt practice by an agent.

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CON

Charles Jonas Thornton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THORNTON.

I beg to say that statement is not correct.

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CON

Angus Claude Macdonell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDONELL.

I thought I was right.

Mr. GRAHAM- It is fair to the Minister of Justice to say that he says he knows whereof he speaks as he rvas in the case.

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CON

Angus Claude Macdonell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDONELL.

There were two Durham cases, one was as the Minister of Justice points out, and one was as the hon. member for Durham has pointed out.

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LIB

Allen Bristol Aylesworth (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. AYLESWORTH.

I do not know whether there is a misunderstanding between the hon. member and myself on the subject, but there was but one election, one voting; there were two petitions with respect to that election and the result of the trial of the two petitions which took place befpre the same two judges was as I have stated. I appeared as counsel at that time for the petitioner and sought to obtain a new election and a new election was ordered on the proving of a clear case of bribery by an agent. The question as to the regularity of the deposit was not considered by the learned judges and the case was not carried to an appeal but a new election was had.

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CON

Charles Jonas Thornton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THORNTON.

Mr. Speaker, I happen to know something of the case referred to by the Minister of Justice. I say most emphatically there was not one word in the deliverance of the judges in connection with that case that said the judgment was voided on account of corrupt practices; not one sentence not a single word from beginning to end.

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CON

Angus Claude Macdonell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDONELL.

I think that bears my statement out. There were two cases,

the Minister of Justice has referred to one, and I am referring to another.

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LIB

George Perry Graham (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM.

Let us get it straightened out; would my hon. friend tell us what year it was and we will get the record.

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CON

Charles Jonas Thornton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THORNTON.

In the general election of 1900 there were two candidates in the field, myself and my opponent Mr. Beith. I had a clear majority of 42 and the returning officer refused to declare me elected because my deposit was made by a marked cheque instead of in bills as required by law. West Durham was vacant for one whole session of this parliament because of the refusal of the returning officer to declare the candidate having the most votes elected. The question came up in this House time and again. It was declared by the Hon. David Mills (Minister of Justice) that it was the clear duty of the returning officer to declare the candidate having the most votes elected. Sir Wilfrid Laurier made the statement on the floor of the House and so did every one else who had any authority to speak on the subject. West Durham was vacant one whole session of this House because the returning officer refused to declare the candidate having the most votes elected. The seat was declared vacant, not because of corrupt practices on the part of the candidate or any of its agents, because in the deliverance of the judges which 1 have in my possession, there is not one syllable that says that the seat was vacated because of corrupt practices on the part of the candidate or any of his agents, and the statement made by the Minister of Justice is incorrect.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

And the law about the deposit was afterwards amended.

Mr. .4YLESWORTH. I understood the hon. member from Durham stated that the decision of the judges contained nothing with reference to corrupt practices. I beg to say that is an entire mistake; the election was voided solely and only upon the ground that corrupt practices were proven.

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CON

Charles Jonas Thornton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THORNTON.

I challenge the Minister of Justice to produce the deliverance of the judges .on that occasion and if there is one syllable in the deliverance of the judges on that occasion to the effect that they vacated the seat on account of corrupt practices I will immediately vacate the seat I hold for Durham.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

How could the seat be vacated on account of corrupt practices when the returning officer refused to return any one?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

The records will show; there is evidently a misapprehension somewhere.

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CON

Angus Claude Macdonell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDONELL.

No member was returned and there could be no unseating. The Minister of Justice must have another occasion in his mind altogether and that is the only way I can explain his lack of memory. As I have said, Mr. Speaker, I can find no precedent in the laws of other countries for this deposit. The abolition of this deposit had been asked for by public bodies and by democratic bodies throughout this country. The Minister of Labour will no doubt bear me out that the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada have frequently asked for the removal of this impediment in the way of a free entry into this House of any man who chooses to be a candidate. It is for the members of this House to say whether or not there is to be a barrier placed at the door of the House of Commons to collect a toll of $200 before a man can be a candidate. Is it worth while; what is the reason for it? It is an ancient provision. Originally it went to the returning officer for the election expenses, and now if the candidate does not poll one-half as many votes as the successful candidate it goes to the revenues of the country. I do not think the revenues of the country should be supplemented from any such source as that. Now, with regard to the day of votation being a holiday I do not think the Minister of Justice did me justice or treated me with courtesy in the manner in which he referred to that feature of the Bill. My idea in bringing this amendment to the attention of the House is to prevent corruption and it has nothing to do with making election day a day of jollification.

This Bill does not provide for a holiday in cases of by-elections. It simply provides that the day set apart for a general election throughout Canada shall be a public holiday, which as we know, takes place only once in four or five years. I propose this amendment because I believe the present system, under which the polls are open only from nine to five, produces an immense amount of corruption. The hours of polling are so limited that the man who has the means of engaging vehicles and getting out the vote, gets it out. I believe there would be much less corruption if the whole day were a public holiday. What opportunity have the working people to record their vote between the hours of nine and five? They go to work at six, seven or eight o'clock at the latest, long before the polls are opened, and do not leave their work until after five, so that the only opportunity they have of voting is between twelve and one, and it is that hour that is taken advantage of by the candidate with money and vehicles at his disposal to bring the voters from factories and workshops to the polls. All other countries whose election laws I have been able to examine either make election day a holiday or hold

the election on Sunday. The latter is the case in some European countries^ In France, in Germany, and I think in Belgium, the voting takes place on Sunday; in Denmark there is a half-holiday. In the United States 33 of the states make election day a public holiday. In Illinois the polls are open from 5.30 a.m. to 9 p.m. In England they are open, I think, until nine o'clock at night. In other countries they open as early as six or half past six in the morning. In these countries every man is given a chance to poll his vote, whereas in Canada, unless a man is prepared to leave his work and lose his pay for the time he is absent, he has no opportunity to vote unless he can do so at the noon hour; and we know that in large cities it is often impossible for a man to go to the polling place and get back to his work, besides eating his meal, in the hour. If the government object to making election day a holiday, I am willing that the Bill should be amended to provide that the polls shall open earlier in the morning, so as to give the working classes and the people generally a chance to vote; because there are a large number of people not belonging to what are ordinarily called working people, clerks and others, who find it difficult or impossible to leave their employment during the present polling hours. Then, there is sometimes a disposition on the part of certain employers of labour to prevent their employees voting unless they vote as they wish them to. There is a great deal of intimidation of this kind, and I think to make election day a holiday or to have the polls open earlier would afford all people a chance to vote on an independent basis. If it is too much to make the whole day a holiday, let the Bill be modified in some such way as I have suggested. There is nothing very revolutionary in this. The amendments I propose are along the line of giving the men on the street a fair chance with the capitalist and the large employer. I can do no more than bring these matters to the attention of the House. I have done it to the best of my ability consistent with brevity. I hope the Minister of Justice will reverse his decision with regard to these matters, just as I believe he will reverse his opinion when he refers to the record and finds that the hon. member for Durham is correct in what he has said.

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LIB

Allen Bristol Aylesworth (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. AYLESWOKTH.

To justify the statement I made a few minutes ago with reference to the Durham election, the election trial in question took place, according to the certificate of the judges, on the 7th and 8th of June, 1901. There were two petitions, one by Charles Jonas Thornton claiming the seat and the other by Charles Burnham against Charles Jonas Thronton to set aside the election and have a new one ordered. The judgment, to be found on Mr. MACDONELL.

the second page of the journals of this House for 1902, states:

The said petition, by reason of certain preliminary objections and an appeal thereon to the Supreme Court of Canada, was never at issue until the 10th day of May, 1901, and was tried before us at the town of Cobourg on the 7th and 8th of June, 1901, whereupon having heard the evidence adduced, and the petitioner having abandoned his claim to have the said Robert Beith declared to have been elected, we determined and adjudged that Win. L. Gerrie, an agent of the said respondent, Charles Jonas Thornton, at the said election had been guilty of corrupt practices at the said election, but without the knowledge or consent of the said Charles Jonas Thornton: whereupon the said Charles Jonas Thornton, abandoned his claim to be declared to have been elected.

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CON

Charles Jonas Thornton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THORNTON.

I made the statement a moment ago, with reference to the deliverance of the judges in that case, Judges Falconbridge and Street, that they did not say that the seat was vacated because of corrupt practices on the part of myself who was a candidate in that election. I repeat that statement, and I will produce to this House, inside of the next week, the deliverance of the judges as certified to by the official stenographer of the court, it my statement be incorrect. I will do what I said I would a few moments ago-vacate mv seat, on condition that if it is correct, then the Minister of Justice will vacate his seat.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. SAM HUGHES.

In the Durham election, the hon. member, (Mr. Thornton) received the majority of votes legally cast. It was found out that his agent, Robert Loscombe, had placed in a marked cheque instead of the cash as required by law, and on that technicality, Mr. Thornton was denied the right to take the seat which was his by a majority of the votes cast. These are the facts.

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LIB

Allen Bristol Aylesworth (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. AYLESWORTH.

I beg to move that the Bill be not read now the second time, but this day six months.

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. C. J. DOHERTY (Montreal St. Anne's).

I would like to detain the House just a few minutes to place before it some considerations, which, I think, if the hon. gentlemen will give them thought, will lead them to conclude that this Bill deserves much more serious consideration than has been given it within the last few minutes. It seems to me that the reasons advanced by my hon. friend from South Toronto (Mr. Macdonell) in support of his proposition, ought in themselves to carry conviction; but there are also perhaps larger and wider considerations which might be invoked in its favour. . , , ...

It seems to me that the two propositions in this Bill deserve the support of this House, not perhaps so much because of what they will themselves effect, if carried

into law, as because they will serve as beginning of improvements to our election system and tend to remove what constitutes in the public mind a very false impression of what really an election should be. There can be no doubt that there is an impression in the public mind that an election is an operation whereby two or more gentlemen, anxious to become members of this House, throw themselves into a, struggle in which they are prepared to expend their money, their efforts, their eloquence and arguments for the purpose of attaining positions for themselves. That is an impression entirely the reverse of the conception of what an election ought to be, namely, an operation by which the people calmly and quietly select the men who, in their judgment, are best qualified to represent them and to legislate! to the best advantage of this country. That false conception is in a measure due to the very provisions of the law this Bill seeks to amend. What is this requirement of a deposit of $200 but the announcement that an election to this House is something which must cost money to the candidate or which must at all events expose him to the loss of money. In other words, that no man, who is not sufficiently anxious to get into this House, to spend $200 or, at the very least, to be willing to bet $200 that he can get half as many votes as the candidate opposed to him, can under any circumstances he entitled to represent any constituency in this country, and that no body of electors, no matter how anxious they may be that a certain individual should be their representative, shall be entitled to vote for him unless he is sufficiently anxious or has sufficient confidence in the result to bet $200, or unless his electors are sufficiently confident of his election to make themselves the bet of $200. Unless the condition be fulfilled, they shall be debarred from voting for the man of their choice. This put the candidate in a position which, it seems to me, no candidate ever should occupy, of seeking favour at the hands of his electors, seeking something for himself that he is willing to pay or risk his money for; whereas the real fact is, and, it seems to me, ought to be so understood, that the man who comes forward consents to place his services at the disposition of his fellow-citizens and fellow countrymen and does-not seek at their hands something for himself. I am compelled to admit that the impression is widespread that every man who is willing to serve his fellow-citizens as a member of this House is out seeking for the position and wanting it for himself! Any thing that can be done to remove that impression, I think, might well be done. And I believe the abolition of this deposit of $200 required of the candidate would be, at all events, a help in doing away with

that very false and very erroneous impression.

It is said that the purpose of this deposit is to prevent people who have no possible chance of being elected from presenting themselves and putting the constituency to the trouble and turmoil and the country to the expense of an election, as well as putting the opposing party to such expense as he may incur. But may I humbly suggest that there may be a better method found to protect the country and the constituency against these consequences than this requirement of a deposit of $200. The law now says to every qualified person: If you are anxious enough to have a chance of becoming a member of parliament to put up $200, go ahead and put the constituency and country to the expense and the constituency to the turmoil and agitation of an election contest. In other words, the measure of a man's right to present himself in desperate circumstances is whether his anxiety to get into parliament is great enough to make him risk $200. I would like to suggest that a fairer test, and as effectual a check, would be an increase in the number of persons required to nominate a man for the position of member of this House. It is a very 'rational proposition that a man should not be entitled to provoke an election where there is a manifest, or, at all events, a strongly presumable, impossibility of his succeeding or even of coming as near to success as polling half the votes of his opponent. But is it a reasonable way to decide whether there is such an impossibility to say:

: If you are willing to risk $200 on it, you may come forward ? This makes the right to come forward, as I say, depend upon the anxiety of the individual to have the chance to get in. Why not make the permissibility of a man coming forward and provoking an election contest depend upon whether or not he can produce reasonable evidence of a desire on the part _ of some considerable portion of the electors that he should be elected? I am not suggesting that we should require a majority or anything approaching a majority. But surely, in a constituency of eight or ten thousand electors, it would be a more reasonable thing to say that a man should not come forward as a candidate unless he can show at least 100, or 150, or 200 electors in that division desiring him to come forward, than to say that he can come forward if he has $200 to bet on the chance of his being elected. This would prove as effective a check to ill-advised candidature, if I may use the word. Surely, the man who will come forward with his nomination signed by, let us say, one per cent of the electors, would be in a better position to say he had reasonable ground for provoking a contest than the man who has no

other reason to advance than that he is willing to bet $200 that he will get at least half as many votes as hin opponent. I do not say that it is not desirable to prevent unnecessary contests, but here is a means of preventing unnecessary contests ready to the hand of legislators if they will adopt such a provision as I suggest. It would have another advantage; it would go further in carrying home to the minds of the electors that an election was not an effort of a man to get himself elected, and involving at the very outset, at the behest of the law, his putting up money for the opportunity. Is not the country in a peculiar position in reproaching an individual elector who expects something from the candidate in return for helping him to get elected, when itself says that a man shall not be a candidate unless he takes the chances of paying the country $200? It seems to me the first provision of this Bill merits the most serious consideration, and for my part I have no hesitation in saying that it is a measure, which, in my judgment, would be a distinct improvement on the law as it stands. I think I might fairly call-did I desire to do so-for the support of the hon. member (Mr. Miller) who the other day introduced a Bill for the prohibition of race-track gambling. Why here is an election Act that requires that every candidate should be a gambler. The Minister of Justice (Mr. Aylesworth) the other day gave us a number of instances of acts that amounted to gambling. Can you call it anything else than a bet when a candidate is called upon to put down $200 on the condition that if he gets half as many votes as his opponent he shall receive back his money, but shall forfeit it otherwise? What is the operation but a bet on the part of the candidate that he will get half as many votes as his adversary, the country taking the dignified position of standing up and saying, ' I bet you, you can't do it.'

Now with regard to the second proposition, I think it can be supported by reasons resting on the same basis. The reason we have heard urged against it is the danger that if you create a public holiday the people may use it for purposes other than that which was intended, and may indulge in disorderly practices, upon the principle that Satan finds mischief for idle hands to do. Now that would be rather a dangerous principle to carry to its logical conclusion. What are we going to do with the Sabbath day? What are we going to do with all our statutory holidays? Is there any reason to fear that on this particular holiday Satan will be particularly busy? I would not like to suppose that the experience of the Minister of Justice in elections leads him to the conclusion that it is a day when Satan gets in his finest work. But it seems to me that to say that you do not dare to give the Mr. DOHERTY.

people of this country a public holiday on election day because they would abuse it, is a very weak reason in face of the positive reasons in support of this Bill advanced by the hon. member for South Toronto (Mr. Macdonell). Now I would like to add one other reason, and it is based on the same general principle which leads me to support the first proposition of this Bill, and that is that the declaration of a public statutory holiday by the governing power would be a measure notifying the whole people that their country looks to them to give one day to the performance of what is the most important civic duty that each one of us owes to his country. Surely, if for nothing else than to bring home to the people their duty in an election, it would be worth while that this government should say to them: We expect you to give that day to the performance of the duty of selecting a man to represent you; you shall not go about your ordinary avocations, you shall not treat your private business as of greater importance than your public duty, you shall not wait until somebody sends a wagon after you, until half a dozen people run after you, and bring you up in state to the polls. No, the election of a member to represent you is a duty you owe to your country, and you shall give this one day to the performance of that duty. It seems to me that such a provision would remove one of the disadvantages under which working men frequently suffer, as has been eloquently pointed out by my hon. friend from South Toronto, and it would furthermore remove an excuse which men frequently offer for abstaining from the performance of that duty. We all know the excuses which men give for refusing to go to the polls. I hardly think it will be denied that, except under very exceptional circumstances, such men are failing to perform a duty which they owe to their country. I would take away from that class of men all excuse, such as their business interest, the necessity of pursuing their daily avocations. This proposition would place those men in a position where they would be forcibly made to understand that they must give up a day to this work, it' would deprive them of all excuse of refusing to do their duty by going to the polls. Sir, I think these two propositions, if carried into law, will help the attainment of a far-reaching result, namely, the result of bringing home to the people of this country the conviction that casting a vote in an election is a duty they owe to the country, and of removing the widespread belief that an election is but an opportunity extended to certain persons of aggrandizing _ themselves by spending their money in deposits or otherwise, to induce people to go and vote. It is because I believe those two propositions carried into law would be steps

. DECEMBER 9, 1909

in the direction of producing that result, that I shall vote against the amendment, and in favour of the measure proposed by my hon. friend from South Toronto.

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CON

Edmund James Bristol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. E. BRISTOL (Centre Toronto).

I believe it would be yery much to the interest of this country that the Bill introduced by my hon. friend from South Toronto (Mr. Macdonell) should be passed into law. I do not propose to speak at length in its favour, inasmuch as my hon. friend from South Toronto and my hon. friend from Montreal (Mr. Doherty) have very ably presented strong considerations which should induce this House to pass the Bill. I cannot, however, refrain from saying that I believe a refusal on the part of this House to abolish the deposit is really a restraint on the discussion of public issues at elections. There are in every country a great many matters of public interest which, in the first instance, have not many converts; there are many men who wish to advance ideas with which at the moment the general public do not agree. There is no logical Teason, in my judgment, why such men, if they have a sufficiently signed petition, should not be permitted to place their names before the public, and to address the public on such issues as they believe of national importance. I believe, therefore, it is in the public interest there should be the fullest opportunity given to men who receive a reasonably signed nomination of expressing their views, and receiving the votes of their fellow-citizens. I do_ not see that the public are in any way injured. I do not see how any one can reasonably oppose the proposition. I would think that hon. gentlemen opposite would have been moved to a more favourable consideration of this measure when they were reminded that in the province of Ontario they had placed such a law on the statute-book of that province, and when moreover they remember the views of their former distinguished leader, the Hon. Edward Blake. With reference to the second part of the Bill, it seems to me that the argument, if you can call it such, of the Minister of Justice is an insult to the intelligence of this House. To suggest that a public holiday should not be given for the performance of the most important duty that the people have to perform every five years, namely, the election of members of the House of Commons, to suggest that a public holiday should not be given because it might end in riot and drunkenness, is,

I affirm, an insult to the intelligence of the people of this country. That might have applied in the old days of open voting, when bars were in full swing, and barrels of beer were all around. But people have advanced during the last forty years, both in temperance and in intelligence. I quite agree with my hon. friend from Montreal 41

(Mr. Doherty) that every opportunity should be given on this particular day for the expression of public opinion, and for every citizen to take part in a national election. We are talking about compulsory voting in this country. We have been making complaints that people do not go to the polls. Surely it would be in the national interest to give the public every opportunity of going to the polls before we try such legislation as compulsory voting. Is not this a measure in the right direction? Is it not a measure in the interest of the people of Canada? It is easy enough for the rich man to go and vote, it is easy enough for a great many members of the community to go and vote, but in the great cities and in the northern districts it is a difficult and expensive matter for poor people and workingmen to go to the polls. I can only say that I believe that if the Bill of my hon. friend from South Toronto became law, it would tend to decent elections, it would tend to greater interest in the elections, and I think the very fact that one day in five years was set aside as a national holiday for the purpose of electing members to this House would be of great public importance and of great advantage to the people of Canada and to Canada itself.

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December 9, 1909