December 9, 1909

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

I rise to ask a question of the hon. member who has introduced this Bill. The Bill proposes that election day should be on a public holiday. Is it intended that employers of labour shall be required to pay their men their wages?

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CON

Angus Claude Macdonell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDONELL.

My idea would be to declare it a public holiday the same as any other holiday allowing the people to vote and stand by whatever arrangements may be made according to the laws__of the different provinces.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

Mv hon. friend gives no guarantee that wages will be paid on that day?

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CON

Edmund James Bristol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRISTOL.

Are wages paid on Labour Day or on a government holiday?

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?

An hon. MEMBER.

No.

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CON

Angus Claude Macdonell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDONELL.

Workmen would certainly get paid the same as they are paid for Labour Day or Dominion Day or any other public holiday.

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CON

Arthur Meighen

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN.

The only observations I have to make are in regard to the controversy that took place in the House a few moments ago between the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Aylesworth) and the hon. member for Durham (Mr. Thornton). I have made it my business, since that controversy took place, to look up the records and I shall endeavour to state what the facts are simoly from the records and absolutely impartially. An election took place in 1900 in West Durham in wfiich the hon.

member for Durham received the larger number of votes. But he was not declared elected by the returning officer on account of the reason which he stated to the House.

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LIB
LIB

James Kirkpatrick Kerr (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

It is a question of relevancy, but if the House is willing that the debate should go on I shall not rule it out of order.

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CON

Arthur Meighen

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN.

I quite recognize that it is scarcely relevant but I thought the House would desire to see the matter cleared up. The returning officer, having refused to declare my hon. friend from Durham elected, he entered an action in the High Court of Justice asking for a mandamus compelling the returning officer to declare him elected. That action is styled Charles Jonas Thornton vs. Thomas Bingham, the returning officer, and the report of the judgment is given at page 3, Votes and Proceedings, 1902. The judgment is given by Mr. Justices Palconbridge and Street. The petition of the hon. member for Durham was dismissed by these justices and they decided that he could not compel the returning officer to have him declared elected by reason of the fact that he had not put up his deposit. No mention wnatever is made in the judgment of corrupt practices. Another action was also entered in the courts of justice and I think that possibly my hon. friend from West Durham has had the two confused. Another action was entered by one Charles Burnham, who evidently was a voter, against Charles Jonas Thornton and Thomas Bingham. That action was entered asking that Mr. Thornton's opponent, Mr. Beith, be declared elected on the ground that Mr. Thornton was not legally a candidate, he having put up a marked cheque in place of money with his nomination papers. The petition asked for a mandamus to compel the returning officer to declare Mr. Thornton's opponent elected on this ground. The petitioner went further, however, and alleged the alternative ground, that, if the judges found that Mr. Thornton's nomination papers were in order, his election should be declared void for corrupt practices. The judgment is given at pages 2, Votes and Proceedings, 1902, and in that judgment it was stated that there was no election:

And we further report that at the said election neither the said Charles Jonas Thornton nor the said Robert Beith was returned as elected, and that the said election was and is void.

But, in the course of the judgment, and this is evidently what the Minister of Justice referred to, corrupt practice was said to have been proved on the part of one W. L. Gerrie but without the knowledge or consent of Mr. Thornton. That election was not declared void on account of corrupt Mr. MEIGHEN.

practices, so that I think the Minister of Justice will have to concede that he was wrong in that regard. The corrupt practices are referred to in the judgment as having been committed by one Gerrie, agent of Mr. Thornton, without the latter knowledge or consent. They simply say ' whereupon the said Charles Jonas Thornton abandoned his claim to be declared to have been elected ' and then they add that on account of no one having been returned elected the election was null and void. I have stated it as clearly and as fairly as I could.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. S. SPROULE (East Grey).

Mr. Speaker, I see no reasonable objection to this Bill and it seems to me that there is very much to commend it to the judgment of the House and the country as well. In the first place it has been asked for by very respectable classes; of the community. The patrons of industry, representing' the great agricultural class, have passed resolutions more than once asking the government to make this amendment to do away with any deposit by a candidate when he is running for election. I think that their views ought to be entitled to some consideration. Have the government given us any strong grounds in favour of putting up a deposit of $200 or is there any strong justification why it should be done? But, in addition to the patrons of industry, I notice that the labour unions all over the country have also passed resolutions favouring the abolition of the $200 deposit in elections. Surely the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Aylesworth) can hardly say that it is defensible to give these important elements a slap in the face by moving the six months hoist. It is not very courteous to them to say the- least. But, he can reckon with them. It is not my funeral, it is his own and I am quite willing to leave the matter with him. The minister, the other night, gave us a splendid address on gambling and betting. What is the situation here? The hon. member for Montreal, St. Anne (Mr. Doherty) made an allusion which was very fair, but if I were to elaborate it a little more I would say that the government become the bookmaker in this respect, and, therefore, are gamblers on a race, the only difference being that this is a human race instead of a horse race. The government, through the Minister of Justice, say: We will bet you

$200 that you cannot get half the vote that the successful candidate gets and if you believe that you can and put up the money the government act as the book-maker and stakeholder. The Minister of Justice tells us that if he had the power he would do away with all gambling, but here is evidence that he does not practise what he preaches. I always thought there was another argument in favour of the proposal

to make election day a public holiday and that is that it would result in minimizing the possibility of purchasing votes. The poor man does not want to leave his business on voting day, in the first place because he may offend his employer and in the second place if he leaves his work he will be losing a portion or the whole of his day's wage. It is a very strong temptation to induce that man to take compensation for the time he has lost in going to the polls, which of course is corruption. If you had a public holiday on votation day this temptation would be done away with and at the same time you would give the labouring men of this country an opportunity to exercise their franchise without any personal loss to them. There is a good deal in the argument of my hon. friend from Montreal (Mr. Doherty) that if election day were a public holiday the citizens of Canada would be likely to appreciate the importance of what they are doing on that day and enter into the election of their representative with more vim and more enthusiasm.

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LIB

Edmond Proulx

Liberal

Mr. PROULX.

Does not my hon. friend (Mr. Sproule) think that if you made election day a public holiday a great many people would be disposed to travel on that day instead of staying at home to vote? If you adopt such legislation as that you would have to incorporate with it the principle of compulsory voting.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

There are a great many people who favour compulsory voting, and one of the strongest arguments against it always has been that it would compel a man to lose his day's wage to go to vote.

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CON

Martin Burrell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MARTIN BURRELL (Yale-Cariboo).

I wish to protest against the evident desire of the Minister of Justice to give this Bill the six months hoist. We had before us a Bill at an earlier stage of this day's sitting regarding the eight hour day, which gentlemen on the other side professed to favour in principle, but the details of which they did not agree with, a.nd so the government referred that Bill to a select committee for the purpose of selecting its best features and Submitting them for the opinion of the House. Now, there is a good principle in the Bill we are now discussing and why should the government propose to murder it by giving it the six months hoist. There may be details in the Bill which we cannot assent to, but there are certainly good principles in it and why the other Bill should be sent to a special committee and this Bill knifed by the six months hoist, is something that I do not see the logic of. I must confess that my mind is open with regard to the question of the deposit, and I think there is a great deal to be said for and against it, but it does seem to me that the proposal to abolish it deserves more con-41}

sideration than a cold six months hoist. Then, with regard to the principle that on election day there should be a holiday to give every voter a reasonable opportunity to exercise his franchise, I do not think any man can say that principle is not worthy of acceptance. In the province of British Columbia we keep the polls open until seven o'clock at night in order to give every man who is employed in business or in the mills or in the mines a fair opportunity to exercise his franchise. As was pointed out by my hon. friend (Mr. Doherty) what is the good of our boasting as we do about the sacred right of the franchise and the triumph of democracy, when we do not really try to make it sacred by emphasizing the vital importance to every man of the step he is about to take when he casts his vote. We talk about a holiday, in every truth it would be a holy day, if we could impress upon the mind of every voter the great national importance of electing men who would legislate for the welfare of the country. My hon. friend from Toronto (Mr. Macdonell) has stated that he was willing to have his Bill amended in its details so long as the principle incorporated in it were adopted by parliament, and in view of that I shall be glad to record my vote against the proposal of the Minister of Justice to give this Bill the six months hoist.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Minister of Finance).

One or two hon. gentlemen seem to think that when we follow the well established rule of the House in moving that a Bill be read six months hence, it is something in the way of an insult to somebody. Why should it be regarded as an insult to any body if the House follows an old established rule in this respect?

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CON

Edmund James Bristol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRISTOL.

What I said was that the reasons given by the Minister of Justice were an insult to the intelligence of the people of the country, and I repeat it, because the reason given by the Minister of Justice against having election day a public holiday was that it would result in riot and drink. If the government wishes to shelve the consideration of this measure by moving the six months hoist I do not consider that would be an insult to any body and I did not say it was.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

There is nothing easier than to answer an argument of your opponent by saying it is an insult to the intelligence of the House. But I never found there was much argument in a statement of that character and I do find that those who usd it are generally those who are not noted for advancing a sensible argument.

I have listened with pleasure as I always do to the hon. member for St. Anne (Mr. Doherty) who gave us a moderate, and from his point of view, a well reasoned speech

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' 1287 COMMONS


on this subject. With all that he said as to the desirability of establishing a higher conception of the relations between the candidate and the electorate I am most heartily in sympathy. It is a misfortune that at times many of the electors fail to realize what is the true position of the candidate and that the candidate is treated as one who has some personal gain to serve. If I thought ther.e was anything in this Bill to bring about that higher and better conception in the mind of the electorate of the position of a public man, I should most heartily give it my approval, but I have not been able to see that my hon. friend from St. Anne (Mr. Doherty) made his point good with reference to that particular phase of the question. One hon. gentleman has stated that the principle of this Bill is all right and that the details can be fixed up in committee. There are just two principles in this Bill and it so happens that both of them are regarded as objectionable by hon. gentlemen who have spoken on this side. The first principle is the abolition of the deposit, and you could not fix that up in committee. It is a question of whether or not it is right or wrong to have a deposit. I am afraid I am growing a little Conservative. I am afraid I am beginning to have more regard for the thing that is. I said the other day that there was a time when I used to think there were a thousand and one things which should not be, but as I grow older I am beginning to believe there is a reason for the thing that is established and if we look for that reason closely we are sure to find it. I have no doubt that the men of former days who in this parliament pronounced in favour of the principle of a deposit-not an extravagant deposit-were actuated by the highest sense of propriety and I am inclined to think, after the discussion that has taken place to-day, that their reasons were good then and are good now. It has been said by some that the $200 deposit is a kind of a'penalty, but that is not the right way to look at it. It is not a penalty. If a man can get but a very moderate proportion of the votes of the electorate, the $200 is paid back to him, and that as a rule happens. There are hut few cases, after all, in which a man loses his deposit. That there should be something to prevent frivolous elections is surely a principle that members on both sides will accept. It is a question of method. The hon. member for St. Anne's (Mr. Doherty) suggests as a substitute that we should require a requisition signed by a small number of voters, say 150 or 200, on the part of a candidate. I would ask my hon. friend to think a little further over that. Take a great constituency like that which he represents; what are 200 votes in proportion to the total electors? And if Mr. FIELDING. it turned out that a candidate did not receive any more votes than the 150 or 200 on the requisition, is it reasonable that that great constituency should be put to the trouble and worry and expense of an election merely to gratify the vanity of a man who, it is perfectly clear, has no considerable following in the community ? If he has any considerable following, he will have no difficulty in getting the $200. I doubt if there has ever been a case of a bona fide candidate representing any considerable interest in a constituency who failed to get the $200; and in a very few cases in which a man has lost his deposit, I think hon. gentlemen, if they look at each individual case, will say that he was a foolish man to run, that he did not represent any great interest or sentiment, and that there was no need of his butting in and putting the community to the expense and trouble of an election. So I think the $203 deposit is good, and I do not think the suggestion of my hon. friend from St. Anne put so moderately and argued so forcibly, would quite meet the case. Then with regard to the proposal of a holiday on election day, the Minister of Justice ventured to suggest that it might possibly be abused. My hon. friend from Toronto Centre (Mr. Bristol) says that is an insult to somebody, and another hon. member says, what about the Sabbath-should it not be a holiday for fear it would be abused? Let us recognize the fact that the average elector is a bit different on election day from what he is on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath does not as a rule excite the average man; but we all know that in the field of party strife a considerable proportion of the electors are stirred up and excited on election day. So I think there is reason for regarding the Sabbath as not a holiday of the same kind. Then, there is the other view, that there are a great many people who do not take the keenest interest in politics, but who love a holiday, and if you gave them a holiday, they would go out of town instead of staying to vote. The hon. member for East Grey says that under the present arrangement a man cannot get away to vote, because if he went he would lose one or two hours. If he cannot afford to take two hours to vote, how could he afford to take a whole holiday? It is not reasonably conceivable that the average employer is going to pay his workmen on that day when they are absent.


CON

December 9, 1909