August 20, 1917

LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

I think the minister

will agree with me that this Bill should be framed so that it will be as free as possible from any opportunity for partisanship. There is a provision for certain officials being appointed by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, and I think there are two quite important omissions in that regard. I refer to, subsection (c) of section 4-

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

We have not

reached that section yet.

Mr. PiUGSLEY: Well we are dealing

with the returning officer who is referred to in this subsection. I think the leaders of the two parties should have a voice in the appointment of all the officers who are to administer this Act. It is an Act of extraordinary character. Votes are to be taken under very exceptional circumstances, and I think there is just as much reason for having the Prime Minister and the leader o,f the Opposition agree as to the returning officer, or if by any possibility they could not agree he could be appointed by the Chief Jus.tiee of the Supreme Court of Canada, but I think it would be most unlikely that they could not agree. Then it is provided that the special returning officers shall be appointed, but their duties are confined entirely to the counting, reporting and return of votes. But the presiding officers, who are really to take the place of returning officers in the ordinary election under the Dominion Act, are partisan appointments.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

Just as all the appointments in Canada are partisan appointments.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

The minister is professing to give to this Bill and to its working out a non-partisan character, bnt in respect to two of the most important appointments he omits that principle entirely as to the

general returning officer and as to the presiding officers.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

In what respect does the hon. gentleman suggest that there is any danger from the general returning officer being appointed in the usual manner by the Government? We have departed from the general rule under which officials are appointed in a business of this kind because we have been anxious to ensure a perfectly fair contest, but the general returning officer has to perform his functions in Ottawa, and those functions are to consist in receiving returns that are going to be sent in from other people. Those other people are in a perfect position to check what he does. The one thing which it could be suggested that that man could do to affect the result of the election is to falsify the returns. In all frankness, is it fair to suggest that it is necessary, to protect tnis election, that we should, with regard to this officer, depart from the general rule under which officers are appointed by the Government of the day? We have departed from it where there was, as it seemed to us, a possibility of suggesting unfairness, but apparently that did not save us from the suggestion in regard to the appointment of an officer of this description.

I think there is no good reason why we should depart from the ordinary practice of the Government charged with the administration of the affairs of the country to appoint an officer to administer the measure.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

The only reason is the Government is professing to make this Bill non-partisan in its character.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

Does that mean that we must depart from the ordinary rule of appointment, even when adherence to it can produce no partisan effect? I do want to be fair in this matter, but I do not think I should be asked to do things, that would only on their face be just as the hon. gentleman expresses it, professing to be nonpartisan. To provide that the general returning officer should be appointed by the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Government would be a mere profession on its face. I do not see that I should depart from the general rule, simply to make a greater profession on my part of a desire to be non-partisan.

When it comes down to the real thing of the counting of the ballots, where I can realize the immense importance of securing proper representation, I think I would have been entitled to be considered to be

non-partisan if I had made provision to ensure representation of both parties at that counting. That is all that has been done from time immemorial with regard to counting ballots in this country, but I have gone further, and I have said that this counting shall be done by people nominated by both parties, putting both parties on a footing of perfect quality as regards this essential operation of the counting, which produces the statements which are handed to the General Returning Officer. The one thing the General Returning Officer could do would be to alter the statements, and if he did so, he would at once be confronted with the authors of them.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

Why does the minister call the officers to be appointed under paragraph (c) of section 4, to be nominated jointly by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, special returning officers? That is rather a confusing term.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

We have had some difficulty in endeavouring to avoid confusion because, of course, we have to duplicate functions. There have to be people on this side who are doing the work of taking the votes, carrying on the election and counting the votes. That is done on this side by returning officers and deputy returning officers. The deputy returning officers do the counting on this side. On the other side, we have to provide some officer to do the counting of the ballots.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

That special returning officer does not receive the ballots himself.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

No, he does not take the vote at all.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

He is not the presiding officer?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

No, his function is to count the votes after they come in.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. NESBITT:

He and his-clerk.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

Yes.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. NESBITT:

And his clerk has to be of the opposite party.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

Yes. We have to divide up the work of the returning officer to meet the conditions. We have an officer that is ca'led a presiding officer. He may be appointed a presiding officer for a camp, or possibly in England, for a section of the country in which there are different camps. He is in the position of a returning officer for a constituency. He will, of course, be

taking votes for numerous constituencies, but he is in the position of a returning officer in the sense that it is for him to set the machinery in motion and to'provide the deputies who are actually to hold the polk and take the votes. He conducts the business of a returning officer so far as providing for the holding of polls and the taking of ballots is concerned. Then he stops. The deputy presiding officers, who are doing the work of deputy returning officers in holding these overseas polls or military polls and who take the votes, make their returns not to each one of those presiding officers, but direct, if the vote is taken in France, to the office of the Canadian Commissioner to Franfce; if the vote is taken in England, to the secretary of the office of the High Commissioner at London. When those two officers have those boxes, they notify those special returning officers, that on a certain day at a certain hour they will hand over to them the boxes they have so received. They convene those special returning officers, and their clerks, and deliver over to them the sealed boxes just as they got- them. The special returning officers, having received those ballot boxes proceed to open them. As I say, eaich special returning officer has a clerk who is the representative of the party or appointed on the nomination of the party other than that which suggested or appointed the special returning officer. When we come to the details of the taking of the vote, we shall see that the ballot, when it is marked, is deposited in an envelope which is sealed. On the back of that envelope is the information that enables him to determine to what constituency it belongs. Those envelopes are sealed an ' '

into the ballot boxes. When those ballot boxes are handed over to the special returning officers by the Secretary of the High Commissioner or the Commissioner in France, they proceed to open the boxes, and their first operation is to assort the envelopes. They do not open the envelope. They do not know anything about the ballot that is in the envelope. They assort the envelopes, guiding themselves by the information that is on the back of the envelope. Having assorted them, they have the result that they have in separate boxes or receptacles of some kind in their possession, or in separate heaps, the envelopes containing 'ballots for each particular constituency. Having done that assorting operation, they proceed to do the counting operation or to do the operation perhaps

of opening the envelopes as a separate operation. It is prescribed that, when they come to open the envelope and take out the ballot, they shall lay that envelope down on the table with the back on which the information is on the table" so that they shall not be-able to connect the ballot with the information on the envelope. They shall open that envelope and drop the ballot just as it stands into the ballot box marked for that constituency. Having done that ooer-ation of opening the envelopes and dropping in all the ballots, they will then open that ballot box, having brought about a condition of affairs in which they will not be able to connect any particular ballot in any particular case with any particular envelope. They will then proceed to count the ballots.

Mr. PUGfSLEY: From my experience in carrying on elections, the most important position and the one in which it is very dangerous to have a partisan officer is that of the presiding officer. In ordinary elections he is called the returning office or the deputy returning officer. Here the name is changed. He is the presiding officer or the deputy presiding officer. The leader of the Opposition has the duty imposed upon him of choosing one-half of these special returning officers, and one-half of the scrutineers. It is now after eleven o'clock. Might I suggest that this section be -allowed to stand so that the leader of the Opposition might be here when it is considered?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

Have we, in the ordinary elections, any officer who corresponds with this general returning officer mentioned in paragraph (b)? As I understand it, we have not.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

No, we have not.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Daniel Duncan McKenzie

Liberal

Mr. McKENZIE:

The Clerk of the Crown in Chancery does everything except what is done by the ordinary presiding officer.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink

August 20, 1917