April 13, 1920

UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

This is a very long and rather elaborate clause. The aim is one with which we all sympathize, I am sure. It is to provide that a commercial traveller, a railway employee, a sailor, or any other voter who in the ordinary pursuit of his vocation is obliged to be absent at the time of of the election shall not lose his vote, and provision is made whereby he may vote at what is called an advance poll. I want to offer a suggestion to the minister which I think is worthy of his consideration. The purpose of this provision is undoubtedly a good one, but it seems to me the machinery is very elaborate and must be very expensive. Why could not provision be made, as in the case of a joint stock company, for instance, to let the few voters, because they will be few in proportion to the total electorate, who would avail themselves of this provision vote by proxy? There may be a giving away of the secrecy of the vote *by that method, but only to a very small extent indeed. Why could not a sailor or a railway employee who happens to be away empower his brother, or cousin, or sister, or mother, or anybody else, to vote for him? The only objection that can be offered to that is the lack of secrecy, but as a matter of fact nine men out of ten make no secrecy as to how they intend to vote. I think the suggestion is worthy of the minister's consideration. The machinery provided here is elaborate and expensive, and I think the same good end could be served at much less expense by allowing these men to vote by proxy. I need not elaborate the argument, but I would ask the minister to consider whether it is not a proper suggestion.

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UNION

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Militia and Defence; Solicitor General of Canada)

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I have had one discussion on this matter, and there is one very large body of the people of this country, the railroad people, who do not like the proxy idea. I think the ordinary man looks upon the right to vote as something in the nature of a sacred right, as something which he should not delegate to any third party, but as a right which he should exercise for himself. The only person with whom I have

discussed this question were the railroan men, and they were very strongly opposed to the idea of voting by proxy. No matter what the cost may be or how great the inconvenience, the men claim the right to vote, and that arrangements should be made, if at all possible, to that end. I can quite see that the suggestion of my hon. friend has this merit, that it would save a great deal of expense to the country, but I think the object to be attained, namely, that all classes of people shall have the' right to exercise their franchise, justifies us in going to a great deal of expense.

I might say that there are some suggested amendments to this clause. I have had suggestions, f6r instance, from the Commercial Travellers' Association, and from various railway brotherhoods in Canada. I do not know whether it would be well to discuss this clause fully to-day. We might or might not, just as the committee sees fit. It is a clause that will have to be amended to some extent.

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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

We all agree that the secrecy of the vote should be protected, but it is a very practical world we are living in to-day, and nine men out of ten make no secret of how they intend to vote. The man who does make a secret of it is quite the exception, so I do not think the argument as to secrecy should apply at all. I have no doubt that the first impression of the railway men would be that they wanted the right to vote themselves, but I think [DOT]if we had a deputation of the men from the railway service they would admit the reasonableness of this suggestion, and I venture to say that nearly every man in the railway seryice who intends to vote makes no secret of how he is going to vote, but tells his friends that he is going to vote Grit or Tory or Farmer, or for one of the other numerous groups that are springing up.

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UNION

John Hampden Burnham

Unionist

Mr. BURNHAM:

Will the hon. gentleman say how he knows that a man is going to vote a certain way? A voteT may say all sorts of things before an election that are simply camouflage, and may vote just the opposite way to what he said he was going to vote.

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L LIB
UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

We are not accustomed to that class of voter down my way. I am speaking in all seriousness. I grant that there is some force in the argument that a man has the right to vote himself, but I say that for the object in view

the machinery is too expensive and too elaborate. I am not quarrelling with the expense only, although that is a consideration. To create this elaborate machinery to give a comparatively small number of men the right to vote is like creating a steam engine to run a canoe. There is nothing to justify such expensive machinery for such a simple purpose.

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L LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I am not much in

sympathy with the idea of voting by proxy. My hon. friend says that he has discussed this matter with the railway brotherhoods and has received communications with respect to it from commercial travellers' associations and other bodies. There is no class which has been pressing for legislation of this kind for a number of years so strongly as the commercial travellers, but I am quite sure that a large number of them will not 'be able to avail themselves of this provision. A large number of commercial travellers go on a two or three weeks' trip. I know, for instance, commer- >

cial travellers in the city of Quebec who leave for the Gaspe coast or the Lake St. John district who would not be able to avail themselves of this provision, becaus^ three days is not sufficient time to allow. If the suggestion of my hon. friend (Mr. Fielding) is not accepted, I would ask the minister to provide a longer period than three days, which I do not think is sufficient to give the commercial travellers and the other class who are asking for this legislation the privilege they desire.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

I have been requested

many times during the past year to bring before the House at the earliest opportunity the question of voting by mail. This proposition is endorsed by the Commercial Travellers' Association, and no doubt the minister in charge of the Bill has received from them representations in the matter. The hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe), very wisely pointed out that the time provided for in this Act is not adequate, and certainly three days will not afford the commercial travellers of the country sufficient time in which to exercise , the franchise. There can be no doubt in the mind of any hon. gentleman that the Commercial Travellers' Association represents possibly the most intelligent section of the community.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

There is no body of men who have a better knowledge of the affairs of the country than the commercial travellers, who come in close contact with the 75

people of every constituency from coast to coast. Some hon. gentlemen said " hear, hear" a moment ago by way of comment on my statement that the commercial travellers are among the best informed citizens of the country. However that comment may be interpreted, I repeat the assertion and I will go a step further and say that the commercial travellers are better informed on public matters than any other class of people in the Dominion, without a single exception. This body comprises over 30,000 men, who all take a keen interest in the nation's affairs; and it would be impossible for them to take advantage of the provisions of this Act, worded as it is. I would therefore strongly urge upon the minister the necessity of providing for voting by mail. Many of these travellers leave on extended trips covering a period very often of six months. The commercial travellers cover the Dominion twice in the twelve months and it seems to me that there should be some provision for their accommodation in the matter of voting. But the commercial travellers are not the only citizens whose convenience is involved in this proposition. There are the sailors, who are sometimes away from home for months and months together. Then there are the lumbermen, the most difficult body of men to deal with in any election, and hon. members who have had experience in this direction can bear me out; and another class of men who encounter great obstacles in any attempt to record their votes are the miners. So that for the convenience of this considerable portion of the population-the commercial travellers, the sailors, the lumbermen, and the miners, to say nothing of the railroad men,-I think it is the duty of the Acting Solicitor General very seriously to consider the proposal I made. I quite realize that there will be attendant difficulties in connection with such a provision, but these are no greater than the difficulties that would surround the proposition which is before the House at the present time. I trust, Mr. Chairman, that the minister will give due consideration to the representations that have been made to him, through me, and I have no doubt directly, by the commercial travellers.

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UNION

George Brecken Nicholson

Unionist

Mr. G. B. NICHOLSON:

In regard to

the observations of the hon. member for Queen's and Shelburne (Mr. Fielding), I do not think that hon. gentleman bears in mind the fact that the provisions of the Act applying to a class of men who, in many constituencies in Canada, constitute the majority of the voters. There are several constituencies of which I have personal

knowledge, where some four or five thousand men will be affected by this clause, and to ask that such a large number of men should vote by proxy seems to me to be beyond what any reasonable man would demand in connectidn with the exercise of the franchise. Then, with regard to the complicated machinery that has been set up. the difficulty of carrying out the provisions of this clause, the expense, etc., I think the clause is in reality very similar to the provisions under which the railway employees and commercial travellers were allowed to vote in the last provincial election in Ontario. Boiled down, it means that there shall be in each constituency one advance poll man to be deputy returning officer and poll clerk, and there shall be issuance of certificates by the registrar or the enumerator, as the case may be, to enable these men to vote. I think that any suggestion to the railway employees, to say nothing of all the other men who will be affected, that they should vote by proxy would only be tantamount to saying " We are not going to give you the privilege of exercising the franchise;" because these men will not avail themselves of such a privilege.

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L LIB

Onésiphore Turgeon

Laurier Liberal

Mr. TURGEON:

I would suggest an

amendment to the clause to provide for elections on a specified day, so that men in every calling in life might have an opportunity of exercising the privileges of citizenship. I do not see any sound reason why we should not have the general election fixed by statute to take place on a Monday, say. Every travelling agent is at home, if not every Sunday, at least every second or third Sunday, and if he knew that the election would take place on a certain Monday he would so arrange his itinerary as to be home on the Sunday preceding election day. In the province of New Brunswick we have such a privilege to accommodate sailors and fishermen. Before Confederation a statute provided that elections should always be held on Monday in the constituency of Gloucester, which I have the honour to represent, and which is one of the largest constituencies in the Maritime Provinces. This provision was made to meet the convenience of the fishermen in this constituency, who comprise a very large propor.-tion of the electorate. They generally leave home on Monday, returning on Saturday nights, and the provision is a very convenient one. There is a tendency in New Brunswick to-day to have the general provincial election held on Monday, and I would not be astonished if this suggestion

took the form of legislation before long. If the election were held on Monday every class of citizens, including railway employees, would make preparations in view of the fact, and I have no doubt whatever that the majority of them would be able to exercise the franchise. Railway men could vote* early in the morning and late in the evening. In that way, as suggested by the hon. member for Queen's and Shelburne, w*e could dispense with this clause, which will undoubtedly involve a great deal of expenditure, or at least considerably more than would be entailed if the election were held on Monday. I think the committee should weigh well this suggestion, which is an important one.

Mr. J. E, ARMSTRONG: Before this clause is disposed pf II would like the Acting Solicitor General to take into consideration the fact that our inland sailors would be strongly opposed to voting by proxy. Not many days ago a delegation of masters and mates waited upon me in regard to this very subject, and urged the importance of placing before the Acting Solicitor General the need of enacting just stich a clause as is contained in this Bill.

I am also satisfied that the representatives of the railway brotherhoods and the commercial travellers would be strongly opposed to a clause compelling them to vote by proxy.

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L LIB

William Duff

Laurier Liberal

Mr. DUFF:

I presume the idea of the Acting Solicitor General in moving this clause is to give every elector in Canada a chance to vote. The idea is a good one but I really cannot see how it is going to be carried out successfully. The hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat spoke about the position of the lake sailors. Well, they would be able to vote in three ways. But, in my opinion, it would be most unfair to allow railway employees and commercial travellers who are away from home to vote, and not provide some means whereby our sailors and fishermen in the Maritime Provinces and British Columbia, who may be away from home for perhaps a week, two weeks, or two months before election day, could exercise the franchise. If some scheme cannot be devised whereby every man in Canada who was away from home might vote, I would say let the old law remain in force and only permit those who are at home on election day to poll their votes.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDDOW:

-Supplementing the remarks I have already made, I desire to

place on Hansard a resolution which I have received from the Commercial Travellers' Association upon this subject. It is very brief and will not take long to read.

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THE R6YAL ASSENT.


Sitting suspended for Royal assent to Bills. A message was delivered by Colonel Ernest J. Chambers, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, as follows: Mr. Speaker, His Excellency the Administrator desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the Chamber of the honourable Senate. Accordingly, the House went up to the Senate. And having returned, The Speaker informed the House that His Excellency the Administrator had been pleased to give in His Majesty's name the Royal assent to the following Bill: An Act for granting to His Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of the financial year ending 31st March, 1921.


DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT.


The House resumed in Committee on Bill No. 12 respecting the election of members of the House of Commons and the electoral franchise.-Mr. Guthrie. Mr. Boivin in the Chair.


L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

When the Committee rose to receive the message from His Excellency the Administrator we were considering clause 100. Mr. Pedlow had the floor.

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L LIB

Isaac Ellis Pedlow

Laurier Liberal

Mr. PEDLOW:

Mr. Speaker, when the House was called to order for the purpose of adjourning to the Senate I was about to ask permission to place on Hansard some resolutions I had received from commercial travellers' associations of Canada. The Dominion Commercial Travellers' Association of the City of Montreal passed the following resolution:

This association has been informed that it is the intention of the House to bring a Bill before Parliament making provision for a system of "Votes by Mail." The board of directors of this association are heartily in favour of the proposition, and trust that Parliament will see its way clear to have the system adopted. As you are no doubt aware, there are about 30,000 commercial travellers in Canada, and it is rather hard on these men that they should not have the opportunity of voting simply by reason of the fact that their business necessitates their being , absent from their home town on the day of the poll. These men are represent-75J '

ing many and varied interests, and the very nature of their work qualifies them to vote intelligently on the matters most affecting the economic welfare of the Dominion.

The Commercial Travellers' Association of Brockville passed this resolution:

This association heartily endorses the proposed legislation to permit commercial travellers to exercise their franchise, both for parliamentary and municipal elections, by mail when unable to vote at their own polling places on election day, and we greatly appreciate your kind interest in our behalf in this matter.

The Commercial Travellers' Association of Canada have sent me from Toronto the following resolution:

It is a matter that has been before the association since 1906, and if the voting-by-mail Bill is passed, it will only be equitable and fair to the commercial traveller and something that he will appreciate very much.

It may seem to the committee that this-is something so radical that it is impossible-of adoption, but let me tell the hon. minister who has charge of this Bill that far from being an impossible proposition, it is in operation in several countries. I understand that in the Argentine Republic voting by mail is quite common, and it is effected somewhat after this manner. Each voter being duly registered carries with him a registration card with his signature and photograph attached, and on polling day all he has to do is to go to the nearest post office, present his registration card, and obtain from the postmaster a ballot, which is enclosed in a registered envelope. Having marked his ballot he forwards it to the constituency in which he wishes to cast his vote.

I have also in my possession a 'specimen ballot used by the University of the City of Dublin for university elections, but these elections are conducted just as strictly as a parliamentary election. I shall be pleased to submit this form to the minister for in-' spection if he so desires.

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April 13, 1920