February 25, 1921

UNION

Peter McGibbon

Unionist

Mr. McGIBBON (Muskoka) :

If this

amendment carries, the effect will be the disfranchisement of a large number of voters. For instance, just about that time of the year the lumbermen in the northern country are breaking up their camps and moving out, and would not have two months' residence in any district at the time of the voting. It seems to me that by this provision an injustice might be done to large numbers of the working population who migrate from place to place.

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UNION

Michael Steele

Unionist

Mr. STEELE:

There is, no doubt, a

good deal in what has been said in opposition to the proposed amendment. But in the guarding of the ballot box and in the taking of the vote we should endeavour to be consistent. Two months' residence in the electoral district is specially provided for in the Elections Act. I do not think that any member of Parliament would desire the removal of that restriction. In the coming referendum, I am sure, no one desires anything but a fair and honest vote of the electors of Ontario. But in providing machinery for the taking of that vote, at least the necessary precautions should be taken to protect the ballot box from any irregularity. We have thrown the door wide open by allowing any person whose name is not on the list in the rural districts to come up on election day, and, by taking the oath and being certified to by another elector, to vote. Personally I doubt whether even that is a wise provision in the Elections Act. However, apart from that, we have thrown the door pretty wide open, and while some people may be disfranchised if the local residence clause is inserted, we can under no condition, in no franchise Act, prevent the disfranchisement of some people. In the urban districts many persons will be disfranchised when the lists are revised. If we seek to allow every resident of Ontario to vote, then we are inconsistent in saying that in the urban districts any person whose name is not on the list shall not be allowed to vote. It seems to me that the proposed amendment is a wise precaution. It will, perhaps, save Parliament from a good deal of criticism afterward, and not very much objection would be

made my those people who, under the amendment, would be disfranchised.

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UNION

William Foster Cockshutt

Unionist

Mr. COCKSHUTT:

It seems to me that the weight of the argument rests with the hon. member (Mr. Steele) who has moved the amendment. It is a safeguard to provide that a man who votes shall have resided in the constituency for a certain length of time; if you take away that safeguard I do not see who is going to testify to the voter's residence in Ontario. The provision has always been in the Elections Act, and few are disfranchised under it. I was sorry to hear my hon. friend from Marquette (Mr. Crerar) say that some men were words cut out. Coming from the hon. prepared to swear to anything, particularly in the cities. Now, I would like those member, they have more significance than they otherwise would have. But I do not believe that he wished to insinuate that the man in the city will, because he lives in the city, take an oath that he would not take if he were in the country. I believe that those who live in the cities of Ontario are just as likely to swear to the truth as they would be if they lived in rural ridings. So far as the amendment is concerned, two months' residence surely cannot be considered as too much. I do not live in Toronto, but I would not be surprised if Toronto voted wet. If, however, you allow Toronto to be flooded with men from the rural districts and smaller cities and towns of Ontario, the vote for Toronto might be dry-something which Toronto did not intend or desire. I believe that Winnipeg voted wet and the rest of Manitoba dry in the last referendum on this question. Perhaps Winnipeg thinks it did the right thing; that is not for me to say, but Winnipeg1 would not like to have its vote submerged, even if it were a minority, by the transference of votes from other districts where they were not so badly needed. Without the proposed amendment, therefore, I foresee a condition under which men might move from one district in Ontario to another where their votes would count for the most. The question is, perhaps, difficult to decide, and no doubt whichever way you decide it a few will be disfranchised. But our law has been a good one in the past, and it seems to me that no hardship will be imposed on anybody by providing that the voter must have resided a certain length of time in the riding in which he votes.

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UNION

James Arthurs

Unionist

Mr. ARTHURS:

In Northern Ontario

many voters quite frequently change their

residence from one constituency to another. This particular vote will be taken on lists, so far as the rural parts are concerned, prepared prior to December,; 1919, and since that time many men have changed their residence. If this amendment carries these men will be deprived of the right to vote.

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UNION
UNION

James Arthurs

Unionist

Mr. ARTHURS:

Not unless they have been resident two months in the district in which they desire to vote. The proposed amendment would deprive many lumbermen and miners of their votes.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I understand that the real purpose of this amendment is to obviate the necessity of revising the lists and thereby save some $300,000. Has my hon. friend formed any estimate of the number of names that will likely be left off the lists as the result of our not having the full revision? As I understand it, any persons whose names are not on the lists will have to be sworn. Has the minister any idea how many persons will have to go to the polls and swear on their names in order that they may have the right to vote?

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UNION

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

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

It would be very hard to form an estimate. The man who could form the nearest estimate would be the Chief Electoral Officer, and he says that in some polls there will be very few names to add while in others there may be twenty-five, fifty, or even more. No estimate has been made.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Has my hon. friend directed the attention of the Dominion Alliance and the Ontario Referendum Committee to this effect of the amendment? Has he considered the possible effect that it will have upon the number of votes cast? I assume that many of those who would like to vote will be women who have never voted before; they may hesitate to take an oath in order that they may be entitled to vote. Then, there are many classes who might take exception to swearing their names at all. Has my hon. friend considered that aspect, and has he discussed it with parties that are likely to be interested?

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UNION

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

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

The parties most interested have certainly brought that aspect of the matter to the attention of the Government, and we have discussed and considered it. There ai'e two opinions on it.

Those who are least familiar with elections and election laws seem to think there may be some crowding at the polls, some blocking, on account of the great number of people who intend to vote; but under the Act there is power to open such additional polls as may be necessary to accommodate the voters. That having been pointed out, I think in every case the objection has been withdrawn. I do not see any likelihood of any blocking of the polls even if fifty or a hundred voters have to be sworn, unless somebody deliberately occupies the time of the clerks, and a constable is on hand for the purpose of putting a man of that kind out of the polling booth.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My point

is directed, not to the blocking of the polls, but to the effect of certain persons being obliged to take an oath before they register their votes. I understand, in this referendum, there will be a number of women voting who, perhaps, have not voted before. The point I want to bring out, is this, that if the law as originally drafted had been complied with, the names of all those persons would be on the lists, so that there would be no need for any group of people taking an oath; but in consequence of the change that is now being made, hundreds of prospective voters will go to the polls and will find that their names are not on the lists, and so they will be obliged to take an oath before they can be entitled to vote. I just want to make perfectly sure that the Government feels that the electors are satisfied as regards the possibility of large numbers of voters requiring to be sworn.

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UNION

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

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

The only complaint

I know of on that score is one from a man who stated that his wife objected to the taking of an oath. The law, as originally drafted, adopted the Ontario lists, and closing the door in that way would constitute a far greater hardship than asking the people to take the oath. We have now opened the door, but we have prescribed one safeguard, that an oath shall be taken.

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UNION

John Allister Currie

Unionist

Mr. CURRIE:

As regards this clause, the only attitude for the committee to take is that of fairness to all parties concerned. If the effect of the proposed amendment will deprive anybody of a vote, I for one will not support it. By passing this amendment, we shall certainly deprive a number of people of their votes, and for that reason I do not think the amendment should carry. Whilst an amendment similar to this would work all right in a

case where there were constituencies and we desired to prevent what is known as "colonization"-that is, having a lot of people moving over night from one constituency to another to carry it-but as this is a vote to be taken throughout the province we should take the broadest view of the whole matter and adopt a course which will ensure to everybody the freedom of the ballot. I speak feelingly on this matter, because by dodges and bars of this kind placed in the statute, I was twenty-eight years of age before I was able to cast a vote, although, under the law of the day, I was entitled to cast a vote at twenty-one. The whole history of the ballot is filled with restrictions placed upon the exercise of the franchise, and we should look at the matter from a judicial standpoint and say: We will not prevent anybody from the right of exercising the franchise, on account of residence, on account of age-that is, granted that we give them the full age of twenty-one years

on account of colour, religion or anything else. If we do that, I think we are doing what is proper. For that reason I do not see the need for the amendment moved by the hon. member for Perth South (Mr. Steele). If this were a ease where a vote was to be taken by constituencies, there might be some argument in favour of this proposition; but I think the minister and the Chief Electoral Officer have taken the right course, and the ballot will be amply safeguarded, and no one can come forward and say: By some trick of legislation this House has deprived certain people of their vote, and the verdict of the people of the province would have been reversed if those people had been able to vote. For that reason I am in favour of the utmost liberality in the taking of that vote, and I trust the committee will hold the same view.

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UNION

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

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

One point that has just come to my mind is that the experience in Alberta and Saskatchewan has justified the Chief Electoral Officer in making the change. In those two provinces the law under the Franchise Act requires residence for two months in the electoral district, and he received quite a number of protests from judges and temperance organs in each province pointing out the hardship of the provision. He received no protests from any one in the province opposed to it. In consequence of, and recognizing those protests, he drew up the present amendment. I do not want the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Currie) to suppose

that I have any particular side or view on this question. I am not particularly concerned with it. Whatever is the view of the committee, that I am willing to accept.

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Was this amendment suggested by any of the interested parties, and if so, by whom? Was this amendment approved by any of those seeking the referendum? |

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UNION

Michael Steele

Unionist

Mr. STEELE:

I drafted the amendment myself and submitted it to the committee.

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L LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

The Solicitor General said that there had been a deputation asking for this amendment.

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UNION
L LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I am not addressing the hon. member for Simcoe North. I heard the minister say that there had been a deputation asking for this amendment.

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UNION

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

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I never saw this amendment until my hon. friend (Mr. Steele) read it to the committee a minute or so ago.

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February 25, 1921