February 19, 1923

LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member is not confining himself strictly to the resolution. He is wandering a little away from the subject, but I must say that he is giving the House the benefit of his experience as to the application of the system of proportional representation. I have followed him as closely as I can, and in justice to him I must say that he is simply showing the House how the system in its application to municipal elections has proven a failure. I would ask him, however, in his further remarks to come closer to the resolution as submitted to the House.

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CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHURCH:

I will come closer to the subject of the resolution. Let me ask the hon. member who has raised the point of order, has he or the Progressives made any of the working classes rich in this country? I would ask him further, does he propose to apply proportional representation to the election of directors of the grain growers, bank directors and elections generally? The hon. member and his friends sitting around him are very good at raising points of order and wasting the time of the House, but I can tell him that more business is done by York county council in one afternoon than has been done in this House for three weeks, for the time has been simply wasted by the Progressives bringing down academic resolutions, which have not the support of the municipalities. I challenge the hon. member to show that this question has ever been discussed by the Ontario municipalities. I was present at a municipal meeting last September and this question was on the order paper for discussion, but nobody was there. Did the farmers want it? No, no-bo

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

If there are no others who wish to speak, I should like to reply to some of the comments that have been made in the course of this debate, which has been very interesting to me. I find it very difficult to take some hon members seriously, but I shall try as best I can to believe that every one who participated in the debate spoke from the fulness of his heart.

The question seems to me to be a very important one, and I do not wish anyone to think that I encourage hasty action in a matter of this kind; but the subject has been before the country and before this House for many years, and surely we are in a position now to come to some conclusion in regard to the principle involved.

I would point out that the resolution does not ask for an unqualified endorsation of the principle. Personally I thoroughly believe in it. But surely if much is to be said for it, the least we can do is to give it a trial. We cannot adopt the system everywhere at once. We have to start somewhere, and although I quite agree with the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) that the delimitation of the constituencies will no doubt be a thorny problem, that is a problem we can tackle when the time comes. We have to make a start somewhere, and if we do not do anything to-day the committee will never wrestle with the problem. We shall make no progress, and shall probably have to wait until after the next census is taken. So I think this is a very opportune time for taking some few steps in the direction of this reform.

I wish first to answer the question put by the hon. member for King's (Mr. Hughes) as to whether under this system a candidate who did not receive a majority on the first count could be elected on the final count. Undoubtedly that could happen. Perhaps I can best illustrate the point by referring to the case which he put, where one man gets forty votes, another thirty and another say twenty-five. Now supposing that all the twenty-five electors that voted for the third man as their first choice preferred the second man as their second choice, and that when the third man was eliminated those twenty-five votes were transferred to the man who had thirty votes on the first count. That would give him fifty-five. Does the hon. member say that that man should not be elected over the man who received only forty votes? It seems to me we must regard a second choice as practically equivalent to a first choice. The same question was raised by the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. McMurray) as to the relative values of first and second choices. Now if you consider the meaning of first and second choices, it seems to me that you must recognize their equality. What does it mean when a man records his second choice? It means that if his first choice has no chance of being elected, or has a surplus, the elector wishes his vote to be transferred. If hon. members will get the idea'of a transferred vote, it will be apparent that that vote ought to be given equal recognition with the first choice.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Would the hon. member say that the fifth and sixth choices were equal to the first choice, according to his reasoning?

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

I think that they would be so. In the event of the first, second, third and

Proportional Representation

fourth choices not standing any chances of election, I think the elector's fifth choice ought to have recognition. But in actual practice there would be very, very few cases of this sort. It has been pointed out already in the course of this debate that in actual practice where the system has been in operation the candidates who have come out on top on the first count are those who are generally elected finally, and one hon. gentleman in discussing the subject asked why, if the first count showed the wishes of the electors, we should adopt proportional representation and have further counts. My answer is this: We have to have a multi-member constituency any way to get our first count. If we go that far, why not go a little further and be quite sure that every elector's preferences are given recognition? It only means a little more work on the count, no more work for the elector, and just a little more time. Therefore if we have to go so far, might we not go a little farther.

The hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Black) made a statement which I submit was quite erroneous when he alleged that under this system an elector in a four-member constituency had four votes. Now that is quite a mistake. Under the system which is proposed, an elector in a multi-member constituency has only one vote but it is transferable according to his own instructions.

The hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens) dealt with a number of apparent difficulties in the working out of this scheme, and I would like to reply to some of the points which he raised. He alleged that the individual representative really tries to represent his constituents. Now I submit that in matters of policy, in large questions, the individual representative of the majority cannot represent the minority in his constituency; it is absolutely impossible. I do not deny that he may represent certain local interests. He may answer the correspondence of his constituents, he may look after a number of matters of a local character, but in regard to the major questions of policy which divide the parties it is absolutely impossible, no matter how much he desires it, for him to represent accurately the opinions of those from whom he differs; and if we are going to accurately represent the various bodies of opinion, we must depart from majority representation and have some other system; and proportional representation, I think, is the best.

Now with respect to the allegation made by the hon. member that this scheme would reduce parliament to the status of a municipal

council, I do not know whether to take that statement as a compliment or not. I do not know that a municipal council, so far as its discussions are concerned, deserves to be derided. I do not know that there is anything particularly contemptible about the methods of a municipal council, and I would suggest that, perhaps, it would be a good thing for this parliament if we could get rid of our party alignments and discuss every question on its merits. Personally I would like to see hon. members free themselves more from party affiliations, 'and let us approach every matter as we see it from our own standpoint and the standpoint of those we represent. I think in that way we would arrive at saner conclusions, and conclusions that would be better for the country.

The hon. member confuses also, as so many have done to-night, majority rule with majority representation. Now, there is nobody who does not agree with the policy of majority rule, that necessarily democratic principle. But we do not agree with the policy and practice of majority representation. As the Minister of Finance has pointed out, the province of Nova Scotia has had only majority representation in federal affairs for many years. That is not in the interests of Nova Scotia, or in the interests of Canada.

I may also state that the hon. member for Vancouver Centre has got rather sadly mixed up in his elucidation or attempted elucidation of the method of counting. I do not like to weary the House with the correction of what he said in that respect, but I submit- because I know the facts and I know the methods-that he has got seriously confused and that the difficulties and unfairnesses which he alleged in respect to the transfer of the surplus votes, and the transfer of the votes of those who were eliminated at the bottom of the poll, do not exist. [DOT]

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Will my hon. friend be

good enough to correct my error? I propounded what my hon. friend considers an error and as he states that he knows I would like him to correct it.

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

I would be only too glad to

go into this matter. Perhaps the hon. member would allow me to deal with just one point, as I do not wish to devote much time at this late hour to discussing a question of this sort. I will deal with one point where the hon. member made a mistake. In the distribution of the surplus we do not take the ballots that are left over in an arbitrary manner. Supposing, for instance, the quota is

Proportional Representation

201,-I think that was the figure that was mentioned,-and a candidate has, say, 300 votes on the first count. Then 99 votes constitute the surplus and they are to be distributed. Now, we do not take 99 ballots by chance and distribute them. We find out by examining all of the ballots what the preferences of those 300 electors are, and then we divide the 99 in the same proportion.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

That is exactly what I said myself. Will my hon. friend now follow the first man that drops out?

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

Well, I seriously misunderstood the hon. gentleman if that is what he said. With respect to the first man who drops out-and others who drop out-the procedure is simply this, that all his ballots are divided amongst those candidates that are left, according to the preferences expressed on them. I cannot see what else you can do. The voter himself authorizes the returning officer to transfer his vote in a certain way and what else can we do, if we are going to be fair and honest with the elector, but transfer his vote according to his own instructions?

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CON

Robert King Anderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ANDERSON:

Is it not a fact that there are quite a number of second choices not counted at all? You do not count second choices on men who are dropping out? That is not fair.

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

It is not a [DOT] fact that there are many votes that are not recognized. If an elector neglects to express any preferences, then of course you cannot recognize his preferences because you do not know what they are. But unless an elector omits to express his preferences, his preferences are recognized as far as possible. There may be, when you approach the last few counts, a few votes which are, perhaps, not given recognition.

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CON

Robert King Anderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ANDERSON:

Let me ask another question: Take any single-member constituency where there are three candidates. The low candidate would be counted out and his second choices would be given to the others. What becomes of the second choices of the first and the second candidates? They are not apportioned at all.

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

The hon. gentleman's question has reference to the alternative vote in a single member constituency. What need have you to consider the second and third choices of the man who is elected on the first count?

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CON

Robert King Anderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ANDERSON:

Why are you talking

about second choices?

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

Supposing three candidates, one man is elected on the first count. There are certain second choices on the ballots-

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CON

Robert King Anderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ANDERSON:

I am not talking about a man who is elected, I am talking about three candidates, none of them being elected on the first choice.

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IND

William Charles Good

Independent Progressive

Mr. GOOD:

There is absolutely no use in a case like that of distributing the second or third choices of the man who is on top. You have three candidates running in a singlemember constituency; you have your first count which shows one man to be lowest. Whom can you eliminate but that one man, and distribute his votes between the other two? Then on the second count one of the two remaining candidates comes out ahead. I fear I have not understood the hon. gentleman's question, if that is not the point.

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IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. MACLEAN (York):

What is the hon. gentleman's opinion about representation by population?

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?

Mr GOOD:

That is another question and a very important one, but I prefer not to discuss it to-night, as we have enough to discuss already.

With respect to the address of the right hon. ' leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) 1 want to commend him for the moderation of his criticism of proportional representation. He did make a worth while contribution to the debate. Perhaps I cannot express the same commendation of some of his other remarks, but his contribution to the discussion of this particular question was, I think, quite worth while. I should like to discuss a few of his points. But let me just in passing state that I do not think any of us here care very much about party labels, whether it is a Conservative-Liberal party or a Liberal-Conservative party. What we are interested in is progressive policies and progressive legislation. The right hon. gentleman stated that in his opinion we got the best result out of parliamentary government when it was party government. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that one might believe that, without disapproving or disbelieving in an improved method of electing representatives. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, and as I could substantiate by a good deal of evidence, the system of proportional representation does not lead to the formation of groups, or the multiplication of groups, but rather the reverse, as I hope to point out in a few minutes.

I would like to mention also another point which the right hon. gentleman raised, that

Proportional Representation

there would be an undue emphasis placed upon the personality of the candidate. Honestly I cannot understand why that should be so. I do not think it has been so in the Winnipeg election, or wherever proportional representation has been tried. The personality of the candidate is always a factor in every election, and I think it ought to be a factor, but why it should be a greater factor under proportional representation than under the present system I cannot for the life of me see. I was very glad indeed to note the admission by my hon. friend-

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Permit me to make clear what I was saying. In connection with the elector's first choice, personality would have just the same effect as under the present system. His first choice would be based mainly on policy, speaking generally, somewhat influenced by personal preference, but after he has made his decision on matters of policy, nothing whatever remains to decide his course except minor questions, notably personality.

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February 19, 1923