Hon. A. B. COPP (Secretary of State) moved for leave to introduce Bill No. 14S to amend the Dominion Elections Act.
He said: Hon. gentlemen will remember
that shortly after the last Dominion election the chief electoral officer presented a report to His Honour the Speaker under section 74 of the act, mentioning some of the difficulties encountered in carrying on the election under the act, and it was suggested that a number of amendments should be made. This was given consideration, and the amendments we are presenting to the House to-day contain the suggestions made by the chief electoral officer for the better administration of the act, and to reduce to a minimum the difficulties experienced in the last election. There are some thirty sections in the amended bill. Under the old act registration was granted in all places having a population of 1,000 or upwards. That was amended in 1921, increasing the number from 1,000 to 2,500 before registration could be obtained. That figure was afterwards increased, and made 5,000. Another amendment was that urban voters' lists were required to be printed, and in order to save time it was thought advisable to include mimeographing as well as printing of these lists if thought necessary.
Another amendment is with regard to returning officers. Some returning officers when appointed refuse to act and do not take the initial steps towards appointing their election clerks in order to carry on the election as speedily as possible. This amendment makes it imperative upon the returning officer to take at least the initial steps so as not to delay the conduct of an election. In one or two constituencies there was barely time to carry on the election after the returning officer refused to act. Another provision is to overcome as far as possible the difficulty experienced in preparing voters' lists in some of the provinces, particularly in regard to accepting provincial voters' lists as the basis of the Dominion list. The explanation is somewhat lengthy; it will all be found in the report of the chief electoral officer.
Another change is to provide a more simple method of removing the names of dead and disqualified voters from preliminary lists in urban polling divisions. Another provides for earlier delivery of lists to candidates; another that where the urban registrar makes up the index books containing lists of voters, he shall make an extra copy for the printer so as to save time in that regard.
Another change is in regard to cases where it is necessary to substitute a returning officer at the last moment on account of illness or otherwise. Formerly it was required that the oath of office must be taken before a judge of a court of record. It was found necessary in some instances to go a considerable distance in order to do this. This has been changed so that the oath can be taken before a magistrate, a justice of the peace or a notary public to overcome that difficulty. There are a number of just such amendments as that in the bill. We are anxious to get as complete, accurate and ideal an election act as is possible, and on second reading we intend to refer the bill to the committee on Privileges and Elections. The Chief Electoral Officer who had the experience of conducting the last election will be able to go before that committee and explain the changes, and the committee can study the bill better than can be done here.