February 15, 1927

ATHABASKA ELECTION

REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE

UFA

Donald MacBeth Kennedy

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. D. M. KENNEDY (Peace River):

Mr. Speaker, I beg to move:

That the interim and final reports respectively of the Hon. Mr. Justice Clarke, commissioner appointed to inquire into the alleged existence of corrupt or illegal practices in the election held in the electoral district of Athabaska, in the province of Alberta, on the 29th of October, 1925, which reports were laid on the table of the House on December 15, 1926, be referred to the select standing committee on privileges and elections.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Minister of Justice):

May I ask my hon. friend to explain what is the purpose of sending these reports to the privileges and elections committee?

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
UFA

Donald MacBeth Kennedy

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KENNEDY:

Possibly, Mr. Speaker,

as this is a new parliament I had better give a few facts to the House regarding the petition, and at least one reason why these reports ought to be referred to that committee.

A petition was presented to this House in the early part of last session, on February 1st, I think, signed by A. C. Berry, of the electoral district of Athabaska, in the province of Alberta, alleging that illegal and corrupt practices had extensively prevailed in that election. The House received that petition, and a motion passed the House on March 18, 1926, for the appointment of a commissioner to conduct an investigation. On July 10th, the Hon. Mr. Justice Clarke, of Alberta, was appointed as commissioner, and he conducted the investigation, and made, as is stated in the motion, two reports to the government. In his interim report he stated that corrupt and illegal practices had extensively prevailed in that constituency. Further in that report he mentioned certain polls, a dozen or more I think, in which there was a tremendous amount of fraud committed such as stuffing

29S

Athabaska Election

ballot boxes, forging returns and other documents. He did not in his report make recommendations further than simply to present the findings of his investigation to the government and the House. It seems to me that one purpose at least-there may be others-is to examine the findings of Mr. Justice Clarke and to ascertain if it is not possible to provide ways and means whereby it will be impossible in the future to conduct elections in Canada in that manner.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
UFA

Donald Ferdinand Kellner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. D. F. KELLNER (Athabaska):

Mr. Speaker, before this motion is carried there are a few things that I would like to say regarding the motion to refer this petition to the committee on privileges and elections. While the commissioner 'held an extensive investigation and made a report, there are several things in connection with it which he did not deal with at all and which in fact he had no power to deal with. The report will show that a large number of individuals were guilty of corruption, illegal practices and such like. A certificate of indemnity was given to election officials covering the charge of forging ballots, putting their names on ballots which they were not so authorized to initial, and offences of that kind, but the commissioner did not deal and had no power to deal with a large number of other offences. For instance, the report will show that some of them were guilty of forgery, that is, that they had forged cheques which had been sent out to pay the expenses of election officials and had cashed those cheques and obtained the money. The report will also show that some of them were guilty of perjury; that they gave false evidence when called before the commission. Surely no one will argue that the commissioner had any authority to grant certificates of indemnity covering those cases, but the result is that those people have not been punished to date, and so far as I know no notice has been taken of the matter.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I did not quite catch

what the hon. member said. Do I understand that these parties to whom he refers are in the government service?

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
UFA

Donald Ferdinand Kellner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KELLNER:

Some of them are and

I will deal with that in a minute if my hon. friend will let me pass it for the moment. It might be well to give a little review of the whole situation that was planned for this election. In the first place the returning officer's office was at a point called Lac la Biche about a hundred miles away from the centre of settlement. There is a twice-a-week train service in that part of the country; there is only one highway running north and south reaching the point and it is not readily acces-

sible. To the returning officer being allowed to operate at that point the electors took very serious objection. They objected to the Chief Electoral Officer, requesting that he move the returning officer. If the Chief Electoral Officer were not acquainted with that constituency, one might fairly assume that he did not himself know the situation; but he lived in the city of Edmonton for a good number of years, having been as a matter of fact a law partner in the firm of Short & Cross, the latter being one of the candidates in the election. Therefore, he must have had a considerable knowledge covering the whole situation.

The next point was that they selected as returning officer a man who admitted on the witness stand that he could neither read nor write. They did bring in two aides for him who could read and write. In fact they sent down to Seattle and they brought back two men, one named Lawler and the other Deyl to run this election. I am sure the name of Deyl will be quite familiar to some of those who have been in the Liberal party in western Canada for a number of years. I would be much surprised if the Minister of the Interior had not heard of Mr. Deyl in the old days.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART:

Quite often.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
UFA

Donald Ferdinand Kellner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KELLNER:

When liquor licenses were granted in Alberta, he was the man who used to go around to the hotel keepers telling them that unless they made a contribution to the campaign funds, their licenses would not be renewed. He was a revenue producer. Mr. Lawler is also well known to some of my Liberal friends. I would be surprised if the hon. member for East Edmonton (Mr. Blatch-ford) did not know him. I believe he rendered very effective assistance in the civic election in 1925. These two men came in and took control of the elections. To begin with the registrars refused to send out voters' lists and the committee that was in charge of that campaign in that election protested strenuously to the returning officer and to the Chief Electoral Officer. When polling day came we had in our possession something less than 100 lists out of a total of 235. That may seem a small matter, but when you come to examine the lists it will be very apparent that the plugging of those voters' lists was a part of the whole scheme of corruption. For instance, on the list covering the poll at Venice, there were 105 names, and the return from the poll showed that ninety-five people had come to vote, ninety-four of them voting for Mr. Cross and one ballot being rejected.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON

James Dew Chaplin

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHAPLIN:

How did that happen?

Athabaska Election

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
UFA

Donald Ferdinand Kellner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KELLNER:

They were experienced

men. They should not have had a rejected ballot. On an investigation of the names on the voters' lists it was found that there were probably thirty to thirty-five actually resident in the district. They were all on the list. Evidently the registrar started to put other names on the list, names of people who did not exist and who had not existed for quite a few years. As a matter of fact we found the name of one man who had been dead for twelve years and the return from the poll showed that a ballot had been polled under his name. Another man had been dead for three years. There were several men who had been out of the country for quite a number of years, including the priest of that district who was at the moment visiting in Italy. His name was, however, recorded in the voters' list as having gone to the poll and voted. It seemed also that in the compilation of the voters' lists they were endeavouring to break even between the males and the females, and when they put the priest's name on the list, to make the thing even they put the priest's wife's name on also. That is one registrar to whose being paid we objected, but a cheque was issued and went out covering the compilation of that list.

Another case which I would like to cite is that of three polls that were held in the forest reserve where nobody lives and where nobody is allowed to live. But those were not all the polls that were held there by any means. The evidence shows that three deputy returning . officers were instructed to take ballot boxes on election morning, follow up a trail that runs across this reserve, get back off the road about a half mile so that if anybody passed, they would not be seen, get into the bush and hold the election. All of this they did. Then they took the ballot boxes down to the Hudson's Bay store and proceeded to put in the ballots.

Now, is there any reason why this government should send out cheques for the compilation of those lists and to pay those deputy returning officers and poll clerks? Yet that is precisely w'hat has been done. We have heard of election irregularities in England, where there have been two or three outstanding cases, but there the electorate itself actually lost its head and either polled a corrupt vote or refused to allow some of the voters to exercise the franchise. This is a different case entirely. So far as this investigation shows, there is no evidence of any corruption on the part of the electorate; the corruption has been entirely on the part of the officials who were running the election. Inasmuch as those officials are the servants of this parliament, I think it i3 our duty to give due consideration to this case and to make certain that no future election in this country shall be conducted, in a similar way.

One other charge was mentioned a moment ago. A close scrutiny of those election officials will show that a large percentage of them are civil servants holding positions under the federal government. Take, for instance, one of the polls mentioned in this report, that at Lac la Biche. One of those who was found guilty of having put ballots in the box of people that never came to vote and was disfranchised-that is practically the only penalty the commissioner could enforce-is the postmaster of that village; he is also the sub land agent and in charge of the Dominion government telegraph service. I was notified this morning that he has resigned as postmaster. But it is four months since the report was made, it is two months since it was laid on the table, and all the time that man has been acting as postmaster and sub land agent and has been in control of the government telegraph service.

When those men who held the poll in the forest reserve were asked who told them to do so, they said it was a man by the name of Harry Bowtell. This Harry Bowtell is a rather interesting character-and also a civil servant. He is the postmaster at Frog Lake. He has held the office for seventeen years. I think he is also a sub land agent. I do know he is in charge of the Dominion government telegraph office. His wife is the assistant postmistress, and she admitted that when the cheques were being sent in -the name of people who did not exist she had knowledge that a couple of the cheques were coming to that office. As of course she knew no one would call for them, she signed the registration book for one cheque and got her thirteen-year-old daughter to sign for the other. Then they endorsed the cheques and cashed them. And yet Dominion government cheques have been sent to pay those people for such services in spite of the protests made by the people of Athaba'ska. We wrote -letter after letter to Ottawa trying to stop payment of those election officials, but a deaf ear was turned to our protests; those officials were paid.

I do not want to go into all these irregularities, there are so many of them, and I do not know that it is advisable to even attempt to do so. My purpose is to point out that these irregularities have been brought to the attention of the government, and that the government ha3 taken no effective way of dealing with them. The members of the

Athabaska Election

government practically shut their eyes to the whole thing. Section 87 of the Dominion Elections Act says that:

Any person who is, in any proceeding in which after notice of the charge he has had an opportunity of being heard, found guilty of any corrupt practice' or of any illegal practice, or of any offence which is a corrupt practice or illegal praetfce; shall, in addition to any other punishment for such offence by this or any other act prescribed be, for a corrupt practice during the seven years or for an illegal practice during the five years, next after the date of his being so reported, convicted, ordered, or found guilty, incapable of being elected to or of sitting in the House of Commons or of voting at any election of a member of that House or of holding any office in the nomination of the crown or of the Governor General in Canada.

I think that must have been inserted in order to give parliament special jurisdiction over these officials. True, under the criminal code, as under the Election Act, penalties are prescribed which can be enforced by a court, but this section applies particularly to the government and to parliament. In accordance with its terms these men were incompetent to hold any government position at the time that report was made, but we find they are still retained as government officials.

I charged a moment ago that the government has not taken any effective measures to wipe out this revolting situation. I think I can go a step further and very truthfully say that wherever that machine was weakened by reason . of this investigation those behind it have tried to make good the damage and in fact to strengthen their organization. In the village of Warspite the post office had been conducted in a store. The storekeeper sold out last fall. His successor was appointed postmaster by the postal inspector of that district. That man is reported to have been a very efficient postmaster. The post office guide shows that about eighty-five families get their mail at that post office. A petition signed by 150 people was sent to the Postmaster General's department that that m'an be left in charge of the post office, but a month or six weeks ago word came from Ottawa that the position must be taken away from him and given to another man. Every man and woman in the district signed that petition except seven. Evidently seven people in that district had influence enough to have the transfer made. I leave it to the House to say what is behind the transfer. Certainly tile transfer was not made because the new man was going to give better service. No one could argue that. If you are getting service that is satisfactory to 153 out of 160 people you are doing mighty well, and you are not safe in making any change.

Now, shortly before Christmas the French-Canadians of this country had a reunion at Ste. Anne de Beaupre. To that reunion came a Mr. Giroux, member of the legislative assembly -of Alberta. It is interesting to learn how he obtained the money to pay his expenses. The head office of the Dominion government telegraph service in Alberta is at Edmonton,, in charge of a man named Elmer. He sent out what is called a "twenty-three." It is a message sent over the lines to which all the operators are instructed to listen in. He told them about Mr. Giroux coming down here to interview the ministers and look after the superannuation of the operators, and that they would be requested, or commanded-I am not sure which-to put up five dollars apiece. He also wrote some telegraph operators down in Saskatchewan to put up a similar amount. I am told that altogether about $220 was secured for the trip. Now, is it in the interests of Canada that the civil service be used for obtaining political contributions? Let me go a step further. Is there a minister in the government who will get up this afternoon and say that Mr. Giroux interviewed him in any particular in the interests of the civil service? I do not think there is. He came down here to have a good time.

But the most regrettable point about this is that one man connected with the system who refused to make a contribution has since been reported to the department to his detriment. The hidden hand is trying to force him to contribute to Liberal campaign funds or else to blackmail him. I look across the House and I see quite a number of men who used to sit over on this side, who used to belong to the farmers' movement in western Canada. That movement was started largely-

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

Order.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON

David Spence

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPENCE (Parkdale):

Oh, take your

medicine.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

Did you ever taste

it?

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON

David Spence

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPENCE (Parkdale):

Yes. You take it now.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

Taste it yourself.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
UFA

Donald Ferdinand Kellner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KELLNER:

May I ask my former

colleagues one question. That movement was started as a protest against such political scandals as this, and that movement brought out such men as to-day you see sitting on the other side and actively lending their support to the government. Let me ask the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown) if he feels comforted.

Athabaska Elecl'ion

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB-PRO

John Livingstone Brown

Liberal Progressive

Mr. BROWN:

The hon. member for

Lisgar will be found expressing his opinion on the situation when the time comes.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

The remarks of the hon.

member (Mr. Kellner) are quite interesting but it seems to me that they are altogether outside of the motion now before the House.

Topic:   ATHABASKA ELECTION
Subtopic:   REFERENCE OF REPORTS OF MR. JUSTICE CLARKE TO PRIVILEGES AND ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Permalink

February 15, 1927