June 13, 1934


On the orders of the day: Mr. W. CHESTER S. McLURE (Queens): Before the orders of the day are called I desire to direct a question to the hon. Minister of Railways (Mr. Manion). The car ferry ss. Charlottetown of the Borden-Tormentine service is now undergoing repairs in Montreal. This service is being carried on by the ss. Prince Edward, which is not equipped like the ss. Charlottetown for the automobile traffic, and as our tourist trade opens July 1 it is essential for the ss. Charlottetown to be back on the service. My question is: When will the ss. Charlottetown resume the service on the Borden-Tormentine route, and are the repairs to the boat being rushed to completion so that she will be on the service before July 1? Hon. R. ,1. MANION (Minister of Railways) : The hon. gentleman was good enough to inform me that he would ask this question. I have made inquiries of the management at Montreal and they assure me that the work is being hurried with all possible speed, and that while the boat has been delayed four days owing to the fact that some other ship which was damaged got precedence because of custom in accidents, at the same time the four days will be the only delay. In other words, the Charlottetown should be ready for service by the 27th, instead of the original date, the 23rd. If it is ready for Franchise Act service on the 27th there is no reason why it should not be on the route by the first of July.


DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT

ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS


Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (Minister of Justice) moved that the house go into committee to consider the following proposed resolution: That it is expedient to introduce a measure respecting the franchise of electors at elections of members of the House of Commons, and to provide for the appointment, salaries, fees and expenses of a dominion franchise commissioner, secretary, registrars, enumerators, and other employees, and to make provision for the printing of voters' lists and other documents. Motion agreed to and the house went into committee, Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury) in the chair.


CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I should like to offer

some explanation in regard to the resolution which you have just read to the committee, Mr. Chairman. As is well known, the present Dominion Elections Act, as it appears in the statutes of Canada, is in the nature of a composite act. It declares the franchise of those persons who are entitled to vote at dominion elections; it also provides for the preparation of voters' lists; third, it provides for the conduct of the election itself.

After an experience under the present act from the time of its original passage in 1921 to the present, I think I am within the judgment of all sections of the committee when I say that the act as it now stands has been proved cumbersome, dilatory and expensive and it has been thought proper to introduce new legislation for the purpose in the first place of having in this country a basic electoral list which will at all times be available in case either of a dissolution of parliament or of a necessity of filling vacancies in the representation in this house as they occur from time to time. Under our present act it requires about sixty days after the dissolution of parliament before the election machinery can all work satisfactorily throughout the dominion and enable us to have a general election. It is true that probably fifty-three to fifty-four days might suffice provided that there be no miscarriage; that all the cogs of the machinery fit accurately and that no mishaps of any kind occur. In the case of byelections the information which I have received from the chief electoral officer is that fifty, or perhaps forty-eight days in a near at hand, compact riding, would suffice for the purpose. It has also come

to my knowledge that in the United Kingdom they have a much more expeditious method than we have in this country of bringing on a general election. It is true that distances in the United Kingdom are not very great as compared with those in Canada, but on the other hand they have there a population of over forty million or more than four times as great as ours. I have been told that in the United Kingdom they can dissolve one parliament and seat another in three weeks' time. They have at all times available a final and complete voters' list which can be and is utilized the moment parliament is dissolved.

It has been thought by the government that it would be well to devise some improved method to bring on a general or a byelection in this country in much less time than is necessary at present. The proposal is that the government introduce a bill for the purpose of establishing the franchise of electors for dominion purposes and at the same time of providing for the making and completion of voters' lists which shall be regularly revised and kept up to date and which shall be available at a moment's notice in any part of Canada should a general election or a byelection take place. Under the scheme which is contemplated by the motion now before the committee it is hoped a franchise and voters' list act may be passed through this house and that under the new legislation a general or a byelection may be held in not more than twenty-eight days and possibly in twenty-four or twenty-five days.

The proposal is, briefly, to appoint for the dominion a franchise commissioner who shall have general charge of the franchise and of the preparation of the voters' list; that a basic list shall be undertaken immediately after the prorogation of the present session; that it shall be the duty of that franchise commissioner to appoint in each constituency a revising officer who shall have charge of the preparation and revision of the voters' list in each riding; that the basic list shall be made in the first instance by enumeration. Provision will be made also when the bill is brought down, for the revision of the basic list before the revising officer himself and when the revision has actually taken place and been completed the revising officer will certify the list as revised and return it to the franchise commissioner at Ottawa who shall have custody of all revised lists. This shajl constitute the list of voters throughout Canada until there is a subsequent, completely revised voters' list. The suggestion is that the list shall be completely revised every twelve months. The first list will of course

Franchise Act

form the basic one; subsequent lists will be a matter of correction and revision where names are to be stricken from or names are to be added to the then existing list, but each year there will lbe a final and complete list deposited at Ottawa. These lists when returned here shall be printed by the printing bureau at Ottawa for use as may be required on the dissolution of parliament or in case of byelections.

Mr. Speaker, I have now made a general statement of the purpose of the bill which it is intended to introduce. There is no very great variation from the present system except in the matter of the appointment of one commissioner to take general charge, one revising officer in each riding and one enumerator, or more if it should become necessary to appoint more, in each polling division. There is a difference in the present proposal in regard to the method which is adopted in urban municipalities. In an urban municipality we have adopted in principle the clause which has for some years been in force under the statute of British Columbia; that provision is that an applicant for registration in an urban division shall sign a statement at the time he applies to be put on the list. The statement is merely that the applicant possesses the qualifications of an elector, but the important feature about the statement is the signature of the applicant. That signed statement will be placed at the disposal of the returning officer in the appropriate subdivision upon polling day and it will be there for the purpose of identification if necessary of a voter who appears there to vote and who may not be known to those who are in attendance at the polling booth. The voter may be asked to sign his name. This system has been in force in British Columbia for a number of years and I understand has worked very well. To a large extent it will do away with what in Ontario we are accustomed to call "plugging" and in the province of Quebec what I believe they call "telegraphing," and for which in other provinces they term impersonation. It is with the idea of doing away with impersonation, or at least minimizing it, that this particular provision will be included in this bill.

There will be another noticeable feature in the bill applying to cities which have mail delivery and where the street addresses of people are known, the voters' list shall be a geographical list rather than an alphabetical list, that names shall be arranged according to streets and numbers, so that one can see at a glance just who and how many are upon

the list for each house upon any street. This system is now in vogue in Ontario, and I believe it has worked well. It has been suggested that in addition to a geographical list an alphabetical list should also be made. Well, the question of expense is the only one to give us any concern in that respect. I have had an estimate made of the cost of an alphabetical list, if we decide to have one in addition to the geographical list. It would cost in the neighbourhood of S300.000 extra, which is a serious consideration, although I admit it would be very convenient to have both lists available at the polling booth or during the election campaign.

I do not think I need go further in explaining the general purport of the franchise act which will be introduced in due course. But this I desire to say, that in regard to this measure we have had some conferences with my right hon. friend and the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart) whom he selected on his side and my hon. friend the Secretary of State (Mr. Cahan) and myself upon this side, with the idea that we might agree upon a good many clauses in the proposal which will be submitted to parliament in the form of a bill. A draft measure was prepared early in the month of May. It was intended that this draft measure should form the basis for discussion, because I think it would be the view of all parties and all members in the house that in this instance we should produce a measure which will prove acceptable in all quarters of the house, one that is fair and above board in every respect. With that end in view a draft was prepared as a basis for subsequent discussion and conferences. The draft was originally in typewritten form, and I asked the draftsman to prepare a sufficient number of printed copies in order that we might have them available when the conferences took place. Two conferences have taken place, I think the first was on Wednesday, the 23rd of May, and the second on the following Monday. And I must say that in my opinion these conferences proved exceedingly satisfactory. We did not agree upon all points but we did agree upon many points and upon many clauses of the bill. There are still some features for discussion, and no doubt for debate when the bill is introduced. However, there is one point, which I wish to emphasize, namely, that the draft which was under discussion when these conferences took place was purely by way of suggestion, purely as a basis of discussion, to see how far we might agree. It was not intended that these proposals constituted

Franchise Act

a bill, not even a draft bill, although for the purpose of the conferences a limited number of copies were printed. Two of these copies were handed to my right hon. friend and two retained by me, and I think the other one was retained by Mr. O'Connor who was the draftsman of the measure. At our first conference and as our first decision, we decided unanimously to strike out subsection 3 of section 4, a clause which provided that those who were not familiar with either the English or French language should be disfranchised. We unanimously agreed to strike out that proposal, and it was struck out and has not since been considered as far as I know by anyone.

Our second conclusion-this is a memo I made at the time-was in regard to a clause that provided that Doukhobors should not be entitled to vote. Perhaps before dealing with this subject I had better say a word further in regard to the subject of the French and English language. The house is aware that under the Naturalization Act in this country every person who is naturalized and receives his certificate is entitled to exercise all the privileges of a British subject. But there is also a provision in our Naturalization Act that a man shall not be naturalized unless he is familiar with either the English or the French language. I think it is a matter of some comment that there are in Canada considerable numbers of people who have obtained naturalization certificates and who have no familiarity with either the French or the English language. This has been a matter of comment in the courts of this country, I know it from reading many criminal cases that I have to read. I find that interpreters are constantly employed. Now I have no doubt that the fact of that clause appearing in the Naturalization Act was the reason for placing a somewhat similar clause in the proposed franchise act, which clause, however, by agreement of all parties, has been stricken from the proposal in regard to the franchise measure.

In regard to the section which proposed the disfranchisement of Doukhobors, my right hon. friend immediately raised an objection, and I think we all agreed with him, that that clause could not stand in the form in which it had been drafted. The Doukho-bor situation is in itself a peculiar one. It was never intended I think on the part of any one to disfranchise the Doukhobors in Canada, but there were reasons why some special attention should be given to that part

of the Doukhobor population which resides in the province of British Columbia. Our experience with the Doukhobors in that province has not been very satisfactory, far from it.

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LIB

Wilfred Hanbury

Liberal

Mr. HANBURY:

Only a portion of them.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I am speaking only of what I know. We have at the present time between five and six hundred Doukhobors on Piers island in a penitentiary established for the purpose of imprisoning men and women who have openly defied the laws of this country. In addition to this we had a very unhappy experience with the same communities when we attempted to take the census in the year 1931. In British Columbia it was found impossible to take a census of the Doukhobor population. They openly defied the law. They refused to give names or to answer the questions, they refused to give any information, they threatened the census enumerators with violence. Finally, after very great and protracted efforts, it was decided that we would have to abandon the attempt, and the census of the Doukhobors in British Columbia was not taken. There was an estimate made I believe, but the statistical information furnished was nil. Under such circumstances a serious question arises as to whether or not the Doukhobors in the province of British Columbia should or should not be entitled to the franchise to enable them to vote for members of this house. We know that by the provincial act of British Columbia which we have recognized in our present Dominion election act, certain races are disfranchised. Japanese who live in that province and have received naturalization certificates in Canada are not permitted to vote under our present law. Neither are Chinese; neither are Hindus, who are British subjects by birth. The provincial law provides that these oriental races shall not vote, notwithstanding that they are British subjects, and this parliament for many years has adopted that principle in the Dominion Elections Act.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

There is an exception with regard to Japanese returned soldiers.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

Yes, there is an exception with regard to those who served in the forces of His Majesty during the late war. Now the question arises whether the clause in the British Columbia act should not be further extended to include those who have openly defied the laws of this country. That is a matter for the consideration of the house when the bill comes before it, but at the conference which we had it was the general opinion

Franchise Act

that the clause drafted was not proper and should not be allowed to stand in its present form, though we did not decide on any particular amendment to it. That matter has been left over for further consideration.

On the general principles of the bill I think I may say that we came to some satisfactory conclusions except in regard to perhaps three points. One was in regard to the appointment of a single commissioner, upon which there may be still some discussion. Another was as to the question of a single or double enumeration; that is, the appointment of a single enumerator or two enumerators for the preparation, particularly, of the first or the basic list. I think the other main question upon which we did not reach agreement was the question of an appeal from the revising officer in the riding. It was suggested by my right hon. friend that there should be an appeal to the county or district judge in such cases. The proposal as drafted provided that the decision of the revising officer should be final. There were some other minor changes recommended, and I believe we are prepared to accept them, but they were only as to the matters of detail.

This is as full an explanation as I desire to make at the present time, but the question of disfranchising those who are unable to speak English or French has received a great deal of publicity in western newspapers. Such a proposal was never seriously considered. As soon as the matter came up for discussion it was unanimously stricken out of the bill. I may tell you, Mr. Chairman, and I do not think this is any breach of confidence, that this bill was not presented to the privy council until this week. It has not been thoroughly considered as yet, and I will not be able to introduce it to-day, though I am hopeful that I may do so to-morrow. It is now under consideration. There was no foundation for statements that have been made in the press throughout the west that the government contemplated such a thing. There was only a proposal which the government were considering, and I may say the same with regard to the rumour as to disfranchising Douk-hobors. That question was never considered by the government. There were suggestions in the draftsman's copy as I have described, and the conference dealt with it as I have indicated in my remarks this afternoon.

When the bill is presented, perhaps tomorrow or the next day, I think it will be found free from any serious defects. It constitutes a new principle in this country, but I think a sound one. I think it will be justified on the grounds of expedition, of

simplicity and of lowering of the cost. It will prove far less burdensome and cumbersome for the candidate than the present law. I think we will find that we can hold general elections throughout Canada in four weeks. There is not the intricate and involved machinery which exists under our present act. There has been a great deal of simplification. Until the bill comes down I need not say any more in regard to it, but briefly I have given an explanation of the motion standing on the order paper.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Chairman, since the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) has made reference to the conference which took place between himself and the Secretary of State (Mr. Cahan) and myself and my colleague the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart), perhaps I should say a word with regard to the minister's representations in that particular. In a word, though speaking generally, I may say that so far as my recollection of the entire proceedings is concerned, the Minister of Justice has stated the matter accurately.

As the house will remember, I frequently asked the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) when we might expect to have this new electoral measure brought down. Finally, towards the end of April, the Prime Minister stated that very shortly a bill would be printed and that he would see that, as leader of the opposition, I was supplied with a copy. When the bill was printed the Prime Minister had a copy sent to my office, and on the day the copy arrived he stated in the house that it had been so sent. Later in the day, the Prime Minister said to me that he would be pleased if I, together with one of my colleagues, would confer with the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State concerning the measure. The Prime Minister was careful to state at the time that the purpose of the conference was solely that of considering a draft measure with a view to seeing how much in the way of possible agreement might be arrived at in the introduction of a measure of the kind, and that our conference was to be entirely without prejudice in any direction. That is to say, anything that was said at the conference would not necessarily bind the government with respect to its rights in the matter of the final form of the bill and. would not in any way limit the opposition or other parties in the house with respect to proposals and criticisms they might wish to make.

When the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart) and myself met with the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State,

Franchise Act

we were again advised that the measure before us was a draft measure and that neither side would be committed with respect to any suggestions that might be made or with respect, as I understood it, to any conclusions that might be reached. We were simply to endeavour to see how far our minds might be brought to be as one with respect to the measure as drafted. As the Minister of Justice has stated, the draftsman, Mr. O'Connor, was present at the two conferences that took place, and was consulted with respect to the intent and meaning of different clauses.

On these matters I think there is no point of difference between us. If I have omitted to refer to any phase of either of the interviews which either the Secretary of State or the Minister of Justice would expect me to mention I should be glad to be reminded of it and to say what may seem necessary by way of comment.

In what I have now to say, Mr. Chairman, I presume I must confine myself, not to my remembrance of the draft bill, but rather to what the Minister of Justice has just said in regard to the proposed measure. My hon. friend has intimated that the present elections act is really three measures combined in one, that it is an act with respect to the franchise, an act with respect to the preparation of voters' lists, and also an act with respect to the machinery for the conduct of the elections themselves. He has stated further that the present measure is to take out of the general act as it now stands those parts which relate to the franchise and to the preparation of electoral lists. I see no objection whatever to that step being taken. I believe that will tend in the direction of simplification and, if done by agreement as I believe we should find it possible to do, it should be all to the good in a simplifying and understanding of electoral procedure.

May I deal with the first two main divisions which, I assume, are the only ones we have to consider, namely those pertaining to the franchise, and the preparation of the voters' lists. As I understand the matter, it is the government's intention in other particulars to leave the elections act as it is, and to make only such changes as may be consequent upon what may be decided upon with respect to the franchise, and the preparation of the lists.

As to the franchise, may I say that I do not believe there is a necessity for altering in any particular the franchise as it now stands. I noticed that in his remarks this afternoon the Minister of Justice has not indicated any changes to be made in that respect.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Except the difficulty in British Columbia.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The Prime Minister mentions the difficulty in British Columbia; I presume he means the difficulty with respect to the Doukhobors in that province.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Yes, that is the only possible change in regard to the franchise, and it is a matter which may easily be considered when we have the clause before us. If we leave that matter out of account, and it is understood that so far as the franchise is concerned the new measure will be in all particulars the same as the present act, that will be entirely satisfactory.

The one further matter for consideration or perhaps I should say the one real matter for consideration is the preparation of the lists and the changes which may be consequent thereon. As to the objective, namely the obtaining of a closed list which will be available at any moment for the purposes either of a general election or a by-election, I would say that personally I agree with the Minister of Justice when he states that a closed list is preferable to the kind of lists we have had heretofore, provided that its preparation can be made in a manner which will be obviously fair to all concerned. I believe that such will be the general concensus of view of hon. members in this chamber. After all, the elections are part of the machinery of governments, as such, necessary liabilities arising therefrom should be made as largely as possible a public obligation. I believe it is only reasonable and right that so far as possible the expense placed upon those who are nominated candidates should be made as light as possible, and that other onerous features of a general election, so far as the candidate is concerned, should be lightened as much as possible. I believe they can be lightened very considerably. All hon. members in this house know that in the conduct of elections, with matters as they now stand, to a great extent the burden of the preparation of -lists and expenses incidental thereto falls upon the candidate. It is a cumbersome and costly duty, and prevents that amount of attention being given to public issues by candidates which should be given since it necessitates their giving attention to a great deal of the details of organization which, if it can be made such, should be a public liability since it is a matter of public concern. In this regard I believe the present act might be considerably improved.

Franchise Act

The Minister of Justice has referred to the preparation of electoral lists in geographical form, and the suggestion has been made that they might also be made out alphabetically. He has intimated, however, that by this considerable additional expense would be entailed. May I say to him that, when one considers the public necessity of having an election conducted as much aboveboard and with as little confusion as possible, the expense is relatively trifling. If the preparation of alphabetical lists as well as geographical lists would help to enable candidates and electors the more readily to ascertain whether or not names are on the lists, and whether or not lists have been properly prepared, I believe there is every reason why there should be both lists. That is a matter, however, upon which I imagine there will not be much difficulty in reaching an agreement.

May I say the justice of a measure of this kind will depend on two things, first the manner in which the lists themselves are originally prepared, and second, whether in relation to the time that a general election is to be held, the preparation is made in such a way as to avoid possible pressure and confusion resulting from the preparation of the lists at the time the election itself is being held. I can see where, if the act were so to be administered that the preparation of the basic list would be taking place at the time that candidates were being placed in the field, and being nominated in a general election which had already been proclaimed, an impossible situation might be developed, so far as confusion and the possibility of mistakes and unfair dealings are concerned. If, however, the basic list, the first list of all, is prepared in advance of the time of the proclamation of an election, and the work completed in its entirety so that an election may be brought on a short time thereafter, it should be all to the good. I think there is everything to be said for having lists completed in a satisfactory way before an election is announced, thereby reducing to as short a period as will best serve the public interest the time necessary for the election itself. I believe that the bill in these particulars can be made acceptable.

The Minister of Justice has referred to the ;act that in the preparation of the lists under ;he measure to be introduced, the government proposes to have but one set of enumerators, or rather that the revising officers who will be appointed by the franchise commissioner, who will be an appointee either by joint agreement or by the government-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

By parliament.

TMr. Mackenzie King.]

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Yes-that the revising officers will appoint only one set of enumerators, and not follow the practice which was followed in the last enumeration, upon which occasion two sets of enumerators were chosen as a result of a conference between the different political parties. I believe that would be a great mistake, and would be a double mistake because the government is proposing to add a further obligation with respect to the right of voting, namely that of obliging all electors to register or sign their names. They will have to sign a document. I must say that if the obtaining of signatures from voters is to be at the instance only of enumerators, appointed by the government itself, through its officers, there would be in the minds of everyone great reason to suspect the manner in which the lists were being prepared. In fact, I believe I have only to suggest, to make this apparent, what would be the obvious thought in the mind of any hon. member in this house as to what would occur in most cases where the enumerator of one political party went to the residences of persons who belonged to an opposite political party and asked for their signatures to documents to entitle them to vote. If the enumerator happened to be, as perhaps unfortunately many are certain to be partisan political workers, there might be an altercation between the persons asked to sign the document and the enumerator himself. If there is to be any signing of documents, it should be done in the presence of witnesses, and there ought to be at least two enumerators representative of different political parties, who should be obliged to go together, and who would be able and obliged to act and certify as witnesses to the signatures obtained. Otherwise many signatures most certainly will be suspected. A question might well arise as to whether or not an application had ever been signed; as to whether a signature was genuine or not. Each enumerator should be obliged to initial the signatures as they are obtained. If there were two enumerators chosen by representatives of different political parties who were obliged to go together and initial all signatures, I believe many evasions and mistakes and complaints will be avoided.

In addition to these reasons, I believe it will be found necessary in the circumstance of obtaining signatures that there should be one enumerator, if I may use the expression, who will be regarded as a friendly enumerator, one who is in a position to give the assurance that the signing of the particular form presented is really in the interests of the elector himself. I can see where there is

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going to be a great handicap, and a real difficulty, in limiting the right to vote to those only who have already signed an application for the purpose.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Only in urban communities. It worked all right in British Columbia.

_ Mr. MACKENZIE KING: It has worked in British Columbia, my right hon. friend says, but it will be new in other provinces, and I believe that the utmost industry and care will have to be taken in securing signatures, and in ensuring that as regards everyone, who ought to be included, so far as it is humanly possible to have their names included, that they are included in the lists.

Another feature that the Minister of Justice has mentioned and which I think ought to be very carefully considered is the right of appeal. The minister has said that, as matters now stand, the revising officer will take the lists as prepared by the enumerators, and that they will be the lists for the purposes of the election. The revising officers, let it be repeated, will, if the act remains in its present form, be the sole arbiters. There will be no appeal, no opportunity of having any revision, if a name does not happen to be on or has been erroneously inserted at the time the revising officer sends in the return. I certainly think there ought to be an appeal to a county court judge. If there is not, we will simply be returning to the old condition of affairs where, under the administration of Sir John A. Macdonald, revising barristers were appointed in the different constituencies. To that proposed procedure, it will be remembered by those who recall the times, there was the strongest objection raised in this house by all except those who sat on the government side. If I recollect aright, from a past reading of the debates, this House of Commons was kept in session for several days through objection to just that very feature of allowing revising barristers to have the final say as to whose names were to be on the list and not permitting an appeal to the county court. The Minister of Justice, was not in the house at the time, he came in shortly after but perhaps he will recall the circumstances better than anyone else. It certainly was not until the government permitted an appeal to a county court judge that the long blockade which took place at that time was lifted and the measure finally passed the house. If we are to agree on a measure of this kind, it ought to be possible at this time to take a step that many years ago was found absolutely necessary and in the public interest.

What I have said touches only some of the points that have been mentioned by the Minister of Justice. When we are in committee on the bill I perhaps will have more to say on other features. But I should like to repeat now that such discussion as took place between members of the government opposite and myself and1 the member for West Edmonton was wholly tentative and without prejudice, and was, I should also say, in entire confidence, a confidence which I believe has been respected by all who were parties to it.

The Minister of Justice has referred to rumours that were afloat in different parts of the country. May I say that I noticed those rumours myself, and, as a matter of fact, it was my having drawn the Prime Minister's attention to the circumstance that the press already appeared to have a copy of the proposed bill, which led the Prime Minister to say he regretted that the press had published something that purported to be this bill, and to say he could not understand how they possibly had got hold of any such measure.

I would also say-I do not know whether I pointed it out at the time to the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State-but recalling that our first interview, was on May 23, that before that interview had taken place at all, I saw in the papers of this city statements purporting to give the government's reasons for obliging those whose names were to be placed on the lists to have a knowledge of the French and English languages, and also referring to the Doukhobor matter. The news item was so worded as to indicate that it had been inspired by the administration with a view to putting forward its point of view. I do not imagine for one moment that such was the case, but the language of the interview is there, and that was before any conference at all had taken place. I think it was unfortunate that what was part of a draft, or may have been thought to have been part of the draft of the measure, has been discussed in advance, but certainly, so far as hon. members on this side of the house are concerned, I believe that anj'- who have referred to that phase of it have drawn their inferences from the common sources which we have all seen, namely the reports which appeared in the press in advance.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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UFA

Robert Gardiner

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. ROBERT GARDINER (Acadia):

Mr. Chairman, I was very much interested indeed in the explanation which the Minister of Justice gave of the proposed legislation which is to be founded o>n this resolution. It would appear to me that there are two important

Franchise Act

points which this house must keep in mind when considering any changes in the franchise act or in the electoral machinery which we may devise for the purpose of expediting elections.

First, we must safeguard the franchise of the electors. That in my judgment is the most important function of this house, and irrespective of the manner in which the lists may be prepared this house must see to it at all times that the name of every elector who is entitled to vote must be placed on the list if he so desires. Any legislation that falls short of that will in my judgment be a retrograde step and detrimental not only to the standing of the members of this house but to the country as a whole.

So far as the other point is concerned, namely, the reduction of the time that is necessary between the issuing of the writs and the day of the election, I believe that that is all to the good. My judgment is that elections in this country in the past have been carried on over too long a period of time, and if we can reduce the time necessary to give the electorate an opportunity of weighing all the circumstances and the proposals of the various parties who may be appealing to them, if the campaign can be confined to the time suggested by the Minister of Justice, about four weeks, that again would be a step in the right direction that I believe would be beneficial to all.

The only other point with which I wish to deal at the present time is this conference that took place between the government representatives and the official opposition. It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that there is a decided move on the part of the two major parties at the present time to ignore third and fourth and even more parties in the field at the present time, and not only to ignore them but to organize against them. In so far as the remarks of the leader of the opposition are concerned, he even went so far as to discuss the possibility of an understanding between the two major parties. In so far as the group in this corner of the house is concerned we wish to register our strong protest against any such proceedings because we recognize the fact that not only in Canada but the world over, because of the difference of opinion with regard to economic conditions, there is a growing tendency for more and more groups and more and more parties to come into the field. This house must recognize that fact, and give those parties and those groups the same standing and the same consideration that they expect to receive themselves.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

With regard to the remarks of the hon. member who has just taken his seat (Mr. Gardiner) I would remind the house that the action of the Prime Minister in stating that he would send a copy of the bill to myself, with a view to a conference, was made on the floor of the house in the hearing of hon. gentlemen in the far corner as well as of everyone else. At the time I rather expected that my hon. friend would rise and ask why he also was not receiving a copy of the bill; but the fact that he did not do so led me to believe that he had his own reason for not so asking. It is perfectly clear and within the memory of all who were present at the time that any action taken in the matter was taken in the presence and with the knowledge of everyone. More than that, the press reported each time there had been a conference, and on neither occasion did hon. gentlemen in the far corner rise and inquire why they had not been requested to participate in the conference. So far as I was concerned, as leader of the opposition, I was seeking to accommodate the government, as I believe they were seeking to accommodate the house. As to the reasons why my hon. friends may not have wished to be accommodated, of course I cannot say.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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CON

William Foster Garland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. OAKLAND (Bow Kiver):

I resent these words from the leader of the opposition. We had never been invited to take part in the conference and it is not our part to butt in on the private arrangements of the two political parties.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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June 13, 1934