June 13, 1934

LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

He took the train at once, did he?

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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:

He certainly did. I

merely mention that; it was not in the west. I am bound to say that in the west very little of that happens. I say that in no sense of pride but merely as a statement of fact; I suppose it arises from the fact that we are not very numerous out there and therefore we know one another, the scrutineers are sufficiently acquainted with the people of the district in which they live to know quite well if a person came down to vote in my name who in fact was not myself. I am told for

instance that in one election in one of the great cities of this country several leading citizens appeared to vote and found that their votes had already been cast. They call that "telegraphing." Then I was informed not long since that in one of the great cities of the world, not in Canada, complete outfits of stage properties, wigs and clothes, were provided for the purpose of carrying on telegraphing on a very large scale during the whole day of an election. This is an effort to stop that. It has been found effective as a deterrent in British Columbia; I believe it will be here.

On the question of appeal I do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty, providing we surround it with some safeguards that will make it clear that it is not to be used to bring about undue delay. I would like to point out that in England the revising barristers complete the work and do it in a very satisfactory way. Under extraordinary conditions there is provision for appeal-there was, I am not sure about the present law. The revising officers in the counties in England are paid a fairly reasonable stipend. I hope we shall be able to do the work in this country without undue expense, although as I said to the leader of the opposition, and say publicly here, I do not think that we should worry very much about spending a few dollars to secure decent lists in a country like this if we are to make our contribution to democracy. I hold that very strongly.

I have only this to add, that I deprecate more than I can say that an effort should have been made by false statements-because no bill has yet been submitted to this house- to create a prejudice in the minds of people whom w.e are trying to develop into good Canadians. The best way to develop them into good Canadians is to indicate as clearly as possible that they will be fairly and honourably and honestly treated, but that the same treatment is accorded to them as to others in this country. And secondly I regret, that it should be thought necessary to suggest that because we had to deal with an extraordinary condition in British Columbia, of which I have not yet found a solution that is satisfactory to me at least, that thereby it was thought that we were endeavouring to insert the thin end of the wedge to disfranchise people with whom we were not pleased. I realize the strength of every observation made by the hon. member for Bow River, nevertheless I do think that the peculiar circumstances of this case require that something be done to assert the supremacy of the law against those who have so deliberately, so defiantly and so successfully, flouted it.

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LIB

William Richard Motherwell

Liberal

Mr. MOTHERWELL:

As one of the younger members of this house, both as to length of service and length of years, I was naturally very much interested in the beautiful presentation of the case by the hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie). Everything he said indicated fairness itself. It was rather unfortunate that it reminded me of an equally beautiful speech by the right hon. leader of the government (Mr. Bennett) last year on the introduction of the redistribution bill. I have recollections yet of the cold steel that was used on that occasion, and I was wondering if we are due for similar disillusionment following the beautiful speech this afternoon of the Minister of Justice. Any how I know something about closed lists; nobody is going to fool me about them, when they are conducted with one government enumerator. It was because it was so obviously unfair in some cases with some enumerators that the government in 1930 gave the opposition an enumerator. In all my political experience I do not know of the opposition ever being given such a fair opportunity as that. That was fairness in action, not merely in words.

Well now, I would like to look up the history of closed election lists in Canada. We had a closed list in Canada once, in 1896. I remember it well, and it was when the government of that day also had its back to the wall. And it was a dandy closed list. I was a scrutineer at a poll and I know what was done the night before. I would have to look UP the election law and see whether that election in the west was held within the law, before I would care to say much more about it. But I would suggest to the ministry that fair words alone do not go very far in politics. I would like them to give us an opportunity to look into this matter; let it ride a little while until we look into the statutes of former years and possibly consult our constituents and see what they think about this. The year 1896 is a long time ago; there are very few people voting to-day who recall what happened then, so I would like this bill not to be rushed too rapidly. Do not let us get into a trance by mere fair words. We got out of any trance we may have been in last year on the redistribution bill mighty quick, and I am prepared to get out of any trance that I may be in now, although I do not think I am in any.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Since I was fairly closely connected with the revision of the present act, Mr. Chairman, perhaps I may be permitted to make a few observations with respect to the bill shortly to be before the house. And

74726-250J

may I say that in doing so I wish to carry on the tradition which was established in that committee, namely that of looking at these problems in an effort to take politics out of elections or elections out of politics, as you may choose to put it. I believe that it is not in the best interests of any party in power to endeavour to take advantage of its majority to bring in legislation which might have the effect of giving to the opposition party or to any opposite parties an opportunity of telling the people of this country that they have been unfairly dealt with in the making up of the lists or in the conduct of the elections themselves. I think it is a sound political axiom that it is to the advantage of an opposition to go into an election campaign with a grievance as to the manner in which they have been treated. That this axiom is sound I think has been well exemplified this afternoon, when the only non-political party in the house has seen fit to take advantage of an apparent oversight in order to begin the discussion of this bill with a chip on its shoulder.

Following the point of view I have laid before the committee may I say that in many respects I think this bill deserves the commendation of hon. members. The first good point is the shortness of the time during which an election campaign will be waged. There is no doubt in the minds of most of us that a campaign lasting fifty-eight days, as is necessary under the act we now have, is far too long not only for the members of parliament but also for the people of this country. They sicken of the discussion of political issues; they become confused and in the end, I have no doubt, make up their minds all of a sudden, without giving to the questions before them that consideration which I think would be given if they had a shorter time in [DOT]which to consider them. This may sound paradoxical, but I believe that because the time is of such great length the people tend to become confused and do not give the clear, sound, sane judgment which they should on the matters brought before them.

I cannot commend the government too highly on the effort they are making, though it may not be entirely successful, to do away with personation, plugging, telegraphing or whatever it may be called. Perhaps all the members of this house have not had the experience some of us have had in some of the cities of the province from which I come. I think, however, that members from the cities of Montreal and Quebec, and perhaps even from Toronto, will frankly admit that it ha?

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reached the point where it is very easy for those who have the organization, those who lack conscience and those who have ability in that direction to cheat the will of the people and elect persons to this parliament who are not entitled to be elected.

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CON

Victor Clarence Porteous

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PORTEOUS:

That reflects on the house.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

This may reflect on the house, but we are speaking frankly and discussing this bill from a non-partisan standpoint. Anyone who has taken part in the elections in the cities of my province will agree with what I have said. I am told, though I have no authority for saying so, that this condition exists in some cities of Ontario, but my information is similar to that expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) this afternoon, that the custom of telegraphing, of plugging and so on obtains less and less as one travels towards the west. It may be, as the Prime Minister has said, that the western people know one another better, or it may be that they are not so well versed in the degenerate arts of politics as those of us who have had more to do with them in the past. In any case, it has come to such a pass that to my own knowledge in my own city it has become the jest of the tea parties among the ladies to see who will see to it that so and so's servant girl votes in such a direction. They say so without shame; they take it as a joke, as a farce. It has become a sort of game, like bridge, a game of bluff.

So I cannot speak too strongly or too earnestly on this point. People who are accustomed to carrying on this sort of election campaign, however, will not be easily deterred or defeated. Laws which under ordinary circumstances would deter people from taking the chance of a criminal prosecution are not likely to deter them at election time. In any case, however, because of this first attempt, because the government is endeavouring to the best of its ability to bring in some legislation which will prevent this state of affairs, I am prepared to give this particular phase of the bill my heartiest support.

Now I should like to say a word with regard to closed lists, which I assume means closed lists only in the cities, lists which will be made before the election campaign is inaugurated and which will be closed at a certain, date. On those lists the election will be decided. In principle I have always felt that such lists would be admirable. As a matter of fact during the sittings of the committee of 1929 and 1930, as you, Mr. [Mr. Power. 1

Chairman, and other members who are now in the house will recall, this matter of closed lists was discussed. Mr. O. M. Biggar, former chief electoral officer, prepared a bill covering the whole closed list situation. The idea which he presented to us was that the post offices throughout the country should be used as registration offices and that the moment the writs were issued for an election, the lists would be closed. At any time during the year except during the time a campaign was in progress in that particular constituency an individual would go to the post office and make out a form of affidavit; his name would be forwarded to the chief electoral officer at Ottawa, who would return a receipt to the applicant and also notify both or any political parties in the riding in which the man was registered. Meanwhile the list would be printed in Ottawa and kept continuously in print, adding names as they came through from time to time to the chief electoral officer. The objection to this came from hon. members on both sides of the house, and I think perhaps the same objection exists to some extent in the legislation proposed by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie). The objection was that members of parliament individually would be obliged to set up their own organizations in order to deal with the checking of applications as they were forwarded from the Chief electoral officer. This was a matter of some considerable expense to the individual member, and particularly in cases such as we have in the province of Quebec where there are no ward, county, riding or city associations which are prepared to bear the expense of the researches, the inquiries and if necessary the contestation of any names put on the list. That system was rejected unanimously by the committee. There was no question of partisan feeling or party politics and, Mr. Chairman, I know you will bear me out in that statement.

As I understand the Minister -of Justice, in connection with the outlined closed list system, as soon as the house prorogues there will be an enumeration, and I assume within a stated time the lists will be closed, and that those lists having been closed will serve for the purposes of any election which may take place until such time as a revision of the list is made, probably next year.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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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:

Next year.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Am I to understand there

is to be a yearly revision?

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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:

That is what is contemplated.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

First there is to be a general enumeration, of the people. Then, at a stated time the lists will be closed, and then afterwards in each year there will be a revision, not an enumeration: The objection I find

to that-it is one which has no bearing whatsoever on party politics, but should, I believe, appeal to every hon. member representing a city constituency-is that it is almost impossible outside of election times, and even during election times, as has been pointed out by the Prime Minister, to get the people on their own initiative to come to register. The Prime Minister has expressed himself as having been obliged to spend large sums of money in order to bring persons to the registration booths.

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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:

To check them up.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

And/ in order to check .them up; perhaps I misunderstood the Prime Minister.

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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:

Both.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Possibly the Prime Minister meant both. In the part of the country from which I come it costs almost as much to bring people to register, even when the lists are made during an election, as it does to bring them to the polls. I make that statement with full knowledge of the fact that bringing them to the polls is illegal. I say however that it costs almost as much to get those people to register, and perhaps it costs a little more in our province owing to the fact that as the women have not the franchise in the provincial elections they have not yet become accustomed to the exercise of the franchise in the federal elections. If it costs the individual member that much money during election times, I leave it to the imagination of hon. members on both sides of the house to decide what it will cost in a year when there are no elections. Let us suppose that there is an election this year, and that there will be no elections for three or four years to come. Next year, unless almost superhuman efforts are made by political parties or their representatives, it will be impossible to obtain any registration at all. It is a sad statement to make, but the fact is that the people of this country will not look after their own votes. I think that is the experience of any hon, member who represents a city constituency; no doubt he has found that the people themselves will not go to find out whether or not they are registered.

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CON

Samuel Gobeil

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOBEIL:

That is the case in the

provincial lists.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

It is the case in any lists.

The provincial lists are usually made up by municipal councils and in the cities they are prepared by the assessors and certain other people appointed for that purpose. If I understand this legislation correctly, a registration bureau will be opened and it will be the duty of each individual voter of his own accord to come and have himself registered. It may be a reflection on the patriotism of my fellow citizens, but-

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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:

He will be enumerated,

he will not have to come. He or she will be enumerated in the first instance, and if by any chance either one is left off he or she may go and register.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I comprehend what the

Prime Minister has said, namely, that in the first instance he will be enumerated. At this time I am not endeavouring to make any objections to the bill; I am endeavouring to commend those sections which should be commended, and altogether apart from any party interest I am endeavouring to point out to all hon. members wherein we shall be obliged to make some provision to cover the registrations at the second, third or fourth annual revisions in the cities. The Prime Minister has said that he or she will be enumerated in the first instance. But perhaps the right hon. gentleman is not familiar with the fact that in large cities such as Montreal-and this was shown very clearly before the elections committee-there is a movement of twenty-five per cent of the population per annum. So that even though a person were enumerated in the month of July, on the first of May in the province of Quebec a migration of population takes place in the cities, and in the province of Ontario a similar migration takes place in the month of October. There is a movement of at least twenty-five per cent of the population within the city from one address to another address in that city. Sometimes the migration is confined to one within the constituency, but more often it is without. That is altogether apart from young men and women who have reached the age of twenty-one years, from strangers coming into the city, from persons who have been naturalized and persons who for any other reasons have become qualified to vote. Figuring on twenty-five per cent for a four year period, we see that there is a 100 per cent migration, but we cannot figure exactly in that manner because, as hon. members know, some people remain at the same addresses year after year. The migration, nevertheless has been calculated at least twenty-five per cent.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

But their names would

be in the same division. They could go back and vote.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Not necessarily. When I

speak of the twenty-five per cent migration, I have in mind the example most familiar to me, namely that of the city of Quebec. The division of Quebec West, so ably represented in this house by the Solicitor General (Mr. Dupre), is just across the street from the division which I represent. There is a continuous migration to and fro. After the first of May those who have been living in the St. Sacrement section of the division represented by the Solicitor General might very well move across the street and live in that section of St. Sacrement which I represent in this house. The same would apply with respect to the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe), and this movement cannot be controlled.

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June 13, 1934