June 13, 1934

CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

But they would be on

the lists.

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

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Yes.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

And it would be a

matter of only a few months until a new list was prepared. I inquired about this matter as it applies to England. I learned that they have the same difficulty over there, particularly in London. People living in one division move to another. If an election comes along before the second revision they go back and vote in the division in which they formerly lived.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

But the point I make is

that those who have so migrated, although they may be on the lists in, let us say the division represented by the Solicitor General, will not take the trouble to register themselves in the division in which they reside.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

They will not have to; they will be on the list.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

They will be on a list, but they will not be on the list in the division in which they reside.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

There will be a hiatus there. They will vote where they are on the list until the next revision takes place.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I would suggest to my hon. friend the Minister of Justice that that would hardly be the proper way to make a list which is representative of any given constituency. If .they will not register the first year, they will not register the second or third year, and when the election comes on they will have been perhaps two or three

years away from the place where they were when the enumeration was made. Those people will still be entitled to vote in the electoral division represented, let us say, by the solicitor general whereas they will have been residing let us say, in my division or in that of the hon. member for Quebec East for three years. Unless there is a check made by the individual member of parliament, and at .the cost of the member of parliament, there is no way of controlling it. A member of parliament does -not want to represent people who have not resided in his division for two or three- yeiars or does he want to deprive people who have been residing in his division for two or three years of the right to vote in the place where they live, and unless we can find some means of providing that the government will assist in the making of the second and third and fourth annual revisions, I fear that -the object which the Minister of Justice has in mind will be defeated. I am making this point not from any partisan motive because it affects equally all members who represent city constituencies. Almost inevitably it will place on their shoulders a financial burden which it will be very difficult for most of them to bear. It seems to me that if it were at all possible this burden should be borne by the state and not by the individual member.

With respect to some of the other matters which have been brought to our attention by the Minister of Justice may I say that though I have not had any experience of the matter myself the tradition exists throughout the country that the actions of the revising barristers in 1892 and 1896 were such that no one desired that we should return to that system, which made it possible for revising barristers at their will and discretion, and probably at the behest of their political friends, to place on the list or to bar from the list those whom they thought friendly or dangerous. I sincerely hope that the revising officer may have his powers so restricted and curtailed that nothing of this nature will be possible, or -that there will be some system of appeal whereby the courts of the country will be called upon to give final judgment as to whether or not R person is qualified to vote. I entirely agree with what has been said by the minister that in this event there should be some arrangement whereby appeals will be expedited. It would be useless to have an appeal to the courts if the procedure was of such a nature that persons who were entitled to vote or persons who for some reason should be excluded from voting could indefinitely hold up the judgments of the court.

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There is one more thing to which I should like to make a reference before I take my seat. When we had a revision of the list in 1929 and 1930 an attempt was made by some members of the committee to do away with what we called the hypocrisy of what exists in the election, act-those provisions of the act which make crimes where no crimes exist, which make it illegal and sometimes an indictable offence to do things which every one of us knows is being done in every election. I refer to the employment of canvassers; I refer to the payment of the transportation of voters-

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

That is in the other act. This deals with the voters' list.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I do hope that if we have a chance to revise the elections act-

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:

You will.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

-that we shall have a

chance to efface from our statutes provisions which are more noticeable in the breach than in the observance. What is the use, I ask you, Mr. Chairman, of placing on the statute books laws which will disqualify or annul the election of any member here when every member, or almost every member does his best to evade that law when election time comes. I leave this thought in the minds of the committee, that if there is any way of taking the hypocrisy out of the election act and making it a square, fair and honest one it would be far better for the country as a whole.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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UFA

Michael Luchkovich

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. LUCHKOVICH:

Mr. Chairman, during the past three weeks I must have received over three dozen letters from individuals all over the west who have asked me whether there is some diabolical scheme on foot on the part of the government to disfranchise certain citizens of this country. It was therefore with a great deal of relief that I heard the Minister of Justice say that the section with regard to the language qualification would be deleted from the forthcoming bill.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

It has not been in any bill and it is not going to be in the bill to be introduced.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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UFA

Michael Luchkovich

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. LUCHKOVICH:

In any case it was spread all over Canada that there was a scheme emanating from a draft bill of the government whereby certain citizens of this country were to be disfranchised at the next election. Personally I do not think that a language qualification is a real criterion by which to measure the intelligence of a voter for I know a great many citizens of

Canada who are not able themselves to speak either English or French but who, nevertheless have children in the universities of this country. I know of oases where men who cannot speak adequately either English or French have given to this country at least four or five children who have developed into the finest type of citizen that this country could ask for. I have in mind one of them, a young lady who graduated from Manitoba university a couple of years ago with the highest possible standing that could be given to any student. I know many similar young men and women throughout the whole country. It is not so much on behalf of the old people who cannot speak English or French, although I strenuously object to their proposed disfranchisement, that I am speaking at the present time, but on behalf of t'heir children because if their parents are disfranchised it certainly casts some reflection on these very able young people.

Even if such a language qualification were imposed by the law who would be able to judge whether a man could speak English or French? I can vizualize the hon. member for New Westminster being disfranchised by the man who had the final say in the matter because the latter might claim he could not speak English and who might say to the hon. member: You have not an adequate knowledge of English. You speak with a distinct Scotch burr. A lot of these people who cannot speak English or French are splendid citizens, highly industrious, honest, law-abiding and very intelligent. I know that in 1930 they went to the polls in droves and voted for the present government. I leave it to the present government to say whether or not that was a criterion of their intelligence.

That is all I have to say in regard to this bill. I am very glad to hear from the lips of the Minister of Justice that no such thing is contemplated as a language qualification for voting.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

Albert Joseph Brown

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BROWN:

There are one or two things that I should like to say. I am fully aware of the difficulties of providing for an election list that will be satisfactory in all respects. There has been a good deal said about the crookedness with which elections have been carried out in the past but I want to bear this testimony. In the four elections which I have run in order to come to this house I have not had a single complaint to make against a Conservative returning officer or enumerator or against a Liberal returning officer or enumerator. It is true that in some cases mistakes were made. The officers did

Franchise Act

not understand all their duties and all their instructions, but 1 think they carried on the elections with perfect fairness. As regards closed lists, we have found in our part of Manitoba that the provision that allowed men to swear in their votes on election day worked very satisfactorily. In my own constituency I never heard of its being abused by either party. I found it particularly satisfactory in regard to young men or young women who had come of age just a short time before the election, and therein I see some hardship if the lists are revised only annually. It is quite possible that a young man or woman might not be of age when the list was finally revised and might therefore be precluded from voting not only at that election but perhaps for a period of five years. I speak with some feeling on this matter, because through a combination of circumstances I was twenty-nine years old before I was ever able to vote. My first vote was cast in the province of Quebec and since then I have been voting in Manitoba.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Was it a good vote?

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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CON

Albert Joseph Brown

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BROWN:

Yes, it was a good vote. Some consideration should be given to this, that young men and young women who perhaps are not of age at the time the list was finally prepared ought to be afforded an opportunity, if possible, of having their names recorded immediately after coming of age.

As regards the provision for signing the name on the list, I make no complaint. I think it is an attempt to secure us against that evil of personation on which emphasis has been laid. But, so that we may know these things better when the bill is before us, I should like to ascertain whether the enumerator has to go to the elector to secure his signature or whether it is left to the elector to come to the enumerator. Evidently they have to sign a list of some kind in order to be identified when they come to the poll. However, we shall probably find out these things more definitely when the bill is before us.

Another feature which I hope will appear in the new act is that the provision for removing dead timber from the list shall be a little more satisfactory than it has been in some instances. In Manitoba this was under provincial law. We had for a time a law requiring registration, but the conditions laid down for the removing of dead timber from the list were so onerous that it was almost impossible to convince a judge that

these names should not be on the list. I know that names continued to appear on the list six or seven years after they should have been removed, owing to the impossibility of submitting to the judge the necessary evidence. I trust that these points are being taken care of in the new act.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

I agree very much with the

remarks of the last speaker (Mr. Brown). I wish to say a few words on behalf of an element that has not been dwelt on to any extent this afternoon, and that is the large country district. I know little about conditions in the city, for I am not familiar with them: I am talking solely about conditions that prevail in the large scattered areas in British Columbia, in which the hon. member for Cariboo (Mr. Fraser), the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Hanson), the hon. member for North Vancouver (Mr. Munn) and I are interested.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) is right when he says that impersonation has been largely done away with in British Columbia by the system of signing your name when you go to vote, but he is not on such sound ground when he holds up British Columbia as an object lesson as regards the other features of his bill, because he has not copied British Columbia; he has taken only a small portion of their act. Let me show the difference.

As far as I can judge from this legislation, there is to be a revision once a year. That is not the way in British Columbia, although the minister suggested that it was. There is a permanent voters' list in British Columbia, but it is revised every three months, and that makes a great difference, and before the election is held there is a special court of revision. The court is held within a few weeks of the election. I do not remember what the period was in the last provincial election, but it was only a matter of weeks before the election that the court of revision was held. The list formerly was revised every six months but now it is revised at intervals of three months, so that voters can get on the list.

The minister did not advert to the fact that British Columbia makes some provision for the man who has moved and is not on the list in the district in which he resides. We have a system of absentee voting which is not suggested under this legislation. That absentee vote permits a man who has moved from one district in which he is registered into another district where he is not, to vote in the latter. He cannot afford the money to go back to vote in the district in which he is registered

Franchise Act

and therefore he is allowed to vote in the district in which he is residing, though not for the candidates in that district but for the candidates in the district in which he is registered. The absentee vote is placed in a special envelope.

As other hon. gentlemen have asked, what are you going to do with a man or woman who comes of age or is naturalized during the interval of one year from the time of the last revision? The principal objection I take to that part of the legislation is this. We have a large transient population in British Columbia; nowhere in Canada more than in North Vancouver and in the district I represent does this situation prevail, and possibly in Cariboo to some extent, though I am not so sure about that. There is, however, a large transient population all the time, and not only are these people moving from place to place but they are, so to speak, in permanent transition. That is to* say, they make their winter homes-loggers and fishermen-in Vancouver, New Westminster and other places, and when the season starts in the spring they move over to the district I represent. Under the old legislation now in force they could vote in our district provided they had been there sixty days before the election; but under this system they will not be able to vote anywhere. If they are registered in Vancouver they cannot afford to go back there to vote and they will not be allowed to have an absentee vote, so that it will mean the disfranchisement of hundreds of voters in the district I represent. It would be putting it extremely moderately to say that not less than ten per cent of the usual population of the district I represent will be disfranchised if the legislation now proposed goes through. I am being extremely moderate when I say ten per cent. The same thing is true of the fishermen. The fishermen has his home in one place, but by the very nature of his occupation he has to follow the fish; he goes up the coast, and formerly he would register in the place where he was likely to be during the sixty days preceding the election. Now he will register once for all and will thereby be disfranchised.

There is a third point which was highly commendable in the dominion act and which will be done away with now, and that is what is known as swearing oneself in on election day. Suppose an enumerator, through carelessness or malice aforethought or for some other reason, neglected to put a man on the voters' list; or suppose he did not happen to be there at the time the enumerator made up the list. By the dominion act the voter could go on election day and take an

oath, provided he got someone on the list to vouch for him, swearing that he had been sixty days within the electoral district and so many days in the particular polling district, and he would be allowed to vote. He was sworn, and if he made a false affidavit he could be followed up and punished. That system has not been abused to any extent worth mentioning. Now, as the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Gardiner) says, the first principle of such legislation should be to see that every man who is qualified and entitled to vote gets his chance; but under this legislation that will be very far from being the case.

One other thought. I see the minister taking notes. I hope he will particularly take note of the question of dealing with transients and also with that of having the revision take place oftener than once a year. I notice great stress was laid on the desirability of shortening the period before an election. When the hon. member for Acadia approved the action of the government he received considerable support from my friends to the right and it seems to be a general feeling that a shorter period is desirable. It is desirable principally for those who live in cities where a man can go and address a meeting of two thousand people every night for a fortnight and thus cover his electors. That cannot be done in a rural district. In my constituency there will be something like 150 polling stations at the next election; there were 108 at the last one. Presumably it is proposed to cover that ground in twenty-eight days. If you count out Sundays, that will mean six and a half meetings every day, which is an absolute impossibility. The average meeting in the riding I represent would run about forty people to each; the very highest would not be more than from 350 to 400 and the smallest would be a dozen, perhaps twenty. You would have to go by launch possibly twenty miles to meet those twenty people and it would be impassible to hold more than one meeting in one little place in one day. It is proposed to compel candidates to cover an area with 150 polling stations in twenty-eight days, or it might be twenty-one days, as the Minister of Justice intimated. How can this be done? Is it fair to the candidates? Is it fair to the member? It may be said that the member has as good a chance as anybody else, but hb has not, because his opponent may be busily canvassing the district while we are sitting here. This proposal puts a handicap upon the sitting member.

Again, reference was made to Great Britain. I do not think one could get a poorer illustra-

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Franchise Act

tion in this case than to quote Britain as an example. Compare the vast spaces of the districts in the prairies and British Columbia and then point to Britain as a suitable illustration or something to copy 1 That was not the attitude of hon. gentlemen opposite when they were talking about the marketing bill. Then they found a thousand reasons that on account of the compact, small, and highly populated area, they did not think it was appropriate to use certain standards or principles. This is a case where there cannot be any possible comparison between conditions in Great Britain and those in Canada.

By the way, someone said that it was necessary, and surely it is a sound principle, that people should be or have a chance to be informed before they cast their votes. The only way in which they can be informed, unless by reading partisan newspapers, is by hearing the candidates, and if they did so, they would at least have a run for their money.. How can that be done if the election is to be oarried out in twenty-four or possibly twenty-one days in an area such as I have mentioned in British Columbia? My district has over 2,000 miles of coast line with little settlements scattered along it. There are only 100 miles of railway in it and most of the travelling has to be done by launch or motor car. I quite agree with the idea that a shorter period is desirable for a city election, but justice must be done; the law must be made to apply to all cases, and I strongly protest against the injustice that will be done in those three instances I have indicated. I shall only repeat that I am thoroughly familiar with the subject so far as my district is concerned and I have no 'hesitation in saying that this proposal means the disfranchisement of hundreds of electors.

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

Ernest Lapointe

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I desire to reserve until the bill is before the house, any remarks I wish to make. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has stated that the questions of double enumerators and of appeals from the revising officer to a judge have not been definitely settled and that provisions with regard to them might be inserted in the bill. As it is not yet ready I wish to emphasize the necessity of incorporating those two features in order to make the bill acceptable to everyone on this side.

I understand the people will be enumerated only for the basic list which will be prepared and then a yearly revision will be made by the revising officer in each constituency without the help of enumerators. That makes it more necessary to have in the law the right

of appeal from the revising officer at the yearly revisions.

There is one question I should like to ask the Minister of Justice: Has the question of bachelors who are at the present time employed in relief camps in many parts of the country been considered? Are they supposed to give their votes at the places where they are at present working or will they register their votes at the places from which they came? Has that question been considered at all?

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