February 19, 1935

CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Eighteen hundred or

eighteen?

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Eighteen names. So my hon. friend from Quebec-Montmoreney will enjoy the pleasure of having eighteen votes in his favour-or let us hope against him-at the next election.

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CON

Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COTNAM:

I wish they came in my

riding.

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Well, he was a very good

registrar, appointed I understand on the recommendation of my hon. friends opposite, and he did a good job once he became convinced that the list should be purged.

But that has not much to do with the question now before us, which is this: shall any other persons who came to the unemployment camp afterwards and who are registered in their home towns have the right to the benefit of the provisions of the absentee clauses? The absentee clauses were inserted in the act at the urgent request of my hon. friend from Comox-Alberni, who stated that in his constituency and a number of constituencies in British Columbia there were persons who registered in their home towns but who, owing to the exigencies of their occupations, were obliged to be absent for long periods of time, such as sailors, miners, loggers and fishermen. He submitted to the committee and to the house that a great injustice would be done if these men were not permitted to vote by the system known as absentee voting. Many members of the house I think were not very keen on beginning what was a new departure, for us in eastern Canada at least, although I understand that absentee voting has been in effect in western Canada; but after some discussion it was agreed that four specific classes could enjoy that benefit. But as was pointed out at the time, no sooner had it been agreed to open the door for four classes than every other class, from gooseberry piekere to commercial travellers, wished to come under this benefit. If the doors be opened widely enough, sooner or later people will not take the trouble to go home to vote; they will expect to be able to vote anywhere. The provisions are of course well known to hon. members: any person in the categories named who on election day happens to be at a polling division in another constituency, or even in his own constituency twenty-five miles from his home, may go to the polling booth, demand a ballot, state his residence and qualification, and swear before the deputy returning officer that he is on the permanent list; and having fulfilled those formalities he is handed a ballot. He votes, and on the night of the election the result of the vote is telegraphed to the proper constituency-

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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CON

Ambrose Upton Gledstanes Bury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURY:

It must be within that province, must it not?

Dominion Elections Act

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Within, that province. The ballots are afterwards sent on to the constituency in which the voter is registered, and if on checking up it is found to be a bona fide ballot it is counted. That applies at the present time to four categories.

The object of this bill is that a person who through no fault of his own happens to be in an unemployment camp, but whose name is registered in his home town, shall be allowed to go to the poll nearest to that unemployment camp and vote as in his own constituency. Personally I have no strong views on the matter, except that I am rather inclined to share those of the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie), that if you open the doors still wider, sooner or later the whole effect of the act as to forcing a man to go to the poll nearest his own home, and providing a great many other safeguards, will be defeated. It is perhaps easy enough to provide safeguards for a small number of categories, but if we increase the categories to any great extent there is no telling where we will stop, and we do not know how difficult it may be to provide efficient safeguards for ordinary voters. I think last year I said I was in favour of this principle; I have no objection to it, though I must say that I should be just as glad if there was none of this absentee voting under the act at all.

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. A. W. NEILL (Comox-Albemd):

Mr. Speaker, I am and always have been of the opinion that the absentee vote should apply to everyone in Canada, subject of course to the restrictions in the act confining it to the particular province in which the man or woman is domiciled. I was not a bit enamoured of the act we .passed last year; I do not think it was an improvement in any way upon the old act which, by and large, gave us a pretty fair deal and provided a ready and convenient means of getting on the list and voting. In the final analysis everyone was protected by the opportunity of swearing himself in on election day. That did away with any possibility of wrongdoing or of people being left off deliberately, yet it provided safeguards so that there was very little abuse.

When the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) introduced that bill he referred to the fact that in many respects it resembled the act that had been in force in British Columbia for a number of years, but as I pointed out at that time unfortunately he did not adhere to the British Columbia act in all particulars and, as the saying goes, that spilled the

beans. For instance the British Columbia act provides that the court of revision shall be held every month, whereas under our act it is to be held every year, which makes a very great difference. Again, British Columbia has the absentee vote applying to everyone, while we restrict it to the four classes that have been named. When the resolution was brought in last year I pointed out these facts. I need not read what I said, but I pointed out that if we were going to follow the British Columbia act we ought to take the bitter with the sweet, whereas we appeared to have taken the worst features of the British Columbia act and to have left out the better ones, the safeguards. At all events my opinion, which I urged in the house, was that we should have the absentee vote applying to everyone. It is quite true that if you look at Hansard you will see that, speaking selfishly for my own district and others in the vicinity, I said that it would fall particularly hard on the four classes I named; when the matter came up in committee the minister was good enough to grant my request, and the act was so amended. I was grateful for that; on the principle that I should accept what I could get if I could not get what I wanted, which is always a good principle in politics, I was grateful for that concession, but at the same time I see nothing wrong with the idea that this privilege should be extended to everyone.

The hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) indicated that if the privilege were extended everyone would get in, berry pickers and people like that, but why not? It would also allow school teachers to vote, as many of them cannot vote to-day. It would also allow many ministers to vote. Very often they change their stations, as school teachers change their schools, at such times that under our existing system they are not able to vote because they are not permitted the absentee vote. When I was speaking last year I stated that this system would disfranchise hundreds of people in my riding, and my experience since that time amply bears out that statement. The way the act has been carried out, with the list being made up on a fixed date last fall, has worked very much to the prejudice of a great many of the people whom I represent. The enumerator would go to a certain place where he would find ten people. He would put those ten people on the list, but he would not want to put a poll there because ten people would not be enough. That might be so, but by next July there might be 150 people there, or vice versa.

Dominion Elections Act

Take the ease of a cannery; when the enumerator went there, with the cannery running there might -be 150 voters at that point, but when the actual election comes along there may not be ten or even three people there. Under the old system the list was made up within sixty days and it included the people actually at the particular point, not people who might or might not be there. The old system was infinitely preferable, even with the improvement in the new system that has been brought about by giving the absentee vote to these four classes. There are still large numbers of people who are going to be prevented from voting in the district I represent and in the adjacent district of Vancouver island and the lower mainland.

While I am quite willing to vote for this bill as indicating my belief that these people should have the absentee vote, I would very much prefer to have the h-on. member who introduced the bill widen it to allow everyone to have that privilege. A great deal of the antagonism that I have found in connection with this absentee vote has come from our friends in the east, simply because they are not familiar with it. I do not think you will find any man from British Columbia who has had experience with this system who will say there is anything wrong with it, or that it lends itself to any kind of manipulation or graft. It does not, or we would have found it out before this. As a matter of fact we did; it was corrected and the leak was stopped, so that now the system cannot be abused at all. I would prefer to see the absentee vote extended to all those who are entitled to vote according to the act.

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. HENRI BOURASSA (Labelle):

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that for once I must disagree entirely with my deskmate (Mr. Neill) for whom I h-ave so much esteem and consideration. Quite contrary to his opinion, I am not only opposed to this bill but I think we are going too far away from the basic and solid principles of sound democracy, by extending the franchise to many people who should not be allowed to use it to defeat the influence of the people who are really interested in and who compose the mainstay of the state. Under conditions as they exist at present in Canada I believe people who are living at the expense of the state and who give practically no service to the state should not be entitled to vote. I do not think those receiving the dole should vote. I do not think returned soldiers who live at the expense of the state should vote. I think the people who, by their votes, determine who shall govern the country and who shall make our

laws, should be the people who pay taxes and support the government of the country. So in that regard I go beyond what the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) stated and in the opposite direction to my good friend and deskmate. I would say that instead of extending we should restrict the suffrage. If we want to save democracy we must put it in the hands of the people who have democracy at stake and not in the hands of those who want to exploit democracy simply to live upon it and make profit by it.

I do not want to say any more about this, but on the eve of an election I think the house generally and some hon. members of it are tempted to flatter as many people as they can and to appeal to the vanity or to the political influence of as many people as possible. I do not make that observation for the benefit of my good neighbour; I know he could be elected by any majority he wished by the constituents in his electoral division. He is a good Scotchman, and no matter what amendments we may -pass he would not be affected. But in its closing days parliament is tempted to flatter the masses in electoral and financial matters. Let us appeal to the reason of reasonable people who have something at stake, who do something for the support of the government and for the support of the nation, and who thereby acquire some sense of responsibility. The idea of giving votes to people living in camps at the expense of the state which would equalize the votes of fathers of families or property owners paying taxes, and bearing the load of civic and national responsibility, and the idea of making equal before the law people who are absolutely useless to the nation as compared with people who are most useful, is an unsocial and undemocratic procedure. So far as I am concerned I am prepared to vote against any measure which tends to increase the electoral franchise without giving due regard to the civic and national responsibilities of the people exercising that franchise.

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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LIB

Albert Edward Munn

Liberal

Mr. A. E. MUNN (Vancouver North):

Mr. Speaker, there are several hundred men in camps in my constituency. I should like to say to you and through you to the hon. member who has just taken his seat (Mr. Bourassa) that many of those men are real, honest-to-goodness thoroughbreds.

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IND
LIB

Albert Edward Munn

Liberal

Mr. MUNN:

It is not their fault that they are in the camps; they are there through their misfortune. Despite the fact that they are not revenue producers and are a charge on the state they should have something to say in the affairs of their country, and should have

Dominion Elections Act

some encouragement to place their views on record. Why keep them down? I believe it is a mistake to view the matter as it is viewed by the hon. member who has just spoken, and I am strongly in favour of giving those men the vote to -which they are entitled.

Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Quebec East); Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a word in explanation of the vote I wish to give. I am in favour of a universal franchise and in favour of the men in question herein having the right to vote, but I am opposed to the method suggested of giving them that vote.

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Hon. FERNAND RINFRET (St. James):

Mr. Speaker, I had not risen because I thought it would be proper to give hon. members an opportunity to vote on the motion before the house. However, as the sponsor of the bill intends, I believe, to close the debate I should like to make some observations along the line of those which have been made by the ex-Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe).

I do not share the views held by the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa). I believe every Canadian should vote, and that is the stand I have taken on previous occasions in my native city. However, although every Canadian has the right to vote, the law has provided that the exercise of that right shall be attended by certain formalities. Unfortunately the men in the camps cannot carry out those formalities. If by mistake the name of a man living in the very centre of the city is dropped, and he does not take the opportunity offered by law to rectify the mistake, he cannot vote. As a candidate in previous elections and one who is likely to be a candidate at the next election, I say it is difficult enough to follow the votes of those whose names are registered and who will exercise their votes in a proper way, without having to follow a flow of votes through the mail or otherwise. We have had such experiences in the past, and they have not been pleasant. I do not believe in the spreading of votes; I would be in favour of giving everyone an opportunity to register where he resides. In the event of that not being feasible, however, I should rather have a few men disfranchised than have the whole electoral system crippled by the possibility of registering votes in so many different ways. Therefore, although in principle I am in favour of every Canadian having a vote, I am also in favour of the law being strictly followed, and for these reasons I shall not vote for the bill.

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IND

Angus MacInnis

Independent Labour

Mr. ANGUS MacINNIS (Vancouver South):

Mr. Speaker, I believe the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) went out of his way to give a wrong impression of the amendments. The term "absentee voter" is very clearly defined in the Dominion Elections Act. Paragraph (a) of subsection 1 of section 99 states:

(a) "Absentee voter" means a person, being one of the classes of persons in the next following subsection mentioned, whose name is registered on the list of electors of a polling division of an electoral district and who seeks to vote pursuant to sections 99 to 104, inclusive, of this act.

Before a person may vote as an absentee voter his name must be on the voters' list for some constituency in the province in which he tries to vote. If his name is not on the list he cannot vote. For example, let us take two individuals both registered in the constituency of, we will say, Vancouver Centre, in the province of British Columbia. One obtains employment which takes him more than twenty-five miles outside the city of Vancouver. On election day that man may vote by absentee ballot. The other, however, has not been fortunate enough to obtain employment and has had to go to an unemployment camp. His name, too, is on the voters' list and for that reason he is entitled to vote, but because of the distance between the camp and the city he cannot be in the city on election day. Because he cannot go to the city and because he is not employed he is deprived of his vote. It is not suggested in the amendment that the vote should be extended to transients going from one province to another, but only to those who are on the voters' list of some constituency within the province.

I do not wish to carry the discussion to any greater length, but I am sure that unless we extend this privilege to the men in the unemployment camps-

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CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I call the hon. member's

attention to the fact that it is now nine o'clock.

Topic:   ABSENTEE BALLOT FOR MEN IN UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF CAMPS
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IND

Angus MacInnis

Independent Labour

Mr. MacINNIS:

-we will be doing an

injustice to those men.

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UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

MEASURE TO ESTABLISH AN UNEMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL INSURANCE COMMISSION


The house resumed consideration in committee of Bill No. 8, to establish an unemployment and social insurance commission, Unemployment Insurance to provide for a national employment service, for insurance against unemployment, for aid to unemployed persons, and for other forms of social insurance and security, and for purposes related thereto-Mr. 'Bennett-Mr. Morand in the chair. On section 20 (as printed; now section 19) -Statutory conditions for receipt of unemployment benefit.


CON

Armand Renaud La Vergne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. 'Morand):

we are on subsection 7, paragraph (b).

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH AN UNEMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL INSURANCE COMMISSION
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LIB

William Daum Euler

Liberal

Mr. EULER:

Before we rose at six o'clock I was going to ask the Prime Minister what means would be adopted to ensure that the beneficiary has complied with the conditions laid down. Is the onus placed upon the man who seeks to come under the provisions of the act to prove that he could not obtain employment, or what safeguards are provided in that regard?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH AN UNEMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL INSURANCE COMMISSION
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February 19, 1935