June 18, 1935

LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Hon. FERNAND RINFRET (St. James):

Mr. Speaker, first I desire to protest, together with my hon. friend from Quebec South (Mr. Power), against any amendment to either the election act or the franchise act in the dying hours of the session and on the eve of an election. I think everyone not directly interested in the matter will agree that on the eve of an election there always will be suspicion in the minds of the people that whatever amendment is brought in by the government is not intended1 to bring justice and fair play in the election but rather to devise some advantage for themselves at the last moment. This is my first objection to this bill, and this also will be my objection to the bill providing that the province of Saskatchewan will pronounce on this government in a different way from' the other eight provinces of the dominion.

In my opinion this bill is even more contentious, because it deals-if not in principle at least in fact-with just one constituency in the Dominion of Canada. It is true that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie), trying to throw oil on the waters said in a very dispassionate way that this would apply everywhere, but it will not be required anywhere else than in the constituency of St. Lawrenoe-St. George, because nowhere else have the same circumstances appeared.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I should just like to tell

the hon. gentleman, as I have already said, that I know of one other constituency-and I am not going into any details-where there are five thousand cases of the same kind outstanding.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

I do not think it will

help the case if it is shown that there may be two constituencies affected, but my information is that it only deals with one. And mind you, Mr. Speaker, this bill must be through within a few days or it will not apply. It is being practically rushed' through in order to alter the conditions of the election in my hon. friend's constituency.

I think the Minister of Justice has made a very noble effort to try to place the Secretary of State in a somewhat better light than he placed himself. The Minister of Justice said that the operation of the act was under the direction of the Secretary of State, but he admitted that he introduced the act that was brought in last year. What does it mean when the Minister of Justice introduces an act but, when any amendment is required, it is brought in by the Secretary of State? That is a very peculiar situation. I think the Minister of Justice, who is very genial, realized that the Secretary of State had placed himself in such a disgraceful position that he had to interfere and say this was according to the routine of the departments. He introduced the act; my hon. friend the Secretary of State now seeks to amend it, and if further amendment is needed I suppose the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Weir) will put it through.

The main objection we have to this bill, Mr. Speaker, is not that it amends an act but that it does so in the course of the operation of that act. Last year the bill was passed unanimously, which makes it even more imperative that it should n.ot be amended' by the consent of only one of the parties in this house. We all consented to the bill last year. We say very candidly that we did so in the spirit of compromise. I, together with many members on this side, do not believe in a fixed, permanent Mat. We rather think the old system of having the list prepared or revised at the last moment, on the eve of an election, was a better system. But we discussed it on this side, and I suppose the same thing took place on the other side, and in the spirit of compromise we agreed to accept the bill. The government gave way a little, I will admit, in providing that the list should be prepared by two enumerators, one representing each party. The lists were prepared last fall, according to the act; they were being revised this spring, also according to the act, the

Franchise Act-Mr. Rinjret

compromise entered into by both parties and I suppose even the third party in the corner, but at the last moment, because my hon. friend' the Secretary of State thinks he is going to be bothered or annoyed personally in his own riding, he has introduced a bill to amend that act that was agreed upon by both parties. That is our main objection to the bill. If miy hon. friend came here during another session and cited these cases, asking us to amend the act in regard to a future revision, then he would be on much safer ground, but when he comes here just a few days before the revision is over and asks us to amend an act that was agreed upon by compromise between both parties, I think upon reflection he will agree that unless there is a compromise again he should withdraw his bill.

I find fault with the minister because he has not given a proper picture of the conduct of the judge. He went on to cite cases in which it appeared that a Mr. So and So residing on a certain street had moved to another street. The minister said such a case would be brought before the judge; the judge would not hear the evidence, but would order those names to be restored to the list. Another person residing somewhere else died; his case was brought before the judge, and the minister added, without listening to evidence the judge ordered that that name be restored, and so on. The minister went on that way for half an hour, and he gave the impression that every individual case had been brought before the judge with the evidence annexed to it, and that the judge had refused the application.

But that is not the fact. The fact is that an appeal was entered by a party against the striking out of over 4,000 names. I am not a legal man, but I followed the case closely, and I know the question involved was one as to who would be forced to bring evidence before him. The minister admitted that, himself. He states "Here is a registrar deciding that over 4,000 names must be struck off the list; am I, as a candidate, going to be forced in every case to prove the necessary facts, and must I furnish evidence?" If I understood the case properly, that was the whole contention. The judge decided that unless evidence was produced before him he would not consent to disfranchising 4,000 electors. That is the way I understood the case.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

An entirely erroneous understanding.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

If the same thing had

happened in St. James constituency I would have thought, had a judge decided in the same way, that he had taken a proper posi-

tion. Mind you, before the compromise of last year I said there was disagreement in the act. We cannot at one and the same time have a permanent and a flexible list. If we have a list being formed and revised at certain dates it is inevitable that between a date of revision and an election date a number of electors will have moved, a number will have died,- and you cannot prevent that. With the act as it stands we will always have on the lists for every constituency, and especially in the cities, large numbers of electors who will not be at the points indicated in the lists, and who may be on the list in one division whereas they should appear on the list for another. Under the present act we cannot prevent that. That does not mean that when a judge is presented with a list of 4,000 electors he is going to say, "Well, unless every one appears before me"-and how will the dead ones appear?-"and unless each produces his own evidence I shall rule that the decision of the registrar is a proper one, and allow the disfranchisement of thousands of electors." That is the way I understand the act.

The appeal to the judge was placed in the act, I believe at the demand of hon. members on this side of the house, to protect the electors from the over-zeal and over-devotion of a registrar. Sometimes a registrar may be stirred up by the evidence prepared by electoral agents; all hon. members know that can happen. The Secretary of State has said that no other judge would have given the decision he has indicated. Well, evidently I have more confidence in that tribunal than has the minister. On the contrary I say there is not one judge on the bench who would have consented to strike off 4,000 names, or to substantiate their being stricken off by the registrar, exacting at least a certain amount of evidence in every case.

In my view the basis of the act is the proper placing of names on the list by enumerators. Enumerators from the different parties go from house to house, inscribing the names of the electors on the lists. Last year we insisted that the procedure be made as simple as possible, and that an elector who had his name placed on the list should not be asked to enter into a very complicated procedure, such as was at first contemplated. I believe we are on firm ground, too, when we say that once an elector's name has been placed on the list by an enumerator he should be protected against any further effort to withdraw his name from that list. If a man or a party has reason to ask a registrar to strike a name from the list, and if a registrar complies with the request and an appeal is made to a judge it should be up to the party who has made the

Franchise Act-Mr. Mercier

representations to the registrar-that a person has moved or died-to appear before the judge and make good the charge he has made before the registrar. I ask that the right to vote he not made too complicated. I do not apeak in any partisan spirit, but I speak after a cloae association with the'electors of the city of Montreal. Each time the election act has been before this chamber it has been complicated by legal minds to a point where it has become very difficult for common people to know how to vote. That is my contention, and has been my contention f.or some time. I will admit, gladly, that the government has made it more simple. We must remember however that whether or not we require it from them the common people will not spend a whole year wondering whether or not their names appear on the list.

Unfortunately our election act has been changed every three or four years, with the result that electors come to us stating they do not know how to proceed to vote, and asking, "Why is it not the same as it was four years ago?" I believe we should try to have a permanent act, stick to it for a number of years and make it easy for people to understand where and how they shall vote. The contention of the Secretary of State is that when a man's vote is being challenged and a registrar decides against him he must appear before a judge and plead his own case for his right to vote. I do not believe in that, at all. I must disagree with the Secretary of State on that point. In my view it is up to the party who challenges my right to vote to make good that challenge, not only before the registrar but before the court. That is why I say the chief justice of the province of Quebec, acting on his own interpretation of the act, did rightly when he said, "At the demand of some electoral agent. I am not going to disfranchise 4,000 electors in the constituency of St. Law-rence-St. George merely because I am asked to do so. I want to have the evidence; I want to know about these cases."

Much graver in my opinion, however, is the position we will take when the judge has rendered his decision. After all, are we going to show a disregard for the court? Are we going to 9ay, "If the court decides against us, because we are members of the House of Commons or ministers of the crown we are going to change the law." I say that is an abominable principle. I appeal to the Prime Minister, who I believe has as fine a legal mind as any person in Canada: Do you not think it is an abominable principle to say that because a decision had not been favourable to me, a minister of the crown, I am going to introduce a bill to change the law, and force it through

parliament in time to be effective in the actual revision? I object to that principle. I have great respect for the Secretary of State; I will say it is not often that I disagree with him, but in this instance I believe he has been ill advised. I do not. dare censure him, because he is muoh older than I am, but if I were in his place I would rather try to be elected by a majority of my electors than to try to be elected by a majority of this house.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Joseph-Alexandre Mercier

Liberal

Mr. J. A. MERCIER (Laurier-Outremont):

Mr. Speaker, I gave some attention to the franchise act last year when it was before this house, and although I thought that the old law needed to be changed in certain respects I believe that in so far as the making up of the lists is concerned the old act was far superior to the present one.

A few days before the election in 1930 enumerators were named, who went from house to house and inquired as to the residents in these different houses, took down the names of those who were entitled to vote, these names were put on the list, and very shortly after the elections were brought on and these lists which had been compiled a very short while before were used. The only objection to that system in the city of Montreal so far as I saw was that these lists were made up in the summertime when a large number of the residents were out of the city at the different summer resorts, but many of the electors of Montreal took the trouble to come back to the city and see that their names were properly inscribed on the lists. In my experience and in the experience of the other members for the city of Montreal, and I think even the hon. Secretary of State will bear me out in this, there were very few objections made as to the manner of bringing in the votes in the election of 1930.

But what is the situation under the present act? The situation is this, that last fall the country went to the expense of having a list prepared, and twenty-one copies of the lists for each polling subdivision in his constituency were sent to every member of this house. In my own division of Laurier-Outremont there are 225 polls, 150 in Laurier and 75 in Outre-mont, and twenty-one copies of these lists containing the names of the electors at 225 polls were sent to me two or three months ago. What was the result? Those lists are still wrapped up in the cellar of my house. I have not even opened the packages because I knew that this revision was coming on and that these lists would be of no avail. I quite admit that in the revision the typesetting of the original list will be used in preparing the new list but actually a new and complete list

Franchise Act-Mr. Mercier

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

James Houston Spence

Liberal

Mr. SPENCE:

I was paired with the hon. member for Northumberland (Ont.) (Mr. Fraser). Had I voted I would have voted for the motion.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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UFA

Donald MacBeth Kennedy

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KENNEDY (Winnipeg):

I was paired kith the hon. member for North Battleford (Mr. McIntosh). Had I voted I would have voted for the motion.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Paul Mercier

Liberal

Mr. MERCIER (St. Henri):

I was paired with the hon. member for West Hamilton (Mr. Bell). Had I voted I would have voted against the motion.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Eccles James Gott

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOTT:

I was paired with the hon. member for Kent (Ont) (Mr. Rutherford). Had I voted I would have voted for the motion.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

George Hamilton Pettit

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PETTIT:

I was paired with the hon. member for Kamouraska (Mr. Bouchard). Had I voted I would have voted for the motion.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Franklin Smoke

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SMOKE:

I was paired with the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot). Had I voted I would have voted for the motion.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
Permalink
LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER (Translation):

I was paired with the hon. Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Manion); otherwise, I would have voted against the second reading of this bill.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
Permalink
LIB

Joseph Jean

Liberal

Mr. JEAN (Translation):

I was paired with the hon. member for North Simcoe (Mr. Simpson); otherwise, I would have voted against the second reading of the bill.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
Permalink
LIB

Joseph-Fernand Fafard

Liberal

Mr. FAFARD (Translation):

I was paired with the hon. member for Levis (Mr. Fortin); otherwise, I would have voted against the second reading of this bill.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
Permalink
LIB

Donat Raymond

Liberal

Mr. RAYMOND (Translation):

I was

paired with the hon. member for St. Antoine (Mr. Bell); otherwise, I would have voted against the second reading of this bill.

Bill read the second time, and the house went into committee thereon, Mr. Morand in the chair.

On section 1-Judge may not rescind final ruling of registrar, or add, retain or remove name?, except upon certain adduced evidence at bearing.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

What is the present status of these 4,000 names? Are they on the electoral list or are they off or where are they?

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. OAHAN:

At the present time I think less than 200 cases have been heard by the registrar and have gone on appeal to the courts. In the case of others the court hearings have not yet been reached.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Do I understand the hon. member to say the hearings have not been held before the registrar?

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. OAHAN:

Except in regard to less than 200 names.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
Permalink

June 18, 1935