July 5, 1935

LIB

William Richard Motherwell

Liberal

Mr. MOTHERWELL:

I should like to ask the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) if the artistic draftsman who had to do with the War Time Elections act of many years ago and the Dominion Franchise Act of last year had anything to do with making or suggesting this change?

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

No.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Have you not forgotten that?

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LIB

William Richard Motherwell

Liberal

Mr. MOTHERWELL:

I am still suspicious of anything done by this government in connection with the elections or franchise acts.

I have had considerable experience with elections and I know how polls can be blocked by zealous and offensive scrutineers and returning officers. Sometimes these men are very offensive and they terrorize the innocent voter by asking something which cannot be explained on such short notice. It is just one more attempt by this government to grab at some floating straws to save them from des-

truction; that is all. Why not make a clean breast of the whole thing and come across clean as was done with regard to the alternative vote? That was a deliberate attempt to get a party advantage in one single province. No one less diabolical than O'Connor could have drafted or thought up that. I object to all these attempts to grab off party advantage at the last moment. My hon. friends might as well have taken the consequences from an indignant electorate standing up, instead of resorting to these dubious devices to save themselves-and then not likely to succeed.

Mr. ST-PERE: In the course of his remarks the Minister of Justice said that the electors had ample time to vote on polling day. If he represents a city he must admit that the large vote, the labour vote, the vote of the common people, is usually given between four and seven o'clock at night. It comes in bulk, so to speak.

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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:

There is a special provision for noon.

Mr. ST-PERE: Placed in the hands of any strong partisan, the amendment may be used against any candidate. As far as the signing of this form is concerned, may I ask the Prime Minister this question. Could the crook who signed an affidavit of this kind be located immediately? Where could you find him? He could not be identified at all. I strongly object to this provision, not because I am a partisan-and the Secretary of State knows that I like to run fair elections-

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Hear, hear.

Mr. ST-PERE: I have that reputation in Montreal in my riding. But for the love of Mike don't enact laws that will strike off the list half the electors in a poll. I have seen that before in provincial elections. If this amendment is put into force we shall see a duplication in Montreal of what I have seen in the past- deputy returning officers, representatives of candidates, purposely eliminating electors waiting at the door, preventing them from voting. I strongly oppose this amendment.

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CON

Maurice Dupré (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DUPRE:

The hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) said that in a constituency like mine, for instance, the people would be opposed to such a procedure. I do not share his view. This is an honest effort to stop impersonation and I cannot understand the position of our friends of the Liberal party. In the rural constituencies impersonation is very difficult; in fact, it is practically unknown. The provision would

Elections Act

therefore affect only city constituencies like that of my hon. friend from Quebec East or mine. I do not see anything at all in the objections of my hon. friend from Quebec East and my hon. friend from Hochelaga. I do not agree with that hon. gentleman that the vote is polled to the greatest extent between four and seven o'clock. It is also polled early in the morning and, for the working man especially, between noon and two o'clock in the afternoon. As regards the argument about crowding the polls, our opponents seem to forget that under the old law the same thing could be done. Any elector could be asked to give an affidavit-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh no.

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CON

Maurice Dupré (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DUPRE:

-a sworn statement, which was much longer than the one now being proposed and which consists of only two paragraphs. I do not see any objection, therefore. On the contrary, I think it will be welcomed in my constituency at any rate. The honest voter will never object to such a procedure.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

We are just as anxious as the Solicitor General to prevent impersonation, but every time we discuss an electoral law or an amendment thereto we are confronted with two conflicting principles; one is to adopt complicated devices to prevent impersonation and the other is to -make it as easy as possible for the honest elector to vote. I have always stood for the latter. In my opinion the electoral legislation adopted last year and the amendments before the house this year tend to make it harder and harder for the average honest citizen to register his vote. What is written on the document is rather complicated and in addition he may have to fight for his own right during the revision. And now he is confronted with the possibility of having to read and sign a document at the poll. It is well known that the average person objects to taking an oath; rightly or wrongly he considers it an insult. If people have to read a long document and sign it a number of them will object. I am very much of the opinion of the former Minister of Justice that while an impersonator may be stopped by having to sign a document, if anyone wishes to send impersonators to a poll such impersonators will be schooled in what they have to do in order to attain their purpose. For one impersonator who will be stopped by this amendment, from ten to twenty or more honest voters will be prevented from voting. The honest voter expects the ordinary procedure and if he is confronted with a document of this kind he may refuse to sign it. If a candidate or his agents conspired to put through a number of illicit votes, we may be sure that such impersonators would be properly schooled, and I cannot see that the fact that a record remains after the vote is cast is any advantage over the old system. After all, if a man comes to vote for someone else and signs that other person's name, when he has left the poll there is nothing more against him than the fact that he has left a document behind him. There is nothing more by which to trace him than if he had merely taken an oath under the old system.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

There is forgery against him as well as perjury if he signs another man's name.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

Yes, but when he has disappeared it will be hard to prove either against him. Speaking from my experience in Montreal, I must say that the important thing seems to me to be to make it as easy as possible for the honest man to vote. I am afraid that all these proposals and particularly this one requiring a man to sign his name will keep more people from voting than it will prevent impersonators from registering votes.

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CON

William Ernest Tummon

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. TUMMON:

If his vote is challenged now has he not got to take an oath? If he is an honest man will he hesitate to sign a document?

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CON

James J. Donnelly

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DONNELLY:

As I understand it, this amendment is introduced to prevent people from impersonating voters. I notice that the Solicitor General said that impersonation was almost unknown in the country. The Prime Minister interjected that it was absolutely unknown in the country districts. May I suggest therefore to the Minister of Justice that this section be applied only to the urban centres and not to the rural districts. It can be used in rural districts only to annoy voters where, as the Prime Minister has said, impersonation is unknown. It can be and is used in this way because I have had experience with it being used to annoy voters at the time of an election, and I would suggest that it be eliminated entirely so far as rural districts are concerned.

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LIB

Joseph Philippe Baby Casgrain

Liberal

Mr. CASGRAIN:

Like the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) and the hon. member for St. James (Mr. Rinfret), I am opposed to this amendment in the form in which it is. I think we are all agreed that impersonation should be stopped, but this is a very unpopular way to go about stopping it. While we may stop a few of the impersonators

Elections Act

and the culprits who are paid to do such a wicked job, I think we will, especially in the large cities, affect the vote of good, honest people, who will not like this form of making an affidavit in the way it is proposed to be done under this amendment. As regards the contention of the hon. member for Quebec West (Mr. Power), his experience is good, but to my mind it is not as good before the committee and the house as that of that of members like the hon. member for Quebec East, the ihon. member for St. James and myself who have run elections for many years. He ought to know that in big cities like Quebec, Montreal and others outside our province people come into the polling stations at the last hour, as the hon. member for Hoohelaga (Mr. St-Pere) has said. If at the time the representative of any given candidate knows his polling division is a Liberal stronghold, or for that matter a Conservative stronghold, because the thing works both ways, and if he wants to be strong for his candidate, he may challenge the vote of any person who comes in there.

I want to draw the attention of the committee to the fact that not only has this been done in cities, but in my own county in a rural district, because some person had been away for a certain time and had been put on the list, everyone who came to the poll was challenged. This was done even in rural or semi-rural divisions. There is a danger that might obtain if this form of affidavit is used. We have the present form whereby a man coming in may be attested and forced to take the oath. He takes the oath and it is marked that he is sworn. If he takes the oath, he is given a ballot because he is on the list. This proceeding we are taking to-day is the last, third degree test after the revision and the main basic lists have been made. It has only one purpose, namely, to make the election more difficult, and to try to keep away from the polls as many people as possible.

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CON

Maurice Dupré (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DUPRE:

That is absolutely ridiculous.

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LIB

Joseph Philippe Baby Casgrain

Liberal

Mr. CASGRAIN:

The franchise is in the air; a person has to go and grab it and see that his name is on the list. Formerly every person was on the list and was not bound to under the special circumstances in this case

As the hon. member for Hocbelaga has said, what guarantee have we that we have caught the impersonator? The man who is bad, who is the culprit, who is asked to do a wicked job, will be requested to make an affidavit and to subscribe his name. He will subscribe the name of the person he wants to impersonate. We have not his signature; we do not know who he is; we have not his address. We have

to grab him on the spot. If he takes the affidavit, impersonates the man and we give him the ballot, he takes it and goes free. What guarantee have we that we can reach that man? We cannot reach him at all, and I douibt whether this amendment will serve the purpose it is intended to serve. If this affidavit were made in the form of an oath to be taken, but not to- force the person who would be called upon to subscribe to the oath, to put his signature to it, I would not object to that so much. But to force a person to sign, I think, -with the mentality of the people in our province-and I think the same is true in all the provinces-it is an insult to the labourers, the employees, the honest workingman who come to the polls, to be forced at the wish of a representative there to put his signature to a document or, if he does not know how to sign, to put his mark. I repeat that we have no guarantee that we will be able to get the wicked man who wants to deprive the honest voter of his vote. I am against it.

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CON

John Thomas Hackett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HACKETT:

I suppose hon. members opposite are aware of the campaign which has been carried on for some time in the city of Montreal to identify electors. They are aware that a bill was prepared to force every elector to carry a card of identification bearing his photograph. That measure went forward with unanimous approval. This was a matter of some inconvenience, but it was for the purpose of correcting the very ill which is complained of here. If the signature of the document is in itself a great ill, why should we exact that every person who comes into the country must sign? It is impossible to come in on the train from the neighbouring republic without signing a document as to one's origin and so forth, and it is impossible to go into the neighbouring republic without doing the same thing. If these requirements are exacted for a mere transitory visit, it seems to me that perforce like requirements should be exacted of people who are by their vote going to determine what is going to be the policy and even the destiny of the country.

After all I think we can admit that the practical application and use of this document will be restricted to how many constituencies? A few in Montreal. I know nothing of Toronto or the other cities. The very example given by the hon. member for Charlevoix-Saguenay (Mr. Casgrain) shows that the signature of the document will in no way increase his embarrassment. He said that a deputy returning officer challenged a certain number of people.

Elections Act

It is not my purpose to discuss the question whether he did that with or without reason, but we are not taking away that right, and it will merely mean that the person who takes an oath will do it in a form of which there will be a permanent record. If this legislation is passed, I do not believe it would be brought into practical application to any extent in more than a dozen constituencies, and it will give an assurance of an honest vote. I cannot and will not assume that hon. gentlemen in whatever section of the house they sit are less interested in that result than are those who are bringing forward this bill.

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CON

Richard Langton Baker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BAKER:

The hon. member for Char-levoix-Saguenay (Mr. Casgrain) mentioned the blocking of the poll. He will admit that impersonations will be in the morning because if the impersonator does not arrive in the morning, the opportunity for impersonation will be lost, so his point there is very weak.

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LIB

George Washington McPhee

Liberal

Mr. McPHEE:

In country polls the deputy returning officer will not know anything about the legal effect of a signature, and I would suggest that the Minister of Justice should insert an alternative:

That I am unable to write and have hereto made my mark and that is my true

name.

That will cover the difficulty.

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July 5, 1935