April 5, 1938


Hon. C. G. POWER (Minister of Pensions and National Health) moved that the house go into committee to consider the following proposed resolution: Political Expenditures



That it is expedient to introduce a measure respecting political expenditures, and to make provision for the appointment and the salaries or remuneration of certain officers and employees and the payment of certain expenses in connection with the administraiton of the said measure. He said: Mr. Speaker, the legislation which is being introduced by this resolution will be known as the Political Expenditures Act. The preamble to the bill reads: Whereas it is desirable that the source and disposition of sums expended for federal political purposes should be readily traceable and that the amounts expended in promoting the return of members of the House of Commons should be limited. I believe those words express succinctly the objects of the proposed legislation. The first object is to make traceable and provide a public record of all receipts and expenditures for political purposes. The second object is to limit expenditures which may lawfully be incurred in promoting the election of a member. The bill is comparatively simple. This house acquires jurisdiction in connection therewith through its control over banks and banking and also through the right which the federal government has to constitute corporations for other than provincial purposes. The provision with regard to the limitation of expenditures will operate only during the electoral periods while the other provisions will operate at all times. I may digress here to say that with the provision for the tracing and publication of contributions operating at all times there is a probability that the public will become, accustomed to the other provisions and more readily acquiesce in their operation when the electoral period comes around. Political expenditures can be incurred only by special corporate bodies constituted by mere request into corporations sole. Political contributions can be made only to such bodies and such contributions must be deposited in a bank with duplicate deposit slips. All payments must be made by cheque. A return of expenditures and contributions will thus automatically be made by the transmission to the officer appointed by this house of the duplicate deposit slips and cheques. This officer, who will be known as the inspector general of elections, will have the duty of setting up corporations on request and making a return to parliament of all receipts and expenditures by those corporations. This return will be along the lines of that made by the auditor general and will be annual. The limitation of the expenditure in any particular constituency will be achieved through identifying the corporation or corporations which are charged with the duty of promoting the return of any candidate to parliament. Any one else, a corporation or otherwise, will be forbidden to spend any money for that purpose. The amount of expenditures permissible will be calculated on the number of electors in a given electoral district. There is also a provision in the interests of the public placing a limitation on the amount to be expended on radio broadcasting, which limitation will be based on the number of electors. In as simple language as I can use, these are the chief provisions of the bill. I have every reason to believe that this bill is sound both in law and constitution. It was drafted by Lieutenant-Colonel Bjggar who for seven or eight years was chief electoral officer of Canada. There are certain features of the bill upon which I should perhaps enlarge. It was thought advisable in connection with the provision for the limitation of expenditures to leave blank the amount to be allowed to be expended in any given constituency. I submit that this amount should be fixed by the committee of this house which will be called upon to deal with the bill. A distinction has been made in the bill as between rural and urban constituencies. Another difficulty had been solved, perhaps not to the satisfaction of everyone, in connection with the distribution of moneys expended from the central or national campaign funds. It was decided that the bill should provide that these moneys should be distributed equally among all constituencies. It may appear to hon. members that this provision will make the amount expended in any constituency appear to be somewhat large when it is charged with its portion of the national expenditure. It will certainly bring it out of line with the limitation imposed in other countries on expenditures in constituencies. In Great Britain, for example, if my memory serves me aright, the expenditure is five pence per name of elector in the constituency in boroughs, and six pence in counties. It is hoped that this difficulty, which is perhaps not a very real difficulty but one to which certain objections will be taken, can also be ironed out in committee. The definition of political expenses and political purposes will perhaps not appeal to all those who are intended to be covered by this act. The definition of a political expense is so drawn as to include all outlays designed to affect public opinion or governmental action other than such action as is consequent upon Political Expenditures judicial or semi-judicial procedure. And "political purpose" means: The purpose of promoting or opposing the selection of candidates or of any person as a candidate for membership in the House of Commons, the return of any such candidate, the enactment or repeal of any legislation either by parliament or affecting its legislative jurisdiction, the adoption of any resolution by either house of parliament or the adoption of any policy or the taking of any action by the governor general in council, and extends to and includes all and any analogous purposes. This definition will at once appear to the house to be pretty broad. Certain associations and corporations who do not, generally speaking, consider themselves to be of a political character will inevitably when they engage in their normal activities be embraced within this definition. I could say, for instance. that if such an association existed as a civic reform league which wished to engage counsel for the purpose of promoting the passage of this bill, it would itself probably be the first to come under its provisions. But may I point out to the house that it is essential that all who take part in or undertake any political action must come under the provisions of this act. Otherwise there will be loopholes left for individuals and organizations, and it might be that the effectiveness of the legislation would be destroyed. We must, if this bill is to be of any effect whatsoever, take all precautions to prevent any evasion of its provisions. I agree, and I presume this will be urged during the discussion, that we must not go beyond the lengths to which public opinion would want us to go. This may be perhaps considered as legislation similar to sumptuary legislation or to liquor prohibition legislation. It must have the support of the public, and this particular legislation must have the support of the persons most directly interested, namely, members of parliament. Otherwise it cannot be of any effect. I am quite aware it will be urged that you cannot make people honest by act of parliament. Perhaps you cannot make them honest by act of parliament but you can point out in legislation what their responsibility is with respect to the carrying on of perfectly legitimate actions on their part, and explain to them by that legislation that if they do not follow the prescribed procedure they will be obliged to submit to certain penalties. I suggest that here is a draft bill which covers the main points of certain objections which have been made to our electoral system. Here in cold print the members of this house may see a means of getting away from the abuses which have been inherent in our 51952-128 system. It is their responsibility to study it, and I suggest that it is worthy of their study and attention. Two points I think will be brought up during the course of the discussion, and perhaps I had better deal with them now. First, is a central campaign fund necessary and essential? To this question I reply that, although it may not be absolutely necessary or essential, it is undoubtedly of some advantage to the public. We in this house and in our political activities, however important we may believe our policies, our pronouncements, our discussions and debates may be, must realize that there are outside of this house and throughout the country many, many thousands of persons who are far less interested in us and in our activities and in governmental activities than they are in the sports page of the newspaper, or in the radio or the movies. These people, when election time comes along, must be educated. It is true that under our present system this education is partisan; it is carried out by political parties. But I submit that it is some kind of education, and it provides a means by which an informed verdict may be rendered at a general election. But I would also say this, that a large part of the expenditure made is unnecessary and wasteful, and that a great deal of it is made simply to keep up with the Joneses. If one political party sees that another political party has set up a billboard in a conspicuous place, immediately it must set up a billboard of its own. If one political party has a half-page cartoon in a newspaper, immediately the other parties must have a similar cartoon.


CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

Maybe a better one.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Possibly a more expensive one, which all goes to prove my point that a large proportion of the expenditure thus made on advertising, billboards and the radio, is almost wholly unnecessary.

With respect to the second suggestion, may I pause to deal with a suggestion that has been made that the state assume some responsibility for this expenditure in relation to the education of the people during a general election. It might be done, but I submit that the difficulties in endeavouring to apportion the moneys which parliament had voted for the purpose of an election as between the contending parties or the contending candidates would be so great as to make it almost impossible to carry it out-and I say that advisedly in the face of the knowledge which we have that in Great Britain it is possible, without too much complaint, for the British Broadcasting Corporation to allot certain

Political Expenditures

hours to the different political parties for radio broadcasting. But even there, I have lately heard, all political parties and groups are not satisfied with the allotment given them by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The second question, which is perhaps more important, is, will the publication of campaign contributions bring about the disappearance of such contributions altogether? I admit that it will curtail them somewhat. But we have the example of the United States before us. In the United States, first by voluntary action, I think in 1908, and later by enforceable legislation, the details of campaign subscriptions were made public, and even though we do hear that political parties have not on all and every occasion all the funds which they believe to be necessary, we know that they are able to raise considerable sums for the purpose of their electoral propaganda. But I believe that in this country, if once it were firmly established that no large contributions could be made and that no large funds existed, a very large number of people, stalwart adherents of the theories of government to which their parties were attached, would come forward, finding that their five dollars or ten dollars, which they feared would not be acceptable-on account of their comparative insignificance-under the old system, would now be acceptable, and would support their parties with such donations. In any case, I submit, democracy is in a bad way indeed if we cannot function without secret funds, backdoor subscriptions and underground contributions. What is perhaps still more dangerous is that the widespread belief in the existence of such funds leads to an insistent demand, sometimes very difficult to refuse, by constituency organizations for large sums of money to be expended on individual constituencies.

That brings me to the second object of the bill, that is to say, limitation of expenditure by candidates in promoting their election to parliament.

May I say here that I do not believe that a wholesale purchase of votes is any longer either effective, practicable or popular, whatever may have been the case thirty or forty years ago; and it is perhaps within the memory of very many of us-I know it is within my memory-that people were literally bought on the market place, gangs of forty or fifty men actually sitting on the fence waiting until funds were provided so that they could vote.

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UFOL

Agnes Campbell Macphail

United Farmers of Ontario-Labour

Miss MACPHAIL:

No women.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Women were not allowed to vote in those days. There are some who will say that the present parlous state of our

politics was brought about after the women were given the vote. I am not saying that. But I think I can affirm that the barter of votes as carried on in days gone by no longer exists except perhaps in certain backward communities and remote constituencies. Nevertheless the fact is evident that the cost of elections is getting higher year by year. I make no reference to any particular constituencies. My own experience has been that when the money was available it was spent and when there was no money the work was done just the same.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Perhaps better.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

That gives me ground for the hope that if, generally speaking throughout all the constituencies, the same condition existed-a very small amount of election funds -the election would go on just the same and the result would not be any different. I also have some hope that if there was provision in the legislation for the publication of the detailed expenditures, a very large number of persons who now desire to be compensated for their services would out of very shame be only too willing to work without any compensation whatsoever. There has grown up in our body politic a class of racketeers, organizers, in some cases owners of newspapers-

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Be careful.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

-owners of public halls, pamphleteers, writers and others who believe that the election period is a very carnival for them in order that they may charge, during that election, rates which they would never dare to contemplate at any other time. Even the righteous are sometimes attacked by the same virus. It is within the experience of most of us that candidates are ofttimes saddled with the performance of innumerable good works which they are not in the habit of performing at any other time. They must subscribe to carnivals, to bazaars, to tombolas, to church festivals-

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Sweepstakes.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

-sweepstakes, and popularity contests, in order to make themselves solid with the electorate. It has been said, in a facetious way, perhaps, that the politician's extremity was the puritan's opportunity. Be that as it may, the demands on the purse of the poor unfortunate candidate are such that often it is absolutely impossible for the ordinary citizen to place his services at the disposal of the state. What must he do? He must turn either to his friends or to some one else, and more often to the party funds, for assistance. This assistance is often,

Political Expenditures

indeed almost always furnished to him without his knowledge as to its character and certainly as to its extent; and perhaps I may say here, with no disrespect and no intention of wounding the feelings of any of my colleagues or calling into question the word or conscience of any member of this house, that they are, with premeditation probably, the most blissfully ignorant class in the whole world.

I said that "keeping up with the Joneses" was one of the reasons which brought about the expenditure in connection with general campaign, funds. There is another motive which brings about large expenditures in individual constituencies. It is fear. No one of us would deliberately spend money for corrupt purposes. All the candidates and all hon. members, so far as I am concerned, are honest and law-abiding citizens, but in no other sphere of our life is there so ready an acceptation of the old axiom that "the end justifies the means," and that the other fellow is going to do it if we don't do it. What brings about the greater portion of unlawful, illegal, not to say corrupt political expenditure is the fear that the other side will do something similar and do it first. How many times, in discussing elections after the event, have not two or three or more men from different political groups or allegiances got together and said, "Surely it should be possible among ourselves, who in. every other one of our activities, are honest, decent, law-abiding citizens, to get together and see to it that our partisans and supporters shall be obliged to hew close to the line and run a decent, clean and honest election." Now, if two opponents can do that, if in individual constituencies that idea can be carried out- and I am told that it has been done-why cannot we all here as members of parliament, who know that evils exist and know what they are, also get together and by agreement decide which of these evils should be eliminated and then sanction that agreement by legislation? And that is what this bill proposes to do.

The bill is not a self-denying ordinance; it is a self-protective ordinance so far as members of parliament are concerned. From the purely practical politician's standpoint it proposes to fake steps to prevent an increase in electoral expenditure, and to bring it to the point where an ordinary citizen can face the prospect of an election with honest intention and clean hands. But altogether apart from our own purely selfish interests, there is perhaps a higher and more important aspect

of the question. ' Undoubtedly there is growing throughout the country a contempt for politicians and distrust of certain phases of party politics. There is a belief firmly implanted in the minds of many thoughtful men that the result of electoral campaigns is not a true reflection of the views and opinions of the people, but that these views and opinions have been influenced by propaganda and sometimes by corrupt and corrupting funds raised by people who hope to profit by the advent to, or the maintenance of one party or another in, places of power and responsibility.

Personally, and looking over the results of more recent political campaigns, in general elections particularly, I am not inclined to agree with that view. I believe that almost any one of us, giving a little study to the course of recent campaigns back through the last quarter or half a century, will come to the conclusion that there were many other factors than that of the expenditure of money that contributed, aye, that influenced and carried the verdict of the electorate. But the real point is not that there exist these corrupt practices and these enormous funds for the purpose of manipulating elections. The real point is that if they continue to increase future campaigns might be so influenced. And more important still is the fact that the impression is abroad that actually, and in the future, campaign results will be influenced by the expenditure of large funds on behalf of some party or other. This impression, I submit, is harmful; it is detrimental and it brings our whole system into disrepute.

Our present democratic system is built on confidence. Destroy that confidence and the value of our institutions is almost entirely impaired. A greater threat by far to democracy than the "isms" that now infest our body politic is the belief that electoral manipulation, electoral manoeuvring, "electoralism" as it is called in our province, is undermining the very basis of democracy. We must, if we wish to firmly establish democracy again in the minds of our people, pay some heed to that belief and endeavour to cure the ills that appear at the moment to be inherent in the system. There is going on at the present time a world wide struggle between totalitarianism and democracy. It has its reflection in this country, and it devolves upon us, who believe in our present system of government, to endeavour to cure the ills that are inherent in it. I believe that we can accomplish this by cleaning house where housecleaning is necessary, and I also believe that if we do not soon clean house we shall

Political Expenditures

be open to the charge of being indifferent and negligent in our duty.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):

The very excellent address to which we have listened from the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Power) is, I hope, an augury of its reflection in adequate legislation. No matter has more engrossed the attention of thoughtful men than the question of electoral corruption, and in every country where democratic institutions have been established, an earnest effort has been made to secure their perpetuation by the generation that has had to deal with the problem.

It was not so very long ago that Walpole said that every man had his price; and yet great changes have taken place since that time. It was not so very long ago that we had open voting; and yet the introduction of the ballot did not result in what was very strongly hoped for at the time it was introduced. It was not so very long ago that the printing press made it possible to express the views of contending parties by the circulation of pamphlets in very large numbers throughout the constituencies; and yet the pamphleteer had his greatest innings m the eighteenth century. It was not so very long ago that we endeavoured in this house to deal with the difficulties of personation; and I can recall the speech of the hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat when an effort was being made in that direction. I am bound to say that despite all the efforts that were made personation still continued and does continue in this country on a very amazing scale. It was not so very long ago that we talked about elections not being won with prayers; and yet I have it, on what I conceive to be not only sound but absolutely correct authority, that as much as $42,000 was made available for one seat in a local election in the province of Ontario.

That gives you some idea of what I mean. It was not so very long ago that we talked about the methods that were used for the purpose of circumventing the law. I do not think it would be very difficult to give the evidences, if I were called upon, of men who, canvassing, would ask for a glass of water and express a willingness to pay $10 for it. And I had it from a gentleman who himself was interested that not so very long ago, in fact within the last two years, large quantities of flour and sugar have been made available for very small sums of money to those who had the right kind of ticket to present in payment. Sometimes a cabbage would buy a substantial quantity of flour, or another vegetable would buy a substantial

amount of sugar. I am not suggesting for a moment that one party had any monopoly of these matters; I never have. But I cannot but remember investigations that have taken place in this house. I was reminding some of our friends who were discussing this matter with me the other day of what reached its flood tide level in connection with the Huron West election. If any hon. member cares to look at the journals of the House of Commons to see what was done, he will find that schools were established for the purpose of teaching people how to have a blacklead under the thumb nail so as to be able to mark a ballot in favour of a given candidate while the real ballot never reached the ballot box. All these are things which, I hope, we are outgrowing, but have not entirely outgrown. If the bill to be presented by the minister will do anything to accelerate progress in that direction, it will indeed accomplish much.

But it is not with that phase of the matter that this legislation proposes to deal. It deals with the relationship of the candidate to the constituency. By the candidate I mean his party, his organization, and-from what the minister has said; of course I have not seen the measure-the central authority which directs the operations of the campaign, that is, the general staff. No one who is familiar with these matters will endeavour to minimize the difficulty of dealing with them. He would indeed be a fool who would suggest that they can be dealt with by a stroke of a pen; who thinks that all you have to do is to pass a bill through parliament and the matter is ended. What is more, in nine cases out of ten-I think it is not too high an average-it is over-enthusiastic friends of the candidate who cause the difficulty. When I say over-enthusiastic friends I mean men who very often have no public conscience at all, who look upon politics as a game and the prostitution of the electorate as something to be commended rather than otherwise. No one who has read, for instance, the records of some of the election courts during the last half century, or the reports of the special committees in this house, can fail to realize that there has grown up-not limited entirely to one party, let me say again-a class of men whose one purpose in life is to flourish at election times and see how much they can get out of the candidate and the use they can put it to for the purpose of prostituting the electorate. There is the man who is handy with money. He is always in evidence. I have seen such men even in more recent years, who are perfectly willing to be entrusted with substantial sums of money to

Political Expenditures

meet legitimate election costs, and who unfortunately grow rich in the process while the electors become correspondingly poor.

When the minister said that the House of Commons was the most blissfully ignorant institution in the world in this regard I could not but recall an occasion on which I said: Will any hon. gentleman in this house say that his campaign has not been assisted by funds from another source than his own purse? I think there were two hon. members in the chamber who asserted their innocence, and one had such a bland and childlike countenance that I have never forgotten it. It was the personification of an innocence which could hardly live in the twentieth century, and was more entitled to the honour of sainthood than that of a member of parliament. It would be idle to disguise from ourselves as thoughtful men and as trustees for the future that this evil exists. The question is how it is to be met.

When I was away from Canada I endeavoured to ascertain how it was being dealt with by other democracies. I have studied to some extent conditions in the United States. I shall never forget what a distinguished man there said to me. As chairman of a committee connected with one of the service clubs, his duty was to do what he could during his term of office to advance citizenship. I asked him: " How do you manage, for instance, in a great city like Pittsburgh, in connection with elections"? He replied: "I really could not tell you, Mr. Bennett, how we deal with that in detail, but as far as I know the party says: We want a majority of say fifty from that precinct, and they take the necessary steps to get it." That was all he could say about it, which struck me as passing strange.

They have made great progress in the United States in dealing with the problem. The minister said he intended to give us some facts with respect to the progress made there; I assume that in committee he will do so. Each state has dealt with the matter from the standpoint of state elections. It will be recalled that the federal power utilizes the state machinery in connection with elections to congress, which take place every two years, and elections to the senate, which happen less frequently. They have made very great advances. Any hon. members who have read the life of Mark Hanna will readily understand what I mean: the tremendous cost involved in, for instance, the conduct of the last effort that he made to card index a state-I think Illinois-just before a very vital election.

The question of where the money comes from is very important. It is also very important to know where it goes. You may

have a small sum of money and may use it for corrupt purposes; you may have a large sum and use it all for legal and correct purposes. The question of the end or use to which the money is put becomes of great importance. Therefore apart altogether from establishing the source of funds it would seem that the extent to which money may be used to accomplish a purpose becomes of transcendent importance. We talk of this democratic form of government as government of the people, by the people and for the people; it flows very glibly from our tongues. But the first question that is asked in connection with an election, especially a by-election, is, what is it going to cost? Expert testimony could be given on that point in this chamber, I have no doubt. In fact I might be able to satisfy the curiosity of some of our friends in that regard myself. The question of the amount that may be expended in an election becomes of very great importance.

In England this matter was very carefully studied, and the amount that may be expended by a candidate in an election has been fixed. But as one of my friends said, that involves at once the question of the uneven distribution of votes in constituencies in this country. I pointed out here some time ago, for instance, that we realize that the redistribution in the eastern end of Ontario is not a fair distribution in the sense in which you and I use that word in everyday life. Yet the long established character of the constituencies, the fact that they always were separate from a neighbouring constituency, was given consideration. The effect was, of course, that one constituency in the Niagara peninsula has a population nearly as great, we will say, as two, if not three, of those constituencies. They were rural constituencies, while in the Niagara peninsula you had large urban communities. That has a direct effect upon the question of limiting the amount of expenditures in elections. If it is four pence or five pence per head of the population-

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I said four pence. It is five pence for an elector in a borough, and six pence in a county.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes. I have called it ten cents, roughly, in our country.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Besides the personal expenses; they are not included.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

No, it does not include that. The candidate pays for staying at a hotel over night, or for gasoline for his car, or the operation of a motor car. Those are expenditures made by a candidate for all

Political Expenditures

purposes, but not for getting in the vote. For instance, there are halls, bands, radios, advertising and all that sort of thing included in the five pence for the county.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

And there is a mailing privilege also, of so much a name. There is permission for two ounces of election matter free, which amounts to a thousand pounds in some cases.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

A very large amount, I suppose, in some places. But roughly, the figure I have used in making the computation was ten cents. Five pence is substantially ten cents. In some constituencies that would limit the expenditure to a small sum of money. In some it would amount to a very large sum of money. In a large city constituency, for instance, there might be a very dense population, and the expenditure would be large.

I do not know to what extent we may be able, in a measure, perhaps, to deal with the matter, and I am not going to anticipate what the measure provides in that regard. All I can say is I regard it as absolutely essential that some such restriction should be provided.

The question of compulsory voting was not referred to by the minister. In a sense, it has nothing to do with this measure; in reality it applies more directly to the franchise measure. But I am bound to say that the experience in Australia in that regard has been exceedingly satisfactory-most amazingly satisfactory. For instance, let us consider one of the difficulties we have all had. The law says that you shall not employ motor cars on election day to bring out the vote. If I were to ask for all those who have not paid for motor cars to hold up their hands, members who live in cities, I believe there would be a dearth of uplifted hands.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Except from the innocents, who do not know.

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April 5, 1938