It must have been owing to the fact that he is the putative father. There is an axiom in law in cases of disputed succession, that he is the father whom the marriage points out. I might paraphrase that by saying that he is the father who introduced the bill. The minister was associated with it in that regard, and in that regard only, in a very step-fatherly way. We all know that his ability and, above all, his sense of humour, would have entirely prevented him from having drafted of his own initiative such an abortion as the thing which was presented last year.
The bill was worse than the word I applied to it. I think it was a burlesque. Having read it a year ago, I have not now a clear recollection of all its provisions, but it certainly was a ridiculous and an unworkable thing. I wonder sometimes if it was not intended to be unworkable. One of the matters of interest to the group members was this thing called a corporation sole and two other positions at the same time, a sort of trinity proposition, and provision was made that the trinity had to be a lawyer or an accountant. It might well be that in ridings represented by social crediters there was no lawyer or accountant of their political party; they would be compelled to employ and be under the domination of this lawyer or accountant, who might be entirely opposed to their views, and he could make it very interesting and disconcerting in the conduct of the election. His powers are almost unbounded.
Something was said about limiting the costs to so much per head. Well, I am sorry, but if they put the costs at any reasonable figure I am afraid it will mean that I shall be unable to take part in an election. Ten cents a head, I assume, would be a reasonable cost.
Elections and Electoral Districts
and that would allow me a thousand dollars to spend on an election which ordinarily costs me between four and five thousand dollars. They say, "Oh, well, but it is done in Great Britain." But Britain is an established, settled country where a polling station, if it has eighty-five people to-day, will have eighty-six or eighty-four five or ten years from now. They know what it will cost. In our polling divisions we may have three hundred to-day and perhaps three at the next election, or perhaps four or five hundred. The conditions are so different that they cannot be compared, and I do not think any hon. member wants to be put in this position. You have struggled through the election with the difficulties of this corporation sole and these other capacities as well; you think you have won through at last, have kept within the margin you were told to keep in, that is that you must not spend more than ten cents a head, and have won the election.
I speak now not for myself, because it does not apply to me as I do not get party funds. But take the case of the man drawing party funds. He has been elected, or so he thinks; he has kept within the costs as far as he can honestly ascertain them; and six weeks after the election he gets a notice from Ottawa, "sorry, you have spent $4.81 more than you should have done, and you are unseated." He writes back and says, "No, I didn't; I kept well within the margin." "Oh, yes, but your proportion of the money spent by the headquarters of your party, your share, estimated to be so much, comes to so much, and therefore that puts you over the line." We do not want a machinery which will put members of parliament, no matter whether they are ourselves or some other candidate, in that position.
I agree heartily with what the minister said, that he thought the present bill, by merely being extended and expanded in certain regards, could do a great deal of what is aimed at in these resolutions. I heartily agree with him there. Take the case of the expenditures of sums of money. Under our present act the agent has to put in a return under oath of the amount of money he has received, how he has expended it and-note this-from whom he received it. Could one have anything more definite than that? But the way he gets out from under it under the present circumstances is this. He says, " I got $4,000 from Bill Jones and others." Bill Jones may have contributed $200 and the party fund or some corporation may have contributed the balance. That could be very easily adjusted by compelling the agent to state in the case
of every sum bigger than say $50, from whom he got it, and that would be done by a trivial change in the act which we have now.
We are told, and it is a sort of bait held out to us, that one of the results of this may be to reduce the costs of the candidates. Well, I cannot see it. I am afraid it is going to increase the cost to us, because we are going to be at the beck and call of the corporation sole fellow; in the middle of the election he may come forward and say, " You cannot hire that hall because you are exceeding your quota up to date," or something of that kind, and in this trinity of capacities he is likely to cost you a great deal of money. Above all that, there is the harassing anxiety when you are running an election-and it is an anxious enough time-that you will never know until it is all over, perhaps six weeks or perhaps six months afterwards, whether you have not been unseated through some trivial overexpenditure which you were perfectly incompetent or unable to stop at the time.
I know there are restrictions of this kind in Britain, but conditions there are totally different from what they are here, especially in the west where conditions change every month and every year. Now I would desire to see every one of the suggestions the minister has in his resolution put forward and carried to a conclusion. Certainly we want everything that is put there. But for the love of heaven and for the love of wretched candidates who will have to carry on, cut out last year's bill, or put it in the fire, or put it to some more ignoble purpose.
I should like to say one or two words in seconding the amendment to the resolution moved by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil). Before I do that I wish to congratulate the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Power) upon the subject-matter of the resolution which we discussed before recess. I am in the fullest accord with the two sections of that resolution, and I hope that not only will the committee be able to find ways and means of making a more satisfactory and possibly more just redistribution of seats than we have had hitherto, but that it will also find ways and means of keeping election expenses within reasonable bounds. I do not share the fears of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) that at some time I may over-spend, that I may spend more in my election than is allowed by the committee, because I am sure that I shall never have that much money to spend. Poverty has its advantages; I am free from that fear.
Elections and Electoral Districts
I wish it to be noted that the amendment moved by the hon. member for Vancouver North has reference to British Columbia only. The reason that absentee voting is so important to British Columbia is first, the economy of the country, which takes a great many of the voters away from their homes on election day; and second, because we have had for many, many years absentee voting in the provincial elections. I am not sure whether the first act was passed in 1920 or 1924, but I think it was the former year. I believe all federal members from British Columbia are agreed upon the value and the desirability of absentee voting. I never heard one of them oppose it. I remember that on one occasion shortly after the system had been put into effect there was some opposition because of irregularities which had developed, but that was overcome, and there has been no opposition since. I hope, therefore, hon. members will keep in mind that we are asking that this amendment apply only in British Columbia. Of course if hon. members from other provinces wish the same method to apply in their provinces, that is satisfactory to us. .
I should like to read two sections from the revised statutes of British Columbia, chapter 84, having to do with provincial elections. Section 10S provides for absentee voting, and it will be observed, when I read the section, that in British Columbia absentee voting applies not only to persons outside their own electoral districts on election day but to persons who may be in their own electoral districts but not in the particular polling division in which they are registered. Section 108, subsection 1 of the provincial act reads:
For the purpose of exercising his franchise, any voter whose name is on the list of voters for one polling division of an electoral district, and who is absent from that polling division on the day on which the poll is held, may obtain an absent voter's ballot-paper in any other polling division of the same electoral district and may record his vote in the manner provided in this section.
That section covers all of British Columbia, with the exception of the electoral districts in the cities of Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster.
Section 109 is still wider than section 108. Subsection 1 of section 109 provides:
For the purpose of exercising his franchise at any general election, any voter whose name is on the list of voters for one electoral district, and who is absent from that district on the day on which a poll is held therein, may obtain an absent voter's ballot-paper for that district in any polling division of any other electoral district in which a poll is being held, and may record his vote in the manner provided in this section.
As I said before, in British Columbia we have had this method of voting for the past twenty years. The people have become accustomed to it. Loggers and others who, on election day, are away from their homes, or from the places where their names appear bn the voters' lists, feel that they have something to do with the election of the government when they are allowed to exercise their franchise.
It seems to me that democracy means the extending to every class within the country the privilege of taking part in the government of the country. To the extent that we can do that, and to the extent that all classes can take part in the government of the country, jujt to that extent do we have democracy. And to the extent that any class, or section of any class, is restricted from taking part in the government of the country, or in electing its representatives, to that extent is our democracy limited.
A great deal of argument has been made about the cost. In my opinion in the election of 1935 the high cost was on account of the inexperience of the election workers. I am sure that with better organization and the freer use of the absentee method of voting the cost would be much less. In the amendment we are asking to have this method applied to four different occupations, namely, lumbermen, fishermen, seamen and miners. I would point out to the house that in the provincial elections in British Columbia absentee voting is not restricted to any particular occupations. As I have indicated in the two sections I have read, any person who is not in his polling division or electoral district on election day may vote by absentee ballot. I would ask the government to give the most favourable consideration to the amendment to enlarge the scope of the reference to the committee, before deciding to turn the amendment down.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil), I can only say that last year in committee considerable time was spent in discussing the subject of absentee voting. If the amendment is in order, which I doubt very much, my first objection to it would be that it applies only to British Columbia. If the act is going to be amended to provide for absentee voting, then it would appear to me that there should be general application so that it would apply to every province. The maritime provinces must be in exactly the same position as British Columbia, and the same observation would apply to those constituencies facing on the
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great lakes. The sailors on those lakes will be absent from home, just in the same way as the seamen, lumbermen and fishermen of British Columbia may be absent.
The hon. member has referred to my remarks of last year as reported at page 4246 of Hansard. On that occasion I said:
The committee found that the expense of absentee voting did not warrant our including it in this bill. For instance, in the election of 1935 there were 5,334 votes polled under the absentee voting provision. We found that 1,533 of them were rejected. The cost of absentee voting was approximately $250,000, or $65 plus, per vote. And it was by reason of the expense which was incurred in connection with absentee voting the committee decided that for the sake of a vote of that size we would not be warranted in inserting a clause which would deal with absentee voting.
If expense is no object, then I assume we can provide for every person in Canada, no matter where he or she may be, exercising his or her franchise on election day. Certainly machinery can be set up in some way whereby every man would have an opportunity to vote, either before or after the election, and whether or not he was in his own constituency or polling subdivision.
However, I believe the committee had before them all the representations which have been made this evening, and they gave every consideration to the matter. Their conclusion was that they were not justified in inserting the absentee provisions which were in the 1934 act.
Various methods were discussed. As a matter of fact, representations were made to the committee by an organization of sailors on the great lakes. Representations were made with respect to the exercising of their franchise, and I believe a resolution of two or three pages was presented in which suggestions were made which would have had the effect of permitting them to vote. However, so far as I am concerned as a member of the committee-and I assume other members will have the same view-I am ready to reconsider the matter, if it is deemed advisable. But I do not see how the same committee can reach a conclusion different from the one they arrived at last year. If the amendment is in order I would consider discussing the matter again-although I see the hon. member for Leeds (Mr. Stewart) shaking his head. I assume he is of the same opinion I am, namely that it will not get any further than it did last year.
no intention of speaking on this motion, but in view of certain statements that have been made during the debate I should like to make a few brief remarks. It has been suggested that the social credit proposals were used as a bribe during the last provincial election in Alberta. Hon. members making those charges show complete ignorance of the growth of the social credit movement in that province. That movement started at least three years before the election. It was started as an economic movement, with no intention at that time of political action. An attempt was made to persuade the United Farmers of Alberta government to introduce legislation implementing the social credit proposals, and it was not until that government had definitely refused to take any action in that regard that finally the people of Alberta from one end to the other demanded of Mr. Aberhart that he organize politically. In view of that it cannot possibly be maintained that social credit was used as a bribe, because the people cannot very well bribe themselves, and it was as a result of the demands of the people that the action was taken.
I will, however, agree that in the last election social credit was used as a bribe, not by the Social Credit party but by the leader of the Liberal party in Alberta.
Many Liberal candidates and speakers are denouncing social credit with great vigour. But no matter how completely one may agree with what they have to say on the subject, it is impossible to forget the stand that their leader has taken and the pledge that was given in the party's platform. A statement from Mr. Howson was published in the editorial column of the Medicine Hat News on January 14 last, which read:
"The Liberal party has maintained an open mind and has and will be at all times fully prepared to treat the social credit idea sympathetically. ... I sincerely hope that no Liberal member or candidate and no Liberal may take the position of fighting the social credit movement."
In an address at Bentley, three and a half months later, Mr. Howson had this to say:
You may be surprised to learn that the Liberal party was in the field on behalf of social credit before the Alberta movement started. . . . Mr. Aberhart has promised his followers no more than the Liberal party has. As a matter of fact he has promised them less.
So when people suggest that social credit was used as a bribe in Alberta, remember that it was by the leader of the Liberal party.
Some people may say that the Social Credit party in Alberta has not succeeded in carrying out its promises in full. But if the leader of the Liberal party-and I am now talking of the federal leader-had kept his promises, then Alberta would have had a far better chance to fulfil its program than it has had. Of course I am referring to the promise made in Saskatoon in the 1935 campaign, reported as follows:
In Alberta at the present moment the government was launched on the experiment of social credit. "I hope with all my heart that they will he successful," said Mr. King, assuring the audience that if he was returned as Prime Minister of Canada, Alberta would be assured of the greatest freedom in carrying out its experiment under the Liberal policy of not interfering with the rights of the provinces.
Surely no one will suggest that that promise has been fulfilled.
The Prime Minister may say that disallowance was out of his hands. But I refer to another matter in which the promise of this government was not kept. I refer to the action taken in the spring of 1936 when some of the provinces, including Alberta, had certain bonds maturing. They were given the option of either depending upon their own resources, which generally speaking meant default, or becoming a party to the loan council.
It was only when the Prime Minister denied that the rights of the provinces had been interfered with, that I mentioned that subject.
The leader of the opposition (Mr. Manic'' took exception to a certain Professor Anonymous. Surely he is not suggesting that the premier of Alberta was trying to make the people of Alberta believe that this gentleman was in reality a professor of economics. If he was fooled by that play he was the only one who was. It was just a piece of playacting, but apparently the acting was so good that the leader of the opposition thought it was real. It was generally understood by
everyone in Alberta; the people knew those who took part in that little play; it was a little act put on week after week.
It depends on one's point of view. To the followers of the movement it was humorous; from the psychology of a hidebound Conservative of course it would be highly distasteful.
Another point referred to by the leader of the opposition was those articles in the Ottawa Citizen. Personally I cannot see anything to take exception to in those articles. It is old, old stuff which, generally speaking, has been believed in Canada for years. We all know there are campaign funds; we know that in some instances contributions have been large, and I do not think there is any change in that respect.
I did not claim that there are no campaign funds, I said there are. But the Citizen charged that both the Liberal and the Conservative party are the tools of the people who contribute to campaign funds; that is what I contradicted.