March 13, 1939

CON

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BROOKS:

For a copy of all payrolls, tenders, vouchers, and a statement showing quantities of timber and other materials used in connection with work carried out under the foremanship ot Hermand L. Reid, district No. 10, municipality of Cumberland, Nova Scotia, together with the name of the inspector, if any, and the rate of pay.

Topic:   MOTIONS FOR PAPERS
Subtopic:   CUMBERLAND, N.S., PUBLIC WORKS
Permalink

ST. HUBERT, QUE., RAILWAY CROSSING

LIB

Vincent Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. DUPUIS:

For a copy of all correspondence, papers, letters, telegrams and other documents in the possession of the transport commission and exchanged between the government of the province of Quebec, the board of railway commissioners or the transport commission, or any member or officer thereof, and Vincent Dupuis, member of parliament, with respect to the elimination of railway crossing at St. Hubert, county of Chambly.

Topic:   ST. HUBERT, QUE., RAILWAY CROSSING
Permalink

CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD

CON

Ernest Edward Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PERLEY moved:

For a copy of all correspondence, papers, letters, telegrams and other documents exchanged between the Minister of Trade and Commerce or any member of the government and any member of the Winnipeg grain exchange with respect to the wheat board's operating and selling policy and the distribution of the board's business among members of the Winnipeg grain exchange.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
LIB

William Daum Euler (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. EULER:

Mr. Speaker, there is no objection to the passing of the motion, but perhaps my hon. friend would inform me as to the period for which he desires the information.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
CON

Ernest Edward Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PERLEY:

I would suggest that it be from the first of August to the first of January.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink

Motion agreed to.


LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Hon. C. G. POWER (Minister of National Health) moved:

That a special committee consisting of Messrs. Bothwell, Brunelle, Cahan, Clark (York-Sun-bury), Dussault, Factor, Fair, Glen, Heaps, Jean, MacLean (Prince), MacNicol, McCuaig, McCulloch, McIntosh, McLean (Simcoe East), Mullins, Gauthier, Pelletier, Perley, Power, Purdy, Rickard, Robichaud, St-Pere, Stevens, Stewart, Stirling, Taylor (Norfolk), Turgeon, Turner, Wermenlinger and Wood, notwithstanding section one of standing order 65 in relation to the number of members thereof, be appointed to study and report on the following subjects:

(a) Methods used to effect a redistribution of electoral districts in Canada and in other countries and to make suggestions to the house in connection therewith;

(b) Methods whereby: (I) the source and

disposition of sums received and expended in promoting the return of members of the House of Commons may be readily traceable; (II) publicity may be given to all receipts and expenditures in connection therewith; (III) the cost of elections to candidates may be reduced; (IV) the amount that may be spent by or on behalf of a candidate in his election campaign may be limited;

And that the said special committee have power to send for persons papers and records, to examine witnesses under oath and report from time to time.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the object of this motion is to set up again for this year a committee which has been functioning for the past three sessions of this parliament. During the 1936 session the committee studied and reported on such matters as proportional representation, the alternative vote, compulsory registration and voting. During the session of 1937 it considered a large number of proposals which had been made to this house, and particularly to the committee, having for their object the revision of the elections act. Of these proposals, something over one hundred in number, I am informed, some thirty-three were adopted and passed into legislation.

The committee also gave some consideration during the 1937 session to the question of the method of arriving at an equitable redistribution of the seats in this house. During the session of 1938, in the light of the information they had gained from the suggestions made to them by the public, by members of parliament, by organizations, and also by the chief electoral officer, whose long experience in matters of this kind formed the basis of his recommendations, the committee studied and finally recommended unanimously

Elections and Electoral Districts

an act known as the Dominion Elections Act, which, with some minor amendments, finally passed this house. I think it can be said, generally speaking, that this act, so far as we are able to judge, since it has not been in operation in an actual theatre of war, has given general satisfaction.

There remain for the consideration of the committee two subjects which are cognate to those already discussed, namely, first, that of methods of effecting redistribution of seats in this house, and second, the question of election and campaign expenditures.

With respect to the redistribution of seats, I think the advisability and even the necessity of remodelling the procedure whereby every ten years or so this house is made the theatre of a somewhat unseemly, undignified and utterly confusing scramble for personal or political advantage, should be evident to all. The difficulty of making an equitable distribution of seats in any country is increased many fold in this country, where we must take into consideration diversity of interests, economic and social; the racial distinctions which exist; the growth of population; and the varying movements of our population brought about to some extent by economic causes in our cities, and in the rural districts, by the opening up of our hinterland. I say this country is an extremely difficult one to redistribute, and that makes it all the more necessary that there should be a drastic change in the system which we have followed up to the present.

As hon. members of the house know, these redistributions have taken place as a result of conferences, of meetings of committees, and finally of what you might almost call a battle royal in this house. It is inevitable no matter which party is in power that there should be complaints and that the distribution of seats will not meet wfith the approval of all. There are to-day, as there have been in the past, what I might call almost appalling inequalities of distribution. To cite only a few of them: In the province of Quebec, the constituency of Argenteuil has 11,122 voters and sends one member to this house. Another rural constituency, that of Joliette-L'Assomp-tion-Montcalm, has 30,363 voters and sends only one representative to this house. Among the urban constituencies in the city of Montreal, St. Lawrence-St. George, with 22,549 voters, sends one member, and St. James, with 54,760 voters, sends one member. It is not surprising that there has arisen a suspicion that the redistribution was undertaken or was carried out not so much in the interests of giving a better distribution of seats but, on the part of some government, to have a greater

[Mr. Power. 1

number of their own followers in the house. But I say and repeat that this would happen no matter what government were in power, and we can only come to the conclusion upon looking over the ground that there should be evolved some method other than the law of the jungle-might is right-in order to bring about a distribution which would be fair to the people of Canada.

With this object in view, the committee instructed its counsel to inquire into the systems in vogue in other countries, particularly in the newer countries of the British empire. At this distance, at least, it would appear that the legislation in force in Australia and New Zealand could perhaps be adapted to our needs, and the counsel for the committee has made a study of this legislation and is prepared to submit to the committee a draft bill, not by any means as a formal bill or as a government bill, but in order that it may be able to make a further study of these matters. The draft bill would contain some such provisions as this: That there be set up a commission, presided over by a judge of the supreme court, and joined to him the surveyor general of Canada and perhaps one other member; that when the redistribution of any particular province was being studied, one or two persons from that province might join in the deliberations; that there should be public meetings held throughout the country and representatives heard from the different bodies; and that this commission would draw up a plan of redistribution. I should say first that the commission would be given instructions, because in this country particularly instructions would be necessary: instructions, for instance, as to the basis of redistribution, which basis, as is already well known, is laid down in the British North America Act, the basis whereby each province is allotted a certain number of members. They might also be given instructions with regard to such fundamental factors as the physical-geographical features, means of communication, existing boundaries of electoral districts both federal and provincial, and boundaries of administrative areas. The object in suggesting a bill to the committee is to give the committee something to work on which might stimulate thought and perhaps eventually action. I can only say that if the committee sees its way clear to bring in a recommendation and this house were to pass some such legislation, it would earn our commendation and gratitude.

Now a word or two with respect to the other matter which is referred to the committee, namely:

Methods W'hereby: (I) the source and disposition of sums received and expended in promoting the return of members of the House of

Elections and Electoral Districts

Commons may be readily traceable; (II) publicity may be given to all receipts and expenditures in connection therewith; (III) the cost of elections to candidates may be reduced; (IV) the amount that may be spent by or on behalf of a candidate in his election campaign may be limited.

Last year a bill entitled the Political Expenditures Act was introduced into this house and immediately sent to the committee. Owing to the fact that nearly all the time of the committee was taken up with the study and the moulding of the Dominion Elections Act-which had to have precedence over any other business, because had there been no dominion elections act passed last session there would have been no provision in our statutes for the holding of a general election had one beep necessary last year-it was impossible to give more than casual study to the political expenditures bill. But the committee did report this, on motion of Mr. Robichaud;

Resolved that the committee report on Bill No. 90- .

That was the political expenditures bill.

-as follows: Your committee approves of the objects of Bill No. 90 and recommends that a similar bill be introduced at the next session of parliament and referred to a committee of the house for its consideration.

I should say that generally speaking, from what we have been able to ascertain, from correspondence and from comments in the press, the idea of the Political Expenditures Act was well received. I believed last year, and I still believe, that there were no faults in it which could not have been corrected by amendments made in committee. But I am willing to admit that a hasty perusal of the bill, such as in all probability was given by most of us, would seem to indicate that it was based on an academic idealism not quite consistent with our hard-boiled political philosophy.

The objections raised last year were mainly these: that there was no necessity for a special act, and that it would be better if the whole law with respect to elections were found within the four corners of a single enactment; that the procedure might be costly, and that the nomenclature was new and should not be changed. For instance, there was mention of the corporation sole, of the trustee, and so on-all words which meant what we have been accustomed to call the official agent. There was the suggestion that the method of keeping the accounts was somewhat involved, and that certain very onerous duties were placed upon the banks who should keep the accounts of political candidates-duties which it was not quite likely that the banks would discharge.

It was thought, also, that the administration of the act would require the setting up of an entirely new department, and generally speaking that the act was too complicated and that some simpler method might perhaps be found.

Towards the end of the last session, in reply to the right hon. Mr. Bennett, I said, as reported at page 4230 of Hansard;

It is quite possible that there were contained in that bill certain provisions which did not meet with the entire approval of all the members of this house or even of all the members of the committee. I am under the impression that sooner or later, possibly this year, the committee will accept at least the principle of the bill, and it will perhaps be left for some of us to work out the details in a manner which will be more acceptable to the members of the house generally.

During the recess the subject matter of the bill, perhaps more than the bill itself, was made the object of further study, and it will be found quite possible to submit to the committee suggestions which, by amending only two sections of the Dominion Elections Act itself, will achieve the same result as was sought last year in a separate bill, and will embody in one statute instead of two all the important and essential features which appeal to those sincere in their advocacy of reform.

It is with some misgiving that I mention sincerity in the same breath as reform. Reform, that staid and respectable goddess, has of late been sued too often and too successfully by pseudo-messiahs not to have been divested of some of her pristine virtue. The peoples of this north American continent have not, of late, been particularly enamoured of reform movements as such, and I fear that perhaps last year too much emphasis was placed on reform and moral uplift, thus arousing a certain antagonism and prejudice which derogated from the really true and practical value of the legislation which was introduced.

I am not unmindful, either, that the legislation itself, not unexpectedly, met with the gibes and sneers of the sceptical, the perhaps ill-disposed, and certainly of the ribald; and it was not very long before the bill was known as the "lily-white" bill, the "snow-white" bill and the "purity purge." To have received more support in the house, it should really have been entitled "an act to prevent the exploitation of parliamentary candidates, and to promote economy in elections."

It is essentially a businesslike piece of legislation, and it was an attempt so to modify the law that the candidates would be enabled to apply to election campaigns the same open, sane businesslike methods that they apply

Elections and Electoral Districts

in their own business. It was most emphatically not the deathbed repentance of a reformed political rake who, with the zeal of the convert, is anxious to cram new-found civic virtue down the throats of his colleagues.

I should like to repeat what I have already said, that the cost of election campaigns is too high, and that some means must be found to lower it. I should like to repeat also that political corruption, wholesale bribery and the distribution of liquor has to a large extent disappeared from our political morality, usages and customs. It has been succeeded, though, by more modern methods of propaganda and proselytism, which are almost as expensive. Electors, rightly or wrongly, believe that campaign funds are unlimited, and that they are to be dug or gouged out of an almost bottomless purse. As soon as an election is in prospect, candidates, organizers and supporters get together and decide that their man must have the largest and best-equipped hall in the community. He must have the best brass band, and his advertising must be on the front page. He must have the best and the longest possible time on the radio. His placards and posters must be the most artistic, and if Rembrandt or Titian were alive to-day they would be hired to decorate the fenceposts of the neighbourhood with the portraits of the candidate.

It is absolutely futile in many instances for the candidate to protest that he has no funds. The faithful insist that he must have the same consideration as any other candidate, and that the constituency is being discriminated against unless he is as well advertised as the very leaders of the party in the country. The way to avoid this tendency towards extravagant expenditure is, I believe, first, to publicize the aggregate amount of funds received by the party; second, to publicize the expenditures made in any election campaign; third, to limit the amount which may be expended in a constituency; fourth, to have detailed accounts of every cent spent in a constituency made and reported, I can rather imagine that if this measure is enacted something like this may well happen. When the election is in prospect the candidate will call in Bill Smith from the fifth range of the second concession of blank township, and he will say, "Well, Bill, how are things going this year?" Bill will say, "Not so good, you know; not so good. The opposition are burning up the ground with their automobiles; they are going around from house to house; we shall have to make pretty good preparations here." Eventually it will come down to something like this; "Well, what is it

going to be this year?" Bill will probably say, "Two or three hundred dollars; you know, we will have to have a brass band, and meetings, and this and that." The candidate probably will say to Bill, "It can't be done this year any more; it can't be done as it was in the past, because some fool in parliament has just passed a bill to prevent me from spending more than 83,000 in this constituency. The other side are in exactly the same boat."

I know exactly what Bill's first reaction will be. It will be that of one of my friends who, on being told that there was to be no liquor used in the constituency by either side, said, "Well, I hope to hell you will both be beaten," which is the vernacular for the Shakespearean "a plague o' both your houses." But when Bill is persuaded that this is the law, I think he will finally come round, and the last straw that will eventually convert him will be this statement: "All right; if you do get $50 or $100 it is going to be printed in the blue-book and all your neighbours will read about it." Then I think Bill will come round and do for nothing what in his so-called loyalty he had always boasted he was doing for the party for nothing anyway.

The suggestions which are proposed to be incorporated in the submission to be put before the committee, and which are really those which were contained in the political expenditures bill last year, without some of the frills to which I have referred, will cover such points as these: Limitation of the amount that may be spent in a constituency; books and detailed accounts to be kept by an official; the detailed accounts to be incorporated in a return to be sent to the chief electoral officer-not, as is the case at the present time, to be sent to the returning officers and hidden away; the chief electoral officer to examine all returns and make inquiry if necessary; the chief electoral officer to make reports to the Speaker after inquiry made; the chief electoral officer to publish summary returns in the Canada Gazette and a similar summary in the blue-book; and lastly, national and provincial federal organizations to keep detailed accounts and make returns to the chief electoral officer, and publication in the Canada Gazette and the blue-book to follow.

The point I should like to stress here is that if we take even the provisions which already exist in our legislation, and clarify them and strengthen them and extend them to provide for real instead of veiled publicity, we can and will persuade even the unbelievers among the faithful that the law no longer winks at evasions, and we shall be giving

Elections and Electoral Districts

greater satisfaction to the public. It is true, as was said last year by a number of people, that you cannot make people good by act of parliament. You cannot by act of parliament prevent people from committing murder either, but you can by placing laws on the statute book make it inconvenient for him to do so and extremely uncomfortable for him afterwards if he does.

I firmly believe that there is no necessity for all the expenditure which is made in political campaigns. I do not believe that all this expenditure alters one single vote. If the people have made up their minds to vote a certain way, 5,11 the money in the world will not change that determination. I also think that this legislation or any legislation such as this cannot be passed unless it has the wholehearted support of every corner of the house and every individual member in it. And I think that support will be forthcoming if hon. members realize that this is a business proposal, that in a simple and practical way it is proposed to put candidates in such a position that they shall be able to resist pressure, and that the law can be enforced with a minimum of evasion. I think we are all sincere in our desire to remedy the abuses and improve the machinery of our present electoral system. The public has a right to assume that the representative whom it sends to parliament has been elected on his own merits and without any suspicion that he is here because he or his friends or his party or his supporters had the longest purse.

If a measure such as is suggested is passed by parliament, its effective operation will be obstructed only by those who in the past have profited by the deficiencies in the existing system; the remainder of the population will, I believe, be extremely glad to have in their hand some weapon to assist them in fighting racketeering in election campaigns, and I am sure that parliament will receive the hearty endorsement and grateful approbation of all who are sincerely interested in the betterment of our social and political conditions.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. H. A. STEWART (Leeds):

I am

sure the house is very much interested in this double-barrelled resolution. As a member of the special committee of last year on the elections act I desire to address myself very briefly to the subject.

It must be clear to every hon. member that both proposals set forth in the resolution are difficult and complicated. First, as to redistribution I assume we may fairly conclude that there is no intention to bring about a redistribution on the eve of a general

election; that the redistribution that has been made will stand, and that the next election, whenever it comes, will be fought on the basis of that redistribution. I take it that the object of the resolution and the bill to be founded upon it is to adopt a different method for arriving at a redistribution of the seats. The minister has very properly pointed out how complicated and difficult that is. We have made considerable progress since the early days when a redistribution was a purely partisan measure. Later the method was adopted of appointing a joint committee representing all parties in the house, and that committee advised a plan of redistribution.

It must be admitted that there are inequalities, but from what the minister has said I think these inequalities are inevitable. When you take into consideration the density of population in some parts of Canada as compared with others, the unit of urban as compared with rural representation, the fact that one province has a fixed number of seats on which the representation in the other provinces is based-all these facts tend to complicate and make difficult the adoption of a fixed unit for a constituency. In taking part in the work of these committees I have been struck by the discrepancies in the province from which the minister comes. I remember on one occasion pointing out some of them and suggesting that they be corrected. The answer I received was that the number of seats in that province was fixed; that it was not necessary to redistribute that province; that conditions had become settled; that these constituencies were now well known, and that therefore they should be left as they were. I do not think that argument is good; nevertheless it prevailed in many instances. The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) has laid down the principle that the unit of representation in the cities might very well be larger than in rural districts. That accounts for some of the other discrepancies. Then area has to be taken into consideration. As to whether there should be a commission of judges, or how we could arrive at a redistribution, I am not prepared to say. All these methods have been advocated for the last quarter century, and have been studied; but the committee was not prepared to recommend any change in the existing method. I doubt if the present committee, constituted as it is and having given the subject the study it did last session, would be prepared in the dying days of a parliament to recommend any new method of redistribution. Of course that is only my personal opinion; it may be that I am quite wrong.

Elections and Electoral Districts

Then as to the other feature of the bill to which the minister has referred, I agree that if existing legislation-

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

This really is not a bill; it is a reference to the committee in order that they may study these methods.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

That is quite right. I agree with the minister that if existing legislation could be enforced, many of the evils would disappear. There are those who believe that we have about as much legislation now as we can enforce, and that it would be difficult to carry out anything much more drastic. W7e all agree, however, that if it is possible to correct the abuses, injustices and hardships that are suffered by candidates in these elections, everything possible should be done to bring about that result, and I can see no objection to giving the matter further study. That is the way the resolution impresses me at the present time. Both these questions are very important, difficult and complicated, and I hope a further study of them may bring about some improvement.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. R. MacNICOL (Davenport):

Mr. Speaker, I want to refer briefly to the two recommendations made by the minister, referring first to paragraph (b) of the resolution. The bill which the minister sent to the committee last year in reference to the control of election expenses was not very well received, as he has said. That unfavourable reception did not come from one party only, but from all parties. Feeling that something should be done I made a suggestion to the minister last year which, if it had been accepted and incorporated in the bill, I believe would have gone a long way towards reducing the cost of elections to candidates, and would have been of some help in eliminating corruption, using that word in regard to election expenses that are not reported by the candidates in the returns they forward to the chief electoral officer.

My suggestion was that we should follow the system that is followed pretty well throughout the British empire with the exception of Canada; because I believe Canada is the only part of the empire in which the control of the polls is entirely in the hands of one political party. By this I mean that the deputy returning officer and the clerk, the two officials who control the poll, are appointed in Canada by one political party, but I do not think that situation exists anywhere else throughout the empire.

If the minister will listen to me for a moment, the reason I am referring to this matter is that last year in my opinion-I may

be wrong-if the minister had not permitted his views to be expressed to the majority of the committee, that suggestion would have been incorporated in the act.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

My hon. friend should not say that. He knows that I attended only one meeting of the committee, and that the only time I opposed his suggestion was when it came up in the house. It is not fair to accuse me of influencing the committee when I was not there.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
CON
LIB
CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

I do not need any suggestions from the hon. member for Cochrane (Mr. Bradette).

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
LIB
CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

The hon. member can get up and speak for himself. I do not want any interference from him, and I will thank him to remember that. I am not speaking on this matter for the mere purpose of talking. I think the members of the committee last year will be fair enough to admit that I have made perhaps as exhaustive an inquiry into election matters as any other member of this House of Commons, and I am now presenting to the house my best opinion on the subject.

To resume, when the matter of having in the polling booths two officials representing the two political parties was first presented to the committee last year, I am satisfied that a majority were in favour of it. The matter was considered favourably for some length of time, but towards the end of the meetings of the committee it was definitely outlined that it would not be acceptable, and therefore it was not adopted.

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink
LIB

Charles Edward Bothwell

Liberal

Mr. BOTHWELL:

Might I ask the hon. member a question, instead of making a speech on the subject? Is it not a fact that when this subject was first broached in the committee last year different members expressed the desire to have it held over for a thorough discussion later; and that when that discussion took place it was decided not to adopt the suggestion?

Topic:   CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD
Permalink

March 13, 1939