March 13, 1939

CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

Perhaps it was something along that line. The committee, in other words, were quite disposed to consider the matter, and it might have carried. I may be wrong in that, of course, for every member of the committee has a right to his own opinion. I will repeat, however, that in my judgment that would be a good method to-

Elections and Electoral Districts

eliminate unnecessary expense and certainly a lot of corruption. For instance, in my own case I did not have a scrutineer at the last election. Why? I determined that I would not pay a scrutineer; I could not, when making the return of my election expenses, take the oath if I had done so and the scrutineer had voted. Therefore I did not have a scrutineer. And when my election expenses were sent in to the returning officer every cheque issued for the payment of election expenses had a voucher attached to it. My return was one hundred per cent true. In the last election many members of parliament had scrutineers. I am not going to make any comment on their having done so, but I believe it was an infraction of the act to vote them.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Would my hon. friend cite the section of the act to which he refers?

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CON
LIB
CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

The conversation passing back and forth across the floor is in the jocular manner in which the minister spoke of this matter a moment ago. Every one of us knows that there are many elections which have cost many thousands of dollars and which have been reported to the returning officer as costing only three or four thousand dollars. Many expenditures were made for which vouchers were not handed in.

That is one way in which the act can be improved. I have said that I believe Canada is the only member of the British commonwealth of nations which places two officials of the same party in the polling booth. In England the polling booths are not under the control of the parties; they are largely under the control of the municipalities. In Australia the officials are appointed with no relation to their politics, and remain in office indefinitely.

I should like to say one further word about Ontario. The minister's remarks about redistribution were general and did not apply particularly to Ontario. There were thirty-one Ontario seats which were not altered in any way during the last redistribution. Everyone knows that we tried to set up certain principles which should be followed, one being that where a town was located on a county boundary it should be placed in the riding in the county to which the reeve attends as a county councillor. I believe there is only one town in Ontario to which that

rule does not apply. We tried to adhere to county boundaries, and I think we did very well. We tried to set reasonable population limits for the different ridings. The redistribution called for an approximate population of 44.000 odd for each riding, which was based upon the division of the population of Quebec by 65. But we were obstructed in our efforts and were forced to do two or three things to which any one with reasonable judgment should have been opposed. Where you have a county with a population of 16,000 to 18,000 adjacent to a county with a population of approximately 25,000, they should be placed together. But because of an agitation which arose in a certain part of Ontario during the last redistribution we were forced to allow certain ridings to remain largely as they were.

If this matter is to be referred to a committee I think certain principles should be laid down. I certainly want to support any reasonable move toward a reduction in expenses, and I firmly believe that certain principles should be incorporated into our act to apply to redistributions.

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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. A. A. HEAPS (Winnipeg North):

Mr. Speaker, I hardly think that this is the time when we should go into the details of the elections act. However, I wish to say a word or two in commendation of the minister for the general principles he has laid down this afternoon as to how elections should be conducted in the future. I do not intend to say very much about the elections of the past.

When the minister speaks of a substantial reduction in the cost of elections, I am sure he strikes a responsive chord in all sections of this house. Elections to-day are far too costly, although I cannot say that with regard to my own or with regard to those conducted by members of my group. Some members of our group have conducted their elections with expenditures of $400 or $500, in some cases even less than that. If candidates in fairly large constituencies can be elected for $400 or $500 there is no reason why it should cost certain candidates approximately $50,000, as has been stated on the floor of this house in the past. I think the candidates themselves may be to blame in this particular regard. If a candidate wants to spend money during an election, it is the easiest thing in the world to find persons who will come along and accept that money for work which they may or may not do.

A word with regard to redistribution. There is no doubt that anomalies exist in connection with the size of some of our constitu-

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encies. We have some constituencies with populations of from 25,000 to 30,000 adjoining constituencies with populations of 60,000, 70,000 or possibly 80,000. When the committee gets down to work I think it should be able to fix certain limits with regard to population, so much for an industrial constituency and so much for a rural constituency. I am quite willing to concede that rural constituencies should contain smaller populations than industrial ridings, but I do not think that the disproportions which exist at the present time are entirely fair. However, the committee will have to go into this matter.

As far as the members of this group are concerned, we give our wholehearted endorsa-tion to the princples laid down this afternoon by the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Power)-or may I also call him the minister of elections?

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SC

René-Antoine Pelletier

Social Credit

Mr. R. A. PELLETIER (Peace River):

Mr. Speaker, I believe all hon. members of the house noted with satisfaction the enthusiasm with which the minister introduced this motion, and I hasten to assure him that it is with a spirit of cooperation that I rise in my place. I feel, as he does, that this is a step forward which will be well received by the great majority of the people of this country. I desire to congratulate him upon his statement when introducing the resolution, as well as upon the remarks he made last year when he introduced his bill. Last year when he spoke on the same type of resolution he said that there were two points which would be brought up during the course of the discussion. Perhaps I had better deal with them now.

The first was that central campaign funds were necessary and essential. To that I would reply that while they may not be absolutely necessary or essential, undoubtedly they are of some advantage to the public. However important we may think our policies, our pronouncements, our discussions and our debates may be, we must realize that outside of this house and throughout the country there are many thousands of persons who are far less interested in us, in our activities and in governmental activities than they are in the sport pages of the daily newspapers, in the radio or in the movies. I believe with the minister that political funds are necessary to a certain extent. Nevertheless, this question of political funds has caused a great deal of misapprehension, if I may use that word, throughout the country. From time to time we find references as to the effect of political funds upon the political life of our country. I

should like to cite the words uttered by the minister last year as reported on page 2027 of Hansard. He said:

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.

The minister believes, and I believe, that this will meet with the approval of the vast majority of the people of this country. A motion is now introduced to set up a committee to recommend amendments to our present law so that it may never again be said that Canada has such a thing as corrupt political funds. That is why this committee is being appointed.

Political campaign funds are being discussed from time to time by various people and by the press in this country. Only the other day I happened to come across an article in the Saturday Evening Post, which in its issue of February 4, 1939, speaks of a person, a United States citizen, I believe, whom they call "Sell 'Em Ben Smith." He is now head of Thomson and McKinnon, which the Saturday Evening Post describes as:

-an old, respected, profitable, Wall street stock brokerage house.

It goes on to say that Sell 'Em Ben Smith:

. . . succeeded his friend, Jack Bickell, on

January 1, 1939. Smith and Bickell are

partners in Wall street and in Canadian gold mines as well.

He is also, according to this article in the Saturday Evening Post, a heavy contributor to the campaign funds of President Roosevelt. I do not know that there is anything wrong about this gentleman coming to this country. Nevertheless it is known that he has contributed to political campaign funds elsewhere, and now we find him visiting Canada from time to time. I say this not because I believe there is something wrong about it, but because I believe it is time that we protected our own interests in Canada and that we avoided any suggestion of anything wrong being done in this country with respect to campaign funds. That is why I particularly welcome the motion the minister has introduced.

Apart from that, there have been what the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) likes to call allegations throughout this country about campaign funds. The most recent and notable examples are certain articles which

Elections and Electoral Districts

appeared in the daily papers published in the city of Ottawa. Not long ago on its front page the Citizen carried a notice to the effect that there was need for a judicial inquiry to get campaign fund facts. The article went on to make various statements on the front page, when a thing like that is published abroad it tends to give the impression to the public at large that there is something absolutely wrong with our present system of campaign funds.

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LIB
SC

René-Antoine Pelletier

Social Credit

Mr. PELLETIER:

March 3, 1939. I am not sure if that is the issue in which this notice appeared on the front page, but the issue of March 3 carries an article exactly similar to that which appeared on the front page either the day before or the day afterwards.

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LIB
SC

René-Antoine Pelletier

Social Credit

Mr. PELLETIER:

No, an editorial, entitled "Need of judicial inquiry to get campaign fund facts." From time to time also in the same newspaper there have been articles to the effect that campaign funds were bedeviling Canada. An editorial appeared, for instance, on March 7, 1939, in the course of which statements like this were made:

For years the bottom of the St. Lawrence river has been dredged below Montreal in a continuous outpouring of public funds. One result of this dredging has been to lower the water level in Montreal harbour more than seven feet as compared with the level before dredging started. Evidence of this wasteful result of dredging has long been available to both parties, but they say nothing about it. A judicial inquiry into the relationship of patronage politics to dredging contracts would startle Canadian taxpayers.

Articles of that kind travel throughout the length and 'breadth of this country. Again, last year, during the debate on the address, the then leader of the opposition, Mr. Bennett, made certain statements which were characterized as allegations or vague rumours to the effect that levies were common in connection with contracts of the Canadian National Railways. Desiring to render a service to the people of this country by dispelling such rumours I brought forward a motion at that time calling for an investigation of these matters, but the Prime Minister told me that the manner in which I had proposed my motion was calculated to involve the fate of the government if put to a vote, and suggested that if the question were brought forward in such a way that members would feel free to support or reject the motion, he would welcome it. Let me make that quite clear.

I have taken the trouble to search Hansard of last year for the exact words the Prime Minister used on that occasion. At page 464 he said:

We are only too anxious to see that our electoral laws are made as effective as possible to prevent anything in the nature of corruption. The government intends, in pursuance of its promise at the last session, to deal with the franchise and with the electoral laws again this year, so there will be an opportunity for all hon. members to come forward with any suggestions which they may have, any concrete, practical proposals which they may care to make. The government will he glad to consider any such proposals. I here and now invite hon. members, instead of wasting their time in doing what they can to defame the institution of parliament and democratic government in this country, to come along with practical suggestions whereby we can prevent in the future anything of the kind which they to-day are imagining has taken place in the past, or which actually may have taken place in the past.

So that the proposal I intend to make to-day in the form of an amendment to this resolution is really the result of a call from the Prime Minister to every member of the house to lend his assistance to the government so that these things which he called shadows may forever be dispelled from the minds of the people.

I know for a fact that editorials and articles such as those to which I have referred to-day have rankled in the minds of various members of this house. Just the other day the present leader of the opposition (Mr. Manion) criticized bitterly the attitude of certain newspapers in this country. He said at page 1440 of Hansard, speaking of the Ottawa Citizen: _

That newspaper has made certain statements in the last two or three weeks and I suggest right now to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) that the editor should be brought before the bar of the house and be required to give, what I know he cannot give, one tittle of evidence that either the party opposite or this party has collected money improperly.

He went on to refer to statements that had been made by the Citizen, and replying to him the Prime Minister said that he agreed with him in certain particulars, especially with reference to certain newspaper editorials. Furthermore the Prime Minister suggested that he would request the public accounts committee to summon this writer before it, then and there to give under oath any evidence he might have. I believe the Prime Minister suggested the public accounts committee simply because at that particular time there had been a fuss made about a certain contract given by the Department of National Defence. It was well known and thoroughly understood by everyone concerned that there was no suggestion of political corruption

Elections and Electoral Districts

involved in this contract, but because, I believe, these articles had appeared at that particular time the Prime Minister suggested the public accounts committee. If I remember correctly the government had not then given notice of the resolution which we are debating to-day, and perhaps up to then it had not been the intention of the government to move any such resolution as this with respect to campaign funds. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that if we are going to try to do away with corruption, the best place to investigate these matters is not before the public accounts committee but before the special committee on elections contemplated in the motion brought forward to-day by 'the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Power).

These are matters which I believe we should consider in connection with the motion now before the house. However, I do not believe what I have said so far is the strongest argument which I could use in support of the amendment which I desire to propose. The motion provides that a special committee consisting of certain members be appointed to study and report on the following subjects: (a) methods of redistribution; and

(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.

I know it is the sincere desire of the government that the committee charged with the responsibility of bringing back to the House of Commons the recommendations which they seek, should have the greatest possible latitude so as to bring back the best possible report.

I know it is the intention of the minister, of the government, and as a matter of fact of every hon. member, to bring about such conditions in Canada that allegations and vague rumours will no longer appear in this phase of our national life.

Last year, in the course of a debate very similar to this, the Prime Minister was very resentful about the fact that he had not been given any notice of the amendment. He stated at that time that he had relied on certain rumours which he had heard in the corridors of parliament. My desire being, as I said at the beginning, to cooperate with and assist the Prime Minister and the minister responsible for this motion, I took the trouble this year to send the ministers a copy of my amendment several days ahead of time so that they would not have to rely on rumours in

the corridors of parliament but would be fully notified as to my intention concerning this matter. The amendment is to the effect that we should have greater latitude in the way of gathering the information which this committee should have in order that it may bring in a better report. In this amendment I have referred to a definite period of years within which, I suggest, investigations should be made. I have fixed ten as the number of years, and my purpose in doing that is that we may embrace the newer political parties. I should not want it to be said that the Social Credit party were not called upon to do what other parties, new or old, were required to do. I should like all of them to be treated as on an equal basis. For that reason I have provided sufficient time to go back to the very beginning of these movements, so that they may be included in any investigation which will take place.

After all, when it comes down to investigating the matter of donations to political parties, I believe the Prime Minister has agreed from time to time that such action is quite proper and wholly in order. He went further; he said last year that not only was there one man responsible for gathering party funds but that as far as his own party were concerned they kept a whole committee to do that very thing; the record of that statement is on the pages of Hansard. The then leader of the opposition felt the same way about it. He related various circumstances of which he knew; and he insisted that certain parties contributed to political funds in the same way that they would contribute to their church. One man in particular said that his mother had taught him that, of every dollar he earned, there should be first a certain portion for the church, and second, a certain portion for the political party to which he belonged. In view of the attitude taken by the former leader of the opposition and the present leader of the government, no one should hesitate to come forward and give this committee which it is proposed to set up the information which is desired by all in order to facilitate its task. I move, seconded by Mr. Fair, the following amendment to the motion;

That the motion be amended by adding the following words immediately after the words "special committee" in the last sentence of the motion:

"in order to facilitate the carrying out of instructions contained in paragraph (b) of the resolution, have power to investigate the amounts of contributions held at various times by various federal political parties, or party assistants on behalf of such parties, in Canada,

Elections and Electoral Districts

for the past ten years, the sources from which such contributions came and the dispositions from same contributions of all sums of one hundred dollars or over, and ..."

I believe that the house, the Prime Minister and the government will be only too glad to adopt this motion. By doing so we shall dispel rumours, we shall put on the table the cards we have at our disposal, and no one in future could write articles such as have been written recently. There would be no such thing as allegations or vague rumours, and it no longer would be necessary [DOT]to get up in the house and plead in defence of the honour of the house itself or of any particular hon. member.

As I have said, Mr. Speaker, I do this at the indirect request of the Prime Minister. Last year he invited us to assist him in order to help the House of Commons to do away with these vague rumours, and I believe that he will receive my sincere effort at cooperation in the spirit in which I move this amendment.

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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. ROBERT FAIR (Battle River):

As a member for the past three sessions of the committee on elections and franchise I want to express in my first words commendation of the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Power) for having brought in this resolution. Last year, as the minister has pointed out, the question was before the committee, but because of lack of time we had to leave it over for the time being. I am very glad that he has brought it up agair. this year. I hope that his colleagues will see to it that the appropriate measure is brought forward and carried to a successful end in the spirit in which the minister has presented the matter to-day.

I cannot agree with everything the minister has said in commenting upon certain things which have happened-for instance, as to free liquor at election time. I had the pleasure of visiting Saskatchewan last year during the provincial election, and free liquor was one of the big things in that province. Again, those who went to Edmonton East during the federal by-election know that many other free things were in evidence right there in Edmonton.

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LIB
SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. FAIR:

You can go to the provincial by-election in Athabaska and find out about the free liquor, the free dances, and free music which were in evidence. The hon. member for Melfort (Mr. McLean) has mumbled something, and I could tell him about something which happened last June,

or about the end of May, very close to his home, during the provincial campaign. If he wants to find out anything in connection with Saskatchewan he does not have to go far from his own doorstep. He will find plenty right around there-enough to satisfy him.

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LIB
LIB
LIB
SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. FAIR:

If I might have the attention of the house I would tell the hon. member for Melfort that I do not touch liquor, and I did not bring any into his constituency. The Liberals saw to it that there was plenty of liquor on hand-and free, at that.

Apparently the Minister of Pensions and National Health believes that open confession is good for the soul. If we are to believe everything the papers tell us, he is soon to go to that haven of political rest, and will not need to worry about political contributions. If he goes there I certainly wish him happiness-just so long as the country sees to it that that haven is put up with.

We are toid that too much money is spent in connection with the election of certain members. I am not going to specify any member in particular, but I believe I could tell of one whose election on one occasion cost $70,000. I understand a member draws something like $4,000 as indemnity, and when we realize that $66,000 above the amount of the indemnity was spent to elect that man, then we must believe that somebody, somewhere, was possibly contributing some of that $66,000, expecting to get something in return.

Statements have been made in the house since I have been a member which, while not offered as definite charges, have included some very strong allegations and are sufficient, I believe, to lead anybody to the belief that this measure should be put through. Not only should the measure pass, but it should have teeth in it to make it effective. If hon. members cannot be elected without corruption, then we cannot expect anything but corruption in connection with some of the legislation which comes before the house.

I would recommend that members come here free of party or contributory funds. In that way we would probably have better legislation and a better Canada than we have today. The conditions which exist are the result of operations within the parties which have held office for a number of years, and I must say that they are conditions of which

Elections and Electoral Districts

I am ashamed. If a change in our election practices will bring about better conditions for the people of Canada, then let us have that change, and have it now.

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LIB

Charles Edward Bothwell

Liberal

Mr. C. E. BOTHWELL (Swift Current):

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the observations of the minister in presenting the resolution. It does seem to me that since last session an effort has been made to provide something on which the committee which is being set up may work. As chairman of that committee for the last three sessions of parliament I must say that I believe every member was most anxious at each sitting to do the best he could to see that the elections act was brought to the point where it would be the most effective act we have ever had in Canada dealing with this subject.

The Political Expenditures Act came to the committee towards the close of the session. It was under discussion at two or three sittings, and although most committee members expressed themselves in sympathy with the idea, some of them were not altogether in favour of the terms of the bill. It was for that reason the resolution which passed the committee was worded in the terms quoted to-day. We recommended and expected that a committee would be set up this year to further study the principles embodied in the bill, and I believe I am safe in saying that every member of the committee was more or less in sympathy with the suggestions made by the minister to-day, although possibly not in all cases with the details.

When the committee is set up I believe it will have the duty of considering all the suggestions which can be made by the minister and other members of the committee who have studied the political expenditures measure, and by others from whom the committee can get further information which may be required.

I need hardly say every hon. member realizes that the first part of the resolution requires considerable study. I refer, of course, to the paragraph dealing with methods used to effect a redistribution. In 1937 the committee had the opportunity of devoting considerable time to a discussion of this problem, and although they did not report, it was not, as suggested by the hon. member for Leeds (Mr. Stewart), because they could not come to a finding. They believed the matter would have to be returned again to the committee for further study. From the discussions which took place with respect to redistribution, it was my opinion that an arrangement

which would be a substantial improvement over the method now in vogue could be arrived at.

With respect to paragraph (b) of the resolution, and the amendment moved by the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Pelletier) I can say only it does seem to me that the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) part of which was read to the house to-day, and as we listened to it last year,' expressed the very opposite of the interpretation the hon. member for Peace River has placed upon it. The amendment proposes that a committee of the house inquire into contributions which have been made to campaign funds over the last ten years, and ascertain the effect and influence of those contributions, where they were spent, or what disposition was made of them. Well, why stop at ten years? If we are going into an investigation of that kind we might as well go back to confederation. It seems to me the only object the hon. member can have in mind in asking the committee to make an investigation of that kind, in connection with the paragraph which refers to the "methods whereby the source and disposition of sums received and expended in promoting the return of members of the House of Commons may be readily traceable"

or the second, third or fourth subparagraphs in that paragraph-is that the group to which he belongs may gain something which would be of assistance to them. Surely nothing can be gained by investigating the source and disposition of campaign funds for the last ten years, or any other period. If there have been any specific dredging contracts which should be investigated, as referred to in the article quoted, there is ample provision in the rules of this house to enable that to be done. But it is impossible for a committee to do anything as a roving commission such as this amendment proposes.

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March 13, 1939