Hon. PAUL MARTIN (Secretary of State):
Mr. Speaker, following representations that were made to the chief electoral officer by the
Hon. J. G. Gardiner, Minister of Agriculture, and Doctor Carlyle King, of Regina, acting president of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, Saskatchewan section, it was deemed advisable to institute an inquiry under section 70 of the Dominion Elections Act, 1938, into some irregularities which were revealed at the recount proceedings in connection with polling station No. 50 of the electoral district of Melville at the dominion elections of June 11 last.
On August 31, 1945, the chief justice of the court of king's bench of the province of Saskatchewan was appointed, pursuant to the above mentioned statutory provisions, to act as commissioner on the proposed inquiry. The inquiry was opened at Melville on Monday, October 9 last, and the taking of the evidence of the various witnesses lasted four days, from October 9 to October 12 inclusive. The report of the commissioner reached the chief electoral officer on the 19th instant.
I draw to the attention of the house the following conclusions of the commissioner's reiport. The first of these appears on page 29 of the report and reads as follows:
There are other features also which have a bearing on this issue and will be emphasized later in this report, and which serve also to support the conclusion which I have reached, namely that there were 71 ballots marked for Mr. Gardiner at this poll, and twenty-seven ballots for Mr. Benson, and that this count truly expressed the will of the 98 electors who voted at that poll.
I further find that although 12 of the Gardiner ballots had subsequently been tampered with by some person before the date of the recount that person was not Peter Cherneski or anyone who took part in the conduct of the poll. I am glad to state, and feel bound to state in the light of the evidence, and in fairness to these men, that there is no evidence whatever to support such a charge, but on the contrary there is convincing evidence of their innocence.
The second conclusion, appears at pages 27 and 28 of the report, and reads as follows:
The conclusion which forces itself upon me, and which I have reached after a most careful consideration of both documentary and oral evidence, is that the 12 ballots in question originally marked and counted for Mr. Gardiner were extracted from the envelope in which they were placed, while in Mr. Hunt's office; that they were then marked lightly for Mr. Benson and the marks immediately partly erased; that the unscrupulous person who perpetrated the fraud did so not only in order to invalidate these ballots in the recount but that the whole poll with its majority for Mr. Gardiner of 44 votes, might be thrown out and the will of the electors defeated. And let it be said that, from the criminal's point of view it would have the much-desired effect of defeating an outstanding member of the government of Canada a,nd an outstanding leader of the Liberal party in western Canada.
The third conclusion appears at page 29 of the report, and reads as follows:
The commission of the inquiry calls upon me to inquire in particular . . whether any ballots were marked or defaced subsequent to their being deposited in the ballot boxes on polling day and, if so, to ascertain the person or persons responsible therefor."
I have at great length tried to answer that question, but if it be desirable that I should answer with brevity, my answer to the first part of the question is "yes, unquestionably," and as to the second part of the question, my answer is. "I have not been able to ascertain, and have not the slightest idea as to the identity of the person or persons responsible therefor."
Mr. Speaker, I now lay on the table of the house the commissioner's report of the Melville inquiry. This report was reecived by the chief electoral officer on the 19th instant.
Subtopic: INQUIRY INTO IRREGULARITIES AT POLLING STATION 50 OF ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF MELVILLE