July 15, 1947

LIB

Hervé-Edgar Brunelle

Liberal

Mr. BRUNELLE:

He has been preparing and rehearsing this shameful attack for almost two months. The wrong meaning he has wilfully given to my tetter was premeditated. It shows malice aforethought. Yesterday's speech of the hon. member for Laval-Two Mountains was nothing but a crying display of lack of decency and of lack of honour.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

At the time of the adjournment last evening I was dealing with certain circumstances connected with the alterations in the boundaries of Lake Centre constituency, and in placing before the committee the situaton with regard to that constituency, I am following the course taken by the Prime Minister when he was leader of the opposition in 1933. The Prime Minister in 1933 pointed out that there were certain principles that should be followed and they were referred to yesterday afternoon by the hon. member for Muskoka-Ontario. The Prime Minister also pointed out then that above all there should be fairness in the matter of redistribution.

l'

I am not going to refer particularly to what the Prime Minister said, unless somebody wishes to have it on the record, but he said he thought the time had come when some means should be adopted whereby redistribution would cease to be a cause of recrimination or injustice, indeed of liquidation by a method that has been followed in the past on certain occasions. Certainly under Sir Robert Borden there was no question of unfairness.

Some lion. MEMBERS: Oh, oh.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

The Secretary of State apparently has not read the debates, because Sir Wilfrid' Laurier at that time agreed that it was not unfair and there was never any dispute in the house. That indicates only one thing, that my hon. friend has not read what took place at that time.

Mr; GIBSON (Hamilton West): Oh, yes: I have.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

In 1933 the Prime Minister pointed out the unfairness of leaving a measure like this to the end of the session. Presumably there was a desire to have the session closed at the earliest possible date, and the debate continued for four or five days. The Prime Minister on that occasion used certain words which I wish to adopt now. He pointed out that coming in at the end of the session and introducing a measure such as this is unfair and indicates a desire to eliminate members of opposing parties without enabling them to place their position before the house and the country. What he said on that occasion was quoted in part yesterday by the hon. member for Winnipeg North (Mr. Stewart) and I wish to read now from page 5235:

Right Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Chairman. 1 think it

desirable to point out immediately the unfairness of the government having left consideration of this most important measure until the very end of the session. That fact of itself, it seems to me, is prima facie evidence of a desire on the part of the administration to exercise its power as a majority to press through this bill under circumstances which are most unfair to the minority in the house.

Then he quotes what Sir Wilfrid Laurier stated in 1892. In the second column, page 5236, he quotes the words of Sir Wilfrid Laurier:

I protest against this system too long indulged in by this government, of delaying their most important legislation until the last days of the session when members are naturally anxious to get away to their own business.

Then the Prime Minister said:

I say there is an ominous parallel between "mat was said by Sir Wilfrid Laurier on that [Mr. Diefenbaker.l

occasion and what we on this side of the house are compelled to say today. This government also has adopted the practice of waiting until the end of the session to bring in its most contentious measures. It has deferred until the very end the measure with respect to the salary of the chairman of the tariff board, the measure with respect to radio broadcasting-

Sir, history certainly has been repeated here.

-and the contentious measure concerning shipping, the debate in connection with which was concluded only a day or two ago.

The Prime Minister adopted then the attitude which I am trying to adopt today. He said, "I place before you the situation regarding Prince Albert." He spoke at great length. I think his speeches in connection with the matter covered some seven or eight pages. As reported at page 5238 of Hansard, he averred as a fact that the power of redistribution is a trust to be exercised in fairness. Then at page 5239-and I am epitomizing now instead of reading-he said if there was a desire to compromise unfairness and remove injustice, the opposition would cooperate; otherwise they would fight. He placed his situation before the house and the country. The voting strength of the house was much as it is today. IVe hear over the years that, things are changing and that members do not take the interest today which they used to take in the great and grand old days. The debate started on May 16, 1933; it really commenced on May 22, and ended cm Saturday, May 27. Of all the members in the House of Commons then, only sixty voted; twenty-seven were paired and the rest of them apparently were absent from the house. I suggest this, and I do so only in passing because the Prime Minister in 1933 indicated that some method must be found whereby fairness will be achieved and the liquidation of political opponents prevented or denied. I suggest consideration of the Redistribution Act of the United Kingdom. It. is a matter which might well come up. It cannot come up at this session, but it might be considered. It is entitled the "House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1944 In the United Kingdom the

matter of redistribution is under continuous review; a permanent boundary commission has been set up. There are several boundary commissions, one in England and one for the several other parts of the United Kingdom.

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PC

John Ritchie MacNicol

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacNICOL:

There are four.

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Richard Langton Baker

Mr. DIET ENBAKER:

Yes. A report is made to the house from time to time. It is a continuing activity which, of course, would

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be 'different from the procedure here in Canada. Provision is made that-and I read from the act:

A report of a boundary commission under this act showing the constituencies into which they recommend that auy area should be divided shall state, as respects each constituency, the name by which they recommend that it should be known, and whether they recommend that it should be a parliamentary county or division of a parliamentary county or a parliamentary borough or division of a parliamentary borough.

Then the secretary of state lays the recommendation before parliament together with the statement of 'the reasons for the modifications which are indicated. Then the draft is approved by resolution of each house of parliament. That, commission is one which is above partisanship. Parliament still rules; parliament still controls; bub parliament would no't act unfairly against, a political opponent. If the recommendation of this committee were to the effect that a certain change should be made, it would adopt it even though it might be helpful to an opponent. The commission is composed of the Speaker of the House of Commons, who is chairman of all four commissions. The commission for England consists of the chairman, the registrar general, the director general of the ordnance survey and two other members, one appointed by the secretary of state and the other by the minister of health; and no member of the House of Commons or of either house of parliament of Northern Ireland is permitted to act on such committee. The purpose there is simply to do away with this decennial fight which 'takes place over the question of redistribution. Over and over again, as one reads the record, one can only be dtruck by the fact that there have been wrongs done in the past. But the Prime Minister, over and over again, when wrongs were done, was one who loudly protested and took a stand on behalf of those better things which I ask him on this occasion to carry into effect in connection with the present measure.

I do not intend, sir, to follow an acrimonious method. I shall place 'the facts before the Prime Minister, through you. The first fact I place before the committee is this. While in certain constituencies there is little or no interest on the part of the electors, by-elections take -place such as the one yesterday and only a small proportion of the people entitled to vote cast their ballots.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

Mr. G-IBSON (Hamilton West): A greater 'proportion of Tories.

Mr. DIEFENBAIvER: Let me tell my hon. friend this. I did not want to be acrimonious; I was dealing with the facts.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh. oh.

Mr. DIEFENBAIvER: My hon. friend

speaks about yesterday.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Y'ou spoke about it first.

Mr. DIEFENBAIvER: I go back a few years, and in 1932 again the Prime Minister pointed out how unfair it was that minorities should represent constituencies in parliament. He dealt with the situation at length, and I refer particularly to what he said at that time. He said one thing which would have to be done would be to bring in a system whereby minority representation should be done away with. I am in this position, sir, of being a minority representative when I deal with this, as are, I believe, 146 other members of this house. When dealing with redistribution the Prime Minister dealt with this very question, and he said this, as reported at page 5422 of Hansard:

I believe that the only true method of securing a representative parliament is by a system of proportional representation properly worked out with regard to the dominion as a whole. 'The reform should commence with the cities and the larger municipalities in our country. When the Liberal government was in office we introduced into this house a measure of proportional representation in connection with city constituencies. It was fought for some little time, there was considerable opposition from the then opposition and tile measure was not proceeded with.

Then he went on to give the reason why electoral reform, which is demanded today on every hand across this country, was not brought in by his government between 1921 and 1925:

It was not reintroduced because the government of the day had not a majority in the other chamber which would ensure its enactment, and there were more pressing matters requiring attention. I might add the late Liberal government did not have a majority in the senate all the time it was in office. If we had had a majority in the other house upon which we could have relied we would have proceeded with our proportional representation measure.

Then followed these prophetic words:

If we are ever returned to power a proportional representation measure will be a feature of the Liberal platform and programme of legislation.

Well. sir. that was merely carrying out what the Prime Minister himself said would be good for this country in 1919, when he achieved the leadership of the great Liberal party. At that time he introduced before the Liberal convention of that day certain poli-

Redistribution

cies that should be brought into effect, one of which was acceptance of the principle of proportional representation. I had not intended to digress on this, but I point out that the promise of electoral reform may not have been carried out because of the fact that if it had been carried out minority candidates would not have been elected in this country.

Returning to the subject from which I was diverted by the Secretary of State, I was dealing particularly with the numbers who vote. The constituency of Lake Centre was created in 1932, comprising two existing constituencies, one to the west of Last Mountain lake to which I shall make reference in a moment, which was known as Long lake, and the other east of Last Mountain lake which was known as Last Mountain. Of course the reason the name was chosen was that there was a dispute as to what should be the name and someone suggested that since there was a lake down the centre it should be called Lake Centre. In the last election ninety per cent of the electors of that constituency exercised their franchise.

I have said, there is a lake down the centre, and I have told how very difficult it is to get around that constituency even without taking into consideration the knob which is placed along the top line of the riding by the addition of the three townships from Humboldt. In looking over the record I was interested to learn that this is not the first time the matter of the difficulties in connection with that constituency has been raised in this house, for in 1933 the then member, Mr. Totzke, dealt with the matter. He was the member of the redistribution committee of that year representing the then opposition, and1 at page 5256 of Hansard he saidi

. . . before I take my seat I wish to bring to the attention of the committee the one constituency which I think is the worst of all in Saskatchewan, that is the constituency of Long Lake. This constituency has been a little low in population, it is the only constituency in the whole province where a decrease of population has been shown during the last ten years. But it is bounded on all sides by natural boundaries, on the one side the Saskatchewan river and the Qu'Appelle river. On the east side is Last Mountain lake. As I said before, the Saskatchewan river can be crossed at various points by ferry, but on the west side of this particular constituency is this Last Mountain lake, which is sixty or seventy miles long and there is no way of crossing except by rowboat or motorboat; there are no ferries on the lake. So if the member for the constituency lived on one side or the other of this lake he would have to go around the end of the lake to visit his constituents on the other side.

I point out the fact that in order to get from one point in that constituency to another perhaps eighteen miles distant one has to travel

from 80 to 110 miles around either the top or the bottom of the lake. That was one of the reasons given as to why the population of this constituency should not be kept to the same level as that of the adjoining constituencies. That argument has no force now, however, because the, population is greater than that of the constituencies adjoining it both east and west, even without taking into consideration the three townships to which I have referred. I have already dealt with the fact that these townships on the north side cannot be reached by any railroad passing through the constituency. One can go into Saskatoon or one can go up to Lanigan and travel a matter of seventy to eighty miles in one direction, and then come back practically over the same line of track in order to get into those townships. I have here the redistribution map of 1924, at which time the present Prime Minister was also Prime Minister. I point out the circumstance that these three towmships were not included in either Long Lake or Last Mountain; they were in Humboldt, where they have continued to be over the years.

In regard to the southern part of the constituency I again point out that the area being removed from Lake Centre has been in either Long Lake or Last Mountain for over twenty-three years. The whole area has belonged to one or the other of those constituencies; and again I point out that the area amputated is the portion in which in fact there was a majority for the sitting member.

Now, Mr. Chairman, there may be some question raised in regard to the committee itself. I want to say, and I want to be fair in what I say, that as far as the committee was concerned we met for a total of possibly forty minutes. That is the entire period during which the committee met. There was no acrimony, but I did say before the committee -and I have my words here-that when this matter came before the house I would have my say. I said the matter would be brought up on the floor of the house, where it could be discussed and considered.

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LIB

Walter Edward Harris

Liberal

Mr. HARRIS (Grey-Bruce):

That was

before the main committee?

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

Yes.

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LIB

Walter Edward Harris

Liberal

Mr. HARRIS (Grey-Bruce):

Did the. hon. member express any reservations in the subcommittee?

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

Oh, yes. 1 said: "I can advance various arguments regarding the constituency of Lake Centre and the redistribution thereof. I reserve my right to discuss it when the bill comes before the house.

Redistribution

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LIB

Walter Edward Harris

Liberal

Mr. HARRIS (Grey-Bruce):

That is in the main committee?

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

Yes.

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LIB

Walter Edward Harris

Liberal

Mr. HARRIS (Grey-Bruce):

But I asked if you had expressed any reservations in the subcommittee.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

If the hon. member for Rosthern were here I would say what was stated in the subcommittee. I am not introducing any acrimony-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

My hon. friend the Secretary of State laughs. I can point out what was said to me under the original plan which was submitted. There would have been an adverse majority of five or six thousand as far as I was concerned.

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LIB

Walter Edward Harris

Liberal

Mr. HARRIS (Grey-Bruce):

We are concerned about the bill which was reported by the committee.

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July 15, 1947