March 29, 1949

PC

Lewis Elston Cardiff

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cardiff:

I was paired. Had I voted, I would have voted against your ruling.

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LIB

William Ross Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Macdonald (Brantford City):

I was

paired, Mr. Speaker. If I had voted, I would have voted to support your ruling.

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DISMISSAL OF RETURNING OFFICER IN DAVENPORT CONSTITUENCY

PC

John Ritchie MacNicol

Progressive Conservative

Mr. John R. MacNicol (Davenport):

I too

rise, Mr. Speaker, on this occasion to present a grievance; it is one felt by many people in Davenport riding, several of the most important of whom are present officers of the Liberal association of that riding. It is a protest, as strong as I can make it, against the dismissal of a splendid man, a Liberal, who for the last ten years or more has been returning officer of Davenport riding. He is a man above reproach and against whom no one can point a finger, yet he has been unceremoniously thrown out, much to his dismay. I want to protest against that dismissal both on his behalf and on behalf of the people of the riding.

There must be other ridings that have been just as much incensed over what is going on as is the riding of Davenport. A short time ago the hon. member for Grenville-Dundas (Mr. Casselman) had a series of questions on the order paper in reference to certain matters pertaining to the administration of the department which looks after electoral affairs. The questions were as follows:

1. In how many electoral districts has there been a change in the returning officer since January 1, 1946?

2. What is the name of the party (a) who held the office previously to said date; (b) who has held the office since said date?

3. Why were the changes made?

4. On whose recommendation?

The replies were as follows:

1. Sixty-two.

2 and 3 as follows:

2 m

And a list is given, which I will not read, of sixty-two ridings in which the returning officers were deceased, dismissed, resigned or had moved away. On looking the list over I find that, in the province of Ontario, In four ridings represented in this house by Progressive Conservatives, and in one Liberal riding, the returning officers were dismissed. In thirty other ridings the returning officer resigned; nine moved out of the riding; eight were deceased; three were removed because they were incompetent; and three were removed for other reasons-I believe for partisanship.

In the case of the honourable-and I call him honourable because he is a first-rate and honourable man-Mr. Daniel H. Reed, the returning officer for Davenport riding, what was the reason for his dismissal? I have not been able to find out, but a rumour has come to me that it was because of his age. How old he is I do not know. I do not believe the minister knows. I know of no one who can tell the minister how old he is. I myself have tried to find out, and I know of no means of doing so. But in any event, Mr. Speaker, he is physically fit. He does a day's work every day. He is one of the best carpenters we have in that part of the city of Toronto. If he was dismissed for old age, I can tell the minister this: He can dismiss at least twenty-five to forty per cent of all the returning officers in Canada. I therefore take it as an affront against the Liberals of Davenport riding and against myself that this worthy citizen, who has rendered such excellent service, has been dismissed on the trumped-up charge, I am told, of old age. That charge is not the truth, Mr. Speaker. He may be over sixty-five; I do not know. I do not know anyone who does know. But, in my judgment, that is not the truth. What is the reason that he was dismissed? The reason is that he is an honest man; that is why he was dismissed.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC

John Ritchie MacNicol

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacNicol:

That is a fact, because he is an honest man and has given fair play to all candidates. When he was appointed in 1935 he succeeded a man who had been appointed by the previous government. When he commenced to make out lists of enumerators, he followed the same practice that was followed by his predecessor, who, I might say, was always given to fair play.

After he had made his list of enumerators, in making appointments of D.R.O.'s, because the D.R.O.'s can select their own clerks, and in selecting the polling places in which the vote was to be held, I had told his predecessor to share up with the Liberals as he shared with Conservatives. We had done that during the war, and the war was not very long over;

Dismissal of Returning Officer and I felt that it was only fair play to treat everyone in a fair manner. I knew of no other way to do it which would make for harmony. I did not want to have any reference made in the press to the effect that in my riding we were not playing fair with our Liberal friends. I have always found it good policy to be fair and honest all round, Mr. Speaker. When he followed that practice, I presume he gave half or thereabouts of the appointments as D.R.O.'s to the Conservative party and maybe half or thereabouts of the polling subdivision polls to the Conservative party. For that action he was bitterly attacked by my opponent, and that attack has continued throughout the last ten years. I told the minister-no, I do not believe I told him this, but I told his predecessor. His predecessor was an excellent man, the late Mr. Norman A. McLarty. He was not bulldozed and he was not pushed backwards in being fair. The same outfit that besieged the present minister the last few days besieged his predecessor. I told his predecessor what was behind the attack and his predecessor brushed it to one side and reappointed that good Liberal citizen. My hon. friend should have done the same thing. He should not have listened to the attacks made on that just and good man.

What brought the matter to a head recently was this. A letter was sent out by the chief returning officer, who in my opinion is the best that any country has had. I have a high regard for the Canadian chief returning officer; he is always on the job and always looking ahead. Anticipating an election some time this year, some two or three months ago now, I believe, he sent out a letter to all returning officers. The returning officer in my riding received a letter from him, asking him to have the enumerators named. The returning officers in other city ridings had the same call. That was only right. I compliment the chief returning officer on being on the job and being alive to his work and getting ready to see that an election may be conducted properly at any time. I had a lot to do with the compilation of the election act. I have been here nineteen years, and I have served on several election committees. At all times I advocated fair play to each and every party. Quite a number of the improvements in this act were suggested by me, and I say that humbly.

How are returning officers appointed? In part one of the instructions we read this:

4. For every electoral district the governor in council appoints a returning officer who remains in office on a permanent basis.

That is the policy of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England. They are not kicked out or thrown out on trumped-up charges. They are on a permanent basis

2116 HOUSE OF

Dismissal oj Returning Officer in these other countries and they should be on a permanent basis here. The act says that they should be, but they are liable to be removed from office on certain conditions, as set out in subsection (3) of section 8 of the act. What does section 8 of the act say? It reads as follows:

8 (1) The offices of all returning officers appointed prior to the passing of this act shall be deemed to be vacant . . .

In order that a new returning officer may be appointed.

I am speaking about Mr. Daniel H. Reed, who up until recently was the returning officer of the Davenport riding in Toronto.

I continue:

. . . and the governor in council may appoint to such offices either the same persons as now hold them, any of such persons or any other persons. He may also thereafter appoint from time to time a returning officer for any new electoral district and a new returning officer for any electoral district in which the office of returning officer shall, within the meaning of the next following subsection, become vacant.

What are the reasons for the office becoming vacant? Paragraph (a) of subsection (3) of section 8 reads:

The governor in council may remove from office, as for cause, any returning officer who

(a) has attained the age of sixty-five years; or

I ask the minister this question in the strongest language I can: For what cause did he, because he is the minister, remove that good, honourable, Liberal citizen of Davenport riding who has served this country well for the past two general elections? The minister cannot give me any cause. No finger can be pointed at that man. He has done a good job for the country. I continue:

(b) ceases to reside in his electoral district; or

He still resides there and has resided there for years. I believe he is a past president or vice-president of the Liberal association of Davenport riding. He has been an honourable officer of the Liberal association of Toronto for years.

(c) is incapable, by reason of illness, physical or mental infirmity or otherwise, of satisfactorily performing his duties under this act; or

That man is as physically fit as the minister is or as I am, and I believe I am physically fit. Anyone who walks in my footsteps knows that I am physically fit.

(d) has failed to discharge competently his duties, or any thereof, under this act; or

If the minister asks the chief electoral officer-I cannot speak for him, but I know what he will say-he will tell him that he had no better returning officer in any of the

245 ridings in the country. I know for a fact that he is highly thought of.

(e) has, at any time, after his appointment, been guilty of politically partisan conduct, whether or not in the course of the performance of his duties under this act.

I know that several returning officers have been discharged for partisanship, but this man has been fair to the Liberals, to my hon. friends to the left, to my hon. friends to the far left and to my party. He was also fair to the Labour-Progressive party. All of these parties had candidates in the last election. I myself ask no favours. All I want is fair play. All I want to have is a returning officer who is an honourable and honest man. I shall not pass any comment upon who may be appointed in his place-I do not know. The minister has not done me the courtesy of telling me that, although I have given nineteen years' service in this house. The man who takes his place may be of high calibre. I hope he is. I have nothing to say about him. All of these offices should be nonpolitical. The minister should at least have been courteous enough to tell me beforehand that he was going to discharge this competent and good man, and that he was going to put somebody else in his place. If he had done that I might have helped him out of this mess.

I am speaking today and warning him that from now until after the election day is over it is his duty to see that these election offices are conducted properly. Do not be spineless or permit yourself to be walked over by others who will try to push you around. Stand up as your predecessor did and say no to these people who try to push you to one side. I hope that after I speak the minister will go before cabinet council, ask for a rescinding of the order for whoever has been appointed, and return to office this good man who has been dismissed.

Some short time ago the chief returning officer asked all of the returning officers in Canada, in the city ridings in any event, to send in a list of their enumerators. I received a letter from him. My last opponent, Mr. Gunn, received a letter from him also. He was my Liberal opponent at the last election. He likely did what I did, communicated with the officials of his association. I was told over the telephone the other morning that this bitter attack has been made on the returning officer because he wrote letters to Mr. Gunn and myself-letters asking for the enumerators. That is most unfair. The act says that he has to do that. Rule (3) says:

At least five days before he proposes to appoint the persons who are to act as enumerators as aforesaid, the returning officer shall

(a) in an electoral district the urban areas of which have not been altered since the last preceding dominion election, give notice accordingly to the candidate who, at the last preceding dominion election in the electoral district, obtained the highest number of votes, . . .

That was myself.

. . . and also to the candidate representing at that election a different and opposed political interest, who received the next highest number of votes, that was Mr. Gunn.

Why a returning officer should be censured for following out this rule, I do not know. The minister does not know, but he listened to this attack which came down from certain officials. It was sent in not by very many. Before I take my seat I am going to ask that the correspondence be tabled. I may have to put a motion on the order paper asking for it. If it is not done, I am going to ask that this whole matter be sent to the committee on privileges and elections, and we shall bring before us these men or women, whoever they are, and have the minister tell us on whose advice he discharged this competent man. Then we shall find out the nigger in the woodpile. When I use that phrase I am not disparaging the coloured people. It might be a white man or a white woman; I do not know who it is that is in the woodpile. I have a warm feeling for the coloured race. I love them too much to say anything detrimental about them. Other hon. members here were also on these elections committees, and they remember my part in these committees.

I will take my hat off to no man in Canada on the study of election laws or the question of voting. I have spent thirty-five years on those matters-and perhaps later on, not now, I shall have time to talk about it. Perhaps I may speak about voting when we are discussing another motion on the order paper. No one has taken more interest in these matters than I have. I have always appeared at the elections committees when they have been called, and many of my recommendations were adopted.

However, there was one I did not get through, one which I wanted to get through. Let me take my hat off to the province of Quebec. Much has been said about that province. Well, they are ahead of us in one thing. In one election rule or practice particularly they are ahead of us; and I tried to have their practice incorporated in our elections act. The procedure I have in mind is that the government party named the deputy returning officers; and the opposition party, or that party which had the next highest number of votes, named the clerk.

Dismissal of Returning Officer

It is getting to be a nightmare, as I have no doubt the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) will say before long, when he rises to speak on his resolution-I have no doubt he will say that election expenses are getting to be a nightmare.

The Quebec act eliminates the use of scrutineers. The next election I will be compelled to have scrutineers in every poll in my riding, because I am convinced there is something sinister-I was going to say that there is some deviltry; that is the best word I can use-behind this procedure of throwing out of office an honest, gracious and Christian Liberal who fought for the minister's party for a long time.

I cannot speak of him too highly, because in two elections I have found him one hundred per cent fair and square, all the way through. I feel very warmly about this good man being thrown out. And what will be the result? I will have to appoint not less than 131 scrutineers-and you know, Mr. Speaker, what that costs-I will have to appoint more than one for each poll, probably two for each poll. I will have to have those scrutineers to see that I get fair play. I would not have had to do it if Mr. D. H. Reed had been left in office, and if I knew he was going to be in there again I would not have to do it. But I will have to know. And let me say that if there is any skulduggery behind this thing I will be on the job to watch it. You can count on that.

In Quebec, that is the law. The government names the deputy returning officers and the next party, the party running up, names the clerks in each poll. In that way candidates may eliminate scrutineers, if they wish to. If in my riding, if I named the clerk I would name a man honest enough to watch my interests in the poll, and one who would see that everything was done properly and the D.R.O. would do likewise.

In Australia and New Zealand the election; officers are really above partisanship. The ministry has nothing to do with them down, there. The same is true in England-although, of course, the ministry is head of the whole law. But in those three countries they try to eliminate election machinery, as far as they can, from political influence. Returning officers are permanent; no mention is made in the act of dismissing them for age. Because a man of sixty-five is not old. I am that old myself-and not much more, either. I know my hair is gray; but in my family, hair became gray early in life. I am glad to have this gray hair-and I have lots of it, too.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

It is a sign of wisdom rather than age.

2118 HOUSE OF

Dismissal of Returning Officer

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PC

John Ritchie MacNicol

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacNicol:

That is what it says in the inscription above the fireplace in the Senate library.

If I am here next time I will fight like a tiger to have the polls taken out of the hands of politics altogether. Why can we not adopt the English plan or the Australian or the New Zealand plan? Why cannot we remove these things far away from political temptation, as seems the case at the present time?

I have warm feelings for the minister. I knew his father, and I was sorry to see him get into this mess. Perhaps this same mess was engineered and organized by some other people, but he should have stayed out of it. He would have shown much better judgment to have stayed out of it. I have still a good opinion of him, but not as good as I did have, because he has yielded to this pressure to throw out a member of his own party who has served his country well.

I come back to the point from which I commenced. A report was handed to the hon. member for Grenville-Dundas (Mr. Casselman). The answer to question 4 is not complete; a good deal has been left out of it. This return is dated March 21, 1949, only eight days ago. It does not mention Davenport riding at all-and others. In addition to the riding of Davenport there are others It does not mention. Why are not these others set out in this list? I should not think the minister would try to conceal it from me or from the hon. member for Grenville-Dundas. I should not think he would do that.

This is bad business; this kind of thing, I say, is bad business. Politics should be above all that. After those delightful speeches we heard yesterday in this chamber from the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), from rny own leader, (Mr. Drew), from the leaders of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the Social Credit party, I think we must agree that politics should be above this sort of thing. Those were outstanding speeches-and it is not for me to praise one any more than another. But that is the way we should be acting around the ballot boxes. I say the ballot boxes and the voting places should be above politics.

I am going to close with this-and this is all I shall say about it now: I demand that the minister tell-or, if he has the correspondence, that he should table such correspondence-the names of those who threw this good man out. I talked this morning by telephone with a number of officers of the Liberal association in Davenport riding, and I believe that some of them wired the minister protesting about what had been done. I do know that a former president of that organization wrote a letter-I saw it myself-protesting against any change. I do

IMr. Graydon.l

know the minister has been pressed not to do this thing. Why did he do it?

I want the names of those people. I am the member for that riding. 1 was elected in it by a large majority. I have been here nineteen years. The people must know my record and my credit. I want to know the names of those people responsible for throwing out this most worthy man. You would not have done it if you had known him as I know him. And if you fail to give that information to me, I will ask in the best way I can that this be dealt with and turned over to the committee on privileges and elections, of which I am a member. I will see to it that these folks are subpoenaed, and that they are brought down here. We will find out who is responsible for all this skulduggery.

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. Colin Gibson (Secretary of Slate):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say a few words in reply. I must say that I think this is the first time I have ever heard a Liberal administration accused of political partisanship because of the removal of a Liberal from office.

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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

You must have had your ear-muffs on.

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LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. Gibson (Hamilton West):

I say I have never heard the government accused of partisanship because of the removal of a Liberal from office.

A short time ago I tabled in the house a list of various returning officers who had been replaced between January 1, 1946, and March 18, 1949. On that list there were sixty-two who had been replaced. Most of these retirements had been caused either through resignation because of having reached the age limit, because of death or through having left the electoral district.

The hon. member has said that he does not know the age of this returning officer. As the hon. member knows him well, I think he must have a fairly good idea of what his age is. I found on going over the file that it was claimed as far back as 1940 that he was over-age. I want to say that there is no stigma attached to any man who is replaced because he is over-age. This was no reflection on his previous service, but is the reason why he was retired and he was only one of a great many of the same age who were retired after having passed sixty-five years of age. There was no reflection on their previous service in any case.

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LIB
LIB

William Henry Golding (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Golding):

If the

hon. member for Fraser Valley is going to speak on the same subject covered by the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. MacNicol) he would be in order to speak now, but the next speaker on the list is the hon. member

for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) and then the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis). If the hon. member wishes to follow up this matter he can speak now.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. G. A. Cruickshank (Fraser Valley):

Mr. Speaker, I can speak on that subject as well as anything else and then I can work something else in. I do not care whom they appoint as returning officer; what I am interested in is how many vote for me. I am not worrying about the returning officer being honest, dishonest or otherwise; they are all honest in the Fraser valley. If the opposition want to appoint a returning officer, it is quite all right with me.

I am sorry there are not enough hon. members on this side of the house to challenge any ruling, but my understanding is that at this time an hon. member is entitled to bring up any grievance that may exist in his riding. Am I not correct?

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?

An hon. Member:

Yes.

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LIB

William Henry Golding (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Golding):

The hon.

member is quite correct, but I think we should try to follow the list that is here. If the hon. member intends to follow up the matter being discussed by the hon. member for Davenport, then I think it would be wise to bring that discussion to a conclusion; but if he wishes to bring up some other matter then I think we should follow the list.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. Cruickshank:

If I have to bow to the

Speaker's ruling, I will.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

Mr. Speaker-

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. Cruickshank:

On a question of privilege. As I understand, there is no such thing as a list.

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LIB

March 29, 1949