April 18, 1950

CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Which two?

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

I think he mentioned the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe), and I took him for two. I replied, "I would not worry too much about that. The public cannot be expected to take an interest in everything; they have not time." I went on to ask him what church he belonged to, and he said the United Church. I said, "Well, you should be interested in your own church.

Dominion Elections Act Who is your moderator?" He replied, "By dads, I don't know. I knew the one ten years ago, but I have not known one since then." So I think we must not ask too much of the public; they are only human; but I do believe they should be encouraged and assisted to reach the polls on election day. A great many people never bother much about an election until it is almost upon them. Great numbers do not make any plans for going to the polling booths; many do not even bother to find out where they are until they go to vote. One thing that might be suggested by way of reform would be to show people where and when they vote. This perhaps would not be so essential in a rural constituency, but it is particularly important where the population is more heavily concentrated.

So I believe we might consider going back to the practice which once was followed, in my opinion with very good results; that is, the practice of sending postcards to the voters a week or less before the election, showing the place, date and hours of voting. Many candidates do this themselves in order to get the vote out. I have not done it, but I know of others who have gone to great expense in sending out postcards a few days before the election showing where the voters should go to cast their ballots; and I believe that is an outlay the government itself might well assume. Hon. members will recall that under the present legislation a copy of the voters' list for the particular subdivision must be sent to each qualified voter; and on that list the voter will see the place of polling, the date, and the hours. However, I am afraid we are all the same, and it is easy to lose a piece of paper even as large as that. Most people do not have a filing system or a filing clerk, and these things get mislaid. Another point is that these lists are sent out some two or three weeks before the election, though at the moment I have forgotten the exact time, since the revision has not taken place up to that time; and in the interval the whole business is often forgotten.

I am going to suggest to the committee that when they sit they might profitably consider leaving that voters' list provision as it is.

I think that is a good idea, because people can see whether someone else is on or off the list and the revision becomes that much simpler. I would not touch that provision, but I would add to what is already in the regulations the sending out of a card approximately a week before election day, notifying every qualified voter on the list where he or she should vote, the date of the polling, and the hours of polling. My judgment in this connection would perhaps be tempered by one consideration. If it were a tremendous

IMr. Graydon.]

expense to do this, then perhaps it would have to be considered in the light of the expenditure that would be incurred. Having regard to the importance that I attach, and which I fancy many members attach, to the desirability of getting as many people to the polls as possible on a voluntary basis, I suggest that this practice would be of inestimable value in seeing to it that the maximum number of qualified voters were at least shown the way to the polls.

I should like to make this suggestion in all good faith to the committee, in the hope that it will be considered. I am not a member of the committee, so for that reason I thought it wise to put the suggestion on the record. I should like to see this, and the numerous other matters which will come before that committee, thoroughly aired. In Canada we should try, as far as possible to have eventually the best machinery, and the cleanest, most decent system of electing members of parliament that is to be found in any democratic country in the world. It is a challenge which I think the people of Canada ought to accept.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, with the concluding remarks of the member for Peel (Mr. Graydon) I am sure the whole house will be in full agreement. Several members have referred to the service vote, having particular reference to what took place at Greenwood. I feel it is desirable, and I think it is only fair to the services, that I should say a word of explanation.

At the outset I should like to express my appreciation to the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) for his fair, yes his generous, remarks about the services and their rather perplexing difficulties when face to face with the responsibility of carrying out a poll under service conditions. I thought both the remarks of the member for Nanaimo and the concluding remarks of the member for Peel illustrated that we are on the right track in setting up a committee to try to improve things if we can.

With regard to the service vote, everyone recognizes that service personnel are citizens. I happen to think they are very good citizens, and as such are entitled to vote. In the case of Greenwood there was no question but that all the service personnel who voted were entitled to vote somewhere. The only question was, were they entitled to vote at Greenwood where they cast their vote? And the question, of course, applies only to a minority of the men at Greenwood. I think hon. members who have taken the trouble to read the judges' report, or who have looked into the matter as carefully as I have through

no less than two sets of officers investigating the situation on the spot, will reach the conclusion that, while certainly votes were cast improperly at Greenwood, the improper casting of those votes was in no way due to any irregularities in the conduct of the polls, but was due to the fact that some of the men made a declaration of residence on the outside of the envelope which was not in accordance with the defence services voting regulations.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

The minister is not referring to the Greenwood riding?

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

No, the Greenwood R.C.A.F. station where the poll was held. The riding, of course, was Annapolis-Kings.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

In Nova Scotia?

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. Claxton:

In Nova Scotia. Most of the service votes were quite properly cast there.

The explanation of how this arose is, I believe, simple, but is due to a rather complicated situation. Before the war there were no special regulations for taking the service vote; the ordinary civil procedure applied. In 1940 special regulations were adopted, and those were in effect in the general elections of 1940 and 1945. By and large, they gave satisfaction. I believe that no hon. member in this house will question the statement which I now make, that in the three general elections, 1940, 1945 and 1949, the way in which the service vote was taken showed a remarkable record of fairness.

At the conclusion of the war it was felt that the 1945 regulations required some additions to take care of the fact that service personnel would now be resident for considerable periods of time at stations which were at isolated centres. Accordingly when the election committee of this house was set up in 1947, the chief electoral officer put before that committee his recommendations as to the defence services voting regulations. The committee attached to its reports the text of the regulations as he had recommended them. Those are the regulations that are now in effect, letter by letter in accordance with the recommendations of the committee. The only change from the regulations previously in effect made in the regulations adopted in 1948, in consequence of the committee's report in 1947, was that the regulations of 1945 were amended by adding paragraph (b) to section 23 (1), to provide for service personnel having an option as to where they would vote. It is that option, made in consequence of the parliamentary committee's recommendation, which gave rise to the difficulty.

Those service electors who voted in the Annapolis-Kings election who were stationed at Greenwood voted in the place where they

Dominion Elections Act were ordinarily resident, as that term is used in reference to civilian electors in the election act. Had they been civilians, they would have been entitled to vote at Greenwood for whichever candidate they chose, but because of the special provision in the service regulations in order to vote at Greenwood they were required to make a declaration prior to January 1, 1949, almost six months before the election. It was something that few of them could be expected to do. This matter was called to their attention in orders, but still, in the nature of things, very few citizens will take some step six months before an election, before indeed the election is even announced, to put themselves in a position to vote. It was that requirement and that complication which gave rise to the difficulty.

I think hon. members will appreciate the fact that while the difficulty exists and has resulted in much misunderstanding, to use the words of the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes), and it is that misunderstanding which has given rise to this situation, it is by no means an easy matter to correct. It is by no means an easy matter to provide for a method of election which will enable service personnel situated at isolated centres, such as Shilo, Rivers, Goose Bay and a dozen other places across Canada, to exercise their franchise in the same way as an ordinary citizen would. Yet I believe it is desirable that, as far as possible, service personnel should exercise their franchise in the same way as the civilian.

The question was asked whether the committee would have the power to deal with this matter. Of course the committee has power to deal with everything having regard to the elections act. I may tell the members of the house that this is a matter that has been giving the officers of the Department of National Defence and the chief electoral officer a good deal of concern. They have been looking into the situation, examining how it is dealt with in other countries and trying to work out some suggestions that may be put before the committee for its consideration. But that is, I suggest, by no means easy. In any event, the committee and the house can be assured that in its work, with regard to both civilian voting and service voting, it will have the full co-operation of the officers concerned and of the officers of the Department of National Defence.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

I should like to say just a few words, Mr. Speaker, before this motion carries. A good many suggestions have been made today which I hope the committee will consider. While I may not agree with all of them, it seems to me that many good points

Dominion Elections Act have been brought to the attention of the committee. There is just one that I would like to emphasize and perhaps I will go a little bit further than the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon) went. I refer to the grievance that people feel when they are denied the right to vote because they have to be away from their home constituency on election day.

The hon. member for Peel made a useful suggestion when he proposed that the provision for voting at the advance poll should be widened somewhat. He suggested that the categories of people entitled to vote should be enlarged. I see no reason why there should be any limitation at all on the classes or categories of people entitled to vote at the advance poll. I know, for example, that in provincial elections in my own province of Manitoba it is possible for anyone who has to be away from his home constituency on election day to vote at the advance poll, simply by declaring that he has to be away.

Another possible solution of the problem might be found by taking a leaf from the book of British Columbia with respect to their practice in provincial elections. I understand that in that province there is quite an extensive arrangement for absentee voting. In other words, no matter where you are in the province of British Columbia on election day, you can cast your vote. If you are in your own constituency, you vote at your own poll. If you are out of your own constituency, you are permitted to vote wherever you are and to cast a ballot for the candidate of your choice back in your own constituency.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Provided that you are on the list.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Certainly. The hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra (Mr. Green) makes the necessary interjection that you have to be on the list. I am not dealing with that feature. I believe suggestions have already been made today as to the desirability of taking the list in the most effective way. My point is that there are these two cases that I am citing, the unlimited use of the advance poll in the province of Manitoba and the use of absentee voting in the province of British Columbia, which have to a large extent solved the problem of voters who have to be away from home on election day.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

May I ask the hon. member a question?

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Certainly.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Would the hon. member suggest that a person who might be on the list in British Columbia could vote in Halifax?

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

As a matter of fact, I was going to come to that point, and to say that it might create some difficulty if the provision were as wide as that. I am not trying to spell out all the details. I will leave that to the committee in consultation with the chief electoral officer and those who are experts in this field. A possibility might be that a person could vote anywhere within the province to which he belongs. But I think if that limitation were made it would then be desirable to couple with it the suggestion I have already made about the advance poll. In other words, I feel that anyone who has to be away should be permitted to vote, and the advance poll seems to be the best solution to the problem. In addition, I would suggest that the time for the advance poll should be made just as many days in advance of the actual polling date as is administratively possible. After all, in a democratic election our aim is to get out to the polls as many as possible of the people who are entitled to vote. Once we have made sure that there is nothing out of the way going on, that no people are on the list who are not entitled to be on it, every effort should then be made not to restrict or to limit people from voting but rather to facilitate their voting. I strongly urge the committee to consider one or the other or both of these suggestions. As I say, I have cited the practice in those two provinces. A possible solution would be a combination of the two of them.

I know that this matter has been considered when the elections act has beenunder review on former occasions, and that proposals such as I am making have beenrejected. Bui in the meantime we havehad another election. Thinking of my own experience on June 27 of last year, the

grievance or the complaint that was drawn to my attention most often was that of persons who were denied the right to vote because they had to be away from their own constituency on election day. I would strongly urge the committee this time to try to meet that problem.

There is just one other thought concerning which I would like to say a word or two; and this is more in the nature of a plea to the government than to the committee. The matter was mentioned this afternoon by other speakers. It is that of the desirability of the next and future redistributions being made not by a parliamentary committee but by some qualified independent commission. The last time the matter of redistribution came before this house I had the privilege

of moving an amendment to try to give effect to that idea, but the house did not see fit to support that amendment.

One of the arguments advanced at the time was that the need for getting the job done then was urgent. I suppose, Mr. Speaker, if we wait until redistribution comes again and then propose the idea that it should be done by an independent commission rather than by a committee of the house we shall then be told, "Here is a job that has got to be done now; the election is just around the corner", and so on. Obviously, the time to deal with a question like this is not just on the eve of an election or not just at the time of the redistribution itself; the time to deal with it is in advance, when it can be considered objectively. I would strongly urge the government-which, after all, has to give the house a lead in these matters- to consider the possibility of bringing in within a year or two a bill to provide that redistribution in Canada in future years might be done, not by a committee of this house, but by an independent commission, as is done in most other democratic countries.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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LIB

Emmett Andrew McCusker

Liberal

Mr. E. A. McCusker (Regina City):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a few brief observations. One is on the advance poll. The greatest grievance that I observed in the constituency I have the honour to represent was the great number of people who were forced to take their holidays at the time of the election. They were told: you can take your holidays in the last week in June and the first week in July. They had to forgo their holidays, or forgo the privilege of voting. You can well understand that a lot of them could not afford to give up their holidays. They are planned ahead. Therefore provision should be made for people who have to take their summer holidays to vote, as well as railwaymen, commercial travellers and other types of people who are allowed to vote at the advance polls.

The other matter to which I wish to refer is the soldier vote. I wish to make some observations on that as I had the privilege to be in on a recount where the soldiers' vote came under observation. I want to assure the house that the secrecy of the individual vote was not broken. There were some 275 or 300 votes counted. I do not think that in an individual case the name of the man could have been identified with the vote, but the trend of the vote was divulged. And while I say it was very flattering, I do not think it is quite fair to place the military in a position where the trend of their vote is divulged. I think they should have the opportunity of having their

Dominion Elections Act ballots counted at the same time that the civilian ballots are counted so that the secrecy is maintained.

These are the only two observations I have. I may say that on the recount I had the opportunity to scrutinize closely every vote and every ballot in the constituency which I represent. I am proud of the way the people marked their ballots. I do not mean proud for whom they marked, but the tidy way in which they marked them.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. L. A. Mutch (Winnipeg South):

Mr. Speaker, I was one of those on the committee in 1948 who took a great deal of time dealing with the question of voting at advance polls. I do not anticipate being on the committee at this time, but 1 think anyone who represents an almost wholly urban riding, as I do, cannot help but be seized with the importance of the subject. If we are not to disfranchise a large number of people, and if we are not to draw distinctions between people according to the nature of their employment, it should be a serious purpose of this committee to devise some more general method of taking the advance polls.

In 1948 I had the opportunity to question experts with respect to this. We had before us the resolution of a former committee and the evidence. I have forgotten the date. I think it was 1937. It was back some time at any rate. I have now had the experience of four elections at different times of the year, and I have some knowledge of what the nature of the problem is. It is wholly impossible to explain to a man whose livelihood demands that he be away from home on election day-and the same applies to a woman-that it is all right for him to lose his vote; whereas others, because they happen to fall within a certain professional classification, are able to take advantage of the advance polls. I do not go so far as one of the speakers went a little while ago in suggesting that it is necessary to have advance polls possibly in every polling division, and certainly not the multiplicity of advance polls that the then chief electoral officer seemed to fear when I made my argument in 1948. But I know of my own knowledge, and because I recorded them, of some 365 persons who were legitimately absent from the riding of South Winnipeg in the election in 1949, and I am sure that, if I knew that many, proportionately at any rate the other candidates must have known of another couple of hundred. Whether the number be that large, or less, or twice as many, the principle of classifying people as to their opportunity to vote by the particular occupation which they seem to have is too restricted. If the committee does not do anything else, it ought to

Dominion Elections Act see to it that the opportunities for advance-poll voting are broadened. I do not go so far as to say that .because someone wants to be away on holidays or wants to open up a summer camp two or three days earlier, wants to open on a Friday instead of waiting until Monday, they should be considered. You cannot legislate for peculiar and particular circumstances specifically; that only happens when you have a June or July election as a rule in this country. But the principle that I object to most is the classification by occupation to the extent that it is restricted. I do hope, and I am sure all hon. members from urban constituencies in particular must hope, that the committee will give serious consideration, and will make further recommendations to broaden the opportunity for voting at the advance polls.

I know, of course, that no matter how broad you make it, or how much you explain the differences in other ways, there will always be people on the borderline and you will continue to have the problems; but you will reduce the problem, which at the moment is a grievance to a large number of worthy people.

The only other thing I want to say, Mr. Speaker, is this. In 1948 we looked very carefully into the principle of absentee voting.

I would say this. I have not yet seen-I suspect no one else here has seen-a system of absentee voting which is above the suspicion which the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) mentioned a little while ago in respect to the envelope voting that was exercised by the troops in the last election. Somehow that doubt of the secrecy of the ballot, where the ballot is not cast in the locality where the elector is entitled to vote, arises. That doubt is there. Those of us who are a little older had some unfortunate experiences back in the period of world war I when large blocks of absentee ballots were put on the auction block. That does not express exactly what I mean but the result was entirely the same. We do not want a repetition of that. Therefore the committee should walk very warily in considering any extension of the principle of the absentee ballot.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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LIB

Leonard T. Stick

Liberal

Mr. L. T. Stick (Trinity-Conception):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say a very few words in respect of the position of the advance poll in Newfoundland. I would like to bring to the attention of the house the fact that thousands of our fishermen leave home usually the latter part of May and early in June, and go hundreds of miles away for the summer fishing. In my riding there were about six thousand who lost their vote. I would bring

to the attention of the committee some method whereby advance polls should be made for these men.

In my riding there is a coastline of about 500 miles. There were two advance polls, one in Harbour Grace and the other in Clarenville, about 150 miles apart. I do not expect the fishermen to go 50 miles to cast their votes. I do think that some consideration should be given whereby advance polls would be set up earlier and in the different localities so that these men can cast their votes before they leave home and go away. It is a serious problem in Newfoundland in the summertime where thousands upon thousands of our men leave their homes and go to Labrador and elsewhere. If we have an election on June 27 at another time thousands of these men will be disfranchised.

I want to bring to the attention of the house and of this committee this problem so that all possible means may be devised in order that they may be able to cast their votes before leaving home.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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PC

William Gourlay Blair

Progressive Conservative

Mr. W. G. Blair (Lanark):

I have had some difficulty with regard to this matter of the advance poll in my own riding. There are four towns in the riding with quite a few railroad people. Of these four towns only one town has had an advance poll, where there is a large railroad centre. The only people who can vote at that advance poll are the people who are on the voters' list of that town. Railroad men from other parts of the constituency have not the opportunity to vote at that advance poll.

Arrangements should be made whereby railroad men and others who might be qualified for the advance poll could get a certificate from the returning officer of the constituency indicating they were entitled to the advance poll. These men I am sure would be ready to travel the necessary distance if there were only the one advance poll in the constituency. Where there is no advance poll in two of the towns these men, especially the railroad people, have no opportunity to vote. A dominion election is usually held on a Monday and if the advance poll were ready three days before the election they would have an opportunity of casting their votes.

Previously there was only the one advance poll in the constituency at Smiths Falls but in the next election there will be an advance poll in one of the other towns. But that still leaves two towns without advance polls. As I suggest, railroad men and others who are eligible to vote should be able to go to the returning officer and obtain a certificate permitting them to vote at any place. If there

were only the one advance poll in the constituency they would be entitled to go there to vote.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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L L

William Moore Benidickson

Liberal Labour

Mr. W. M. Benidickson (Kenora-Rainy River):

Mr. Speaker, I have heard nothing said in favour of the single transferable vote.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ross (Souris):

The hon. member was not here this afternoon.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER AND SUGGEST AMENDMENTS
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April 18, 1950