March 8, 1962

LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

At the conclusion of my speech I would hope that the hon. gentleman would make a speech on this subject himself.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

I will certainly correct the statement made by the hon. gentleman.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I also hope that in doing so he will support this bill in order to make sure that there are no delays and that there is no possibility of any constituency being unrepresented for any length of time in this house at any time. Whatever may have been

the record of other governments in the past, I do not think since 1935 there has been any record worse than that of the present government in delaying by-elections. It is true that immediately after 1958 they did not delay them. However, they have done so from the date on which my friend the hon. member for Trinity was elected in a byelection that marked the beginning of the turning of the tide in this country.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Hon. gentlemen opposite have a singular reluctance to test their fortunes with the electorate. Perhaps this reluctance is human. Perhaps they should not be blamed, knowing what they know about the currents of opinion. However the facts are there on the record. More than half a dozen constituencies for whole sessions of parliament have been deprived of representation in this house. The matter has now become a scandal. Being a scandal, I suggest it is time the situation was corrected and that this is one important step in making that correction.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

Mr. Speaker-

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Is the hon. member for St. John's East rising to make an explanation?

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

Yes, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member who has just taken his seat made the statement which is on the record about the premier of Newfoundland. He said that our party was complaining because the premier of Newfoundland had called a by-election too soon. That is not a factual statement. What in fact happened was that there has been a vacancy in the Newfoundland legislature for a Labrador constituency. The premier of Newfoundland waited the complete six months statutory period and called the election for March 19 in a constituency in the wilds of Labrador and he gave only three week's notice.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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NDP

Frank Howard

New Democratic Party

Mr. Frank Howard (Skeena):

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to get into this feud between Newfoundlanders or perhaps I should say between a Newfoundlander and a Manitoban. Perhaps I should preface my remarks by saying that there is possibly a bit of a hazard involved in expressing support for a bill emanating from the area from which this one emanated. It might be misinterpreted as leading to something else.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I would not suspect it.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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NDP

Frank Howard

New Democratic Party

Mr. Howard:

No; and it will not happen. We support the principle of the bill. We feel that it is not compatible with our ideas of democracy to have seats in the House of Commons remain vacant for inordinately or exceptionally long periods of time. A case in

Private Bills

point is the constituency of Waterloo South. By the time the by-election is held, if it is held on the date which has been announced, that seat will have remained vacant for well over a year. We think that this is just not the full degree of decency of treatment which should be afforded to voters in this country. Many of our forefathers went to jail and suffered great hardships in order to obtain the right to vote, the right to representation in parliament and the right to exercise their own ideas through their own elected representatives. With this long history behind us we feel that the desires of people in a country or in a constituency should not be frustrated because we have a government headed by a Prime Minister who has the propensity for great procrastination or for using the calling of by-elections for some obscure political purpose. As was mentioned, taking into account the problems of the country in connection with geography and weather, it is not possible nor do I think it is sensible to set a rigid time for the calling of elections or by-elections. For instance, in the midst of January it would be most awkward and difficult and would indeed cause hardship to the people involved if they were obliged to participate in an election, say, in Yukon, or in the new constituency of the Northwest Territories or in any of the other northern ridings. As the hon. member mentioned, in the Labrador area also this situation works a hardship upon the people.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I wonder whether the hon. member would permit me to ask a question?

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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NDP

Frank Howard

New Democratic Party

Mr. Howard:

Yes.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Would he not think that this would work as much hardship in March of one year as in March of another year, and that this consideration would have applied to 1958?

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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NDP

Frank Howard

New Democratic Party

Mr. Howard:

As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, I have no intention of getting into this feud between a Newfoundlander and a Manitoban on this question. All I am doing now is supporting the contention which was advanced by the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillin-gate originally and which he is doing his best to talk me out of supporting. I want some flexibility to be contained in the statute that says you must call an election within a certain length of time, in order to allow a certain period of time to meet the exigencies of weather and the like. In short, we support the principle of the bill. We think it is most necessary to ensure that the population in constituencies have representation in parliament at all times during the time parliament is in session. Of course,

Private Bills

we then get into the realm in which members have been accused on a number of occasions, namely that we may even have sitting members in the house but that actually the people in the constituency in question have no representation, even though there is a sitting member. We cannot get into that field, of course, as then we would be going beyond the scope of the bill. We do not wish to do that. However, in general we support the principle of the bill. We hope it will come to a vote. We hope that hon. gentlemen opposite will not spend the balance of the time until six o'clock ensuring that this bill does not come to a vote. It is far too important to be treated so disdainfully, as other private members bills are treated by hon. members opposite.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. W. Montgomery (Vicloria-Carlelon):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words on this bill. I notice that it has two parts to it. The mover wishes to have byelection writs issued within 60 days and byelections held within 90 days after the issuance of the writ. Before I say any more, the last speaker more or less accused members on this side of the house of being ridiculous and talking about things that are not important. I think he has spent more time in this house talking about unimportant things than any other member and I do not think he should accuse us of wasting time if we want to express our opinions on this bill.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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NDP

Frank Howard

New Democratic Party

Mr. Howard:

Attaboy, Gage.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

I am one of those who first entered the House of Commons after a by-election quite a while ago, and I take a different attitude from that of the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate with regard to this matter. I will tell him right away that I will not support his bill if it comes to a vote.

It is not particularly the job of members of parliament to decide to limit the wishes of the people in any constituency. The rights of parliament are different from the rights of the people in a constituency. In some constituencies a by-election may be desired soon and in others the people may not want a by-election to be held quickly. That is just as true for one party as for another. As the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate said a while ago in confessing his past sins, it may depend on who is sitting in the chair of authority. In my opinion the people of the constituency should be given lots of scope.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

How can they do anything about it?

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

Well, I find that people in a constituency get pretty much what they

want if their requests are reasonable. I have sat in the opposition and on the government side, and if the people of a constituency have a member of parliament who is a cussed nuisance they sometimes do not get everything they request because they are misled. If they have a good, sound member of parliament who is reasonable, they usually do.

Topic:   HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING HOLDING OF BY-ELECTIONS
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March 8, 1962