March 8, 1962

PC

James Aloysius McGrath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGrath:

The hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate would not understand that.

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 think the people in a constituency are fairly reasonable.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Would the hon. member permit me to ask a question?

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 will try to answer if I can.

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 tell me how, under the law as it now stands, the people in the constituency can have a by-election if they want to?

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

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

There is nothing to prevent it if they petition the government in the right way and make their wishes known. The trouble with some hon. members is that they feel they represent everybody. They do in one sense; but there are a lot of people in their constituencies who apparently do not pay much attention to what they recommend. For 22 years when the party the hon. member supports was in power you fooled the people many times. It is like the old story that when you cry wolf, wolf too often, help is not given.

I do not want to get away from the bill, though it seems so easy to do in view of the circumstances. Under the present law the time within which a writ must be issued is six months. It can be done sooner if the people of the constituency get after their member of parliament. If he is reasonable and can present a good case I venture to say that even an opposition member could secure a byelection.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

But he would have to be dead first.

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

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

But if you have an opposition member to whom no attention is paid and who makes himself a nuisance to the government he is not going to be able to get a by-election. There are only a few of us who have had experience both in the opposition and as members of the party in power and who can really speak with a good idea of the opinion of the people in the constituencies. Therefore I am quite happy with the way the law is.

There is another point. Under this bill it could be possible to have two by-elections in one year. Any hon. members who have had to

run in one election and then seven or eight months later run again know that it is not a very pleasant experience from a financial standpoint at least. There is also the point that sometimes the people in the constituency do not want an election called when somebody in the opposition might like to have it called because of the weather conditions and so on.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

This is the new democracy, is 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:

All of these things have something to do with the matter. Like many other things, I think this is a matter that should be subject to a request from the constituency and left to the discretion of the people who must call elections.

I have not had time to investigate to see why a period of six months was established in the present law. There must have been some good reasons, and I think the law as it stands has served very well. Maybe I should not say this but I know of one or two constituencies where the people would be just as well off if they had no representation as they are with the representation they have.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Is the hon. member thinking of Restigouche-Madawaska?

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

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

No, I was not referring to that. New Brunswick is very happy.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I mean the former member, of course.

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

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

There are many reasons other than political ones. We do not want to limit discussion of this matter, and I am certainly not one of those who would wish to cut down the time. I do not believe the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate had this in mind but I can see some people might say that he would want to have somebody elected before the former member had cooled off, before he was buried. You can go to extremes in these things.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

You cannot have an election in less than 60 days.

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 think you could under this bill. I am quite happy to support the law as it stands at the moment unless far better reasons are advanced than those offered by the mover of the bill. I know that the hon. member has brought the bill forward in good faith. I sat on a committee with him and he is quite adept at changing his mind. He told us he started out as a Conservative and that if he had had a chance to vote early enough in his life he might have been a Conservative. However, he then got into other company and by the time he was 21 he had changed his mind. As time has gone on he

Private Bills

has changed his mind on several occasions and now he is apparently ready to throw his old party overboard on account of all their sins. He has repented but I do not know what he is going to do with some of the fellows he has with him on that wagon who have not repented yet.

I think we can assume that there must be some political reason behind this, although I will give the hon. member credit for his sincerity. He seems to have in mind the fact that this government is not doing right by the people. He has forgotten that under his scheme the people who are really represented in parliament would not have very much to say about whether or not they wanted the time to be longer than the five months. I think six months is all right for the issuance of the writ, and a reasonable time thereafter for the election. I am sorry but I must tell the hon. member that if this bill comes to a vote I will be voting against it.

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

Walter George Pitman

New Democratic Party

Mr. Walter Pitman (Peterborough):

When

this debate began, I thought the bill was a very simple one. I was going to congratulate the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate upon introducing it because I think the measure is very much needed in our democratic system. I must say that since the last member spoke I have become more and more confused. I think we are getting near reincarnation now because I have not been able to understand how a member of parliament can ask for a by-election in his own constituency, especially when by-elections usually occur after the death of a member. It seems to me we have become involved in a whole area of trouble because of the apparent lack of efficiency of our undertakers in terms of getting our members of parliament buried before this by-election can take place.

Surely, we are dealing with the rights of the people in the constituency. I think one of the speakers had a point when he said that the people in the constituency had rights. It is not the right of a few supporters of the government party, whichever party that might be, to decide upon the date of the election. We have a situation where perhaps 100 or 200 people in a constituency have the right to make the decision for all the people in that constituency. I do not believe this is sound in terms of our parliamentary democratic tradition. Nor do I think it is very sound to assume that the government party, no matter which party that might be, should be able to delay the election over a long period of time, to wait until unemployment decreases or until the economy begins to rise before deciding on the date of the by-election. All of us in this house know to what extent a by-election becomes a means of

Private Bills

judging a political party or an opposition party in terms of its performance in this house or in the country.

Perhaps, as the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate mentioned, this bill is a first step towards remedying the situation. I would expect that, as a second step, perhaps the hon. member would introduce another bill by means of which we would be able to set a time limit on the government's ability to postpone a by-election. Perhaps we would have the opportunity then of having the election within five months after the death of a member. As one who did come into this house on a by-election, I can assure hon. members of the difficulties which exist in a constituency which has no member. I think the by-election was called in fairly short order in the federal riding of Peterborough. However, there was a tremendous backlog of problems. Veterans become very much concerned about pensions when they cannot seem to get through to the right person. Many of the people have problems. I am sure every member in this house finds five or ten letters a day on his desk. When you multiply this by the number of days a constituency is left without a member of parliament, you can well imagine the frustration created for a great many people in a constituency.

I think we can put this discussion on a very high level. I thought I heard the hon. member for Trinity mention, no taxation without representation. Certainly this is one of the great strongholds of our democratic tradition, that is the tradition that all the people must have the right to decide, through their representatives, on the taxes to be imposed on them. I sincerely hope that this bill will come to a vote tonight and all hon. members will have an opportunity to take another step towards making our parliamentary democracy more democratic.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Frank McGee (York-Scarborough):

Mr. Speaker, I would be inclined, under normal circumstances, to approve of a measure to speed up the process of filling vacancies in the House of Commons. As I say, I would be inclined to approve of this if I could bring myself to believe in the sincerity of the hon. member's purpose in proposing the measure to this house.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I will have to rise on a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker. It is not, of course, competent for any hon. member to question the sincerity of any other hon. member. I hope the hon. gentleman will withdraw the implication and will deal with the bill regardless of who sponsors it. It is the bill with which we are dealing, not the sponsor.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGee:

I take it, Mr. Speaker, you wish to rule on this?

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