March 8, 1962

PC

Paul Raymond Martineau (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I must rule on this point. It is not proper to impute motives to an hon. member, and the hon. member should continue to discuss the bill.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGee:

First of all, I did not think the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate was so sensitive, so touchy, but I will defer to your ruling, sir, and withdraw that to which exception has been taken. Surely I may be permitted to do a little wondering out loud. I am wondering why today the hon. member dons both sackcloth and ashes, beats his breast in humility and proclaims the sins of his administration. Has this been a sudden thing that has come on him as a fit?

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I introduced the same bill last year but it never even got second reading.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGee:

The criticism for that delay might be directed to another part of the house, not this particular corner. As the hon. member well recalls it was the actions of certain hon. members in another corner of this house that, for all practical purposes, deprived every hon. member who had a private bill on the order paper from having that bill discussed.

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

Some hon. Members:

Shame.

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

William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

Where were you last session? He is not talking about this corner, anyway.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGee:

Surely I am permitted to wonder why, when the committee on privileges and elections was reviewing the election act, the hon. member did not mention this problem at that time. I must pay tribute to the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate because he was a most vocal and articulate member of that committee. Do we find in the records of the committee this passion and concern for this particular matter? I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, you will look in vain through the records of that committee to find any evidence of an effort by the hon. member in connection with this subject.

The hon. member had some comments to make about the cliff-hanging aspect of the situation when elections are being called. He stopped beating his breast and proclaiming the sins of the past too soon. I seem to recall an incident in the history of this House of Commons in which a prime minister well known to the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate dissolved this house over the dinner hour. The hon. member was suggesting that some virtue existed in the Liberal party so far as the calling of elections were concerned. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, he acknowledged the monumental task of cataloguing the sins of this previous administration by desisting-

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

Joseph-Alphonse-Anaclet Habel (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Habel:

Would the hon. member permit a question?

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 shall answer any question the hon. member might have at the conclusion of my remarks. There is a point to be made here; and again, without questioning the sincerity of the hon. member in any way, I wonder why he did not put a bill together which would clearly do the job which this pretends to be doing. A case can be made that six months is too long a period of time. When the six months period was first established in the elections act, communications in this country were such that clearly all that time was required for word to get out to the more remote areas in most of the constituencies. Now, on the grounds of increased communications over the past two decades, a case can be made for reducing that period from, say, six months to something perhaps in the area of four months.

Had there been any kind of serious intent behind this bill it might have something to say about the difficulties of weather, perhaps designating constituencies affected by it as we designate them for other purposes in the act.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

May I ask a purely factual question? Does the hon. gentleman appreciate that this bill does not set the date, or purport to set the date of election? It is only the date on which the writ is issued, and that has nothing to do with what he is talking about.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGee:

These considerations were

raised by the hon. member himself and surely basically we are concerned here with the period of time which will elapse-

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

From the vacancy to the issuance of the writ. The election date would be involved in another bill.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGee:

But surely the purpose of the bill is to reduce the period of time which will elapse between the vacancy and the byelection date?

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Between the vacancy and the issuance of the writ.

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 heard the hon. member speaking and he addressed himself almost entirely to the proposition that by-elections should be held sooner than they are now, and this is precisely the point to which I am addressing myself. Before the hon. member interrupted my train of thought I said I would have expected to find some reference in this bill excluding certain constituencies because of communication problems, and the hon. member, with his ability to place words together both in verbal and written form,

Private Bills

should have been able to find some phrase to cover the situation in which a by-election, by some sequence of events, would be held deep in the depths of winter.

There is some difficulty involved where a by-election can be held too soon, and we have in this parliament an hon. member who demonstrates the doubtfulness of the proposition that by-elections should be held almost instantly. I make reference here to the hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen) and his unhappy circumstances, although mind you the results were very happy. Hon. members will recall that there was a disputed election in his constituency and a new election was called. I am sure all hon. members felt for the hon. member for Yukon, who went through and conducted three separate election campaigns within the space of one year in some of the most difficult and inaccessible terrain in the whole of Canada.

Hon. members will recall that the original election in 1957 was disputed. Then a new election was called, and then the general election; so that the hon. member was engaged in almost continuous campaign activity throughout the whole of that period. Certainly a case can be made for the holding of by-elections but it must be pretty clear to almost everybody, except the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate, that we are not too far away from a general election.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

What do you know about it?

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

An hon. Member:

As much as you.

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

Frank Charles McGee

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McGee:

The hon. member for Victoria-Carleton made reference to the question of unseemly haste and it seems to me that consideration should be given to a decent interval being allowed to elapse between the death of an hon. member and the beginning of activities to replace him.

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

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Say 15 months, in the case of Waterloo South.

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 am attempting to place on the record some relevant, and I hope intelligent factors, which I had hoped to find contained in this bill, and if the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate who lectures this house almost every day and calls everybody's attention to the rules of the house, would keep quiet, I might be able to continue. Indeed I might say I heard somebody offer the suggestion the other day that if the hon. member would reverse the procedure-open his mind and close his mouth-he might learn something.

As I have stated, there is room for improvement in this area, but I have attempted to point out some of the considerations which should be given a great deal of thought. There

Private Bills

is the question of allowing a decent interval and the question of the difficulties of organization. In discussing such matters as this in the elections act and when they are discussing redistribution of seats, some hon. members seem to forget the very real problem of locating a candidate, and of forming a committee as each party and in fact as each individual candidate must do, arranging and gathering persons around him who will be acting in his support to conduct an election within our current practices. They seem to forget that these things take some time, and the undue haste that the hon. member suggested should not be allowed to disrupt the true purpose and the ideal all of us have in connection with this matter.

In summary I would say that the hon. member has made a case, but on a basis which curiously enough he did not mention, that of communications. He was so busy trying to make political hay on the question that he overlooked the basic proposition which is valid to support his own bill. I am prevented from questioning his sincerity but that omission raises doubts in my mind about the bill. I hold there should be consideration given to geographical areas and weather difficulties and I suggest that the bill in its present form is not worthy of support. However, I think a bill which would be worthy of support could be presented to the house but in all probability, as is normal, it will be left to a Conservative member to clean up the mess, improve the inadequacies of the members of the Liberal party, and present an effective measure to the house.

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