June 13, 1934 (17th Parliament, 5th Session)


Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)


Yes, there is an exception with regard to those who served in the forces of His Majesty during the late war. Now the question arises whether the clause in the British Columbia act should not be further extended to include those who have openly defied the laws of this country. That is a matter for the consideration of the house when the bill comes before it, but at the conference which we had it was the general opinion
Franchise Act

that the clause drafted was not proper and should not be allowed to stand in its present form, though we did not decide on any particular amendment to it. That matter has been left over for further consideration.
On the general principles of the bill I think I may say that we came to some satisfactory conclusions except in regard to perhaps three points. One was in regard to the appointment of a single commissioner, upon which there may be still some discussion. Another was as to the question of a single or double enumeration; that is, the appointment of a single enumerator or two enumerators for the preparation, particularly, of the first or the basic list. I think the other main question upon which we did not reach agreement was the question of an appeal from the revising officer in the riding. It was suggested by my right hon. friend that there should be an appeal to the county or district judge in such cases. The proposal as drafted provided that the decision of the revising officer should be final. There were some other minor changes recommended, and I believe we are prepared to accept them, but they were only as to the matters of detail.
This is as full an explanation as I desire to make at the present time, but the question of disfranchising those who are unable to speak English or French has received a great deal of publicity in western newspapers. Such a proposal was never seriously considered. As soon as the matter came up for discussion it was unanimously stricken out of the bill. I may tell you, Mr. Chairman, and I do not think this is any breach of confidence, that this bill was not presented to the privy council until this week. It has not been thoroughly considered as yet, and I will not be able to introduce it to-day, though I am hopeful that I may do so to-morrow. It is now under consideration. There was no foundation for statements that have been made in the press throughout the west that the government contemplated such a thing. There was only a proposal which the government were considering, and I may say the same with regard to the rumour as to disfranchising Douk-hobors. That question was never considered by the government. There were suggestions in the draftsman's copy as I have described, and the conference dealt with it as I have indicated in my remarks this afternoon.
When the bill is presented, perhaps tomorrow or the next day, I think it will be found free from any serious defects. It constitutes a new principle in this country, but I think a sound one. I think it will be justified on the grounds of expedition, of

simplicity and of lowering of the cost. It will prove far less burdensome and cumbersome for the candidate than the present law. I think we will find that we can hold general elections throughout Canada in four weeks. There is not the intricate and involved machinery which exists under our present act. There has been a great deal of simplification. Until the bill comes down I need not say any more in regard to it, but briefly I have given an explanation of the motion standing on the order paper.

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