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


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)



Mr. Chairman, since the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) has made reference to the conference which took place between himself and the Secretary of State (Mr. Cahan) and myself and my colleague the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart), perhaps I should say a word with regard to the minister's representations in that particular. In a word, though speaking generally, I may say that so far as my recollection of the entire proceedings is concerned, the Minister of Justice has stated the matter accurately.
As the house will remember, I frequently asked the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) when we might expect to have this new electoral measure brought down. Finally, towards the end of April, the Prime Minister stated that very shortly a bill would be printed and that he would see that, as leader of the opposition, I was supplied with a copy. When the bill was printed the Prime Minister had a copy sent to my office, and on the day the copy arrived he stated in the house that it had been so sent. Later in the day, the Prime Minister said to me that he would be pleased if I, together with one of my colleagues, would confer with the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State concerning the measure. The Prime Minister was careful to state at the time that the purpose of the conference was solely that of considering a draft measure with a view to seeing how much in the way of possible agreement might be arrived at in the introduction of a measure of the kind, and that our conference was to be entirely without prejudice in any direction. That is to say, anything that was said at the conference would not necessarily bind the government with respect to its rights in the matter of the final form of the bill and. would not in any way limit the opposition or other parties in the house with respect to proposals and criticisms they might wish to make.
When the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart) and myself met with the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State,

Franchise Act
we were again advised that the measure before us was a draft measure and that neither side would be committed with respect to any suggestions that might be made or with respect, as I understood it, to any conclusions that might be reached. We were simply to endeavour to see how far our minds might be brought to be as one with respect to the measure as drafted. As the Minister of Justice has stated, the draftsman, Mr. O'Connor, was present at the two conferences that took place, and was consulted with respect to the intent and meaning of different clauses.
On these matters I think there is no point of difference between us. If I have omitted to refer to any phase of either of the interviews which either the Secretary of State or the Minister of Justice would expect me to mention I should be glad to be reminded of it and to say what may seem necessary by way of comment.
In what I have now to say, Mr. Chairman, I presume I must confine myself, not to my remembrance of the draft bill, but rather to what the Minister of Justice has just said in regard to the proposed measure. My hon. friend has intimated that the present elections act is really three measures combined in one, that it is an act with respect to the franchise, an act with respect to the preparation of voters' lists, and also an act with respect to the machinery for the conduct of the elections themselves. He has stated further that the present measure is to take out of the general act as it now stands those parts which relate to the franchise and to the preparation of electoral lists. I see no objection whatever to that step being taken. I believe that will tend in the direction of simplification and, if done by agreement as I believe we should find it possible to do, it should be all to the good in a simplifying and understanding of electoral procedure.
May I deal with the first two main divisions which, I assume, are the only ones we have to consider, namely those pertaining to the franchise, and the preparation of the voters' lists. As I understand the matter, it is the government's intention in other particulars to leave the elections act as it is, and to make only such changes as may be consequent upon what may be decided upon with respect to the franchise, and the preparation of the lists.
As to the franchise, may I say that I do not believe there is a necessity for altering in any particular the franchise as it now stands. I noticed that in his remarks this afternoon the Minister of Justice has not indicated any changes to be made in that respect.

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