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

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Only in urban communities. It worked all right in British Columbia.
_ Mr. MACKENZIE KING: It has worked in British Columbia, my right hon. friend says, but it will be new in other provinces, and I believe that the utmost industry and care will have to be taken in securing signatures, and in ensuring that as regards everyone, who ought to be included, so far as it is humanly possible to have their names included, that they are included in the lists.
Another feature that the Minister of Justice has mentioned and which I think ought to be very carefully considered is the right of appeal. The minister has said that, as matters now stand, the revising officer will take the lists as prepared by the enumerators, and that they will be the lists for the purposes of the election. The revising officers, let it be repeated, will, if the act remains in its present form, be the sole arbiters. There will be no appeal, no opportunity of having any revision, if a name does not happen to be on or has been erroneously inserted at the time the revising officer sends in the return. I certainly think there ought to be an appeal to a county court judge. If there is not, we will simply be returning to the old condition of affairs where, under the administration of Sir John A. Macdonald, revising barristers were appointed in the different constituencies. To that proposed procedure, it will be remembered by those who recall the times, there was the strongest objection raised in this house by all except those who sat on the government side. If I recollect aright, from a past reading of the debates, this House of Commons was kept in session for several days through objection to just that very feature of allowing revising barristers to have the final say as to whose names were to be on the list and not permitting an appeal to the county court. The Minister of Justice, was not in the house at the time, he came in shortly after but perhaps he will recall the circumstances better than anyone else. It certainly was not until the government permitted an appeal to a county court judge that the long blockade which took place at that time was lifted and the measure finally passed the house. If we are to agree on a measure of this kind, it ought to be possible at this time to take a step that many years ago was found absolutely necessary and in the public interest.
What I have said touches only some of the points that have been mentioned by the Minister of Justice. When we are in committee on the bill I perhaps will have more to say on other features. But I should like to repeat now that such discussion as took place between members of the government opposite and myself and1 the member for West Edmonton was wholly tentative and without prejudice, and was, I should also say, in entire confidence, a confidence which I believe has been respected by all who were parties to it.
The Minister of Justice has referred to rumours that were afloat in different parts of the country. May I say that I noticed those rumours myself, and, as a matter of fact, it was my having drawn the Prime Minister's attention to the circumstance that the press already appeared to have a copy of the proposed bill, which led the Prime Minister to say he regretted that the press had published something that purported to be this bill, and to say he could not understand how they possibly had got hold of any such measure.
I would also say-I do not know whether I pointed it out at the time to the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State-but recalling that our first interview, was on May 23, that before that interview had taken place at all, I saw in the papers of this city statements purporting to give the government's reasons for obliging those whose names were to be placed on the lists to have a knowledge of the French and English languages, and also referring to the Doukhobor matter. The news item was so worded as to indicate that it had been inspired by the administration with a view to putting forward its point of view. I do not imagine for one moment that such was the case, but the language of the interview is there, and that was before any conference at all had taken place. I think it was unfortunate that what was part of a draft, or may have been thought to have been part of the draft of the measure, has been discussed in advance, but certainly, so far as hon. members on this side of the house are concerned, I believe that anj'- who have referred to that phase of it have drawn their inferences from the common sources which we have all seen, namely the reports which appeared in the press in advance.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   ELECTORAL FRANCHISE-APPOINTMENT OF FRANCHISE COMMISSIONER-PRINTING OF VOTERS' LISTS
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