October 20, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)


his disapproval, he has a right to mark his disapproval, of those acts, and the best and most effective method by which he can do so is to refuse to vote. There is not a gentleman in this House who has not seen examples of that kind. A party candidate cannot bring to the polls to support him some members of his own party because they think their party has been guilty of some action of which they disapprove, which was not in line with the general policy of that party. Under such circumstances may not one, or three, or four, or twenty, of the most respectable citizens in a community openly mark their dissent from their own party by abstaining from voting ? They have a right to say, we will not vote for you, neither can we vote for the other side, for we do not believe in them ; therefore, we do not propose to vote at all on this occasion. Now is, that not a legitimate manner of exercising the right of franchise? Is that not one of the highest, most moral and most effective methods of asserting his independence under the circumstances ? More than that, it has been found to be effective upon every occasion that it has been exercised. Under such circumstances you cannot say that you will compel a man to give his vote, compel him to commit a hypocritical action, in going to the polls and casting a blank ballot. I believe that under the circumstances a man has a right to say : I will not vote on this occasion, I say so openly and above-board, I will not vote, neither will I vote for the other side, because I do not believe in their policy ; therefore, I will stay at home. I appeal to the conscience of every man opposite, I appeal particularly to the conscience of my hon. friend from King's, N.B. (Mr. Fowler), who has taken a warm part in the discussion of this question, I appeal to him whether he thinks it is right to force a man to vote under these circumstances. True it is that if we allow this privilege of abstention we may not reach a certain class of electors who want to be bribed. Well, let me say that so far as my experience goes-I will not speak of cities of which I have not much experience-but so far as the rural part of the community is concerned the number of electors who are accessible to bribes is very small, is infinitesimal. You will always find a certain proportion of the electors who are ready to take bribes, but the great mass of the electors vote according to their conscience, according to their sense of duty, according to their usual party affiliations. Of course, there are exceptions, there are always a certain number who will wait to the last moment to vote. We have the five o'clock man, we have the four and a half o'clock man, who will hold back his vote to the last moment, waiting for the highest bidder. If you were to have compulsory voting, and this class of men had to go to the polls, do you think they would be any the less ready to take a bribe ? They would

take it a little earlier, that is all. They would not wait for the highest bidder, but they would take the first one that offered. For my part, I think the method we have at present is the best and the most maniy that we can devise.

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