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


George William Fowler

Conservative (1867-1942)


I agree with what the right lion, gentleman has said as to the small number of persons in rural constituencies who can be approached by the briber, but unfortunately there are enough of them in most of the constituencies to make the difference between victory and defeat. They hold the balance of power. There are honest men in both parties, and they are the great mass. The very great mass of the electorate, I believe, are honest voters, who cannot be approached in that way. But unfortunately there are a number in almost every constituency that cun be handled, and when they all go one way, or the majority of them go one way, that' way is apt to be the way that decides the election. That is the class we want to get at. Now the difficulty with the argument of the Premier is that he does not seem to perceive the principle which I think is the true principle, that the right to vote is a trust. As the hon. member for Lanark (Hon. Mr. Haggart) has pointed out, it is not only a trust for himself, but for others who are not voters, for minors and for females who have not the franchise. No trustee can exercise a trust by abstaining from fulfilling its terms ; that is entirely contrary to the doctrine of trusts. What right has any man to decide at a mere whim of his own whether he shall exercise his trust or not ? We have in this country the system of party government, and the voter has the right to select from either one of these parties, but I cannot agree with the doctrine laid down by the Prime Minister that an abstention from voting is an exercise of the trust vested in the elector.

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