Mr. C. E. BOTHWELL (Swift Current):
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil), I can only say that last year in committee considerable time was spent in discussing the subject of absentee voting. If the amendment is in order, which I doubt very much, my first objection to it would be that it applies only to British Columbia. If the act is going to be amended to provide for absentee voting, then it would appear to me that there should be general application so that it would apply to every province. The maritime provinces must be in exactly the same position as British Columbia, and the same observation would apply to those constituencies facing on the
Elections and Electoral Districts
great lakes. The sailors on those lakes will be absent from home, just in the same way as the seamen, lumbermen and fishermen of British Columbia may be absent.
The hon. member has referred to my remarks of last year as reported at page 4246 of Hansard. On that occasion I said:
The committee found that the expense of absentee voting did not warrant our including it in this bill. For instance, in the election of 1935 there were 5,334 votes polled under the absentee voting provision. We found that 1,533 of them were rejected. The cost of absentee voting was approximately $250,000, or $65 plus, per vote. And it was by reason of the expense which was incurred in connection with absentee voting the committee decided that for the sake of a vote of that size we would not be warranted in inserting a clause which would deal with absentee voting.
If expense is no object, then I assume we can provide for every person in Canada, no matter where he or she may be, exercising his or her franchise on election day. Certainly machinery can be set up in some way whereby every man would have an opportunity to vote, either before or after the election, and whether or not he was in his own constituency or polling subdivision.
However, I believe the committee had before them all the representations which have been made this evening, and they gave every consideration to the matter. Their conclusion was that they were not justified in inserting the absentee provisions which were in the 1934 act.