May 11, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)

LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I am coming to that point. I am free to admit that the point raised by my hon. friend is a serious one. As yet I have not considered it, but I propose to deal with it in a moment. I am not aware as to whether the committee considered that matter. It strikes me that there would appear to be quite an anomaly at first sight in suggesting a limitation in a constituency and having none in connection with the national organization. Before leaving the matter of the local organization, I might suggest that to allow unlimited expenditures in a constituency, as is the case now, is unfair to the constituency and detrimental to the general interests of the country.
Then, with respect to campaign funds of a general party organization, I do not believe there is any question which has more thoroughly aroused public opinion in this country-over a long period of time, particularly in recent years, than the matter of campaign funds. But I believe public opinion has been unduly aroused; I am convinced that the immense campaign funds which are mentioned on all and sundry occasions exist only in the imaginations of those who mention them. Any-one who has been as close to political organization work as I have knows that there is nothing harder to get than campaign funds when they are most urgently required. But the opinion does exist that there are such funds. Whether or not that opinion is well founded, it is deeply implanted in the minds of a large majority of our people.
There is the further thought that these funds are used corruptly, however much they may be used legally. There is also the thought that those who subscribe are doing something detrimental to the public interest and harmful to the country as a whole. My hon. friend, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Manion), the former leader of the opposition, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and many prominent men have expressed the view in this house-I am not giving their exact words-that a man has as much right to subscribe to his political party fund as he has to subscribe to his church or to any other organization. In that view I heartily concur. But the public has a right to know where these funds come from. The public has a right to be able to trace the sources of the funds by- which propaganda is carried on behalf of a political party. Whether these subscriptions be large or small, there should be something on our statute books to force those who feel inclined to subscribe to have their names known to the public. I do not think I need labour this point any further. The matter has been discussed time and again
[Mr. Calian.l
and I think the people generally of this country approve of publicity being given to campaign funds.
That this publicity will dry up some of the sources of these funds, I do not deny, as I have stated already, but- I do believe that as long as these funds are hidden, as long as the exact size of funds is not known, then those who attach themselves to political parties, those who like elections in order that they may benefit in their own pockets, will be constantly pulling at the purse-strings of the various parties because of the belief that the funds are unlimited. The moment the amount of these funds is known to the public it will be possible to tell the hangers-on that they cannot get that which they desire. In other words, if we have less money, we will squander less.
Speaking purely from the standpoint of one who has taken part in elections and election organization, I believe what we need most in this country is the education of our people to the fact that campaign funds cannot be picked off trees, that it is a delusion to imagine that because a general election is on, millionaires will empty their pockets on behalf of one political party or another, and that all one has to do is to make the suggestion to a political party in order to have it indulge in the wildest form of extravagance; that things which would not be done in private business will be done because it is in the alleged interests of the party. We should educate our people, and we shall be obliged to educate them, to the belief that civic spirit, interest in their country, interest in their own particular locality and their own selves will do more for the good of the country than the expenditure of thousands on publicity and similar activities. We must tell them that if they staunchly and firmly believe in the political party which they support, they will support that party because of their principles and in order to put the party into power. If that is done I think they will soon come to the conclusion that there will be no reward at the end other than the ordinary reward of virtue.
A word with respect to the suggestion made by the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George. On many occasions my hon. friend has explained to this house the particular difficulties which exist in his constituency.
I do not think any member of this house, least of all myself, would contradict him in any way. If he believes that the state of disorder which he describes constantly exists, we have to take his word for it. But I fail to follow his argument when he states that because

Electoral Matters-Special Committee
there are among his electors, or among those who reside in his constituency, people who would take advantage of the law7 to perjure themselves or to commit criminal acts, this parliament should authorize the expenditure of money to an extent to permit him to set up a private army of his own to control this lawlessness. I took it from his observations this morning that he proposed to engage his own private constables. He complained of political patronage in the state engaging one constable, but with all my respect and even veneration for my hon. friend he would hardly be likely to make the general of his private army a member of another political party.

Topic:   ELECTORAL MATTERS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR CONCURRENCE IN THIRD REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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