Mr. Ray Thomas (Wetaskiwin) moved
the second reading of Bill No. 12, to amend the Canada Elections Act (ballot papers).
He said: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated on first reading of the bill, I have introduced this measure on a number of occasions before. Therefore I will be very brief in what I have to say because those hon. members who were here during the last parliament will be quite familiar with it and I will just say a few words by way of explanation to those who may not be familiar with the history of the measure.
The bill has two provisions. The first is to put the political affiliation of the candidate on the ballot paper. The purpose of the second is to provide that the leader of any of the political groups in the country can, if there is any doubt, send or give a letter to the returning officer indicating which of the candidates in any constituency is the official representative of the particular political party.
During the course of the debates in the last few years when I have brought this measure before the house it has been pointed out that we are not elected to the House of Commons as members of political groups but as representatives of the people of Canada and therefore political affiliation should not be taken into consideration. I think that is a rather weak argument because if hon. members will look at the seating plan of the house they will find that each of the groups in the house is definitely designated according to political affiliation. They will find also if they look at the back pages of Hansard each Wednesday that the political affiliation of every member of the house is shown in the list of members.
Whether or not we want to admit it, Canada does have a party system. Each candidate as he goes into an election does so duly nominated by his political party. He goes into the campaign on the hustings as the representative of that political party regardless of the fact that no mention of his political affiliation is made on the ballot or nomination papers. In checking the Parliamentary Guide through the years I have found numerous instances-hon. members will find that the same thing was true on June 10 last-where in past elections some of the parties have felt they did not have a chance to win a particular constituency and have deliberately gone out and selected a candidate with a name either identical to or very similar to that of the candidate whom they hoped to defeat.
When I introduced the bill last session one argument put forward against the bill was that if a man were sent to the House of Commons as the representative of a political group it might stand in his way if he wanted to cross the floor or change from the government side to the opposition side or vice versa. I should like to point out that within recent times we have had a very good example of that and apparently the fact that this person was in the house as a member of a certain party did not make a bit of difference because when he made his statement about changing he said that he was changing from one party to another.
There is only one more point I wish to raise. There are provinces in Canada which have adopted the policy of accepting the fact that we do have party politics in this country and have placed the political affiliation of candidates on ballot papers. It has worked out very well. In order to save confusion in the future, I think the best thing that we in the House of Commons can do is to adopt a practice which has been accepted and found wholly adequate in some of the provinces and thus, where there might be confusion, give the people the opportunity to know which candidate represents the party for which they would like to vote.
Subtopic: AMENDMENT RESPECTING PRINTING OF BALLOT PAPERS