June 16, 1970 (28th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Donald Stovel Macdonald (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)


Mr. Macdonald (Rosedale):

Mr. Chairman, when the hon. member for Fraser Valley West brought this amendment forward he referred at some length to an exchange that took place in the Standing Committee between himself and the Chief Electoral Officer, which seems to me probably the most effective answer to the points he was making at the time. As the Chief Electoral Officer pointed out, though I hesitate to quote him without reading his actual remarks, the system here appears to produce the most efficient way of appointing returning officers. It was also indicated at the time that up until about 1929 or 1930 they were appointed in the manner suggested by the hon. member. Then the House, nearly 40 years ago, changed the procedure so that they would be appointed by the Governor in Council and ever since that time this particular proposal has been in effect.
I understand it was the statement of a former Chief Electoral Officer, who operated under the older system, that the reinstitution of the system which in effect got him into controversy in a particular constituency by choosing the returning officer, would be a resigning matter as far as he was concerned. In other words, the law was changed specifi-
June 16, 1970

cally because of unhappy experience with the exact procedure that the hon. member is suggesting in this regard.
One other aspect of the hon. member's amendment which seems to me to be a good reason for recommending that the committee reject it is that there are other provisions in the statute-in particular subsection 5 of clause 7-for the purpose of the early filling of a vacancy, so there will not be a delay, and providing that the returning officer shall be appointed within 60 days. The procedure put forward by the hon. member, however, is a lengthy one with regard to which there can be no assurance whatever that within 60 days, or at any particular time, a vacancy would be filled. In other words, in order to carry out the procedure proposed by the hon. member, a particular constituency could find itself several weeks before an election campaign without a returning officer, and because of the restrictions that he imposes, without the ability of appointing one at an early date.
On that basis, Mr. Chairman, both because Parliament long ago rejected the proposal and because it will not provide, to adopt a term that has been used, for the efficiency of appointment, I recommend to the committee that it reject this amendment.

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