August 21, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


William Pugsley



This clause ought, I
think, to be considered in connection with clause (d). I have grave doubts whether the leader of the Opposition ought to assume the responsibility of taking a part in the appointment of these special returning officers unless he also has the right to take a part in the appointment of the presiding officers. The presiding officers are the important officials; they are the ones who make the appointments as to the time of taking the vote, and, while they are called presiding officers, they are actually taking the same place as the returning officers in the carrying on of an ordinary election. It is to my mind absurd to convey the impression by this Bill that this is to be an election in the carrying on of which both parties are to have an equal voice, and yet, in respect to the most important officers, the men who have most to do with the holding of these elections, have the appointment controlled entirely by the Government of the day. These elections, so far as the soldiers' vote is concerned, are to be held under very extraordinary circumstances. Ordinarily when an election is held under the Dominion Elections Act there are voters' lists, and there are special days appointed for the nomination and the election, of which the entire public has notice. The candidates and their agents have an opportunity of being present. There is every opportunity to see that a fair election is held. In the case of the soldiers, there are to be no lists. 'Certain qualifications are called for under this Bill, but the only qualifications are that the soldiers shall be British subjects. Provision is made that if it is necessary in order to enable the soldier to cast his vote, the presiding officer may take his vote without any notice to the special returning officer or the scrutineers, or without any opportunity being given to exercise any care whatever in the taking of the vote. Therefore I say that, in order to give any appearance of fairness, the presiding officer ought to be chosen by both parties, just as are

the special returning officers. I should like to have the minister allow this to stand' in order that the right hon. leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier), who, I regret to say, is not very well, may have an opportunity of expressing his view with regatd to this section. I have expressed my own sincere opinion with regard to it. I do not know whether the right hon. gentleman would be prepared to accept the responsibility that is thrown upon him in reference to these minor officers, when he is to have no voice in respect of these important officers designated presiding officers under section (d).

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