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


Edward Mortimer Macdonald



In England and in Prance, and these officers had powers of the widest description. My hon. friend here provides for the appointment of presiding officers by subsection (d) of section 4, which says:
(d) A sufficient number of Presiding Officers, who shall be military electors. They shall have and may exercise over designated camps and other places, subject to the provisions of this Part, the like powers, privileges, and functions as returning officers, particularly the power to appoint and direct sufficient Deputy Presiding Officers and Poll Clerks', who also shall be military electors. Deputy Presiding Officers shall have and may exerclce in the camps or other places to which by Presiding Officers they may be assigned, subject to the provisions of this Part, the like powers, privileges and functions as deputy returning officers ;
These are the officers who are to take the vote, and to have the ballots marked. An investigation has just been concluded in England and France by the committee appointed by the British Columbia Legislature, and that committee found that the election was conducted by a partizan returning officer appointed by the late Government in such a way that the whole referendum vote would be set aside on account of the numerous irregularities. My hon. friend takes great credit because he provides that after the marking of the ballot his partizan officer has the right to appoint certain officials to count the ballots. He states that the presiding officer can go around the camp with a bag, but there is no provision that it shall be locked. He gives this gentleman carte blanche to take the votes with or without scrutineers being present. He is not obliged to notify the scrutineers when he is to take the vote of the soldiers-the Act gives him absolute power and control, without anybody to supervise him. With all these possibilities to do various things open to these officers, in the light of what -transpired in the vote on the referendum in British Columbia, the Minister of Justice says: Come and admire us for all our generous and fair provisions in this Bill, because, forsooth, after opportunity is afforded for -all the harm to be done that could be done, we provide that, after the ballots -come -back, the scrutineer can have access to them. My hon. friend, after professing to be iso particularly unctuous, is going to leave this essential part of the Act in its present absolutely weak condition.

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