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


Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)


In reference to the observation of the hon. gentleman from St. John and the hon. gentleman from Pictou, I only wish to say that they seem to me to be wasting their time in demolishing the foundation for claims which I do not recollect having put forward. I may say at once that I have neither the ambition nor the anticipation of receiving their admiration. I am not particularly concerned with what people may think about my purposes with regard to this Bill, but I .am very much concerned in getting as effective a Bill as can be got to attain the purpose in view. I do not think I am making a profession of any superior virtue, or being particularly unctuous, when I say I desire to work out the measure on as fair a principle as it can be worked out on, but while I desire to do that, I am not prepared to accept the .suggestion that, with regard to this election, and to the law that should govern the election, this Government should abdicate the functions that belong to it, and which have belonged to the governments of Canada so long as there has been an election law. We must be responsible for this law. We are, because we happen to be the Government of the country, carrying all the responsibility with regard to all those matters which, under the general election law, have been in the hands of

the government of the day as long as we have had an election law. -
The suggestion is now made that we should hand this responsibility over to, or, at all events, share it on a footing of equality with the gentlemen who happen to be leading the Opposition. That comes pretty near to asking me to admit that this Government is unworthy of confidence; that I should alter the whole law of the country so as to take away from the Government all the ordinary functions that belong to it, and hand them over either to a combination to be formed of representatives of the Opposition and representatives of the Government, or, according to the suggestion of the member for Halifax, to a commission. At first glance, the latter suggestion appears to be not as absolutely objectionable as the first idea which evidently underlies the complaint of the two other gentlemen. Both these hon. members have pointed out that this presiding offiorr is precisely what the returning officer is in this country. Under our election law the appointment of the returning officer is made by the Governor in Council. Why should we depart from that in regard to the man who is to perform similar functions over there? The member for Pictou seems to have a very special objection to the man who is actually to take the vote; he looks upon him as specially untrustworthy because he is going to use a bag instead of a tin box. Do hon. members realize that he is not going to be appointed directly by the Government? This Government is going to appoint the presiding officer-that is to say, the man who will hold a position equivalent to that of returning officer in this country-.and that presiding officer, who, it is stipulated, shall be a military officer, will appoint the deputy presiding officer.
Mr. MURPHY; He is to be a military officer?
Mr. GRAHAM; A military elector?

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