September 12, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Mines; Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)


I have finished the answers to the notes I made yesterday. Included in them was a reference to the subject introduced .again, by the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff). The principle of this distinction is quite .sound. There is / undoubtedly .more difficulty in cities than in the rural parts. There is no possibility of either plugging or disfranchisement in the rural parts of the country. In the cities it is different. But we were faced with this difficulty, that in the three western provinces there is no .machinery for this revision. In Ontario, where we adopt it, there is the .provincial machinery already established and in operation, .and it is a very complicated matter to establish new machinery .and to fit it to the needs of individual provinces. We set .about, then, to .avoid the necessity of doing that because we thought* it could be avoided without taking any very great risks. The posting up of the lists so long a time before election day .and the virtual .closing of the lists five days 'before election 'day will be a veTy great protection in itself. Secondly, the judicial revision afterwards is an enormous protection and the one that I chiefly rely on. In that connection, there is a great deal in what the hon. member says, namely, that an unscrupulous scrutineer acting for a candidate might make the opposing candidate's position difficult if he were ready to challenge a great number of voters who should not be challenged. But, we have put this cheek upon that: Hereafter voters
cannot be challenged in the ordinary way, as they are in the provincial elections in Alberta, merely .by a challenge. We do not allow that. The scrutineer must take his oath that he believes that a man has no right to vote, that he believes the cause and the cause must be sufficient to disfranchise. I think scrutineers will hesitate before they expose themselves to the risk of going before a judge under cross-examination with affidavits in their faces that were manifestly false. They will have to go and show that they have ground for the affidavit and I think that scrutineers will hesitate a long time, and will be advised to hesitate by

the candidate, before they take any step of that kind. In the first place, they must go to the extent of perjuring themselves, and in the next place they must perjure themselves with the certain knowledge that they will very shortly be brought before the judge to answer for their perjury. If we were to -apply the suggestion of the hon. gentleman to the cities of the West, it would delay the election campaign for a very considerable -timej AfteT ,a very thorough review of the circumstances, it was decided that we would adopt the safeguards that we have adopted -and put the whole of the West on the same footing.

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