July 5, 1919 (13th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Daniel Duncan McKenzie (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. D. D. McKENZIE (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, the Prime
Minister has given us a very clear explanation of the purpose of this Bill. No subject

goes so close 'to the very foundation of the principles upon which our free institutions are based than the question of ihe franchise-
We hear a good deal of discussion about proportional representation. I have no doubt that proportional representation would be a step in advance and an improvement on the franchise to which we have been accustomed in this country for the last fifty years or more, but the great question is to make the very best use of that system of franchise which we have and to which we have been brought up in Canada. Perhaps one of the greatest jolts, if I may use the term, was the franchise upon which we ran the elections of 1917, and I am very glad to hear the Prime Minister say, >at all events by implication, that on the 1st of August next there will be an end put to the War-times Elections Act, or anything that can be done under it.
I wish to remind the House that at Confederation the wise men of that day adopted the principle that* provincial franchise would be acceptable to everybody. Such men as Sir John Macdonald, George Brown, Sir Charles Tupper and other leading men of Canada, who were, I think, just as wise and as liberal in their views as we are and just as jealous of the safety and pride of this Parliament, adopted the lists prepared by the local machinery as the lists upon which members are elected to this House. That system was in vogue until 1886; or to be exactly correct, in 1885, the Act was passed by which the municipalities of Canada .for the first time adopted .a universal franchise and universal machinery for the preparation of the lists. That machinery and that system continued in vogue until 1898, when it was repealed, the revising barristers dismissed and we went back to the old system of provincial lists. Provincial lists and the system under which they were prepared had proved quite satisfactory to the people of this country for a very long time, but for some reason which I need not. expatiate upon just now, a new system was introduced in 1917. There was no good reason why there should be two or three systems of franchise in this country. We have the same people; the same people are represented in the municipal institutions, in the local legislatures and in this Parliament. Why then should one set of men be qualified to send representatives to this Parliament and another set of men be qualified to send representatives to the local legislature? The logical and sensible thing is that, when it is a question of

the same people dealing with the same rights, the same property, and acting for the same men, the same qualifications should be universal. I am sure 'that is the system that is going to ensure the greatest safety and to give the greatest satisfaction to the people of this country.
In my province, in the preparation of the lists, we have a machinery that gives everybody that has a right to get on the fullest opportunity to get his name on the list In the rural communities men can send their names in on or before the 20th day oi January; they can continue to send in applications at any time until the 5th day ol March, on which date there is a revision at which the lists are practically set. Then there is a further period until the "3rd or 4th of April, when there is, another revision before the sheriff of each county, when a man has a right to have a further application to have his name put on or when names may be struck off. That system has been working in our province ever since the franchise was first exercised there, which is nearly 200 years ago. It has grown into such an institution and is so much a part of the life of the people of our province that interference with the franchise is the same as if one interfered with their religion. It is a privilege that has been handed down from father to son for nearly 200 years under perfect freedom, and such a thing as trickery or crookedness in connection with dealing with the lists is not tolerated anywhere. The system that was introduced in 1917, while I presume that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet did not intend to have it work crookedly, worked crookedly and badly, and the men in whose handis it was placed did not do justice to the electors nor to the names that should be placed on the list. Imagine, in my county, one list handed to me with all the names on it, and, to all intents and purposes, a good list, and another list, not the same list at all, scores of names being left off, handed to the returning officer! The good list was given to me to lull me to sleep. I had a right to appeal if any name was left off and to have the name put on, but there was nothing for me to do, as I was given a perfectly good list; but when those people went to poll their votes they found that their names were not on the list, because, by miserable trickery, a different list entirely had been handed to the returning officer. Is it surprising that there is dissatisfaction in my constituency and in my province when machinery is furnished by which, such a thing is possible.

Sir ROBERT it'ORDEN: They could vote, could) they not, by taking the oath?

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