June 26, 1925 (14th Parliament, 4th Session)


William Irvine


Mr. WILLIAM IRVINE (East Calgary):

Mr. Speaker, I have on previous occasions, presented to the House as clearly and forcefully as I could the discrimination which subsection 1 of section 10 of the Dominion Elections Act imposes on organized labour. I have shown that owing to the nature of the trades union organization it is impractical for every trade union of every city to become incorporated for political purposes as is required by the act. In addition to the difficulty presented by the nature of the organization itself, I have shown that the constitu-* tion of the international trades union movement is an added barrier to the compliance of unions with clause 10 of the act. I introduced a bill early in the session to repeal the section in question. The government defeated that bill on the ground that to repeal the section would open the door to corruption, a view-

point which, if warranted by facts, is a damning indictment both of the wealthy people and of the common people of the country. The implications of this view are that certain wealthy people are both capable and desirous of corrupting the electorate, and also that the masses of the people are corruptible, and that both require the grandmotherly supervision of a statutory declaration. I use the term "statutory declaration" advisedly, for not only do I dissent from the view that our wealthy people who subscribe to election funds do so for the purpose of corruption, and that the average man is corruptible by such funds, but I hold the view that it would be, comparatively speaking, an easy matter for wealthy corporations to contribute through individuals for election funds notwithstanding the fact that such is prohibited by section 10 of the Act. Indeed I would not be surprised if in the next election a very great deal of the election funds for all parties should come from corporations- all parties, of course, with the exception of the Labour party. I have not much hope of the Labour party securing very heavy donations from the industrial controllers of this country or from the financial institutions. In any event, clause 10 of the Dominion Elections Act is only an impious statutory declaration. I believe it is violated by all concerned in every election, yet not a single prosecution has ever been instituted under its provisions. I submit to the House that to retain a section in an act which cannot be enforced-no; worse than that, which invites its own violation-is to bring law itself into disrepute. In fact, a law which people regard as one to be got around is more detrimental by far to parliamentary dignity than a shirtsleeves statesman to the presence of whom objection has been taken.
Now, Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I, believing that every individual or group of individuals, rich or poor, should be free to contribute funds for political purposes, providing that such funds be expended in legitimate channels or within the provisions of the act in this regard, accordingly made an attempt to repeal this legislation. But the government prevented us. Then we tried to amend the offending section by moving an amendment which would exempt labour unions. Having been defeated in our attempt to exempt all classes from the prohibition of the clause referred to, we took a course which would exempt labour alone, not however in any sense desiring class advantage but because labour unions are put to a greater disadvantage in violating the provision than any other class. But in this too we were defeated in com-

Elections Act
mittee of the whole. I now make a last effort to remove from the Dominion Elections Act, the discrimination against labour unions. But before moving an amendment to the bill before the House I desire to call the attention of organized labour throughout the country to the fact that the right hon. the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) and those around him have expressed their willingness to repeal clause 10 or, failing that, to support the amendment which I moved in committee. The leader of the Progressive party (Mr. Forke) and his followers have expressed themselves also in a fashion similar to that of the opposition. For some strange reason rot yet given to parliament the government and their supporters doggedly refuse to add one phrase to a single clause of a single act which would remove an injustice to which labour is subjected.
Why is this? Is it because the government desires to hamper the political activities of labour men? One would be justified under the circumstances in that conclusion. But this petty oppression, in addition to being far from harmonizing with the theoretical principles of Liberalism, will not drive labour from the political field, although it will be a very considerable inconvenience. Perhaps the reason for the government's opposition to this amendment is that it was moved 'by the labour representatives in this House. I am loath to attribute to the government of Canada an attitude of mind as cantankerous and unfair as that. However, the fate of the amendment which I am about to move is in the hands of the government. I make an earnest-appeal to the common sense, the fairness and the generosity of the administration to support it. But if the government persists in its bovine obstinacy it must be lacking in these qualities to which I have appealed.

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