I think the difficulty pointed out by my hon. friend from West Prince, P.E.I. (Mr. Ilackett) are fully met by the sections to which I have already referred.
I may say that I am very anxious on this point. I came near being made a victim of a great injustice because of no protection being given to the ballot after declaration. On the 7th November last, I was elected by a small majority. Sly opponent demanded a recount, and the ballot boxes and their contents were ordered to be produced before Judge McLeod. As I have explained to this House before, 27 boxes were shipped from Alberton to Suinmerside, but only 26 reached Summer-side and were brought before the judge for recount. One box with its contents was stolen for the purpose of having me counted out. The villain who perpetrated this crime no doubt thought that this box containing a majority of 33 votes for me would be ruled out and my opponent would be declared elected. However, we had a just and good judge, and he did what was right. Now, you have in Canada machinery at work doing this kind of thing all the time. You may burn the ballots in Ontario, but you steal them at Prince Edward Island. The amendment I proposed was intended for the protection of the ballots after declaration day, and it provided that the returning officer should be held responsible for these ballots, and that if, through any carelessness or neglect of bis, these evidences of the sacred rights of the people were destroyed, he should be punished in an exemplary manner. I have here an article on this very subject which wras published in a Prince Edward Island paper on the 23rd November last. My hon. friend the Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Sir Louis Davies) will agree with me when I say that the writer of this article is a perfectly independent man, a man who takes no side in politics. This article appeared in the Morning Guardian, and I want to read it to show the strong indignation in Prince Edward Island at that time with regard to the stealing of that ballot box :
A Great Crime.
With respect to the villany committed in the ballot-stealing case in West Prince, our readers may desire to know what provision the law makes for its punishment. Here is the law :
Now, my hon. friend the Solicitor General told me the other evening that this law was quite sufficient to meet every case :
Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a fine in the discretion of the court or to seven years imprisonment, or to both fine and imprisonment, who steals or unlawfully takes from any person having the lawful custody thereof, or from its lawful place of deposit for the time being, any writ of election, or any return to a writ of election, or any indenture,
poll book, voters' list, certificate, affidavit or report, ballot, or any document or paper made, prepared or drawn out according to or for the requirements of any law in regard to Dominion, provincial, municipal or civic elections.
If we knew the thief, If we could find him, we could punish him. But I require now by my amendment that we should hold the returning officer responsible for placing these boxes and ballots in the hands of the county judge. Then this writer goes on to say :
The law thus makes provision for condign punishment of any person who steals, or tampers with any ballot-box, ballot or election papers, treating such action as a grave crime. Under the law as it stands, the West Prince criminal or criminals are guilty of many of the offences there specified, and liable to penalties which, if enforced with full rigour, would send them to the penitentiary for the term of their natural lives. Nor is this law too severe, for the crime is one committed against the state, an assault upon the very foundations of the government of the country, and partaking of the nature of treason. Besides it carries with it a public disgrace to the county, the province and the Dominion in which it occurs. Hereafter the fair fame of West Prince, and of the island will be tarnished with this grave scandal, and the community cannot be cleared of the ill-fame until the offender is brought to justice.
A grave and important responsibility
I want especially to call the attention of the right hon. leader of the government to what this writer says in this connection :
A grave and important responsibility rests upon the Dominion government in this matter.
I say a grave responsibility rests upon them, and I have been endeavouring all through this session to have the government take some action in this matter ; but they stand between myself and the public on the one side, and the thief who committed this crime :
The government appoints the returning officer, and he in turn appoints the deputies and clerks who have the entire official charge of all that pertains to the conduct of an election. All these officials are_ officials of the government, and the government is responsible for their capability, fairness, trustworthiness and watchfulness. If anything goes wrong in an election, as has occurred in the present case, it becomes the immediate duty of the government to search out and bring to justice each and every person who may have been guilty of wrong-doing or neglect in that connection. The duty becomes the more Imperative because of the fact that it is always to the interest of the government to secure the return of a supporter, and suspicion of unfairness will be quickly aroused and will remain if the government fails to do its full duty in the premises.
In the present case, and entirely without regard to whether the criminal "who broke the ballot-box and purloined the ballots may be suspected to act in the interest of one or other of the parties, prompt and energetic action ought to be taken to discover and prosecute the guilty party. Has this been done? The government employs detectives and secret agents
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to discover and prosecute offenders against the revenue laws, and justly so, but the ballot thief is a wiclced offender compared with the mere smuggler. If a bale of goods escapes the payment of customs duties the loss can be measured in dollars, but the ballot thief attempts to thwart the public will and seeks to seat a member of parliament by fraud.
I would call the attention of the right hon. gentleman and the government to this. This article was written by an independent newspaper, and it is worthy the consideration of this honourable House :
If we could imagine an entire parliament elected by such means, our free institutions would be overthrown and revolution and anarchy must result.
Let the government clear its skirts in this matter. We do not for a moment suspect that the government or any one connected with it had any guilty knowledge of the shameful fraud that was attempted in West Prince. None the less if prompt and energetic measures are not taken to ferret out the guilty parties and bring them to justice, a suspicion may arise that such negligence is not far removed from being an accessory after the fact. We rely upon the government to do its whole duty in the premises. Let it not be said that ballot-boxes can be stolen and their contents plundered in Prince Edward Island, and no effort made to discover and punish the guilty.
Now, as I said before, I feel strongly on this matter. Are the government protecting from punishment the man who stole the contents of that ballot box ? What have they done to ferret out the guilty party in this connection ? Have they sent detectives on his track ? Have they endeavoured to punish the crime which was committed on purpose to place here a supporter of the present government ? Sir, I see the hon. Solicitor General, whom I believe to be a very fair man; he told me the other evening)-
Yes, I believe him to be a fair man. He told me that this box was shipped as freight, and the government were not responsible for it. Sir, the whole matter was in the hands of the government. As the representative of the Department of Justice in this House and in this country, the hon. Solicitor General should have seen it to be his duty to make such a provision that this ballot box should not have been shipped over a railway like an ordinary barrel of flour or barrel of pork ; he should have seen that his returning officer, who is appointed by the government, if he ships these boxes over a railway, should take precaution to protect them, and to see that the contents of the box were handed to the county court judge on the day of recount. It was for this reason that a few days ago I moved this amendment to safeguard the rights of the people in respect to the ballot boxes, and to hold the deputy returning of-
fleer responsible after declaration day for these packets, and their production before the county court judge. The Solicitor General has not seen fit to accept my amendment. But I feel that it is made in the interests of the people that I represent, in the interests of the whole country. Some amendment should be made to our law by which you cannot steal, as you have done in Prince Edward Island, a box containing the records of the people, without being held up to the scorn, contempt and condemnation of the people of this country. I would ask the Solicitor General if he will not now accept my amendment. He may desire to modify it, but he should do something to hold the returning officer responsible for these ballots. I see my hon. friend the Minister of Marine and Fisheries, smile. I do not say that he was accessory to the crime, or had anything to do with it, but his minions did. I do not see the Minister of Public Works 'Hon. Mr. Tarte) smile.
That is all right.
Well, we had his agent down there, we had a man sent out from the hon. gentleman's newspaper office, who was canvassing for that paper, who remained in that riding of West Prince for months before the election, and who was on the train the very night this ballot box disappeared. And 1 believe, Sir, although I do not want to charge any man with an offence without I have evidence to prove it, I do believe that this individual, standing so close to the Minister of Public Works, had somethiug to do with this theft of the ballot box.
I am quite sure no language could be too strong to condemn an offence such as that to which the hon. gentleman has called the attention of the House. I wondered when he was speaking whether he was really sincere, or whether he was speaking like a man unacquainted with the facts. The outrage in stealing that box was a great one, but who benefited by it ? What motive could one have in stealing that box ? The hon. gentleman had been elected; he had been declared to be elected. A recount was demanded. but that recount was defeated by the stealing of the ballot box. The box was stolen. The hon. gentleman had been declared elected, and if the box was stolen it would thereby defeat a recount. Whether he was properly or improperly declared elected, there was no machinery by which that could be tested when once the box was stolen. Now, the hon. gentleman (Air. TTaekett) was on the train that day.
Some hon. AIEMBERS. Oh, oh.
r The AIINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS. The hon. gentleman was there.
Yes. Nobody would impute that he was a party to this business, but he was there, and the box was stolen, and the recount was defeated. The recount could not have been held excepting by common consent, taking the published returns of that poll, so that the box never was recounted, and could not be. I do not charge the hon. gentleman with doing it. He was there, and the inference may be drawn. Now, my hon. friend has Intimated that the hon. Minister of Public Works is not smiling at this business, because his agent was on the train too. But, the agent had no motive in the world, and the hon. gentleman (Mr. Hackett) had. I do not accuse him of doing it. I do not think he is as bad as that. However, I would call his attention seriously to the fact that so far as any proseecu-tion under this law is concerned, the law is now sufficient to base a prosecution upon it. If the hon. gentleman, who was on the train, could not prosecute this matter, how could he expect the hon. Solicitor General, who was in Quebec, to do it ? If the offender can be discovered, the law is sufficient to punish him.
Were not those in charge of the ballot box, and really in this case guilty of criminal negligence, the offenders ?
Perhaps they were. If they were criminally liable under the statute, why did not the hon. gentleman prosecute them ? It is open to him to prosecute. The Dominion government does not prosecute. The prosecution would lie, of course, with the provincial government.
Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).
Was this before or after declaration day ?
After declaration day. The hon. gentleman had been declared elected, and the ballot boxes were all ready to be recounted. The recount was defeated, because somebody stole the box, and the hon. gentleman who makes the complaint was on the train.
Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).
Is it not extraordinary that we should have a declaration made before the collection of the ballot boxes?
The ballot boxes were collected at Alberton. There had been an application made for a recount before the county court judge, and the ballots in this particular box would have been recounted, but this unfortunate circumstance happened which prevented the recount.
Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).
I have always understood that the ballot boxes were being
returned by the deputy returning officers to the returning officer.
Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).
I think my hon. friend (Mr. Hackett) has brought a very serious case to the attention of the House. If it be true that the returning officer, in taking these ballot boxes to the judge for the purpose of a recount, was guilty of very extraordinary negligence, as he seems to have been in leaving them in one part of the train and going to another part of the train, I am not very sure that the hon. gentleman is not right in asking that this law should be amended so that a man who is guilty of such negligence should be punished.
Whether he was guilty of negligence or not, I am not prepared to say. He seems to have placed forty ballot boxes in the hands of the railway officials. The boxes were locked up in a freight car, and he took a receipt from the officials, and on the way down the train was broken into and the box was taken out.
Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).
I have heard some things about ballot boxes being tampered with before, and I know how easy it is to have an excuse, that there was thoughtlessness, or that some one broke in. But, we cannot be too careful in providing legislation which will prevent the recurrence of any such thing as this. I do not know whether the destruction of this ballot box helped or injured my hon. friend. That is not the question before the House. The hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries only uses that, of course, as a diversion. The point is. whether our law does not require some amendment so that a returning officer, taking ballot boxes under circumstances of this kind for the purpose of a recount, which will determine the right to represent a constituency, shall be liable to such penalties as would prevent a repetition of a scandal such as that which has been brought to the attention of the House by the hon. member for West Prince. I think that the hon. Solicitor General may very well turn his attention to this Act. and see whether it is not necessary to place 'some penalty upon the returning officer which would tend to ensure greater care than seems to have been present in this case on the part of the returning officer.