June 18, 1935

LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Yes, I do.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I made an inquiry of the dominion franchise commissioner as to whether other judges in Canada were taking the same attitude as that taken by Chief Justice Greenshieldis. He told me that he had been in communication with a number of judges with regard to the administration of the act and that no other judge had adopted the same view with regard to re-entries of names in the lists of electors.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

The point I am making is this: The hon. gentleman has said that other judges have taken views different from those of Chief Justice Greenshields. No other judge has had similar cases laid before him.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Does the hon. member say so?

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

The hon. member said so himself.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I did not,

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I asked the hon. member to cite any case. He said that no other judge from one end of the country to the other had given a similar judgment. I said: Quote any instance in which a similar case was put

Franchise Act-Mr. Power

before a judge, and the hon. gentleman said that the dominion franchise commissioner had talked to a judge. My hon. friend has been practising law for forty or fifty years and he knows he cannot in this house quote as a judgment a conversation someone has had with a judge outside a court. We do not have to teach the. hon. gentleman law; siurely he knows it.

What is the object of this bill? It is, as I understand the matter, twofold. The first Object- is, under the provisions of a franchise act, mind you,.to disfranchise 4,000 voters who, the chief justice of Quebec said, were entitled to vote. The second object is to render valid, to legalize the proceedings -of the political organization presided over by -the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George. Those are the two 'main objects of this bill.

I suggested a moment ago that perhaps this bill might very .properly be sent to the private bills committee. I do not wish to raise the point, but I think it is a point that could be raised that the minister is acting rather improperly in introducing in this house a bill in which he has a personal political interest. I suggest to him that with his knowledge of British constitutional practice, with his knowledge of parliamentary practice and with his long experience in parliamentary affairs, had he reflected a little bit he would perhaps have asked the Minister of Justioe, who after all is the man who originally introduced the franchise act, to introduce any amending bill, instead of the Secretary of State, introducing a measure to deal with a condition which, according to him exists in his own constituency. I doubt very much whether the Minister of Justice would have come before this house with a bill dealing with only one constituency. Is every hon. member opposite going to say in the house: Such a condition exists in my constituency; I might be defeated in the next election; give me a new election act, one for me, one for the Minister of Justice, and for the chief whip, one for the hon. member for Pict-ou.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Thomas Cantley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CANTLEY:

I do not need one.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Are we going to come to that in this house? Are we going to have 245 special election acts, one for each and every one of us? Is that the way we are going to carry on the business of the country? Is that the way we are going to legislate? This all comes from one thing: In 1929-30, after a good deal of labour participated in conscientiously by members on both sides of the house, an act was passed by the unanimous consent of the parliament of that dayK

an act which the hon. member for South Renfrew (Mr. Maloney), speaking last year, said-I have not his exact words before me- was a good act, and he objected to any change in the 1930 act. That act was passed with the consent of every hon. member. One of its main objects was to see to it that, in future, elections were in so far as possible taken out of politics. By the act of 1930 we provided that instead of returning officers being appointed by ministers of the crown, by orders in council or by recommendations of ministers of the crown, from then on they would be appointed by a man who was appointed unanimously by this house, namely the chief electoral officer, and that the returning officers should be permanent. It is true that in certain constituencies-and I see opposite me the hon. member for Pictou- complaints were made that the chief electoral officer had not appointed the returning officer in a nonpartisan manner; but generally speaking, throughout the length and breadth of the land, the returning officers were men of high standing, high qualifications, men holding public office of some kind or another and satisfactory not only to the people but to the members of parliament themselves. However a few hon. members opposite, in order to control what they thought was the electoral machine, began to protest against the act of 1930, and because under the 1930 act the lists were made after the dissolution of parliament and after the writs had been issued so that that act took something like fifty-eight days for its operation between the time the writs were issued and the elections could take place, under the guise, mind you, of trying to shorten the election period they tore up the 1930 act and brought in two acts. How did they shorten the election period? Every hon. member knows this 1934 franchise act has been used as an excuse by hon. gentlemen opposite to remain in office ever since December, 1934, when they should have gone before the people. They know every time we have asked them to appeal to the people, they have said: Oh. we cannot; the lists are not ready; they are not printed; we must have a new revision of the lists, the very revision which my hon. friend wishes to tear up. We are told we must have a new revision to put 400,000 new voters on the lists. My hon. friend in his own constituency wants to knock off 9,000 of those 400,000. Did he say 9,000, or was it 5,000? He wants to knock off more than his proportion of the 400,000 new voters my hon. friends opposite want put on. Therefore the excuse for keeping this parliament in being, that we need to put on

Franchise Act-Mr. Guthrie

400,000 new voters, falls to the ground at least so far as the constituency of St. Lawrence-St. George is concerned. If he is going to knock off 9,000 and add only his proportion of the 400.000, he is going to have a minus quantity in so far as the excuse given for holding this parliament in session so long is concerned.

It was decided that we would have a new electoral list for one reason only, and that was in order to get rid of the returning officers who had been appointed impartially by a public officer, the chief electoral officer appointed by joint vote of the House of Commons. That was the sole, the real reason, and what has happened? We have got this election act. There is hardly an hon. member who will be willing to rise in his place and say that the franchise act is a good act; that the Dominion Elections Act is a good act. Both of those acts have been proved to be just the same as pieces of legislation that have been passed time and again under this government, without thought, ill conceived and impossible of administration. This act has been extremely difficult of administration. We spent-I speak subject to correction-over a million dollars during the course of the last year in the general registration. What this revision is going to cost the Lord only knows, and according to my hon. friend's own statement the lists are not complete* Not only are they not complete but they are badly made and in his riding according to his own statement they leave room for fraud, for corruption, for impersonation, and for every species of electoral trick. That is the position we have reached by endeavouring to tamper with an act which was passed with honest intent by the unanimous consent of all the members of this house.

I should like to deal for a moment with some of the suggestions made by my hon. friend the Secretary of State. He cited some forty or fifty cases perhaps out of the total of four thousand. In the large majority of those cases, to which I listened very carefully, the question involved was this: Miss Comeau, or Doctor Maloney, had moved from such an address in such a street to another constituency. My hon. friend through his agents, through these young men of whom he speaks, traced these people, made complaint to the effect that they had left their former places of residence and had moved to another constituency, and he comes to ask us to pass a law whereby those people, about whose right to vote there is no question whatsoever, who are over twenty-one years of age, British subjects living in Canada shall be deprived of

their right to vote, because his investigators inquired from the janitor as to whether or not they were living in such a place and found that they were not. To that, sir, I object, and to that I think most of the members of the Liberal party will object. This act was passed as a franchise act, not as a disfranchising act. Until such time as my hon. friend can show to the house that he or his agents have made provision whereby Doctor Maloney who has moved from one constituency to another will not be deprived of his right to vote I think he has no right to ask us to pass any such legislation as this. If my hon. friend will show us that those voters will still be entitled to use their franchise in this country as Canadian citizens, then perhaps we will give some consideration to his bill. Until he does so I object, and I shall certainly vote against the second reading of the bill. '

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (Minister of Justice):

Mr. Speaker, may I in the first place say that the administration of the franchise act and all that has to do with the franchise commissioner is under the Department of the Secretary of State and not the Department of Justice. It is for that reason, I assume, that the Secretary of State has brought in the present bill. He certainly is the appropriate minister to do so. The hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) must be under some misapprehension as to the meaning and intent of this proposed amendment. He seems to think that it is confined in its application to a single constituency. That is entirely erroneous. If passed it will apply to every constituency in the Dominion of Canada. It is brought in to clarify something which may be doubtful in the present act. To my mind there is little doubt about it, but through judgments rendered by the chief justice of the province of Quebec the intent of the act is not being carried out in regard to certain cases which have arisen in the electoral district of St. Lawrence-St. George in that province.

I well remember what took place in this house when the franchise act was passed, because I had the honour of conducting that bill through the house-

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Why not the Secretary of State?

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

-and I remember quite well how definitely we decided that a registrar of electors should be appointed in each riding, in whom should be vested discretion both to add and to remove names from the voters' list upon a proper case being made

Franchise Act-Mr. Guthrie

out. That met with the approval of the house, and that discretion was vested in the registrar in each constituency. It was only after the committee which was discussing the bill had had several meetings that a suggestion came that there should be any appeal whatever from the ruling of the registrar. Finally the committee decided that an appeal should be provided for from the decision of the registrar to various judges in the various provinces.

Now the registrar in the first instance does not act autocratically. He has placed before him in writing the reasons why a certain name should be removed from the list, either death or removal or some other reason, and upon evidence being brought in support of that application, to remove a name the registrar acts in his discretion and rules that the name shall either be taken from or retained on the list. From that ruling there is an appeal to the judge. Now, if I understood aright the statement which was made in this house to-day, in one instance or in a number of instances before one judge the view of that judge has been that unless evidence is adduced before him he has a right to set aside the discretion which we understood we had vested in the registrar in the first instance. Without evidence being tendered or heard a judge in the province of Quebec in a great number of cases has given judgment that names shall remain on the list notwithstanding that the registrar in his discretion had removed them. All I can say is that if that is the effect of the law which we passed last session it was not the intention of parliament. If the decision of that judge be - correct and be valid throughout Canada then the discretion which we vested in the registrar may be swept aside in every case without any evidence.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

William Daum Euler

Liberal

Mr. EULER:

What is the use of the appeal?

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

There would be no use of the registrar giving a decision. If there is doubt about the matter-it is true that only one judge as far as I am aware has made such a ruling, but if that ruling should be followed in other cases then it is necessary that this house make a declaration, as contained in this bill, that a judge shall not order names to be restored or removed without hearing evidence id the matter. That is all that is asked in this amendment. It will clear the matter up and remove doubt in the future. This does not apply to St. Lawrence-St. George riding particularly, but to every riding in the Dominion * 1 Canada.

There has been an attempt on the part of the hon. member for Quebec South to cast some reflections upon the Dominion Franchise Act and upon the Dominion Elections Act, which were passed last session after very serious consideration by this parliament, and with very little difference of opinion. I am not going beyond the facts when I say that they were passed practically unanimously. There were some differences in regard to details; there were some slight amendments offered which were rejected, but these acts fairly represent the consensus of opinion of this parliament. My hon. friend from Quebec Sodth says there was no need for them. One thing I think we all agree we did need was a definite franchise act in the Dominion of Canada, and that is the act which my hon. friend the Secretary of State now seeks to amend, to explain and to clarify.

The other was in regard to a dominion elections act. Unfortunately, under the former act we were in the position that on the dissolution of parliament, or in the case of a by-election, in an ordinary constituency something like fifty days had to elapse between the issue of the writ and the polling. In Great Britain in twenty-one days parliament can be dissolved and a new parliament seated at Westminster. They have a basic list always ready. We formed the design, and I think my right hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) was in agreement with us, that a basic list would be an excellent thing in this country. Now we have a basic list and that list is open to revision once a year. Under the new election law the house can be dissolved and an election brought on in twenty-eight dlays. That is a tremendous advantage over the other elongated system of bringing on an election in this country.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

Apart from the month

and a half or two months it takes to revise the lists.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

We do not need to delay an election by reason of the revision of the lists; that has never been asserted in this house by any minister of the crown as a reason for the delay of dissolution. Who has ever asserted that?

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

The Prime Minister.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

The question is one of

propriety. We could dissolve to-day and hold an election in twenty-eight or thirty days, but would it be a proper thing to do in the midst of a revision of the list? It is a question of propriety. I have heard it stated that 'there will be three or four hundred

Franchise Act-Mr. Rinjret

thousand new names added to the list. I doubt that very much. In my judgment one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand would be the most that would be added.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I quoted the figures given

from the other side.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I do not think it would

be a very great outrage to dissolve the house, if it were necessary to do so, in the middle of a revision notwithstanding that certain men would be disfranchised, but the whole question is one of propriety. There is nothing to prevent us dissolving to-day and having the election within thirty days. It was with that object in view that the basic list was established. My hon. friend from Quebec South condemns the whole system, though he was a party to its enactment and as yet it has not been tried out in an election. He is condemning it entirely in advance. I am satisfied that the act will prove to be a good, expeditious act and that it will receive the approval of both sides of the house after it has been in operation for a general election. The present amendment does not affect the election act at all; it is simply an attempt to clarify the law, and if the statements made by my hon. friend the Secretary of State are correct I think it is time we settled that disputed point in this house.

Topic:   DOMINION FRANCHISE ACT
Subtopic:   EVIDENCE IN APPEAL TO JUDGE FROM RULING OP REGISTRAR OP ELECTORS
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June 18, 1935