Charles Hazlitt Cahan
Hon. C. H. CAHAN (St. Lawrence-St. George):
Mr. Speaker, this motion implies complete endorsement of a draft bill which the hon. member for Swift Current (Mr. Bothwell) laid on the table with the report. I was a member of this committee although for some time I was ill and unable to attend. I must say that I heartily commend not only the legal talent but the judicial attitude taken by the hon. member for Swift Current as chairman of this committee. But this report deals with certain fundamentals which, if accepted, I think would be prejudicial to the conduct of the democratic representative system which now prevails in this country
Electoral Matters-Special Committee
Heretofore the Dominion Elections Act provided penalties for all corrupt acts which influenced or tended to influence the votes of electors, but candidates and their official agents were free to incur expenses in good faith for all purposes which were not deemed and declared by the Dominion Elections Act to be corrupt.
For example, expenses incurred in good faith to secure a proper revision of the voters' list in order to eliminate from the voters' list the names of those who were not duly qualified electors and to prevent illegal voting have always been a legitimate expense. Again, expenses incurred in good faith for necessary professional services actually performed for the purpose of preventing the illegal registration of voters and illegal voting and to secure the proper conduct of an election have always been deemed to be a legitimate expense. Again, expenses incurred for the fair cost of printing and advertising and for stenographic services and postage for communicating with and instructing electors, have always been deemed a legitimate expense. Again, expenses of public meetings at which addresses may be delivered to electors, including the hiring of halls and meeting places, advertising meetings and the expenses of broadcasting political addresses have up to the present time, always been regarded as a legitimate expense.
These and similar expenses were deemed to be not only legal but necessary for ensuring freedom of discussion which is the fundamental basis of democratic representative government. This form of government is possible only when free public discussion of public questions is not only permitted but encouraged so that the electors may be fully informed in relation to the political issues, upon which the verdict of the electors is sought when an appeal is made to the electors of the whole country or to the electors of any electoral district.
The Dominion Elections Act of 1938 was enacted after being reviewed by this same committee on electoral matters. Section 65 of that act, after defining in nine clauses every form of corrupt practice, states:
Provided always that the terms of this section shall not extend or be construed to extend to any money paid or agreed to be paid for or on account of any expenses legally payable and bona fide incurred at or concerning any election, and provided that the actual personal expenses of any candidate and his expenses for professional services actually performed and for the fair cost of printing and advertising and for halls or rooms for the holding of meetings shall be held to be expenses legally payable.
That is the law at the present time. You will note particularly, Mr. Speaker, that any expenses legally payable and bona fide incur-[Mr. Cahan.J
red at or concerning any election, including personal expenses of a candidate and his expenses for professional services actually performed, the fair cost of printing and advertising and for halls and rooms for the holding of meetings, are now declared to be expenses legally payable.
In addition to that, a candidate's personal expenses are defined by the act of 1938 in section 2, subsection 25, as follows:
(25) "personal expenses" as used herein with respect to the expenditure of any candidate in relation to the election at which he is a candidate, includes the reasonable travelling expenses of such candidate and the reasonable expenses of his living at hotels or elsewhere for the purposes of and in i elation to such election, and all other expenses which, except as restrained by this act, he may in person lawfully incur and pay.
The words "except as restrained by this act" refer to provisions which compel the candidate to have certain election expenses paid by his official agent.
This proposed bill by clause 22 of section 62 as drafted provides:
(22) With the exception of personal expenses lawfully incurred by a candidate, no election expense shall be incurred or authorized by a candidate or by his official agent in respect of any candidature as a member to serve in the House of Commons of Canada in excess of a sum equal to twenty cents for each name on the official list of electors for the electoral district for the current election.
On ten different occasions I have been a candidate at dominion or provincial elections; two of those were federal elections for rural districts and two of the provincial elections were for rural districts, and my personal expenses in either of those four elections in rural districts never exceeded $1,000. The expenses in a rural constituency are postage, travelling about the constituency, and the hiring of halls. I do not know what the practice is now in rural constituencies, but I never was called upon to pay more than five or ten dollars for a hall or meeting place for one night in country districts-sufficient to pay the janitor's services and the light. In the country districts they were always glad to make either the school house or the community hall available for discussion. But in a city constituency it is very different indeed. I am not criticizing any party, I am not criticizing any person, and I trust that anything I may say will not be regarded as a reflection upon particular individuals.
I am dealing now with the constituency of St. Lawrence-St. George in the city of Montreal.. I should think that probably St. Lawrence-St. George has a larger number of alien residents than almost any other district
Electoral Matters-Special Committee
in the island of Montreal or the province of Quebec. It is a great commercial centre; citizens of the United States and their families are resident there, and citizens of other foreign countries are engaged in commercial enterprises in the constituency. A very considerable number of aliens reside there who have never become naturalized Canadians.
My experience is that the present method of preparing the lists, by sending out enumerators who are engaged not for their knowledge of the law or their proficiency in deciding issues of naturalization and nationality, results in about four to five thousand names being returned by them of citizens who are not qualified to vote, either by nationality at birth, or by naturalization. So far as I am concerned I would not object very much to allowing these names to remain on the electoral list, because the majority of them or a great number of them are of reputable persons who would not attempt to vote at an election at which they know they are not qualified to vote. But leaving their names on the list, and assuming that they do not vote at the election, provides facilities for a crime to be perpetrated which is probably not peculiar to my constituency but certainly prevails there to a very considerable extent, the crime of impersonation. Leaving the names on the list allows those who engage in impersonation and in illegal voting of that description to appear at the polls and vote in the names of those who they know will not attend at the polls to vote.
But that is not the whole story. They attend and vote in the names of those properly qualified to vote, and in some cases the impersonation of women voters is the worst of the lot. I have known cases where eminent ladies in St. Lawrence-St. George have been impersonated by women gotten up to represent them, who appear at the polls early in the morning, and when the qualified electors appear they find that someone has voted in their name. Of course, the qualified elector may take the proper oath of identity and still vote, but women cannot often be prevailed upon to do that. Many business men coming to the poll and finding that others have voted in their names are so disgusted that they turn away and say, "If that is the way elections are conducted, I will have nothing to do with them."
I intend to give an illustration. Part of my constituency is a provincial constituency known as the St. Lawrence division. The provincial election of 1931 was held on August 24, 1931. The result of the vote appears in public documents which I have here, published by the officers of the provincial government. I wish
to note a few of the remarkable results achieved by the impersonators.
No. 48 was a polling subdivision with two polling stations. The station which contained names from A to L had 91 names on the list, and it was a closed list; no names could be added on election day, as is possible in the rural districts. With 91 names on the list, 96 polled their votes. In the station from L to Z, with 78 names on the list, 112 votes were polled. So that, taking the whole of polling division 48, with 169 names on a closed list 208 votes were polled.
In No. 69 there were two polling booths In one, from letter A to N, 81 names were on the list and 100 votes were polled; in the other, from O to Z, 52 names were on the list and 68 votes were polled. So that foi the whole polling division, with 133 names on the list, 168 votes were polled.
In No. 70 there were two booths. In the one with names from A to L there were <2 on the list and 75 votes polled; in the other, from M to Z, with 61 on the list, 62 votes were polled.
Or take No. 71, with two booths. In the one with names under letters A to M there were 70 on the list and 91 votes polled; from N to Z there were 68 on the list and 100 votes polled. So that in that polling division there were 138 names on the list and 191 votes polled.
In polling division 72 there were 99 names from A to K on the list and 121 votes polled; from L to Z there were 101 names on the list and 120 votes polled: in all, in that division there were 200 names on the list and 241 votes polled.
In No. 73, from A to L there were 105 on the list and 111 votes polled; from M ta Z. 96 on the list and 105 votes polled. So that in polling division 73, 201 were on the list and 216 votes polled.
That practice continued, because after the federal election of 1935 there was a general provincial election on November 25, 1935, and in the same electoral district I find these several remarkable incidents:
Polling division No. 5 Number on list
184 Number of votes polled 1906
174 19893 ....
Consider that in the general voting in the city of Montreal only 75 or at most 80 per
Electoral Matters-Special Committee
Subtopic: MOTION FOR CONCURRENCE IN THIRD REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE