March 3, 1942

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Well, I think we must try to introduce a new fashion if we can, as far as this proposed plebiscite is concerned. At any rate I have no hesitancy whatever in expressing emphatically my opinion on this matter. I should deplore seeing it made in any sense of the word a political patronage affair. I shall do all on my part to impress upon those who have to do with it that it be made as largely as possible a matter for voluntary effort, so administered as to ensure cooperation between all parties on the understanding that it is intended to be as fair and square as may be possible.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR TAKING OF VOTE ON ANY QUESTION SUBMITTED BY WAY OF PLEBISCITE
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NAT

William Earl Rowe

National Government

Mr. ROWE:

I am glad to be able to agree with the Prime Minister when he is taking that attitude. Would he consider urging the returning officer to use for deputy returning officers, wherever possible, returned soldiers of the last great war?

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I think the suggestion is a very good one. I should not like to commit the minister who is in charge of the bill, or any of my colleagues, without a conference on the matter, but the kind of suggestion which the hon. member has just made appeals very strongly to me personally and will, I believe, appeal equally strongly to others.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR TAKING OF VOTE ON ANY QUESTION SUBMITTED BY WAY OF PLEBISCITE
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

May I suggest to the Prime Minister that this be carried out as far as possible on a non-partisan basis? I do not think we can call it wholly non-partisan, but let us endeavour to get all the parties to agree as far as possible to the appointment of the officers. At the present time most, if not all of the returning officers, are Liberal appointees and, I believe, Liberals. If that is the case, they will remain so, but let the other political parties appoint either the

deputy returning officer, or the poll clerk, alternately, as the case may be. I think then a large measure of cooperation could be obtained, it being recognized that the government would appoint the returning officers. The other officers might be appointed alternatively by the political parties interested or represented in constituencies. In my opinion, as far as possible this should govern not only in this particular matter but in other matters during the war. There is a great deal of resentment, in constituencies represented by members who are not on the government side of the house, at the petty political patronage shown here and there, and it does interfere with the war effort. I believe the Prime Minister sincerely wishes to avoid that. He does not want to have that obtain during the war. He said so early in the war and I take his word. But in my own province of Saskatchewan there is a great deal of criticism of the political appointments that have been made of inspectors and others, and if we tried to carry this out on an all-party basis we would do much to unite our people and obtain a good vote, and probably a vote that would be more likely to be the vote which the Prime Minister wants in this plebiscite-an affirmative vote. I am certainly strongly in favour of trying to eliminate that kind of politics from our effort during these war years.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR TAKING OF VOTE ON ANY QUESTION SUBMITTED BY WAY OF PLEBISCITE
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I am

reassured by the Prime Minister's statement and I thank him for going as far as he has. The returning officer is the key man all the way through, and if he is not directed to conform, in many instances he will not do so. I remember trying in the last election to get a returning officer to eliminate a certain deputy returning officer who, in my opinion, was not qualified or fit. My recollection is that I even went so far as to telegraph to the chief electoral officer. The chief electoral officer did what he could, but he had no authority. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he go the whole way and review the returning officers, because, after all, they are the key to the whole situation, and if they are partisan it is difficult to eliminate partisanship down through the ranks.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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NAT

John Ritchie MacNicol

National Government

Mr. MacNICOL:

At the time the registration was taken, the minister in charge, who, I believe, was at the time the present Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) was, I may say, quite fair. As far as my riding was concerned- and I believe this extended pretty well to other cities and towns, though I cannot speak for

Plebiscite Act

the rural districts-I found his administration in the taking of the registration eminently fair. In Davenport the appointments were divided between Liberals and Conservatives, because in the previous election there had been only two parties running in that riding. In some other ridings where there were three parties running in the previous election, the appointments were divided up after that manner. I am glad to hear hon. members endorsing the recommendation I made at the time the elections act was enacted. I strongly advocated then-and I was very much disappointed that my recommendation was not carried out-that the government of the day name the returning officer in the ridings, and that the opposition, or the other parties as the case might be, name the clerk. I suggested that the government of the day name the returning officer and the deputy returning officers in the polls, and the opposition or the candidate of the party which was next highest in the previous election name the clerks, so as to eliminate politics. I am glad to hear hon. members recommending the same thing, and I hope that if there is an amendment to the elections act, that suggestion will be followed.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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LIB

Hughes Cleaver

Liberal

Mr. CLEAVER:

I wish to add my support to the suggestion which has been made that the vote should be taken on a strictly nonpartisan basis, and I would go further and suggest that we should not leave the matter in the air merely as a pious hope. I think definite instructions should issue from the cabinet minister in charge to the election officer explicitly informing him that all of the officers, deputy returning officers and clerks, are to be appointed on a strictly non-partisan basis; that is to say, that each of the major political parties in all the ridings should definitely make one-half of the appointments of deputy returning officers and one-half of the appointments of clerks. I would further urge that this entire work should be done on a strictly voluntary basis as a war service. The national registration in my riding was done on a straight fifty-fifty basis. The Conservative party appointed half of the officials and the Liberal party half, and all did the work without cost to the government, even for the hiring of halls. I would urge that that practice be followed on this occasion, and that the entire cost of the plebiscite, the entire work in connection with it, be on a voluntary basis, with the exception, of course, of the printing.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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?

Frederick Clayton Casselman

Mr. CASSELMAN:

There is one difficulty that presents itself to me. I have not had an opportunity to look at the regulations; but according to the instructions under the Dominion Elections Act, the chief returning officer appoints the deputy returning officer,

and the chief returning officer has nothing whatever to do with the appointment of the clerk. The deputy returning officer has the right to appoint the clerk. I say this because I had occasion to look it up at the time of the last election. I did have an arrangement with the chief returning officer for the district, but the arrangement fell down because at the last minute it was pointed out to me that under the law he had nothing to do with the appointment of the clerk

that was the duty of the deputy returning officer. These regulations, based on the instructions under the elections act, will place that in the same position as it is in the elections act, and unless the regulation is changed I do not see how there will be a division of appointment as far as clerks are concerned.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR TAKING OF VOTE ON ANY QUESTION SUBMITTED BY WAY OF PLEBISCITE
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NAT

George Stanley White

National Government

Mr. WHITE:

May I say a word with regard to what the Prime Minister has said about having appointments on a non-partisan basis. Unless the instructions are followed out, it may work out in the same way as it did at the time of the taking of the census, because at that time the Minister of Trade and Commerce issued instructions to the census commissioner in each riding that the appointments were to be on a non-partisan basis, divided between the major political parties. He also pointed out that returned soldiers were to have the preference, and so on. The census commissioner in my riding refused to answer a letter or to give me any information. I submitted to him a list covering all the polling divisions. He would not appoint a single man I suggested, and in the village in which I reside he appointed a man who had obtained exemption from military service in 1914 as a conscientious objector. I communicated with the Minister of Trade and Commerce, who replied that he was much disturbed at my letter and would look into the matter at once. I received no further communication from him, and that man who was a conscientious objector in 1918 proceeded to take the census in my village. If instructions are given, unless they are followed up and it is seen to that they are carried out, the whole thing will be a farce, just as it was at the time of the taking of the census. I suggest to the committee that returned soldiers and returned soldiers only, where available, be appointed as enumerators, deputy returning officers and poll clerks.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister express himself as he did. But I had exactly the same experience in my riding as a previous speaker during the taking of the census; the lists we submitted were entirely ignored. I go back to the time of the national registration. The then Minister

Supply-External Affairs

-of National War Services was very fair in his suggestions, but in the province from which I come there were only two hon. members who carried out those suggestions. In the other fourteen ridings the appointments of both registrars and deputy registrars were made on a partisan basis. Therefore the minister will have to take this matter in hand and issue definite instructions, if it is to be done on a non-partisan basis. I believe the Canadian Legion have undertaken to do all they can to see that a large vote is got out, and an affirmative vote; I think it behooves the department in charge to do all they can to employ these men, who probably need a little assistance.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR TAKING OF VOTE ON ANY QUESTION SUBMITTED BY WAY OF PLEBISCITE
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LIB

Arthur Wentworth Roebuck

Liberal

Mr. ROEBUCK:

On this matter of partisanship, I am reminded of the old saying that:

The devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;

The devil was well, the devil a monk was he.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

Are you not feeling very well?

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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LIB

Arthur Wentworth Roebuck

Liberal

Mr. ROEBUCK:

I am feeling fine. I have had experience with my hon. friends across the way on a good many occasions and never in my experience have I known a Conservative government, when they were in power, to do anything except on the most strictly partisan basis.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

In my

constituency, at my request, when we were in power, the sheriff was appointed returning officer. He was an old-time Liberal, and a very fine man.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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LIB

Arthur Wentworth Roebuck

Liberal

Mr. ROEBUCK:

My hon. friend is an outstanding exception. In connection with the national registration, as far as the city of Toronto was concerned there was a gentleman's agreement that we would divide up the so-called patronage in that way. I did it to the very last letter, to the nth degree, to the crossing of the t's and the dotting of the i's. I appointed the president, I think, or the secretary of the Conservative association as assistant to the registrar, and that gentleman has been kind enough to say that the matter was carried out in a splendid non-partisan way. But unfortunately those conditions did not prevail in some of the constituencies over which hon. gentlemen opposite presided; we had strict partisanship to the full extent of their ability to apply it against us. It is very nice for hon. gentlemen opposite to take these lofty attitudes when they are not in power. I hope if they ever do come to power-

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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NAT

William Earl Rowe

National Government

Mr. ROWE:

We won't have a plebiscite.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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LIB

Arthur Wentworth Roebuck

Liberal

Mr. ROEBUCK:

-they will remember their exalted statements of the present time. It may be a long time, so perhaps we need not consider it.

There is another thing I want to say. It is very fine to talk about patriotism and giving time to the public interest and that sort of thing. The public is doing that, and I hope a considerable amount of it will be done in the riding which I represent. At the same time I feel sure that if we ask the poor people, the very poor people, of most of these constituencies to give their time free of charge, while we are paying everyone else the full value of their services-

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Including ourselves.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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LIB

Arthur Wentworth Roebuck

Liberal

Mr. ROEBUCK:

Including ourselves and including the leader of the opposition-

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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NAT

William Earl Rowe

National Government

Mr. ROWE:

He is earning his.

Topic:   PLEBISCITE ACT
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March 3, 1942