December 14, 1951

LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Is it the pleasure of the house that, notwithstanding standing order 60, I now leave the chair?

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE CERTAIN AREAS, ETC.
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

No.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE CERTAIN AREAS, ETC.
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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

I did not ask that. It was simply to say that if there is going to be any .long discussion of the measure, then I do not wish to proceed with it at this session. If it can be permitted later on, when we come to the time to deal with it properly in the house, to proceed without a lengthy discussion, then I would like to proceed with it at this session in order to make it possible to make the payments in December, which otherwise would not be made.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE CERTAIN AREAS, ETC.
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CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. Wright:

If there is going to be this discrimination, then there will certainly be discussion.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE CERTAIN AREAS, ETC.
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

Next session.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE CERTAIN AREAS, ETC.
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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

We will see when we come to it.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE CERTAIN AREAS, ETC.
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LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the motion?

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXCLUDE CERTAIN AREAS, ETC.
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Motion agreed to.


PRIVATE BILLS

CONSIDERED IN COMMITTEE


Bill No. 37, respecting the general synod of the Church of England in Canada.-Mr. Fulford. Bill No. 38, respecting the general synod of the Church of England in Canada and the missionary society of the Church of England in Canada.-Mr. Fulford. Bill No. 39, to incorporate the Evangelical Mennonits Brethren of Canada.-Mr. Diefenbaker. Bill No. 40, to incorporate the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence.-Mr. Henderson.


DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT

AMENDMENT RESPECTING ADVANCE POLLS AND PRISONERS OF WAR VOTING REGULATIONS


The house resumed, from Thursday, December 13, consideration of the motion of Mr. Harris (Grey-Bruce) for the second reading of Bill No. 41, to amend the Dominion Elections Act, 1938, and to change its title to the Canada Elections Act.


SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Robert Fair (Battle River):

Mr. Speaker, in the light of the friendly Christmas feeling evidenced this morning thus far, I feel we are lucky indeed to live in a country with the form of government we have here in Canada. Many people across the Atlantic would be very glad if they .were in the same position.

1924 HOUSE OF

Dominion Elections Act

In the elections committee this year, as in many other years, there was a spirit of friendly co-operation. That co-operation lasted while matters proceeded as the majority desired-and that is perhaps as one might expect. I might add however that for a number of years I have been trying to bring to the attention of the house an improved system of voting. Four or five years ago I had a bill prepared by the law clerk and, by coincidence, on the morning my bill was placed in my hands there appeared in Votes and Proceedings another bill along similar lines in the name of the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River (Mr. Benidickson). Because of the rush of other business before the house at the session it was not possible to deal with that bill.

On different occasions since that time I have brought to the attention of the committee on elections the fact that we should improve our system of voting, and I believe the reason for bringing about that improvement has not been disputed thus far.

Looking into the records since the time of my first election in 1935, I find that a number of members have been elected to the House of Commons without having received a majority of the votes cast in their constituencies. In 1935, I find, 103 members were elected by majority votes, and 138 by minority votes. In 1940 there were 162 majority candidates, and 79 minority candidates. Then, in 1945- and this may appear strange-only 99 members were elected by majority votes, while 142 came to the House of Commons with minority votes. In the 1949 election 142 members were elected by majorities, and 116 by minorities. The government has approximately 190 seats out of 262 and I believe they got 49 per cent of the vote polled. In my opinion that is not giving the kind of representation to which we are entitled in a good country like Canada. There should be some other method of voting which will give us the proper representation and prevent any member coming to this house unless he has received at least 51 per cent of the vote polled.

In addition to myself and the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River, there are other people in Canada who feel that our system should be changed. About two and a half years ago the Canadian Chamber of Commerce took up this matter and considered it worthy of some research. They requested their various branches across the dominion to indicate what they thought about having another system of voting which would bring about the results I have mentioned, that is, not allowing a member to come here without having a majority of the votes cast in his constituency in a particular election.

The chamber of commerce stated that if a sufficient number of their branches across the country were in favour of having a change made they would press the matter further. Apparently that majority was obtained because they made a request to have another method of voting adopted. When the committee met during the last session another letter was received from the secretary of the chamber of commerce reminding the committee of the request that had been made by that organization.

To carry this along a little further, we find that in the election held on November 22 in Ontario the Progressive Conservatives obtained 79 seats although they received only 49 per cent of the votes; the Liberals obtained 7 seats although they received only 31 per cent of the vote, and the C.C.F. obtained 2 seats although they received 19 per cent of the vote. Anyone who considers those figures must realize that things are not as they ought to be. When people come here to speak for their constituents they should have better backing than many have at the present time.

In my own particular constituency there were five candidates running in 1945. Had the vote been split up fairly evenly it would have been possible for a member to have been sent here after receiving only 25 per cent of the vote, or perhaps even less. In my opinion that is not good business. In the last election there was one candidate elected in Toronto who received 38J per cent of the vote. This man belongs to the communist party. We are sending thousands of our men overseas and spending millions of dollars in fighting communism, yet under our method of voting one of their spokesmen sits in the legislature at Toronto. It may be necessary for me to deal more in detail with that a little later on.

This matter was brought up in the committee on November 15 last. I did not bring in an amendment at that time, but I did bring up the question for consideration. After I had explained this somewhat the chief electoral officer was called. I must say that he is doing a good job and in doing that he is following in his father's footsteps. Since I came here in 1936 I have had the best of cooperation and service from the former chief electoral officer and the gentleman who holds that office at the present time, and I think every hon. member of this house has had similar treatment. I hope that continues.

The chief electoral officer made quite an exhaustive presentation. There were two hon. members in particular who objected to the method of voting. I might say that in

Manitoba and Alberta we have a form of alternative vote, but that does not give the results which I want to get in the dominion elections. Under that system a person may vote for only one candidate and stop right there. That is what we call plumping. The result is that many members are elected without having a majority of the votes polled.

In Australia they have compulsory registration and compulsory voting. They use a system of marking ballots which I should like to see used here. I am not at this time suggesting that we have either compulsory registration or compulsory voting. The method that I advocate is that where there are three or more candidates on the ballot the voter must mark his choice right down the line. In doing that he can give his last choice to the fellow he least desires to be elected. I think that would take care of the trouble we have at the present time. I should like to quote from the remarks of the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. MacDougall) before the committee, as reported on page 134 of the proceedings, as follows:

Mr. Chairman, we have the experience of 18 to 20 years ago with respect to this present system as it applied in the case of the election of the city council in the city of Vancouver. One of the outstanding recollections I have is that before they finally arrived at the names of the candidates who were elected a period of six days -had passed before the tabulation of the vote was completed. That was an obvious drawback, quite aside from the mental hazard. It seems to me that we would be getting away from the principles of democracy if we were to draft a section which would make it compulsory for an elector to vote for every man or woman whose name might appear on a ballot, particularly if such an individual might be a person for whom the voter would not want to vote.

Commenting on that statement I might say that the election in Vancouver which the hon. member referred to did not have the first thing to do with the argument I was presenting at that time. There were a number of candidates up for election on that occasion and several were to be elected whereas the system I am advocating would apply only to single-member constituencies. We have only two dual-member constituencies in Canada at the present time, Halifax and Queens. As far as the compulsory feature which he protests against is concerned, you are compelled to vote under our present method if you are going to have any say in the election. I do not think that marking your ballot in its entirety in order to keep out some undesirable candidate should be considered as a detrimental factor. The hon. member continued:

Now, Mr. Chairman, it is quite conceivable that in many of the electoral districts throughout the dominion of Canada, if this suggestion advanced by Mr. Fair carries, there might be various constituencies where among the four, five or six candidates 94699-123|

Dominion Elections Act whose names might be on the ballot paper there might happen to be a communist and you would have to mark a ballot for him. Now, speaking personally, I do not want to do that. It seems to me that in that way we might write into our electoral law, in the way of compulsion, something which would force the elector to vote for somebody whom he does not intend, desire or want to vote for and in doing that we would be countermanding the great principle upon which our democracy is built.

I come back again to the case of the communist member elected in Toronto on 38J per cent of the votes polled. If we had had the system which I advocate I am sure that in the legislature at Toronto there would not be a member of the communist party free to circulate the propaganda of that outfit. Then the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard had this to say:

Then again, as the chief electoral officer has pointed out, it is not applicable in dual member ridings. And now, if this principle was adopted in dual member ridings you would have to go on the basis of proportional representation, because this is only applicable to single member ridings; and if there ever was a headache in God's world it is this question of proportional representation and the counting of the vote. Without in anv way being discourteous to my good friend, Mr. Fair, I would like to suggest that we do not adopt this system of the single transferable vote for the federal seats.

I do not think we would have very much difficulty wi'.h the headache mentioned by the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard because in the section of the country where there are dual member ridings only the old line parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, contest the elections. Therefore, so far as the arguments advanced by the hon. member are concerned, I do not feel there is anything valid in them. Then we come to another member from British Columbia who also spoke against the proposition. I refer to the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge). His statement can be found at page 137 of the proceedings of the special committee. He had this to say:

Before you vote, Mr. Chairman, I would like to express my opinion. I appreciate Mr. Fair's presentation. I understand his argument for the alternative vote. But, speaking for the party I represent, I could not support that vote for these reasons: The purpose of the single alternative

vote is to attempt to assure the election of candidates with an over-all majority of the number of electors supporting a candidate but, in order to be certain of that, it is obvious from the presentation by Mr. Fair and by the chief electoral officer, that there must be compulsion in so far as the voter is concerned in that he must mark his ballot for all the candidates whose names appear on that ballot, and the effect of that compulsion would be to force a man to vote for people for whom he does not wish to vote at all, and that in my opinion would be destroying the very objective of the change proposed in the voting system, because the voter would be required to vote for somebody whom he did not desire to vote for at all. A person would have to vote for some candidate or for something with whom or with which he did not agree. The second reason I would oppose the alternative vote

Dominion Elections Act -and I am sure that Mr. Fair would agree with me on this-is that it should be in effect in all the provinces now.

I do not think I need to go any further because there is very little more that is pertinent. First of all I would point out that there is compulsion in the present system of marking the ballot if you are going to have people register their choice. Carrying it a little further, registering their ballot against somebody whom they do not wish to have in office does not make it any more compulsory than at the present time. I was rather amused to hear the hon. member for Kootenay West object to the word "compulsion" because if he will read the program of his party I think he will find compulsion right along the line so far as he and the program of his party are concerned. He copied the arguments advanced-

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ADVANCE POLLS AND PRISONERS OF WAR VOTING REGULATIONS
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Neither correct nor fair.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ADVANCE POLLS AND PRISONERS OF WAR VOTING REGULATIONS
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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Fair:

-by the hon. member for

Vancouver-Burrard. To my mind these arguments are not valid. I believe they [DOT]only go to show that there is no argument whatever against adopting a system of voting that will give us fair representation. The question of education of the people is a very minor matter. In Manitoba and Alberta they have got along very well with the system of marking ballots 1, 2, 3, 4 and. so on, and I think the people of the other provinces would be just as quick as the people of Manitoba and Alberta to pick up that method of marking if they were only given the opportunity to do so.

This method is used in Australia, and only two or three per cent of the ballots are rejected. I believe that in Canada the percentage is possibly that high under the present system. We should aim to make progress in our system of voting and other things we do in Canada. This is one place where I believe we should make some advance. I realize it is not possible to get this matter through at the present session. I realize that people will have to have a little education and possibly give the matter some consideration, but I feel that if people all across Canada were given a true outline of the necessity for the change they would not hesitate for a moment to make themselves conversant with this method of marking ballots. I believe they would vote for something that is much more progressive and which is much more fair and democratic than our present system.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ADVANCE POLLS AND PRISONERS OF WAR VOTING REGULATIONS
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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. A. Ross (Souris):

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I have spoken on this matter. In fact I think I have taken the opportunity at some time in every session since I have been a member to urge an

amendment to the elections act making provision for the use of the transferable vote. The hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Fair) has put on the record the results of the last three federal general elections. According to my figures, in the general election of 1949 some 121 members were elected by minority votes cast in their ridings. I have a short article here that appeared in the Winnipeg Tribune on August 24 of that year. It is a Canadian Press dispatch from Ottawa and reads:

A record total of 5,856,307 votes was cast in the June 27 general election compared with 5,246,130 in the 1945 election, it was disclosed Tuesday by Jules Castonguay, chief electoral officer. The Liberal party, returned to power with an overwhelming majority, received 2,926,029 votes in the last election compared with 2,170,625 in 1945. The Progressive Conservatives, second largest group in the commons, hold 1,742,235 compared with 1,455,453; the C.C.F., 790,321 against 822,661, and the Social Credit party 139,801 against 214,998.

These figures indicate that it required approximately 15,160 votes to elect a Liberal member in 1949 whereas it took approximately 42,540 votes to elect a Progressive Conservative. As has been pointed out, this situation might easily be reversed because in the recent Ontario election-and I have not seen a break-down yet-some 49 per cent of the votes cast elected 79 members to the Frost government out of a total of 90 seats. Before a candidate is declared elected I think it is very essential that he should have received a majority of the votes cast in the riding.

Those of us who have followed elections in the past know very well that there have been situations where a third and sometimes a fourth candidate has been brought into the field to split a certain vote. That has been recognized in several parts of the country, and it is only by an amendment providing for the transferable vote that you can overcome that system in an election. Where people can pretty well judge what the result will be I think it is very bad that a third or fourth candidate should be introduced simply to split the vote and change the representation of the riding. As I see it, that is not in the interests of democracy.

In the 1949 election just under 50 per cent of the vote resulted in the Liberal party obtaining 75 per cent of the seats. Thirty per cent of the vote resulted in the Progressive Conservatives obtaining 16 per cent of the seats. Thirteen per cent of the vote resulted in the C.C.F. winning 5 per cent of the seats, and 7 per cent of the vote gave the Social Credit party and others 4 per cent of the seats. That is a very unfair situation. At this late date I do not want to go into great detail. I want to repeat what the hon. member for Battle River said, namely, that

for a great many years this system has been in operation in the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba. I have read editorials in some eastern newspapers to the effect that it would make the determining of the result too complicated. I want to say that is far from the fact because if people will converse with those who have been in charge of the elections in Manitoba and Alberta they will find it is a simple matter to make these transfers and ascertain who has received a majority of the votes cast in a particular riding. I simply want to make this appeal once more. While it probably cannot be done at the present session, I ask the minister responsible and the members of the house to give serious consideration, before another general election is held, to amending the elections act in order to make provision for the transferable vote so that many things that have happened in the past will not be possible under what I think should be a democratic system of voting in this country.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ADVANCE POLLS AND PRISONERS OF WAR VOTING REGULATIONS
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. E. D. Fulton (Kamloops):

I rise at this time simply for the purpose of recording briefly my opposition to one feature of the bill. The point in which I am interested emerges very clearly from a reading of the order as it appears on today's order paper. It is No. 11 and reads as follows:

Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion of the Secretary of State for the second reading of Bill No. 41. an act to amend the Dominion Elections Act, 1938, and to change its title to the Canada Elections Act.

I have indicated on previous occasions my opposition to the process which we have now succeeded in bringing out into the open, the process of eliminating the word "Dominion" as a part of the official name or description of Canada. I wish now to record once more my opposition, my objection and my regret that this process should be continued. I am not going to make a speech at any length because there are a number of factors which indicate that one should not. However, I could not allow the bill to be given second reading without again recording my position.

I put my objection on two grounds. First there is the ground of sentiment-or tradition, if you like-and second, the ground of logic. I object to the stupidity and irritations which accompany and are made necessary by this unnecessary process of changing the name. On the second ground let me point out the position we have now arrived at as a result of this process. Apparently we have to sit down and solemnly change every section of this art. It will of course be necessary to make technical amendments to every section of every bill where the word "dominion" appears in order to carry out this process. And it

Dominion Elections Act has got to the point now where the logical conclusion of that process has carried us to the absurd position where we have to sit down solemnly and say, in the piece of legislative nonsense found in section 2 of the bill, that if the word "dominion" happens to appear in any place in connection with an election in the future it shall not invalidate the whole election. One only has to follow the proposition a little further to see the absurdity of the position in which this process gets us, because after all, if you are going to eliminate a word, you have to ban it. So I suppose at some future date we shall have to sit down, if this government is to be consistent-and if it is allowed to remain in office-to study another enactment in similar form which will result from carrying the process to the ultimate point. It would then be necessary to provide that if the word "Dominion" does appear in any way in connection with an election, then it shall invalidate the whole election.

So you see, Mr. Speaker, the absurd, illogical and rather humiliating position in which this process lands us. Because it is so illogical, because it is so unnecessary, and because I find it so objectionable, I am not able to allow this bill to pass without recording once more my objection to that process.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ADVANCE POLLS AND PRISONERS OF WAR VOTING REGULATIONS
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

May I take just a minute, or two at the most, to say a word on the point raised by the hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Fair). I agree with those who contend that there should be improvements in our method of voting. It is certainly wrong that 49 per cent of the popular vote should result in some 72 per cent of the seats of this house being held by one party. I agree that something should be done about it. But I do want to enter this word of warning. In my view the single transferable vote would create as many problems as it would solve, if not more. I suggest that if we are going to go in for electoral reform, consideration will have to be given not to the single transferable vote but to a system of proportional representation, which is something quite different. After all, the aim of a democratic election is much broader than the position of any individual candidate. The aim of a democratic election is to get a parliament that is somehow representative of the political thinking of the people of the country. It is for that reason that I suggest if we are going to consider electoral reform, we should not adopt the single transferable vote which creates as many problems as it solves, but rather we should establish a system of proportional representation.

Dominion Elections Act

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT RESPECTING ADVANCE POLLS AND PRISONERS OF WAR VOTING REGULATIONS
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December 14, 1951