May 11, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)


I will keep the house for
only a few moments. I am trying in restrained language to present the case which actually occurs. Now why should I not be allowed to hold public meetings, and as many, in my constituency as I deem necessary? I have no public hall in my constituency except halls which are attached to one or more of the churches. There is one-I do not know whether it is in my constituency, if not, it used to be when my constituency included a part of the ward of St. Louis; I refer to the Prince Arthur street hall where in the attic the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and labour unions and some others occasionally meet. But it is in an attic, and difficult of access, and women are afraid of it as a fire trap. For me to hold a public meeting in my constituency costs on an average at least S500. I have to hire one or more of the large dining rooms of the leading hotels, at a cost, if I remember correctly, of about $200. If I advertise that meeting in the city press, it costs at least $150 for advertising. If I have any broadcasting, it costs $150 more- in all, about $500 for a public meeting with a local broadcast so that all my constituents may hear me. Why should I not be allowed to make that expenditure? Why should I be put on the same plane as the candidate in a country constituency where such expenditures are not necessary except on a very moderate basis?
Therefore what I say now is that I shall vote against the motion of the hon. member for Swift Current, because to vote for that motion to my mind carries with it an approval of all that the bill attached to his report contains. And that bill must be read in conjunction with the main act as passed last session. I have stated the reasons why I cannot vote for it, why I must oppose it. When the bill comes before the house it must, I assume, be introduced by a member of the government. I trust that the government, before they approve the bill and introduce it as a government measure, will carefully consider the criticism which I have made and decide whether there may not be some amelioration of the distressing circumstances and conditions to which I have called attention. Personally I wish to impose no expenditure

upon any candidate. Any candidate is free not to make any such expenditures, but I am bound, if I am to prevent criminal practices in my constituency, to take measures to prevent such impersonation and fraud; I intend to do it to the extent that I may do so legally, and I do not think this parliament should preclude me from so doing.
I should like to suggest an amendment. I am simply going to read it now, to show the line along which I think the government should consider an amendment of this bill. It is a mere suggestion, not a motion. It is that clause 22 of section 62 be amended to read as follows:
22. With the exception of personal expenses lawfully incurred by a candidate during an election to an aggregate amount not exceeding one thousand dollars, and with the further exception of expenses incurred bona fide by or on behalf of an official agent, during or in connection with an election, in the preparation and revision of the list of electors and in preventing illegal voting, expenses for professional services actually performed, expenses for the fair cost of printing and advertising and for halls or rooms for the holding of meetings, and expenses for broadcasting political addresses by or on behalf of a candidate during an election, 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 . . . cents for each name on the official list of electors for the electoral district for the current election.
What I wish is to restore in principle the exception made in the present existing act of 1938 whereby all these expenditures were declared to be legal unless it was clearly shown that they were made for corrupt or illegal purposes.
This motion to accept the report cannot pass except on a division, and if it shall pass on division I shall make no further objection now. Having stated my case to the government, I trust that before the bill is introduced its members will take into consideration the matters to which I have called attention.
Hon, C. G. POWER (Minister of Pensions and National Health): May I join
with the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George (Mr. Cahan) in expressing the appreciation of, I am sure, all hon. members of the work carried on by the members of the electoral committee during the past four sessions. I do not know of any committee of this house that has laboured so long and so carefully in dealing with the various matters confided to it for consideration. The members of this committee have dealt with most complicated questions, matters which have been in controversy over a long period

Electoral Matters-Special Committee
of years, such as the alternative vote, proportional representation and compulsory registration and voting, and have made reports to this house which I believe will be studied and consulted for many years to come. After a careful study of all existing legislation, both in Canada and in other parts of the empire, the committee brought in last year an election act which in the opinion of, I believe, the vast majority of the members of this house is as complete an act as it would be possible to place on the statute book under any circumstances.
Our thanks, I think, are particularly due- and in this I join with the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George-to the chairman of that committee, the hon. member for Swift Current (Mr. Bothwell). The work of a committee such as his involved the exercise of discretion, judgment, tact and diplomacy, all of which are possessed by the hon. member for Swift Current to a degree not surpassed by any hon. member of this house.
I think I should also say a word, in which I am sure hon. members in all parts of the house will concur, in regard to the counsel to the committee, Mr. Harry Butcher, a former colleague of ours. Mr. Butcher has devoted a great deal of time and energy to the study of these questions; and by way of digression, so far as my experience goes he is the only individual ever to be permitted to address secret caucuses of all the political parties represented in this house. Mr. Butcher, I understand, was allowed to give an explanation of the 1938 election act to the caucus of each political party in this chamber. I think that speaks well for him, and perhaps indicates that sometimes at least members of this house are not unduly imbued with the partisan spirit.
With respect to this suggested legislation, in some respects at least I agree with the hon. member who has just spoken. The proposals do not meet with all the requirements I might have considered essential. The proposed bill perhaps may not be as radical as the measure which was presented to this house a year ago. In connection with some matters the recommendations are perhaps not sufficiently restrictive in the way of expenditure. But I suggest that the two main principles contained in this proposed legislation should commend themselves to the members of the house. The first is the limitation of the expenditure permitted by a candidate. The second is something new in our legislation, a recognition of the fact that in addition to the candidates in any given constituency there are certain organizations which have a vast influence in the issue of an election, namely, large political organizations;
and that those political organizations, in order to function, must have campaign funds. The country and parliament will at last recognize the legal existence of something at the very name of which we have hitherto shuddered. It is proposed by the committee in this legislation that we recognize campaign funds, that we regulate them and publicize them so that every person in the country may know the sources from which these funds come.
With respect to the first principle, dealing with the limitation of expenditure on the part of any candidate, almost every country in the world has some such provision in its election legislation. Great Britain has it; the United States has it; Ireland has it; Australia has it; New Zealand has it, and as far as I am aware many of the countries of Europe have it also. In many countries the limit is far lower than that proposed in this legislation. We have, I think, come to the almost unanimous conclusion that it is not right or fair that the wealth of a candidate should be a material factor in his election as a representative of the people. Ever since the franchise has been granted, ever since man has had the right to exercise the franchise, it has been restricted by extraneous factors of one kind or another. In the early days, as the house well knows, the right to vote was strictly limited to the propertied classes. Later there was intimidation of the voters by these same propertied classes, and in many instances an election was a foregone conclusion because the tenants were obliged, either by custom, by practice or by coercion, to vote for their landlords. Still later we ran into the question of undue influence, industrial, clerical and governmental; and now, in our modern days, we come across something which is almost a greater obstacle to the free choice of the people than any I have enumerated, namely the power of money. Given an election in which there is no very great public issue clearly defined, wherein the public are apt to be confused by the slogans of the various parties; given to any candidate the right to use unlimited money for propaganda, for the hiring of halls, for the employment of the genius of the modern advertising man and the pushful tactics of the modern high pressure salesman, all the eloquence of paid orators on the radio, a wealthy man is an extremely difficult man to defeat in a constituency, however just the cause of the other candidate may be. Therefore, I say there is justification for the limitation of expenditures in a constituency.

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