Mr. Mackenzie King:
What I was reading from
at the moment was the statement I made in 1933. I was going to go on to say that I agreed with my hon. friend from Lake Centre that we have an excellent precedent in the act which was passed by the United Kingdom in 1944. But what I was quoting was what I had said in 1933. The British act was enacted subsequently. I myself would have welcomed this House of Commons adopting such a measure at this session, but this House of Commons did not share my view, and I am not a dictator in
this House of Commons. I made that very clear at the time. I spoke to my own following both in the government and in this house.
Then he went on to set out in detail the various statements he had made, and in particular his suggestion on February 3, 1947, of a commission composed of judges. At that time he made this statement:
I believe I have covered all that I think it desirable to say at present, beyond giving my hon. friend an assurance that the redistribution measure will be brought in at an early date in this session.
I still hold the view which I expressed before. I personally would prefer a commission of judges to make the redistribution of seats in this house, but I do not believe that the majority of hon. members take that view, and in that particular I am prepared to accept the will of the majority.
Then on that occasion in 1947 he used these significant words, which he had repeated on previous occasions. Let me say that had it not been for the advent of war in 1939 Mr. Mackenzie King would have had introduced in the House of Commons a draft bill which had been prepared and which was available for presentation in May of 1940; and was intended to be introduced, as I understand it, by the hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power).
On that occasion in 1947 he went on to say:
I hope, however, the day will come when the House of Commons of Canada will see the wisdom of allowing its redistribution to be made by some impartial tribunal and not by the members of the house themselves dealing with the matter in committee as it has been dealt with in former years.
And then, as Mr. King often did, he quoted with approval statements he had previously made, with a view to consolidating and reinforcing his argument. He quoted what he had said in 1933, as follows:
My own view, and I have come to it after observing pretty carefully what has been taking place and what has been said in debate in this house as well as in the corridors, is that redistribution should be taken out of the hands of the House of Commons-
I shall not quote further from that, because the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) quoted it. During the course of that debate in 1947 I brought to the attention of the house the position in the United Kingdom. I did so because I believed it deserved to be canvassed. I am not by any means wedded to the idea of a judicial tribunal, for I know the argument can be advanced-and I have been one who for years has advanced it- that in any matter that concerns political partisanship, or may even have a suspicion of political partisanship, the judiciary should be kept from it in order that their position may remain as inviolate as it is possible to have it.
But, of course, the question of the type of commission to be set up is not dealt with in
the amendment offered by the leader of the opposition. After all, that is for determination by the government of the day, and ratification by parliament of the stand taken by the cabinet after it has made a decision in this regard.
On that occasion I made reference to the British system, in these words:
I suggest this, and I do so only in passing because the Prime Minister in 1933 indicated that some method must be found whereby fairness will be achieved and the liquidation of political opponents prevented or denied. I suggest consideration of the Redistribution Act of the United Kingdom. It is a matter which might well come up. It cannot come up at this session, but it might be considered.
It will be recalled that in that year the redistribution measure came in within the last two days of the session. Then I continued: It is entitled the "House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act, 1944". In the United Kingdom the matter of redistribution is under continuous review; a permanent boundary commission has been set up. There are several boundary commissions, one in England and one for the several other parts of the United Kingdom.
At that point the then hon. member for Davenport, who was such an authority on these matters, interrupted by saying, "There are four", following which I continued:
Yes. A report is made to the house from time to time. It is a continuing activity which, of course, would be different from the procedure here in Canada. Provision is made that-and I read from the act-
Then I read from the act to indicate the means whereby, by continuing the activity, the constituency picture within the United Kingdom would be changed, based on transitions in population and the like. I quoted from the act as follows:
A report of a boundary commission under this act showing the constituencies into which they recommend that any area should be divided shall state, as respects each constituency, the name by which they recommend that it should be known, and whether they recommend that it should be a parliamentary county or division of a parliamentary county or a parliamentary borough or division of a parliamentary borough.
Then I went on to point out that in no way would the setting up of a commission be an abdication of the responsibility of parliament, and went on to say:
Then the draft is approved by resolution of each house of parliament. That commission is one which is above partisanship. Parliament still rules; parliament still controls; but parliament would not act unfairly against a political opponent.
Then I referred to the personnel of the commission in the United Kingdom in charge of this responsibility in these words:
The commission for England consists of the chairman, the registrar general, the director general of the ordnance survey and two other members, one appointed by the secretary of state and the other by the minister of health; and no member
of the House of Commons or of either house of parliament of Northern Ireland is permitted to act on such committee.
In other words the British found that a judicial commission was not in keeping with the finer traditions of an inviolate, independent judiciary. In Great Britain in 1944 the system I have indicated was set up.
Similar commissions have been set up in other parts of the commonwealth for the determination of the distribution of constituencies. Canada, indeed, is the only one of the self-governing dominions within the British commonwealth that adheres to the present archaic system, which is dangerous in the extreme if applied by an overwhelming and aggressive majority. No other part of the commonwealth adheres to this system.
As the leader of the opposition said this morning, in a world where democracy is challenged changes must inevitably take place. The fact that in the 1860's, 70's, 80's and 90's this system was regarded as a means whereby political opponents could be removed, and the fact that it has continued since, is no reason for maintaining a system that is the very negation of democratic principles, namely the application of equity and fairness within statutory limitations as provided by law.
I am going to read from a report made in 1939, for which I sent out a while ago. This is a report made by a special committee on electoral matters, headed by Mr. C. E. Both-well, the then member for Swift Current, who was a very distinguished member of the bar and of parliament.
Your committee was instructed by order of reference dated March 13, 1939, to study and report on "Methods used to effect a redistribution of electoral districts in Canada and in other countries, and to make suggestions to the house in connection therewith," but regrets that it has been unable to give this order of reference the consideration It merits, owing to the number of meetings necessarily devoted to consideration of suggested amendments to the Dominion Elections Act, 1938, the last of which meetings was held on the second instant.
That report was dated May 10, 1939. The report concludes:
Your committee therefore submits, without further comment, a statement of the methods employed in other countries, and the suggestions made, for the consideration of the house.
I have pointed out already that so effective was the study made by that committee that a' bill would have been introduced by the then prime minister, Mr. King, in order to remove this record of partisanship which for too long has been the lot of the House of Commons every ten years, or even oftener in so far as the western provinces are concerned.
I should like to refer for a moment to the various systems in effect in other parts of the commonwealth. I have already given the house a not very detailed but I think sufficient summation to indicate what the plan is in Great Britain. I should lie to refer now to the Australian system which is set out in more detail in the minutes of evidence attached to the report made by Mr. Bothwell to which I allude4 a few moments ago. Here is the system followed in Australia:
A distribution commission is set up. Each state returns the number of members of the House of Representatives to which it is entitled on a population basis, but subject to the provision that each original state shall be entitled to be represented by five members.
The representation of each state is determined after each decennial census, and at an intermediate intercensal period five years thereafter, in the following manner-
In each state a commission is set up composed of the surveyor general and the chief electoral officer, with a chairman nominated by the governor general. In making a distribution the commissioners are instructed to give consideration to community or diversity of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions and state electoral boundaries. Objections or suggestions in writing may be lodged with the commissioners at any time during the thirty days following advertisement in the Gazette. After the thirty days mentioned the commissioners are required to submit their report and the minister must lay the report before both houses of parliament. If both houses of parliament pass a resolution approving the distribution, a proclamation is issued declaring the names and boundaries of the divisions. That in general is the system in effect in the commonwealth of Australia.
In the case of New Zealand two commissions are set up to provide for periodical readjustment of representation, one for each island. Each commission is composed of five members. That of north island consists of the surveyor general, two commissioners of crown lands who are named by their title of office, and two members not being members of the public service or members of the general assembly, as the House of Representatives nominates from time to time. One of the five is a permanent commissioner. Again in that case certain regulations are followed. A report is made and within ten days thereof the governor general is required to submit the report to the House of Representatives to be dealt with.
In South Africa they have a judicial system under which three superior court judges determine the matter subject to regulations.
Redistribution Each individual state reapportions its constituencies and determines what the representation shall be on the basis of constitutional or statutory provisions.
I have referred to these systems in order to indicate my support of the amendment moved by the leader of the opposition and because I feel that in the interests of equity and fairness and in order to preserve the highest principles of representation in a democratic assembly the time has come to do that which Mr. King would have done had war not come and to which throughout the years he gave undivided support. At that time he was supported by two great leaders of his party, the late Colonel Ralston and the late Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, both of whom joined with him in the House of Commons in proclaiming the need of forever placing in the pages of history the record of the past and determining that parliament should once and for all assure that the bickering and prejudice which undermine our democracy every ten years when this question comes up could well be removed from partisanship as it has not been throughout the entire period of our confederation.
Subtopic: READJUSTMENT OP REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS