Canada – The Dominion Franchise

The Dominion Franchise is a most liberal measure, which provides, generally speaking, that all male citizens over the age of twenty-one years, who are not, by Act or otherwise disqualified, are entitled to vote. The qualifications necessary to entitle any person to vote in a Dominion election are, except as otherwise provided, those established by the laws of each province as necessary to entitle persons to vote in the provinces at a provincial election. But, as these laws differ somewhat in detail, it may be well to set out the qualifications imposed in some of them : —

In the province of Ontario every man who is over the age of twenty one years, or will be of that age within thirty days after the day fixed for hearing appeals to the judge under the Provincial Act ; is a British subject by birth or naturalisation ; is not disqualified under the Act or otherwise by law prohibited from voting ; has resided in Canada for the nine months preceding the day for commencing to prepare the list on ‘which he is to be entered ; is a resident of and domiciled in the territory for which the list is being prepared, is entitled to be entered on the voters’ list.

In Quebec it is provided that the following persons, and no others, being males, and who at the time of the deposit of the list are of the full age of twenty-one years, subjects of His Majesty by birth or naturalisation and not other-wise legally disqualified, shall be entered on the list of electors : —

1. Owners or occupants of immovable property valued at a sum of at least three hundred dollars in real value in any city municipality entitled to return one or more members to the legislative Assembly, or two hundred dollars in real value or twenty dollars in annual value in any other municipality.

2. Tenants paying an annual rent for immovable property of at least thirty dollars in any city municipality entitled to return one or more members to the legislative Assembly, or at least twenty dollars in any other municipality, provided that the real value of such immovable property be at least 300 dollars in such city municipality or 200 dollars in any other municipality.

3. Teachers engaged in an institution under the control of School Commissioners or Trustees.

4. Retired farmers or proprietors, commonly known as rentiers (annuitants), who, in virtue of a deed of gift, sale or otherwise, receive a rent in money or kind of a value of at least 100 dollars, including lodging and other things appreciable in money.

5. Farmers’ sons who have been working for at least one year on their father’s farm, if such farm is of sufficient value, if divided between the father and sons as co-proprietors, to qualify them as electors under this chapter, or who have been working on their mother’s farm for the same time. If there are more sons than one they shall all be entered in so far as the value of the property permits, the eldest being entered first. These provisions equally apply in cases in which the father or the mother have farms in several municipalities.

6. Proprietors’ sons residing with their father or mother, subject to the conditions set forth in paragraph 5, mutatis mutandis.

7. Navigators and fishermen residing in the electoral district and owners or occupants of real property and owners of boats, nets, fishing gear and tackle, within any such electoral district, or of a share or shares in a registered ship, which together are of the actual value of at least 150 dollars.

8. Farmers’ sons shall exercise the above rights, even if the father or mother is only tenant or occupant of the farm.

9. Temporary absence from the farm or establishment of his father or mother, during six months of the year in all, or absence as a ” student ” shall not deprive the son of the exercise of the electoral franchise.

10. Priests, Rectors, Vicaires, Missionaries and Ministers of any religious denomination, domiciled for upwards of two months in the place for which the list is made.

11. Persons who are domiciled in the electoral district and who draw from their salary or wages, in money or in kind, or from some business, employment, trade or profession, a revenue of at least 300 dollars per annum, or persons who work by the piece in factories and who derive at least 300 dollars per annum therefrom.

In Manitoba it is provided that every person shall be entitled to be registered as an elector, and to vote at elections of members if such person is of the male sex ; is of the full age of twenty-one years ; is a British subject by birth or naturalisation ; and has resided within the province for one year and within the electoral division for which he makes application to be registered as an elector, for the three months next preceding the date of the commencement of a registration of the electors.

In the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta every male person, unless disqualified, shall be qualified to vote for the election of a member, who, not being an Indian, is a British subject and has resided in either of the said provinces for at least twelve months, and in the electoral district where he seeks to vote, for at least three months, immediately preceding the issue of the writ of election.

In British Columbia, every male of the full age of twenty-one years, not being disqualified, being entitled within the province to the privileges of a natural born British subject, and being able to read the Act or any portion thereof on being required by the Registrar to do so, having resided in the province for six months and in the electoral district for which he claims to vote for one month immediately previous to sending in his claim, and being duly registered as an elector, shall be entitled to vote at any election. It is enacted that no Chinaman, Japanese or Indian shall have his name placed on the Register of Voters for any Electoral District, or be entitled to vote at any election.

The effect of this law is to give one member to every 22,477 persons throughout the Dominion. Membership of the House of Commons, as in England, is dependent upon property qualifications, and the only stipulation is that a member should be a British subject by birth or naturalisation. The member need not reside in the district for which he is elected. Bankruptcy or conviction of a felony carries with it expulsion from the House, as is also the case with insanity.

In each house the Clerk or Chief permanent officer is appointed by the Governor-General in Council.

Another survival of English House of Commons traditions is the Sergeant-at-Arms who is Chief executive officer of the House and carries the Mace before the Speaker on official occasions when parliament is sitting. There is, too, the ” gentleman-usher of the black rod,” who, as in England, summons the Commons to attend the Governor-General in the Senate Chamber at the beginning and end of parliament.

Judges of superior or county courts are debarred from voting ; revising or returning officers, election clerks, agents, etc., who are paid for their services may not vote in the district for which they are engaged. Deputy returning officers, poll clerks, and unpaid agents may vote. The Returning Officer in the case of a tie is entitled to vote as in England. Electors may vote in more than one district when entitled to do so, but since general elections are held on the same day throughout Canada the plural voter is for that as well as other reasons—distances, for instance—not at so great an advantage as in England. The only exception to the case of simultaneous elections is made in a few of the remoter districts where returning officers fix a day which will allow the electors the full opportunity of recording their votes.

When the Cabinet decides that a general election is necessary the Premier informs the Governor-General, and the latter agreeing, parliament is dissolved by proclamation in the name of the King. A further proclamation authorises the issue of writs and fixes the day for the nomination of candidates. Any twenty-five electors may nominate a candidate for the House of Commons by filling up a form required by law and depositing 200 dollars with the Returning Officer, which is forfeited unless the candidate receives half the number of votes obtained by the man elected. Elections, except in the remote districts, take place on the seventh day after nomination day ; all votes are by ballot and entirely secret.

The method of voting is practically the same as that in England, the name of the candidates being printed on the election papers, and the elector placing a cross against the one for whom he wishes to vote. Ballot papers are put into locked boxes and opened only by the Returning Officer. Polling takes place by law from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon of election day, and six days afterwards the Returning Officer must send in his report to the clerk of the Cr.own in Chancery at Ottawa, and the names of the members elected are published in the Canada Gazette which is the equivalent of the London Gazette.

Before parliament can meet a further proclamation of the Governor-General is necessary. By the Act of 1867 there must be a Session of Parliament once at least every twelve months, that is to say, that there must not be a gap of more than twelve months between the close of one session and the beginning of another. Parliament is elected for five years, but the Crown may dissolve it at any time when it is considered expedient to appeal to the people ; this power naturally is never exercised except on the advice of the Cabinet.

In the case of a by-election, the Speaker of the House of Commons or other authority issues a warrant to the clerk of the Crown in Chancery instructing him to issue the writ for an election ; this writ is given to a Returning Officer appointed by the Governor-General in council and thereafter the polling proceeds as in the case of a general election.

All Senators and members of the House of Commons are required to take an oath of allegiance before they can sit ; the oath runs thus : ” I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George V.”

The laws for the prevention of bribery and corruption are very strict, and any infraction provides a case for the unseating of a member, equally where the law is broken by design or purely through carelessness. If a candidate be proved to be personally guilty of bribery or corruption he may be disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons, or voting, or holding any office for seven years, and the voter proved to have taken bribes may be also very severely punished. Since 1874 the House of Commons has handed to the provincial Courts its powers for the trial of disputed elections, and in so doing removed what must have remained a great temptation for the committees of the House of Commons to be influenced by political feeling. The presence of at least twenty members of the House of Commons is necessary to constitute a quorum, for the exercise of its powers and for ail purposes the Speaker may be reckoned as a member. Questions arising in the House are decided by a majority of voices.

For legislative purposes Canada is divided into the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, each of which enjoys by the British North America Act considerable powers of local government.

The work of the provinces is carried on by a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the Governor-General in council ; an Advisory Council, which is responsible to the Legislature ; and a Legislature consisting in all cases of elected representatives, assisted in the case of two provinces by an upper chamber appointed by the Crown. There is a complete system of local self-government in every municipality of a province to provide for the management of schools, etc., and a municipal system of councils composed of Mayors, Wardens, Reeves and Councillors to manage the local requirements of the cities, towns, counties, and parishes of every province.

The judiciary consists of several courts in each province, presided over by judges who are appointed and paid by the Dominion Government. Each provincial government has its own Civil Service, with officers appointed by it. The pernicious system of removing Civil Servants with a change of government does not exist in Canada, and every civil servant holds office during good behaviour. The Lieutenant-Governor holds office for five years. He can be dismissed for some definite cause but the reason for his dismissal must be communicated to Parliament.

He is thus the officer of the Dominion Government as well as being the head of the Provincial Government ; and within his constitutional limits he possesses all the authority of a Governor-General.

Under the British North America Act he it is who appoints the legislative council. He can summon, prorogue, and dissolve the legislature, and in fact perform any executive acts by the advice of his Council which may be necessary for governing the Province.

The Advisory, or Executive Council, varies in number from five members in British Columbia to eight members in Ontario. Each member holds usually some provincial office as head of a department. In some cases the titles of these heads of departments vary, but there are certain officers who are to be found in all. The Attorney-General is the law adviser of the provincial government, and generally oversees the administration of justice in the province. There is also a Commissioner of Crown lands whose duty it is to supervise the sale of public lands or lease areas for timber cutting, or supervise mining lands, and since lands and forests belong, with the exception of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, to the provincial governments, this is a most important office.

The provincial Treasurer administers the financial affairs of the province, with a provincial Secretary to carry on the correspondence of the government and keep in touch with the Dominion government, register Commissions under the provincial seal, and so forth. In Nova Scotia and British Columbia, where the mines are of great value, there is a special department for their management. In the purely agricultural provinces there is a Minister who supervises particularly the agricultural interests and encourages every movement which has for its object the improvement of agriculture or dairying.

In Ontario, where is situated the University of Toronto, education is of sufficient importance to warrant the existence of a Minister of Education as elsewhere.

The provincial legislature consists of a Lieutenant-Governor and a legislative assembly, except in the case of Quebec and Nova Scotia, which have in addition a Legislative Council. Prince Edward Island has another exception, which will be dealt with later. The Legislative assemblies are elected by the people of the provinces on a very full franchise. In Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and British Columbia, manhood suffrage is the rule, and this practically applies to Prince Edward Island. No property qualification is required, but voters must be British born or naturalised British subjects, and male citizens of the age of twenty-one years or over. The method of conducting elections is practically the same as that described in our chapter on the Dominion Parliament.

The laws governing the conduct of provincial business, and preserving the integrity of the Dominion Parliaments is modelled upon the lines of that relating to the Dominion Government.

In the case of disputed elections, provincial judges try the case, and the result has been found to be perfectly satisfactory. The life of a provincial legislature which is within its own jurisdiction is four years, or in Quebec five years, unless it is dissolved by the Lieutenant-Governor. In the popular assemblies the Speaker is elected by the majority, or in the case of an Upper Chamber is appointed by the Crown. The Lieutenant-Governor opens, prorogues, and dissolves the assembly.

Members of the Council hold their position for life, unless they are convicted of a crime, or become bankrupt, or are otherwise disqualified by law. The Quebec Council consists of twenty-four members, and that of Nova Scotia of twenty. Their position is exactly analogous to that of the Senate of the Dominion. They can initiate or amend all classes of bills except money or taxation, and though they may reject such bills as a whole they have no power to amend them.