Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Federal election history 9 and 10, 1900 and 1904

When John A Macdonald's 1885 Franchise Act gave the federal government power over the federal franchise, Wilfrid Laurier MP attacked it vigorously, declaring it demonstrated Macdonald's
well known predilection ... in favour of a legislative union.He does not admit that it is right to have seven separate communities. His opinion is that it would be right to have but one community and acting on that view he has designed the franchise which is best adapted to suit the conveniences of a single community.
Laurier evidently took this provincial-rights viewpoint seriously. In 1898 the new Laurier government returned control of the federal franchise to the provinces: whatever voting regulations existed in a particular province (on age, sex, citizenship, length of residence, and property ownership) would exist for federal voters in this province. Until 1920 provincial rules would prevail.

Laurier handily won re-election in 1900 and 1904, increasing the Liberal caucus to 132 in a 213 seat House in 1900 and 139 in a 214-seat House in 1904.

Stephen Maclean comments:
I throw my lot in with Macdonald -- quel surprise! Unlike the United States -- which must have influenced Liberal viewpoints -- the provinces were not sovereign entities prior to Confederation, unlike their American counterparts, so claims of an over-reaching ‘unitary government’ on this point alone ring hollow. Much like rep-by-pop, Canadians in one province would have expected that voting requirements were uniform across the country, wouldn’t they?

If nothing else, your post puts the lie to those in un-named organisations who purport that on political principles, Macdonald and Laurier were as two peas in a pod, and that Sir John was an exponent of ‘provincial rights’. Or do they wish to argue that in this Canadian unanimity, the left hand knew not the position of the right?
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