British Columbia, Legislative Council: Debate on the Subject of Confederation with Canada (22 March 1870)
By: British Columbia (Legislative Council)
Citation: British Columbia, Legislative Council, Debate on the Subject of Confederation with Canada: Reprinted from the Government Gazette Extraordinary of March, 1870 (Victoria: William H. Cullin, 1912) at 120-131.
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DEBATE ON THE SUBJECT OF CONFEDERATION WITH CANADA.
TUESDAY, MARCH 22ND, 1870.
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Hon. Mr. Holbrook—Mr. Chairman, I rise with some diffidence to give my opinion as to whether we are fitted for Responsible Government or not, after the able speeches that have been delivered by Hon. Members on the subject. The Hon. and learned Member for Victoria City (Mr. Drake) has affirmed that Responsible Government would give the real government of the Colony to Victoria. This I believe is true, and if such were the case what injury it would inflict on New Westminster and the Mainland generally. I feel that we are not yet fit for Responsible Government; but nevertheless, I think that the extent of the population is very much under-estimated. It has been stated that after the most careful calculation that can be made the white population cannot be calculated at over 5,000 adults; but I think this is wrong, and no doubt it has been taken from the Government Accounts, which do not include Kootenay, Big Bend, or the settlements around New Westminster; and I would make the adult white population to be 10,000, besides 40,000 Indians; and these Indians ought not to be ignored. If they are not represented will it not be difficult to make them contented with the change from the Imperial Government to Canada? And it is for this reason that I have given a notice of motion in this House to show them that they are not forgotten, and that they may go on with their settlements and improvements in safety.
But if we are to have Responsible Government I will not be answerable for the consequences. We are told the question is to be submitted to the people. I say let us wait for their decision. I have confidence in Canada, and am content to take my chance of being well governed by the Dominion Government, rather than try something of the working of which we know nothing. I have no doubt that great agitation on the subject of Responsible Government will be got up by the press, and that many members will gain their elections by confusing the questions of Confederation and […]
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[…] Responsible Government. I entirely concur with the lion. Mr. Wood in believing that more liberal representation will do much more for the good of the Colony than Responsible Government. I believe in a good franchise being given, as foreshadowed by the Governor’s Speech ; and I think twelve elected and eight nominated members would give satisfaction and work well, although report makes the change more liberal than this. We are now on the eve of prosperity. Our quartz mining is still to be commenced, and we only want good roads to Kootenay, by way of Eagle Pass, to open our resources in this respect. I do not intend to enter upon the question of Responsible Government. I believe it would be bad for us and is not required by the people. I shall support the Government in the clause now under discussion.
Hon. Mr. DeCosmos—Mr. Chairman, I had not expected to say anything more on this subject ; but, on more mature reflection, I am satisfied that it is my duty to do so. The more the matter is argued, and the more the remarks of Government members are heard, the more I believe we are being asked to take a leap in the dark ; for all I can learn is that the new House is to be partly nominative and partly elective—and not responsible. The proportions are not stated. It has also cropped out that there will be a qualification for members. and also for electors. If the Government refer this matter to the people to know whether such a Constitution will suit them, I believe the people, to almost a unit, will reject it. The mass are opposed to Confederation altogether unless they can get a more liberal representation than that proposed by the Government. At the outset I proposed a Committee of all parties to consider and report upon the whole matter; but the hasty judgment of the House, as I think, deferred the question. Now, Sir, I think if the Committee had met and suggested, for the protection of the property element, that one-third of the Members of the Council should be elected for a longer period and hold property qualifications, the country would have been satisfied. I can conceive on some such proposition as that being laid before the House, it would have been eminently successful; as it nor stands it is matter of opinion. I think the Governor has been led into error if the utterances that occasionally drop from members of this House mean anything. I cannot conceive that the people will accept such a Constitution. I should prefer that we should go into Confederation as a unit. I have made these few remarks to set my mind at rest, and to save myself trouble with my constituents if I should offer myself as a candidate again. I state that I believe the Government will jeopardise Confederation on this point.
Hon. Mr. Dewdney—Sir, the question now under consideration has been so fully gone into by Hon, Members of the Council, that I feel it will be useless for me to take up the time of this House to any great length. At the commencement of this debate I had several arguments which I proposed to bring before your notice against Responsible Government, but I find that these have been ably handled by other Hon. gentlemen far more ably than I could have hoped to do ; and should I not have been convinced at the earlier stages of this debate, other arguments have been adduced which now completely set my mind at rest on the subject. I am opposed to the recommendations of both the Hon. Members for New Westminster and Lillooet, particularly the latter, and in opposing them I do not feel I am injuring the cause of Confederation. But while I feel, Mr. Chairman, that it is unnecessary for me to enter into the question of Responsible Government, I think I should not be doing my duty were I to remain silent upon one matter connected with this debate—one upon which I consider I am as capable of giving an opinion as any Hon. Member of this Council—namely, the feelings of the inhabitants of the Mainland generally with regard to Responsible Government.
I have travelled through this country as much as any Hon. Member of this Council, and I have been brought in contact with all classes, and have mixed with all classes. and I have yet to meet the first individual who has expressed to me his desire for Responsible Government. Now. Mr. Chairman, do you believe, does this Council believe, that the cry throughout this Colony is— down with the present form of Government, let us have Responsible Government? Hon. Members of this House are aware, I presume, that my avocations for some years past, in fact as long as I have been in the Colony, have necessarily brought me in contact with all classes, and should this have been the cry, do you think I should not have heard it? I say distinctly again, I have yet to meet the first individual who has expressed to me his desire for Responsible Government, The feeling of my constituents is not in favour of Responsible Government; on the contrary, it was distinctly expressed to me that they do not desire any change in the present form of Government. All they want is money to keep their trails in order and a […]
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[…] resident Magistrate to administer and carry out the laws I believe that some Hon. Members of this House have mistaken the feelings of the country on this matter.
Any dissatisfaction that exists is not with the present system of government but with the expense of carrying, the system out. We all feel that, and we all know that. it cannot be avoided, for reasons which have been given over and over again in this House, namely, the smallness of population; scattered as it is over so vast an area. I have not heard during the debate any arguments that will prove to me or to this House that under Responsible Government we could have a cheaper form of government. I for one could not be convinced that we should. I believe that the public moneys would be wasted. peculation and dishonesty would be the order of the day. We are told by the Hon. Member for Yale we must have a beginning. I am aware of that fact. and for one shall assist to put off the evil day. I prefer for a time—until our population increases—to live under the present form of Government, one under which, I am proud to say, I have lived for eleven years without seeing the faults of maladministration and other evil accusations that have been hurled at it by the Hon. Member for Lillooet. I am aware that that Hon. gentleman was himself in some subordinate position under the Government; he may of his own personal knowledge, while in that capacity, be aware of some malpractice, but I defy him to point out a single instance brought before the notice of the Government that did not receive the strictest investigation and in which the individual complained of, if the charges were proved, was not discharged.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman. I shall take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the officers generally that have carried on the Government of this Colony during the eleven years that I have lived here; and I challenge any Hon. gentleman to prove by the records of Her Majesty’s Colonies, that in any Colony or Dependency of the British Crown laws have been more justly administered, life and property better protected, or the affairs of the. Colony carried on with greater rectitude than in the one in which we are now living. Holding these views, I must decline to support either of the recommendations before the Committee.
Hon. Mr. Alston—Sir. I am in favour of Responsible Government, but not the form that has been discussed in this House at so great a length I believe all representative Governments are responsible. The Hon. and learned Member for Victoria District has quoted John Stuart Mill I believe. Sir, that the words Responsible Government do not occur in his book; he shows that the form applicable to one country will not do for another. We have heard enough in this Council to make me believe that ‘the people do not want Responsible Government; I believe that a representative form of Government is the only form that will suit this Colony It has been well shown by the Hon. Mix Wood, that from the difficulty of getting districts represented, this Colony is not adapted for purely representative institutions. I think it most desirable that Executive Members should have seats in this Council, and I think that a partially elective House would best represent the interests of the entire community. The American form of Government is in a certain sense responsible, executive officers being elected for a term of four years. England possesses a different form, and Canada differs again from England. The Colony from which Governor Musgrave came is the last that has received Responsible Government; thus we may fairly trust to His Excellency to judge for us as to the probability of its working well here. The smallest Colony possessing Responsible Government is Prime Edward’s Island: and we who do not possess a populalation on one-twelfth the size of that of Newfoundland. are a use for Responsible Government. The hon. and learned Member for Victoria City (Mr. Drake). who seems to uphold Responsible Government against his own convictions. admits that all power would be held in Victoria; and he says that there would be no harm in such centralisation. I think, Sir, that he has read John Stuart Mill to little purpose if such be his conviction.
Hon. Mr. Humphreys —Sir. I am more impressed than ever with the absolute need of Responsible Government. I think the Hon. Chief Commissioner particularly, and the Hon. Member for Victoria City, have proved conclusively that two-thirds of the people representing property are determined to have Responsible Government. The Hon. Member for the City told us the people were not in favour of Responsible Government. and in the same sentence he tells us that if Confederation were set before the people with Responsible Government mixed up with it, the people would take Responsible Government to the exclusion of material interests. I have said, and say again, I am in favour of Confederation, and I earnestly hope that it will be for the benefit of the Colony. I sometimes think that some Hon. Members at the other end […]
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[…] of the House intend to defeat Confederation. I may he called an extremist—an agitator; I admit I am. I desire to see the people having a share in the Government, instead of being under a despotism, or what is equivalent to it. I have been in this Colony nearly eleven years; I am satisfied that the people want Responsible Government. Hon. Members say there are different forms of Responsible Government; admitted. I am not sure that it would be advisable to introduce any one system in its entirety here. Hon. Members have been quoting writers upon this subject; I will quote Lord Macaulay, he says: “Government, like a good coat, is fit for the body for which it is made.” I say if we cannot live on Responsible Government, we cannot live on irresponsible Government. I do not know what is shadowed forth in His Excellency’s speech; I confess I cannot understand it. If the Governor had promised a two thirds elective House, with heads of department sitting to give information without voting, then I think the question of Responsible Government would never have been considered. I ask Hon. Members to endeavour to approximate, and if they cannot agree to full Responsible Government, then to give us as liberal a form as they can. If you withhold Responsible Government you lose Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Robson—Mr. Chairman, in rising to reply to what has fallen from Hon. gentlemen in opposition to Responsible Government, I crave the kind indulgence of this House; and should I, in the course of my remarks, appear unduly harsh or unkind, I beg Hon. gentlemen to attribute it to earnestness in advocating a great cause, rather than to a desire to wound the feelings of any. The Hon. Member for Cariboo, who is also a Member of the Executive, made a very convenient, yet, to my mind, singularly ineffective, reply to one point in my speech of Friday. I had, or fancied I had, with considerable force and elaborateness, pointed out the difficulties that might naturally be presumed to lie in the way of obtaining Responsible Government under the new constitution proposed to be conferred upon this Colony; and the only answer is that the Organic Act makes the necessary provision. 1 was as well aware of the provision made in that Act before the Hon gentleman spoke as after; but no attempt has been made to meet the difficulties I suggested. The Hon. gentleman, with that facetiousness, poetry and ready wit for which he is so justly celebrated, proceeded to point out the undesirableness of Responsible Government in this Colony. Under it, he told us, Cabinets would be too versatile. In fact, he described the working of such institutions as a sort of dissolving views, a thimble-rigging operation, “now you see it, now you don’t,” in such quick succession would the changes be rung. The Chief Commissioner would, it appeared from his description, be much like Lincoln’s celebrated flea.
Now, Sir, where did the Hon. gentleman acquire his experience of the working of Responsible Government? Was it not in Canada? What do we find to be the experience of that country? Certainly it does not in any way warrant the conclusions arrived at by my Hon. friend. On the contrary, we find a change of Ministry to be of very rare occurrence. The present Premier of Canada has, with one. unimportant intermission, been at the head of the Government for some twelve or fourteen years! As I stated on a former occasion, the people of British Columbia are not politicians, nor are they fond of change. They are naturally conservative. Give them a people’s Government, and in no part of her Majesty’s Colonial Empire will a less versatile, a more conservative and loyal people be found. The Honourable gentleman said Responsible Government would blow the chaff into this House. Now, although I listened with pleasure, as I always do, to that gentleman’s oratory and humour. I could not but experience a feeling of regret to find him on the wrong side of a great question, taking a false step. It is sad to witness the early mistakes of a young man of such talents, ambition, and promise; and when I hear such words coming from my Hon. friend, I begin to fear that the bright future, the brilliant political career I had marked out for him may never be realized. Sir, a certain proportion of chaff may be blown into this House, under Responsible Government, as is the case now; but, depend upon it, under the form of government we seek, the chaff would quickly be blown out at the back door, before the breath of public opinion.
The people can always discriminate between wheat and chaff, and Responsible Government supplies the most effective winnowing-fan with which to separate the two. We were reminded by that Hon. gentleman that Responsible Government had its failures as well as its successes; and he referred to Victoria, Australia, and to Jamaica, as instances of failure. Now, I cannot but think the Hon. gentleman has been singularly unfortunate in going to these Colonies to prove his proposition. The former ranks amongst the most flourishing, progressive, and wealthy of all Her Majesty’s Colonial possessions. Doubtless very grave political difficulties […]
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[…] were encountered, and many mistakes characterized the earlier working of Responsible Government in that fine Colony ; but it would be most unfair to charge all these to the possession of such institutions. Nay, most of them had their origin in a different political system.
As for Jamaica, Hon. gentlemen must be aware that it never possessed Responsible Government. A mixed representative system it had ; and the chief cause of failure was the absence of responsibility. It was just because those who administered the affairs of that unfortunate Colony were not responsible to the people that the opposition, led by the ill-fated Gordon—a man of unquestionable ability, although, perhaps, somewhat deficient in judgment—was induced finally to assume the extreme attitude which resulted so fatally. The Hon. and learned Attorney- General made an effort, not altogether warranted by facts, to force the advocates of Responsible Government into a false and disadvantageous position, in relation to the Government programme ; but Hon. gentlemen will recollect how anxious I was, at the beginning of this debate, to meet the views and adopt the suggestions of that Hon. and learned gentleman, in respect to the particular time and mode of approaching this question. My desire to give the Government a general and strong support upon the great question of Confederation is no secret in this House; and I think I can speak with equal confidence in regard to the views and intentions of my Hon. friend on my left (the Member for Yale).
But enough has already been said upon this point ; and I have only to add that I utterly refuse to occupy the position in which the Hon. and learned Attorney-General appears desirous of placing me. That Hon, gentleman was content to give the same answer to the main objection as that given all round the Government end of the table, viz. that the Organic Act provides the necessary and ready means of obtaining what we seek; and he further tells us that, inasmuch as Responsible Government relieves Governors of responsibility, a Governor would naturally be ready to make the concession. Such, however, is not the accustomed working of human nature. Such is not the lesson of history. The ruler hugs power as the miser does his gold, nor parts with it only as it is extorted piecemeal by the people. I am charged with having used threats—threats of blood! Now, Sir, I must plead ” not guilty” to this charge, While carefully avoiding everything in the nature of threat and prediction, I asked the Government to read carefully those lessons written in blood around us, and implored them to take warning from the errors and profit by the successes of others. We were told by the Hon. and learned Attorney-General that the Governor is powerless to grant what the Resolution asks; but might not the same objection be raised to almost every recommendation passed in connection with Confederation? His Excellency in asking Her Majesty’s Government for power to give us a new Constitution. The Resolution merely suggests a more liberal Constitution than His Excellency proposes. There is therefore, no weight in this objection. The Honourable gentleman next tells us that the Resolution implies want of confidence in the Canadian Government ; that they will not listen to the cry ot the people for Responsible Government.
Now, the Hon. gentleman must be aware that Canada can only listen to our cry when it is heard in the particular form prescribed by the Constitution. The people can only cry through the Government it is proposed to give them under the Constitution foreshadowed in His Excellency’s opening message ; and I have already endeavoured to point out the probability that the new Government might refuse to utter a cry in that direction at the desire of the people. There is no such expression of want of confidence in the resolution. The Canadian Government could not interfere—would have no power to give us Responsible Government—until asked by our Local Government to do so. Such objections I must, therefore, regard as frivolous, and utterly unworthy of the Hon. and learned Attorney-General. The Hon. Chief Commissioner followed with his accustomed ability, but, I venture to think, without his usual discretion, That Hon. gentleman set out by telling us that he quite understood it to be necessary for certain members, in order to be consistent with pen and speech outside of this House, to bring forward this subject; that it was a logical necessity, inexorable fate.
Now, Sir, I cannot see into that Hon, gentleman’s heart, any more than I can into the mysterious Executive Chamber. I will not, therefore, permit myself to impute motives to that Hon. gentleman in his opposition to Responsible Government; but he must permit me to be the best judge of those motives which have impelled me, with some degree of reluctance, to take a stand in opposition to the Government upon this question. It may appear necessary, in order to be consistent with word and pen, that I should advocate in this House great principles which I have advocated elsewhere; but it may be permitted me to say that, whether here or elsewhere, I advocate Responsible Government under Confederation, […]
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[…] because I conceive it not only to be the right of the people. but their interest also. We are constantly told that we should not have mixed this question up with the terms. We have not mixed it up with the terms; but the Government has mixed the terms up with it; and if there is any blame, any responsibility in this connection. it must rest with the Government, and not with the Opposition The Hon. gentleman tells us that it is impossible to work Responsible Government with a population so scattered; and in the same breath he tells us that we have Responsible Government now,—that the officials are responsible to the Governor, and he to the Queen.
Well, certainly, this is a sort of responsibility; but it is not precisely the kind we want. The responsibility now existing takes the wrong direction. It is not responsibility to the people, but to the supreme power. In this sense the most despotic form of government in the world may be termed Responsible Government. The members of the Government of the Czar of Russia are responsible to him, and he is responsible to the Great Ruler of all; ergo, Russia has Responsible Government! The Hon. gentleman must see the absurdity of his startling proposition. Ile next tells us that if the people desire Responsible Government it is because they have been educated up to it by the press. There is more truth than argument in this. Doubtless the press is in this, as in other civilized countries. the great educator of the people, especially in matters political. Have not the people of England been similarly educated up to every great political reform? Such constitutes a legitimate and important function of the press.
But the honourable gentleman goes further and tells us that if the present Government is unpopular with the people the responsibility rests with the press, which has by misrepresentation created prejudice in the public mind. This proposition I beg most. unqualifiedly to deny. The honourable gentleman has confounded cause and effect. The press has opposed the Government because it is unpopular; and the Government is unpopular because it is not. a people’s Government— because it does not possess the principle of responsibility to the people. it must be remembered that the press subsists on popular favour; and in order lo subsist it must oppose an unpopular form of Government. The press of this Colony has acted rather as the exponent than the moulder and leader of public opinion in its opposition to the present form of Government.
As I have repeatedly said, it is not the officials that are unpopular. so much as the system under which they administer. No officials can be popular under such a system. it places them in a false position. The press is, therefore, not to blame; it is the faithful exponent of public opinion. The honourable gentleman on my left [Mr. Holbrook] dissents from this view. It is the habit of some honourable gentlemen to affect to sneer at the press of this Colony. They admit that the press of England is all I claim for it; but they allude sneeringly to the press of this Colony. Now, I am free to admit that the leading journal of this Colony would lose by a comparison with the leading journal of England. It is smaller, and, perhaps, less ability is displayed in its editorial columns. But would not such a comparison be unfair? Apply this rule to other institutions of the Colony and what would be the result? Taking the press of this Colony with all its imperfections, and l boldly assert that it will compare favourably with that of any other country of like age and population. That is the way to institute the comparison; and it is the only true way. When I hear honourable gentlemen indulging in sneers at the press invariably all ye at one conclusion: and I will not tell you what that conclusion is. It will not be necessary for me to again allude to the improper use made of what I said about the horny-handed class, especially as the Hon. Mr. Walkem fully vindicated me.
One more point and I have done with the honourable the Chief Commissioner. That gentleman repeated the now stereotyped argument that the Dominion Government. being based on liberal institutions. would not withhold Responsible Government if desired by the people of British Columbia. That argument has been so often met that I was surprised to hear it repeated by that honourable gentleman. Need I say, for the twentieth time, that it is not the prerogative of the Canadian Government to give, unless asked by our local Government. and that our local Government will, from its organic nature, be averse to ask anything of the hind? Surely I am entitled to regard the constant iteration of those exploded arguments as evidence of the weakness of the Government cause. Passing to the speech of the Honourable Mr. Walkem, my task is an easy one; for although that honourable gentleman spoke. with his accustomed eloquence and agreeable in of word and manner. all must have felt that his effort had about it an air of special pleading in a bad can. The principal objection that gentleman brought against the position 1 took on Friday was, that Responsible Government is not a principle, but a form. Now, I think it may be regarded as either or both, and I am not disposed to quarrel about mere […]
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[…] words. What I contend for is Responsible Government. That honourable gentleman tells us that Canada did not get Responsible Government till her population reached about two millions.
Now, while that gentleman is greatly astray in his figures, I cannot discover in his facts any evidence in support of the proposition he wishes to establish They may prove that Responsible Government was long wrongfully withheld from Canada. I now come to my honourable friend the senior member for Victoria City. That honourable gentleman started out by telling us that he intended to support the Government scheme, and to support it strongly; but he added that he would not say much about Responsible Government. Would that he had adhered to the latter resolution. It was but natural that, feeling himself on the wrong side of a great principle, he should be disposed to say little. But, unfortunately for himself, he has said much, a great deal too much. He said some things which it would have been much better to have left unsaid. He told us that Government for, by, and from the people means Government for, by, and with the politicians. But he does not stop there. He tells this House that the advocates of Responsible Government will he willing to surrender all the other conditions in order to obtain that form of Government as a means of securing office, power, pickings! Now, Sir, let us look at the political history, and position of the honourable gentleman who presumes, with so much boldness, to judge of other people’s motives I recollect when, some two years ago, that honourable gentleman was the most ardent of all Confederationists; when he desired to rush into an unconditional and blind union; when he urged the then Governor to negotiate union by telegraph.
At that time I was doubtful about the policy of immediate union, regarding such a step as somewhat premature and unreal, so long as the immense intervening territory remained an unorganized and unopen waste. Holding these views I proposed to strike the word ‘immediate’ out of the resolution which had been moved by the Honourable Mr. DeCosmos; but so enthusiastic, so fanatical. was the honourable the senior member for Victoria City that he longed for’ a stronger word than ‘immediate.’ Subsequently we saw that honourable gentleman the most ultra, the most rabid Anti-Confederate. We saw him opposing it in every way, both in the House and out of it, denouncing Canada as a most undesirable connection. Now, what do we see? We see the Anti-Confederate Lion rampant suddenly metamorphosed into the Canadian Lamb passant. with his longing eyes fixed on Ottawa! Such has been the magic influence of the mysterious Executive Chamber. I do not, for one, regret the transformation; but I do object to that gentleman turning round so suddenly and denouncing the motives by which others are actuated. Does not that honourable gentleman live in a ‘glass house’ in that sense which peculiarly disentitles him to throw stones? Is not he guilty of measuring other people’s corn in his own bushel? Did not be cast all his political principles to the winds and bolt in at the very first opening to place and power that presented itself? And who knows but there may be at this moment a mission to Ottawa dangling temptingly before his eager eyes? ls this the man who is entitled to turn round and, looking down from his pinnacle of temporary power, judge others? strutting his hour of brief authority, he taunts us with seeking Responsible Government as a stepping-stone to power and pickings. I hurl back, with scorn and contempt, the accusation in his teeth! To pass, however, to the so-called arguments put forward by that honourable gentleman. he tells us that the resolution asks for a Government like that of Ontario,—that we should require 40 or 30 members.
Now, Sir, it is difficult to give him credit (or sincerity, as ever honourable member must see that the resolution asks nothing of the kind. It asks for a constitution based upon the principle of Responsible Government as existing in Ontario. That honourable gentleman has attempted to make me inconsistent with myself in saying that we shall be under the heel of Canada without Responsible Government, and that Canada desires that we should have such institutions. Now, I see nothing inconsistent in this. Canada does desire that the people of British Columbia should possess as full powers of managing their own local affairs as the people of the other Provinces possess; but Canada will have no power to grant these institutions until asked to do so in a constitutional way through and by our Local Government; and the weight of my objection lies in the reasonable belief that, however desirous the people may be, the Local Government will be naturally averse to a change calculated to lessen its power, and weaken the tenure by which its members hold office. Again, we are told that the Governor would not be disposed to withhold institutions which would relieve him of responsibility. However plausible this proposition may appear in theory, it is scarcely borne out by experience.
As I have already stated, in reply to the honourable and learned Attorney-General, history presents rulers in a different light. We are asked […]
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[…] what measures of importance have been introduced that have not been introduced by the Government? By this the honourable gentleman wishes, I presume, to convey the idea that the Government so fully meets the wants of the people as to leave nothing for representative members to do. In what singular contrast is this with his utterances during past sessions. Here, again, we have the kindly bleating of the docile Confederation Lamb, instead of the terrific roar of the Anti-Confederate Lion of the past. Verily, the mysterious influences of the Executive Chamber must be potent. The honourable gentleman tells us that if we couple the question of Responsible Government with the conditions of union, the people will be willing to accept poorer terms in their eagerness to obtain it. Surely, if language means anything, this is an inadvertent admission of what the honourable gentleman has been so stoutly denying, viz. : that the people desire Responsible Government.
Leaving the honourable gentleman to the lashings of his own conscience, and to the seductive influences of the mysterious Executive Chamber, we next come to deal with the Honourable the Registrar of Titles. The Honourable Mr. Alston announces himself in favour of Responsible Government, but not the kind that would make the heads of Departments go in and out. He holds all Representative Government to be Responsible Government. The honourable gentleman may be entitled to hold a theory peculiarly his own ; but it is scarcely the fitting time to announce personal theories. We are now dealing with the question of Responsible Government, as understood by political economists, not as understood by the honourable gentleman who has just propounded a political paradox. He has been reading John Stuart Mill, and he tells us that writer never mentions Responsible Government. I have not read Mill’s theory, but I have read enough to know that he goes even further than I am prepared to go in the direction of responsibility. We have next the honourable gentleman for Kootenay telling this House that with all his experience in the Colony he never heard a man express a desire for Responsible Government, and that his own constituents were distinctly opposed to it. Now, so far as that honourable gentleman’s constituents are concerned, I am prepared to think that his opportunities of learning their views upon that or any other subject have scarcely been such as to entitle him to express a very positive opinion; but when he tells this House that in all his experience in this Colony he has never heard a desire for Responsible Government expressed, I can only say that I am surprised.
The honourable gentleman cannot but know, if he has not turned a deaf ear to politics altogether, that the question of Responsible Government has been a prominent issue at more than one election, and that it has been used as one of the chief reasons for Confederation from one end of the Colony to the other. But, Sir, I fear I have already wearied the House. Permit me to say, however, that throughout this protracted debate the efforts on the Government side of the House have been characterized by a want of argument, and by a sort of special pleading, a begging of the question almost painful to listen to. Every effort has been made to raise false issues and to misconstrue remarks coming from this side of the House, and a most unfair attempt has been made to, place the whole question in a false and disadvantageous position; yet this is scarcely surprising. It was not to be expected that the unrepresentative members would approve the measure I feel, however, quite indifferent about their votes.
We have a large majority of the representative members with us, and their vote must virtually carry the measure. The great proposition I desire to impress upon honourable members is this: The Colony is about to become a Province of the Dominion of Canada. No union can be equitable and just which does not give this Colony equal political power—equal control over their own local affairs with that possessed by the people at the Provinces with which it is proposed to unite. I care not how good the other conditions may be: it the people of British Columbia are placed in a false political position they will not be content. and the inauguration of such a union will only prove the beginning of new political discontent and agitation. Mistakes will doubtless result from the first workings of Responsible Government, but these mistakes were better made now than years hence, when the consequences might be more serious The period of lisping, stammering infancy must, be passed. Surely it is better to pass it now. while the political questions are few and simple, and the interests comparatively small, than to wait for great development. Almost every speaker on the Government side has accused me of want of confidence in the Dominion Government. 1 have no want of confidence in that Government. I know the men who compose it too well for that. I know them as honourable, liberal, large- minded statesmen.
But it is our Local Government under the new Constitution. proposed in terms so vague in His Excellency’s opening message, that I doubt. The Canadian Government […]
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[…] will possess no constitutional power to grant us political relief until asked to do so by our Local Government ; and it is the hesitation, the disinclination of the Local Government to move in that direction which I dread. I would again warn the Government against endangering the whole scheme by having it submitted to the people unaccompanied by “Responsible Government.”
Hon. Dr. Carrall—Sir, on Friday last the honourable member for New Westminster spoke at some length upon this subject, and I replied as best I could, and it is in accordance with the eternal fitness of things that I should make a very few remarks. It is one of those happy things in nature that where the poison is there is the antidote always near. (Laughter.) I propose to give the antidote. I laid down two principles: First, that the Government did not believe that Responsible Government, as it is maintained in England, was applicable to this Colony. I hold to that. I maintain that no one has controverted this proposition ; no one has proved that it could be adapted to the requirements of this Colony; there has been burning eloquence and all that sort of thing, but no proof. But I say, Sir, that even now there is a measure of responsibility in this Government. I am responsible to my constituents, and if there is such an overwhelming force in favour of Responsible Government can I ever return here The utmost that the honourable member for New Westminster has proved is, that under Confederation it would take a great deal of time and much agitation to get Responsible Government, a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years, and that as it would take that time it was better that we should have it at once. I say if one proposition is correct the other must be incorrect.
If there is such an overwhelming desire on the part of the people for it, they will get it. If the majority even are in favour of Responsible Government there is no constitutional power to prevent their getting it. There is’ no desire on the part of the Government to withhold it. I say it is a want of responsibility of the Executive that has rendered them unpopular ; but the people have never been asked to contrast the present form of Government with that shadowed out by His Excellency ; and I say that heads of Departments under that system will be, to a certain extent, responsible. The present system is bad, but the officers are good I say that the requirements of the Colony will be met by the system proposed by His Excellency. If it is not, then let the people say so, and get Responsible Government. The honourable member for New Westminster allows that it is only a question of time under the Organic Act. If it should take five years, then my point that there is not such a strong desire for it is proved. I said, and I say again, that in Jamaica they could not work Responsible Government, or even representative institutions, and in Victoria it remains to this day a monument of stupidity and mismanagement.
With regard to the assertion of the honourable member for New Westminster, I say that if speaking and voting from conviction are false steps, and a bar to advancement in political life, then I don’t want to advance a step-further in that direction. I say that Responsible Government has not been made a distinct issue in elections. The Government of the people was to be one of the consequences of Confederation ; I hope we shall get a people’s Government before it. The present Executive Council is one-third unofficial ; the work; they have done has brought a shapeless, formless phantom into one harmonious whole, and they propose to precede Confederation with a form of Government which will enable the people to decide what form of Government they will have. I coincide with the Honourable Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, that it was not necessary to introduce this subject into the Confederation Resolution. I am sorry that it was brought up at all in connection with our scheme.
Hon. Dr. Helmcken—Sir, I wish to say in reply to the remarks of the honourable member for New Westminster, that I support the Government from conviction. I do not shirk my responsibility. I said that the one great thing the supporters of Responsible Government are afraid of is, that it shall he set alongside of Representative Government. Honourable members may find when the resolutions return from Canada that I have still something to say upon them.
The recommendation of the Honourable Mr. Humphreys was put by the Chair, and on division was lost.
The recommendation of Honourable Mr. Robson was put by the Chair, and on division was lost.
Clause fifteen then passed read.
The Honourable Attorney-General introduced clause sixteen:
“16. The provisions in ‘The British North America Act, 1867,’ shall (except those parts thereof which are in terms made, or by reasonable intendment may be held to be specially […]
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[…] applicable to and only affect one, and not the whole, of the Provinces now comprising the Dominion, and except so far as the same may be varied by this resolution) be applicable to British Columbia in the same way, and to the like extent, as they apply to the other Provinces “of the Dominion, and as if the Colony of British Columbia had been one of the Provinces originally united by the said Act.”
Honourable Dr. Helmcken and Honourable Mr. Drake objected to this clause on the ground that its passing would kill the notices already on the paper.
The Honourable Attorney-General gave an assurance that the resolutions of which notice had been given should be discharged, and the opposition was withdrawn.
Clause sixteen passed as read.
“With reference to defences:—
“A. That it shall be an understanding with the Dominion that their influence will be used to the fullest extent to procure the continued maintenance of the Naval Station at Esquimalt.
“B. Encouragement to be given to develop the efficiency and organization of the Volunteer force in British Columbia.”
On clause A being read by the Chairman, Honourable Mr. Holbrook objected to Esquimalt being named, on the ground that it was only fair to New Westminster that one gunboat should be stationed there.
Honourable Attorney-General—I should have been very sorry to have this clause inserted if I thought it would give us only two or three gunboats.
Honourable Colonial Secretary (Mr. Hankin) —Because the Naval Station is at Esquimalt it does not follow that every ship will remain there. The commanding officer can send ships where he pleases.
Clause A passed as read.
Hon. Mr. Humphreys asked what ‘encouragement’ meant in clause B.
Hon Attorney-General—At present there is no means of ascertaining What encouragement can be given; I suppose arms and money.
Clause B passed as read.
Hon. Mr. DeCosmos—Mr. Chairman, I gave notice of my intention to bring up a clause with regard to provision being made to protect the agricultural produce of this Colony. It has been said by the honourable Executive Member for Victoria City that this differential tariff is quite a new thing to me. If he will take the trouble to refer to the Colonist of the 15th May, 1868, he will find that in an article written by myself I touched on this matter; it is not new to me. I am thoroughly persuaded that the distinct which I represent will be a unit against Confederation without a provision to keep up protection. From Comox to Sooke the opinion on this point is as that of one man, and I believe I may say that it is the same thing as regards the whole of the agricultural districts on the Mainland, from Soda Creek to Kamloops. I hold, with respect to protection, that when farmers shall be able to produce farm produce in sufficient quantity to enable them to reduce their prices as low as the prices obtained by the farmers of Oregon and Washington Territory; then protection is not essential, for this great and sufficient reason that if we can produce as good an article at home as we can get abroad, which we can put down at the same price, the cost of transport will be a sufficient protection.
Our farmers will have a natural protection. With regard to manufactures, I am one of those who believe that our manufactures ought to be protected. If we go into public works we must have waggons and machinery, and the waggon-builders should have protection; then, again, farming implements should be made in the Colony, and encouragement should be given to the manufacturer of these things. Again, there are the bootmaker and tailor, and the soapmaker and others, even the brewer, for whom we require protection. I ask from the Executive the insertion of this principle: “That British Columbia shall be entitled to levy and collect any tax, or taxes, on the sales of foreign produce and manufactures entered for home consumption equal in amount to the duties of Customs now levied and collected on the same under the ‘Customs Ordinance, 1867,’ provided, always, that British Columbia shall not be entitled to levy and collect any such tax, or taxes, as aforesaid, if the duties of Customs of Canada extended and applied to British Columbia at the time of and after Union on such foreign produce and manufactures shall be as high as the duties of Customs now levied and collected on the same under the ‘Customs Ordinance, 1867,’ and provided always, that such foreign produce and manufactures shall be construed to mean no more and none other than such foreign produce and manufactures as may enter into competition […]
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[…] with the produce and manufactures of British Columbia.” I don’t care how it is put in, our manufactures would come into competition with goods from Canada. That is a natural evil which we cannot avoid. There will be other advantages arising out of Confederation which will counterbalance this.
Hon. Dr. Helmcken—I have nothing to do with the honourable gentleman’s newspaper articles. I can only say that differential duties are contrary to the views of Her Majesty’s Government.
Hon. Mr. Drake—The honourable member’s explanation is different from the clause itself. I suppose from the explanation that it is intended to apply to all foreign produce and manufactures imported. I think it will be better that I should move my motion as an amendment to his, so as to confine the protection to agricultural produce.
Hon. Mr. DeCosmos—I don’t expect any resolution of mine to pass. If it should pass I shall be quite surprised ; but as I hold this to be the very keystone, and of more consequence than Responsible Government, I deem it my duty to bring it forward. But to confine the protection to agricultural produce will not reach the issue. it would not touch our rude manufactures.
Hon. Dr. Helmcken—This is left an open question by the Government. I wish it to be distinctly understood that this question of the agriculture of the country is an open question. I think I shall be found on the side of these honourable gentlemen. I think with the honourable member for Victoria District that this is the most important question comprised in these resolutions. If the terms do not contain a clause giving protection to agricultural interests, I will answer for it there will he no Confederation.
Hon. Chief Commissioner —I would ask the honourable member to define how far this is left an open question?
Hon. Dr. Helmcken—I mean that every member of the Government is free to vote as he pleases upon this question of encouragement to the agricultural interests of the Colony.
Hon. Mr. Wood—Then it is free for official members to vote these recommendations?
Hon. Dr. Helmcken—Certainly it is, and it is right that it should be so ; for I consider, Sir, that we have come to a most important question, one that concerns our own country. Confederation must not come like an eclipse, it must not produce a darkness and then leave us to recover. I say that if these terms are left to pass as they are, and return from Canada, and are passed by the people, they will produce great ills. I say that the agricultural interests are most important ; when we come to manufacturing interests it is different, they have made but little progress. Manufacturers will meet with competition from Canada, and the Dominion would not stand it ; we cannot have protection for manufactures but with regard to farm produce it is different. I say that the farmers could not exist without protection ; you will depopulate the country by bringing Confederation without protection. I have stated that this Colony affords more inducement to people to settle than any other Colony I know of ; yet we do not raise sufficient stock for ourselves. Look at the statistics: $111,447 is the value of agricultural produce—barley. flour, malt, wheat, and oats—imported. Of barley. there is nearly one million pounds imported, and this would take about 450 acres to grow in ; of malt about 4,500 bushels, which would require ninety acres to grow in ; of flour and wheat about 87.000 bushels. which would require about 2,500 acres to grow in ; of oats, about 2.364 bushels, which would require about sixty acres to grow in ; altogether about 3.080 acres.
More land must be in cultivation to produce the quantity of cereals which I have enumerated as being imported annually. and this number of acres, supposing a man to cultivate fifty acres, would give employment to 123 men ; so that 123 men will save the Colony $111,447, or $900 each, besides growing what they want for their own consumption. In relation to this it must be recollected that mills would be at work to grind, machinery would be required, and labour of other kinds would he required. such, for instance, as brewers. In addition to this comes in pigs. There were 508 of these animals imported last year ; less by 28 than in the preceding year. This is on improvement, when we consider that the amount of bacon and hams imported is 61.740 pounds less than last year. To make this bacon about 500 hogs are required ; so you will see that nearly the whole amount of bacon is made by and from foreign hogs. Take butter—82.000 pounds, or forty tons, were imported last year. It will take 400 more cows, yielding 200 pounds each per annum, to produce this amount, and it would save the Colony $31.588 per annum. One thousand seven hundred head of beef cattle would save annually $96,949 but it repurposes 6,800 more cows at least. Now, then. to supply ourselves with beef and mutton, and cheese, 8,000 more cows are required ; but it takes four years to produce beef. We import 7,000 sheep. Surely no one will tell us that we have no room for 7,000 sheep or […]
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[…] 3,000 cows. Why, it only means 20,000 acres, or thirty-six miles of land; six miles will supply the cereals—thirty-six miles in all. Why, the flats at the Fraser would yield it all. The cattle business certainly requires capital, but the capital will produce great results, and recollect the good it would do the country, the amount of labour employed and land cultn ted for the purpose; wool, hides, and bones for house use or export. What I wish to impress upon you, Sir, is the profit that might be derived from the introduction of a couple of hundred families.
What an immense loss the Colony would sustain if this were thrown open to the Americans. What a magnificent field for immigration, particularly when we consider how much more of agricultural produce will he required when public works are carried on. The market is good now; how much better it would he then. I think it would be doing those farmers who had commenced farming under a protective tariff a great injustice to withdraw protection from them now. We must have an agricultural population. It Confederation comes, and brings the Canadian tariff, we destroy the agricultural interests altogether, and the country will become a wilderness. Confederation without those terms will not, in my opinion, be accepted. Leave them out and Confederation will most assuredly fail . Farmers in the Upper Country have a natural protection from the difficulty of transport. The day will come, and pretty quickly, when they will raise more there than they have a market for. They must find an outlet, which must be where the consumers are. If the duty is not maintained, how can they send their produce down? If the railway should be built, the cost of transporting goods from the interior will be diminished. and farms of the Upper Country will then find the tariff of more consequence to them than to the people of the Lower Country.
I say Confederation will not go down without protection. The agricultural interest will prefer living in comfort with protection. and without Confederation, than in a perpetual struggle for livelihood under Confederation. I am in favour of protecting our farming interests; but if we had a lower scale upon some other goods I should think it an advantage. I support protection to the agricultural interest, and the throwing open of our ports to other things. The latter part is, I fear, not an open question.
Commissioner of Customes—(Mr. Hamley) —It is difficult to tell which resolution the Hon. Member is speaking in favour of. It is quite true that protection may he too little on some things and too much on others; for instance. I consider the duty on horses too high. I will tell Hon. gentlemen that a revision of the tariff was considered last year by a Committee appointed by the late Governor, and a majority of that Committee, who were all business men. reported in favour of lowering the duties on agricultural produce, and there was a special report in favour of making Victoria almost a free port.
Hon. Mr. DeCosmos that was the bogus Council, I suppose.
Hon. Mr. Hamley —They were a Committee of gentlemen whom the late Governor thought fit to appoint. I think the tariff must be altered to suit this Colony but I believe it must he left to the Canadian Parliament to alter. What will our representative members do sitting in the Canadian Parliament, except they look after our interests? There is no obstacle that I know of to there being a different tariff to suit the interests of this or any particular Province of the Dominion.
Hon. Mr. Holbrook is no reason that there should he a similar tariff all over, but I think it must be altered by the Canadian Parliament.
Hon. Dr. Helmcken—I do not think that it is necessary that one tariff should prevail all over the Dominion over the Dominion.
Hon. Mr. Hamley— Not at all, not at all.
Hon. Dr. Helmcken —But there can be no differential duties; that is forbidden by English statutes.
Hon. Mr. Hamley—No; not by statute; by instructions.
Hon. Dr. Helmcken— So far from leaving it to the Canadian Parliament, I say we must go in with it altered. How absurd for eight members to attempt to revise the tariff of British Columbia in the Dominion Parliament.
Hon. Mr. Trutch don’t see it.
Hon. Mr. Hamley— Nor do I.
Hon. Dr. Helmcken —Why. look how ridiculous it is to come to this House to propose any alteration in the tariff. How much more so in the Dominion Parliament. where so many would be on the other side? If at all, it must he done. by ourselves. The Canadian Government must agree to it before we go into Confederation. The other interests are subsidiary to it.
On motion of Hon. Mr. Ring, the debate was adjourned to Wednesday, the 23rd.