Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (16 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 245-269.
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THURSDAY, February 16, 1865.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga], in resuming the adjourned debate on Confederation, said—
I should have desired to make my remarks to the House in French, but considering the large number of honorable members who are not familiar with that language, I think it my duty to speak at the present time in English. In rising on this occasion to address the House on the important question submitted to us, I must say I do so with an unusual degree of embarrassment, not only on account of the importance of the subject of our deliberations, but also because I have to differ from many of those with whom I have been in the habit of acting ever since I first entered into political life. Yet, Mr. Speaker, when I consider the questions raised by the resolutions submitted by the Government, I find that whether they be purely political ones, such as the proposal to restrict the influence and control of the people over the Legislature of the country by substituting a Chamber nominated by the Crown for an Elective Legislative Council, or whether they are purely commercial in their character, such as that regarding the Intercolonial Railway, or the larger question of Confederation itself, I still hold the same views that I held, in common with others who have now changed their opinions, when the subjects were first mooted. (Hear, hear.)
And as I have not heard, since the first opening of this debate, any reason for substituting a nominated for an elective Upper Chamber that was not fully argued out in 1856, when, by an overwhelming majority of this House, it was decided that the elective principle should prevail—as I have not heard any reason why we should pledge our credit and resources to the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, even previous to any estimate of its cost being made, that was not urged in 1862 when the question was before the country—nor any reason for intercolonial union that was net raised in 1858, when the present Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] pressed the question on the attention of the Imperial authorities—I do not see on what ground these several subjects which were then so unpopular, and those views which were then almost universally repudiated, should now be more favorably considered by the people of this country—I fail to perceive why those once unpalatable measures, now […]
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[…] coupled with additions to the burdens of the people, should have grown into the public favor. I cannot understand why I or any members of this House should change our views merely because certain other members have, when we do not conscientiously think such change would be for the benefit of the country. I say, sir, that I am quite entitled to maintain the same views now that I have always entertained. (Hear.)
This scheme, sir, is submitted to us on two grounds; first, the necessity for meeting the constitutional difficulties which have arisen between Upper and Lower Canada, owing to the growing demands on the part of Upper Canada for representation by population; and, secondly, the necessity for providing more efficient means for the defence of the country than now exist. These are the only two grounds we have heard stated for the propositions now submitted to us; and, sir, I shall apply myself to explain my views on these two subjects, and also upon the scheme generally. When on the first question, I trust I shall be permitted to go a little into the history of the agitation of representation by population, for I owe it to myself, to my constituents and the country. My name has been used in various ways. It has sometimes been said that I was entirely favorable to representation by population—at other times that I was entirely favorable to the Confederation of the provinces, and I will now endeavor, once more, to state as clearly as possible what my real views have been and still are. (Hear.)
The first time representation by population was mooted in this House, on behalf of Upper Canada, was, I believe, in the Session of 1852, when the Conservative party took it up, and the Hon. Sir Allan Macnab moved resolutions in favor of the principle. We then found the conservatives arrayed in support of this constitutional change. It had been mooted before on behalf of Lower Canada, but the Upper Canadians had all opposed it. I think two votes were taken in 1852, and on one of these occasions the Hon. Attorney General West (Hon. J.A. Macdonald) voted for it; it came up incidentally. In 1854 the Macnab-Morin coalition took place, and we heard no more of representation by population from that quarter—that is, as mooted by the Conservative party, who from that moment uniformly opposed it on every occasion. It was, however, taken up by the present Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], the member for South Oxford, and with the energy and vigor he brings to bear on every question he takes in hand, he caused such an agitation in its behalf as almost threatened a revolution. As the agitation in the country increased, so did the vote for it in this House increase, and on several occasions I expressed my views upon the subject. I never shirked the question—I never hesitated to say that something ought to be done to meet the just claims of Upper Canada, and that representation based on population was in the abstract a just and correct principle.
I held, at the same time, there were reasons why Lower Canada could not grant it; I entreated Lower Canadian representatives to show themselves disposed to meet the views of Upper Canada by making, at any rate, a counter proposition; and in 1856, when Parliament was sitting in Toronto, I, for the first time, suggested that one means of getting over the difficulty would be to substitute for the present Legislative union a Confederation of the two Canadas, by means of which all local questions could be consigned to the deliberations of local legislatures, with a central government having control of commercial and other questions of common or general interest. I stated that, considering the different religious faith, the different language, the different laws that prevailed in the two sections of the country, this was the best way to meet the difficulty; to leave to a general government questions of trade, currency, banking, public works of a general character, &c, and to commit to the decision of local legislatures all matters of a local bearing. At the same time I stated that, if these views should not prevail, I would certainly go for representation by population, and such checks and guarantees as would secure the interests of each section of the country, and preserve to Lower Canada its cherished institutions. (Hear, hear.)
This speech, sir, has been twisted in all sorts of ways. I have heard it quoted to prove that I was in favor of representation by population, pure and simple; that I was in favor of a Confederation of the provinces and for several other purposes, just as it suited the occasion or the purpose of those who quoted it. (Hear and laughter.) The first time the matter was put to a practical test was in 1858. On the resignation of the Macdonald-Cartier Administration, the Brown-Dorion Government was formed, and one of the agreements made between its members was that the constitutional question should be taken up and settled, either by a […]
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[…] Confederation of the two provinces or by representation according to population, with such checks and guarantees as would secure the religious faith, the laws, the language, and the peculiar institutions of each section of the country from encroachments on the part of the other.
The subject came up again in the latter part of 1850, when the Toronto Convention took place. I should, however, first say that, when the Brown-Dorion Administration was formed, the Hon. the President of the Council [George Brown] urged very strongly that representation by population should be taken up as the method by which to settle the constitutional question; while, on the contrary, I saw the difficulty of so taking it up, even with such checks and guarantees as were spoken of, and made the counter-proposition that a Confederation of the two provinces should be formed. Of course as our Administration was so short-lived, the subject was not discussed in all its bearings; but if we could have come to an agreement on one or the other mode, that one would have been submitted as the solution for the evils complained of—it being however distinctly understood that I would not attempt to carry any such measure through without obtaining for it a majority from Lower Canada. I would never have tried to make any change in the Constitution without ascertaining that the people in my own section of the province were in favor of such a change. (Hear.)
To return to the Toronto Convention. I was invited to attend it, but though I was unable to do so, certain communications took place, and a meeting of the liberal members of the House from Lower Canada was held, and a document issued, signed by the present Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. McGee), Hon. Mr. Dessaulles, Hon. Mr. Drummond, and myself. The document was given to the public for the purpose of setting forth the views which we held as to the settlement of the difficulty. Pretended extracts have been given from that document, as from my speech, to attempt to prove all sorts of things as being my views, but I can show most clearly that the proposition made in it was just that which had been made in 1858, viz, the Confederation of the two provinces, with some joint authority for both.
Both at that time, and at the time of the formation of the Brown-Dorion Administration, various suggestions were made as to the carrying out of the plan of confederating the two Canadas. Some thought that two entirely distinct legislatures should be formed; one local for Lower Canada, another local for Upper Canada, with a general legislature acting for both. Others suggested the idea that the same legislature might fulfil all purposes; that the same body might meet and deliberate on questions of common interest, and that the members for each section might then separate and discuss all matters of a sectional character. Others, again, said the same result might be obtained by having but one legislature, and insisting that no laws affecting either section of the province should be carried, unless with the support of a majority from the section affected by them.
These three plans were suggested—the first to have two entirely distinct legislative bodies, one for general purposes, others for local ones; the second, to have one legislature, of which the parts should have the right to act separately for local objects, after general business had been disposed of; the third, to have but one body, but to resolve that no legislative act of a local nature should pass without the consent of a majority of the representatives from that locality. (Hear, hear,)
The document to which I have just referred, issued in October, 1859, contained this language on the subject:—
Your Committee are impressed with the conviction that whether we consider the present needs or the probable future condition of the country, the true, the statesman-like solution is to be sought in the substitution of a purely federative for the present legislative union; the former, it is believed, would enable us to escape all the evils, and to retain all the advantages, appertaining to the existing union.
* * * * *
The proposition to federalize the Canadian union is not new. On the contrary, it has been frequently mooted in Parliament and the press during the last few years. It was no doubt suggested by the example of the neighbouring States where the admirable adaptation of the federal system to the government of an extensive territory, inhabited by people of divers origins, creeds, laws and customs, has been amply demonstrated; but shape and consistency were first imparted to it in 1856, when it was formally submitted to Parliament by the Lower Canada Opposition, as offering, in their judgment, the true corrective of the abuses generated under the present system.
The document further went on to say:—
The powers delegated to the General or Federal Government ought to be those only which […]
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[…] are essential for the ends of the Confederation and consequently we ought to reserve for the subdivisions as ample powers as possible. Customs, finance, laws regulating the currency, patent rights, Crown lands and those public works which are of common interest for all parts of the province, ought to be the principal, if not the only subject submitted to the control of the Federal Government, while all that belongs to matters of a purely local character, such as education, the administration of justice, the militia, the laws relating to property, police; &c, ought to be referred to the local governments, whose powers ought generally to extend to all subjects which would not be given to the General Government. The system thus proposed would in no way diminish the importance of the colony nor impair its credit—
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—From what document is my hon. friend reading?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I am translating from the document published by the Lower Canada liberals in 1859. It continues:—
The proposed system would in no way diminish the importance of the colony, or impair the credit, while it presents the advantage of being susceptible, without any disturbance of the federal economy, of such territorial extension as circumstances may hereafter render desirable.
Well, Sir, I have not a word of all this to take back. I still hold to the same views, the same opinions. I still think that a Federal union of Canada might hereafter extend so as to embrace other territories either west or east; that such a system is well adapted to admit of territorial expansion without any disturbance of the federal economy, but I cannot understand how this plain sentence should be considered by the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], or by other hon. members who have spoken in the other House, as any indication that I have ever been in favor of Confederation with the other British Provinces. There is nothing I have ever said or written that can be construed to mean that I was ever in favor of such a proposition.
On the contrary, whenever the question came up I set my face against it. I asserted that such a confederation could only bring trouble and embarrassment, that there was no social, no commercial connection between the provinces proposed to be united—nothing to justify their union at the present juncture. Of course I do not say that I shall be opposed to their Confederation for all time to come. Population may extend over the wilderness that now lies between the Maritime Provinces and ourselves, and commercial intercourse may increase sufficiently to render Confederation desirable. My speeches have been paraded of late in all the ministerial papers—misconstrued, mistranslated, falsified in every way—for the purpose of making the public believe that in former times I held different views from those I now do.
A French paper has said that I called with all my heart for the Confederation of the provinces—(que j’appelais de tous mes voeux la confederation des provinces) But I say here, as I said in 1856, and as I said in 1861 also, that I am opposed to this Confederation now. In the Mirror of Parliament which contains a report, though a very bad one, of my speech in 1861, I find that I said on that occasion:—
The time may come when it will be necessary to have a Confederation of all the provinces; * * * but the present time is not for such a scheme.
This is the speech which has been held to signify that I was anxious for Confederation, that I should like nothing better. Why? I distinctly said that though the time might come when it would become necessary, it was not desirable under existing circumstances. (Hear, hear.) In 1862 I was not in Parliament; the Cartier-Macdonald Administration was dismissed, and my hon. friend, the member for Cornwall (Hon. John S. Macdonald), was called upon to form a new one. He applied to Mr. Sicotte to form the Lower Canada section while he himself undertook the formation of the Upper Canada portion. The question of representation by population then necessarily came up for settlement—this time at the hands of the Liberal party who had voted for it year after year—and when I came down to Quebec, summoned by telegraph, I found the arrangements made, the policy of the new government was settled, representation by population was excluded. (Hear, hear.)
The Liberal party from Upper Canada, sir, to my surprise, had decided that it was not to be taken up—that they were going into office just as the Conservative party had done before on a similar occasion in 1854; they decided that they would sustain an Administration which made it a closed question, and whose members all pledged themselves to vote against it. (Hear, hear.)
Arthur Rankin [Essex]—No, no.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—If not, I was misinformed. I certainly understood that the Administration was formed on the understanding […]
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[…] that every member of it should vote against the question of representation by population whenever it came up, and that the Upper Canada party would support the Administration so formed. At any rate the Upper Canada Liberal party supported, for eleven months, a government pledged to exclude representation by population from the category of open questions, and agreed to lay that question aside.
Alexander McKenzie [Lambton]—No, no.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I hear an honorable gentleman say it was not so, that he did not agree to lay aside representation by population then, but if he did not then has he not done so since? He declared at a public meeting the other day that representation by population was no cure for the evils afflicting Upper Canada. The members from Upper Canada who had joined the Macdonald-Sicotte Government had certainly abandoned representation by population, by entering into an Administration which bound every one of them to vote against it.
The Hon. Provincial Secretary [William McDougall] had stated publicly in Ottawa in January, 1864, that it had been abandoned by the Liberal party at the Toronto Convention in 1859; and although he had at the time been soundly abused for this by the Globe and by those of his party who look to the Globe as their political gospel, he had now the satisfaction of seeing the hon. member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie], and some others who formerly held very strong views on this question, acknowledge, as they had done at a public meeting held at Toronto about three weeks ago, that they also considered representation by population as applied to Canada no remedy for the Upper Province, and that it was not a measure the liberals ought to insist upon, and that it had been abandoned. (Hear, hear and laughter.)
Yes, the question was in effect abandoned when in November, 1859, six hundred delegates from all parts of Upper Canada attended the Reform Convention at Toronto, and agreed to advocate a Confederation of the two Canadas, by giving to each province a local legislature, with some joint authority, to carry on the general business common to both. The hon. member on my left was present on the occasion—
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Yes I was.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—And the hon. member has told me that he never saw a more respectable, a more educated, or more intelligent assemblage brought together in such numbers to discuss public questions. But that scheme did not attract much attention out of the Convention. It took no hold on the popular mind. Shortly before that, in 1858, the present Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt], who then sat on the cross-benches, made a speech of two or three hours’ duration, in which, with all that force and ability for which he is distinguished, he expounded and advocated the Confederation of the whole of the British North American Provinces. He was then assisted in its advocacy by the present Hon. Minister of Agriculture [Thomas D’Arcy McGee]; and, subsequently, on becoming a member of the Cartier-Macdonald Administration, he went to England and drew the attention of the Imperial authorities to the scheme of Confederation of all those provinces. The Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] received an answer not very encouraging; and that which he received from this country was still less encouraging. There was not even an answer to his speech, able though it certainly was—
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—He never ventured to propose any resolution to Parliament.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Though the Administration was formed with the understanding of effecting the Confederation of all the provinces, and it was the main plank of their platform, they never dared to submit the question to Parliament at all. (Hear.)
Subsequently, in 1861, the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] brought forward a motion based on the resolution at the Toronto Convention. I spoke and voted for it. It was in perfect accord with a notice I had given in 1856, and which was road here by the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] a few nights ago, and with my often-repeated declarations that I was willing to adopt some measure calculated to remove existing difficulties, without doing injustice to either section; but while I was willing to do justice to Upper Canada, I always declared that I would not do so by sacrificing the interests of Lower Canada, or placing her in the position of having to beg for justice at the hands of the sister province. (Hear, hear.)
I always stated that the difference existing in the religious faith of the people of the two sections, in their language, in their laws, in their prejudices even—for there are prejudices which were respectable and ought to be respected—would prevent any member from Lower Canada, representing a French constituency, from voting for representation by population, pure and simple, and thereby placing the people of […]
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[…] Lower Canada in the position of having to trust for the protection of their rights to the people of Upper Canada, who would thereby have the majority in the Legislature. (Hear.) There is at this moment a movement on the part of the British Protestants in Lower Canada to have some protection and guarantee for their educational establishments in this province put into the scheme of Confederation, should it be adopted; and far from finding fault with them, I respect them the more for their energy in seeking protection for their separate interests. I know that majorities are naturally aggressive and how the possession of power engenders despotism, and I can understand how a majority, animated this moment by the best feelings, might in six or nine months be willing to abuse its power and trample on the rights of the minority, while acting in good faith, and on what it considered to be its right. We know also the ill feelings that might be engendered by such a course. I think it but just that the Protestant minority should be protected in its rights in everything that was dear to it as a distinct nationality, and should not lie at the discretion of the majority in this respect, and for this reason I am ready to extend to my Protestant fellow-citizens in Lower Canada of British origin, the fullest justice in all things, and I wish to see their interests as a minority guaranteed and protected in every scheme which may be adopted.
With these views on the question of representation, I pronounced in favor of a Confederation of the two Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, as the best means of protecting the varied interests of the two sections. But the Confederation I advocated was a real confederation, giving the largest powers to the local governments, and merely a delegated authority to the General Government—in that respect in toto from the one now proposed which gives all the powers to the Central Government, and reserves for the local governments the smallest possible amount of freedom of action. There is nothing besides in what I have ever written or said that can be interpreted as favoring a Confederation of all the provinces. This I always opposed.
There is no breach of confidence in my saying that in the conversations I had with the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], previous to his accepting office, since he has referred to them himself in a speech which he made when re-elected at South Oxford, I positively declined to support any proposition for the Confederation of all the provinces. Very true, sir, I did not refuse to vote for it in committee. I did not vote at all—I was not present when the vote was taken, but I did not conceal my opposition to it. In that speech the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] also said:—
Before the negotiations were gone through with, I warned the Hon. Messrs. Holton and Dorion to take action, but they refused me. (Hear, hear.) I felt all the pain of a refusal, but they left me no resource. When the question was asked me by the Government, I said I wanted six members—four from Upper and two from Lower Canada. When asked how many supporters I could bring from Lower Canada, I replied that since Hon. Mr. Dorion did not act, I could bring no supporters.
So, sir, I have the best evidence possible to repudiate the accusation that I was in favor of Confederation of all the provinces in the fact that, before there was any question at all as to who should go into the Government, I stated—and that in the hearing of several honorable members now present—that I would have nothing to do with it because I did not conceive it would be for the interest of the country to have such a Confederation, at all events at the present time. (Hear.) Now, sir, I think I have shown that I neither favored representation by population pure and simple, nor a Confederation of the provinces; and when honorable gentlemen state that the necessity of settling the question of representation is the origin of this Federation scheme, they labor under a grave misapprehension. There is nothing further from the fact. (Hear, hear.)
The representation question was almost altogether abandoned—was played out; there was no agitation about it, and certainly less than there had been for the last ten years. The honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown], after adopting the views of the Toronto Convention, still persisted in advocating representation by population, but so changed was the feeling that he could hardly get a debate on the motion he made last session for a committee to consider the constitutional difficulties. There was then another cause for this Confederation scheme of which representation by population was made the pretext. It is not so well known, but far more powerful.
In the year 1861, Mr. Watkin was sent from England by the Grand Trunk […]
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[…] Railway Company. He came with the distinct view of making a large claim on the country for aid, but in the then temper of the people, he soon found that he could not expect to obtain that. Thinking that if he only could put some new schema afloat which would give a decent pretext to a well disposed Government, he would quietly get the assistance required, he immediately started for the Lower Provinces, and came back after inducing people there to resuscitate the question of the Intercolonial Railway. Parties were readily found to advocate it, if Canada would only pay the piper. (Hear, and a laugh.)
A meeting of delegates took place, resolutions were adopted, and an application was made to the Imperial Government for a large contribution to its costs, in the shape of an indemnity for carrying the troops over the road. Mr. Watkin and Hon. Mr. Vankoughnet, who was then a member of the Government, went to England about this scheme, but the Imperial authorities were unwilling to grant the required assistance, and rejected their propositions. Mr. Watkin, although baffled in his expectations, did not give up his project. He returned again to Canada, and by dint of perseverance, induced my honorable friend on my right (Hon. J.S. Macdonald) and other honorable members of his Cabinet to enter into his views. As to the advantages of the Intercolonial Railway, I have not the slightest idea that my hon. friend had any suspicion whatsoever of the motives which animated these Grand Trunk officials, and that their object was to have another haul at the public purse for the Grand Trunk—(laughter)—but this was the origin of the revival of the scheme for constructing the Intercolonial Railway.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—We found the project then left to us as a legacy by the Cartier-Macdonald Administration.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—So it was. The Macdonald-Sicotte Government found the matter so far advanced that an arrangement had been made for a meeting of delegates of the several provinces to consider again this railway scheme, the other project having failed. At this meeting of delegates, which took place in September, 1862, a new scheme for building the Intercolonial was adopted, by which Canada was to pay five-twelfths and the Lower Provinces seven-twelfths. So unpopular was this arrangement that when its terms were made known, if a vote of the people had been taken upon it, not ten out of every hundred, from Sandwich to Gaspé, would have declared in its favor, although Canada was only to pay five-twelfths of its cost. (Hear, hear.)
This project having failed, some other scheme had to be concocted for bringing aid and relief to the unfortunate Grand Trunk—and the Confederation of all the British North American Provinces naturally suggested itself to the Grand Trunk officials as the surest means of bringing with it the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) Such was the origin of this Confederation scheme. The Grand Trunk people are at the bottom of it; and I find that at the last meeting of the Grand Trunk Railway Company, Mr. Watkin did in advance congratulate the shareholders and bondholders on the bright prospects opening before them, by the enhanced value which will be given to their shares and bonds, by the adoption of the Confederation scheme and the construction of the Intercolonial as part of the scheme. (Hear, hear.)
I repeat, sir, that representation by population had very little to do with bringing about this measure. The Taché-Macdonald Government were defeated because the House condemned them for taking without authority $100,000 out of the public chest for the Grand Trunk Railway, at a time when there had not been a party vote on representation by population for one or two sessions. Those who had been the loudest in their advocacy of it, had let it drop. I was tracked through Lower Canada as being willing to sell Lower Canada, grant representation by population, and destroy Lower Canadian institutions. I thank God, sir, I never insulted Upper Canada, like some of those who reviled me. I never compared the people of Upper Canada to so many codfish. I showed on the contrary that I was always willing to meet the just claims of Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.) Well, without any demand whatever for the agitation of this question, the moment the Government was defeated and there was a necessity for resigning or going before the people, these gentlemen opposite prepared to embrace their greatest opponents and said to themselves, “We will make everything smooth, we will forget past difficulties, provided we can but keep our seats.”
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—(ironically)—Hear, hear.
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Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I hear a voice, sir, which is well known in this House, the voice of the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], saying “hear, hear.” But what was the course of that hon. gentleman last year, when the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] had a committee appointed to whom was referred the despatch written by his three colleagues, the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt], the Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] and the Hon. Mr. Ross, who is now no longer a minister, He voted against the appointment of the committee, and, after it was named, as a member of it, he voted against the principle of Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Hear, hear.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The last vote taken in that committee was about the middle of June, the very day of the crisis, and the hon. gentleman voted against the principle of Confederation of all the provinces, in accordance with the opinions he again and again expressed in this House, as being opposed to all Confederation whatever. (Hear.) When I state that these gentlemen only found out that Confederation was a panacea for all evils, a remedy for all ills, when their seats as ministers were in danger, I come to this conclusion quite legitimately, from facts which are well known to this House. (Hear, hear.) But, sir, it would probably be of very little moment whether I was formerly in favor of Confederation or against it, or whether the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] was in favor of Confederation or opposed to it, if the scheme proposed to us were an equitable one, or one calculated to meet the wishes of the people of this country; but, as I said a minute ago, the scheme was not called for by any considerable proportion of the population.
It is not laid before the House as one which was demanded by any number of the people; it is not brought down in response to any call from the people; it is a device of men who are in difficulties, for the purpose of getting out of them. (Hear, hear.)
The members of the Taché-Macdonald Government could not appeal to the country after their defeat upon the question, whether they were justified in taking $100,000 out of the public chest, in addition to the millions they had previously taken, without the consent of Parliament; so, having either to give up their seats or evade that particular issue, they abandoned all their previous opinions, and joined the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] in carrying out this Confederation scheme. (Hear.) I come now to another point, viz., is the scheme presented to us the same one that was promised to us by the Administration when it was formed?
This, sir, might be but of slight importance if the manner in which this proposed Constitution was framed had not a most unfortunate bearing on the scheme itself; but it is a grave matter, since the scheme is so objectionable, especially as we are gravely told that it cannot be amended in the least, but that it is brought down as a compact made between the Government of this country and delegates from the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island—as a treaty which cannot be altered or amended in any particular. (Hear.) The plain meaning of this is, sir, that the Lower Provinces have made out a Constitution for us and we are to adopt it. This fact will appear the most clearly when it is considered, as was pointed out much to my surprise, by the hon. member for Hastings (Mr. T.C. Wallbridge), that in the Conference the vote was taken by provinces, putting Upper and Lower Canada, with nearly 2,500,000 people, on no higher level than Prince Edward Island, with its 80,000—on the same level with New Brunswick, with its 250,000—on the same level as Nova Scotia, with its 330,000.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—That is entirely a mistake.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—It was admitted by the Honorable the President of the Council [George Brown] the other evening.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—No, no!
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—It was the champion of representation by population who made the statement. He it was that went to Prince Edward Island and asked it to frame a Constitution for this country. (Hear and laughter.)
In order to show, Mr. Speaker, that I am not mistaken in what I state, that this scheme is not the one which it was announced in the formation of this Administration was to be brought down—in order to prove, indeed, that it was then determined not to bring down such a measure,—I will cite a declaration made by members of the Government as to the negotiations which took place at its formation. I will read from the Quebec Morning Chronicle of June 23rd:—
The Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald, in explaining the negotiations, read the following memorandum:
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The Government are prepared to state that immediately after the prorogation, they will address themselves, in the most earnest manner to the negotiation for a Confederation of all the British North American Provinces.
That failing a successful issue to such negotiations, they are prepared to pledge themselves to legislation during the next Session of Parliament for the purpose of remedying the existing difficulties by introducing the Federal principle for Canada alone, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-western Territory to be hereafter incorporated into the Canadian system.
That for the purpose of carrying on the negotiations and settling the details of the promised legislation, a Royal Commission shall be issued, composed of three members of the Government and three members of the Opposition, of whom Mr. Brown shall be one, and the Government pledge themselves to give all the influence of the Administration to secure to the said Commission the means of advancing the great object in view.
This was the first memorandum communicated to the member for South Oxford [George Brown], but that hon. member did not accept of it. This memorandum proposed the scheme which is now brought to the House, and I repeat, that scheme was not accepted by the honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown], but an understanding was come to, which is to be found in the next memorandum, which was communicated to the House in these terms:—
The Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a measure next session for the purpose of removing existing difficulties, by introducing the Federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West Territory to be incorporated into the same system of government.
And the Government will seek, by sending representatives to the Lower Provinces and to England, to secure the assent of those interests which are beyond the control of our own legislation to such a measure as will enable all British North America to be united under a General Legislature based upon the Federal system.
There is a vast difference, Mr. Speaker, between these two propositions. The first was that the Government would pledge themselves to seek a Confederation of the British American Provinces, and if they failed in that to Federate the two Canadas, and this was rejected; the second, which was accepted by the President of the Council [George Brown], pledged the Government to bring in a measure for the Confederation of the two Canadas with provision for the admission of the other provinces when they thought proper to enter.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—When they were ready.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Everything is accomplished.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—But, sir, I may be asked, granting all this, granting that the scheme brought down is not the scheme promised to us, what difference our bringing in the provinces at once can make? This I will endeavor to explain. When they went into the Conference, honorable gentlemen opposite submitted to have the votes taken by provinces. Well, they have now brought us in, as was natural under the circumstances, the most conservative measure ever laid before a Parliament. The members of the Upper House are no longer to be elected, but nominated, and nominated by whom? By a Tory or Conservative Government for Canada, by a Conservative Government in Nova Scotia, by a Conservative Government in Prince Edward Island, by a Conservative Government in Newfoundland, the only Liberal Government concerned in the nomination being that which is controlled by the Liberal party in New Brunswick, whose fate depends on the result of the elections that are now going on in that province.
Such a scheme would never have been adopted if submitted to the liberal people of Upper Canada. When the Government went into that Conference they were bound by the majority, especially since they voted by provinces, and the 1,400,000 of Upper Canada with the 1,100,000 of Lower Canada—together 2,500,000 people—were over-ridden by 900,000 people of the Maritime Provinces. Were we not expressly told that it was the Lower Provinces who would not hear of our having an elective Legislative Council? If, instead of going into Conference with the people of the Lower Provinces, our Government had done what they pledged themselves to do, that is, to prepare a Constitution themselves, they would never have dared to bring in such a proposition as this which is now imposed upon us by the Lower Colonies—to have a Legislative Council, with a fixed number of members, nominated by four Tory governments. Why, taking the average time each councillor will be in the Council to be fifteen to twenty years, it will take a century before its complexion can be changed. For all time to come, so far as this generation and the next are concerned, you will find the Legislative Council controlled by the influence of the present Government. And is it […]
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[…] to be believed that, as promised in the document we are considering, such a Government as we have “will take care of the Opposition, or consider their right to be represented in the Council?” (Hear, and laughter.)
Sir, I thank the delegates for their kind solicitude for the Opposition, but I do not believe they will do anything of the kind. Have we not heard the Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], a few nights ago, state, turning to his followers, “If I were to advise the nomination, I should advise the selection of the best men I could find—and of course of my own party?” (Hear.)
So it will be, sir; and, if this precious scheme is carried, we shall have a Legislative Council divided in the following proportion:—For Upper Canada, we should probably have liberals in the proportion of three to nine; for I suppose the honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown] has made sacrifices enough to deserve at least that consideration, and, as his friends compose one-fourth of the Executive Council, I dare say we should get one fourth of the Upper Canada Legislative Councillors liberal too.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Hear, hear
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Just 25 per cent.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Just 25 per cent, of liberals for Upper Canada. Then, in addition, we should get from Nova Scotia ten conservative, from Prince Edward Island four more, and four from Newfoundland. Thus we shall have eighteen conservatives from the Lower Provinces, which, added to thirty-six from Canada, would make fifty-four conservatives against twenty-two liberals, taking the ten New Brunswick councillors to be all liberals. Now, supposing three per cent, as the average number of deaths per annum—the average proportion of change—it would take nearly thirty years to bring about a change in the character of a majority of the Council, even supposing all the additions made to it to be from the liberal ranks. But, sir, that will hardly be the case. In some of the Lower Provinces there will be Conservative governments now and then, and there may occasionally be conservative governments in Canada. (Hear, and laughter.) So this generation will certainly pass away before the views of the Liberal party will ever find expression in the decisions of the Upper House.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—That makes no difference, as between, the two measures.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The honorable member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] says that makes no difference. It makes just the difference that we are to be bound by the scheme or by a Constitution enabling the Council to stop all measures of reform, such as would be desired by the Liberal party; if the honorable member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] thinks that makes no difference, I beg to differ from him, and I believe the Liberal party generally will. The Government say they had to introduce certain provisions, not to please themselves, but to please the provinces below, and they have pledged themselves to those provinces that this House will carry out the scheme without amendment.
Does not the honorable member see the difference now? If the two Canadas were alone interested, the majority would have its own way—would look into the Constitution closely—would scan its every doubtful provision, and such a proposal as this about the Legislative Council would have no chance of being carried, for it is not very long since the House, by an overwhelming majority, voted for the substitution of an elected for a nominated Upper Chamber. In fact, the nominated Chamber had fallen so low in public estimation—I do not say it was from the fault of the men who were there, but the fact is, nevertheless, as I state it—that it commanded no influence.
There was even a difficulty in getting a quorum of it together. So a change became absolutely necessary, and up to the present moment the new system has worked well; the elected members are equal in every respect to the nominated ones, and it is just when we see an interest beginning to be felt in the proceedings of the Upper House that its Constitution is to be changed, to return back again to the one so recently condemned. Back again, did I say? No, sir, a Constitution is to be substituted, much worse than the old one, and such as is nowhere else to be found. Why, even the British House of Lords, conservative as it is, is altogether beyond the influence of the popular sentiment of the country. Their number may be increased on the recommendation of the responsible advisers of the Crown, if required to secure united action or to prevent a conflict between the two Houses. From the position its members occupy, it is a sort of compromise between the popular element and the influence or control of the Crown. But the new House for the Confederation is to be a perfectly independent body—these gentlemen are to be named for life—and there is to be no power to increase their number. How long will the system work without producing a collision between the […]
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[…] two branches of the Legislature? Suppose the Lower House turns out to be chiefly Liberal, how long will it submit to the Upper House, named by Conservative administrations which have taken advantage of their temporary numerical strength to bring about such a change as is now proposed? Remember, sir, that, after all, the power, the influence of the popular branch of the Legislature is paramount. “We have seen constitutions like that of England adopted in many countries, and where there existed a nobility, such as in France in 1830, the second chamber was selected from this nobility.
In Belgium, where the Constitution is almost a fac-simile of that of England, but where there are no aristocracy, they adopted the elective principle for the Upper House, and no where in the world is there a fixed number for it, unless it is also elective. It must be fresh in the memory of a great many members of this House how long the House of Lords resisted the popular demand for reform, and great difficulties were threatened. At last in 1832 the agitation had become so great that the Government determined to nominate a sufficient number of peers to secure the passage of the Reform Bill. The members of the House had to choose between allowing the measure to become law, or see their influence destroyed by the addition of an indefinite number of members. They preferred the first alternative, and thereby quieted an excitement, which if not checked in time, might have created a revolution in England.
The influence of the Crown was then exerted in accordance with the views of the people; but here we are to have no such power existing to check the action of our Upper Chamber, and no change can be made in its composition except as death might slowly remove its members. I venture to prophesy, sir, that before a very short time has elapsed a dead-lock may arise, and such an excitement be created as has never yet been seen in this country. (Hear, hear.)
Now, if this Constitution had been framed by the members of our Government, we could change some of its provisions—this provision would most certainly be altered—there is not a man in the Liberal ranks who dare vote for such a proposition as this, that could go before his constituents and say, “I have taken away the influence and control of the people over the Upper Chamber, and I have created an entirely independent body, to be chosen by the present governments of the several provinces.” But no, the Constitution is in the nature of a compact, a treaty, and cannot be changed. (Hear.)
But, sir, the composition of the Legislative Council becomes of more importance when we consider that the governors of the local legislatures are to be appointed by the General Government, as well as the Legislative Council; their appointment is to be for five years, and they are not to be removed without cause. I will venture upon another prediction and say we shall find there will be no such thing as responsible government attached to the local legislatures.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—There cannot be.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—There will be two, three, or four ministers chosen by the lieutenant-governors and who will conduct the administration of the country, as was formerly done in the times of Sir Francis Bond Head, Sir John Colborn, or Sir James Craig. You will have governments, the chief executives of which will be appointed and hold office at the will of the Governor. If that is not to be the case, why do not honorable gentlemen lay their scheme before us? (Hear.)
Is this House, sir, going to vote a Constitution with the Upper House as proposed, without knowing what sort of local legislatures we are to have to govern us? Suppose, after we have adopted the main scheme, the Government come down with a plan for settling the local legislatures upon which great differences of opinion will arise, may it not happen then that the majority from Lower Canada will unite with a minority from Upper Canada and impose upon that section a local Constitution distasteful to a large majority of the people of Upper Canada.
The whole scheme, sir, is absurd from beginning to end. It is but natural that gentlemen with the views of honorable gentlemen opposite want to keep as much power as possible in the hands of the Government—that is the doctrine of the Conservative party everywhere—that is the line which distinguishes the Tories from the Whigs—the Tories always side with the Crown, and the liberals always want to give more power and influence to the people. The instincts of honorable gentlemen opposite, whether you take the Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] or the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], lead them to this—they think the hands of the Crown should be strengthened and the influence of the people, if possible, diminished—and this Constitution is a specimen of their handiwork, with a Governor-General appointed by the Crown; with local governors also, appointed by the Crown; with legislative councils, in the General Legislature, and in all the provinces, nominated by the […]
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[…] Crown; we shall have the most illiberal Constitution ever heard have in any country where constitutional government prevails. (Hear.)
The Speaker of the Legislative Council is also to be appointed by the Crown, this is another step backwards, and a little piece of patronage for the Government. We have heard in a speech lately delivered in Prince Edward Island or New Brunswick, I forget which, of the allurements offered to the delegates while here in the shape of prospective appointments as judges of the Court of Appeal, Speaker of the Legislative Council, and local governors—(hear, hear)—as one of the reasons assigned for the great unanimity which prevailed in the Conference.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—They will divide all these nice things amongst them. (Laughter.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I do not accuse honorable gentlemen of holding out these inducements, I only mention the fact from a speech I have read on the subject.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—It was a speech of one of the delegates. (Hear, hear.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I now come to another point. It is said that this Confederation is necessary for the purpose of providing a better mode of defence for this country. There may be people who think that by adding two and two together you make five. I am not of that opinion. I cannot see how by adding the 700,000 or 800,000 people, the inhabitants of the Lower Provinces, to the 2,500,000 inhabitants of Canada, you can multiply them so as to make a much larger force to defend the country than you have at present. Of course the connection with the British Empire is the link of communication by which the whole force of the Empire can be brought together for defence. (Hear, hear.) But the position of this country under the proposed scheme is very evident.
You add to the frontier four or five hundred more miles than you now have, and an extent of country immeasurably greater in proportion than the additional population you have gained; and if there is an advantage at all for the defence of the country, it will be on the part of the Lower Provinces and not for us. And as we find that we are about to enter into a very large expenditure for this purpose of defence—this having been formally announced in a speech delivered by the President of the Council [George Brown] at Toronto—and as Canada is to contribute to that expenditure to the extent of ten-twelfths of the whole, the other provinces paying only two-twelfths, it follows that Canada will pay ten-twelfths also of the cost of defence, which, to defend the largely extended country we will have to defend, will be much larger than if we remained alone.
I find in the speech delivered by the President of the Council [George Brown] on that occasion, this statement:—
I cannot conclude without referring to some other things, which have received the grave attention of the Conference. And the first point to which I desire to call attention is the fact that the delegates have unanimously resolved that the united provinces shall be placed at the earliest moment in a thorough state of defence. The attacks which have been made upon us have created the impression that these provinces are in a weak and feeble state; if, then, we would do away with this false impression and place ourselves on a firm and secure footing in the eyes of the world, our course must be to put our country in such a position of defence that we may fearlessly look our enemies in the face. It is a pleasure to me to state, and I am sure it must be a pleasure to all present to be informed, that the Conference at Quebec did not separate before entering into a pledge to put the military and naval defences of the united provinces in a most complete and satisfactory condition.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Where is that resolution? (Hear, hear.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—It appears then that our course is to put “the military and naval defences” into “a most complete and satisfactory condition.” Now I find that, according to these resolutions, the General Government is to have control of” the military and naval defences,” but, of course, the cost of them is not stated. This I contend, then, that if the military and naval defences of all the provinces are to be provided for by the General Government, and if you have to increase the militia for this purpose, the Lower Provinces will pay only their proportion of two-twelfths, and Canada, while obtaining no greater defensive force than at present, will have to pay five times as much as we are now paying. (Hear, hear.)
Why, sir, take the line dividing New Brunswick from Maine and you find it separates on the one side 250,000, thinly scattered over a vast territory, from 750,000 on the other, compact and powerful. These 250,000 Canada will have to defend, and it will have to pledge its resources for the purpose of providing means of defence along that extended line. (Hear, hear.)
And, if rumour be true, the Intercolonial Railway, this so-called great defensive work, is not to pass along Major Robinson’s line. The statement has been made—I have seen it in newspapers usually well informed—that a new route has […]
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[…] been found that will satisfy everybody or nobody at all; and while I am on this point I must say that it is most singular that we are called upon to vote these resolutions, and to pledge ourselves to pay ten-twelfths of the cost of that railway, without knowing whether there will be ten miles or one hundred miles of it in Lower Canada, or whether it will cost $10,000,000 or $20,000,000.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—It will be nearer $40,000,000. (Hear, hear.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—In 1862, when the question of the construction of this road was before the country, what was the cry raised by honorable gentlemen opposite? Why, that the Macdonald-Sicotte Government had pledged itself to build a railway at whatever cost it might come to; and those who were loudest in these denunciations, were the very gentlemen who have now undertaken to build the road without knowing or even enquiring what the cost of it will be. (Hear, hear.)
This, if I remember right, was the purport of a speech made by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] at Otterville. (Hear, hear.) I was satisfied, sir, at that time, to press my objections to the scheme and retire from the Government; but my colleagues were denounced without stint for having undertaken to build the railway and pay seven-twelfths of its cost, and now the House is asked by the very men who denounced them to pay ten twelfths of it, without even knowing whether the work is practicable or not. (Hear, hear.) We have heard for some time past that the engineer, Mr. Fleming, is prepared to make his report. Why is it not forthcoming?—why has it been kept back?
The representatives of the people in this House will show an utter disregard of their duty if they do not insist upon having that report, and full explanations respecting the undertaking, as well as the scheme for the constitution of the local governments, before they vote upon the resolutions before the House. (Hear, hear.)
It is folly to suppose that this Intercolonial Railway will in the least degree be conducive to the defence of the country. We have expended a large sum of money—and none voted it more cordially and heartily than myself—for the purpose of opening a military highway from Gaspé to Rimouski; and that road, in case of hostilities with our neighbors, would be found of far greater service for the transport of troops, cannon and all kinds of munitions of war, than any railway following the same or a more southern route possibly can be. That road cannot be effectually destroyed; but a railway lying in some places not more than fifteen or twenty miles from the frontier, will be of no use whatever, because of the readiness with which it may be attacked and seized. An enemy could destroy miles of it before it would be possible to resist him, and in time of difficulty it would be a mere trap for the troops passing along it, unless we had almost an army to keep it open. Upon this question of defence, we have heard so much during the past two or three years that I think it is time now we should have some plain explanations about it.
We heard the other day from the honorable member for West Montreal—and I am always glad to quote him, he is usually so correct—(laughter)—that in less than a year the American army, the army of the Northern States, was increased from 9,000 to 800,000 men ready for service, and that in less than four years they were able to put to sea a fleet which, in point of numbers—I do not say in armament or value—was equal to the entire naval force of England. Well, the honorable gentleman might have gone further and shown that within a period of four years the Northern States have called into the field 2,300,000 men—as many armed men as we have men, women and children in the two Canadas—and that we hear every day of more being raised and equipped. It is stated that, in view of these facts, it is incumbent upon us to place ourselves in a state of defence. Sir, I say it here candidly and honestly, that we are bound to do everything we can to protect the country—(hear, hear,)—but we are not bound to ruin ourselves in anticipation of a supposed invasion which we could not repel, even with the assistance of England.
The battles of Canada cannot be fought on the frontier, but on the high seas and at the great cities on the Atlantic coast; and it will be nothing but folly for us to cripple ourselves by spending fifteen or twenty millions a year to raise an army of 50,000 men for the purpose of resisting an invasion of the country. The best thing that Canada can do is to keep quiet, and to give no cause for war. (Hear, hear.)
Let the public opinion of this country compel the press to cease the attacks it is every day making upon the Government and people of the United States; and then if war does come between England and the States—even if from no fault of ours—we will cast our lot with England and help her to fight the battle; but in the meantime it is no use whatever […]
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[…] to raise or keep up anything like a standing army.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Will my honorable friend let me ask him how we can assist England in a war on the high seas unless we have a naval force?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The honorable member for Peterborough [Frederick Haultain] stated the other day, and correctly I believe, that the place for our militia was behind the fortifications of our fortified places, where they would count for something to be of some use. No doubt of this. Why, sir, it is absurd to speak of defending this country with such a force as we could maintain when we have the recent example before our eyes of a country in Europe possessing as large a defensive force, literally wiped off the map by an invading army of some 75,000 or 80,000 men. The kingdom of Denmark consists now of only two small islands—less by far, in extent, than one of our large counties; and this dismemberment has been forced upon it, although it had a standing army of 30,000 men, and the feeling of the whole population was in favor of the war. (Hear, hear.)
I do not use this argument for the purpose of showing that something ought not to be done respecting our militia. I am willing that we should make sacrifices, if necessary, for the purpose of organizing it thoroughly; but I am decidedly opposed to a standing army, and do not believe we could raise an army now that would be able to withstand the force that could be sent against it. (Hear, hear.) We have sent to the frontier 2,000 men, whose services for a year will cost us a million and a-half; and at the same rate of expenditure, 50,000 men would cost us over thirty millions of money.
Now, if the whole defence of the country is to rest upon us, I ask again what would such a force amount to? (Hear, hear.) Now, sir, when I look into the provisions of this scheme, I find another most objectionable one. It is that which gives the General Government control over all the acts of the local legislatures. What difficulties may not arise under this system? Now, knowing that the General Government will be party in its character, may it not for party purposes reject laws passed by the local legislatures and demanded by a majority of the people of that locality. This power conferred upon the General Government has been compared to the veto power that exists in England in respect to our legislation; but we know that the statesmen of England are not actuated by the local feelings and prejudices, and do not partake of the local jealousies, that prevail in the colonies.
The local governments have therefore confidence in them, and respect for their decisions; and generally, when a law adopted by a colonial legislature is sent to them, if it does not clash with the policy of the Empire at large, it is not disallowed, and more especially of late has it been the policy of the Imperial Government to do whatever the colonies desire in this respect, when their wishes are constitutionally expressed. The axiom on which they seem to act is that the less they hear of the colonies the better. (Hear, hear.)
But how different will be the result in this case, when the General Government exercises the veto power over the acts of local legislatures. Do you not see that it is quite possible for a majority in a local government to be opposed to the General Government; and in such a case the minority would call upon the General Government to disallow the laws enacted by the majority? The men who shall compose the General Government will be dependent for their support upon their political friends in the local legislatures, and it may so happen that, in order to secure this support, or in order to serve their own purposes or that of their supporters, they will veto laws which the majority of a local legislature find necessary and good. (Hear, hear.)
We know how high party feeling runs sometimes upon local matters even of trivial importance, and we may find parties so hotly opposed to each other in the local legislatures, that the whole power of the minority may be brought to bear upon their friends who have a majority in the General Legislature, for the purpose of preventing the passage of some law objectionable to them but desired by the majority of their own section. What will be the result of such a state of things but bitterness of feeling, strong political acrimony and dangerous agitation? (Hear, hear.) Then sir, I find that in addition to all the other sums that are to be paid by the general to the local governments, there are provisions in favor of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which must strike the House as being of a rather extraordinary nature. In the document, which was sent by the Provincial Secretary [William McDougall] to the members of this House marked “Private,” there appears to have been a mistake. It was therein stated that the General Government would have no right to impose an export duty on timber, logs, masts, spars, deals and sawn lumber; but that the local governments would have the power […]
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[…] to impose export duties on these articles. This provision, it seems, was too favorable to Lower Canada; for it would have allowed Lower Canada to impose an export duty upon Upper Canadian timber.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—As New Brunswick does upon American.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—And by this means raise a sufficient revenue, at the expense of Upper Canada, to meet its local expenditure. This mistake seems to have been corrected, for, in this respect, the resolutions before the House have been changed, but hardly amended.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Changed in a sense hostile to Lower Canada. (Hear.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The clause of the resolutions to which I refer now reads, that the General Parliament shall have power to make laws “respecting the imposition or regulation of duties of customs on imports and exports—except on exports of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals and sawn lumber from New Brunswick, and of coal and other minerals from Nova Scotia.” That is, the General Government may impose a tax for its own benefit upon all timber and minerals exported from Upper or Lower Canada, but not from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. (Hear, hear.) Then, among the powers granted to local legislatures, we find the power to pass by-laws imposing direct taxation. (Hear, hear.)
That is the first power they have, and I have no doubt that, before many months have passed after they are constituted, they will find it necessary to resort to it. But, in addition to this, I find that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which, no doubt, are the favored [children of the Confederation, have powers not granted to the other provinces. New Brunswick, the resolution declares, shall have the power to impose an export duty on timber, logs, masts, spars, deals and sawn lumber, and Nova Scotia on coal and other minerals, for local, purposes; so that while our timber and minerals exported from Upper and Lower Canada will be taxed by the General Government for general purposes, the timber and minerals of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will be exempt, the revenue derived from them going to the benefit of the local governments, to be expended on local objects. (Hear, hear.)
This is one of the results of the Conference in which, of course, New Brunswick counted as much as Upper and Lower Canada, and Nova Scotia and the other Lower Provinces had the balance of influence. (Hear, hear.) Now, among the other powers granted to the General Government is its control over agriculture and immigration, as well as the fisheries. An honorable member from Upper Canada (Mr. Mackenzie of Lambton), enquired very anxiously, yesterday, if it was possible that any act respecting agriculture could be affected by the General Government? Well, sir, it is as plain as can be that agriculture and immigration are to be under the control of both the local and the general legislatures. And the forty-fifth resolution says:—”In regard to all subjects over which jurisdiction belongs to the general and local legislatures, the laws of the General Parliament shall control and supersede those made by the Local Legislature, and the latter shall be void so far as they are repugnant to or inconsistent with the former.” What will be the operation of this provision? The Local Legislature will pass a law which will then go to the General Government; the latter will put its veto upon it, and if that does not answer, it will pass a law contrary to it, and you have at once a conflict. (Hear, hear.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Then they will fight. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) No sectional difficulties then!
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Oh! none whatever. I may pass now perhaps to the consideration of a portion of the financial part of the scheme. I shall certainly not attempt to follow the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] in what I admit was the able statement, or rather able manipulation of figures, he made the other day. When that honorable gentleman was able to prove to the satisfaction of the Barings, the Glyns, and the leading merchants of England that the investment they would make in the Grand Trunk Railway would yield them at least 11 per cent., it is not astonishing that he was able to show to this House that the finances of the Confederation will be in a most flourishing condition, and that we shall have a surplus every year of at least a million dollars. (Laughter.)
From what I knew of former prophecies, I imagined he would make it cloven or twelve millions at any rate, but he is modest and puts it down at only a million. But how does he make out even this moderate surplus? He takes, in the first place, the revenue of Newfoundland for 1862. I had the curiosity to look for the reason, and what do you suppose it is? The revenue for 1862 was the highest he could find, except 1860. (Hear, hear.) Then he takes the revenue of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Canada, for 1863—the highest figures again. (Hear, hear.)
Taking all this, he stool finds a deficiency […]
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[…] of $827,512, which he provides for by adding a supposed increase for 1864 of $100,000 for each of the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and of $1,500,000 for Canada. (Hear, hear.) And this leaves a surplus of just $872,488. (Hear, hear.)
Well, even granting that on the 31st of December he had a surplus of a million, if at the end of the present financial year it is not diminished to half a million by his militia and other expenditure, I shall be very agreeably surprised. (Hear.)
This, then, is the inducement he offers to the country to adopt this scheme. I have a million more than I want, he exclaims, and I will reduce the duties to 15 per cent. But the honorable gentleman forgets that he has the Intercolonial Railway to provide for, as well as that military and naval defensive force which we are going to raise. (Hear, hear.) He forgets all this, but the promise is there; and just as he held out to the expected shareholders of the Grand Trunk Railway the 11 per cent, dividends upon their investments, he now tells the people of these several colonies that the customs duties will be reduced to 15 percent. (Hear, hear.)
I do not desire to go over the figures the honorable gentleman has laid before the House, for I have not the talent of grouping them together, so as to present an attractive, but deceptive, whole, that he possesses in such an eminent degree. I find in the resolutions now proposed a few propositions to which I would call the attention of the House. The first thing that the Confederation will have to provide for is the Intercolonial Railway, which will certainly cost twenty millions of dollars, the interest upon which, at 5 per cent., will amount to one million of dollars annually. (Hear, hear.)
Then to Newfoundland we are bound to pay $150,000 a year, for all time to come, to purchase the mineral lands of that colony; while, as regards the other provinces, all the public lands are given up to the local governments. But that is not all, for, in order to manage these “valuable lands” in Newfoundland, we shall have to establish a Crown Lands department under the General Government; and if honorable gentlemen desire to learn something of the probable expense of such an establishment, they need only refer to a return brought down last night, by which they will see that there are no less than sixty or seventy officers in the Crown Lands department, and that some eight or ten new appointments have been made since March last, when the present Government was formed. (Hear, hear.)
This return is a highly instructive one in other respects. It shows that within that period there is not a department of the Government that has not increased its force of employees, except that of the Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier], who is satisfied with the three officers it contained before he returned to the Government. (Hear, hear.)
I may state, however, that in the return there is an omission which ought to be supplied. The honorable gentleman has made a large number of appointments connected with the administration of justice in Lower Canada that are not mentioned. This return is, however, instructive as showing the additional number of appointments that have been made within the past year in all the departments—several of whom have been taken from their seats in this House and appointed to offices to make room for others here.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Oh! there are only four of them—that’s all. (Laughter.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Then New Brunswick is to get a special subsidy of $63,000 a year for ten years. It is evident this sum is voted to that province to enable it to avoid the necessity of direct taxation.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Of course it could not impose direct taxation, for it has no municipal machinery. (Laughter.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Now, I find from a speech delivered by Hon. Mr. Tilley, the head of the New Brunswick Government, that this grant of $63,000 a year, beyond the subsidy of 80 cents per head of the population for the purposes of local government, will give New Brunswick $34,000 a-year over and above all its necessities. (Hear, hear.)
Under these circumstances, there need be no direct taxation in that province. The whole speech of Hon. Mr. Tilley, to which I refer, would be found very instructive if I could read it all, but I am afraid of wearying the House. (Cries of “go on.”) Well, after reciting the various advantages that will be conferred on New Brunswick by, Confederation, Hon. Mr. Tilley says:—
Over and above all these advantages, we get for ten years a subsidy of $63,000 per annum; our local expenditures, summed up, amount to $320,630; and we get from the General Government, without increased taxation, $90,000 in lieu of our export duty (it should be “import duty,”) and casual territorial revenue, making $201,637, and a special subsidy of $63,000 a year for ten years, making in all $354,637, being $34,000 over and. above our present necessities. These are the principal points looked to. (Hear, hear.)
But, honorable gentlemen will remember Hon. […]
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[…] Mr. Tilley declared—no Intercolonial Railway, no Confederation—and Canada gave him what he wanted. (Hear, hear.) It is not New Brunswick alone that is to get something handsome over and above its necessities. I have here a letter from the Charlottetown (P.E.I.) Examiner, wherein Mr. Whelan, the editor, and one of the delegates at the Quebec Conference, sums up the advantages to be obtained by Prince Edward Island pretty much as Hon. Mr. Tilley does for New Brunswick. He says:—
By this arrangement the debt of Prince Edward Island will be guaranteed to the amount of $2,025,000—the interest of which, at five per cent, will be $101,250. Add to this the proportion which the Confederation has given to each province for the support of their local administration, at the rate of 80 cents per head,
giving for the population of Prince Edward Island, which is 81,000, the sum of $64,800; we have then a total of $166,050, which Prince Edward Island will receive annually. Deduct from this sum $12,000 for interest at five per cent. on our debt of £75,000 or $240,000, and the balance in our favor will be $154,050, which sum exceeds by nearly forty-eight thousand dollars the actual cost of our local affairs, the Central Government undertaking to pay certain general expenses. (Hear, hear.)
The general expenses he alludes to are the salaries of the governor, judges, and so on, which the General Government will pay. Thus, sir, we have Mr. Whelan, one of the delegates, and Hon. Mr. Tilley, another, chuckling over the good bargains they have made at the expense of Canada, and endeavoring in this manner to carry the scheme of Confederation by showing that New Brunswick is to have $34,000 over and above its necessities, and Prince Edward Island $48,000. I would advise the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt], when he is in distress for want of money, to go down there and borrow this surplus which we will have to pay to these provinces; they will no doubt, be willing to lend on favorable terms. (Laughter.) I have entered into a short calculation to show what proportion Upper and Lower Canada will respectively have to bear of these additional burdens,—$63,000 a year for ten years to New Brunswick, would make a capital at five per cent, of about $350,000.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—More near $400,000.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—My calculation is rather under than over the mark, but let us take $350,000 as the capitalized value of this annuity for ten years. That gives an interest of $17,500 per annum forever. Now, supposing the increased extent of territory to be defended under the Confederation augments the militia expenditure to the extent of a million a-year—this, I think, is a very reasonable estimate, and will not go very far towards carrying out the intentions of the Conference respecting military and naval defence, as explained by the President of the Council [George Brown] to his Toronto audience. Then add the interest of the sum required to build the Intercolonial Railway, five per cent, on $20,000,000, and we have an annual payment of $1,000,000 more, which is increased by $150,000, the indemnity paid to Newfoundland for its valuable mineral lands.
Then we have to pay the local governments, at the rate of 80 cents per head, $3,056,849. The interest on the debt of Nova Scotia, $8,000,000, will amount to $400,000; on that of New Brunswick, $7,000,000, to $350,000; on that of Newfoundland, $3,250,000, to $162,000; and on the debt of Prince Edward Island, $2,021,425, to $101,071. Adding all these sums together, we find that the annual expenditure, in addition be it remembered to the burdens which we now bear, will be $6,237,920—(hear, hear)—representing a capital of $124,758,400. (Hear, hear.)
The share of Canada in this annual expenditure will be $1.89 per head, amounting to the sum of $4,725,000. This is altogether irrespective of the debt of $62,500,000 with which Canada enters the union. The share of Upper Canada, according to population, will be $2,646,000; but Upper Canadians have long claimed that they paid upwards of two-thirds of the expenditure, and the Globe lately said that this was the proportion ten years ago, but that the disparity had greatly increased since. If Upper Canada really pays two-thirds of the expenditure, its share in the additional but necessary expenditure will be $3,183,334 per annum. (Hear, hear.)
This is taking for granted that the Lower Provinces should pay their share according to population. I have my doubts about that, and I believe that the city of Montreal pays a little more duty on imports than Prince Edward, and more, perhaps, than Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland put together, and that the population of the District of Montreal pay a good deal more per head than that of New Brunswick.
Hope Mackenzie [Oxford North]—Do you mean the local consumption?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I mean to say that the inhabitants of the city of Montreal pay a great deal more than the inhabitants of any similar portion of any of the provinces, and that the district of Montreal consumes as much as any other section of the same extent and […]
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[…] population. But I have taken these figures, as to the relative contribution of Upper and Lower Canada to the revenue, as given by the organ of the President of the Council [George Brown]. But, sir, we have been told, for ten years past, that Upper Canada wanted representation by population for nothing else but because Lower Canada was spending the money of the province lavishly—two-thirds of it coming from the pockets of the people of Upper Canada. We have been told that it was not to interfere with the institutions, language, or laws of Lower Canada, but merely to give Upper Canada proper control over the finances. That was the only thing to be gained by it.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—No, no!
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Perhaps the honorable gentleman will recollect a letter written by the honorable member for Montreal West [Thomas D’Arcy McGee] to “my dear friend Macarrow,” of Kingston. It was on the eve of the general election in June 1861, and intended to induce the people of Upper Canada to join in putting out that bad Administration that had been the bane of the country—the Cartier-Macdonald Administration. The reasons which were given were as follows:—
First.—Because they collectively violated the Constitution, and outraged the moral sense of the country by the double-shuffle and double swearing of 1858.
Second.—Because they violated the Constitution by allowing payments, and granting gratuities, and giving or procuring lucrative contracts for members of Parliament, or their supporters, as witness the payments, grants and contracts made or given to Mr. Turcotte, Mr. McLeod, Mr. Benjamin, Mr. A. P. Macdonald, and Mr. McMicken.
Third.—Because they violated the Constitution by keeping for three sessions Messrs. Alleyn, Dubord and Simard in their seats for Quebec on a pretended majority of 15,000 votes.
Fourth.—Because they violated the Constitution by justifying the sale of offices in Sheriff Mercer’s case, and in retaining the Hon. Col. Prince in the Upper House as their active partisan, after his office had been created and his commission made out, as Judge of the District of Algoma.
Fifth.—Because they violated the Constitution by keeping Joseph C. Morrison in the Cabinet, as Minister of the Crown, after he had bean three times rejected by the people.
Sixth.—Because they violated the Constitution in abandoning to the discretion of Sir Edmund Head personally, the sole representation of the people of Canada, during the memorable visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
Seventh.—Because they have continuously and systematically violated the Constitution in expending vast sums of money, amounting in the aggregate to several millions of dollars, without the authority of Parliament.
Sir, I advise the honorable gentleman to continue that correspondence and add the $100,000 which the Grand Trunk Railway had got, and the bill of exchange affair.
William Powell [Carleton]–The Confederation is worth all that. (Laughter)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The letter proceeds to say:—
This indictment will be admitted to contain grave misdemeanours and breaches of trust, which ought to be punished by the people, now that they have the offenders up for judgment. Whatever differences of opinion may exist among the Opposition,
whether members or leaders, as to the nature and extent of the constitutional reforms demanded in our present frame of Government, there is not a shadow of difference in this point, that some remedy must be found at once for the unprincipled expenditure of the public money which is daily demoralizing our public men, beggaring the country, and retarding its natural ratio of increase * * * * *
We want, first of all, an honest government, a really responsible government—which, except in the clearest case of necessity, such as an invasion of the soil, will not on any pretext whatever lavish the people’s money without the authority of the people’s representatives.
Well, sir, this was the advice given to Upper Canada in 1861, by one of the leaders, the present Hon. Minister of Agriculture [Thomas D’Arcy McGee].
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—What has that to do with the union of the provinces?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—It has much to do with it. It shows that representation by population was put forth as a remedy for the financial evils of our present system of government. Under this advice Upper Canada gave a large majority against the Government of the day, and the members elected turned round, and by abandoning, for a time at least, representation by population, they acknowledged that the financial question was paramount to it. I have shown, Mr. Speaker, I think, the proportion which Upper Canada would have to pay of the increased expenditure which must immediately ensue from the adoption of Confederation which is proposed to free Upper Canada from a larger expenditure by Lower Canada than what she contributes to the revenue.
Now, let us see what that expenditure is. The whole expenditure of the province exclusive of interest on public debt, costs of legislation, militia, subsidy to ocean steamers and collection of revenue, which will have to be paid even with Confederation, if it takes place, does not amount to more than $2,500,000, or one dollar per head of the whole population. Then supposing that […]
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[…] Upper Canada pays two-thirds of that sum, or $1,606,666, and Lower Canada one-third, Upper Canada would only pay $266,666 more than her share according to population. And it is, I say, to get rid of this expenditure of a couple of hundred thousand dollars that the Upper Canadian members of the Government propose that their section of the country should pay an additional yearly expenditure of $3,181,000, yielding no return whatsoever—(hear, hear)—and to saddle on Lower Canada an additional expenditure of from $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 a year—the amount depending on the proportion which they respectively contribute to the revenue of the country. And, Mr. Speaker, this is only the immediate and necessary expenditure that will fall upon the people of Canada at the very outset. There is not a single sixpence in this estimate for any improvements to be made in the eastern or western portion of the Confederacy. (Hear, hear.)
But, sir, respecting the defences of the country, I should have said at an earlier stage of my remarks that this scheme proposes a union not only with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, but also with British Columbia and Vancouver’s Island. Although I have not been able to get the information from the Government—for they do not seem to be very ready to give information—yet I understand that there are despatches to hand, stating that resolutions have been adopted in the Legislature of British Columbia asking for admission into the Confederation at once. I must confess, Mr. Speaker, that it looks like a burlesque to speak as a means of defence of a scheme of Confederation to unite the whole country extending from Newfoundland to Vancouver’s Island, thousands of miles intervening without any communication, except through the United States or around Cape Horn. (Oh!)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—There is an Interoceanic Railway to be built.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Yes, I suppose that is another necessity of Confederation, to which we may soon look forward. Some western extension of this Grand Trunk scheme for the benefit of Messrs. Watkin & Co., of the new Hudson’s Bay Company. So far as Lower Canada is concerned, I need hardly stop to point out the objections to the scheme. It is evident, from what has transpired, that it is intended eventually to form a legislative union of all the provinces. The local governments, in addition to the General Government, will be found so burdensome, that a majority of the people will appeal to the Imperial Government for the formation of a legislative union. (Hear, hear.) I may well ask if there is any member from Lower Canada, of French extraction, who is ready to vote for a legislative union. What do I find in connection with the agitation of this scheme?
The honorable member for Sherbrooke [Alexander T. Galt] stated at the dinner to the delegates given at Toronto, after endorsing everything that had been said by the Honorable President of the Council [George Brown]:—
We may hope that, at no far distant day, we may become willing to enter into a Legislative Union instead of a federal union, as now proposed. We would have all have desired a legislative union, and to see the power concentrated in the Central Government as it exists in England, spreading the series of its protection over all the institutions of the land, but we found it was impossible to do that at first. We found that there were difficulties in the way, which could not be overcome.
Honorable members from Lower Canada are made aware that the delegates all desired a legislative union, but it could not be accomplished at once. This Confederation is the first necessary step towards it. The British Government is ready to grant a Federal union at once, and when that is accomplished the French element will be completely overwhelmed by the majority of British representatives What then would prevent the Federal Government from passing a set of resolutions in a similar way to those we are called upon to pass, without submitting them to the people, calling upon the Imperial Government to set aside the Federal form of government and give a legislative union instead of it? (Hear, hear.)
Perhaps the people of Upper Canada think a legislative union a most desirable thing. I can tell those gentlemen that the people of Lower Canada are attached to their institutions in a manner that defies any attempt to change them in that way. They will not change their religious institutions, their laws and their language, for any consideration whatever. A million of inhabitants may seem a small affair to the mind of a philosopher who sits down to write out a constitution. He may think it would be better that there should be but one religion, one language and one system of laws, and he goes to work to frame institutions that will bring all to that desirable state; but I can tell honorable gentlemen that the history of every country goes to show that not even by the power of the sword can such changes be […]
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[…] accomplished. (Hear, hear.)
We have the history of the Greek race, having at one time a population of six millions, dwindling down to seven hundred thousand, and we find them even then, after several centuries of oppression, rising up and asserting their rights. (Hear, hear.)
We have the same circumstance in the history of Belgium, which was united to Holland with a view to secure the assimilation of the two countries, but fifteen years of trial had hardly elapsed when the whole of the Belgium people and Government rose en masse to protest against that union, and to assert their separate nationality. (Hear, hear.”)
Sir, it is not only from the history of the past we may derive the lesson, but we have the circumstances of the present generation to guide us.
I am astonished to see the honorable member for Montreal West [Thomas D’Arcy McGee] helping a scheme designed to end in a legislative union, the object of which can only be to assimilate the whole people to the dominant population. In that honorable gentleman’s own country the system has produced nothing but a dissatisfied and rebellious people. Is it desirable that in this country then we should pass a measure calculated to give dissatisfaction to a million of people? You may ascertain what the cost of keeping down a million of dissatisfied people is by the scenes that have been and are now transpiring on the other side of the line, where a fifth of the people of the United States has risen and has caused more misery and misfortune to be heaped upon that country than could have been wrought in centuries of peaceful compromising legislation.
Sir, if a legislative union of the British American Provinces is attempted, there will be such an agitation in this portion of the province as was never witnessed before—you will see the whole people of Lower Canada clinging together to resist by all legal and constitutional means, such an attempt at wresting from them those institutions that they now enjoy. They would go as a body to the Legislature, voting as one man, and caring for nothing else but for the protection of their beloved institutions and law, and making government all but impossible. The ninety Irish members in the British House of Commons, composed as it is of nearly seven hundred members, by voting together have caused their influence to be felt, as in the grants to the Maynooth College and some other questions. It would be the same way with the people of Lower Canada, and a more deplorable state of things would be the inevitable result.
The majority would be forced by the minority to do things they would not, under the circumstances, think of doing. This is a state so undesirable that, although I am strongly opposed to the proposed Federal union, I am still more strongly opposed to a legislative union. Those who desire a legislative union may see from this what discordant elements they would have to deal with in undertaking the task, and what misery they would bring upon the country by such a step. (Hear, hear.)
I know there is an apprehension among the British population in Lower Canada that, with even the small power that the Local Government will possess, their rights will not be respected.
How, then, can it be expected that the French population can anticipate any more favorable result from the General Government, when it is to possess such enormous powers over the destinies of their section of the country? Experience shows that majorities are always aggressive, and it cannot well be otherwise in this instance. It therefore need not be wondered at that the people of Lower Canada, of British origin, are ready to make use of every means to prevent their being placed at the mercy of a preponderating population of a different origin. I agree with them in thinking that they ought to take nothing on trust in this matter of entering upon a new state of political existence, and neither ought we of French origin to do so, in relation to the General Government, however happy our relations to each other may be at present.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—That is a glorious doctrine to instil into society. (Hear, hear.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Well it is the doctrine generally acted upon, and correctly so. When my honorable friend makes a contract with a friend and neighbor to be filled even a few months in the future, does he not have it put in legal form, in black and white? Of course he does. And when we are making arrangements calculated to last for all time to come, is it not vastly more important that the same safe and equitable principle should be recognized? (Hear, hear.)
The honorable gentleman recognized it himself in the most marked manner, by placing in the resolutions guarantees respecting the educational institutions of the two sections of Canada. The Roman Catholics of Upper Canada were anxious to have their rights protected against the hand of the Protestant majority, and, where the Protestants are in a minority, they are just as anxious to have their rights permanently protected. But, sir, the whole scheme, since it must be taken or rejected as […]
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[…] a whole, is one which I do not think any honorable member of this House can really endorse in an unreserved manner, if he were to speak his sentiments freely. I see nothing in it but another railway scheme for the benefit of a few—and I cannot better describe the whole project than by a quotation from the remarks of a gentleman, who expressed himself on the subject of Confederation and the Intercolonial Railway a very short time before he became a member of the present Administration, and a warm advocate of both these bubbles.
After speaking of the visit of Mr. Watkin to this country, he closes with the following:—
If our Government were to rush into the railway project, expend a large sum of money upon the road, and form a compact immediately with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, both the alliance and the road would be carried out mainly for the benefit of the dominant power in this province at this moment; we need hardly say we mean Lower Canada.
The important question to Upper Canada—her connection with the North-West Territory—would be altogether ignored, Quebec would be made the capital of the Federation, representation by population would form no part of the compact, and, instead of having one leech draining her of her resources, Upper Canada would have three.
Before entering into new alliances, it should be the effort of Upper Canadians to regulate the affairs of their own province, to obtain representation by population, and to open the North-West Territory, so that when the Federation of all the British American provinces does come, it may be found with Upper Canada as the central figure of the group of states, with western adjuncts as well as eastern.
Not even the most ardent supporter of the union of all the provinces can allege that there is any absolute necessity for haste in carrying out the project. Nobody is being hurt by the provinces remaining in their present condition; no one single material interest, either in Canada or the Lower Provinces, would be enhanced in value by the union.
This appeared in the Globe in 1863.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—What Administration did that refer to?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—It did not refer to mine.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Well, whose was it?
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I think the Minister of Agriculture [Thomas D’Arcy McGee] might inform my honorable friend.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—The Honorable Attorney General [John A. Macdonald] has them nearly all around him. (Laughter.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—On the 15th of October, Hon. Mr. Brown’s paper further stated:—
The line, in fact, will leave us just where we are now. In the summer, when navigation is opened, we can send produce down the river and gulf, and, to some extent, compete with the Americans. But in the winter, to suppose we can send flour and wheat over this long land route cheaper than the Americans can send it from the eastern ports, is an absurdity which no man acquainted with the trade will commit.
Again, on the 17th of October, in the same year, it said:—
The road is to run mainly through a country which does not belong to Canada, but which cannot, under any possible circumstances, bring any profit or return, directly or indirectly.
On the 20th it said:—
It will not be wise for the opponents of the measure to rely upon present appearances. The ministerial project must be resisted at every stage, in the press and in Parliament.
Again, on the 25th of the same month:—
With fair professions of retrenchment and economy on their lips, Ministers took office; but three short months afterwards we find them launching a new railroad scheme upon the market, admittedly more onerous at the moment of initiation than was the Grand Trunk at the same stage.
Sir, I agree with the statement, that to go into the construction of this road without knowing what it is to cost, or over what particular route it is to be built, is a thing not to be thought of by any prudent member of this House, and that such a proposal ought to be resisted at every stage. I think, too, that the whole scheme, apart from the construction of the railway, is worse than the railway scheme itself, and ought to be still more strongly opposed. It is a mere revival of a scheme that has been rejected by the people on every occasion on which it has been presented to them during the past seven years. Independent of various other considerations the mere question of its expense ought to cause it to be rejected by the representatives of the people. When the duties on imports were raised to twenty and twenty-five per cent., what was the cry we heard from the lower portion of the province? It was that the people were quite unable to pay such a serious tax, and the result was the establishment of a free port at Gaspé.
We have not, for several years, collected a single cent of income from that large section of country, but have, from year to year, paid out large sums of money for the opening up of roads, for the administration of justice, and for keeping up […]
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[…] a steam summer communication with the extreme eastern section of the province. More money has been squandered in that section of the country than on any other, yet it has produced no revenue. And that was the character of the country through which the Intercolonial road was to run, both in Canada and in New Brunswick. For we are asked to add, at one stroke, to our debt of sixty-two and a half millions of dollars, an annual charge representing in capital the moderate sum of one hundred and twenty-four millions—for that is the financial nature of the proposition, and this for the purpose of adding 900,000 inhabitants to our population, most of whom are not in a better position, if they are in as good, as the people of the district of Gaspé. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, in 1841, nearly twenty-five years ago, Lower Canada entered into the union of the provinces with a debt of £133,000. That was a debt created by the Special Council, for the Legislature of Lower Canada under the old Constitution owed not a penny when it ceased to exist. That debt was created between 1837 and 1840. Since the union there have been expended in Lower Canada, for the Beauharnois canal, the enlargement of the Lachine canal, the works on Lake St. Peter, and the Chambly canal, about four millions of dollars. Besides, we have three hundred and fifty miles of the Grand Trunk Railway—about a hundred less than Upper Canada. Taking one-half the cost to the province of that railway—two million pounds currency, or eight millions of dollars—we have four millions for canals and eight millions for railways. Twelve millions of dollars have, therefore, been expended for public works in Lower Canada, with perhaps another million for other small works—in all, thirteen millions of dollars.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—What about the Montreal harbor?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The Montreal harbor will pay for itself. The Government will not be called upon to pay a single sixpence of its indebtedness. The province only guarantees a small portion of its debentures, and will never have to pay a copper of it, any more than it will of the municipal indebtedness of the city of Montreal, the interest of which is regularly paid every year. Twelve or thirteen millions of dollars’ worth of public works is all we are able to show for an increase of our debt from £133,000 at the time of the union, to $27,500,000, which, on going out of the union to enter into the Confederation, is the Lower Canada proportion of the $62,500,000 of public debt we are bringing into it. I do not take into consideration the Municipal Loan Fund indebtedness, nor the Seigniorial Tenure redemption, because if we have received any benefit from the outlay, we are going to be charged for those items separately over and above our share in the $62,500,000.
If I am not right in thus stating the case, I hope honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House will correct me. Front the explanations given the other day by the Honorable Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt], I infer that by putting the Seigniorial Tenure to the charge of Lower Canada, and by Upper Canada abandoning its indemnity for the Seigniorial Tenure expenditure, there is no necessity for taking those items into account as part of the liability of Canada in the Confederation; that the charge for the redemption of the Seigniorial Tenure, the township indemnity under the Seigniorial Act of 1859, the interest on that indemnity, the liability of the province to the Superior Education Fund, and the loss on the Lower Canada Municipal Loan Fund, amounting in all to about $4,500,000, will have to be paid by Lower Canada alone, the interest on which, at five per cent, will be $225,000, which sum will be retained out of the $880,000 to be paid by the General Government to Lower Canada for local purposes, leaving something less than 60 cents per head for carrying on the Local Government. Upper Canada came into the union with a debt of £1,300,000. Immediately after the union £1,500,000 sterling was borrowed for public works, most of which amount was expended in Upper Canada.
And yet Upper Canada goes out of the union by simply abandoning its claim for indemnity under the Seigniorial Tenure Act, having nothing to assume but its Municipal Loan Fund and its share in the Federal debt; while Lower Canada, on the contrary, goes out with a load of $4,500,000 of local debt, besides the $27,500,000 which falls to its share to be paid through the General Government. And this, too, after paying for twenty-five years a highly increased taxation, for all which it has nothing to show except public improvements to the amount of about $13,000,000.
Sir, if such a scheme as this, on being submitted to the people, would be approved by them, I am very much mistaken. I submit that no such project ought to be voted by the House, before we have the fullest information necessary to enable us to come to right conclusions. (Hear, hear.) It is for the security of the majority, as well as of the minority, I make […]
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[…] this demand. Honorable gentlemen who cry “hear! hear!” may find themselves very much disappointed, if, after this portion of the scheme is passed, the local constitutions proposed were quite unsatisfactory.
I contend that the local constitutions are as much an essential part of the whole as the general Constitution, and that they both should have been laid at the same time before the House. (Hear, hear.) We ought, besides, to have a clear statement of what are the liabilities specially assigned to Upper and Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
It is well that Upper Canada should know if she has to pay the indebtedness of Port Hope, Cobourg, Brockville, Niagara, and other municipalities which have borrowed from the municipal loan fund, and what these liabilities are; and it is important for Lower Canada to be told what are the amounts they will be required to tax themselves for. We ought, besides, to obtain some kind of information upon the subject of the Intercolonial Railway, what is the proposed cost, and what route is to be followed; and before these facts are before the House, we ought not to take it upon ourselves to legislate on the subject. Still further, the people of the country do not understand the scheme. (Hear, hear.)
Many members of this House, before hearing the explanations which have been offered, were, and others are still, in doubt as to the bearing of many of these resolutions. In the Upper House doubts were expressed as to who should recommend the appointment of the members composing the Legislative Council. It was thought in many quarters that the appointment of these members was to be made by the local governments after the scheme should come into operation. But this it seems is a mistake. There are many other matters with which we are unacquainted, particularly as regards the assets and liabilities.
There is a provision that the nomination of the judges of the superior courts shall be vested in the General Government, but it would seem that the constitution of the courts is to be left to the local governments; and I put the question, What does this mean? Do you mean that the local governments are to establish as many courts as they please, declare of how many judges they will be composed, and that the General Government will have to pay for them? Is a local government to say, here is a court with three judges; we want five, and those five must be appointed and paid by the General Government? I have received no answer to this and to several other questions. I can well understand what is meant by the regulation of the law of divorce; but what is meant by the regulation of the marriage question? Is the General Government to be at liberty to set aside all that we have been in the habit of doing in Lower Canada in this respect?
Will the General Government have the power to determine the degree of relationship and the age beyond which parties may marry, as well as the consent which will be required to make a marriage valid? (Hear, hear.) Will all these questions be left to the General Government? If so, it will have the power to upset one of the most important portions of our civil code, and one affecting more than any other all classes of society. The adoption, for instance, of the English rule, whereby females at the age of twelve, and males at the age of fourteen, can contract a valid marriage without the consent of parents, tutors or guardians, would be looked to by the mass of the people of Lower Canada as a most objectionable innovation in our laws, as would also any provision to allow such marriages to take place before any common magistrate without any formality whatsoever. (Hear, hear.)
Yet is there no danger that such measures might be carried, when you see the different feelings existing on these questions among the people of the different provinces There is another question to which I must refer before closing. It is said that the division of the debt is a fair one. We have given, say the Government, $25 of debt to each inhabitant—that is, in those provinces where it was less, they have increased it to that amount, charging it to the Confederation, and thereby they have made a present to the several provinces of the difference between their present indebtedness and the $25 per head. (Laughter.)
This $25 per head, when compared to the debt of England, is a heavier burthen upon our own people than the Imperial debt upon the people of England, taking into consideration the greater wealth per individual in England and the fact that the greater part of that debt bears three per cent, interest. (Hear, hear.) There is another aspect in which this question of debt is to be considered. To equalize it, the Conference have increased it on the basis of the present population for the several provinces. This is fair enough at present, supposing that each province contribute the same proportion to the general revenue, and would continue to be so if their population progressed in the same ratio of increase; but, from the natural advantages of Upper and Lower […]
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[…] Canada, and their greater area of arable lands, there is no doubt they will increase in population and wealth in a much greater ratio than the Lower Provinces, and in ten years hence, this proportion, which this day appears a fair one, will have much increased for Upper and Lower Canada, while it will have diminished for the Lower Provinces. (Hear, hear.) I owe an apology to the House for having offered such lengthened remarks on this question, and I have to thank honorable members for having so kindly listened to them. (Cries of “go on.”) I will simply content myself with saying that for these reasons which I have so imperfectly exposed, I strongly fear it would be a dark day for Canada when she adopted such a scheme as this. (Cheers.)
It would be one marked in the history of this country as having had a most depressing and crushing influence on the energies of the people in both Upper and Lower Canada—(hear hear)—for I consider it one of the worst schemes that could be brought under the consideration of the House; and if it should be adopted without the sanction of the people, the country would never cease to regret it. (Hear, hear.)
What is the necessity for all this haste? The longer this Constitution is expected to last, the greater the necessity for the fullest consideration and deliberation. I find, sir, that when, in 1839, Lord John Russell brought into the House of Commons his first measure for the union of the provinces, he announced his intention to lay his measure before the House, have it read a second time, and postpone it till next session, to give a year to the people of Canada to consider it and make such representations as they would think proper. (Hear, hear.) And it was only in the subsequent session, and after undergoing considerable modifications in the mean time, that the measure was passed. Nothing could be more reasonable than such delay. But here it seems the people are to be treated with less respect than they were when their Constitution was suspended, and this measure is to be pushed with indecent haste.
There are three modes of obtaining the views of the people upon the question now under discussion. The most direct one would be, after debating it in this House, to submit it to the people for their verdict, yea or nay. The second is to dissolve the House and appeal to this people. The third is to discuss and pass the resolutions or address to a second reading, and afterwards leave it open to the public to judge of its merits, by meeting and discussing it, and sending in petitions and instructing their representatives how to vote upon it when they came to Parliament at the next session. Any one of these methods would elicit the views of the people. But to say that the opinions of the people have been ascertained on the question, I say it is no such thing. (Hear, hear.) We have heard one side of the question discussed, but we have heard none of the views on the other side; and yet the feeling, as exhibited in some parts of the country, has been unmistakeably in favor of an appeal to the people. Some fifteen counties in Lower Canada have held meetings and declared for an appeal before the scheme is allowed to pass; and when honorable gentlemen on the other side have held second meetings, they have been condemned more conclusively than at first. (Hear, hear.)
In the county of Rouville, the hon. member representing that county, not satisfied with the first expression of opinion, held a second meeting, but the decision was still more emphatic than at the first. (Hear, hear.) Then meetings have been held, all tending to the same conclusion, in St. Maurice, Maskinongé, Berthier, Joliette, Richelieu, Chambly, Verchères, Bagot, St. Hyacinthe, Iberville, St. John’s, Napierville, Drummond and Arthabaska, Two Mountains, Vaudreuil, and also in the city of Montreal.
Joseph Bellerose [Laval]—What about Laval?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Yes, a meeting was called, and called without the requisite notice; the notice having been given at the church doors on a Friday for a meeting on the next day; but notwithstanding, when the meeting was held, the hon. gentleman did not dare press a resolution in favor of Confederation, but simply one of confidence in himself. (Hear, hear.) His friends collected together, and all they did was to express confidence in him. There was no resolution in favor of Confederation, nor of passing such a measure without submitting it to the people. (Hear, hear.)
I have now to thank the House for the patience with which they have listened to my remarks. In the terms of the paragraph I have quoted from the Globe, I shall feel it my duty to resist the passage of the measure at every stage, with a view that the scheme should go to the people in some shape or other. (Hear, hear.)
There is no hurry in regard to the scheme. We are now legislating for the future as well as for the present, and feeling that we ought to make a Constitution as perfect as possible, and as far as possible […]
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[…] in harmony with the views of the people, I maintain that we ought not to pass this measure now, but leave it to another year, in order to ascertain in the meantime what the views and sentiments of the people actually are. (The honorable gentleman was loudly cheered on resuming his seat.)
After some discussion as to the mode of continuing the debate, the House adjourned at ten minutes past twelve.
 Ibid. In this particular quote, it is a translation and such words can’t be found in said document as transcribed in the original debates.
 Letter from Edward Whelan, Charlottetown Examiner. Unconfirmed reference.
 The Union of the British Provinces by Edward Whelan (Charlottetown: 1865), pp. 204-205. The wording is different because it is a translation from the original English to French back to English.
 “The Inter-Colonial Railway”, The Globe (6 January 1863).
 “Mr. M’Gee and the Inter-Colonial Railway”, The Globe (15 October 1862).
 “North Western Extension”, The Globe (17 October 1862).
 “The Coming Session”, The Globe (21 October 1862). Dorion is incorrect with the date.
 “Resignation of Mr. Dorion”, The Globe (25 October 1862).