Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (10 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 149-161.
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FRIDAY, February 10, 1865.
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[Editor’s Note: Mr. Macpherson began speaking on Thursday, February 9th just before adjournment at 6 o’clock. The original editor’s note explains that the beginning of the speech would be “recapitulated in the commencement of his speech on Friday”.]
Hon. Mr. Macpherson, continued his speech commenced yesterday, as follows:—
In the remarks I offered to this House yesterday, hon. gentlemen, I desired to state my reasons for voting against the amendment of my hon. friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn], and for the resolutions of Hon. Sir E.P. Taché.
[Editor’s Note: Debate continues on Sir E.P. Taché’s resolutions (the Quebec Resolutions), which are found on pages 1-6 and Mr. Sanborn’s amendment, which is as follows:
That the following words be added to the resolution now under consideration, as an amendment, by submitting for the eighth resolution the following:—
Upper Canada to be represented in the Legislative Council by twenty-four elective members, and Lower Canada by twenty-four elective members, and the Maritime Provinces by twenty-four members, corresponding with the twenty-four elective members in each section of Canada, of which Nova Scotia shall have ten, New Brunswick ten, and Prince Edward Island shall have four, and the present members of the Legislative Council of Canada, as well life members as elective members, shall be members of the first Legislative Council of the Federal Parliament—the appointed members to remain for life, and the elective members for eight years from the date of their election, unless removed by death or other cause; their successors to be elected by the same divisions and electors as have elected them; and it shall be permitted to the Maritime Provinces to appoint ten additional members for life, four for New Brunswick, four for Nova Scotia, and two for Prince Edward Island, to correspond with the present life members from Canada, and that after the first appointment of members in the Maritime Provinces, no new appointment shall be made, except to supply the vacancies by death or otherwise in the twenty-four members appointed to correspond with the elective members from the two sections of Canada.
And that in the eleventh section, after the word “Council,” in the first line, the following words be added: “in the Maritime Provinces.” And that section fourteen be struck out.]
I stated that I believed the Confederation scheme was desired by an overwhelming majority of the people of this country, certainly by a very large majority of my own constituents. I stated further that as the resolutions had been before the country for a long time—for a number of months—and as there was no evidence whatever before us of their being disapproved of as a whole, or indeed any one of them, we had good reason to assume that the people were satisfied. The press had published them in full, and there was not one petition against the measure. We have every right to assume that the people are in favor of Confederation. I went on further, and said that during last autumn, I was constantly and daily bringing the matter before a very large constituency, where it was always approved of. During a portion of that canvass, one of my opponents mooted what I may call the smaller Confederation—that is, the Confederation of the two parts of Canada, and the people rejected and scouted it, while approving of the larger one. (Hear.)
I went on to say, with respect to the proposed change in the constitution of this House, that I did not look upon it as a disfranchisement of the electors, although the nominative was to be substituted for the elective principle, because while the nomination was not to be made by the people directly, it was to be made on the recommendation of their representatives in the other House of Parliament,—in fact in a manner analogous to the mode adopted for selecting the Senate of the United States—two senators being elected by the Legislature of each state. In our case the monarchical principle was strictly preserved, and the Legislative Council was to be appointed by the Crown, on the advice of the Government of the day. If I viewed it as a measure of disfranchisement, then, looking at my obligation to maintain the franchise of the people, I should have more hesitation in voting for it. An hon. gentleman has said that the change, from the nominative to the elective plan, was made at the demand of the people. That assertion is not historically correct; it is not correct as far as Upper Canada is concerned, and I think not with respect to Lower Canada either.
There was, at one time, a desire in Lower Canada, for the election of its legislative councillors, but the public men who carried out the change, did so more out of respect to the traditions of the country than from any pressure that existed then. In Upper Canada, I am quite sure, that so far from the people desiring it, they were either lukewarm or opposed to it. The liberal and reform party of Upper Canada were all opposed to it. It is well known that the late Hon. Robert Baldwin, so many years the leader of that party, was always opposed to the change. And it is also well known, that the hon. gentleman who is and has been for years the leader of that party, and who now holds in the Government the position of the President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown), opposed the change to the very last wherever his influence extended, in the press which he controlled, and in his place in Parliament I myself saw him stand up to vote against the third reading of the bill. It cannot, therefore, be said that the alteration was made at the earnest desire of the people. (Hear, hear.)
I went on further, and stated that I looked on the measure as one which did not admit of amendment, since if we were to amend it, there were nine other houses which might claim the right to do the same, and it could, perhaps, never be carried out. I then expressed approval of the financial arrangements contemplated, and differed from my hon. friend from Port Hope (Hon. Mr. Seymour), who said the revenues of the provinces in past times should have been made the basis on which they should bring their debts into the Confederation. Inasmuch as we are not to continue separate, provinces, and not to contribute separate revenues to the treasury, but are to be subject to the same imposts and to have one tariff, a capitation basis is the proper one, and not that desired by my hon. friend. (Hear.)
I went on to say that the trifling amount to be paid to New Brunswick by the Confederation, for ten years, was necessary under the circumstances, and ought not to be allowed to weigh for one moment against the benefits to be derived from the proposed arrangement. The hon. gentleman from Niagara (Hon. […]
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[…] Mr. Currie) said our expenditure would be greatly increased. I said that would depend upon ourselves, for we should continue to have the management of our own affairs, and the economy with which they are conducted will depend upon those who administer them. If great improvements are carried out—if the Intercolonial Railway is built, and our canals enlarged—if harbors are constructed on Lake Huron, as they must be—and if further aid should be granted to extend a railway to those harbors—if all this is done, it will be impossible to effect it and not increase our present expenditure—but those improvements will be amongst ourselves in Canada, and we shall enjoy the benefits they will confer; and Canada, it should be remembered, will have a just voice in the Confederate Legislature. I myself hope these great improvements will be carried on in the west, simultaneously with the Intercolonial Railway, although this is the only one specifically referred to in the resolutions—the enlargement of the canals being only spoken of generally. The Intercolonial Railway, hon. gentlemen, must be constructed if we have Confederation; but I hope western improvements will be carried on at the same time. (Hear, hear.)
I think, honorable gentlemen, we should be governed in our votes by the consideration of the effect of this measure upon the prosperity of the provinces. If it is to do us good, we should adopt it without unnecessary delay. What is it that we expect? Have we not reason to believe that it will settle the sectional difficulties, which have so long agitated and distracted the country? Will it not be the means of extending our influence over a large and most valuable territory? Will it not open the way for us to two of the finest harbors on the Atlantic—St. John and Halifax? Will it not give us access to the ocean at all seasons of the year? Will it not open to us the coal fields of the Lower Provinces? Will it not add nearly another million to our present population, and place under one government four millions of souls? (Hear.)
But if the measure fails, what will our position be? I believe that our position in Upper Canada would be one of hopelessness, one bordering on despair—with none of the questions settled that have been agitating us, and which have checked the progress of the country; with representation by population not granted, and no prospect of it being granted for a long time to come, while the agitation for it could not possibly cease until it was granted. (Hear, hear.) Furthermore, hon. gentlemen, you all know the influence that the agreement arrived at in the Conference had upon our credit in England; that it had the effect of raising the price of our securities 15 to 17 per cent. But if we fail to agree upon the measure here in Parliament, what will be the effect in Britain?
Would there not be a feeling of disappointment—would not our friends there almost despair of our ever placing ourselves in a position to carry on our affairs with credit, and acting for ourselves in a statesmanlike way? Some hon. gentlemen speak of dreading to take the responsibility of a vote on a question which is to make a change in the constitution of this House, without consulting the people. Why! what are we here for if it is not to take responsibility? The people send us here for that purpose, to act as we think best upon all measures that may be presented to us. But under existing circumstances, I think the responsibility of postponing the adoption of the scheme, of putting Confederation off, is very much greater than the responsibility of sanctioning it. (Hear, hear.) I cannot help thinking that if we postpone the measure—and to adopt any amendment would have the effect of postponing it, and perhaps, of losing Confederation forever—our conduct will be considered extremely factious and unpatriotic.
A good deal has been said about a possible dead-lock between this House and the other House, but there has been little of that in past times, and nothing of a serious nature. If, however, the amendment passes, I can imagine a dead-lock which might be extremely prejudicial to this House—prejudicial to its influence in the country; nay, almost destructive of it. Suppose these resolutions to be carried in the other House by a large majority, which I have little doubt will be the case, and we carry an amendment here—suppose all the legislatures of the Lower Provinces adopt the resolutions, and this House stands alone in rejecting them—do you believe the British Parliament will be turned aside from what it believes to be the best interests of British America by the action of this House? I can imagine a dead-lock occurring then, and one in consequence of which the opinion of this House might be set aside and its vote disregarded. Until this measure is carried out it is impossible the […]
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[…] defences of the country can be properly attended to, while all must admit it is most important they should be proceeded with. Is it patriotic, honorable gentlemen, in the presence of such a state of things, and in view of circumstances which all thinking men admit to be most serious, is it wise to delay unnecessarily the passing of these resolutions? Honorable gentlemen may feel that they do not meet the views of every one in all particulars, but they must see the beneficial tendency of the whole, and they cannot fail to see the importance of getting them passed without delay, for if they are to receive the sanction of the Imperial Parliament at its next session, there is no time to be lost. (Hear, hear.)
One honorable gentleman has said the people are not satisfied with the measure. I believe they are perfectly satisfied. It has been before them for a long time, and they are possessed of sufficient intelligence to have made their disapprobation known if it was felt. But, to show the feeling in reference to the matter, I will read two or three extracts from a report which I received this morning of the proceedings of the Counties Council of York and Peel. These counties send four representatives to the other House of Parliament, and they comprise portions of three of the divisions represented in this Chamber—Midland, Peel and York. Mr. Graham, a member of the council, moved that a select committee be appointed to draft a petition to the Legislature as to the advisability of the people being consulted before the scheme of Confederation should be carried into effect. I will now read from the report:—
Mr. Graham, Vaughan, argued that he did not introduce the resolution with any such intention, for he did not regard it as political. The Administration was composed of men of different shades of politics, and hence the question was not one of any particular party. The present Parliament was not elected to consider this question, and should therefore not pronounce on the scheme without first consulting the people. On questions of far less interest they had gone to the country, and he thought they should on this, as it involved large interests, and was of the greatest importance. The Attorney General had said, in his place in Parliament, that the scheme must be adopted without any amendments, but he (Mr. Graham) thought it needed amendment so far as the people of Upper Canada were concerned.
Mr. Hartley said the whole scheme was now before the country, and the people who were interested in the matter were aware of its provisions. In the very riding represented in part by the very mover of the resolution, the people gave expression in favor of Confederation by the election of the Hon. W. P. Howland; and in fact at every election held since the scheme was proposed, the candidates elected have declared in its favor. He considered the Attorney General perfectly right in declaring that the resolutions must pass without amendment. The measure, as it stood, had received the sanction of all the delegates representing.
Mr. Graham, Gore, stated that some of the members looked upon the resolution as being of a political character. However, be that as it may, the resolution was now before the chair, and had to be disposed of. He thought the question of Confederation was in the hands of the best judges, and they would decide whether it would be advantageous to Canada or not. These representatives of the people were all well posted up in the resources of the provinces, and how such could be best developed, and therefore he thought the question should be left with them for decision. As to an appeal to the people, he could not see what good results would flow from it. The resolutions passed at the Quebec Conference on Confederation were before the people and their representatives, and it is for the latter to decide for or against them; and they are undoubtedly in a good position to form correct conclusions concerning them. He could not see what reasons the statesmen of Canada would have in sacrificing the interests of our country.
They all had a common interest with ourselves, and hence would not be likely to do anything detrimental to the best interests of Canada As regarded the submitting of the question to the people, Mr. Graham thought that ample time had been given the representatives during the recess, to ascertain the feelings of the people on the subject, and that, therefore, they went to Quebec perfectly prepared to deal with the question without putting the country to the expense of a general election. An appeal to the people would be a useless expenditure, and, therefore, he would oppose the resolution.
On being put to the council, the motion was lost on the vote of 6 to 25.
This, honorable gentlemen, is the opinion of the Municipal Council of York and Peel, and I hope this House will do as that council desire, and decide upon the measure without resorting to any course. That can produce any delay whatever. (Hear, hear.) So important is this scheme considered in England, as well as in our own country, that I believe the vote taken on it will be regarded as a test of our desire to remain in connection with the British Empire, to maintain our allegiance to our beloved Sovereign, or of our indifference to the prospect of being merged into another country. This might be an unjust conclusion to arrive at, but we have recent examples in our own history of […]
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[…] the way such conclusions are formed abroad. I remember a vote which was misconstrued, much to the prejudice of this country—I refer to that on the Militia Bill rejected in 1862. There is no doubt the rejection of that bill gave rise to the opinion which prevails in England—and you cannot convince the people there to the contrary—that Canadians are unwilling to defend themselves. Nothing could be more unjust to our people than to entertain such an idea, nothing more unjust even to the majority who voted against that bill; but still that was the conviction arrived at, which it took a long time to modify, and which is not entirely removed to this day. I believe that vote has cost the country a very large sum of money in various ways. (Hear, hear.)
In conclusion, let me just say that we cannot remain any longer as we are; we have to advance in some direction, and I believe we are going in the right direction when we proceed towards Confederation. I am very much disposed to agree with the honorable and gallant Premier [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché], that we are on the top of an inclined plane, and that if we do not adopt Confederation, we shall very likely find ourselves descending it against our wish, and plunged into a maelstrom of debt, democracy and demagoguism. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Boulton said he rejoiced to find, in the accession to the House of the honorable member who had just spoken, a gentleman so well calculated to sustain its credit, and to assist by his enlightened and thoroughly patriotic views in the disposal of the many and important questions with which it had to deal, in a manner worthy of the House and beneficial to the country. With respect to the measure in debate, he must state he was delighted at the principles it embodied. He was strongly in its favor, and so far from regarding it as imperilling the interests of the province, thought it eminently adapted to advance its prosperity and welfare. He was not a young man, having numbered more than half a century of years, during the greater part of which period he had filled a seat in either one or the other of the Houses of Parliament, but he had never yet known a measure of equal importance brought under discussion. He might possibly not live to see it carried, but hoped and expected he would, and if it were, he had no doubt it would realize all the anticipations of its framers, and issue in the greatest advantages not to the colonies alone, but to the Mother Country likewise.
During the time he had been in Parliament he could safely say he had been guided by an earnest purpose to vote rightly, but yet he had two or three votes to regret, and that which he most regretted, was the one he gave against the union of Upper and Lower Canada. In this he felt now, as he had felt before, that he was wrong, but his consolation was that he had acted independently and conscientiously, not allowing himself to swerve from what he regarded as his duty even by the earnest entreaties of one of his most valued friends, the then Attorney General for Upper Canada, who had taken a different view of the case. He now recognized the wisdom of the measure, and was glad his fears had been disappointed, and that great benefits had resulted from it to both sections. He viewed the union now proposed as fraught with the largest advantages to all the British North American Provinces, and believed his anticipations would be realized. He had often crossed the Atlantic and travelled extensively in England and the United States, but it was not until last summer, as he acknowledged with shame, that he had paid a visit to the Lower Provinces, now proposed to be united with Canada.
This ignorance of sister colonies so near to our own country, he thought, was not creditable to any legislator, and he hoped other honorable members would feel it their duty to acquire for themselves information which was so necessary to their position. Well, he had been there last summer, and his opinions respecting those countries had immediately undergone a very sensible change. He had not expected to see such a beautiful city as St. John, N.B., or such a place as Halifax. He had conceived the people as poor and struggling for existence, but was delighted to find merchants doing a great business, and exhibiting as high a standing and as much enterprise as any in Canada. Then, these provinces were distinguished by the most devoted attachment to the British Empire and loyalty to the British Crown, sentiments which he was unfeignedly delighted to observe. He hoped these sentiments would continue to prevail and even be strengthened by the Confederation now contemplated. (Hear, hear.)
When he represented a constituency in Upper Canada and had to seek re-election, he had always hung out his flag with “British supremacy” inscribed thereon—(hear, hear,)—and he hoped that the sentiment would continue to be cherished in the country so long as he lived. As to the allegations of some honorable members that the people were ignorant as to the merits of the measure proposed, he could say that, so far as the locality from which he […]
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[…] came was concerned, it was a serious error. It had engaged the attention of the people more or less for many years, and especially of late. After alluding to the favorable consideration of a Confederation of the British North American Provinces by many distinguished British statesmen, such as the late Earl of Durham and the late Sir Wilmot Horton, formerly Under Secretary of State, many years ago, the hon. gentleman spoke of the opinion of a particular friend of his own, a distinguished member of the other House, Mr. Morris, son of the late Hon. Wm. Morris, with whom he (Honorable Mr. Boulton) had had the pleasure of acting for many years in the House of Assembly of Upper Canada. Mr. Morris, the present member for South Lanark, in a pamphlet published by him, in 1858, expressed himself clearly and distinctly in favor of the union of the British North American Provinces, and in that pamphlet quoted the views of the present American Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, and which he (Hon. Mr. Boulton) read as follows. Mr. Morris introduces those views thus:—
That day may be and I trust is far distant, but sure I am that whatever, in the upheavings of the old world and the restless whirl of events may betide, yet the connection between our country and the parent state will not he rudely severed, but fostered by the power and might of Britain, and, rising in strength and power, thousands of strong hands and bold hearts within our borders will cherish towards Britain sentiments of warm affection and attached loyalty, and will be ready, if need be, in the contests for liberty that may arise, to stand side by side in the foremost rank with the armies of Britain.
There is, indeed, vast room for speculation as to the future of this great British Colonial Empire, and its consideration has engrossed and is engrossing the energies of many minds. Amongst others, hear what Senator Seward thinks of us: “Hitherto, in common with most of my countrymen, as I suppose, I have thought Canada, or, to speak more accurately, British America, to be a mere strip lying north of the United States, easily detachable from the parent state, but incapable of sustaining itself, and therefore ultimately, nay right soon, to be taken on by the Federal union without materially changing or affecting its own condition or development. I have dropped the opinion as a national conceit. I see in British North America, stretching as it does across the continent from the shores of Labrador and Newfoundland to the Pacific, and occupying a considerable belt of the temperate zone, traversed equally with the United States by the lakes, and enjoying the magnificent shores of the St. Lawrence, with its thousands of islands in the river and gulf, a region grand enough for the seat of a great empire.”
Secretary Seward (who was known to be one of the principal men in the American Government) once regarded this country as a poor one, but it was clear he no longer thought so, but had formed a very high opinion of our resources and capabilities. There was no doubt that Canada was a great country and destined to be much greater still, and he held that if we were true to ourselves we could well sustain ourselves, especially as in the effort (if effort ever were needed) we were sure to enlist the sympathies, co-operation and support of the Empire. (Hear, hear.) Then he was satisfied that as the project of Confederation was favourably received at home, as calculated to strengthen our position, we might expect all the aid that we needed. He regretted not being prepared to support his views by statistical statements, but other honorable members who were much more competent than himself, had done so, and no doubt others would follow. Of this, however, he was convinced, that we would lose nothing by the union, but would considerably improve our revenue. The Lower Provinces possessed ad-vantages which we had not, and among them their coal and their gold fields might be regarded as of great value.
We would soon require a large and constant supply of coal, a mineral which, so far, had not been found in Canada. It was really melancholy that there should have been so little commercial intercourse between us and those provinces. They were constantly needing large supplies of provisions, which we had to sell, and it was a pity that the money expended in procuring them was not paid to us. He hoped that there would be a great revolution in the state of things before long, and that we would profit largely by it. In every point of view, he conceived this union to be most desirable, though he must confess he would not desire to see it carried out if he thought there was the remotest probability of its leading to a separation from the Empire. (Hear.)
The Mother Country had done much for us; mistakes had arisen, but, on the whole, we had been most kindly and generously treated by her; we had been materially assisted by loans on the guarantee of the Imperial Government, and that very fact had greatly enhanced our credit. In this way it was that our great and valuable public works had been constructed. It had often been a matter of surprise to him that we had shown so little care and anxiety with regard to our own defence, but the time had now come when we would be obliged to do something for ourselves in that direction. […]
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[…] The people of England very truly said we had now grown up so as to be able, to some extent at least, to protect ourselves, and while they did not expect us to maintain the whole struggle unaided, they yet demanded that we should do our part. This done, according to the measure of our ability, we would have nothing to fear, and the union would enable us to do better than we otherwise could. There might still be a feeling among a few of our people in favor of annexation to the United States, but it was limited to a very small number indeed, if it existed at all. (Hear, hear.) Some years back he thought the feeling prevailed to some extent, but the unhappy war in the adjoining country had led to a very great change in this respect. He deplored that dreadful war, and would deprecate the possibility of a rupture of our present peaceful relations with that country. He hoped we would still continue to live upon amicable terms, and was convinced that if war did arise, it would not be provoked by us.
They were a great and a powerful people, and he hoped they would continue in the future to treat us kindly as they had done in the past; but it could not be denied that of late they had shown a different disposition. They had passed a measure to repeal the Reciprocity Treaty, which had been of so much advantage to the two countries; a repeal which, two or three years ago, they had no purpose whatever to bring about; but he thought a change might yet take place, and that after all the treaty would not be abolished. At the same time, if it were abolished, he did not think we would be ruined altogether, but expected that intercourse with the Lower Provinces would, in a great degree, make up the loss. It might be, however, that we could yet pass through the States, but if not, and we were restricted to our own channels of communication, we must do the best we can.
He trusted the amendment of the honorable member for Sherbrooke (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) would be voted down, and that the measure as it was would pass in its integrity. The Constitution of the Federal Legislature had been adopted in a council of our leading politicians, some of whom had all along been opposed to elective legislative councils, amongst others, the Honorable President of the Council, (Hon. George Brown). And the people, he verily believed, did not wish to see the principle prevail. He had no doubt the Crown would make wise selections as it had generally done before, and though mistakes might in some cases have been made, for his part he was perfectly willing to trust it. He was willing to give the people all the power they could reasonably ask, but it was a fact that the power granted had in many instances been abused. Many municipalities have been nearly ruined. They contracted loans, and instead of applying the money in a way to forward the public weal, a good deal of it had gone into the pockets of the borrowers. (Hear, hear.)
He desired to prevent a recurrence of such things. When the Municipal Loan Fund Bill was passed, great advantages had been expected from it, and great improvements had been projected, some of which, he was free to say, had been carried out, but some of the municipalities had misapplied and wasted the money, and now they were asking the Government for delay to enable them to pay the interest. In making these remarks he had no intention of saying aught that could be disagreeable, and if he had done so he prayed it might be overlooked. He had taken an active part in the legislature, especially in the other branch, in years gone by, and had always acted independently, and he thought it was the duty of public men to follow the dictates of their own convictions in preference to the solicitations of friends. Having done so in the past, he would try to do so in the future. He would close by expressing the hope that the resolutions would pass by a large majority, as he had no doubt they would. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Aikins said:—I do not believe, honorable gentlemen, that what occurred in the Counties Council of York and Peel, to which the honorable member for the Saugeen Division [Hon. Mr. Macpherson] referred, can bear the interpretation that honorable gentleman placed upon it. The honorable member stated that a large majority in that council had declared themselves unfavorable to an appeal to the people on the subject now before the House—the Confederation of the Provinces. Now, I am personally acquainted with most of the members of that body, and think a fuller reading of the proceedings to which the honorable member referred will place the matter in a different light—
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—I read the whole of the report.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—Well, I shall read it for myself and draw my own conclusions. [Here the honorable gentleman read the report again, remarking that there was nothing in the speeches of any of the members of the Counties Council to show that they were opposed to an appeal to the people, and then proceeded]:—The members of the Counties […]
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[…] Council were not elected on political grounds, but to administer the affairs of the municipality. Any expression of opinion that they may offer on political subjects is therefore but the expression of their own individual opinions, and however much it may be entitled to respect from the character of the gentlemen composing the council, it can in no way be regarded as the expression of their constituents’ wishes on the subject. But I contend, moreover, that the vote in the council was not even an expression of opinion on the part of the members; for we find from the report that several members opposed the motion for an appeal to the people, simply on the ground that the question was one that ought not to have been brought before them, it being of a purely political character, and they rejected it without expressing any opinion upon its real merits. Then, combined with them were the gentlemen who really oppose the appeal to the people, and of these two classes was the majority composed, of which the honorable gentlemen spoke so exultingly. (Hear, hear.)
But apart from the expression of opinion of the Counties Council referred to, in whatever light it may be regarded, I object to the resolutions being submitted to Parliament and pressed upon the consideration of this House in the same way as the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. They are said to be passed or rejected as a whole, without alteration or amendment, just as if the Government were bound to stand or fall by the decision. The Government, it appears, has pledged itself to the other governments to abide by these resolutions, and in that case it should have been a condition that they should stand or fall with them. Ministers are opposed further to any expression of opinion on the contents of these resolutions, other than what may be stated in the speeches of honorable members; the resolutions cannot be changed, modified or amended in any particular, and yet the chambers are asked to consider them! What is the use of considering them if we cannot come to our own conclusions and give them effect in the shape of amendments? I stand here as the representative of, if not one of the largest, at least one of the most intelligent constituencies in Upper Canada, and I have no hesitation in saying the people are generally in favor of the principle of the resolutions; in other words, of a Confederation of Canada and the Lower Provinces, but I do not believe they are in favor of all the details of the project.
The Honorable Premier, in moving the resolutions, said they would be productive of two special advantages to Canada;—they would give us strength and durability, and at the same time settle the difficulties under which the province has labored for some years. That honorable member also stated that if this union is not accomplished there will be a danger of our being forced by violence into the United States; that, if not forced therein by violence, we will insensibly slide thither; and that we are upon an inclined plane which must of necessity land us there, and whether by violence or by sliding, we must reach that result. (Hear, hear.) If the Honorable Premier had shown that the proposed union would in reality give us strength, and place us in a position to improve our defences, then I would admit he had made a good case. I have anxiously waited to hear his reasons and explanations, for I wanted better reasons for adopting the resolutions than any I was acquainted with. I am anxious to have them carefully analyzed and scrutinized, and desire that they may be found in the interest of Canada. If the Government, in bringing them down, had stated that after a thorough canvass and examination, if deemed desirable, they might be amended in some particulars, I would have accepted the declaration with satisfaction and hope; but no, though allowed to debate them, we cannot proceed any further.
They are submitted, as I have already said, like an opening Speech from the Throne, an amendment to which is treated as a motion of want of confidence, and I can see no great use in discussing them at all. I desire, however, prior to the taking of the vote, to know how much the Intercolonial Railway will cost. Only a short time ago public opinion in Upper Canada was adverse to this enterprise, but if new light has dawned upon the subject, I would be glad to share in it. I would like to know also what the route will be, and how many millions it will cost; and if it should be shown that its construction will be a real advantage to the country, I will be prepared to go for it. There are other points upon which I desire information, and one is as to the proportion of the debt which Upper and Lower Canada will be called upon respectively to bear. If the sixty-two and a-half millions of debt the Confederation is to assume is to be divided according to the extent of the two populations, will Lower Canada, over and above its share, assume the amount paid for the abolition of the Seigniorial Tenure? These questions, in my opinion, need answers before this scheme is carried.
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Hon. Mr. Campbell—There is no disposition on the part of the Government to withhold any information the House may desire to have;—on the contrary, they are anxious to afford all in their power,—but the points suggested by the honorable member are not yet before the House for discussion. As to the Seigniorial Tenure debt it will be assumed entirely by Lower Canada. Then as to the five millions reserved for a certain part of the debt, the matter will be disposed of by a fair division between Upper and Lower Canada; and I beg to add that Parliament will have the opportunity of fully considering the arrangement which the Government may propose for that division. An affirmative proposition will be laid before the House, upon which members will of course have the opportunity of pronouncing.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—I am very much pleased, indeed, to hear the statement of the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell]; but I must say I am at a loss to perceive how we shall have an opportunity of considering any of these resolutions if we now affirm the substantive proposition.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—The opportunity will be afforded when these five millions of debt come to be distributed between Upper and Lower Canada, and when bills or propositions are brought before Parliament for that purpose. The intention of the Government is to offer propositions which it considers fair to both sections of the country, and it will be in the power of Parliament, of course, to speak and decide in regard to the scheme.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—I am quite willing to give the Government credit for sincerity on this question, but before I am called upon to vote for Confederation, I would like to know, and I am sure this House would like to know, not only how much the Intercolonial Railway is to cost, but how this amount of debt is to be diffused or distributed between Upper and Lower Canada. It does appear to me very important that we should have all these explanations prior to being called upon to vote these resolutions.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—As to the Intercolonial Railway, the honorable gentleman will see that it is a matter for the Government of the Confederation to deal with. The only question for this House to consider is as to how the five millions of debt is to be distributed between the two sections, and as to that every member will have an opportunity of assenting to or differing from the proposition of the Government. The question of the railway stands on an entirely different footing, being for the consideration only of the General Legislature of the union.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—I am quite well aware that the Intercolonial Railway is to be constructed by the General Government, but I would like to know now how much it is to cost. It does appear to me that this is a very important question, and one that lies at the root of the whole matter in the minds of many honorable gentlemen. I know that it affects me very much. (Hear, hear.) Then, with regard to the Constitution of this Chamber, the honorable gentleman who has just taken his seat (Hon. Mr. Boulton), and who comes from Cobourg, has indulged in a general attack upon the elective system, because, forsooth, several municipalities throughout the country have borrowed largely from the Loan Fund, and because the money they so borrowed has not been properly invested. He argues from this that the principle of election by the people should be done away with in this House. It does appear strange that any hon. gentlemen should take the narrow and contracted ground that this Chamber should be appointed by the Crown, because certain loans have not been properly distributed by municipal bodies—especially strange that an honorable gentleman should take it who represents a municipality that is very heavily in arrears to the Loan Fund.
Hon. Mr. Boulton—I did not allude to the town of Cobourg at all, but to other municipalities, where the councils squandered the money borrowed from the Loan Fund and put large sums of it into their own pockets. Cobourg expended the money properly in connection with a great public work, and acted honestly, uprightly and properly in the matter.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—Well, I do not see why a good thing should be put past the honorable gentleman himself; and when he indulges in an attack upon the elective system, because certain municipalities have failed to meet their obligations, I do not see why I should not point out that Cobourg is a defaulter to a large amount. The honorable member from the Saugeen Division [Hon. Mr. Macpherson] argues that the appointment of members of this House by the Crown is not a disfranchisement of the people.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—The honorable gentleman is mistaken. What I said was that, inasmuch as the appointments are to be made in the way that has been described—that is, on the nomination of gentleman representing […]
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[…] the people in the other House—the change does not amount to disfranchisement. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Aikins—If the honorable gentleman had not been quite so sensitive, I would have saved him the trouble of making his explanation.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—I did not wish to be misrepresented.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—It certainly is not my desire to misrepresent the honorable gentleman in any manner. I think the conclusion one would arrive at, after hearing his remarks upon the point, is that the people would still, after this proposed change in the Constitution, have the power to make appointments to this House.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—No, but through their representatives.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—The honorable gentleman says they will have the power, through their representatives, to make their appointments. Well, after reading the fourteenth resolution, it does appear to me that, after the first election of the Chamber, the people will have nothing at all to do with it. (Hear, hear.) The honorable gentleman says, however, that the representatives of the people will have the power of making these appointments. Who are the representatives of the people he refers to? The members of the Government, who will have this power; or, in other words, the Crown will make the appointments.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—With the advice of the representatives of the people.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—Yes, undoubtedly; but the people, nevertheless, will have nothing at all to do with the matter; we advert again, in fact, to the old principle when the Crown made all the appointments. (Hear, hear.) Now, with regard to this question, I feel myself in this position, that although I may be in favour of the Crown making these appointments—upon which principle I express no opinion at this moment—if I voted for these resolutions I would give a vote, and every member of this House would give a vote, by which they would give themselves seats in this House as long as Providence thought fit to let them remain. (Hear, hear.) I came here, honorable gentlemen, to conserve certain interests, to represent certain classes, and to reflect the views of those who sent me here so far as they accorded with my own judgment. But they did not send me here to change the Constitution under which I was appointed, and to sweep away at one dash the privileges they possess, one of which is, to give a seat in this House to him in whom they have confidence. It does not appear right to me that the members of this House should declare, by their own votes, that we shall remain here for all time to come. (Hear, hear.)
The reasons given for the proposed change are various, and to some extent conflicting. We find one member of the Government telling us that it is because the Maritime Provinces are opposed to an elective Chamber, and hence we in Canada—the largest community and the most influential—give way to them, and set aside a principle that was solemnly adopted here, and so far has worked without prejudice to our interests. We find another gentleman, who, when the question came up years ago, Strongly opposed the elective principle, quite as strongly opposes it now, because since then certain municipalities have borrowed more than they are able to pay! These are somewhat extraordinary reasons, and I trust the House will give them their due weight. I think, honorable gentlemen, that prior to the proposed change taking place, we ought not to declare by our own votes that we are entitled to permanent seats in this House,—without, at any rate, knowing whether the people consent to it or not; and I do not think I am wrong in using this line of argument, when we have reason to believe that, even if the Crown-appointed members remain here, a large number of the elected members will also remain.
Hon. Mr. Ross—How would you act if you were satisfied that the whole public opinion was in favour of it?
Hon. Mr. Aikins—I can very easily answer the honorable gentleman. If I did not and could not reflect the views of my constituents on such an important subject as this, there is one thing I could do, return to them the power they placed in my hands. (Hear, hear.) That is the course I should feel compelled to take under such circumstances. (Hear, hear.) With regard to this scheme altogether, I think that a very great deal depends upon the resolutions themselves. If we are to have framed a new Constitution upon them as a basis, all of them, in my opinion, should be thoroughly canvassed and examined; and this House, as well as the other branch of the Legislature, ought not to be prevented by the Government of the day from expressing its opinions with regard to their merits. (Hear.) It is said by many honorable gentlemen that the people are in favor of this scheme. I think the people are in favor of a scheme […]
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[…] of Confederation, but I think it depends altogether upon the details of that scheme whether they will give it their approval or not. I have no hesitation in declaring what is the opinion of the people of my division. I meet and mingle with them almost daily, and have had ample opportunities of ascertaining their views and sentiments. I believe that a very lame proportion of them have no fixed and definite opinions with regard to this scheme. They are in favor of Confederation, but they have no definite distinct ideas in regard to the details of the scheme proposed. If they knew that their taxation would be largely increased by it, and that it would add heavily to the public burdens, they would not support it. (Hear, hear.)
I think, then, that we who are placed here to conserve and protect the interests of the public, should be extremely careful and analyse these resolutions thoroughly, and ascertain, as nearly as possible, what their effect is likely to be, before we take the responsibility of voting for them. I have no hesitation in declaring that there never was a period in the history of Canada when the people suffered more than they do at present. (Hear, hear.) In consequence of the personal, municipal and national indebtedness, the farmers of the country were never placed in a worse position than that which they now occupy. (Hear, hear.)
When we find that property has depreciated in value within the last five years, twenty, thirty, forty, ay, and even sixty per cent.; when we find that the crops of the country have been steadily decreasing in quantity and value within that period; when we find that the people are dissatisfied with the manner in which the country has been governed during the last eight or ten years; when we find all this, we may believe that they are prepared to accept almost any change that promises a relief from their present difficulties. But we were placed here to conserve their interests, to look after their welfare, and should not hastily adopt any scheme, proposed by any Government—whether all of one party stripe or not—without fully examining it and weighing the results likely to flow from it. (Hear, hear.)
It is said that the public is well acquainted with the nature of the scheme. I demur to that statement in toto. The public is not acquainted with it in all its bearings, and if there is one thing I regret, it is this, that it has not been made a party measure. (Hear, hear.) I regret this because, although perhaps no party could have carried it as a party measure through this Legislature, it would have been better if proposed as a party scheme, for then its merits would have been more thoroughly canvassed and its demerits more thoroughly exposed. Our public men would have ranged themselves on either side; some would have favored it. and others would have opposed it; they would have pointed out its defects as well as its good points; the whole subject would have been fully ventilated, and the result would have been that, if passed at all, the scheme would have been as perfect as it was possible to have made it. But what do you find now? You scarcely see a newspaper from one end of the country to the other that is not full of laudations of the scheme. And why? Because the leading public men of the country have thought proper to make a fusion; the leading daily journals on both sides applaud the step and the scheme that followed, and the small papers throughout the province, as in duty bound, follow in their wake.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—They only express public opinion.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—Public opinion, the honorable gentleman says. I say that public opinion has not sufficiently weighed this scheme, and that we should be influenced here by our own matured opinion in regard to it. (Hear, hear.) As I have already stated, I am in favor of the confederation of these provinces, framed on a proper basis; and all I desire is that we should have the opportunity of examining all these resolutions, and if we object to any of them, finding them imperfect or unsuitable, that we should have power to amend them. (Hear, hear.) So far as the amendment that has been proposed is concerned, there are portions of it with which I cordially agree. After it has been thoroughly discussed, I shall, like other honorable members, make up my mind as to what course I shall pursue in reference to it. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Reesor—As no one has taken the floor to continue the debate, I beg to enquire of the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] why it is that certain export duties are allowed under this scheme to be collected by the local governments in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but which in Canada are collected by the General Government? It is part of the forty-third resolution, which reads:—”The local legislatures shall have power to make laws respecting the following subjects: Direct taxation, and in New Brunswick the imposition of duties on the export of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals and sawn lumber; and in Nova Scotia, of […]
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[…] coal and other minerals.” That, it appears to me, is leaving very valuable material to be subject to taxation by these local governments, for they comprise a very large proportion of the exports of the country. This is giving a great preference to the eastern provinces in regard to powers of taxation. (Hear, hear.)
Then, again, as stated by the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], in another place, the sum of $63,000 a year is to be given as a sort of gratuity to New Brunswick for a period of ten years. When these things are taken into consideration, certainly it seems that our public men representing Canada in the Conference have gone to work in a rather reckless manner. They have apparently been regardless of expense on the part of Canada, when particularly careful to meet every objection to union on the part of the Lower Provinces. It would appear that because Canada is the largest colony, they were willing to grant everything that the other colonies asked. (Hear, hear.) It seems extraordinary too that these gentlemen should have passed a scheme binding the Government to construct the Intercolonial Railway without any understanding or knowledge as to what it will cost. (Hear.)
Hon. Mr. Campbell—It will be somewhat inconvenient for a member of the Government to answer at once the questions put by the honorable member, but I have no objection to answer those which he has now asked. The House understands, of course, that the Crown lands of the provinces are retained under the Confederation scheme by each individual province. It was found necessary that they should be retained in order to provide each province with the required funds to carry on the local government. In the province of New Brunswick the duties that are levied in Canada as “stumpage dues” on cutting down timber, are not levied in the woods but collected at the ports as export duties, this being in that province a more convenient and less expensive mode of obtaining revenue from the timber trade.
Now, the honorable gentleman will see that if we do not allow the Local Government in New Brunswick to collect these dues in this way, the revenue which is derived in Canada from “stumpage dues,” would be lost to New Brunswick. That is the reason why the exception he refers to was made. In the same way, with reference to Nova Scotia, was allowed the royalty on coal, that is the percentage of the product of the mines reserved for the use of the Government, which is collected as a duty out the export of the article. There also the export duty is reserved as a source of revenue to the Local Government, it being necessary in both cases that they should have the advantage of their territorial revenue in the same way as the local governments in Canada, which will collect the same revenue in a different way. At the first glance it may seem that this clause gives especial advantages to the Lower Provinces not conferred upon the local governments here, but this is not the case. (Hear, hear.)
Then, with regard to the subvention of $63,000 a year to New Brunswick for a period of ten years, it was found necessary because during that time it would be impossible for New Brunswick out of its local revenue to carry out the undertakings upon which the province had entered. The honorable gentleman said, and I regret to hear the statement, that the representatives of Canada must have been reckless, and that as the Lower Provinces made demands conditional upon entering the union, we had to submit with what grace we could. All I can say is that I wish very heartily that those gentlemen who thus find fault had been at the Conference, and then they would have had an opportunity of judging whether indeed we were reckless or not; and I must say to my honorable friend, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for some years, that if he had truly known the representatives of Canada on that occasion, he would have spared us to-day the imputation made against them that they were reckless. (Hear, hear.) The $63,000 were given to New Brunswick because it was found that with the local revenue allowed her it would have been impossible for her to fulfil her engagements.
It would of course have been idle to have gone into a confederation and find that the revenues of that colony had been so far ceded to us that she was unable to meet the obligations into which she had entered, and that the Confederation would be responsible for the claims of her creditors. The engagements into which she had entered involved a subvention of the railways of the province. In New Brunswick they thought it better, rather than take the shares or mortgages of a railway for the encouragement of railway enterprise, to give a certain sum at once for railway purposes. Any company constructing a railway became entitled to a certain sum per mile out of the public funds. Thus liabilities were incurred which of course it was necessary to redeem. Well, New Brunswick having ceded all her ordinary revenues to the General Government, means had to be provided by it to enable her to meet these […]
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[…] liabilities. And I may say that these railways, which are among the public works ceded to the General Government, are not valueless. They yield a revenue to the public exchequer. I do not remember the exact sum, but it is about $6,000 or $8,000 per annum.
Hon. Mr. Currie—That is exactly three-eighths of one per cent, of their cost.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—Well, I said they yielded a revenue—I did not say what proportion it bore to their cost—and when we give this sum we know that we are not entirely without a return for it. Unless we made some provision for this payment we would have been unable to carry out the scheme, and there is a fair probability of these works becoming more productive. Of course, some gentlemen may say that it was possible to have given the other provinces equivalents for this expenditure in New Brunswick, but we all know how unfavorable to our finances has been this system of equivalents. (Hear, hear.) A similar sum might have been granted to the other provinces, but that would have been nothing but extravagance, which, I am sure, the country would be slow to sanction, in view of the past experience in this province in the system of equivalents. (Hear, hear.) This, we all felt convinced, was the most economical and prudent course to have followed in order to obtain the end of Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—I would like to ask the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] whether, supposing I sent a vessel from Montreal with flour to a lower port, and it returned with a cargo of coal, there would be an export duty upon it in Nova Scotia?
Hon. Mr. Campbell—I am not aware that there would be, but upon this point I speak under correction. That is a question which, if the honorable gentleman desires explicit information, I would like to reserve for a future occasion. If questions are put, not to embarrass the passage of the scheme before the House, but to elicit information on particular points, I shall prepare myself to answer them as fully as possible. (Hear, hear.) I am sure, however, no honorable gentleman would put questions with a view of embarrassing the subject, but simply to obtain information on certain points.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—I have no desire to ask questions in order to create embarrassment, but this is a question forced upon me by the explanations that have been made, and while I am up I may ask another. I will not discuss how much Upper Canada gives to the General Government under this scheme, but it strikes me as singular that in making these compensations the Conference gave them all to the Lower Provinces, Why was not this money required by New Brunswick raised by direct taxation, and the colonies thus placed on an equal footing? (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Ross—Because the income of these railways in New Brunswick accrues to the General Government.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—But they pay nothing.
Hon. Mr. Ross—They do pay something now, and in future they will pay more. I, however, speak only from my own individual point of view, and not from any knowledge other than that in possession of the House.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—And I speak from the same, and think the objection I have made good.
Hon. Mr. Ross—As to the export duty on coal from Nova Scotia, it appears from the resolutions that the equivalent given to Upper Canada for this revenue is the duty on Crown timber.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—Well, what about the fishery dues given to the Lower Provinces?
Hon. Mr. Ross—We will have that by and by. I am only answering one question now. It is in lieu of the duty we levy on timber, and known as “stumpage dues,” that Nova Scotia is allowed to levy an export duty on coal. The honorable gentleman shakes his head, but it is a fact.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—It is not on the stump that we levy dues, but as the hewn timber passes through the slides.
Hon. Mr. Ross—Well, it is not an export duty at any rate; but in New Brunswick it pays a duty when exported, either as sawlogs or square timber. In both cases it pays a duty to the Local Government, and it only seems reasonable that Nova Scotia should enjoy a revenue from her coal wherever it goes. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Moore—If the coal were exported to a foreign country, then I could understand why a duty should be imposed, but when a ship is laden in one port of the Confederation, with coal, for another port in the same country, it does not appear much like a free Confederation if an export duty is levied upon the ergo. (Hear, hear.) There would seem, then, to be a distinction—a preference for one portion over another—within the limits of the Confederation. If we are to have a union, I hope we shall have it in fact and […]
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[…] not in name alone. I should like to be fully informed as to whether an export duty is to be levied on coal in Nova Scotia, no matter whether it is intended for another part of the Confederation or for a foreign country.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—The royalty collected on coal in Nova Scotia is similar to the stumpage duty on timber in Canada, which is paid no matter where the timber is exported to. It may well be, therefore, that when coal is exported from Nova Scotia to another province it will contribute to the revenues of the Local Government of Nova Scotia. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Reesor—There are several other provisions in the proposed Constitution which seem to be ambiguous in their meaning, and before discussion upon them it would be well to have them fully explained. In the eleventh clause of the twenty-ninth resolution, for instance, it is declared that the General Parliament shall have power to make laws respecting “all such works as shall, although lying wholly within any province, be specially declared by the acts authorizing them to be for the general advantage.” It would appear from this, that works like the Welland canal, which yield a very large revenue, will be given over to the General Government; and this being the case, surely this is a sufficient setoff, five times over, for the railways given by New Brunswick, without the annual subsidy proposed to be given to that province of $63,000.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—The cost of these works forms part of the public debt of Canada, which is to be borne in part by the Lower Provinces under the Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—The honorable gentleman will see that there are some works which, although local in their geographical position, are general in their character and results. Such works become the property of the General Government. The Welland canal is one of them, because, although it is local in its position, it is a work in which the whole country is interested, as the chief means of water communication between the western lakes and the sea. Other works, in the Lower Provinces, may be of the same character, and it is not safe to say that because a certain work lies wholly in one province, it is not to belong to the General Government.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—I do not object to the General Government having the control of these works. It is, I believe, a wise provision to place them under such control. But I do say that it is unfair that an express stipulation should be made to pay one province a large sum per annum for certain works, while, at the same time, we throw in our public works, such as the Welland and St. Lawrence canals, without any consideration whatever. This, I think, is paying quite too much for the whistle. Then the answer of the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] about the export duty on minerals in Nova Scotia is not at all satisfactory. Whatever dues may be levied on minerals in Canada—and Canada, although it may contain no coal, is rich in gold, silver, copper, iron, and other ores—in the shape of a royalty or otherwise, go to the General Government, while in Nova Scotia they accrue for the benefit of the Local Government.
Hon. Mr. Ross—No, they will not go to the General Government.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—Well, there is nothing to the contrary in the resolutions, and you may depend upon it that whatever revenues the General Government may claim, under the proposed Constitution, will be fully insisted upon.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—My honorable friend, referring a moment ago to the Welland and other canals, objected to certain works being considered as belonging to the General Government, because they are local in their geographical position.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—I do not say that they should not go to the General Government, but what I do say is that they are a sufficient set-off for the works given by the Lower Provinces, without paying them a special sum from the general revenues of $63,000 per annum.
A Message from the Legislative Assembly interrupted further discussion upon the subject, and the House afterwards adjourned without resuming it.
 “Counties Council”, The Globe (8 February 1865).