Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (13 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 161-180.
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MONDAY, February 13, 1865.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—Honorable gentlemen, as the question now under consideration involves a change in the constitution, not only of this House but of the whole of the British American Provinces, I think that more time ought to be given to it; and my object in now rising, is to urge upon this Honorable House the propriety of adjourning this debate—say for ten days. (No! no!) Many new features have been developed since the […]
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[…] discussion opened that were not before properly understood. The question has not been sufficiently understood in the country, and even now I doubt whether the proposed changes are thoroughly comprehended in both branches of the Legislature. Constitutions are not usually made in a day, and they should not be passed in a week; they are matters of too grave a character. I trust, if we make a new Constitution, it will be one that will be sustained not for ten or twenty years, but for centuries. It is to be hoped that every change which is made will be of the right character, and in accordance with the interests of the country; not such a change as will have to be repealed again in a few years.
Hon. Mr. Campbell.—Will the hon. gentleman make a motion on this subject, or shall we continue the debate without that motion?
Hon. Mr. Reesor.—I have in my hand a resolution, which I propose to submit to the House shortly.
Hon. Mr. Campbell.—Does the hon. gentleman intend to choke off discussion now? Surely that is not desirable.
Hon. Mr. Reesor.—The hon. gentleman knows we do not desire to choke off discussion. If any persons are anxious that the discussion should be choked off, they are those who are desirous of pushing through this measure with undue haste. There are many reasons why the discussion of this question should be delayed. First, its very great importance; secondly, to enable us to obtain more information upon it. It is well known that very eloquent and effective speeches have been made in the other branch of the Legislature, which have not yet been published in full, and without which we cannot so thoroughly understand what arguments are made in favor of the measure, as is desirable. I beg to move that this debate be adjourned for ten days.
Hon. Mr. Moore—I agree with the hon. gentleman who has made this motion that the question now before us is a very important one, and should be fully considered in all its bearings, both by this House and the people of the province at large. I think, with him, that we ought to have the benefit of the perusal of the able and eloquent speeches which have been made in the other branch of the Legislature, and in this branch also; and inasmuch as they have postponed the discussion in the other branch of the Legislature, I apprehend there would be nothing improper in our doing so too. Again, there are other contracting parties to this measure, viz., the Lower Provinces, which are equally interested with ourselves. In Nova Scotia the Legislature, I understand, is in session, and by telegraphic communication, from day to day, we could ascertain the feeling of the people there. This would not at all retard the action of this House, for it is known that business is usually despatched with more rapidity here than in the other. Nothing, it seems to me, will be lost, but, on the contrary, much gained by a temporary postponement of the debate. (Hear, hear.)
I desire to place my views on the whole subject before this House, but I desire to give them only after the matter has been calmly and deliberately discussed. The question is one which concerns us all. I do not think the discussion of it should be entered upon with any party spirit or any party feeling. Our interests are all the same, whether for weal or woe. If the measure be a good one—if the project for our Confederation be a salutary one—if it be a panacea for all the existing evils of our body politic—a little time given for reflection can do it no harm. (Hear.)
When we come to the discussion of the scheme, there are several important points to be cleared up. We have yet to ascertain the respective and relative powers of the federal and local governments, and it is desirable that ample time should be given to the Government for the answering of questions upon this subject. Then we have to receive explanations about the export duty on coal and other minerals—whether this export duty is to be levied by or on behalf of the Local Government of Nova Scotia after Confederation, and whether it is to be levied on all coal exported, or not upon coal exported to other sections of the proposed union. Again, in regard to the export duty on the lumber of New Brunswick, is it to be applied, as I understand it, to the local revenue of that province? Then, as to the stumpage duty on that portion of the Crown domain appertaining to Lower Canada, is that to be applied to the purposes of the Local Government of Lower Canada?
Hon. Mr. Campbell—I shall be very happy to give my hon. friend, from time to time, as the questions may be put, all the information he may desire.
Hon. Mr. Moore—It is certainly desirable that they should be answered, either by the hon. the Premier or the hon. the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell], and it does appear to me that it would be profitable for the House to postpone the debate, to afford time for doing so fully.
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The question being put, the amendment was lost on the following vote:—
[Editor’s Note: The Legislative Council voted on Mr. Reesor’s amendment that the debate be adjourned for ten days.]
CONTENTS:—Honorable Messieurs Aikins, Archambault, Armstrong, Bennett, Chaffers, Cormier, Currie, A. J. Duchesnay, Flint, Leonard, Leslie, McDonald, Moore, Olivier, Perry, Proulx, Reesor, Seymour, and Simpson.—19.
NON-CONTENTS:—Honorable Messieurs Alexander, Allan, Armand, Sir N. P. Belleau, Fergusson Blair, Blake, Boulton, Bossé, Bull, Burnham, Campbell, Christie, Crawford, De Beaujeu, Dickson, E. H. J. Duchesnay, Dumouchel, Ferrier, Foster, Gingras, Hamilton (Inkerman), Hamilton (Kingston), Lacoste, McCrea, McMaster, Macpherson, Matheson, Mills, Panet, Prud’homme, Read, Boss, Shaw, Skead, Sir E. P. Taché, Vidal and Wilson–37.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—I shall be very brief in the remarks I have now to make to the House. I do not object to the objects of these resolutions, or to the measure per se, but I do object to some of its details. I hope to see a union of the British North American Colonies effected, but what I am anxious for is that the conditions of the union may be so satisfactory and well considered, that there will not be embraced therein the seeds of future disruption, or anything that will give rise to a desire on the part of any of the provinces to separate from the union, or prevent other portions of British North America coming in hereafter and forming parts of this proposed Confederation.
I hope we shall be some day a great British North American Confederacy, but that is the greater reason why the terms of the agreement should be of such a character that we can all, or nearly all, approve of them. We must bear in mind, also, that one reason why those who were heretofore the exponents of the views of two great political parties are all on one side at the present time, arises from the very peculiar circumstances in which the country has been placed for the last eight or ten years. Those who support this measure have given as reasons for it that we have had so many political crises, and the changes have been so varied, that it becomes necessary for some great constitutional change to be made. They have at the same time carefully enumerated the political changes that have taken place during the past four or five years. First we had the Cartier-Macdonald Administration, which was sustained in the Assembly by a very small majority for two or three sessions.
Then we had the Macdonald-Sicotte Government sustained by a very slim majority. Then the Macdonald-Dorion Government, scarcely any stronger. Then again the Taché-Macdonald Government with an equally slim majority;—so that we were really in a state of political crisis like that of a merchant, who, having suffered many losses in business affairs, yet, with his credit still good, at last becomes confused, and, incapable of exercising his judgment, launches into some scheme that proves ruinous, whereas calmness and deliberation might have retrieved his situation. We had three governments formed within as many years, each failing in turn to administer affairs to the satisfaction of the people. We had, in the Taché-Macdonald cabinet, a Finance Minister on whom a vote of censure of the most serious character was passed, which amounted to a vote of want of confidence in the whole Government. At that time we had in opposition the gentleman who is now the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], who had contended for ten years for a change of the constitutional relations between Upper and Lower Canada. He failed to accomplish his object. He could not consistently ally himself with his opponents without some new scheme to lay before the country. To form a government, he could not.
The Finance Minister being condemned, the government was bound to reconstruct or resign. Each party desired to rule, but neither was able. Out of political adversity grew political desperation. It was called by some a political millennium, and perhaps it was; but matters were just in that shape to induce parties to take up almost any new scheme, as in this case, in which I think they have gone on quite too rapidly. They have not deliberated sufficiently to propose a measure of that mature character which the country had a right to expect. Perhaps as good a measure has been brought out as could have been, considering the short time that has elapsed, and the disadvantages under which they labored during the discussion of the scheme. But it must be admitted that when this measure was agreed to by our Government, they adopted a hasty course. The country heard only one side of the question. (Hear.)
They had the great daily newspapers, the chief organs of public opinion of both political parties, all on their side, and there was only a small portion of the country press, and that not widely circulated, that gave the opposite side of the question. And so it has been going on up to the present time; and now we have the scheme brought before us in its present shape. I consider that, under these circumstances, it is our duty to give very serious attention to the question, before we adopt it as it is. (Hear, hear.) I further […]
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[…] think, and I know many others agree with me, that these resolutions may be amended in some points, and yet without in the slightest degree endangering the whole scheme. But the Government say, “you must take the whole measure, or no part of it.” I very much fear that the determination of the Government in this respect is, if I may so speak, father to their wish. That they have fallen in love with their scheme. It is their pet measure—their bantling—and they wish to get it through, without any amendment, just as it is. Suppose amendments are proposed that really can only affect Canada, and cannot affect our relations with the other provinces at all; what reason is there that these amendments should not be made? The Government can surely communicate with the other provinces, and get their assent. At the same time, while I am speaking on these particular points, I must express my dissent from certain other features of the resolutions, but they are features, I fear, that we can do nothing to alter now, for we shall be obliged, as the Government say, to adopt the whole of the resolutions or none.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—That is the point.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—Yes, that is the point in reference to certain of these resolutions, but not with regard to others. Two years ago the Government of Canada had a conference with members of the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and in that conference agreed that upon certain conditions, if the money could be obtained, with the guarantee of the home Government, at a certain rate of interest, the Intercolonial Railway should be built, and they further agreed that Canada should only have to pay five-twelfths of the cost, which was then estimated, as it was stated, at twelve millions of dollars. I believe, on good authority, that a company offered to build the road for twelve millions of dollars, and undertook to run it, without any additional charge, for twelve years.
Hon. Mr. Currie—It was three million pounds sterling, or fifteen millions of dollars.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—Perhaps it was; but let us suppose that the estimates should be as high as they are at present; let us conceive the fact as possible that the company might fail to complete the road without more aid; and that it might have cost as much as is now estimated, namely, eighteen millions of dollars,—still Canada would only have had five-twelfths of this to pay. But here, in the short space of two years, we have had such a change, such a sudden change, that one statesman of Canada, a man of very great influence, and who now presides over the administration of affairs in this country, the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], who opposed that scheme because it involved too large an expenditure for Canada to incur—
Hon. Mr. Ross—He does not preside over the administration of affairs.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—We call president the man who presides, and he presides because he is president—who opposed that scheme because it was alleged Canada was paying far more than her just proportion but is now in favor of it. Had it not been so strongly opposed by a man in such a position, and had the Government not been so weak, I believe the scheme would have been carried out. He who opposed it was one who had been twenty years in public life; his opinion was justly considered valuable, and many were disposed to agree with it. Had the ministry gone to the country then, taking the Intercolonial Railroad on their backs, I venture to say they would have been totally defeated. They would have had a large majority against them in Upper Canada, and I think a majority against them in Lower Canada also. But how is it now? Why, this Intercolonial Railway is to be built out of the funds of the Intercolonial Government that is proposed to be established, so that instead of Canada having to pay only five-twelfths of the whole cost, she will have to pay ten-twelfths. (Hear, hear.)
This will involve five to seven millions of dollars of an expense more than we had any occasion for incurring, for the other provinces were all willing to have been responsible for the rest, and there is very good reason why they should. The countries to be benefited by the Intercolonial Railway are New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but especially the former. In that province there is an extensive wilderness, with some valuable timber limits, if not much farming land, through which this road will have to pass, and every acre of land within twenty or thirty miles of the road will be largely increased in value. New Brunswick would gain that advantage, while as for Nova Scotia, Halifax, its chief port, will be made an outlet by the construction of the line, and will of course be largely benefited, so that they were only proposing what was fair and equitable; but in coming down with a scheme which involves us in twice as great an expenditure as was formerly contemplated, they seem not to have been […]
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[…] satisfied, unless we handed over to the Federal Government our public works. These, hon. gentlemen, are of immense value to Canada. By imposing tolls on our canals to an extent which they would easily bear, and which would not prevent our carrying on the same immense trade as at present, we could readily raise half a million a year. The Welland canal alone has produced a revenue of $200,000 a year. Well, all such sources of income are to be thrown into the hands of the Federal Government, while New Brunswick is to give us a railway which only pays three-eighths of one per cent, over its working expenses. This small sum, remember too, is what is paid now—two or three years after the construction of the line—but when the rolling stock gets out of repair, the rails want renewing, and other matters usual after a railroad has been sometime working have to be attended to—the expense of the line to the Federal Government will constantly increase. The road will be a drag; and I say to hon. gentlemen that we are opening an account without knowing when it will be closed. (Cheers.)
By engaging in the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, and the assumption of the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia lines, we are entering upon indefinite liabilities—the whole being nonpaying property in which we shall find a heavy bill of expense. (Hear, hear.) Then, as if not satisfied with this, we are giving a sort of Regium donum of $63,000 for ten years to the Province of New Brunswick. Again, we are to purchase for $160,000 a year the mines and minerals and Crown lands of Newfoundland. Now, I venture to say, we shall not realize $40,000 a year out of these minerals and Crown lands. We have a large mining country ourselves, which we find no very fertile source of revenue, and though it is true we have no coal in Canada, we can get that from Nova Scotia by paying an export duty and the cost of freight. In the face of these disadvantages we are entering a union which, by judicious management, might have been brought about without involving us in this immense expense. As I said before, I desire to see a union, but I want to see it effected on fair terms. (Hear, hear.)
Now, in regard to the increased trade which it is said we are likely to get after the union is effected, I think there will be much disappointment. It strikes me that it will be almost impossible to alter the present course of trade, except by imposing duties on articles imported from other countries. The Intercolonial Railway will be too long, and therefore freight by it will be too expensive to divert trade, unless it is run by the Government at the cost of the country, and people are allowed to carry their goods almost free of charge. It can hardly be expected that we shall send breadstuff’s over this railway. Even now it is not pretended that the railway can bring breadstuff’s down as far as Quebec.
Hon. Mr. Ross—They get them by water in the autumn, and store them for winter use.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—They will be able in winter time to get their supplies cheaper at St. John or Halifax by water than by the Intercolonial Railroad. If they are to buy our produce, there must be some pecuniary inducement, for they will not give us half a dollar a barrel more because the flour comes from Upper Canada; and what that inducement is to be I fail to understand, unless it be the effect of a heavy customs duty on foreign breadstuff’s. As the channel of trade now is, the Lower Provinces can buy their flour cheaper in Boston and New York than in Canada, and would it be right to compel their people to take our produce at a greater cost than they can purchase elsewhere? It has been said that they consume $4,000,000 worth of breadstuff’s in a year, and many other articles that might be produced or manufactured in great part in Canada, and is it likely the 60,000 fishermen of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will consent to have a duty of 20 per cent., or any other high duty imposed on breadstuff’s, for the sole purpose of driving them out of the American and into the Canadian markets? (Hear, hear.)
I question whether they are not apprehending a difficulty of this kind now, and on that account unwilling to accept all the inducements we have held out; unwilling to take the revenue we have offered them; unwilling to yield to the temptations put before them; because they are afraid of the imposition of duties on breadstuff’s, to which they would be liable if they were to place themselves in the power of a country represented by so large a vote in the General Government as Canada will have. (Hear, hear.) Leaving this question of trade, we come to the consideration of the constitution of this House.
Now, no one has petitioned against the continuance of the elective system—no one has complained that it does not work satisfactorily. We do not see that many of the elected members are so very much inferior to the nominated members of this House—there has been no serious ground for fearing a dead-lock—yet there is to be a change in the constitution of the Legislative Council, […]
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[…] in conformity, we are told, with the desire of the Lower Provinces. But we must look a little further than this. If you canvass the views of the honorable gentlemen who represented this province at the great Confederation meeting, you will find that most of them were inclined beforehand to concur in the views of the representatives of the eastern provinces, for they have always entertained views in opposition to the elective principle as applied to this House. They acted quite consistently, but it does not follow that they are right in making this change. We know that in former times, when our Legislative Council was nominated by the Crown, difficulties did arise. In old times, bills passed by the Assembly were thrown out almost by the hundred.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—That was before responsible government was adopted.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—I was about to add that it was before the introduction of responsible government, and that responsible government is a cure for many evils, but not to such an extent as it should be. But under the system of appointment there is another evil—the government of the day is particular in appointing those who are political friends of their own, and have aided them either at elections or in ways which may not be very creditable. (Laughter.)
My honorable friend (Hon. Mr. Crawford) may laugh, but if he reflects he will remember that he has himself known men in high positions whose career was not creditable in all particulars. However patriotic and anxious to discharge their duties rightly they might be, their views were sometimes warped by circumstances. Looking across the ocean, my honorable friend will remember that during the Administration of William Pitt, who wielded almost the sole control of Parliament in England for seventeen years, he appointed, during this period, 140 members to the House of Lords, subservient to his own wishes and intent on carrying out his views. I will just read to this House a short extract relating to him, written by a man capable of judging. In May’s Constitutional History we read:—
When Mr. Pitt had been eight years in power he had created between sixty and seventy Peers, the greater part of whom owed their elevation to the parliamentary support they had themselves given to the Ministry, or to their influence in returning members to the House of Commons.
Now, when motives of this kind can be attributed to Mr. Pitt, we need not say that similar motives may prevail here.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—Does the honorable gentleman suppose that the members of this House will owe their nomination to the political services they can render in this House?
Hon. Mr. Reesor—Not solely, but rather to their political services at elections and otherwise, before their nomination. The honorable gentleman will remember a certain little domestic arrangement he made on the other side of the House, while in opposition, in which he had many warm friends. Does he expect to forget those?
Hon. Mr. Campbell—I hope not. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Reesor—Well, there it is. The honorable gentleman acknowledges his determination to reward his political supporters. Is this the way to obtain an independent branch of the Legislature, one that will operate as a wholesome check on hasty legislation? Those who receive favors from a political party are not likely to turn their backs upon that party. I think we are not likely, under any circumstances, to have a more independent House under the proposed system than we now have, or one which will better advance the interests of the country. If you wish to raise the elective franchise, for elections to the Upper House—if you would confine their election to voters on real estate of $400 assessed value, and tenants holding a lease-hold of $100 annual value, and thus place these elections out of the reach of a mere money influence that may sometimes operate upon the masses—if you think this body is not sufficiently conservative—let them be elected by a more conservative portion of the community—that portion which has the greatest stake in the community—but do not strike out the elective principle altogether.
The late Duke of Newcastle, than whom few British statesmen have had more to do in establishing new and liberal constitutions in the various colonies in the Empire, and whose opinions are very valuable on this point, wrote as follows to the Governor of Prince Edward Island, on the 4th of February, 1862:—
Nor do I think it any way objectionable, but the contrary, that the Council (as in Canada, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania) be incapable of being dissolved by the Governor. An Upper Chamber is valuable as an element of stability, and the principal value of an elective Upper Chamber I conceive to be this,—that while in virtue of its elective character, it may claim equally with the Assembly to speak the voice of the community, it may yet be so composed as to reflect their settled wishes and principles rather […]
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[…] than their transitory impulses. But this advantage would be wholly lost if the whole body were chosen or could be removed under the influence of such an impulse. The first of these dangers is obviated (or intended to be so) by providing that half only of the Council shall be elected at one time. The second, by giving to each Councillor a fixed tenure of office, independent of any popular or governmental influence.
Thus, it will be seen, he would place the Council out of the reach of Government, while they should be under the influence of the settled convictions of the people and not their mere transitory impulse. He would have them elected by a conservative body of electors. The next clause of the instructions runs thus:—
In Prince Edward Island, I would enforce a tolerably high property qualification in the case of the electors, but of the candidate I would only require that he should be a British subject, resident in the colony, and thirty years of age.
This, I think, would be a wise provision here, because it would give the electors an opportunity, which they do not now possess, of selecting their candidates from any part of the country, so that they could choose the ablest and most trustworthy men in it, and being elected by a class who had a deep interest in the country, you might rely on their not being too vacillating, but on their proving a proper, healthy and valuable check on the lower branch of the Legislature. (Hear, hear.)
Some honorable gentlemen have urged that the people should not elect their representatives to the Upper House, because it involves a very great expense on the part of the elected, and because they cannot judge who is worthy of their confidence so well as the Government of the day. Now, I argue that if the people are unfit to choose members of this House, they are unfit to choose members of the other House too. If three counties united are not able to make a good selection, how can one-third part of that constituency make a good one? And with regard to the corrupt influences that may be brought to bear, will it be for a moment said that a large constituency of three counties can be as easily corrupted as a constituency composed of only one county? I think not. I think a more independent vote is brought to bear on the election of a member of the Upper House than of the Lower.
Yet the members of the Lower House want to assume the power of dictating who shall compose the Legislative Council. A few years ago, at the general elections, when two men were running, though they were both conservative, we always found one taking the ground that no money should be spent by the Government of the day without the consent of Parliament, and all the liberal party, without exception, took that view; yet now we find that as some of these men have got into the Government they have unlimited confidence in the wisdom of the Executive; they say our very Constitution can be amended within a period of six months without the people having anything to say about it; they now think governments can do no wrong. Of course, this is in accordance with human nature—what they themselves do must be right; they themselves can do no wrong. (Hear, hear.)
To sum up, honorable gentlemen, I complain that this arrangement for bringing about the Confederation of the British North American Provinces is being made on terms of great disadvantage to Canada, that a fair agreement has not been settled upon as between the several colonies. I complain that in making such an arrangement with the other provinces, the constitution of this House should have been interfered with; and I complain, finally, of the manner in which the whole measure is being forced through the Legislature, without first being submitted to the people for their sanction; and I cannot but feel that these proposed changes so rashly adopted, carry with them the seeds of their early dissolution—a result that all should regret who desire the permanent consolidation and well-being of these colonies. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. McCrea—Honorable gentlemen, so much has already been said on the subject of the Confederation of the British American Provinces during the course of this debate, which has now occupied the House for several days, both here and in the Assembly, by the ablest men in the province, that I do not hope to add anything of great weight or importance to what has been urged on the question now submitted to our consideration; still, I feel that I should neither do justice to my constituents, who have sent me here, nor to myself, if I do not upon this occasion state, with what force I may, the reasons which induced me to give my hearty approval to this measure for the Confederation of all these provinces under one government, upon the basis of these resolutions which Ministers have laid upon the table of this House.
Very much has been said, by almost every speaker who has preceded me, upon the importance of the subject now before us, and the consequent responsibility which attaches itself to every […]
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individual member of this Honorable House for the course which he may adopt. I quite concur with honorable gentlemen that the present juncture in our affairs is big with the future destiny of our country, and that our fate for weal or woe depends upon the course we shall now pursue, and I, for one, feel not the slightest desire to shift one single atom of the burthen of that responsibility from my shoulders. I am fully prepared to assume it at once upon the merits of the scheme as it is evolved in these resolutions, and I do not wish to shield myself behind either an adjournment, such as has been proposed by my honorable friend the member for the division of King [Hon. Mr. Reesor], and which, I am glad to say, has just been rejected by an unmistakable vote of this House, or the larger motion, of which my honorable friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie] has given notice, for an appeal to the people, and to which I shall presently again refer.
An objection has been taken in limine by the honorable member from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie] to the constitution of the Conference which sat at Quebec, that they were, in the first place, self-appointed; and, in the second place, that the great principle of representation based upon population was not carried out, because although the Lower Provinces possessed each, and even collectively, a much smaller population than Canada, yet they had a much larger number of members in the Congress than we had. As to the first objection, of their being self-appointed or self-constituted, some one had to take the initiative in the matter, and no one had better authority than the different governments to say who should represent their respective provinces in the Conference.
Will honorable gentlemen contend that the delegates were self-appointed when they were appointed by the Ministry of the day, who are responsible to the Legislative Assembly, which, in its turn, is responsible to the people at large? Then, as to the second objection, that the numbers were unequal, the honorable gentleman ought to know that the principle of representation by population does not apply to the Conference in the same way that it does to the representation in this and the other House of Parliament.
Here the vote of every individual member counts upon a division on any question, and so numbers become of the utmost importance. But in the Conference the votes were counted by provinces, and not by single votes, so that it was impossible that any one province could be swamped by the others by reason of their having a larger representation. The only effect of an undue representation from any province would be to increase the difficulty the delegates from that one would have in agreeing among themselves to any single proposition, or to the propositions as a whole, and it could not, in any way, work any injustice to the other provinces. I have no doubt the Conference found their greatest difficulty in bringing the members of each section to agree among themselves. (Hear, hear, from the Hon. Mr. Campbell.)
If the delegates from any province felt that they could not agree to any of the questions submitted to them, they had but to say so, and the scheme of Confederation, so far as they were concerned, would have been at an end. The argument of unfair representation is, therefore, quite fallacious. There could really be no danger from the number of representatives not being in proportion, so long as each province had the power of protecting itself from any injustice which might be attempted to be perpetrated against it by the others. (Hear, hear.)
It has also been objected that the present Canadian Administration was formed upon the avowed policy of forming a Federal union between Upper and Lower Canada only, and that the Government has exceeded their constitutional powers by substituting an union of all the provinces instead of what they had promised. Do we not all remember that the avowed policy of the Government was a Federal union of these provinces, I mean Upper and Lower Canada first, leaving it open to the Maritime Provinces and the colonies of the great west to fall into the union whenever they might find it their interest to do so?
Ministers, no doubt, had not the slightest idea that the larger scheme could be accomplished as soon if not sooner than the smaller one. I told my constituents, on coming before them for re-election, that there was an urgent necessity for a different union between Upper and Lower Canada from that which now exists, and that there was not time to include the Lower Provinces in the first scheme. But the movement has outrun my expectation, and I believe that of every member of the House. And is the House to reject the larger scheme when it is the easiest of accomplishment, simply because it had a secondary place in the ministerial programme?
I think the Charlottetown Conference was a good opportunity, and that the Government has acted wisely in putting themselves in communication with it, and in taking up the whole union first. But the honorable member from the Wellington Division [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] complains […]
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[…] that sufficient time has not been given to the consideration of the resolutions by the Conference, and cites the case of the American Constitution, when its framers took, I (Hon. Mr. McCrea) know not how many months longer than our own Conference. But the honorable member should recollect that we had all their experience. We could commence where they left off.. Their work was ready to our hands. We had also the experience of the working of their Constitution, and knew what to avoid. Besides, the honorable member should recollect that we live in an age of railroads and lightning telegraphs, of which the revolutionary fathers knew nothing; and there is no doubt that speed in travelling and communication has a great deal to do in quickening the perceptions of mankind. Instead of its being made a ground of accusation against the Government that they have accomplished so much in so short a time, it ought rather to redound to their credit. And yet the honorable member for the Niagara Division [Hon. Mr. Currie] complains that the measure was not infallible.
Hon. Mr. Currie—I did not make that complaint.
Hon. Mr. McCrea—Well, the hon. gentleman said that it ought to have been “as infallible as fallible men could make it,” and that “it should do complete justice to all and injustice to none.” I took down the exact words of the honorable gentleman at the time, and if the last words do not imply infallibility, they certainly come very near it. I venture to assert that if the honorable gentleman were employed to draw up a simple document of a few pages, without the interference of any one to control him, and should refer it to the revision of any competent person, it would be found subject to some criticism. How much less then must we expect a State document like this, the work of so many hands—where so many conflicting elements were to be reconciled—where so much had to be insisted upon on one side and resisted on the other—should do complete justice to all and injustice to none, according to the notions of my honorable friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie]?
The wonder is, not that some fault can be found, but that the opponents of the measure can find so little. But it is a little singular that all the gentlemen who have yet spoken against the resolutions of the Conference have declared themselves in favor of Confederation, and yet, by their motions and their speeches, they are doing everything in their power to delay and embarrass the measure—certainly a very left-handed way of showing their support. Honorable members argue against the details from both a Canadian and the Maritime point of view, and still tell us they are favorable to Confederation. Some honorable members declare that the question is not opposed in Upper Canada because it is not understood. It is certainly paying a very poor compliment to the intelligence of their constituents.
The question has been propounded by eminent statesmen both in the old country and on this side of the Atlantic both time and again since the commencement of the present century, and has been in the minds of the people ever since. The reason why it has not been consummated is that no opportunity has ever presented itself like the present. It had but to be mentioned to take complete possession of the minds of the people. Out of thirteen elections for both branches of the Legislature which have taken place in Upper Canada since the scheme of union has been proposed, every single one, with but one exception, has resulted in its favor; and out of six elections for members of this House, whose original term of office had expired, four, my own among the number, I am glad to say, were by acclamation—I believe chiefly on account of their declared sentiments in favor of the scheme.
But it is a little inconsistent, I cannot help saying, that at the same time some honorable gentlemen complain of the ignorance of Upper Canada on the details of the measure—by their votes the other day they refused to allow five hundred extra copies of the resolutions to be printed for the use of members, that they might distribute them among their constituents, proclaiming their ignorance, and yet withholding the means of information. But honorable gentlemen attempt to frighten us with the expenses of the Intercolonial Railway; and my honorable friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie], arguing from the eastern provincial point of view, declared they would remember the Grand Trunk frauds, and avoid a union with those who had perpetrated them. The Grand Trunk used to be made an excellent stalking horse for gentlemen to ride into Parliament upon, and so pleased have honorable members become with the seat, that even after having arrived hero, they find it very difficult to dismount. My honorable friend from the division of King [Hon. Mr. Reesor], has just now told us that we Upper Canadians, by the scheme proposed by Ministers, will be compelled to pay ten twelfths the cost of the railway. Well, I thought I had read the resolutions with a great deal of care, and I did not remember anything which said a single word about the […]
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[…] proportionate expense, or about the expense at all. But, thinking I might be mistaken, I have taken the trouble to turn them up, and find there is not one word in them about the railway except the following. It will be found in the sixty-eighth resolution, and reads thus:—”The General Government shall secure without delay the completion of the Intercolonial Railway, from Rivière du Loup through New Brunswick to Truro, in Nova Scotia.” Is there anything here about Upper Canada having to pay ten-twelfths of the expense?
Hon. Mr. Reesor said he had not declared that by the resolutions Upper Canada should pay ten-twelfths, but that upon calculation, taking into account numbers and revenue, that would be the effect.
Hon. Mr. McCrea—Well, I take the honorable gentleman’s explanation. Does he wish to enter into a compact with the Maritime Provinces by which we shall not pay our fair proportion of our expenses according to our numbers and our means? Is he so unjust as to ask so unfair an advantage? The fact is, that the talk about the expenses and stringing together long rows of figures, is only calculated to bewilder and frighten the friends of the scheme. Three millions of dollars a year, exclaims the member for Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie], without making it very plain how, will be added to our expense for all time to come.
Hon. Mr. Currie—More than that.
Hon. Mr. McCrea—More than that. Well, what of that? The amount of debt is nothing to him who has the means and is willing to pay. It is only unpleasant to the bankrupt who cannot pay, and to the miser who hates to part with his gold. Some one has said that it was a very great drawback to the morals and prosperity of London, that there should be fifty thousand thieves within its walls. But it was well replied, that it was rather a source of congratulation that the metropolis should be able to support so many.
So instead of regretting that we shall have so much to pay, we ought rather to rejoice that we shall be able to pay it. Instead of complaining that in the construction of the railway, we shall have to pay ten-twelfths, according to the estimate of my honorable friend from the division of King [Hon. Mr. Reesor], it ought to be rather a source of pride and satisfaction to us that we have a large population and greater resources than our eastern neighbors. I am as much opposed to needless and extravagant expenditures as any member of this honorable House, but if the Intercolonial Railway has become a necessity, we must not be afraid to undertake it. I am free to admit there was much needless waste and expenditure in the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway, but I question whether there is a single honorable member of this House who would to-day, if he could, place us back where we were before the first sod was turned in that great undertaking.
If war be imminent between us and the United States, and actually ensues, the railway will become an absolute military necessity. And who can tell but that, at any moment, the turning of a hand, looking at what has already happened, we may not be launched into the very midst of a war. It is, I believe, very well known, that as soon as it was learned in Washington that the St. Alban’s raiders had escaped through the bungling and incompetency, to say the least of it, of the Montreal officials, the first order of Mr. Seward was one of non-intercourse, but it was afterwards modified to the passport system. What, honorable gentlemen, would have been our situation had that order been sent out, and what guarantee have we that it may not be sent out at any moment?
But my honorable friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie] says that the union of these provinces would not tend to strengthen our means of defence if, unfortunately, we should be invaded by the United States forces, because our frontier would be extended more than in proportion to the increase of our numbers. Does not every one know that it is the settled conviction of the military authorities of the States that their mistake in the last war was invading these provinces in different places at the same time, and that, in the event of a second war, their policy will be to concentrate all their strength on some one given point—Montreal for instance?
And will my honorable friend contend that the union and the railway will not enable us to concentrate a greater force, and more rapidly, on whatever point danger may be threatened, and also that they will not enable us to obtain aid from the British troops more quickly at any season of the year? Then, as to the commercial necessity of the railway, it does seem to me plain that when our own Grand Trunk has a connection with Halifax; when the Cunard and other steamers will discharge their valuable freight and their passengers destined for the far west at Halifax; when Toronto will be brought, in point of time, as near to London and Liverpool as New York; it must not only increase the business of the Grand Trunk, but also the business of the railways in Nova […]
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[…] Scotia and New Brunswick, which are to be made the property of the General Government. When the connection becomes complete there must be a mutual advantage to all.
I believe the child is now born in Canada who will live not only to see an Intercolonial but an Interoceanic Railway, if this scheme of union shall be honestly and fairly carried out. The necessity of the railway has time and again been admitted by the several governments of these provinces, but, owing to a want of some power to control all, and a natural jealousy of each other, together with our own political differences, the scheme for its construction has always fallen through. When visiting the Maritime Provinces last summer, I told our friends there that the railway could only be had by a union—the union first, and the railway was sure to follow. I come now to consider the amendment of my honorable friend from the Wellington Division [Hon. Mr. Sanborn], and to which, according to the strict rules of debate, this discussion should have been confined; but I have taken the same course as honorable gentlemen who have preceded me have done, namely, to consider the whole scheme.
The amendment brings up the question of members being appointed for life by the Crown, or elected for a term of years by the people. I am among those of the reform party who think that making the members of this House elective was a step in the wrong direction; and though I am free to admit that but for the elective principle having been applied to this House, I should never have had the honor of a seat within its walls, yet I am prepared to re-affirm that opinion on the floor of this House by my voting, as I shall do, against this amendment of my honorable friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn], and to sanction a return to the nomination of members for life by the Crown, under the advice of Ministers responsible to the people through the Legislative Assembly. I deny that the extension of the elective principle to this House was ever sought for, or petitioned for by the people at the time of its consummation.
It is quite true, honorable gentlemen, that before the union of Upper and Lower Canada, and during the palmy days of the Family Compact and the irresponsibility of the Government, when the Assembly had no control over the Executive, except by stopping the supplies, the Legislative Council was chosen for the mere purpose of opposing the public will, and they did it most effectually. Every measure calculated to elevate the people and promote their best interests was sure to be tomahawked, as the phrase went, by that very obstructive body. Short-sighted politicians of those days, who did not very well understand the working of the British Constitution, fancied the only remedy was by making this House elective. But the memorable resolutions of the 3rd September, 1841, at Kingston, established the true British principle of responsible government, and I maintain that since that time the people never demanded that this House should be made elective. I apprehend that my conservative friends and I, who agree with each other on this point—the nomination of members to this House—come to the same conclusion by a very different process of reasoning.
They hold that the elective principle applied to this branch of Parliament gives too much power to the people, while I, on the other hand, argue that they have not by it as quick and as sharp a remedy against a stubborn Council as they had under the system of nomination. The great beauty of the old system was the promptness with which at the critical moment it could be brought to bear, and the history of its operations, both in this country and in England, clearly shows its superiority.
My honorable friend from the division of King [Hon. Mr. Reesor] has cited the case of the greatest commoner of England, the celebrated William Pitt, having appointed so many members to the House of Lords within the first few months of his ministerial career. Did not Pitt at that time command the confidence of the people of England? Does not my honorable friend know, if he has read the history of those times, that this great statesman steadily refused to accept office until he saw that public opinion was ripe for his schemes? And was not Pitt, at the commencement of his parliamentary career, the great advocate of parliamentary reform? It is true that subsequent causes, over which he had no control, led him to pursue a very different course.
What if at the times of the achievements by the people of those two great victories of civil and religious liberty in England, I mean Catholic emancipation and the passage of the Reform Bill, the Crown, through its ministers responsible to the House of Commons and the English nation, had not had power to coerce the Lords into consent, but had been obliged to wait for two years for the doubtful issue of a certain number of elections. Such have been my opinions with regard to the comparative merits of the nominative and elective principles as applied to this House, and I have not hesitated to express them among my constituents, both before and since […]
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[…] they honored me with this seat.
I admit that the proposed system is not the same as the old one, because it limits the numbers, and to this limitation I have the most serious objections; but I am not going to hazard the success of the union scheme, as I sincerely believe I would, by voting for the amendment, but I shall take it as it is, with the hope and belief that in the new Parliament, when the union is consummated, the constitution of this House may be set right. Honorable gentlemen seem to talk as if this scheme and the Imperial Act to be founded upon it, are finalities. I do not look upon any human act as finality, and I have no doubt a way will be found by which this amendment may be made. Was not the Constitutional Act of 1840 amended? And will honorable gentlemen tell us that the act to be founded upon these resolutions cannot be amended in the same way?
Hon. Mr. Letellier—Will the honorable gentleman tell us how the Act of 1840 was amended?
Hon. Mr. McCrea—Does the honorable member from Grandville [Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just] not remember the increase of members in the representation of the other House, in 1853, and the amendment of the constitution of this House in 1856, the very question I am now debating? Surely these measures were amendments of that act, and who knows but under the new Constitutional Act—the favorite measure of my honorable friend—the election of members of this House, may not again be resorted to, if the nominative principle shall not be found to work well? But let us examine for a moment what the amendment of my honorable friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] is intended to effect. It will be seen by referring to the amendment itself, that the honorable gentleman proposes that the members of this House from Canada and from the Maritime Provinces shall have a different origin or, as it were, a different parentage, elected by the people with us, and appointed by the Crown from the eastern provinces. I take it that it is very desirable that in whatever way the members of this House may be chosen, there should be uniformity in the system.
By the honorable gentleman’s plan we shall have one-third of the members from below representing the Crown, and two-thirds from above, representing the people; a curious sort of incongruity which I think should by all means be avoided. I may be answered that our present House is constituted in that very way; but honorable gentlemen must remember that the life members are not the sole representatives of any particular section of the province, but are chosen indiscriminately from all parts of the province. This is not likely to lead to a sectional collision like the scheme of my honorable friend, and be sides that, the appointment of life members in this House is not to be continued after the seats of the present members shall have become vacant from any cause whatever. I think the scheme of my honorable friend the most objectionable of all.
The honorable member from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie] has given us notice that he intends to move a resolution to the House that this question shall be delayed until an appeal shall be had to the people—
Hon. Mr. Currie—The honorable gentleman is quite mistaken. I have given notice of no such motion.
Hon. Mr. McCrea—What notice have you given?
Hon. Mr. Currie—If you read it you will see.
Hon. Mr. McCrea—Will you give it to me that I may see what it really is? [Upon being handed the notice by the Hon. Mr. Currie, the Hon. Mr. McCrea proceeded.] Ah! Here it is! It reads as follows:—
That upon a measure of such great importance as the proposed Confederation of this and certain other British colonies, this House is unwilling to assume the responsibility of assenting to a measure involving so many important considerations without a further manifestation of the public will than has yet been declared.
How is the honorable gentleman to get this manifestation of the public will unless it be through a dissolution of the other House and a new election? Surely the honorable gentleman does not mean to shelter himself from the legitimate consequences of his resolution by its technical phraseology. It certainly comes with a very bad grace and taste from any member of this House to propose a dissolution of Parliament and send the members of the Assembly packing to their constituents to undergo the wear, tear, expenses and turmoil of an election, while we can sit here firmly in our seats, and with folded hands look quietly on. As to the true state of public opinion upon this important subject in this province, it will be time enough to consider it, when my honorable friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie] comes to press his resolution.
If our own political situation required a remedy, I think this union is an excellent opportunity, but I do not mean to urge that our own political exigency should be the only reason for the union. We should settle our own political difficulties. But that and everything else […]
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[…] seems to conspire to this union. The imminence of war with the United States, the certainty of the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty, the danger of non-intercourse, the opportunity of the Charlottetown Convention, and the consequent necessity of the Intercolonial Railway—all point to this Confederation.
But the expense is the bugbear of the opponents of this scheme. If the great social and political interests of the country are to be served, if we are to have laid broad and deep in the hearts of the people the foundations of a great nationality, as my honorable friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] has expressed it, the financial part of the scheme is but a secondary consideration. To-day, the balance of advantage may be against us; to-morrow, it may be in our favor. Who can say, when the railway shall be established, and when by the union we shall have incited new enterprises and energies, and developed the whole resources of the eastern provinces, with whom the financial balance may rest? I cannot close my remarks better than by saying, that had a union of all these provinces existed in fact as it has existed in the minds of statesmen since the commencement of the present century, the man who, in the face of our present critical position, with civil war raging in our vicinity, and even national war threatening ourselves, should now propose to dissolve that union and scatter us again into disjointed fragments, would be looked upon as an enemy to his Queen and a traitor to his country. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Olivier—Honorable gentlemen, a French journal in Montreal, in reporting the proceedings of a meeting recently held at Berthier, to consider the proposed project of the Confederation of Canada and the Lower Provinces, and to which meeting, in the capacity of representative of the division in which the county is situated, I was invited, stated that I had expressed myself against that project, and I therefore take this, the first opportunity, of declaring that the journal in question was in error, and that I did not so express myself. I did, however, say at that meeting, that there were provisions in the project upon which I could not look with a favorable eye. but that I could not then pronounce an opinion, but would wait until I came to Parliament, when I expected the details would be placed before the members fully and in good faith.
I must, however, say, honorable gentlemen, that in this I have been much disappointed, for until now, the information so much desired and asked for has not been supplied, and the House is left in the dark in respect of several important matters upon which it is asked to decide. For instance, it was stated in the resolutions, that means would be taken to effectually protect the minorities and preserve to them the rights they now possess, but we were not informed as to what those rights were, or as to the means to be used for preserving them untouched and unimpaired. If we had known what these means would be, we would have come prepared to assent to, or to dissent from them, in an intelligent manner, and to express our opinions as we ought to do, but this information was not vouchsafed. I understand that a bill, to assure to the Protestants of Lower Canada the uninterrupted possession and enjoyment of their rights, is to be brought down and passed before the scheme of Federation itself is fully adopted and sanctioned; but I have not heard that any similar measure is to be passed in favor of the Roman Catholics of Upper Canada. I have no objection, whatever, to grant to the Protestants of Lower Canada, for all future time, the rights they now enjoy, or any other rights and guarantees which may be deemed reasonable and equitable, but I cannot vote to adopt the resolutions until I am informed whether the Roman Catholics of the west are to be dealt with in the same manner.
By refusing us information on this important subject, the Government has placed us in a false position, from which, I think, it is their duty to extricate us. I shall not now address myself to the inquiry of whether the Confederation scheme be really desirable or not, but cannot help saying that the long-standing difference between the two sections of the province might have been arranged, if during the last difficulty between the respective parties the leading men on either side had been willing to sink their personal differences and make mutual concessions. But as it is of no use now to refer to that subject, I will not argue the matter further. I maintain again, however, that the House has a right to expect the Government will give us all the information in respect of the details of the Confederation scheme as may be necessary to understand thoroughly all its provisions.
My opinion is, that as much power as possible should have been entrusted to the local governments, and as little as is consistent with the functions it will have to discharge to the Central Government, and my reason for entertaining this opinion is, that the Supreme Government, with its power of purse and its control of the armies, will always […]
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[…] be more disposed to stretch its prerogatives and to trench upon the domain of the local governments than to narrow down and retain its authority. The scheme then, in my opinion, is defective in that it inverts this order and gives to the General Government too much power and to the local governments too little. As it is now, if the scheme goes into operation, the local governments will be in danger of being crushed (écrasés) by the General Government. The tendency of the whole scheme seems to be one of political retrogression instead of advancement.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—Hear! hear!
Hon. Mr. Olivier—I am glad the Hon. Premier seems so strongly to approve of what I say.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—Ah! but it is exactly the contrary.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—Then I am sorry not to obtain his approval—(laughter)—but nevertheless I hold that the policy disclosed in the scheme is a backward policy. I want to progress, I want to see the country advance, I want to see the liberties of the country unfolding and expanding; but instead of this our rulers are narrowing them down and restricting their free exercise. (Hear.) They are now proposing to take away the elective principle in its application to this Chamber, and that too, without even having received a petition or sign of any kind from the people that such is their wish. If this is not a policy of retrogression I can hardly imagine what would be. I was not sent here to assist in doing any such thing, and am not aware that there has been any evidence of a desire in the country for a return to the old mode of appointment by the Crown. I am not aware of one complaint, or of any dissatisfaction whatever with the present constitution of the Legislative Council, and I therefore regard it as not a little strange that a few gentlemen, without mission or warrant, should have devised such a change, and should be trying to press it upon the Legislature and the country. I cannot say what is the general feeling in the public mind in favor of a Confederation of Canada and the Maritime Provinces, and so far, perhaps, from being opposed to it personally, I would be glad if it could be accomplished upon principles I can approve.
I do not wish, however, to see the local governments crushed under a great central power, and I am sure the people cannot wish, and do not wish, to give up the principle of election in respect of this House. They had fought too long for the privilege to do that, and one thing was quite clear, we were not sent to Parliament to destroy our present Constitution. There is a great difference between making machinery work and breaking it to pieces, and I maintain that we were elected to legislate within the Constitution, not to legislate away the Constitution.
When I was elected I expected to go back to my constituents to give them an account of the manner in which I had fulfilled the duty entrusted to me, not to take advantage of my position to provide for myself a seat for life. No, my constituents never gave me this right, nor was any elected member entrusted with it, and whoever assume to vote away the liberties of the people in this manner, betray their mandate. If it was desired that the people should surrender this right they should have been informed of such desire in good time, so that they might have considered the question; but without warning them, or consulting them, this most highly-prized principle was bartered away to the Lower Provinces for a Confederation which could not last.
The Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] had told the House that the repartition of Lower Canada according to the present electoral divisions had been retained for the purpose of protecting the British population of Lower Canada. I think that if, with the retaining these electoral divisions the elective principle was also retained, the French population of Lower Canada would also find in it their protection. For then each division would be free to choose for its representative in the Federal Legislative Council a man attached to the institutions of Lower Canada, while, in giving the nomination of the legislative councillors to the Federal power, the latter would be at liberty to choose whomsoever it thought proper, and, unfortunately—a circumstance which I do not anticipate, but which may occur—the General Government, when formed, might be surrounded by coteries inimical to Lower Canada interests, and be led by them to choose members for the Legislative Council hostile to the views of Lower Canada. I consider, therefore, an elective Legislative Council in the Confederation as essential to the interests of Lower Canada.
Nothing is gained politically by the scheme any more than financially. The honorable member for Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie] has abundantly proved that all the results to Canada would be a sacrifice of principles and of money. To assure the advantages to themselves of the scheme of Confederation, the Lower Provinces had stipulated first for the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, […]
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[…] and we would in consequence have to expend twenty millions for that object, besides paying $63,000 a year to New Brunswick for ten years, and $150,000 a year to Newfoundland forever. To be sure, in the latter case we would have the produce of the mines of that island, but I would ask any one who knows the value of those mines, how much they would be worth to us?
Hon. Mr. Campbell said, with respect to the Newfoundland mines, that he had had communicated to him a note from Sir William Logan, the provincial geologist, which would probably throw some light upon the subject. The note was written unofficially and without the remotest reference to the question under debate, and therefore might be taken as good evidence in the case. It was as follows:—
There is no part of the whole surface, according to my present impression, which deserves more attention than Newfoundland. There is, in that island, a great development of the formations which promise so considerable a mineral result in the Eastern Townships The coast of the island abounds with good harbors, and the available minerals would, in very many cases, extend to the coast. Newfoundland is the part of the area nearest to Europe. The surface of the island, not being in general very favorable for agriculture, mining might become the means of giving employment to labor and attracting population, while the island requires an increase of inhabitants to make the more available the important position it occupies for the defence of the St. Lawrence and the country beyond on its banks.
[Editor’s Note: The Legislative Council stopped for dinner recess.]
After the dinner recess,—
Hon. Mr. Olivier continued his remarks. He said: When the Council adjourned at six o’clock, I was speaking of the Island of Newfoundland, to which we grant a subsidy of $150,000 per annum, and not for one year only, but for ever. I was saying, moreover, that I was apprehensive that some of us were ignorant of the facts which might have led the delegates at Quebec to grant that sum to the Island of Newfoundland. But it seems, if I perfectly understood what was said, that that sum was granted as an indemnity for giving up the produce of the public lands, mines and forests. We are told by the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands (Hon. Mr. Campbell) that he had been informed by the provincial geologist, Sir W. Logan, that there really are mines in the Island of Newfoundland. I was anxious to learn from the Hon. Commissioner whether an official exploration of the country had ever been made, whether it had ever been ascertained what kind of mines existed in Newfoundland. The information which he gave was not derived from official reports, and I am extremely anxious to know whether there is any documentary evidence of the existence of the pretended riches of Newfoundland, in woods, mines and public lands.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—The honorable member may go on; in the course of the debate he will receive satisfactory information.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—Very well; but I see by the statistics, on the contrary, that there is no timber on the island beyond what is necessary for the building of the huts or cabins of the fishermen who inhabit it, and that there is no land fit for cultivation belonging to the Crown; and, as to mines, I do not believe any official exploration has been made to ascertain their existence in the island.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—It is a well-ascertained fact that there are mines in the Island of Newfoundland of great value. As to the grant of $150,000 yearly subsidy, I must observe to the honorable member that it was intended to make up for the revenue given up by Newfoundland to the Confederation, amounting at present to $400,000.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—Another reason why I cannot approve of the plan of Confederation, as it is now presented to us, is that I consider it as a retrograde step in the political progress of the country. The spirit of modern society is to give to the people as much political liberty as possible; and it is my belief that by this plan of Confederation we shall sacrifice whatever liberty is already possessed by the people of this country. When I expressed this idea, a short time since, the Honorable Premier seemed to give an ironical assent to it, as if he considered my notions exaggerated. I am bound to tell him that I neither love nor approve of mob-rule any more than he does, but I have always held as a political principle, that as much political liberty as possible should be conceded to the masses, combined always with a Government strong enough to maintain order and administer the laws; and herein I consider that I conform to the principles of modern society, without giving in to the dictates of demagogy. I am favorable to democracy, but not to demagogy, and in this sense I spoke. I say, then, that in taking from the people for all time, the right which they acquired after long struggles of electing members to this House, we are retrograding, making a step backward, and I am sure the people will not look upon this project with a favorable eye.
We are […]
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[…] told that Confederation is become necessary for the defence of the country. For one moment I will admit that it might increase our means of defence, but that is assuredly no reason for urging the adoption of the measure, as now attempted to be done. With Confederation, neither the number of men in the several provinces, nor the pecuniary resources now at their disposal, will be increased. I cannot see what vast increase of strength this Confederation is to give forthwith, for England is fully entitled at this moment to dispose, without let or hindrance, of all the resources, both in men and money, possessed by the colony, just as well as she will be after Confederation is effected. That is therefore no reason to make us urge on the adoption of the measure, especially as we risk nothing by giving the people time to study, examine and understand the new Constitution of which we are desirous to make them a present.
They tell us that the Intercolonial Railway is to be a military road. But if it be so, how happens it that nobody has thought of another part of the country in which a military road is much more called for. I can hardly believe that anybody can be serious in this, while they overlook the real military road which would be wanted in the event of hostilities,—I mean a railway between Quebec and Montreal, on the north shore of the River St. Lawrence. In order to render the Intercolonial Railway of any avail as a military road, the North Shore Railway must also be built, for the present road on the south shore may be easily cut and occupied by the enemy. Leaving Quebec it takes the direction of the United States, and leaving Montreal it takes the same direction to meet the other branch at Richmond. In case of war the Americans would have but a short distance to advance to take possession of either one or the other of these branches. I shall now proceed to examine whether the plan of Confederation is really what it seems to be. I hear it said that Confederation, as it is proposed, will be a Federal union—but it seems to me that it will be rather a Legislative union, at least as far as regards the most important interests of Lower Canada. The 29th section of the scheme submitted to us says: “The Federal Parliament shall have the power of making laws for the peace, the well-being, and the good government of the Confederate provinces, and in particular in respect of the following matters.” The powers of the Federal Government will be in reality unlimited.
The fact of the enumeration of these thirty-seven heads does not in the least restrain the power of the Federal Government from legislating on everything. The exceptions are few. I would ask the Honorable Premier, for instance, whether the Federal Government has not the power to enact that marriage is a civil contract? He cannot deny it, and I do not believe that that clause will in any way suit Lower Canada. In a matter of divorce, I consider that the power of legislating upon it ought to be vested in the Federal Government; but as to the passing of a marriage act, we have the authority of the past to convince us that Lower Canada will never be satisfied with what is proposed in the plan of Confederation.
On a former occasion, when a member of the Parliament of Canada moved to enact that marriage should be made a civil contract, all the members for Lower Canada voted against the motion, and the whole country was opposed to it. I shall also inquire whether the Federal Government will not have the right to enact that religious corporations shall no longer exist in the country, or that they shall not be allowed to hold real property, except what is absolutely necessary for their lodging accommodation. According to the resolutions which have been submitted to us, the Federal Government would certainly have this right. It has been said that article 15 of the 43rd resolution replies to this objection, but I can see nothing in that article which restricts the right of the Federal Government to legislate on this matter. The 43rd resolution defines the powers of the local governments, and article 15 of that resolution declares that they may make laws respecting “property and civil rights, excepting those portions thereof assigned to the General Parliament.” That article reserves to the local legislatures nothing relative to religious corporations, and the Federal Government would have full power to decree that those corporations shall not hold immovable property.
The supreme power is that which has the right to legislate upon, and regulate the existence of, the corporations in question, and they can only possess civil rights so long as the Government permits them to exist. The same might be said of most of the institutions to which Lower Canada is attached. I am therefore right in saying that, so far as those things which Lower Canada most holds to are concerned, Confederation is in fact a Legislative union, because upon the Federal Government is conferred the right of legislating upon those subjects which Lower Canada holds most dear. It appears to me that it is the more important not to proceed […]
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[…] so rapidly as it is proposed to do, because it is extremely difficult to foresee what will be the bearing of the platform which it is proposed to erect. I have just cited the rights which Confederation would confer upon the Federal Government in respect of certain points; but there are other interests which may perhaps be imperilled by this measure—I will cite, for instance, the rights of the creditors of the provinces.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—They will have the guarantee of the Confederation.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—The rights of the creditors of the province will form the subject of an arrangement between Upper and Lower Canada at a later period, but the creditors will have the guarantee of the whole Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—I see nothing of that in the resolutions.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—All the details are not included in the resolutions; but as to the balance of $5,000,000 which will have to be divided between Upper and Lower Canada, and which constitutes the difference between the $62,000,000 of debt which will be assumed by the Confederation, and the $67,000,000 which Canada owes, a division will be made before Parliament is dissolved.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—I understood that the debts were to be divided and that the indemnity to the seigniors, for instance, for the abolition of the Seigniorial Tenure was to be imposed entirely on Lower Canada. If there are any verbal explanations beyond what is contained in the resolutions, I am quite willing to receive them from the Government, but that is just the reason why we should not be in a hurry to adopt these resolutions until we have those explanations, for it might be dangerous not to have all these questions settled before voting for Confederation; who can say whether we can settle them as well after as before? These promises of explanations show that, since all the facts are not submitted, we may easily mistake the meaning of the resolutions which we are called upon to adopt. In any case, I certainly see nothing in these resolutions which gives the seigniors the guarantee of the Confederation as security for their claim, and I can only judge of the resolutions by what they contain, especially in the absence of any explanation of the details.
The Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Galt) stated that the debt due to the seigniors would fall on Lower Canada alone, and this does not agree exactly with what the Prime Minister [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] has just said. As I said a short time ago, when speaking of the school question, I would not vote for a Constitution which would not confer on the Catholics of Upper Canada the same advantages as are possessed by the Protestants of Lower Canada, and I consider that this is a matter that should be settled before taking a vote on the resolutions, for when Confederation is once voted it may easily happen that we shall not be able to obtain what is promised us now. We therefore are in a position which may make us sacrifice the minority of Upper Canada by voting Confederation now, or make us vote against a principle which we might perhaps accept, if we were acquainted with all its details. For my part, I acknowledge that I would not cause the plan of Confederation which is proposed to us to miscarry, if it is possible to make it just, acceptable and useful to all parties. But for this I will not sacrifice the interests of a portion of the population. Another point upon which we require explanations, and respecting which we have none, is that relating to the constitution of the local governments.
Now, for instance, some journals which usually express the views and opinions of the present Government, have stated that in all the local governments the system of responsibility of the ministers to the people or their representatives would not exist, but that an irresponsible system would be substituted for it. I ask which of you would accept such a system, and what part of the people would approve of such an alteration in our political institutions? You are told “vote for the plan submitted to you, and the details will be explained to you at a later period.” But at a later period neither Upper nor Lower Canada will be master of the position, and able to obtain the system of government which may suit them, should that imposed upon them not meet their views.
But, yet once more, why hurry you so much? Why, for instance, should this House be called upon to sit twice a-day on this question before even its details are known? Why depart from our custom of examining matters in a calm and deliberate manner. Certainly, up to the present time, not one valid reason has been given to justify the hurry in which it is proposed to carry this measure. Mention has indeed been made of defence, but this is no valid reason, for it is perfectly well known that all the resources of Canada are now at the disposal of England in case of need; this precipitate action is then neither justified nor justifiable. I ask whether we know the plan of Confederation which is submitted to us, […]
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[…] and, unfortunately, I must answer my question in the negative.
Surprise has been expressed in certain quarters at the opposition which has arisen to this measure after all the advantages which we were promised should result from it. Thus it was said that under Confederation we should obtain coal from Nova Scotia without having any duty to pay. This reasoning might appear to carry a certain amount of force with it, but I must say that it is in fact captious, for we find at the present day that we can indeed get this coal, but by paying the export duty exactly like foreign countries. Would there, then, be no real free trade between the different parts of the same Confederation? Would the position of the provinces, in this respect, remain as it is to-day? The proof of what I state here is found in Hon. Mr. Galt’s speech to his constituents:—
In Nova Scotia a considerable revenue was derived from a royalty en coal mines, and its representatives at the Conference stated that if the General Government imposed an export duty on coal it would annihilate one of their most important resources, and, therefore, Nova Scotia has been allowed to regulate herself the export duty on coal, precisely as New Brunswick enjoys that right as regards its timber.
This duty which Nova Scotia may impose on the export of its coal, whatsoever it may be styled, is then in reality an export duty, and the result, as regards ourselves, is to leave us still in the same position if we must pay the duty in order to get the coal of that province. The argument based on the fact that we could obtain coal from Nova Scotia without paying an import duty, is thus destroyed, since the duty will still exist. I have already stated that the plan submitted for our approval is exceedingly complex, and that it is not easy to foresee the difficulties that will arise between the local governments and the Federal Government. It may, perhaps, be asserted that these difficulties cannot be very serious, inasmuch as the local governments will not possess any large powers; but if it is designed to make them real governments, and not mere municipalities, they may be opposed to the Central Government on a host of questions.
Take, for instance, the question of the fisheries. Article 17, of the 29th resolution, gives to the Federal Parliament the power of legislating on the “sea coast and inland fisheries.” Under the 8th article of the 43rd resolution, the local legislatures will also have the right of legislating on the “sea coast and inland fisheries.” Thus the local legislatures and the Federal Legislature will have the right to legislate on the same subjects. And if the laws they make are in opposition the one to the other, what will be the result? And this may well happen, for we know that in the Gulf, for instance, there are fisheries which are of the highest importance for the people of Lower Canada, as well as for the people of the adjoining colonies, of which the latter have taken possession, and sought to exclude our people from them.
Now, if the Local Government of Lower Canada made laws to protect its subjects and insure to them the right to these fisheries, would it not be in the power of the Federal Government to interfere and prevent it? And if this were to happen, would it not give rise to endless antipathies and struggles between the two governments? Lower Canada would not suffer such an interference without feeling it very strongly; and what I have just said with reference to the fisheries might also occur with reference to a large number of questions. And it is quite evident that if the Local Government, acting in the interests of a province, were arrested in its action by the Federal Government, the people would take sides with their Local Government and become disaffected towards the Central Government.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—This question of the fisheries is, no doubt, divided between the local governments and the Federal Government, but it is evident, that in order that justice may be done to each part of the Confederation in an impartial manner, the general legislation must be left to the General Government, while the application of the internal details within the limits of the fisheries of a province, must be left to the local legislatures.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—The argument I have brought forward, with reference to fisheries, is applicable to other questions, and is merely to show that the present plan is complex, that there are conflicting interests in the different colonies, and that the settlement of them, in one sense or in another, might be productive of discontent in the country, and create a spirit of dissatisfaction among the people. Some one has said that this project is viewed favorably in England, and that for that reason we ought to accept it in order to prevent the evil consequences that might arise from our opposition to the project. For my part, I do not believe that England would insist so strongly on the details as they are insisted on here, but I believe her desire is, that the plan should be just and acceptable, […]
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[…] and that it should be thoroughly understood by the people before it is adopted; she is less anxious to enforce the details of the project than to see the people of the provinces content and satisfied with it. If a large portion of the people were opposed to the project, I do not think that England would approve of forcing this project upon them without giving time to examine it or to pronounce upon it.
The opinion of the country upon this plan is, to-day, quite unknown. I am quite aware that certain members can vote in favor of the project with the certainty of their course meeting the approval of their constituents; for instance, those whose elections have taken place since the plan was submitted to the country. But in those parts of the country where no elections have taken place, it is impossible to say that the people will be satisfied or that they will endorse the action of their representatives in voting for Confederation, because we have not been enabled to make it known. Thus when my constituents invited me to a public meeting to discuss the subject, I was compelled to admit that I could not tell them what the plan of Confederation was; that I could not communicate it to them, because the resolutions I had received were private. I also told them that I did not wish to form my opinion before hearing the discussion and learning the details; but to-day we are refused the details, and the adoption of the project is pressed without affording us time to study it as it is.
An attempt will probably be made to injure us in the opinion of our electors if we vote against this project, and we shall be accused of having opposed Confederation; but I trust the people will see that we cannot vote for a thing with which we are not acquainted, and that we shall have their approval in the course we shall adopt. When the project of Confederation is submitted to the English Parliament, they will take it for granted that the people of this country approve of it; but they will never suppose that the measure has been forced upon the people without affording them the opportunity of pronouncing for or against it. But there is another thing; it is not surprising that this project should be looked upon with a favorable eye in England, for public opinion is composed specially of that of the industrial and commercial classes, and it is the interest of those classes to favor Confederation. But let us well consider whether the interests of those classes is ours also. I consider that our present political course should be to see to the interest’s of the agriculture, the trade and the industry of our country, before laboring to build up that of English traders and artisans. If by Confederation we unite provinces, the inhabitants of which find it their interest to have a very low tariff adopted, it might very well happen that the agricultural interest of Canada might not find itself so well off, and in such a case what would be the result?
The result would be that we should very soon have an enormous debt, and that, should the customs revenue not suffice to meet it and provide for the expenditure, the deficit would have to be made up by means of direct taxation, which would weigh upon the agriculture and industry of the country. If we have a tariff of twenty per cent., it protects the industry of our native land, and is a source of revenue wherewith to provide for the public expenditure; but if we make it too low, real property will suffer, for on it will be laid the burthen imposed to meet the deficit. Confederation would appear to me to be very costly, for money is scattered on all Sides in handfuls.
Thus it is proposed to construct the Intercolonial Railway, which will cost at least $20,000,000; to Upper Canada is given $16,000,000 to improve its canals; $150,000 a year is given to Newfoundland, as a compensation for mines which perhaps do not exist, and $63,000 to New Brunswick; and after all this the Local and Federal Governments have the power conferred on them of adding new taxes to those which already exist in order to meet the expenditure; and I have no doubt whatever but that they will avail themselves of that permission. All this is deserving of consideration, and these are reasons which should induce the Government to submit the question to the people, instead of wishing to have it decided at once; for, even allowing the measure to be absolutely a good one, the people will always regard it with mistrust if it is thrust upon them.
What! we are told that we are perhaps on the eve of a war with our neighbors, and we run the risk of dissatisfying the people by imposing a system upon them to which they are perhaps opposed. It is not only in the district of Montreal that the submission of the question to the people is called for—the Toronto Leader says that the people ought to be consulted, and this appears to me to be most reasonable. For my part, I am in favor of an appeal to the people, and I cannot approve of Confederation being thrust upon them without their being consulted. Let it be well understood, if it is wished that the population should make sacrifices for its […]
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[…] government in case of war, we must not begin by rendering them discontented and disaffected. Let a fair and equitable system of Confederation be proposed, and let the people have an opportunity of examining into it and approving of it, and then no man will shrink from the necessity of making the greatest sacrifices to defend the Constitution which has been freely accepted by the people. It may be said that the people would be compelled to march at the point of the bayonet; but the risk of such a course is great, for the arm is but feeble when it is not animated by the heart, and to defend a country effectually the heart of the people must be in the cause. The Prime Minister [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] stated that the object of Confederation was to strengthen the monarchical principle in this country. I do not see that it is necessary to confer upon the Crown greater privileges than it already possesses in England itself. In England the members of the House of Lords are not appointed by the Crown; succession in the peerage goes down hereditary from father to son; but here it is proposed that the members of the Legislative Council, which body corresponds to the House of Lords, should be selected by the Crown. Why should this be? Why go beyond what is done in England itself? Is it that the Crown complains that it has not sufficient power here?
As to the statement that it is proposed to establish in America, by means of Confederation, a counterpoise to the influence and power of the United States, I would ask whether that would not in itself constitute the best pretext which the Government of the United States could wish for upon which to declare war against us. At the present time, I am not of opinion that the American people are desirous of seeking a quarrel with us; just now they have quite enough to attend to. But if their Government should think it to their interest to declare war against England, the best pretext which they could bring forward to excite the American people against us would certainly be this pretended counterpoise which it is sought to establish. It is well known that the Monroe doctrine is a principle to which all the people of the United States are attached, and, should we give them an opportunity, they would avail themselves of it to put that doctrine into practice. Since Confederation does not in reality increase the strength of the colonies, why should we give umbrage to the Government of the United States, and provide them with the means of animating their people against us in case of the breaking out of hostilities?
If the means for the defence of the country were increased, I would say, let us throw aside all these considerations, but such, in my opinion, is not the case. In conclusion, I would implore the Government to grant to the people the time and the opportunity of convincing themselves that the Constitution which it has prepared is a good one, and that it has really been planned with a view to their interests; and, in that case, I predict that when the time for defence comes, the people will march like one man. But if it is intended to thrust it upon them by main force, and without consulting them, we must not, we cannot, expect them to defend their land with the like zeal. I consider that this demand is no more than just, both to ourselves and to the people whom we represent. So far as I myself am concerned, I did not come here to fight against Confederation and destroy it at any price, but I certainly will not vote for it without being acquainted with it in all its details. (Cheers.)
The debate was then adjourned till tomorrow.