Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (15 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 189-225.
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WEDNESDAY, February 15, 1865.
Hon. Mr. Bureau said—I should have refrained from addressing the House, had I not heard the astounding language made use of by the hon. member opposite to me (Sir N. F. Belleau). He has spoken to us of annexationists and republicans, and of the dangers with which they menaced the country. I am far from surprised at such language on his part, for an ardent supporter as he is of the present Government, who desire to effect Confederation with a view to strengthen the monarchical principle in this country, he is doubtless alarmed at the tendencies of some of the members of this […]
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[…] Cabinet, and at the republican sentiments to which they gave utterance. I, however, believe that the annexationists who are most to be feared are not those of whom he speaks, those who boldly and openly express their opinion on the questions which now agitate the country, but those rather who endeavor by all possible means, to sow the seeds of discord between us and our neighbors in the United States, and to plunge us into war. Surely those who boldly proclaim their opinions to the whole country, cannot be accused of disloyalty when they do it with the view of serving their country. I do not believe that there is a single member in this House who would wish to see our country annexed to the United States. I think, on the other hand, that all are striving to find the means of establishing a government and a political condition that shall bear equitably on all sections of the population without distinction of race or creed—a system which will secure the stability of our institutions and the general welfare of the country.
The hon. gentleman has also referred to the dangers of the elective system as applied to this House, because scheming politicians without a stake in the country might acquire popularity, and work their way into the House. Let that hon. gentleman read the history of his country, and he will find that the principal men who have occupied the leading political positions were children of the people, who, thanks to their education, their talents and their perseverance, have attained to the control of the business of the country. Let him call to mind the history of the past, and he will remember that there was a time when the Legislative Council had become an obstacle to all reform and to all progress. But thanks to our energy and to our perseverance, a liberal ministry has been enabled to obtain the long-sought-for reforms.
The Lafontaine-Baldwin Administration, seeing that there was no possibility of obtaining reforms on account of the obstacles raised by the Legislative Council as then constituted, had recourse to the appointment of new liberal councillors; and by the adhesion of the older ones, they succeeded in carrying their measures. The times at which these appointments were made, were as follows:—In 1848, the Sherwood-Badgley Administration appointed the Hon. D. B. Viger. In this case we had a Liberal nominated by a Tory Ministry. Afterwards, on the accession of the Lafontaine-Baldwin Ministry, Sir E.P. Taché and the Hon. Messsrs. James Leslie, Quesnel, Bourret, Debeaujeu, Ross, Methot, J.E. Turgeon, Mills, Crane, Jones and Wylie, were appointed. Had it not been for the nomination of these members, and the adhesion given by some others, it would have been impossible to reform the Legislative Council. But what results may be anticipated from the proposed constitution of the Federal Legislative Council? By limiting the number of the members of this House, the prerogative of the Crown is, in fact, restricted, and a system is adopted, exactly the reverse of that which exists in England. And in the event of serious difficulties arising between the House of Commons and the Upper House, what would happen?
The same thing would happen which has already occurred before, but with this difference, that the Crown would not have the power of infusing new elements, and legislation would thus be at a stand-still. The only course to be pursued under those circumstances will be to ask the Imperial Government to amend the constitution of the Council, as the people will be powerless from our having deprived them of the right of electing councillors. For my part, I am convinced that this new system will not be productive of beneficial results. I do not propose to repeat here all the arguments which have been already urged against the projected changes; but I must say, as holding my authority from the people, that the question of Confederation has never been adverted to during the two elections which I have passed through, and that, therefore, I do not think that my constituents expressed their opinion on this question when they elected me, or that they conferred upon me the right of changing the constitution of the Legislative Council, without consulting them in the matter.
I am aware that in 1859 Confederation was referred to in a paragraph of the Speech from the Throne, but I also remember that at that time I combated the idea of Confederation, because the carrying out of the views expressed in that paragraph would have resulted in giving all the influence to one section of the province at the expense of the other section. At that period it was not the question of Confederation which was discussed, but the question of representation based upon population, and the Upper Canada Separate School question. I stated at the time, as regarded those separate schools, that the […]
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[…] minority of Upper Canada must not be abandoned to the mercy of the majority, and we succeeded in obtaining for them a system of separate schools which, however, does not appear to satisfy the minority. In Lower Canada the Protestant minority has always been satisfied with the school system, until quite lately; and they have now begun to agitate with the view of obtaining, as they pretend, a more equitable distribution of the moneys appropriated for school purposes. For my part, I know that they have no foundation for their claim, and I remember that when I was Secretary of the province, I drew the attention of the Superintendent of Education to the unequal distribution of the money, as it appeared that the Protestant minority of Lower Canada received a larger amount than they were entitled to. He replied that the distribution had been so made by his predecessor, and that he had not deemed it advisable to make any change.
Thus we see that uneasiness prevails among the minority, both in Upper Canada and Lower Canada, and even among the majority in Lower Canada. But I was astonished to hear the remedy announced by my honorable colleague (Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau), in the event of the Federal Government endeavoring to prejudice the interests of Lower Canada. He tells us that as Lower Canada is to have sixty-five representatives in the Federal Legislature out of 194, these sixty-five members from Lower Canada will always be able to preserve their rights by taking sides with the Opposition to turn out the Government. Does the hon. member really suppose that all the members from Lower Canada would make common cause on any question? Does he not know that there will always be a minority among them of different origin and religion who will probably take part with the Government or with the majority? In such a case, what would the Opposition from Lower Canada avail about which he talks? Do we not know that the difficulties which gave rise to the plan of Confederation were produced by the coalition of an Upper Canada minority with the Lower Canada majority? And what happened to Upper Canada might very well happen to Lower Canada.
By rejecting the principle of the double majority adopted by a liberal ministry, the apple of discord was thrown among the legislative body which originated the present difficulties. Another great error committed by the members from Lower Canada was the overturning of a government which had maintained the principle of an equality in representation. We now see to what that has brought us. The hon. member (Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau) had said that our institutions would be protected under the Federal Government. But how? By the resolutions as they stand they would not be so guarded; and would not the General Government put its veto on every act of the local governments? And while on this subject, I should like to know what is to be the organization of the Local Government of Lower Canada.
As far as I can see, it is this—that nearly all our local revenue is to be taken from us, and we are to be allowed a subsidy of eighty cents per head. And yet this is not all. There will be a debt of $5,000,000 to be shared between Upper and Lower Canada; and how is this sharing to be brought about? If, as we are told, Lower Canada is to be charged with the payment of the debt contracted for the redemption of the Seigniorial Tenure, that alone will represent a capital of about $4,118,202, including $891,500 indemnity to the townships. Is Lower Canada to undertake the payment of that sum? Certain sources of revenue in Lower Canada are devoted to the redemption of the Seigniorial Tenure, but if the Federal Government absorbs these sources of revenue, who will assure us that the Local Government will not repudiate that Seigniorial debt now by the Federal scheme sought to be imposed on it?
The Local Legislature will say, perhaps, that the Imperial Government has not the right of annulling the act which imposes on United Canada the payment of the indemnity to the seigniors, and will probably refuse to assume the whole responsibility of it, alleging that the General Government ought to pay it. And if the Local Government takes this course, what will the General Government do? On this question it will be easy to excite the passions of the people, prejudiced as they already are against the seigniors. Chiefly, and above all, we are bound to respect vested rights. We are recommended to vote with blind confidence, but we are refused the details, which might satisfy the country and the honorable members of this House. Why not lay the constitution of the Local Government before the House? We are told that the possession of her civil code is to be guaranteed to Lower Canada, but we are not informed how it is to be done. […]
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[…] Then the Federal Government will have the right of settling questions of divorce and marriage. With respect to divorce I shall make no remarks, because I think it best that the decision of such questions should be left to the General Government, an exception being made in favor of coreligionists. What shall I say on the subject of marriage—the basis of all our institutions? Is it not dangerous to have it at the mercy of the Federal Government? We shall soon be told probably that it is but a sounding affair, and before long, mayors will take the place of the curés, and will celebrate the marriages of their constituents. Our laws which regulate our marriages at present are very important to us, and are based on the Roman law. These are the only laws suitable to Canadians, and the wise provisions characterizing them were the fruit of the experience of several ages. We should not incur the risk of any change in them by a legislature, the majority of whose members do not hold our opinions on this subject.
The hon. member (Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau) might have favored us with his opinion on this head, but he did not, and I regret that he did not. There is another question deeply interesting to Lower Canada, but it seems that on that neither must we permit ourselves to speak. That question relates to the interest of money. Do we not know that the question of the rate of interest has something to do with our civil laws? Is that also of no importance? An Upper Canada majority has already saddled us with a law abolishing the rate of interest. Free trade in money was not suitable to Lower Canada, and the right of legislating on the question is now sought to be entrusted to the Federal Government. What will be the result? Who will assure us that the law limiting the rate of interest will not be repealed as it respects all cases, and that banks and corporations will not be allowed to exact such rates of interest as they may think fit, as private persons may now. This might become the fate of Lower Canada.
Why not allow the local legislatures to regulate the question according to the exigencies and the ideas of communities which they represent, as the same is now fixed and decided in the United States, where the rate of interest varies in the several states? Thus Lower Canada will be prevented from regulating a question which has been decided for us by Upper Canada against our wishes. I confess that I am surprised at this, because I see in the present Administration men who have done battle at my side on that very question. The local legislatures will have the power of making laws on the subjects of immigration and agriculture; but the Federal Legislature will have the same power, and it is evident that it will have the upper hand on these matters; that the laws of Lower Canada, for instance, may be overridden by means of the veto of the Federal Government. But there is something yet more fraught with danger for us. The Federal Government will have the right of imposing taxes on the provinces without the concurrence of the local governments. Under article five of the 29th resolution, the Federal Government may raise moneys by all modes or systems of taxation, and I look upon this power as most excessive.
Thus, in case it should happen, as I said a moment ago, that the Lower Canada Government refused to undertake the payment of the debt contracted for the redemption of the Seigniorial Tenure, the Federal Government would have two methods of compelling it to do so. First, by retaining the amount out of the eighty cents per head indemnity to be accorded to the Local Government, and secondly, by imposing a local and direct tax. The Lieutenant Governor of the Local Government will be appointed by the Federal Government, and will be guided by its instructions. We are not told whether the Local Government will be responsible to the Local Legislature; whether there will be only one or two branches of the Legislature, nor how the Legislative Council will be composed, if there is to be one; we are refused any information whatsoever on these points, which are nevertheless of some importance. I regret, therefore, that the amendment proposed yesterday by the hon. member for Grandville [Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just], should have been rejected, since it would have enabled us to obtain important information before voting on the question.
I do not see that the reasons advanced yesterday by the Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau, to justify the haste with which it is attempted to pass this measure, are legitimate and conclusive. We are told that the present Ministry in England is in favor of this project. For my part I do not think the measure will be adopted without important amendments. Unfortunately the measure will, perhaps, be amended in England in a sense highly prejudicial to Lower Canada in […]
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[…] particular. We shall probably see influences brought to bear there, as occurred once before when the Legislative Council was made elective. The Lower Canada members will recollect that when the law was passed in England, under influences which to this day remains unearthed, the clause was blotted out from our Constitution which we in Lower Canada justly regarded as our only safeguard against the encroachments and the domination of Upper Canada; and in point of fact, for the striking out or changing of that clause, Upper Canada would never have demanded representation by population, and the difficulties which have resulted from this question would not have occurred, and we should have heard nothing of the Confederation measure which is now before us. Had the people of Upper Canada been well convinced that the Constitution could not be changed, they would have submitted to sacrifices rather than create a useless agitation. It is said that we are to have guarantees for our institutions.
But who will say that the guarantees left to us may not vanish when the measure reaches England, in the same way as the guarantee we had against representation by population? At all events I still maintain that our institutions are not guaranteed in any way whatsoever, and this is clearly shown by Sir N. F. Belleau himself, as I have already had occasion to prove. We are asked to sacrifice the election of the Legislative Council; but is the system proposed a better one? I do not think so, for to my mind the mode in which it is proposed to constitute that House appears to be unsound in every way.
Not only are the people to be deprived of an important right, but the prerogative of the Crown is to be infringed by limiting the number of members to be appointed. It is painful to take a backward step of this kind, and to abandon a reform, the fruit of the persevering struggles of so many eminent men; and I believe that if we consent to this change, the consequences of the act will soon be seen. In order to show that the defects of the system are very real, I will cite the opinion of the Hon. the Secretary of State for the Colonies, set forth in his despatch to the Governor General, relative to the project of Confederation and to the new Constitution for the Legislative Council. This is what Mr. Cardwell says:—
The second point which Her Majesty’s Government desire should be reconsidered is the Constitution of the Legislative Council. They appreciate the considerations which have influenced the Conference in determining the mode in which this body, so important to the constitution of the Legislature, should be composed. But it appears to them to require further consideration, whether, if the members be appointed for life, and their number be fixed, there will be any sufficient means of restoring harmony between the Legislative Council and the popular Assembly, if it shall ever unfortunately happen that a decided difference of opinion shall arise between them.
After this formal condemnation of the project of Confederation, and in view of our own experience, it seems to me that we are quite justified in opposing it, and in anticipating that the Legislative Council will become again, as it formerly was, an obstacle in the way of all reform and of all progress, unless the present plan of Confederation be amended. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Ferrier said—Honorable gentlemen, I had almost resolved to give a silent vote for the resolutions now before the House, but having, especially since I have had the honour of a seat in the Legislative Council, been accustomed to take note of passing events in the history of Canada, I think I may be allowed to occupy a short time in speaking of what has transpired in this country in past years, and more particularly of what has transpired within the last twelve months.
In past years there were two great questions which had agitated both Eastern and Western Canada. The one was the Seigniorial question in Lower Canada; the other was the Clergy Reserve question in Western Canada. These two questions, for many years, occupied the attention of the Legislature and of the statesmen conducting successive governments. At last a settlement of these important questions was arrived at—I believe satisfactory to the majority of the people. Since that time no great questions of public interest have occupied the minds of the people, or have been urged either by the Government of the day or by the leaders of the Opposition. The consequence has been that a political warfare has been waged in Canada for many years, of a nature calculated almost to destroy all correct political and moral principle, both in the Legislature and out of it. Has it not been the fact that any man who, through life, had sustained a good character, either as a private individual or a professional man, no sooner accepted office in the Government than the Opposition and the Opposition papers would attack him at once as having joined a very doubtful company? […]
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[…] Or, when a man of plain sense came and visited the Legislature, and took his seat in the galleries to listen to the debates, did he not hear so frequently the charges of political crime, bribery and corruption, that he left the House with very different views from those with which he entered it? Every member of Parliament has felt this demoralizing influence, and it has met him at the polls, and nothing but money, in some cases, could secure his election. (Hear, hear.)
I come now to the period of 1863-64, when we find two political parties nearly equal in strength, with a majority supporting the Government of only two or three. That Government found it necessary to appeal to the country by a general election. After that election the Government of the honorable and gallant Knight (Hon. Sir E.P. Taché) was formed. It existed only a very short time, and on the 14th of June of last year came what has been called the dead-lock.
Then, honorable gentlemen, there was, for eight or ten days, a breathing time for the parties who had been engaged in this political strife. It was a breathing time to them, as it were, to reflect upon the past and to endeavor to look forward to the future. It had been thought by many that the spirit of patriotism in the hearts of our statesmen was a dead principle. In their strife they seemed to have forgotten the best interests of Canada. But, during these ten days, the spirit of patriotism revived. This was a memorable period in the history of Canada. The leader of the Opposition, the Hon. George Brown—I speak it to his honor—was the first to declare what he was ready to do, and what he proposed was so reasonable that very soon the acceptance of his propositions was brought about. I have pleasing recollections in referring to that period, particularly as having had an opportunity of giving a word of advice on the evening of the day these propositions were made. I may refer to it, as the name of the gentleman I allude to, Mr. Morris, a member of the Legislative Assembly, was incorporated in the documents that were submitted to this honorable House, when the result of the resolutions was laid before us.
Meeting Mr. Morris one evening, he informed me of what the Hon. Mr. Brown had proposed. I thought it was so reasonable, and looked so like a deliverance from the dilemma we were in, that I recommended him at once to communicate it to the leading members of the Government, and I accompanied him to a member of the Government, who is also a member of this House, now present. He told that honorable gentleman what Hon. Mr. Brown had communicated to him, and he (Mr. Morris) was authorized to make an arrangement for the other members of the Government to meet Hon. Mr. Brown.
We all very well remember the time I am speaking of, and the astonishment of many that a reconciliation could have taken place between gentlemen who had been so long opposed to each other. I do not know that I ought to repeat what was the ondit of the day with reference to it. But, I think I can remember this being said, that, when Hon. Mr. Galt met Hon. Mr. Brown, he received him with that manly, open frankness, which characterizes him; and that, when Hon. Mr. Cartier met Hon. Mr. Brown, he looked carefully to see that his two Rouge friends were not behind him—(laughter)—and that when he was satisfied they were not, he embraced him with open arms and swore eternal friendship—(laughter and cheers)—and that Hon. Mr. Macdonald, at a very quick glance, saw there was an opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—Saw his advantage.
Hon. Mr. Ferrier—That Hon. Mr. Macdonald saw there was an opportunity of forming a great and powerful dependency of the British Empire; that the gallant Knight, the Premier of the Government [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché], with his liberal, cautious, and comprehensive mind, did not object; and that the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell], with his usual courtesy, his vigorous and acute mind, agreed. (Hear, hear.) To the best of my recollection, that was the way in which it was said out of doors the propositions of Hon. Mr. Brown were received by the gentlemen composing the Government of that day. You all remember how delighted we were to find that political bitterness had ceased. We all thought, in fact, that a political millennium had arrived—and the Opposition was nowhere. (Laughter.)
The business of the session progressed very rapidly, and we were soon relieved from our responsible duties here. Immediately after the close of the session, the agreement entered into was fully carried out. Hon. Mr. Brown and the other two honorable gentleman who entered the Government with him, were added to it, according to the agreement. These honorable gentlemen went to the country, and they were all returned, except one, and he very soon afterwards found a place. The Government thus formed, had, I believe, a majority of two-thirds of the population of Canada in their favor; and, so far as my observation has gone, two-thirds of the press […]
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[…] also, have supported them in this scheme of union. The Government, this sustained, soon began to act, and their first movement was to take the provincial steamer and go off to Prince Edward Island. I remember well standing on the bank of the river at Rivière du Loup, seeing the steamer pass down, and I wished them God-speed. They went to the Conference at Charlottetown, and I have no doubt they acted in a manner worthy of gentlemen going to propose a union. We know too that they were well received. There had been a growing love in these provinces towards Canada for some time. This was manifested when they gave an invitation to this Legislature to visit them, after the close of last session. And I only regret that the Legislature—every member of it—did not accept that invitation. Those who did, came back much better informed than when they went there. We had the satisfaction of seeing those who probably are going to be our partners in this union. And I do assure you, that for one, I can speak of the people of the Lower Provinces, as an energetic, active, industrious people, quite equal to ourselves. (Hear, hear.)
And, as regards the resources of these provinces, I had no idea of them approaching the reality, before I paid that visit We saw farms there on the banks of the River St. John, quite equal to any farms in our western peninsula, which is called the garden of Canada. The members of the Conference at Charlottetown, as I understood, after discussing the whole question, and arriving at something like an understanding, returned to their respective governments, and arranged to have a Conference, representing in a more official manner all the provinces. Some gentlemen have objected that this was an unauthorized, self-constituted Conference. But I believe, it can be shewn that they had the express authority of the British Government for entering into these negotiations. The Lower Provinces sent members of their several governments, and they did more—they appointed the leaders of the Opposition to accompany them—so that the people of those provinces were fully represented.
They did, in fact, what was equivalent to that which has been done in Canada, where our coalition Government represents both classes of politics. The able statesmen, composing the Conference which assembled at Quebec, thus represented the whole people of these provinces. It has been objected that it was impossible that a Conference, meeting only for a few days, could have devised a measure that would be of a character which we could accept. But, honorable gentlemen, when men meet together honestly to carry out a purpose, they can do a great deal in a very short time. (Hear, hear). And I believe the gentlemen composing the Conference which assembled here in this city were men of honest purpose, and earnestly bent on framing a Constitution that would be for the best interests of our country.
We cannot expect it to be infallible, because no human act is such; but it is of such a character that I do not think we can ever have another opportunity, if this is let slip, of receiving again a document so well calculated to answer the ends designed. There could be no merely party government either here or in the Lower Provinces which could produce a document that would be so acceptable, or ought to be so, to the whole people (Hear, hear.)
I think it is unfair to make comparisons between Upper and Lower Canada and the Lower Provinces. When we take partners for life we take them for richer or poorer, and endow them with all our worldly goods, and I think we should go on the same principle in carrying out this union with the Lower Provinces. I have been surprised at some of the arguments which I have heard some of the opponents of this scheme bring against it. I was assuredly surprised at the course taken the other day by my honorable friend from Niagara (Hon. Mr. Currie), who, in trying to make out a point, spoke of our commercial and agricultural interests here as being very small, and in speaking of our shipping and the amount of tonnage employed in doing the business of Canada, said, “Oh! that only exists on paper.”
Hon. Mr. Currie—I beg my honorable friend’s pardon. In any remarks I made I certainly did not say that either the commercial or agricultural interests of Canada were small. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Ferrier—When my honorable friend makes this statement, I have nothing further to say about it. I supposed I was correct in the impression I gathered from his remarks, but I must have misunderstood him. But I must say this, that I thought he was exceedingly unkind when he took up newspapers and read from them a catalogue of the supposed political sins of his own friends, the party he formerly acted with. As these honorable gentlemen are now devoting themselves to what I regard as being for the best interests of the country by carrying out this scheme of union, I think really my honourable friend would do better to support them.
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Hon. Mr. Currie—That is a matter of opinion.
Hon. Mr. Ferrier—I am giving my opinion—nothing more. But my honorable friend proceeded to refer to the Grand Trunk Railway—(hear, hear)—that monster corporation which, one would have inferred from my honorable friend’s remarks, had really laid desolate every district of Canada through which it had passed. For my own part I cannot understand what damage the Grand Trunk Railway has done to Canada. We have had thirteen millions sterling of English capital—(hear, hear.)—expended in building the Grand Trunk Railway and the Victoria Bridge, which is the greatest work in the world. Canada has paid somewhere about three millions to complete the Grand Trunk—about one-fifth part of the sixteen millions that have been spent, and it is the cheapest bargain she ever made. (Hear, hear.) We have the benefit of the whole of this expenditure. If there has been extravagance in it, those English stockholders have been the sufferers. We can only have suffered a fifth part of what they have done, and we have the benefit of the whole of it. That I think is the view we ought to take of the Grand Trunk Railway in connection with Canada. (Hear, hear.) Then the Intercolonial Railway has been referred to. That road has become, I think, even at present a necessity. It should have been made some years ago, and it would have been made but for the political incapacity of the Government of that day, which prevented it. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Currie—Let me remind my honorable friend that two members of that Government—Hon. Messrs. McDougall and Howland—are in the present Government.
Hon. Mr. Ferrier—It is fortunate that some men see the error of their ways, and do better, and I trust it has been so in the present case. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) if we had had this road to the sea-board at the present time, it is very likely the Reciprocity Treaty would not have been repealed, (Hear, hear.) We want the road at the present moment for the business of the country, Some honorable gentlemen say that, if the road were made to-day, we would have nothing to send over it. The fact is, these honorable gentlemen, when they make such a statement, snew that they have not taken the trouble to enquire what the position of the trade of the country is. For the last ten days we have had about 100 cars standing loaded at Point St. Charles, and no way of getting them off. These cars are full of produce for Boston and New York, and the two roads leading to these cities have so much to do, that they are unable to do the business of their own country and of ours too. And, while these cars are thus detained, they are wanted for Western Canada, where the people are evermore crying for cars, and we cannot get rid of the produce we have.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—Will my honorable friend state what kind of produce these cars are loaded with, and where it came from?
Hon. Mr. Ferrier—The whole, I believe, is the produce of Canada. (Hear, hear.) One portion of it is for the supply of New York and Boston, or for shipment there; and another portion is to be distributed along the routes by which these railways run. I was so particular as to make these enquiries of Mr. Brydges the day before yesterday.
Hon.Mr. Simpson—I saw Mr. Brydges too.
Hon. Mr. Ferrier—We have also a large accumulation of cars standing full of produce at Portland, and no ships to take it away. Such is the present state of the Grand Trunk Railway, and it is a very awkward position to be placed in. As the gallant Knight (Hon. Sir E.P. Taché) told us the otherday, it is just as if a neighbor’s farm stood between us and the highway. That is the position of the United States, they stand between Canada and the sea board, and they have now been pleased to say, “we will not allow you to pass through our farm”—because, although the Reciprocity Treaty is not yet repealed, they have put a check on intercourse by this passport system, and by the way in which they work the present law with reference to the produce we are taking along.
For instance, if pork is sent on, an affidavit must be put in that that pork is the produce of Canada. Now, it is a difficult thing to make such an affidavit. At this season of the year loads of pork come from all quarters, and after it is all packed into a barrel, it is almost impossible for any man to make an affidavit where it was raised. (Hear, hear.) It is the same with flour. A miller frequently mixes flour brought in from the United States, and how is an affidavit to be made whether that flour is mixed or not? There may be four-fifths of it the produce of Canada, and yet the other fifth prevents it from going. Hence, the trade is so hampered by all these obstructions put in the way by the United States Government, that it is very seriously interfered with. And, that being the position of our trade, I beg to ask whether […]
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[…] the Intercolonial Railroad is not now wanted? I have some memoranda here taken from some statements I have had an opportunity of looking at, and I find that the Lower Provinces require 600,000 barrels of flour and grain annually beyond what they raise themselves.
Now that they take flour from Boston and from Portland, a considerable quantity of it is carried down by the Grand Trunk Railway to Portland. It is then taken round to St. John, and is taken up the St. John river, and distributed all the way along, until within sixty miles of our own Canadian frontier at Rivière du Loup. Now, I would ask any sensible man whether it would not be as easy for the Intercolonial Railway to take this produce and distribute it along the line, just as the Grand Trunk is now doing in the State of Maine? St. John is just 600 miles from Montreal—the same distance that Portland is from Sarnia. Well, to move this quantity of flour that I have mentioned, 600,000 barrels, would occupy one train every working day through the year. I think that is a sufficient answer to any honorable gentleman who says there is nothing to do for this Intercolonial Railway. (Hear, hear.)
In 1862, New Brunswick sold goods to the United States to the value of $880,000, and purchased $2,916,000—thus paying to the United States $2, 000,000 in hard cash. Nova Scotia exported $1,879,000 to the United States, and purchased from the United States $3,860,000—thus paying them another $2,000,000. These two provinces, therefore, paid to the United States in one year, the sum of four millions of dollars. There is a trade now between the United States and those provinces of ten millions of dollars a year. The proposed abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty discards that trade, and should we not here in Canada lay hold of it? (Hear, hear.)
Is not every mercantile man wide awake and ready to lay hold of it at once, if there was a possibility of doing so? but there is no such possibility, excepting by the Intercolonial Railroad. Another thing I wish to point out is, that half the importations of tea into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are supplied from the United States. Now, that is precisely an article which we could send along the railway at a very low figure—and every honorable gentleman is well aware that Montreal and Quebec compete with New York and Boston in the tea trade. Upper Canada merchants know that they would never go to Montreal to purchase the large cargoes of tea sold there if they could do better in New York. And I maintain, therefore, that Quebec and Montreal are in a position, as soon as they have the opportunity, to do the business of those provinces, better, in fact, than the United States can do. (Hear, hear.)
Under the Reciprocity Treaty and the bonding system, in about the period of fifteen years, the trade between ourselves and the United States has increased from $9,000,000 to $37,000,000—being four hundred per cent. In 1862, the Canadian imports passing through the United States in bond amounted to $6,000,000. And, unless we are careful in looking into the progress of trade here as well as in the United States, we may lose what is absolutely necessary for the prosperity of our country. It requires men to be wide-awake in these days of rapid progress to keep pace with the march of events. (Hear, hear.)
And I am prepared to show, as I have already to some extent endeavored to show, and my own mind is made up on it, that, before the Intercolonial Railroad can be made, we will have enough business for it to pay expenses—(hear, hear)—so that no loss can accrue to the provinces when the road is made—that is, three years hence, if it were set about now. But, I suppose, if this union is brought about, some time will be taken, after the Confederation is formed, to decide upon the mode of proceeding with the construction, and, if it is gone on with even in the most rapid manner, it would take at least four years before it was in full working order. I think it is much to be regretted that we have been so long in commencing it. In view of the present state of our relations with the United States, it ought to have been in existence now, and I say that in another year it would have paid expenses. (Hear, hear.) Honorable gentlemen object to the scheme of union because it was not published sufficiently to make the people of these provinces acquainted with it. I do not understand that objection. Every clause of the document now under consideration was published in Quebec, before the delegates left the city
Hon. Mr. Campbell—And in the papers in Upper Canada.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—But it was denied that it was a correct copy of the resolutions of the Conference.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—It was merely denied that it was the official document.
Hon. Mr. Simpson—The copy of the document I got was marked “Private,” and I could not, therefore, make use of it.
Hon. Mr. Ferrier—I dare say honorable members, in receiving the document, understood […]
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[…] very well what the word “Private” meant. (Hear, hear.) I was invited to attend a very large meeting, comprising nearly all the leading merchants in Montreal, just after the delegates left for home. We spent a whole night over it; I believe it was early in the morning before we parted. A third part of those present, I think, came apparently determined to oppose the scheme. Fortunately we had a gentleman there who had made himself thoroughly acquainted with it, and who was able to go into explanations and deal with all the whys and wherefores that were urged by the various objectors. The result was, that when we closed the meeting there was only one man who declared himself positively opposed to the scheme—(hear, hear,)—and this man said he opposed it, because, in his opinion, it would give the French Canadians power to crush us British out of the Lower Provinces. I maintain, honorable gentlemen, that the public opinion of Canada is not opposed to the scheme of Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
If it had been so, we should have petitions against it poured in upon us from every quarter. I do not think the scheme is perfect, but we should try with an honest purpose to work it out, and if it is found defective, it is not, of course, like the laws of the Medes and Persians—it can be altered. We have had the Constitution of 1841 altered more than once—twice at least—since the union. If we find that some parts of the machinery do not work—if, after the establishment of the Confederation, we find some little error has been made—we will then, no doubt, have power and authority also to alter it. I trust this scheme of Federation will be carried by a large majority in this House, as well as in the Legislative Assembly, and that the legislatures of the Lower Provinces will also adopt it. If so, honorable gentlemen, we shall enter on a new era in the history of British North America. (Hear, hear.)
I believe that a Divine Providence guides the destinies of nations, and I believe a Divine Providence has directed the statesmen who were present at that Conference in their deliberations, and has brought conflicting interests into harmony in a most wonderful way. (Hear, hear.) What was our political condition on the fourteenth of June last—only about eight months ago? What was our political condition then, and what brought the leaders of the political parties who were then fiercely contending with each other, almost as in a death struggle, for power, into Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island to send their leading statesmen, representatives of both their political parties, to meet our Coalition Government? I say it was an over-ruling Providence. A party government could never have arrived at such a scheme of union as this.
If we reject this proposed Confederation, we refuse to lay the foundations of a great nation, as a dependency of the British Empire. When I came of age I considered what country I should adopt. I adopted Canada. I have now lived in it for forty-four years. I have been identified with the progress of its institutions—of those at any rate of Lower Canada, and particularly of Montreal. I have had the pleasure of taking part with others in organizing some of them. I have seen some of them prosper, and others that will probably fail, as we may expect will be the case in a new country. I have, during these years also, travelled over a large part of Europe. I have travelled too over parts of Asia and Africa. I have seen people under monarchical governments—some of them tolerably prosperous, others of them less so.
I have seen people under despotic governments—some of them pretty comfortable, and others crushed down to the lowest depths of slavery. I have seen republican governments in Europe, and of course I have seen the great Republic here on this continent. I have seen people, too, living under the government of the Church. But I have seen no people like those living under the government of Great Britain, or enjoying such perfect freedom, and such complete protection for life and property, as those living under the flag of Old England. (Hear, hear.)
And had I my choice to make to-day, after an experience of forty-four years, I should still choose Canada as my home. I feel that at my age I have not long to live; but, during the time that I shall be spared on earth, I would be willing to devote all my energies to the carrying out of this scheme—and I do pray it may succeed—because it is laying anew the foundations of one of the most important dependencies of the British Empire. I trust I shall not live to see it in any other condition than as a dependency of the British Empire. Honorable gentlemen, I shall have pleasure in voting for the resolutions of the honorable and gallant Knight [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché]. (Cheers.)
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Hon. Mr. Seymour said:—Honorable gentlemen, I desire to make one or two remarks in reply to something which fell from my honorable friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell], in reference to the objections I took on a former occasion to the details of this scheme. That honorable gentleman, after explaining one or two minor points, disposed of the others by saying that I opposed everything. As that statement might imply, if honorable members of this House were not acquainted with me, that my course had been factious, I desire to state what I have opposed. Having been always a strong advocate of retrenchment and financial reform, I have opposed the exorbitant expenses of the Government. I have opposed the extravagance which has made the expenses of the civil government of Canada exceed those of any other country on the face of the globe, in proportion to the revenue. I have always opposed the expenditure of money without the authority of Parliament. (Hear, hear.)
I have always opposed the extravagant grants and subsidies to the Grand Trunk Railway Company. (Hear, hear.) My honorable friend opposite (Hon. Mr. Ferrier) has spoken of the benefit of the Grand Trunk Railway, and of the great expenditure of English capitalists in the work. It is true the work was undertaken by them, but Canada has borne her full share—has fulfilled every agreement. And more than that, Canada has paid at the rate of thirty thousand dollars per mile for her railways; Canada has contributed $15,142,000 in principal, and $5,400,000 in interest, without taking into consideration a large number of smaller matters. If a calculation be made from these amounts, it will be found as I have stated, that Canada has paid at the rate of $30,000 for all the railway which was required, namely, from Quebec to Toronto, which would have connected with the Great Western, and formed a Trunk line through the province to Sarnia. If large sums have been expended; if large sums have been squandered, have not English contractors benefited? Are the people of Canada to be blamed? The scheme was planned by English capitalists, and Canada fulfilled every obligation. (Hear, hear.)
Now, there is another matter which I have opposed. I have always opposed the loose system of management of the Crown lands, a system by which our splendid domain has been frittered away. I do not mean my remarks on this subject to apply to my honorable friend, the present Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell]. He has only been in office a few months, and I have not read his report. But I refer to the past, and I say that the whole of that domain has been squandered away in useless expenses. There is another matter which I have opposed—the Militia Bill of 1862.
I admit that I opposed that measure. That was a measure which was going to entail upon the country an enormous expenditure, which would have exhausted our resources at a time when that expenditure was not required. Why, honorable gentlemen, was not the Trent difficulty settled at the time? Had not the American Government complied with the demands of Great Britain, and what threatened us to authorize that expenditure? There is one expenditure which I opposed, which might perhaps be questioned. I opposed the Supply Bill in 1858, and I had then voting with me my honorable friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell]. (Hear, and laughter.) Whether that vote can be defended from a constitutional point of view, I cannot say; but every vote I have given in this House, or the other branch of the Legislature, has been given in accordance with what I conceived to be the interests of my native country. (Hear.)
My honorable friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell], alluded the other day to the conservative feature of the Senate in the United States, in allowing the same representation to small states as to the larger states. But this does not at all affect the general arrangement, because the large majority are large states. But while my honorable friend approves of this portion, he should have expressed an opinion on the whole system. In the United States, no change of Constitution can be effected without the consent of two-thirds of both branches of the Legislature, and that must afterwards be sanctioned by three fourths of the state governments. This is a conservative feature also. Then, what are the constitutions of the state governments? I have here a clause taken from the Constitution of one of the states (Connecticut), which provides that:—
Whenever a majority of the House of Representatives shall deem it necessary to alter or amend this Constitution, they may propose such alterations and amendments, which proposed amendments shall be continued to the next General Assembly, and be published with the laws which may have been passed at the same session, and if two-thirds of each house, at the next session […]
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[…] of said Assembly, shall approve the amendments proposed, by yeas and nays, said amendments shall, by the Secretary, be transmitted to the town, clerk in each town in this State, whose duty it shall be to present the same to the inhabitants thereof, for their consideration, at a town meeting legally warned and held for that purpose; and if it shall appear in a manner provided by law, that a majority of the electors present at such meetings shall have approved such amendments, the same shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of this Constitution.
That is the way one of the oldest states guards the rights and liberties of its people. Then here is another extract from the Constitution of the State of Mississippi, one of the new states, showing how the people there are protected against hasty innovation:—
Whenever two-thirds of the General Assembly shall deem it necessary to amend or change this Constitution, they shall recommend to the electors, at the next election for members of the General Assembly, to vote for or against a convention; and if it shall appear that a majority of the citizens of the state, voting for representatives, have voted for a convention, the General Assembly shall, at their next session, call a convention, to consist of as many members as there may be in the General Assembly, to be chosen by the qualified electors in the manner, and at the times and places of choosing members of the General Assembly; which convention shall meet within three months after the said election, for the purpose of revising, amending, or changing the Constitution.
Now, in addition to this, what have we seen? Have we not seen changes in the Constitution latterly in respect to slavery, and have they acted upon this till they have been ratified by the state governments? Now, compare this mode of procedure with that adopted in regard to the scheme—and very properly called a scheme—of Confederation submitted to this House. How were these delegates called into existence? Are they not self-appointed? (Hear.) Did not the members of the Executive Council of Canada constitute themselves delegates? (Cries of “no, no,” and “yes.”) And the members of the Executive Councils of the Lower Provinces, did they not also constitute themselves delegates? They prepared a scheme which they have laid before Parliament, and what is that scheme?
It was embodied in resolutions sent to members of the Legislature before the meeting of the House, marked “Private,” both on the outside and inside. Did any honorable member feel himself at liberty to go before his constituents and explain it to them? Did any honorable member feel himself at liberty to call his constituents together, and say, here is a scheme on which I will have to vote at the next session of the Legislature? No, he could not do it. Some of the newspapers did publish what purported to be the resolutions, but were they copied all over the country so that the people might see and judge of them? No, they were not, and what was the reason? Did not the Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall] write his mandate to the press, that any newspaper that did not support Confederation, was not to receive the Government patronage? Not being an elective member, I did not feel myself at liberty to address the people on these resolutions. Did any member take them to his constituents and explain every detail of them?
Hon. Mr. MacPherson–Don’t let the honorable member endeavor to create a false impression. I, for one, held two meetings a day for some time, and fully explained the scheme to my constituents.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—Did my honorable friend tell them how much this Intercolonial Railway was to cost, or how much Upper Canada was to pay for it? That it was to be established by the Government, and kept up as a public work? I should be glad to hear my honorable friend on these points before a popular assemblage. (Hear, hear). We have been told by my honorable friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell], that concessions had to be made, but how were these concessions made?
Unfortunately they were all made one way; they were made to the Lower Provinces. No concessions to Canada, east or west, but all in favor of the Lower Provinces. And could you expect anything else would be the result of the Convention, when the small province of Prince Edward Island, and the small province of Newfoundland, sent representatives in the same manner and the same number as the whole province of Canada? Could it have been expected that the delegates from Canada would supply all the talent? However much I esteem the talents of the members of the Executive Council, I believe there are those in the Lower Provinces who possess the talent necessary to arrange a scheme of this kind. When Canada, with its 3,000,000 of population and $11,000,000 of revenue, was represented there by twelve, and the Maritime Provinces, with only 800,000 of population and a revenue under $3,000,000, was represented by nearly two to one, could it be expected that a favorable […]
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[…] arrangement could be made. (Hear.) My honorable friend says that they voted by provinces, but it was all the same. Now, what was the first concession? The first concession was in granting twenty eight members of this House to those provinces, with only 800,000 inhabitants and paying a small amount of revenue, whereas in Upper Canada we have 1,500,000 of population, and contribute $7,000,000 or $8,000,000 to the revenue, and yet have only twenty-four members. Here is the first concession to make the Lower Provinces come in to support the scheme And is it not a fact that this House will have the control of the legislation to a certain extent, and are we not entitled to it?
Then there is another point in connection with the Lower Provinces, which I will here notice. The franchise is lower there—it is almost universal. Persons entered upon the assessment roll for a small amount of personal property may vote for members of the Confederate Parliament. Here members are elected by persons assessed for real property to a certain amount. This is another matter which should have been attended to. It is not right that members should be sent to the General Parliament on these terms. (Hear, hear.)
The whole scheme is, in fact, a history of concessions, and all on one side. The arrangement of the public debt at a rate per head, instead of according to revenue, is another mistake. My friend, the honorable member for Saugeen Division, (Hon. Mr. Macpherson), stated the other day that my arguments were fallacious; that in this case the rate per head of population was the one which ought to be adopted. Is not the revenue the means of payment of the debt? Is population to be considered? I will satisfy my honorable friend that his reasoning was not correct, at least it is not what I would expect from a gentleman occupying the position he does in the country. Is population always wealth? No. It is wealth when it can be profitably employed; it is wealth when you can employ it in manufactures, or in the cultivation of good farming lands; but look at the case of Ireland, where population has been a source of poverty.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—What I said was, that past revenue was not a fair criterion of what each province was to pay. In future we would have a uniform tariff. I am sure that my honorable friend will not say that in this country population is a source of poverty.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—My honorable friend says he adopts one plan for the past and another for the future. What justice is there in that? We have only to look at the proposed system to see the effect it has. If New Brunswick, with a million revenue, be allowed to put her debt of seven millions upon the Confederation, then, upon the same rule, Canada should enter into the Confederation with all her debt and more. The estimated revenue of Canada is eleven millions. Any one could figure that out and see that Canada should have had no debt left for the local governments to pay; but on this principle of concession, why, of course, Canada must suffer.
Now, to show the working of the system, look at the effect of the rate of 80 cents a head. Upper Canada will pay $1,540,000 to the General Government, and receive back $1,120,000 for the Local Government,—that is, supposing Upper Canada contributes two-thirds of the revenue of the united provinces. That has been admitted by one who now holds a high position in the Government. This is the fine scheme which my honorable friend from Saugeen lands. You pay according to wealth, and the difference against Upper Canada is $420,000, or in other words, Upper Canada pays $1,540,000 out of one pocket and receives back $1,120,000 in the other. This is the working of the system which has been carried out, very much against the interests of not only Upper Canada but all Canada.
The third concession is the amount to be paid to Newfoundland, as a set-off against her not being indebted. There may be, I admit, a show of fairness in this, but the sum is a great deal too large. Canada will go on increasing, whereas from Newfoundland we can expect very little. The fourth matters that of the 80 cents a head, to which I have just alluded, and I have shown the working of that, and it is decidedly against it. Then comes the $63,000 a year to New Brunswick, for ten years. I was very glad to hear my honorable friend from Saugeen (Hon. Mr. Macpherson) disapprove of that. I am glad to find him, so strong a supporter of this scheme, admit that that was wrong. I have made my calculation in an Upper Canada point of view. So long as the union was maintained, however, my voice was never raised by way of comparison. I desire to maintain that union. (Hear, hear.) But […]
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[…] now we are forced to take this scheme as it is, without any amendment in any particular. I only now wish to point out that of the principal which this $63,000 represents, and which my honorable friend from Saugeen [Hon. Mr. Macpherson] cannot endorse. Upper Canada will have to pay $367,000. Then $150,000 a-year to Newfoundland is a sixth concession, made for worthless lands. This is equal to a capital of three millions. The lands of the other provinces are well taken care of; but those in Newfoundland, what are they worth? They are entirely valueless. When my honorable friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] has all these lands to control, I am sure he will have his hands full The lands of other provinces were worth retaining, and they were left under their own management; but as these happened to be good for nothing, they were put upon the General Government. Had they been good for anything, they would also have been reserved. There is another question. It is proposed to take the government railways of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and make them provincial works. I suppose we shall be told that the canals of Canada are also taken, and made public works of the Confederation. But there is a very great difference between these.
The railways had only an existence of a few years, they would be worn out soon, and must be kept up at the expense of the Confederate Government. What advantage could they be to the Confederate Government? What are our expenses now for public works? Have we not seen the tolls removed on our canals, and will it not be a part of the policy of the Confederate Government to remove the rates paid out these railways, and they will be kept up, as all public works are, at an enormous loss to the Government. (Hear, hear.)
My honorable friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie] the other day, I thought, on one point, was not quite correct in what he said in respect to Upper Canada. (Laughter, and hear, hear.) From the census of 1861, I find that the cash-value of farms in Upper Canada was $295,162,315, and in Lower Canada, $168,432,516, making a total of $463,594,861. The live stock in Upper Canada was valued at $53,227,516; in Lower Canada, $24,572,124. Wheat, Upper Canada, $24,640,425; Lower Canada, $2,563,114. Other grains, Upper Canada, $38,123,340; Lower Canada, $23,534,703.
Now, in timber, mineral wealth, manufactures and fisheries, Upper Canada is quite equal to Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces. I believe that if Upper Canada could be left alone, if it was not to be burthened and its back broken by these concessions, the whole of Canada would become still more prosperous, provided we did not enter into any further useless and wasteful expenditure. Compare these resources with those of the Lower Provinces! The gallant Premier [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché], the other day, stated something with respect to the wealth of those provinces—with respect to their mines and timber. Bat the timber must become exhausted, and consequently that country cannot grow richer; whilst in Canada, with a good productive soil and an industrious population, we must go on increasing in wealth. What is the value of the mines which we are to get? In Nova Scotia the royalty on coal is only $28, 000, and the revenue derived from the gold fields, $20,000; and what else have we to obtain from these provinces? Why, in Nova Scotia they have no timber, and consequently their revenue cannot increase; whilst we in Canada must inevitably go on and grow in prosperity, because the elements of our wealth are in the soil and climate. (Hear, hear )
Hon. Mr. Campbell—Surely my honorable friend does not pretend to say that the revenue of Nova Scotia cannot increase? Why, it has doubled in one year.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—What else have they besides their coal fields? It is not pretended that they have any timber. If you increase the tariff, you will increase the revenue; but it must not be expected that the revenue can be doubled. They will lessen their consumption if you increase the tariff. It is fallacious reasoning to say that when you double the tariff you double the revenue.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—For the year 1859, the revenue of Nova Scotia was $689,000, and it increased the next year to $1,249,000, and went on increasing, and yet my honorable friend says that it cannot increase.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—I have not the statements which the honorable gentleman has quoted from, but the figures I have given are those of 1862. There are excise duties, but I believe that the local duties will be paid to the local governments. The complaint which has been made by Upper Canada has been, that although they contributed two-thirds or three-fourths of the revenue, […]
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[…] they did not possess a corresponding contro of the legislation, and that they did not receive back in proportion to the amount they paid. Will this be remedied by this measure? Draw a line east of Montreal, and do you not find the control of the Legislature there, in consequence of the concessions made to the Maritime Provinces?
Hon. Mr. Campbell—The balance will be restored when the Red River Settlement comes in.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—I am afraid that no one here will live to see that country come in. I have listened with a good deal of attention to the speeches of my honorable friends, and I have read the reports of the debates in the other branch of the Legislature, and the only argument I have heard brought forward in favor of this scheme, is that it will strengthen the connection with the Mother Country. (Hear, hear.)
Now, honorable gentlemen, I yield to no one in saying that that connection ought not to he broken. I say we are infinitely better here under the flag of Great Britain than under that of the United States. (Hear, hear.) But no reason is assigned; we are not told in what way the connection is to be strengthened. Can you alter the geographical position of the country? Will you have any more people or means? Your revenue is not increased, nor is your population, nor is your geographical position altered. Is it because the people of the Lower Provinces are ready to expend a large sum for the defence of the country? Why, to show you what those provinces consider it necessary to do in this direction, I will read a short extract from a statement of the Financial Secretary of Nova Scotia:—
As regards the sum proposed to be granted for the militia—$20,000—honorable gentlemen might think it a large amount in the present state of the finances; but, looking at the large sum already expended, and still being expended in Canada—the efforts being made in New Brunswick for a similar object—would it be creditable to us as Nova Scotians, particularly considering the efforts put forth by the British Government to protect us, to expend a less sum?
The large sum of $20,000 was to be expended, and that at a time when the expensive Militia Bill, to which I have alluded, was before this House. (Hear, hear.) Twenty thousand dollars was the sum that was proposed by the Legislature of Nova Scotia, the next important colony to Canada, at a time when we were told here that we were in danger from our neighbors across the line But something more was said by the Financial Secretary. The present Premier was pressing to strike out this item and put $8,000 instead, and the Financial Secretary said:—
Under ordinary circumstances he would agree with the honorable member as to striking out the $12,000 extra grant for the militia; but considering the large sum about to be expended on this service by New Brunswick, the enormous expenditure of the Home Government for our protection, and what they expected of us, he considered the appropriation necessary. He would be ashamed of the Government if they had not proposed this vote, and he was prepared to stand or fall by it, as he felt that the honor of the country was at stake.
The honor of the country was at stake in this $20,000. New Brunswick the same year spent $15,000. Now, I opposed the expensive Militia Bill submitted to this House; but then the Government had expended over half a million dollars a year in militia expenses; and I admit they are going on very properly now. (Hear, hear.) Then we have been told that this Confederation scheme is going to raise the credit of the country. My honorable friend from Saugeen [Hon. Mr. Macpherson] ventured the statement that on the intelligence of the adoption of these resolutions in the Conference reaching England, funds rose fifteen to seventeen per cent. Now, does any honorable gentleman suppose for a moment that that was the cause for this rise? (A voice—It was.) I have here from the files of the London Times, the quotations of Canadian Securities, and on the 7th of November,—the date of His Excellency’s letter, conveying information of the adoption of the scheme,—the inscribed stock was 86 to 90.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—I stated a fact when I said that that rise took place in consequence of the resolutions. I would like my honorable friend to explain it in any other way.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—We know that there are various causes which operate in raising or depressing stocks in England, the rate of interest of the Bank of England, &c. Well, on the 7th of November as I said, the quotation was 86 to 90, and I find that on the 25th November, giving time for the news to reach England, it was only 88 to 92. And now, with a strong probability of the measure passing, what is the price? The last quotation is 81 to 83.
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Hon. Mr. Macpherson.—I suppose the honorable member knows the reason of this decline. Soon after what was done in the Conference was known in England, the St. Alban’s raid took place, and the consequence of the events connected with that was a fall of 17 or 18 per cent, in our securities.
Hon. Mr. Seymour.—In consequence of the wise policy of the statesmen of England friendly relations had been maintained with our neighbours. It is true the passport system was put on, but it is to be removed again, and all things are to become as they were before, with the exception, perhaps, of the Reciprocity Treaty. Every man of business knows that that rise in stocks was not caused by anything connected with the Confederation scheme. Why should it? What is it that increases the value of stocks and depreciates them? Is it not the confidence of capitalits who have invested in them, that the interest will be paid. But under this Confederation scheme will not our expenses be increased? This Intercolonial Railway must be built and kept up, and this must be at the cost of Canada. You have got your local governments to keep up, and you have got your Confederate Government (to keep up, and if we look at the experience of the past, is it likely there will be any reduction in the future? (Hear, hear.)
I have got figures here to show what the cost of the two governments was before the union of the provinces. The whole expense of the government of Lower Canada, with the salaries of officers, &c, was £57,618. In Upper Canada we were as economical. We were then under the rule of the Family Compact. and a worse compact we might have. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) They were high-minded, and they did not stoop to matters of corruption, as others have done since. (Hear, hear.) The whole expenses of the two governments were only a little over £100,000 a year. What are they now? Some two years ago the expenses of the civil government alone, not including the cost of the militia, were $3,000,000. Here, in a little more than twenty years, the expenses have increased seven-fold, notwithstanding that we have only one Government. Now, what are we to expect from the Confederate Government?
Every honorable member knows that things must be made pleasant for everybody, and when you are forming a Confederate Government, these expenses must be continued. You cannot turn people adrift, and you must either employ or pension them. Are we to suppose that because there is a Federation, these expenses will be lessened? I admit that in the Lower Provinces they have managed their affairs with less expense than we have. But now we will have the local governments to pay for. We will have another staff to keep up for each province, which will add very materially to our expenses. The money must come out of the pockets of the people, who will have to pay it either by direct or indirect taxation. What possible difference can it make to the people of this country, whether they pay it directly by taxation or in duties? Direct taxation must be imposed, and that to a large extent, by the local governments.
It being six o’clock, the Speaker left the Chair.
After the dinner recess,–
Hon. Mr. Seymour, continuing his remarks, said—I think, honorable gentlemen, that, taking into consideration the vast importance of this scheme—its importance in a financial point of view alone, without saying one word about the principle of changing the Constitution without consulting the people—there should be an appeal to the country before it is carried into effect. A point which I did not enter fully into before the recess was the argument that Confederation would strengthen the connection with the Mother Country. Now, do we not see all the financial reformers in England, with the Times and other influential organs of the press, which on financial grounds were desirous of separating the colonies from the parent state, all advocating this measure in the warmest possible manner? Undoubtedly the imperial government will sanction the scheme, but it is the policy now of that Government to sanction anything of a local character that the colonies desire.
Well, in addition to the press that is favorable to the separation of the colonies from the Mother Country, and financial reformers like Goldwin Smith and others who have favored the same views, what was stated a short time ago by the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies to his constituents? In speaking of this scheme, he said it was favored by the Imperial Government for the purpose of preparing us for a change in our relations; for the purpose of educating us to defend ourselves. (Hear, hear.) Was it not very strong language, coming as it did from no less a personage than the Under Secretary for the […]
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[…] Colonies, that the Imperial Government is ready to favor a separation whenever we asked for it? (Hear, hear.) Now, I am not one of those honorable gentlemen who wish to see the day arrive when the colonies will ask for such separation. I am not one of those who wish to educate the people to that idea, but would rather impress upon them the paramount importance of endeavoring to maintain the union and connection with the Mother Country. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Debeaujeu—What is the opinion of the foreign press with regard to us? Has it not threatened us, so that it is our duty to be prepared?
Hon. Mr. Seymour—I suppose my honorable friend alludes to the press of the neighboring republic. We have certainly seen some of those newspapers, but very few of them threatening to invade and overrun us, but have you heard anything of that kind from the Government of the country, and are not our relations with it of the most friendly character? Are you to be governed in your conduct by the rash utterances of a few newspapers,—perhaps sensation newspapers?
Hon. Mr. Macpherson—Has not Mr. Seward threatened us?
Hon. Mr. Seymour—Not since he entered the Government. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Hon. Mr. Campbell—Yes, just before the last presidential election.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—Well, that is a matter of very little importance. (Laughter.) Now, honorable gentlemen, I have shown that this scheme has no precedent, even on the other side of the line. Among all the wild republican theories of our neighbors, they have never proposed to change the Constitution in this manner—never changed it, at all events, without the consent of the people, obtained in some form or other. Reference has been made, I think, by my honorable friend in front (Hon. Mr. Ross) to the union of England and Ireland. Well, every honorable member knows the means employed to bring about that union. May, in his Constitutional History, states that £1,500,000 sterling were spent in carrying it. But how was the representation dealt with in that case? Did England, being the richer country, possessing the largest share of wealth and capital, give a preponderance of the representation to Ireland, as we propose to give to the Lower Provinces?
Hon. Mr. Ross—That was a legislative union, while in this the representation will be based on population.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—That does not affect the case. After the Irish union was effected, what was the representation of Ireland in the House of Commons? It was 100 members in a total number of 656; and in the House of Lords 28 Peers, in a House of 450 members. And although it was considered by England an absolute necessity that the union should be brought about, she did not give a preponderance, and scarcely a fair share, of the representation to the sister kingdom.
Hon. Mr. Ross—That is because in the English Parliament they do not recognize the principle of representation by population.
Hon. Mr. Seymour—My hon. friends will say that this proposed change is neither American nor English.
Several Hon. Members—It is Canadian. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Seymour—No, it is neither one nor the other; it is a mongrel Constitution. (Laughter.) In England no important change in the laws is ever carried without being discussed in Parliament, session after session, followed by an appeal to the people upon it. Even so unimportant a change—or what would, in comparison with this scheme, be here regarded as so unimportant a change—as the extension of the franchise, has been discussed in Parliament for years, and submitted to the people before passing into law. Now, I would like to enquire of honorable gentlemen, what are the legitimate functions of the Legislature of this country. Do we not assemble here for the purpose of enacting good and wholesome laws for the people? (Hear, hear.)
Those laws may be repealed, if they chance not to meet public approval; but here you propose to change the Constitution—to change the whole fabric of society—in fact to revolutionize society, without asking the consent of the people, and without the possibility—at any rate, the reasonable possibility—of this important change ever being reconsidered. Does not this important subject affect every freeholder in the country as much as it affects us, and are there not thousands of people in the country who have as great an interest in it as the members of the Executive Council of Canada? And yet, forsooth, these gentlemen prepare a scheme, bring it down to this House, and tell the representatives […]
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[…] of the people that they are not at liberty to ascertain the wishes of the people respecting it, nor to alter it in any manner, but that they must take it as it is. Still we are told, notwithstanding all this, that this is freedom, and that we are a free people.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—You are at liberty either to accept or reject it. (Hear,hear.)
Hon. Mr. Seymour—Well, that is all very well, but we are told we must accept the scheme as it is; and all the influence that the Government can use—which I fear will be successfully used—(hear, hear)—will be employed to carry it through without the people having an opportunity of saying yea or nay upon it. We are told it is not British to permit this—even to pass a short act allowing the people to vote upon it; but if this is not British, neither is the proposition itself. (Hear, hear.) I entreat honorable members not to pass a measure of this importance without delaying it some little time, at all events, for the purpose of obtaining an expression of public opinion upon it. The people who are to be governed by it, who are for all time to come to live under this Constitution, certainly have a right to be consulted before it is consummated; and for the special well-being of the country, I hope and trust it will not pass without affording them that opportunity. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Bennett said—Honorable gentlemen, after the many able and eloquent speeches we have heard on this subject, it may be presumptuous in me to offer any remarks—(cries of “go on.”)—but I cannot consent to give a silent vote upon the question before the House, and I think I would be wanting in my duty to those who sent me here if I did not make some observations upon this important subject. (Hear, hear.) I think honorable gentlemen will agree with me that this project is one of the most important—indeed, the most important—that has ever been brought before the Legislature of Canada. (Hear, hear.)
We are about to witness a great change in the Constitution of the country, the like of which has not been seen since the union of the provinces; and I am free to say that a change of some kind or other is imperatively demanded, for I think that if the present state of things were allowed to continue it would be difficult, if not impossible, to carry on the Government as it has been carried on for the last three or four years. (Hear, hear.) We hare been told by the honorable and gallant gentleman at the head of the Government [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] that we have been on an inclined plane, and I am sure that if some remedy had not been proposed we would have found ourselves sliding into a state of anarchy from the bitterness of feeling which prevailed in the country.
I am not so sanguine, as some honorable gentlemen seem to be, that when we get Confederation we shall have a sort of political millennium, that we shall have no more political storms and agitations, but that we shall then enjoy nothing but the calm and sunshine of political life. But I think we will find ourselves pretty much in the same position as before with regard to parties—that we shall have a Government party and an Opposition, for in all free constitutional governments it is better to have an opposition than to be without one. I object, not to a healthy opposition, but to a factious one. (Hear, hear.) From the difference in the laws, language and institutions of the several provinces it is clear that a legislative union of them is out of the question. The principle of the double majority, as a remedy for our difficulties, has proved to be a failure; representation by population, which would have satisfied Upper Canada, has been persistently denied by Lower Canada; and, therefore, I see no resource but to fall back upon the project of the Confederation of the provinces. (Hear, hear.)
I would like to remark upon the peculiar position in which the elected members of this House stand in reference to this subject. It has been said that, if they vote for the resolutions, they vote to make themselves members of the House for life; that this was not contemplated by the constituencies when they were elected; and that it would be destroying the franchise and taking away a right from the people which the House had no authority to do. Well, all I can say is, that I have heard no such objections from the people of the constituency which I have the honor to represent. All I have heard from them is a call for delay in the consideration of this question, and I maintain that delay is not fatal or injurious to it. (Hear, hear.)
We have delayed it already for weeks; in New Brunswick it has been postponed till after the general election; and can any one show me that it will injure the measure to put it off for a short time longer? Surely if it is good now, it will be just as good twelve months hence. (Hear, hear.) The resolutions have been drawn up by able, talented, but fallible men; and therefore we ought to weigh them carefully […]
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[…] before finally passing them. (Hear, hear.) I have no doubt it is the opinion of every man—even of the delegates who framed these resolutions—that if he had the power he would change them in some particular. If I had the power I have no hesitation in saying that I would change them; but we must take them as a whole or reject them altogether. When I hear of amendments being moved by different honorable gentlemen, therefore, I am reminded of the looker-on at a game of chess. He imagines that he could improve many of the moves made by the players, but it would be found, if his suggestions were followed, that the end would be that he would find himself checkmated and the game lost. (Hear, hear.) In looking over the resolutions I have found some things that are good, and some that are open to objection; but, upon a careful balance of both, I have come to the conclusion that the good preponderates. (Hear, hear.) I would, therefore, hesitate to take upon myself the responsibility of risking the defeat of the measure by voting for any amendment to them. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Alexander said—I shall not now trespass at any length upon the indulgence of this House. My honorable friend from Port Hope (Hon. Mr. Seymour) possesses the esteem and respect not only of the Legislative Council, but of the country, from the straightforward and consistent course he has ever pursued on the floor of Parliament in regard to all great questions of public interest, and it is with very great diffidence and reluctance that I venture to challenge the figures, generally, stated by my honorable friend, in the position he took, and the deductions he drew from them, in reference to the proposed Confederation. But my honorable friend took surely a most gloomy view of the subject.
He apprehended the worst consequences and results from the proposed alliance. The reply to that is that it just depends upon ourselves—it depends upon the members of the new Confederate Legislature whether good or evil shall flow from it. (Hear, hear.) If they proceed to work out the Constitution with reasonable frugality and care, determined to keep down the public expenditure, and prevent all jobbery in the carrying out of public improvements, then, I am satisfied that the Confederation may be carried out without materially increasing the public burdens; or, at all events, that our position will be such, that they will not fall more heavily upon us as a whole. The honorable gentleman particularized certain instances of alleged injustice, such as the financial arrangements with regard to Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Why, surely there can be no great injustice to Canada, in our agreeing on the one hand to allow certain subsidies, not of large amount, while we take the whole of their excise and custom duties with the power of levying a uniform tariff.
As regards the probable adequacy of the revenue of the proposed General Government to meet all the items of ordinary expenditure, I will leave my honorable friend from Port Hope [Hon. Mr. Seymour] to disprove the correctness of the figures given by the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] at Sherbrooke. For my own part, I would not presume to challenge the statements of so able a Minister of the Crown. But it is said that to meet the expense of the Local Government, we would require to have recourse to heavy direct taxation upon Upper and Lower Canada. I shall proceed to show that this would not be necessary, unless the Local Legislature ran out. Let us see what will be the position of Upper Canada, which is to receive upon the basis of 80 cents per head, $1,120,000. The local items which will have to be met out of that appropriation will be as follows:—
|Hospitals and charities||125,000|
|Penitentiary and reformatories||76,000|
|Roads and bridges||80,000|
|Literary and scientific institutions||7,000|
|Civil Government, Lieut.-Governor and
|Leaving a balance for other purposes||270,888|
The prevailing desire in my section of Western Canada is, that the Local Legislature shall only be one Chamber of thirty members, with a very limited inexpensive Executive—a sort of large municipal deliberative body—which would involve a small expenditure, and if such views are carried out, there are no reasonable grounds for apprehending the necessity for direct taxation. But I did not intend when I rose to enter again at length upon such details. I was only desirous to explain the course which I shall be obliged to pursue in reference to the amendment of the honorable member for the division of Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn]. […]
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[…] After the leader of the Government, in another quarter, has declared that they will look upon any amendment of an important detail as a defeat of the whole scheme, I am not prepared to take the responsibility of voting for an amendment which would have such an effect. (Hear, hear.) But while I am satisfied that I am acting in accordance with the views of my constituents in voting in the negative, I do think that an opportunity should be afforded to any of the members of this House to record the views of their constituents upon this or upon any of the other details to which they take exception, and I therefore beg to move in amendment, seconded by the Hon. Mr. Skead,—
That it is proper that any members of this House should be afforded an opportunity of recording their views in regard to the proposed change in the manner of appointing the members of the Legislative Council. But that the way to effect this in the most satisfactory manner, without endangering the safety of the Confederation as a whole, will be to enter a memorial or protest upon the Journals of this House, embodying their views upon this important detail of the Confederation. A copy of such memorial or protest to be transmitted to the Imperial Government along with the resolutions now before this House.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—I should like to know in what position I would be placed if the amendment of the honorable gentleman was carried. (Hear, hear.) If I support the amendment of the honorable member from the Wellington Division (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) it would appear, from this amendment, if it were adopted, that I would have to support the substantive resolutions also. I would like to know how these two things can be done at the same time.
Hon. Mr. Bossé—I do not think the amendment is in order, and I raise that objection to it.
Hon. Sir N.F. Belleau—The rules of the House provide for protests being made by members, and the amendment is, therefore, unnecessary.
Hon. Mr. Currie—I would like to hear some further explanation from my honorable friend from the Gore Division [Hon. Mr. Alexander], respecting this amendment.
Hon. Mr. Reesor—Is it in order?
The Hon. The Speaker—The amendment is not in order. The effect of it would be simply to affirm the 23rd rule of this House, which provides that any member may enter his protest against any action on the part of the House. This amendment is simply a reiteration of that rule, and I must, therefore, declare that, in my opinion, it is out of order. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Aikins—As the honorable member from the Gore Division [Hon. Mr. Alexander] particularly desires to express an opinion upon the question whether the elective principle shall be abolished or not, I will, with the permission of the House, give notice of a motion which I intend to move, in amendment to the main resolution before the House:—
That the legislative councillors representing Upper and Lower Canada in the Legislative Council of the General Legislature, shall be elected as at present, to represent the forty-eight electoral divisions mentioned in schedule A of chapter first of the Consolidated Statutes of Canada, and each such councillor shall reside or possess the qualification in the division he is elected to represent.
Hon. Mr. Currie—At this stage of the debate I will take the opportunity of referring to some figures just used by the honorable member from the Gore Division [Hon. Mr. Alexander], who gave us the impression that the local governments would have much more than sufficient means to carry on their local affairs from the subsidies granted to them by the General Government. Now, it is very easy to make this statement, but if the honorable gentleman will look back to the time of the union of Upper and Lower Canada he will find that, immediately before that union, the cost of governing Upper Canada by its separate Legislature, with a population of 450,000, was $770,000 a-year; and we have heard it stated to-day that the people were then governed cheaply, honestly and properly. If it cost $770,000 to govern 450,000 people in Upper Canada in 1839, how much, in the same proportion, will it cost to govern 1,396,000 of people now in that section under the Confederation? The answer is, $2,170,000 a year, or, in other words, just about double the amount of the local subsidy.
Hon. Mr. Alexander—The honorable gentleman forgets that the Federal Government will incur a large part of the expenditure of that province formerly borne by the Local Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Currie—I am quite well aware of the burdens the General Government will bear, and also aware that powers will be given to it over certain subjects formerly dealt with by the Local Legislature. As to Lower Canada, it had at the time of […]
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[…] the union, 650,000 inhabitants, 200,000 more than the population of Upper Canada, although its government cost only $573,348; and in the same proportion, provided the new Local Legislature is equally economical as the old, this sum will be increased to $1,230,000—some $400,000 over and above the local subsidy, which excess will, of course, have to be raised by direct taxation. These figures, taken from the Public Accounts, are easily accessible by the honorable member from the Gore Division, and are, of course, entirely reliable.
Hon. Mr. Alexander—The figures I presented to the House are also reliable, and I challenge the honorable gentleman to dispute them.
Hon. Mr. Armand—I have listened attentively to the honorable members who have spoken to the question before the House, some of whom have manifested fear in regard to the changes proposed to be introduced in the Constitution, and I am far from blaming them, but it is to be observed that none of them have proposed a remedy for the difficulties of the situation. Two or three said that the measure had taken the Legislature and the country by surprise, but it seems to me that those honorable members have forgotten that the question of Confederation was discussed both in Parliament and in the country in 1859, and that since then the Legislature and the press have occupied themselves with it often enough. Did not the Legislative Assembly last year name a committee to inquire into the difficulties which seemed to be hurrying us on to anarchy, and did not that committee report that the remedy for those evils was Confederation?
Those honorable members also seem to forget that since the Government disclosed its policy through the magnificent speech of the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] to his constituents at Sherbrooke—a speech circulated in all parts of the country by the press of the various political parties—24 elections have taken place, 13 for this honorable House and 11 for the other. Of the 13 for this House three candidates only declared themselves opposed to Confederation, and of those three, but one was elected. Of the 11 for the Assembly, one only objected to it, and it is said that he will now vote for the measure. Relative to that provision in the resolutions of the Conference, having regard to the elective principle in the Legislative Council, I have already stated my opinion, and I would tell the honorable member for the Wellington Division [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] that it seems to me that the delegates, who are all eminent men, could not have come to such a conclusion except after mature deliberation.
I can well understand that before England permitted us to adopt its Constitution—gave us responsible government, allowed us the control of our own affairs; and when its governor were not advised by ministers responsible to the people, but were surrounded by advisers who were more like clerks, who to preserve their salaries were often obliged to submit to the arbitrary will of their master—I can easily conceive, I repeat, that it was expedient to seek a remedy for the wrongs under which we then labored. But to-day, when the parent state requires that its governors shall choose advisers responsible to the people, the elective system is no longer needful in relation to finance or to the tranquillity and safety of the people.
As to finance, I will certainly not say that officers of the Government take advantage of their position to speculate in setting up ephemeral candidates—most assuredly not; but I will say that many citizens, little careful of their true interest and of the future of their country, convert election days into days of speculation, by giving rise to corruption, violence and perjury; and I shall be ready, whenever required, to prove as clearly as that two and two make four, that in several divisions the election resembled civil warfare more than proper election contests.
I know that many persons, I will not say urged by an inordinate liberalism, degenerating into demagogy—for I do not believe we have in our young country any of those fierce demagogues—but I will say, that there are persons who wish that all the offices under the State should be submitted to universal suffrage, because they know that in such circumstances they could impose upon the sympathy and the judgment of the people. But I would say to such persons—gentlemen, do not suppose yourselves wiser statesmen than those of the Mother Country, who have established their Constitution after centuries of efforts and contests, and who work it after the experience of centuries. I would further tell them “do not suppose yourselves better able to appreciate the British Constitution than Monsieur Montalembert, one of the great literati of the day, the historian and eminent statesman; or than M. Berryer, the prince of the French bar, both of whom proclaimed but recently that that Constitution was one of the most beautiful and free that could possibly be desired.”
I congratulate the Government upon desiring to preserve so […]
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[…] much of this law as may appear rational and good. I refer to the territorial divisions and the propriety of causing them to be represented by persons who have vested interests therein; and indeed how could any one represent with equal devotion and advantage a division, as the man who had sacred rights therein, whether by personal residence or the ownership of the property upon which his qualification rests, and who clings to it because it has descended to him from his ancestor, or because he has acquired it by the sweat of his brow, his vigils and his toils? I hope it will not be said that I intend by my remarks upon this law to disparage the residents in the towns, for the division which I have the honor to represent embraces part of the most populous city in Canada, and I only accepted the charge after the refusal of two of its most eminent citizens—eminent equally by their large fortunes and their social position. But probably those gentlemen had learned by their own experience or by that of others, that public life did not present sufficient charms to cause it to be eagerly coveted. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Currie—Before recording my vote on the amendment before the House, I feel it my duty to say a few words in reference to that amendment. I cannot say that I altogether concur in the manner in which it is drawn, but at the same time I feel called upon, as an elected member, to support it. I feel that it would ill become me—that I would be hardly discharging my duty to my constituents—if I were to sit silently by and give my vote to change the Constitution under which I was elected. (Hear, hear.) I feel that there is something extraordinary in the fourteenth of these resolutions before the House, and I would like to hear the Government give a full explanation as to the manner in which that resolution was arrived at in the Conference. Bear in mind, honorable gentlemen, that the eleventh resolution declares that “the members of the Legislative Council shall be appointed by the Crown under the great seal of the General Government, and shall hold office during life.”
Thus the House will see that by this resolution the Crown has the right for all future time to select the legislative councillors in Upper Canada from any part of the country which the Crown sees fit; but in Lower Canada there is this difference that, according to the sixteenth resolution, “each of the legislative councillors representing Lower Canada in the Legislative Council of the General Legislature, shall be appointed to represent one of the twenty-four electoral divisions mentioned in schedule A, of chapter 1st of the Consolidated Statutes of Canada, and such councillor shall reside or possess his qualification in the division he is appointed to represent.”
Then the fourteenth resolution declares that “the first selection of the members of the Legislative Council shall be made, except as regards Prince Edward Island, from the legislative councils of the various provinces, so far as a sufficient number be found qualified and willing to serve.” Now, honorable gentlemen, I have always understood—my reading of books on constitutional law has given me to understand—that the greatest of England’s statesmen who have spoken on the question of the Royal prerogative, have always broadly laid it down as a rule that the prerogative should never and could never be limited. How is it then that these thirty-three individuals, talented, able and gifted, as no doubt they were, who met in the room behind me and sat with closed doors, saw fit to hamper and cripple the operation of that good rule? (Hear, hear.)
Should the prerogative of the Crown in the selection of members of this House be limited? It may be true that, residing in many of the divisions in Lower Canada represented in this House, there may be good men, competent men, well qualified men; but it is equally true that there may be just as good, able and talented men, outside of them as in it. Why, then, should the doors of this House be closed against these men? Why is it, I would like to know, that the prerogative of the Crown is to be restricted so as to prevent the choice of these men?
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—I can give explanations to the honorable gentleman. He must be aware that Lower Canada is in a different position from Upper Canada, and that there are two nationalities in it occupying certain portions of the country. Well, these divisions have been made so as to secure to both nationalities their respective rights, and these, in our opinion, are good reasons for the provision that has been made.
Hon. Mr. Currie—I do not think my honorable and gallant friend [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] sees the point of my remarks. I would ask why in the first selection the choice of the Crown is restricted to the members of this Chamber, when probably others out of it could be found whose presence here would be of more advantage to the public?
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—I do not know what advantage would be derived if the Crown […]
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[…] had the right of making selections from all over the country. If that had been proposed, I think many honorable gentlemen would have found fault with it. (Hear, hear.) It was due to courtesy that the members of this House should not be overlooked, and not only that, but there were acquired rights which had to be respected. My honorable friend appears to dissent from this statement. Well, the last choice of the people are now in this House, and by the fact of their election they have acquired a right to a seat; and I think those gentlemen who have been appointed for life have gained rights which should not be overlooked. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Currie—The honorable and gallant gentleman [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] says we have an acquired right. I admit we have a right to sit here during the term for which we have been elected; but what right have we to seat ourselves here for the remainder of our lives? The people did not send us here to make this change in the composition of this House. (Hear, hear.) And what right even have the appointed members of this House to seats here during their lifetime? I have a despatch here, written by the late Duke of Newcastle, who will be considered pretty good authority upon the point, to the Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island, on this very question. I need not read the words of the despatch, but the sense of it is, that legislative councillors have no right of property in their position, but simply a naked trust which the Legislature may at any time call upon them to surrender to other hands, if, in their opinion, the public interest shall require such transfer.
Hon. Sir E.P. Taché—That is merely a matter of opinion. That may for a time have been the view of the Imperial authorities, but previous to 1856 they held and said directly the contrary. (Hear, hear.) They then said that they had granted certain privileges to certain gentlemen for life, and that they would not commit the injustice of withdrawing those privileges when the gentlemen had done nothing to forfeit them. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Currie—I am surprised at the honorable and gallant Premier [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] questioning the ability of the distinguished gentleman who wrote the despatch to which I have just referred. Whatever may have been the opinion of the Colonial Office in 1856, this is a later opinion, for the despatch is dated the 4th of February, 1862, The honorable and gallant gentleman [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] says they do not propose to take from any honorable gentleman the rights he now enjoys. I could understand this argument if they did not propose to take away the rights of any honorable member of this House; but I cannot understand it when you propose to drive from this House faithful subjects who have served their country honestly in the Legislature, and I am afraid we have not yet had from the gallant Premier [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] that explanation to which the House is entitled. (Hear, hear.)
Why is it that the legislative councillors from Prince Edward Island are excepted? In that province, as we know, the Legislative Council is elective, and it is an elected Chamber that is now in existence there, but the members of it are excepted from the provisions that apply to the legislative councils of the other provinces. Why is this? I think there must be some reason, in the first place, for breaking the good rule that in no way shall the prerogative of the Crown be restricted; and, in the second, for making an exception in regard to one that does not apply to the others. I think a reason may be found for this in the fact, that it was doubted whether the resolutions in a different shape would have passed through some of the chambers that compose the legislatures of the different provinces. (Hear, hear.) I would like to know what justice will be done if this change is carried out? What, for instance, will be done with regard to two honorable members who come from the city of Hamilton? One of them (the Hon. Mr. Mills) is an appointed member; the other (the Hon. Mr. Bull) was the almost unanimous choice of the people only a few months since. Under the working of the resolutions, one of these honorable gentlemen will forfeit his seat.
Hon. Mr. Ross—Why? (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Currie—If it does not follow that one of these honorable gentlemen will lose his seat, it must follow that some other portion of Upper Canada will be unrepresented in this House. (Hear, hear.) Let honorable gentlemen take either horn of the dilemma they please. It may be quite true that the gentlemen who have been sent here possess the confidence of their constituents, but it does not follow that they will be retained in their seats. It is plain that a great injustice will be done these honorable gentlemen, some of whom have served their country faithfully, without, in any way trenching upon the rights of the Crown or infringing on those of the people; and I think the conclusion this House and the country, as well as the other branch of the Legislature, will arrive at, is that those resolutions […]
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[…] were devised because they were better calculated in this shape to be palatable, if not to this Chamber, at least to other houses of the legislatures of British North America. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Christie—Like other hon. gentlemen who have preceded me, I am overcome with the importance of this subject; and I would fail in my duty were I to give a silent vote on the very grave question now before the House. I feel that, in the language of my hon. friend from the Eastern Division [Hon. Mr. Bennett], it is a question of the greatest possible importance; and I think the House has great reason to congratulate itself on the manner in which the discussion of it has been approached—in the way in which it has been treated, both by the friends of the resolutions and by those who have opposed them. (Hear, hear.) Difference of opinion there must be on all great public questions. (Hear, hear.)
It is idle to expect that we should all be agreed on this any more than on any other great public question; and after all, the most correct judgment, which can be formed on any occasion, is but an approximation to the truth. (Hear, hear.) All those who have preceded us in the work of constitution making, have left, on the structures which they have erected, the impress of that attribute which prevades humanity—imperfection. We brave a very lamentable instance of this in the case of our neighbors on the southern side of the line. As was well said, by a prominent member of the Government in another place, the Constitution of the United States “was one of the most wonderful works of the human intellect—one of the most marvellous efforts of skill and organization that ever governed a free people. But to say that it was perfect would be wrong.” The wonder is that men with the limited amount of experience which its authors possessed, should have framed such an instrument. It has stood many rude tests, and but for the existence in the social compact of our American friends, of an element in direct antagonism to the whole genius of their system—negro slavery—the Constitution of the United States would have continued to withstand—yes, and after the extinction of that element, will continue to withstand—all the artillery which their own or foreign despotism can array against it. Their institutions have the same features with our own.
There are some points of variance; but the same great principle is the basis of both—that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the unalienable rights of man, and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. This is the secret of the strength of the British Constitution, and without a free and full recognition of it, no government can be strong or permanent. I am free to admit that the scheme before us has some defects, which, in my judgment, will mar its well-working; but, at the same time, I am confident that, if it should become law, those defects can and will be remedied. The gentlemen composing a majority of the Conference, who were the authors of these resolutions, honestly thought that their views were right, but the time will come when they or their successors will see that they were wrong, and the errors will be rectified. We are told the resolutions must be either accepted or rejected. Therefore, the question which we must solve is, whether those defects are so serious as to render it our duty to reject them, or are the advantages likely to result from their adoption more than equivalent to the drawbacks. I hold that the substitution of appointment by the Crown for the elective principle, in this Chamber, is a great objection. I have always been an advocate of the elective principle; still I shrink from the responsibility of voting against the scheme because of that objection. (Hear, hear.)
We had reached a condition almost bordering on anarchy; and I am sure from the conflict of passions that prevailed—and it is not my design to blame one political party or the other for it, I simply state a fact, freely conceded by both parties—that a state of things existed for which a remedy of some kind must be found. And it is a cheering fact that in the midst of this state of things we have found men patriotic enough to merge former differences and unite together for the purpose of framing a Constitution which will secure exemption from the evils under which we have labored. And although it may entail—I am not here to state that it will not entail—additional cost upon the country, yet that is not a valid argument against the adoption of the scheme. (Hear, hear.)
The House and the country have to take this into consideration, whether, if it be rejected, we can devise a plan better fitted to extricate us from our present difficulties, and which will command the support of all the parties to this compact. It seems to be unnecessary to go into the discussion of the question as to […]
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[…] whether union of the British North American Provinces is desirable. Every hon. gentleman who has spoken, has given his assent to that proposition. But objections have been urged against the resolutions before the House, and some of those objections have assumed a tangible shape. They have been presented in the amendments moved by my honorable friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] and by my hon. friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie]. My vote shall be given for the resolutions, notwithstanding their defects, because I believe that the benefits which we shall derive from their adoption will far outweigh them. (Hear, hear.)
We have been told that this scheme is new, that the country is not informed upon the subject, and that the people do not understand it. There was a time in the history of this country—and that time has not very long gone by—when this plan of government, or at any rate the leading principles embodied in it, were discussed and approved by a very large number of the people. In 1859, a numerous and respectable body representing the Reform party of Upper Canada, et in the city of Toronto. That convention was composed of, I think, 560 members, who substantially adopted it as the policy of the party. Among other resolutions which the convention agreed to were two which I shall take the liberty of reading to the House. The 4th resolution was to the following effect:—
That without entering on the discussion of other objections, this assembly is of opinion that the delay which must occur in obtaining the sanction of the Lower Provinces to a Federal union of all the British North American Colonies, places that measure beyond consideration as a remedy for present evils.
The object of this resolution was clearly not to ignore the larger project of Confederation of all the British North American Provinces, and I think I shall be able to convince the House, from what fell from myself on that occasion, that it was not so considered. But the difficulties then surrounding us were of a grave character and an immediate remedy was desired; and, as the resolution expresses it, the obstacle in the way of a Federal union of all the provinces, and which prevented its acceptance as an immediate remedy, was the delay which would necessarily occur in obtaining the consent of the Lower Provinces. But the 5th resolution adopted at that meeting embodied in it some of the main features of the resolutions of the Conference. It runs thus:—
That in the opinion of this assembly the best practicable remedy for the evils now encountered in the Government of Canada is to be found in the formation of two or more local governments, to which shall be committed the control of all matters of a local or sectional character, and some joint authority, charged with such matters as are necessarily common to both sections of the province.
Hon. Mr. Ross—Or, in other words, there was a hope at that time that Confederation would be accomplished. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Christie—Yes; and I was going on to show that that was the sense in which I and others in that body viewed the resolution at the time; and my hon. friend from the Niagara Division [Hon. Mr. Currie] was a member of the convention. I shall quote from a speech I made upon that occasion, which will show at all events the sense in which I regarded the resolution I have just read. It is sometimes an advantage in advocating measures to have no embarrassing antecedents. This is my lot on this occasion, or I should, perhaps, have been reminded of them by my hon. friend from Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie]. It will be remembered by those who were present at the meeting, that Mr. Sheppard moved a resolution, in amendment, affirming the propriety of dissolving the union between Upper and Lower Canada; but in doing so, he said, that if our object was to establish a large nationality, he would withdraw it, and support the main resolution. In reply to him I said:—
Mr. Sheppard has stated that if he could see that the tendency was towards the acquisition of a national existence, then he was with us; he could see the propriety of a course of that kind. Now I, for one, have no hesitation in saying that such is its tendency, and that that man is blind to the future of this country, nay, more, that he is not a true patriot, who does not believe that some day or other this great British North American continent will have a nationality. I think every man, looking at the history of the past and judging from that what may be the history of the future of this country, must feel that one day or other—and this, perhaps, at no very distant period—we shall have a great North American nationality. It is no part of our scheme that there shall not be a Federation of all the British North American Provinces. We admit the possibility of that in one of the resolutions already passed, but we say that we cannot afford to wait for it, for the extravagance of our present system is so great that the country cannot stand it much longer. With regard to dissolution of the union, […]
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[…] pure and simple, we say you can’t get it—it is not advisable that you should have it, because it is a step in the wrong direction. It is going back. We adopt the principle of Federation, as a step in the right direction, which will, in the meantime, relieve us from the pressing difficulties under which the country labors, and which also looks to the future—to a Federation of all the British North American Provinces first, and beyond that to the admission of other territories into the great North American Confederacy.
Having thus shown the views which were entertained at that time, I feel, honorable gentlemen, that we are perfectly consistent in supporting the main features of this scheme. (Hear, hear.) I think it will be in the recollection of honorable gentlemen, that while this meeting in Toronto took place on the 9th of November, 1859, there was also another meeting in the city of Montreal, on the 25th of October preceding, the proceedings at which to a great extent influenced the decision of that convention. The meeting at Montreal, composed of Lower Canadian Opposition members of Parliament, gave forth to the world a very important and able document—a document which on its face was partly advisory to the members of the Reform party of Upper Canada, who were about to meet in Toronto. It was signed by the following gentlemen: the Hon. Messrs. A.A. Dorion, L. T. Drummond, L. A. Dessaules, and Thomas D’Arcy McGee. If the House will bear with me, I will quote from it as briefly as possible, because it is impossible for me to present, in any language of my own, arguments so cogent, and so satisfactory, in support of the scheme now before the House. (Hear, hear.) After setting forth the necessity of immediate action and deprecating dissolution of the union pure and simple, these gentlemen—who formed a committee of the Liberal party of Lower Canada to prepare this manifesto—say:—
Neither can we comprehend how the re-adjustment of representation could effectually prevent the recurrence of the conflicts and collisions arising out of the distinct character of our twofold population. In each section there would still one minority and majority parties; and unless the principle of a double majority could be enacted as a fundamental law, we should be exposed to an endless round of the same complaints that we now hear, of one section ruling the other contrary to its well-known public opinion, and to see reproduced in our politics the same passions, the same intrigues, the same corruption and insincerity. The enactment of the double majority is not advocated in any quarter.
I am sorry that my hon. friend from the Grandville Division [Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just] is not in his place, for I think the remedy he proposes is so ably shown in this document to be insufficient to meet the exigencies of the case, that even he would be convinced of the inadequacy of the views he has just now announced. The language I have quoted is just what we say now, that representation by population per se would not afford sufficient means of extrication from our difficulties, and would not give us the hope which the new constitutional system, of which it forms a main feature, does afford, that we will be rid of the evils which have distracted the country. (Hear, hear.) Upper Canada, were that principle engrafted into our legislative union, would undoubtedly have greater power and weight, but as the manifesto justly says:—
We should be exposed to an endless round of the same complaints that we now hear, of one section ruling the other, contrary to its well known public opinion.
We should still have Upper Canada versus Lower Canada; because local difficulties, arising out of real or supposed interference with the customs, laws, religious institutions, or sectional questions of any kind, would provoke and perpetuate the same bitter and hostile feelings which have so long annoyed and vexed the people of both sections of the province. (Hear, hear.) The Federative system is the only cure for this great evil. (Hear, hear.) The manifesto of the committee proceeds to say:—
Your committee are impressed with the conviction that whether we consider the present needs or the probable future condition of the country—the true, the statesmanlike solution is to be sought in the substitution of a purely Federative for the present so-called Legislative union. The former, it is believed, would enable us to escape all the evils, and so retain all the advantages appertaining to the existing union, while by restricting the functions of the Federal Government to the few easily-defined subjects of common or national concern, and leaving supreme jurisdiction in all other matters to the several provinces, the people of each sub-division would possess every guarantee for the integrity of their respective institutions which an absolute dissolution of the union would confer.
It is impossible to state in stronger or more appropriate terms than these the advantages set forth in the leading features of this scheme—they are in exact accordance with the principles here so luminously and powerfully stated. One would suppose that […]
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[…] the hon. and gallant Knight [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché], or the hon. the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell], had written the paragraph; even they could not offer a better defence. (Hear, hear.) But I wish to call to the next paragraph of this manifesto the attention of my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Aikins), who thinks that these resolutions have not been long enough before the public to enable them to form a correct judgment upon them. I trust the House will bear with me while quoting from this State paper; but really I feel that the arguments which it urges are so good that they are the best defence of the resolutions that can fee offered:—
The proposition to Federalize the Canadian union is not new. On the contrary, it has been frequently mooted in Parliament and in the press during the last few years. It was, no doubt, suggested by the example of the neighboring States, where the admirable adaptation of the Federal system to the government of an extensive territory, inhabited by people of divers origins, creeds, laws and customs, has been amply demonstrated; but shape and consistence were first imparted to it in 1856, when it was formally submitted to Parliament by the Lower Canada Opposition, as offering, in their judgment, the true corrective of the abuses generated under the present system
Thus it appears that the gallant Knight [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] and his confrères of the Conference have not the credit of originating this scheme—the honor belongs to the Liberal party of Lower Canada; and it is somewhat surprising that these gentlemen, who not only adopted it themselves but recommended it to Upper Canada, are the only parties who now oppose it. (Hear, hear.) Now, mark the significance of the paragraph which follows:—
The discussion now going on in Upper Canada justifies the hope that the Liberal party of that section of the province will at the approaching convention pronounce in favor of Federation. It, therefore, now becomes imperative upon the Liberals of Lower Canada to determine whether they will sustain the views enunciated in Parliament in 1856, and urged upon every subsequent occasion when constitutional changes were discussed.
Hon. Mr. Currie—Hear, hear!
Hon. Mr. Christie—The hon. gentleman says “hear, hear,” but what was recommended in this paragraph has been done. Our friends called on the Liberal party in Upper Canada to adopt their scheme at the convention of 1859. It was then adopted. It has now been adopted by both parties in Upper Canada; nay more, it has been adopted by the Conservative party in Lower Canada, and shall the country now be told that the only party who oppose it, are the Liberal party of Lower Canada, who claim the credit of being its authors. The arguments are so cogent that I must continue to quote them:—
If Lower Canada insists on maintaining the union intact,—if she will neither consent to a dissolution of the union, nor consider the project of a Federation, it is difficult to conceive on what reasonable grounds the demand for representation according to population can be resisted. The plea for such a resistance has hitherto been, that danger might arise to some of her peculiar and most cherished institutions; but that ground will be no longer tenable if she rejects a proposition the effect of which would be to leave to her own people the sole and absolute custody of those institutions, and to surround them by the most stringent of all possible safeguards, the fundamental law of the land, unalterable save by the action of the people affected by them.
Could there be anything stronger or more to the point than this. He will not admit it, but no doubt this document has contributed largely to the conversion of my venerable and gallant friend [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] at the head of the Government. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) I have such faith in the efficacy of it, that in the hope of making more converts I will go on with it:—
Your committee will not be expected, it is presumed, to do more than indicate the conclusions at which they have arrived with respect to the more prominent features of the proposed system of Federation. They are clearly of opinion that whatever be the number of the provinces into which it may ultimately be thought advisable to divide the Province of Canada, the old division line between Upper and Lower Canada must be preserved. In the distribution of powers between the Local, or State, and the Federal Government, the controlling and pervading idea should be to delegate to the Federal Government such authority only as would be essential to the objects of the Federation; and by necessary consequence to reserve to the subdivisions, powers as ample and varied as possible. The customs, the post-office, the laws concerning patents and copyrights, the currency, and such of the public works as are of general interest to the whole province, would form the chief, if not the only subjects with which the General Government should be charged; while everything relating to purely local improvements, to education, to the administration of justice, to the militia, to laws relating to property, and generally all questions of local concern; in fine, on all matters not specifically devolving on the Federal Government, would be lodged in the governments of the separate provinces. * * * In conclusion, […]
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[…] your committee strenuously recommend to the Liberal party of Lower Canada the propriety of seeking for a solution of the present difficulties in a plan of Confederation, the details of which should be so matured as to meet the approbation of a majority of the people of this province, and, in order to further this, and to promote the most ample discussion of the subject as well in Parliament as throughout the country.
It may be said in reply, that this document refers only to the Federation of the Canadas. The scheme before the House provides for that most fully; but if the principle be good as regards Canada, it will be equally beneficial as regards the other British North American Colonies. (Hear, hear.) The hon. member from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn], in the very able speech which he delivered the other day, and to which all who heard him must have listened with very great pleasure, enunciated his views in his usual forcible and lucid style; and whether there is a coincidence of opinion with him or not, one cannot but respect the intelligence, moderation and candor with which he expresses his views. (Hear, hear.) I trust that in giving my opinion upon some points of his remarks I shall be guilty of no want of courtesy although differing from him. (Hear.)
The hon. gentleman, at the outset of his remarks, said that this Constitution, in order to be strong, “must be planted deep in the hearts and afflictions of the people,” and that “there would be no good hope of its permanency without this.” So true and correct is this position, that if I did not believe, honestly believe, that the Constitution which we are now discussing commanded the approbation of a large majority of the people—I am speaking now more particularly of the section of the province to which I belong—I would be one of those to advocate our delaying its passage until we ascertained beyond all doubt what the feelings of the people are; but I think there is no reasonable ground to doubt what their views are. (Hear, hear.) They were shown, in the first place, as pointed out by my honorable friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell], in the fact that nearly all the elections of members of this and the other branch of the Legislature that have taken place since the formation of the Government, have resulted in its favor. That, I think, is very strong testimony of the popular approbation. (Hear, hear.) Then we have no petitions against it. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Currie—And none for it.
Hon. Mr. Christie—”None for it,” the hon. gentleman says. Why, the country has demanded the scheme for years. (Hear, hear.) What have I been proving to the House but that the very party of which the hon. gentleman is a member resolved upon this in 1859. I do not think the feelings of that convention in its favor could have been more distinctly expressed. I certainly so understood it, and a large majority of the 560 gentlemen present so understood it. (Hear, hear.)
It has been before the country in Lower Canada since 1856, when our friends from Lower Canada formally brought it before Parliament. Are there any petitions from Lower Canada now against it? (Hear, hear.) Are there any from Upper Canada? Has there been a single public meeting in either section against it? (Hear, hear.) In Lower Canada, an hon. member says, there have been two or three. It has been said—I do not declare it, but make the statement on public rumor—that they were failures, small demonstrations of opposition. But in Upper Canada we have had no demonstration whatever against it. An indirect attempt was made the other day at Toronto by an effort to condemn the Intercolonial Railway in connection with Confederation, but it was a manifest failure. (Hear, hear.)
I think, then, that we are justified in assuming—and, indeed, are bound to assume—that the people do not object to it, and that they fully understand its character; for in spite of what maybe said to the contrary, it has gone through the length and breadth of the land, having been widely circulated by every newspaper in the country; and it is a flimsy argument for honorable gentlemen to use, that because the resolutions addressed to them were marked “Private,” they could not be communicated to the public. (Hear, hear.) They have been spread all over the country; but we are told the entire press has been subsidized by the Government. To say that the press was influenced in any manner by the circular to which allusion has been made, is absolutely ridiculous. (Hear, hear.)
There are a few newspapers in either section of the province—certainly there are few in Upper Canada—that have spoken against the scheme; but nine-tenths of them in both sections are in favor of it, and have discussed it in all its bearings—yet we are told that the public has not been sufficiently informed upon it, that in fact there is no public opinion in […]
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[…] respect to it, and that hence there are no petitions or demonstrations against it. I think this is a mode of reasoning which my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Currie) ought not to adopt—it is an argument unworthy of his intelligence. (Hear, hear.) My hon. friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] the other day attacked the character of the Conference, and the attack has been repeated since, by styling it a ”self-elected body.” This designation was not correct. So far as Canada is concerned, we were represented by the Canadian Government, formed for the express purpose of carrying into effect a plan of Federal union—union of the Canadas at all events, and if possible of all the British North American Provinces. It will not be denied that the Government possesses the confidence of large majorities in both Houses of Parliament, and of the people of the province. (Hear, hear.)
The representatives of Canada, therefore, could hardly be called a self-elected body, that is in the sense in which my hon. friend has applied the term, namely, that they represented nobody but themselves. To maintain this is indeed to go a great length, for it is practically to ignore both Houses of Parliament, and the very principle of representation. (Hear, hear.) Then, as regards the representatives of the other provinces, they were appointed by the sanction of the Crown, on the invitation of the Governor General, and were selected from various political parties, to consider a question of the utmost interest to every subject of the Sovereign, of whatever race or faith, resident in these provinces; and they have arrived at a conclusion destined to exercise a most important influence upon the future condition and welfare of the whole community. My honorable friend from Port Hope (Hon. Mr. Seymour) referred to-day to the American mode of revising their constitutions. The honorable gentleman very correctly stated the manner in which the Federal Constitution may be amended, but he is in error as to the mode in which state constitutions may be revised. One of the most important of the States revised its Constitution in 1846. I refer to the State of New York. The modus operandi on that occasion was as follows:—An act was passed in the State Legislature authorizing the electors at large to choose delegates to a convention, for the express purpose of revising the Constitution.
The instrument passed by the convention was then submitted to the Legislature for approval; but the Legislature had no power to alter it. It had either to be rejected or accepted as a whole. It was so accepted, none of the details being altered. My hon. friend will see that while the Conference was composed of leading representatives of the people in the various provinces, those conventions are composed of gentlemen elected by the people for that special purpose; and that the only difference between them is in the mode of selection. However, in both cases, all political parties are represented. My hon. friend from the Home Division (Hon. Mr. Aikins ) in speaking of this Conference the other day, said he would have preferred if it had been a party matter, and he took the ground that if it had, it would have been better for the country.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon. What I said was, that I regretted very much that the measure had not been taken up and discussed as a party measure; for although I was of opinion that it could not be carried as a party measure, if it had been so taken up it would have been more thoroughly scrutinized and discussed before the people.
Hon. Mr. Christie—I think the explanation of my hon. friend quite bears out what I stated, that he thought it should be made a party measure.
Hon. Mr. Aikins—I thought the country would be the gainer if it were.
Hon. Mr. Christie—In what way?
Hon. Mr. Aikins—By the fuller discussion we would have.
Hon. Mr. Christie—Where can the hon. gentleman find an instance of the revision or change of a constitution being made a party measure?
Hon. Mr. Aikins—The hon. gentleman can find it on reference to the action of the Toronto convention and the Lower Canadian Liberal party, to which he has just alluded.
Hon. Mr. Christie—The hon. gentleman, I see, has not changed the ground which he took the other day, and which is precisely as I stated it. He thinks it would have been to the public advantage if this question had been taken up and discussed by a party. In this, in my judgment, he is entirely wrong; and I say he can find no instance of a constitution having been revised by a party.
Hon. Mr. Currie—Well, I submit an instance—the amendment to the United […]
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[…] States Constitution, prohibiting slavery, which was passed last mouth, and which was proposed by a party.
Hon. Mr. Christie—A number of the representatives in the Federal Congress who voted for it were democrats, and without their concurrence and support it could not have been carried. Besides, that was only an amendment, not a revision of the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States was not the work of a party. The revision of the Constitution of the State of New York, in 1846, was not the work of a party It is not desirable that any Constitution should be the work of a party; in so important an undertaking all party spirit should be laid aside. (Hear, hear.)
Why? Because men of all parties are alike interested in the formation of a Constitution, and because in the construction of such an instrument, the collective wisdom of the leading men of all parties is needed. Besides, a Constitution so framed will be more likely, as my hon. friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] has so well said, to live in the hearts and affections of the people. (Hear, hear.) To show the good sense of our neighbors on this point, they do not give the revision of a Constitution—and the work of the Conference was a revision of our Constitution—to any party, but to men specially chosen for the purpose, irom all parties; and I think the Governor General, and the Lieutenant-Governors of the Lower Provinces acted most wisely when they selected men of all shades of political opinion to compose this Conference and to prepare this Constitution, because all party views and feelings being laid aside, the whole object and motive of the members of the body was to devise a scheme which would best tend to promote the good of their common country. (Hear, hear.)
The hon. member from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] has suggested a very important objection to the scheme; and I am free to admit that, if the position he took were a correct one, then it would not be my duty, or that of any elected member of this House, to assent to the measure. In order that I may not misrepresent the position taken by the hon. gentleman, let me quote his language, as reported in the newspapers. He held:—
That the elective members had received a sacred trust to exercise; that they were sent here by their constituencies to represent them, and to do that only. Under these circumstances, how could they conceive they had the power to vote away the rights of their electors? That was not their mandate, and if they did, they would be doing that which they had no authority to do; they would be doing that which they could not do without going beyond the authority con faded to them.
Now, it must be frankly admitted that if the hon. gentleman’s position be correct, then his objection would be fatal to any elected member giving his concurrence to the scheme of the Conference. But, hon. gentlemen, let us enquire what is the position of a representative. Two elements enter into the idea of representation—namely, power and duty. A representative derives the former from his constituents acting by their majority, under the Constitution. From what source does he derive the latter? Obviously not from his constituents, because even the majority are not agreed on all points connected with the discharge of his duty. My hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) has spoken of the position of a representative, as being that of a trustee. I shall quote from a very able work on the British Commonwealth, in which that position is, to my mind, very fully and very satisfactorily proved to be incorrect. Cox says:—
Any trust, to be obligatory in conscience, must be defined by the self-same persons who appoint the trustee, or the person who is to fulfil the trust. His powers and duties must be derived from identically the same authority, for it obviously would be contrary to morals, as it is to law, that a man would be bound in conscience to exercise, in a particular way, powers delegated to him by several others, when trey themselves, while delegating those powers, differ as to the mode in which they are to be exercised. For, which of the different ways is the trustee to choose? By whom of those who appoint him is he to be guided in preference to the rest? At the most he is bound to exercise his trust in a particular way in those particulars only respecting which the trust makers are agreed. Let us now apply this abstract principle of equity to the relations between a representative and his constituents. Regard him as their trustee.
With respect to the source of his power there is no ambiguity; it is derived from his constituents acting by their majority. But from whom does he derive the duty of expressing this or that opinion in Parliament? In what particular are the trust-makers agreed? The very majority who voted for him are rarely, perhaps never, all agreed on any one point on which their opinions have been compared with his. Some of them differ from him on some points, some on others, but they all voted for him, from personal consideration, or because of their agreement with him on those points which they respectively deemed most important. In the minority, also, are probably some electors who assent to some, […]
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[…] and dissent from others, of his opinions. The essential conditions of a valid trust to express particular opinions in Parliament are then wanting. The persons nominating him to his office, do not concur as to the opinions which he is to express. How then can a trust exist which it is impossible to define. The real trust imposed on the representative is co-extensive with those obligations, which alone the trust-makers can generally confer on him,—namely, to exercise his representative power honestly and discreetly. This argument, of course, assumes that the candidate has not defined his parliamentary obligations by unconditional pledges.
The only other possible limitation might exist in the Constitution. I shall look then at the instrument from which we derive our powers as legislative councillors, and shall quote from the Imperial Act of 1854, intituled “An Act to empower the Legislature of Canada to alter the Constitution of the Legislative Council, and for other purposes.” The first section is as fellows;—
It shall be lawful for the Legislature of Canada, by any act or acts to be for that purpose passed, to alter the manner of composing the Legislative Council of the said province, and to make it consist of such number of members, appointed or to be appointed or elected by such persons, and in such manner as to the said Legislature may seem fit, and to fix the qualifications of the persons capable of being so appointed or elected, and by such act or acts to make provision, if they shall think fit, for the separate dissolution by the Governor of the said Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly respectively, and for the purposes aforesaid, to vary and repeal in such manner as to them shall seem fit, all or any of the sections and provisions of the said recited act, and of any other Act of Parliament now in force which relates to the Constitution of the Legislative Council of Canada.
Then, in the 3rd section it is provided—
That it shall be lawful for the Legislature of Canada, from time to time, to vary and repeal all or any of the provisions of the act or acts altering the Constitution of the said Legislative Council.
These are the powers given us by our Constitution. (Hear, hear.)
They are of the most ample character. We were elected, pursuant to an act passed in consequence of the exercise of these powers. And, coming from the people, the members of this House were put in possession of these powers the moment they were elected. None of them at their elections pledged themselves not to exercise the powers granted by the Constitution. They were not asked by their constituents to do so. How then, by voting for this or any other measure altering the constitution of the Legislative Council, can they be said to betray the trust reposed in them by their constituents? My hon. friend from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] admits that under the Constitution we have the power to alter the constitution of this House in so far as it relates to Canada, but he says we are not authorized to extend our action to the other provinces, in a scheme of Federal union.
That is begging the question. I answer his objection that any change affecting the elective principle is a breach of trust. Besides, we do not propose to enact a system of Government embracing all British North America We have not the power to do so. We merely propose to address Her Majesty on the subject. The Imperial Parliament alone has that power; but if we have power without a breach of trust to alter the constitution of the Legislative Council of Canada (and my hon. friend admits this), then, certainly, we cannot be guilty of a breach of trust in suggesting a change embraced in a Constitution for the various provinces. I will not yield to my hon. friends from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] and Niagara [Hon. Mr. Currie], in attachment to the elective principle, as applied to this House. I have always been an advocate for it, and I am so still, but we cannot get it inserted in this instrument; and much as I deplore its absence from our proposed Constitution, I am not on that account prepared to reject the resolutions.
This scheme, like all other constitutional compacts, is a compromise between the conflicting opinions of its framers; and on the whole, it is a fair compromise. This feature is not peculiar to our plan of Confederation. My hon. friend will find in the Federalist, and from the correspondence of the able men who framed the “Articles of Confederation,” that compromise and concessions of opinion were submitted to. But out of them all grew the wonderful fabric of the American Constitution. In the resolution which my hon. friend proposes, there is, according to his own admission, compromise.
He admits that he cannot in its integrity procure the application of the elective principle to the Legislative Council. He even proposes to add to the opposite principle; why, then, does my hon. friend object to similar concessions on our part, when we believe that the probable advantages of the whole scheme far outweigh its defects? (Hear, hear.) As regards limitation in the general powers of Parliament contended for by my hon. friend, I hold that it is not to be found in the […]
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[…] unwritten Constitution, made up of historical and parliamentary precedents, any more than in our written Charter from the Imperial Parliament. That great commentator, Blackstone, says of Parliament:—
It hath sovereign and uncontrollable authority in making, confining, enlarging, restraining, repealing, revising and expounding of laws.
So, Justice Story, in speaking of the American Constitution, says:—
Where a power is granted in general terms the power is to be construed as co-extensive with the terms, unless some clear restriction upon it is deducible from the context.
Chief Justice Marshall says:—
The Constitution unavoidably deals in general language, hence its powers are expressed in general terms, leaving to the Legislature, from time to time, to adopt its own means to effectuate legitimate objects, and to mould and model the exercise of its powers as its own wisdom and the public interest may require.
The only other authority I shall quote is from Duer’s Constitutional Jurisprudence:—
No axiom is more clearly established in law or reason than that, wherever an end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included.
But my hon. friend’s motion is utterly inconsistent with the position which he has taken. He takes ground in his speech which is upset by his motion. According to that position he is bound to the elective principle, and he is therefore on principle bound to do all in his power to remove obstructions to its well-working. He is bound even to remove the present nominated members from the House. What does his resolution propose? It proposes not merely to allow the nominated members to remain for life, but to add ten to their number! This is surely not giving free scope to the elective principle. Were the Lower Provinces to have the power which my hon. friend proposes to give them, they would appoint ten of their youngest men to seats in this House, who might be hero for years after those to whom they were an offset had been removed from the House. (Hear, hear.)
Besides, he proposes to give the present elected members seats for eight years, and then, of course, the whole of them would go back for re-election at once. I am not convinced by any argument which I have heard that the elective principle, exercised in some way, is not the best mode to compose this House. It has worked well so far. All the fears which were entertained in reference to it have proved groundless, and I believe it would continue to work well, and therefore, I disapprove of the change proposed in the resolutions. But I am not on that account prepared to reject the whole scheme. With all its defects (and I believe those defects will be remedied) I accept it, because it will be productive of good to the country at large. Therefore, I shrink from the responsibility of rejecting it. (Hear, hear.) I have to apologize for having detained the House so long—(cries of “no, no,” “go on”)—but, before sitting down, I must refer to the amendment of which my hon. friend from Niagara Division (Hon. Mr. Currie) has given notice. It is as follows:—
That upon a matter 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.
My hon. friend does not tell us, in this resolution, which he intends to move—
Hon. Mr. Armstrong—I scarcely think it is in order to discuss a resolution which has not been moved yet.
Hon. Mr. Christie—It forms part of the general subject brought before the House. It is on the notice paper, and I think I am quite in order in referring to it. I was about to say that my hon. friend, in that notice does not tell us whether he intends to propose that public opinion shall be tested by an appeal to the people in the way of a dissolution of the Legislative Assembly, or by submitting the scheme in its integrity to a popular vote. If we recommend the former course, we should place ourselves in rather a strange position. If we advised His Excellency to dissolve the House of Assembly, while we sat quietly by to see what was going on, it would be in effect saying—”We have scruples as to whether public opinion has, or has not endorsed these proposed constitutional changes; but, if your Excellency will be so kind as to dissolve the House of Assembly, those scruples will be resolved by a general election.” (Hear, hear, and laughter.) I think […]
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[…] that would be an extraordinary course for this House to take—and a course which I think would not be considered by the country at large a very becoming one. (Hear, hear.) If the other plan be what my hon. friend intends by his notice, then I say it is a process of ascertaining the popular sanction entirely unknown to the British Constitution. It is a process unknown even to our friends on the other side of the line, except in those cases where the general or state Constitution expressly provides for it. Where such provisions are not contained in the state constitutions, it is invariably held that submission to the popular vote, in order to give the force of law to any legislative act, is unconstitutional and void. In reference to the practice, Sedgwick, an eminent American authority, says:—
Efforts have been made, in several cases, by the state legislatures to relieve themselves of the responsibility of their functions, by submitting statutes to the will of the people, in their primary capacity. But these proceedings have been held, and very rightly, to be entirely unconstitutional and invalid. The duties of legislation are not to be exercised by the people at large. The majority governs, but only in the prescribed form. The introduction of practices of this kind would remove all checks our hasty and improvident legislation, and greatly diminish the benefits of representative government. So when an act to establish free schools was by its terms directed to be submitted to the electors of the state to become a law only in case a majority of the votes were given in its favor, it was held in New York that the whole proceeding was entirely void
The Legislature, said the Court of Appeals, have no power to make such submission, nor had the people the power to bind each other by acting upon it. They voluntarily surrendered that power when they adopted the Constitution. The government of this state is democratic, but it is a representative democracy, and in passing general laws the people act only through their representatives in the legislature. In Indiana, the principle is now framed into a constitutional provision which vests the legislative authority in a Senate and House of Representatives, and declares that no law shall be passed the taking effect of which shall be made to depend upon any authority except as provided in the Constitution. And under these provisions it has been held that so much of an act as relates to its submission to the popular vote was null and void.
That is the general principle, according to American practice. And as I have said, the process of submitting any statute to the popular vote, in order to give it the force of law, is unheard of in British constitutional practice. (Hear, hear.) I shall not detain the House by going into the question of expense, as I promised to do. I will simply say in conclusion, that I do think it is our duty as patriotic men, as men actuated by an honest desire to extricate our country from the difficulties in which it is placed, to deal fairly with this scheme, and as no other has been presented—as those who oppose it have not presented for our consideration any other—have not even suggested the possibility of any other to extricate us from the evils of our position—and believing that in the main this scheme, as regards its great leading outlines, will effect that purpose—then, I say, it is our duty as honest and patriotic men, to approve of it and to sanction it by voting for the resolutions in their integrity. (Hear, hear.) I have resolved, like my honorable friend from the Western Division [Hon. Mr. McCrea], and my hon. friend from the Brock Division (Hon. Mr. Blair) to vote against all amend uients which may be offered to it. We have been told distinctly by the members of the Government that we must either accept or reject it as it is—that amendment is impossible. I can very well understand the reason of that.
It was adopted as a compact between the representatives of the different provinces who had assembled in Conference for the express purpose of framing this Constitution. Were we to make any inroads upon those resolutions, then the other provinces might claim and might exercise the same right. This instrument is not perfect. We all admit that there are points in it to which we object; and there are points in it, I dare say, to which our friends in the Lower Provinces object. It is a compromise, and I think it is a very able, and in the main a very fair compromise. It is such a compromise as ought to commend itself to every reasonable and candid mind. I think, therefore, that all amendments should be vetoed. And I am not afraid that, in taking that course, we shall not be justified by the people at large. (Hear, hear.) The people understand the meaning and effect of these amendments perfectly well. Perhaps I should not call them “buncombe,” but they savour very much of that kind of thing. I think the members of this House need have no fears of public opinion in this matter. As regards the people of Upper Canada—for whom I am in a better position to speak than for the people of Lower Canada—I am satisfied they will endorse our approbation of the resolutions; although, as we do, they may object […]
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[…] to some of the details. I have not hesitated to state my own disapproval of some of them.
Hon. Mr. Currie—Hear, hear.
Hon. Mr. Christie—I disapprove of some of the details, just as strongly as my hon. friend from the Home Division (Hon. Mr. Aikins,) or my Hon. friend from Niagara Division (Hon. Mr. Currie). But I look at it in this light: here we are offered a Constitution which will deliver us from many of the great evils under which we have been laboring. I feel that in the main it will have that effect; and that this will be the result, could not have been stated more clearly or forcibly than we find it in the document which I read, as coming from the Lower Canada Opposition, and signed by Hon. Mr. Dorion, Hon. Mr. Drummond, Hon. Mr. Dessaulles, and Hon. Mr. McGee. I think that document contains arguments in its favor which are unanswerable. (Hear, hear.) In the circumstances, then, in which we are placed, and in the absence of any other wore feasible scheme, I believe that, in spite of all its objectionable features, the good which will result from it as a whole, will more than counterbalance all the difficulties and all the evils which may possibly grow out of it. (Hear, hear.) And besides, it is not a finality. We have every reason to believe that those principles, which, I think, should have been embodied in it, are such as will ultimately prevail.
I have confidence enough in the representatives of the people, and in the members of the Upper House to be nominated by the Crown, and who will compose that branch of the new Legislature formed under this Constitution. I say I have confidence in them to believe that, if the opinions which I hold in respect to those details shall prove to be correct, the defects referred to will be removed from the Constitution. There will be no more difficulty in excising the nominative principle from the future Legislative Council, than there was in excising it from the former body. I might say there were greater difficulties in the one case than in the other. (Hear, hear.)
Looking then at the advantages likely to result from the adoption of the resolutions—the establishment of peace and harmony among the people of this country—the getting rid of those terrible difficulties and conflicts which have beset our path, we ought not to hesitate. Whatever hon. gentlemen may say now, they did not estimate them slightly when they were complaining of the conduct of the governments of the day, and my hon. friend from Niagara (Honorable Mr. Currie) inveighed against the evils which then existed as strongly as any man could do. Looking, then I say, at the abuses and difficulties which have arisen under a legislative union; and, thence arguing the impracticability of going on with that kind of union, and believing that the great advantages likely to result from this scheme of Federal union will much more than counterbalance the evils likely to arise from it, I do say it is our duty as honest and patriotic men to adopt the resolutions presented to us by the Conference. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Sanborn said—I have no desire to take up the time of the House, and shall only do so for a moment or two. I have been unable, from ill health, to be present during the speeches on the amendment which I had the honor to submit, and I shall merely avail myself of this opportunity to answer two or three of the arguments which have been advanced by my hon. friend who has just taken his seat. It appears to me that the difficulties under which my hon. friend labors can be very easily removed; and that, if he is really in harmony in sentiment with those who sustain the amendment now before the House, he ought not to hesitate to give it his support.
On a former occasion I endeavored to show that the amendment did not impair the scheme at all; that it did not place us in antagonism with any of the other provinces; that it was entirely a matter of our own concern,—the election of members to the Legislative Council—and that it was of no consequence to the other provinces how those members were elected, if they had relatively the same number as we. My hon. friend accuses me of being inconsistent in taking ground in favor of the elective principle, while proposing still to retain the nominated members in their seats, and also to add ten new members from the Maritime Provinces. To this, I would answer that it is an exceptional condition in which we are placed. We cannot obviate the difficulty. A similar difficulty presented itself to those who sought the change when the elective principle was introduced into this House, and they met it just in the same manner in which we propose to meet it here. The life members were retained while recognition and sanction were […]
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[…] given to the elective principle, and the House remains now a visible memento of the carrying out of the very position which I take on the present occasion. (Hear, hear.) The ground taken then, and to which the Hon. Premier (Hon. Sir Etienne P. Taché) gave the sanction of his name and reputation, was a recognition of the principle embodied in the amendment now before this honorable House. (Hear, hear.) If we gained anything by introducing the elective principle, we propose to keep that advantage, by retaining it just in the same form, and bearing the same relation to the proposed Legislative Council as it is retained in and bears relation to this House.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—But, under the present union, there is no federative necessity for relative equality of numbers in the Legislative Council, as there will be under the proposed union.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—I admit no necessities of the kind. These necessities are entirely artificial. In that respect, I think hon. gentlemen are entirely in error in the position they take. And, though I concede to my hon. friend from Erie Division (Hon. Mr. Christie) every credit for great candor and soundness of judgment, still I must say that, when he enters into the province of law, he is travelling a little, as we say in the profession, out of the record—and that any one who is familiar with the doctrine of trusts could not fail to see the falseness of his reasoning in that particular. As regards a trust, of course, the person who has a mandate given to him, must act according to his discretion under the circumstances. But then he must do so within the trust that is given him, and not beyond the trust.
Hon. Mr. Christie—Of course.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—My hon. friend cites the act empowering the Legislature of Canada to change the constitution of the Legislative Council, and on this act he bases his whole argument. If I convince him that that act does not cover his argument, will he then concede the point? That act, to which my hon. friend refers, was passed for a specific purpose, to enable Parliament to reconstruct this House. It had answered its purpose when the constitution of this House was changed, but it cannot properly be invoked as giving authority with reference to bringing in other provinces to form a new Confederacy.
Hon. Mr. Christie—But my hon. friend will observe, that we are not legislating now—that we are merely passing an Address.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—We must feel that, according to the rules of law, we are asked here to go beyond the duties which our electors sent us into this House to discharge. I contend that neither any are on our own Statute Book, nor any Imperial Act, authorizes us to assume that they elected us to come here to demolish the whole fabric of our Constitution, and to seek to form another and entirely different political system, embracing a number of other provinces, so that our identity is entirely swamped and lost. I must say that, if my hon. friend feels bound at all by the trust committed to him by those who sent him here as a representative of the people, I conceive he is necessarily bound to this, that he must sustain the elective principle with regard to the constitution of the proposed Legislative Council. It is impossible, I think, to arrive at any other conclusion. (Hear, hear.)
My hon. friend made use of one expression, with apparently some degree of reluctance—the term “buncombe.” I think that was suggestive, and very suggestive. For, if those who are favoring this principle favor it for what my hon. friend characterizes as “buncombe,” then they are seeking popularity with the people—they are seeking what the people want—(hear, hear)—and that argument certainly does not avail my hon. friend in his present position; for he maintains that the people fully understand this thing, and want it. If this be the case—if the whole Province of Canada is bent upon having this scheme—then those who are trying to resist it are standing alone, and are either acting patriotically, or are beside themselves. They cannot certainly be acting from any desire to obtain popularity, because, according to my hon. friend, they are just doing what the people do not want them to do. (Hear, hear.) I know that the position of my hon. friend is somewhat embarrassing. He resides in a section of the province, where he feels there is a difficulty that needs to be removed in some way or other; and he is now endeavoring to show that the best means of removing that difficulty is to embrace a great many other difficulties of a huge character, and of which we cannot fully comprehend the consequences. When an hon. gentleman is prepared to take that ground, I think it would be better for him to take it in silence, than to attempt to sustain it by reason. As regards Lower Canada, […]
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[…] we are not situated in the same way. There is the French party, and there is the English party in Lower Canada, who are situated very differently from the people of Upper Canada; and the people of Upper Canada have a disposition not to recognize their peculiar circumstances, or to have any concern for them at all. If my hon. friend will pardon me, I would say that his whole philosophy is in favor of Upper Canada. In speaking of the public opinion of this province, it was always Upper Canada—he had no idea of Lower Canada as having any existence or any rights.
Hon. Mr. Christie—My hon. friend is quite mistaken. I quoted as lengthily from the manifesto of the Lower Canada Opposition, as from that of the Upper Canada Opposition.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—I am now speaking of the English of Lower Canada; and, as regards the people giving a distinct assent to this proposition, my hon. friend will admit that the English of Lower Canada have not given such an assent.
Hon. Mr. Christie—I stated that I could speak with more confidence as to the public opinion of the section of country to which I belonged, than with regard to Lower Canada.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—The resolutions to which Hon. Mr. Dorion was a party, and which were read by my hon. friend, I conceive to embody, not what Mr. Dorion’s party, or any one political party rather than another desired. I take it for granted that British subjects of French Canadian origin generally have their feelings in that direction—that is, they desire large power for the local government—in fact they would desire the local governments to be the real governments, and that the Federation should be very much nominal, for very minor purposes, and with very weak powers in the Central Government; while, on the other hand, the English population of Lower Canada would take the opposite view, and desire larger powers in the Central Government, and smaller powers in the Local Government. This, I think, was the view to which the resolutions read by my hon. friend had reference. Now, as regards the Reform party of Upper Canada, let us see what they had reference to—whether it was anything like the Constitution which is now proposed. I hold in my hand a pamphlet—the Address of the Reform Constitutional Association to the people of Upper Canada in 1859—and I find here what they conceive to be the true remedy thus stated:—
“The true remedy!” What then is the remedy best adapted to deliver the province from the disastrous position it now occupies? We answer—dissolve the existing legislative union. Divide Canada into two or more provinces with local executives and legislatures having entire control over every public interest except those, and those only, that are necessarily common to all parts of the province. Let no public debt be incurred by the legislatures, until the sanction has been obtained by direct vote. Establish some central authority over all, with power to administer such matters, and such only as are necessarily common to the whole province. Let the functions of this central authority be clearly laid; let its powers be strictly confined to discharging specified duties. Prohibit it from incurring any new debt, or levying more taxation than is required to meet the interest of existing obligations, discharge its own specified duties, and gradually pay off the national debt. Secure these rights by a written constitution, ratified by the people, and incapable of alteration except by their formal sanction.
This was the programme laid down by the Upper Canada Reform Convention of 1859.
Hon. Mr. Currie—Who is the author of that address?
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—Various parties had a hand in it. I find the name of Hon. Mr. McDougall, the present Provincial Secretary, attached to it. And I suppose my hon. friend from Erie Division (Hon. Mr. Christie) was one of them.
Hon. Mr. Currie—They proposed that the Constitution should be submitted to the people?
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—Yes; it was to be ratified by a direct vote of the people. And the beauty of the thing was, that the Central Parliament was to be bound not to increase the debt of the provinces, but gradually to pay it off. (Hear, hear.) I apprehend the Reform party of Upper Canada at that time was wiser than the same party in these days.
Hon. Mr. Christie—That is a question.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—If my honorable friend would take that platform, or something like it, I should be happy to give it my best consideration at once; and I should be very glad if they would only give us a small part of It, of which I think they must see the justice—namely, written guarantees, so as to assure us that our rights of property shall not be overturned by the Local Parliament; […]
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[…] to prevent, for example, a Squatter’s bill—(laughter)—being passed at the very first opportunity in the Local Parliament, demolishing all the rights of property. I see my hon. friend opposite (Hon. Mr. Crawford) look melancholy, because he foresees that, when the new Constitution is adopted, twelve months will not pass before that becomes law in Lower Canada, and all protection for proprietors, so far as that is concerned, brought to an end. But this is only one instance, significant of what will take place. It is perfectly well known, and none can realize it better than those who have a much greater horror of the progress of popular sentiments than I have, that the tendency in the popular mind is to break down monopolies of every kind, and to go to extremes in dealing with vested rights, even those which are established and founded on substantial principles of justice. Now, these rights, at the very least, ought certainly to be confided to the highest legislative authority. I go further and maintain that guarantees for those rights ought to be placed in the written Constitution, that they ought to be beyond the power of interference by the legislative authority, and that they should be guarded by the judicial decisions of the highest courts in the country.
In that case there would be a protection for property, but in this Constitution there is no such protection for property either in Upper or Lower Canada. And here is the point to which I ask the attention of my honorable friends of all parties—a point which I think all of them have been too little concerned about, and which applies just as well to Upper as to Lower Canada. For I say that, if some security is not given to the people in one of those ways for maintaining vested rights and interests of this character, the most disastrous results will arise in every Local Parliament; because, when these parliaments are constructed, they will necessarily consist of a different class of men from those who now compose the legislatures of the various provinces. There will be such inducements to men of the highest order to get elected to the Central Parliament, that the consequence will necessarily and naturally be the result to which I point. (Hear, hear.)
I should like to refer to one argument which was used by my hon. friend from Saugeen (Hon. Mr. Macpherson)—who is not now in his place—that the appointment of members of the Legislative Council in the proposed Federal Parliament is not in fact an abandonment of the elective principle, because the appointments are to be by the Ministry of the day, who must have the confidence of the people. That is certainly a most extraordinary argument. If it held good at all, it should apply equally to both Houses, and the Legislative Assembly should be appointed by the Ministry, because the Ministry have been selected by those who have been elected by the people. This is the clear, logical deduction from my hon. friend’s argument, if it is good for anything—because, if appointment by the Ministry is not an abandonment of the elective principle, you would still have an elective Legislative Assembly, although its members were appointed by the Government (Hear, hear.)
But this was also well answered on a former occasion by my hon. friend behind me (Hon. Mr. Aikins.) It is not simply the first appointment that we oppose. It is the appointments afterwards, as the first members die out or resign, and their successors are appointed on the nomination of the future local governments. Instead of this producing a favorable result, it appears to me it will have just the opposite effect. The reason is plain. If, in the very first instance, the prerogative is exercised, not by the Sovereign or the Sovereign’s representative, unbiased, but is exercised by a party government, you have a House constituted at its very first meeting of a party character. In the other branch that particular Government has a majority. But it is possible, that that party may not long retain power. In the nature of things it is not probable that they will. No party does. But the Upper House remains permanent, and you provide by your very first operation for that dead-lock—that conflict between the Upper and the Lower House, which has been spoken of. (Hear, hear.)
On motion of Hon. Mr. Moore, the debate was adjourned till to-morrow.