Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (17 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 269-316.
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FRIDAY, February 17, 1865.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] said—Hon. gentlemen, with the consent of my hon. friend opposite (Hon. Mr. Dickson) who is entitled to the floor, in consequence of having moved the adjournment of the debate, I rise for the purpose of proposing the resolution which for some length of time has been before the House, on the notice-paper. It is one which, I think, should commend itself to the good sense and impartial judgment of the members of this Honorable House; and I shall be surprised if it shall meet any degree of opposition from the hon. gentlemen representing the Government in this branch of the Legislature. (Hear, hear.) The resolution is as follows:—
That upon a matter of such great importance as the purposed 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 further manifestation of the public will than has yet been declared.
It is not aimed at either the destruction or the defeat of the resolutions before the House. It simply asks for delay until such time as the people of the country can more fully express their views on the matter than they have hitherto had an opportunity of doing. Hon. gentlemen, I stated, when I first addressed this Chamber in reference to the proposed address, that I was not opposed to the Confederation of the British Provinces in itself, but that I was opposed to many of the details embraced in the resolutions upon which this House is asked to found an Address to Her Majesty the Queen.
The hon. gentleman (Hon. Mr. Ross) who followed me upon that occasion, stated among other things, that I had attempted to decry the Lower Provinces, and that I had attempted also to decry the credit of Canada. I appeal to hon. members present, who were good enough to listen to me on that occasion, to point out a single word which I said, reflecting upon the credit of the people of the eastern. provinces. Instead of having said anything to their discredit, I thought I had paid them a very high compliment. So far from reflecting upon the character of the public men of those provinces, I alluded to but one of them by name, the Hon. Mr. Tilley, and I paid him the compliment, which he fully merits, of stating that he must be ranked among the leading and most prominent of British American statesmen. (Hear, hear.)
As to my decrying the credit of Canada—if, to tell the truth—if, to speak the honest convictions of one’s mind—if, to state to the world what the Public Accounts of our country tell us—if this be to decry the credit of our country—then I am guilty of the charge. But the hon. gentleman went on and told us, that my speech was so illogical that it was unworthy of notice.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I did not say that.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—The hon. gentleman said what amounted to that. And yet to my astonishment he found it necessary to reply to me in a speech four columns in length—a speech, however, in which he failed to controvert a single position which I had the honor to take on that occasion. Then I was charged with having attacked statements of fact made by our public men.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Hear! hear!
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—The hon. gentleman from Toronto says “Hear, hear.” But I ask, is it not the duty of hon. gentlemen, standing on the floor of this House, to correct misstatements which have been sent to the country? Was I doing anything more than my duty, when, in my humble way, I endeavored to correct what, if not misstatements, were at least evidently incorrect statements? We have had too much of that kind of thing in this country. And since my hon. friend from Toronto (Hon. Mr. Ross) has chosen to remind me of it, I must say that I think it is much to be regretted that certain statements have been made in this country, and sent from this country, which, instead of helping to build up our credit, have done much to injure it. (Hear, hear.)
Perhaps I could not allude to anything more forcibly in point, than the flaming prospectus sent to the world under the auspices of my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross], in which he promised the confiding capitalists of England a […]
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[…] dividend of 11 1/2 per cent, on the stock they might subscribe to the Grand Trunk Railway.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Was it not 11 1/4? (Laughter.)
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—No; he was not so modest as to put it at 11 1/4. (Laughter.) It was 11 1/2 per cent. I was charged with attacking the statements of the Hon. Mr. Tilley. I stated, when last addressing the House, that Hon. Mr. Tilley informed a public meeting—I think in St. John, New Brunswick—that the tariff of Canada was in fact an 11 per cent, tariff, and my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross] said that Hon. Mr. Tilley was correct in making that statement.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—What I said was that the average duty on the whole imports of the country, including the free goods, was 11 per cent.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Then I must say that that is a very novel way of arriving at the tariff of a country—to take all the dutiable goods, to add to them all the free goods, and then to average the duty on the whole. It may be a very convenient, but it is not a correct or honest mode in my opinion.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—It is precisely what Hon. Mr. Tilley did; and I did it in the same way.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—My hon. friend told us that our present able and talented Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] had stated the tariff of our country to be an 11 per cent tariff. I asked my hon. friend when the Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] stated that?
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I said that, taking the statements Hon. Mr. Galt had furnished with reference to the tariff of customs duties, and the amount of imports of dutiable and free goods, and finding the average of the whole to be 11 per cent., Hon. Mr. Tilley had made a statement based on Hon. Mr. Galt’s own figures.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I find the report makes my hon. friend say, that “The Hon. Mr. Tilley had quoted the figures of our own Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt].” He was wrong in that statement, because Hon. Mr. Tilley, on the occasion I referred to, had quoted the figures furnished by the Comptroller of New Brunswick.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The Comptroller of New Brunswick could not furnish the figures of the trade of Canada.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Surely my hon. friend will remember, that, to give official force to the statement of Hon. Mr. Tilley, he said that, after the Comptroller of the province had reviewed our tariff, he game to the conclusion that it was but an 11 per cent, tariff. I quote from the report:—
Hon. Mr. Tilley quoted the figures of our own Minister of Finance, and the hon. member represented him as not speaking the truth, but as, in effect, attempting to deceive those whom he addressed, Hon. Mr. Currie—I beg to know when the Finance Minister of Canada stated that the average duties collected in Canada were 11 per cent.
He (Honorable Mr. Ross) desired to be no longer interrupted; I ceased to interrupt him, and he did not give me an answer to the question. But, if the honorable member from Toronto will turn to the celebrated speech of the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] made only the other day at Sherbrooke, he will find that Hon. Mr. Galt puts the Canada tariff at 20 per cent.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—But he did not include the free goods; that is all.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—No, he did not include the free goods. But I say that if he had taken the value of dutiable goods, as we find it given in the Trade Returns of 1863—the last complete returns for a year that we have—instead of arriving at the conclusion that we had a tariff of only 20 per cent., he would have found that the actual duty on the dutiable goods imported in 1863 was 22 1/2 per cent. (Hear, hear.) Then my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross] came to the assistance of Mr. Lynch of Halifax. And, not stopping there, he undertook the defence of the present President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown) and the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. McDougall.)
I confess I was a little amused, and somewhat surprised to find my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross] becoming the apologist and champion of those hon. gentlemen, who, I believe, are perfectly competent on all occasions to take care of themselves—even without the assistance of my hon. friend. (Hear, hear.)
He next alluded to the propriety and necessity—when the people of Canada were on the point of forming a partnership with the other provinces—of our knowing what the assets of those provinces were—what stock they were bringing into the common concern. I had showed that we had a great many valuable public works—some of them of a profitable character. My hon. friend told us that the Lower Provinces too were engaging in profitable works. He told us that New Brunswick had spent eight millions of dollars on railways, and Nova Scotia six millions—and that from those railways those provinces […]
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[…] were getting a net revenue of $140,000, or $70,000 a year each, which would go into the revenue of the General Government. Well, hon. gentlemen, when such statements are made on the floor of this House, they of course go abroad, and those who make them ought to be well satisfied that they are based on reliable facts.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—So they were.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Well, I was very much struck by the hon. gentlemen’s statement. I was surprised to find it stated, in the first place, that those provinces had already spent so much on railways; and, in the next place, that those railways in the eastern provinces were so much more profitable and paid so much better than the railways in Canada.
Now, I find, on looking at the Public Accounts of those provinces—the very latest available—that the New Brunswick railways cost $4,275,000, and that the Nova Scotia railways cost $4,696,288—that the New Brunswick railways in 1862 paid $21,711 net, and the Nova Scotia railways, $40,739—making together, instead of $140,000 or the two provinces, as stated by my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross], the small sum of $62,450. And this too, hon. gentlemen will bear in mind, was from new railways, or railways comparatively new—and they will find, if they take the trouble to examine the accounts, that the cost of the repairs of those railroads, as of every other railroad after it has become somewhat worn, is increasing year by year.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The House will recollect that I took the figures which were prompted to me while speaking.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—That is the mistake which, I fear, has been committed during the whole of this discussion. (Hear, hear.) Our public men have been too reckless in making statements—statements in the east, as to the prosperity of Canada; and statements in the west, as to the wealth, property and resources of those eastern provinces. Now, hon. gentlemen, let us look at our public works, which my hon. friend in a measure tried to belittle and decry.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I did not belittle them; I said that indirectly they were of great value to the country.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Yes; and directly too. I find, by the Public Accounts of the province, that in 1863 the net revenue of our public works—all of which are going to the Confederate Government—yielded to this province a net revenue of $303,187—and that our public works cost this province, taking the amount set down in the statements of affairs of the province, $25,931,168. So much for the stock—so far as the public works at all events are concerned—that this province is prepared to put into the partnership with the other provinces. (Hear, hear.)
I shall refer no further to the remarks made by my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross] in answer to the few words I addressed to the House the other day, beyond expressing my regret that my hon. friend should not merely have been dissatisfied with the statements I made, but that he should have thought fit to take exception to the style and the manner in which my remarks were submitted to the Honorable House.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I said, the temper and tone.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—From the attention you were kind enough to give me, hon. gentlemen, on that occasion, and from the way in which my remarks were received both by my political opponents and my political friends, I had hoped that I had not exceeded the bounds of propriety—that, neither in my temper nor in my tone had I violated the rules of this House. If I did so I regret it, and I may be allowed to express the hope that when my native land has paid one-fourth as much for my political education as it has paid for that of my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross]—if my manners still fail to be those of a Chesterfield, or my eloquence that of a Pitt—I shall at all events be able to treat my fellow members with courtesy and propriety. (Hear, hear.)
But, leaving these little matters to take care of themselves, I shall now allude to the strong pressure which seems, from some source or other, to be urging the representatives of the people of Canada, and the people themselves, to adopt this important scheme without that time for deliberate consideration which a matter of that kind is entitled to. I am satisfied that that pressure does not come from the people themselves. I am satisfied it does not come either from this or from the other branch of the Legislature. I entertain the fear, which has been expressed before, that it has been a pressure from without, which has been urging us to take this step too rapidly, I fear, for our country’s good. It may be that the statesmen of Great Britain, […]
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[…] and that a great portion of the people of Great Britain are very anxious for this measure, and that the press of that country generally approves of it. But, when they rightly understand it—when parties holding our provincial securities know that Confederation means more debt, more taxation, and a worse public credit—we will have another cry coming from across the Atlantic. And when British manufacturers know that Confederation means a higher tariff on British goods, we shall have different views from them also, crossing the Atlantic. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. gentlemen, when I left my constituency, I had little idea that this measure was going to be pressed upon the country in the manner in which I see the Government of the day are attempting to press it. I think we should pause before adopting these resolutions. I think we want some more information before we adopt them. Before we vote away our local constitutions—before we vote away in fact our whole Constitution—we should know something of what we are going to got in place of what we are giving away. Did any hon. gentleman suppose, before he left his home, that we would not have the whole scheme of Confederation brought down to us, and be asked to pass a judgment on it, or to consider it at all events as a whole scheme? I think we ought to be cautions in taking half a measure until we know what is the whole of it. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. gentlemen will remember the caution with which the Parliament of England proceeded, in 1839, when dealing with the rights of the people of Canada. At that time there was an urgent necessity for a new Constitution for the people of Canada, and a great necessity for it, particularly in the eastern province. When the Government of the day brought down their resolutions—in something like the same shape as those now before the House—resolutions embodying the principle of a Legislative Union—the leader of the opposition, Lord Stanley, claimed that the whole measure should be brought down; and the Government of the day was actually compelled, by the force of public opinion in and out of Parliament, to withdraw the resolutions, and to bring down their entire measure. (Hear, hear.)
And are we to be less careful of our own constitutional rights—are we to guard more loosely the interests of ourselves and those who are to come after us—than the people legislating for us three or four thousand miles away? Besides, we are asked by those resolutions to pledge our province—to what? To build the Intercolonial Railway, without knowing, as I stated the other day, where it is to run, or what it is to cost. Why do we not have the report of the able engineer sent to survey and report upon that work? Why is it delayed? Why is it attempted to hurry this measure through the Legislature, while we are in the dark with reference to that great undertaking? It may be that it is kept back designedly, and for the purpose of furthering this very measure, not here, but in other parts of British America.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—My hon. friend is going too far. The report has not yet been made, and, that being the case, it is somewhat extraordinary to charge the Government with keeping it back.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Certainly; I think the case is bad enough, when the Government are charged merely with what they have done. And I have no desire to make an incorrect statement, But I will put it in this way: I think we have good reason to be surprised, that the Government should come down with their scheme, and submit it to the House, before they even themselves know what the work is to cost—(hear, hear)—and ask this House and the country to pledge themselves to the construction of a work of which they do not even know the cost themselves. (Hear, hear.)
But, if the report has not been prepared, we have been told in the public prints that the survey is either finished, or very nearly finished. The report, therefore, can soon be furnished; and, why should there be so much hurry and anxiety to pass these resolutions before we get it? Then, again, why do the Government not bring down those School Bills, which have been promised? Why are the people, or why is Parliament, to have no opportunity of passing judgment upon those measures—the School Bill for Upper Canada, and the School Bill for Lower Canada—before this Confederation scheme is adopted? I cannot see the propriety of keeping back these matters; and I do not think the members of the Government can show any reason whatever why they should not be settled at once. Then, hon. gentlemen, we should know something about the division of the public debt If hon. gentlemen will take up the Public Accounts placed in their hands during the present session, they will find a statement of […]
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[…] the liabilities of this province, certifying the amount to be no less than $77,203,282. Now it is well known that Canada is only allowed to take into the Confederation the debt of $62,500,000. We have a right to ask how the other $15,000,000 are to be paid? By whom are they to be assumed? What portion is Upper Canada to assume? What portion is Lower Canada to assume? (Hear, hear.)
Then, hon. gentlemen, if we adopt these resolutions, and a bill based on them is brought into the Imperial Parliament and carried—look at the power which is given to the Confederate Parliament. They have the power to impose local taxation upon each of the separate provinces I would like to know how that power is to be exercised; I would like to know whether it is to be a capitation tax, or an acreage tax upon the lands of the province, or whether it is to be a tax upon the general property of the province. I am sure there is no hon. gentleman present who would not like information on these points, before voting for this scheme. (Hear, hear.)
Then, hon. gentlemen, there is another very important question—the question of the defence of these provinces—which within a few months has taken a shape which it never took before in the history of this country. I shall trespass on the attention of the House for a few moments, while I read an extract from a very able report on that question, which ranks, and in time to come too will rank, deservedly high as a State paper. It is a memorandum of the Executive Council, dated October, 1862, at the time the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration held office. And, whatever the errors of that Government might have been, however they may have been found fault with in other matters, I believe the people generally were of opinion that the stand which the Government took on that question, was one which entitled them to the respect and confidence of the community at large. The Government say in this memorandum:—
That they are not unwilling to try to the utmost to comply with the suggestions of the Imperial Government is evidenced by the manner in which the projected Intercolonial Railway has been entertained. Their conduct in this matter should relieve them from every imputation. At the same time, they insist that they are and must be allowed to be the best judges of the pressure which the provincial credit can sustain. They are prepared, subject to certain conditions, to encumber this credit with liabilities arising out of the Intercolonial Railway, but they are not prepared to enter upon a lavish expenditure to build up a military system distasteful to the Canadian people, disproportionate to Canadian resources, and not called for by any circumstance of which they at present have cognizance.
That is, the arming and bringing into the field a force of 50,000 men.
His Grace, while promising liberal assistance, contends that any available supply of regular troops would be unequal to the defence of the province—and that the main dependence of such a country for defence must be upon its own people. Your Excellency’s advisers would not be faithful to their own convictions or to the trust reposed in them, if they withheld an expression of their belief that without very large assistance any efforts or sacrifices of which the people of the province are capable, would not enable them successfully and for any lengthened period to repel invasion from the neighboring republic.
They have relied for protection in some degree upon the fact, that under no conceivable circumstances will they provoke war with the United States, and if therefore Canada should become the theatre of war resulting from Imperial policy, while it would cheerfully put forth its strength in the defence of its soil, it would nevertheless be obliged to rely for its protection mainly upon Imperial resources; and in such an event it is their opinion that they would be justified in expecting to be assisted in the work of defence with the whole strength of the empire. It is not necessary at this stage of their history, to put forward assurances of the readiness of the Canadian people to assume whatever responsibilities belong to them as subjects of Her Majesty.
Their devotion has been exhibited too often to be open to doubt or depreciation. They have made sacrifices that should relieve them from suspicion, and which Her Majesty’s Government should remember as a pledge of their fidelity. No portion of the empire is exposed to sufferings and sacrifices equal to those which would inevitably fall upon this province in the event of war with the United States. No probable combination of regular troops and militia would preserve our soil from invading armies; and no fortune which the most sanguine dare hope for would prevent our most flourishing districts from being the battle field of the war. Our trade would be brought to a standstill, our industry would be paralyzed, our richest farming lands devastated, our towns and villages destroyed; homes, happy in peace, would be rendered miserable by war, and all as the result of events for the production of which Canada would be in no wise accountable.
And, honorable gentlemen, that is not only the language in times past of leading politicians in Canada. Hon. gentlemen may call to mind the writing and sayings to the same effect of men in the eastern provinces–men now holding high position under the Imperial […]
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[…] Government. One hon. gentlemen, to whom I have particular reference (Hon. Joseph Howe) declared it was unreasonable to expect that we should defend ourselves against a foreign power, when we had no voice either in the declaring of war or the making of peace—that while we were quite ready, as in times past, to expose our persons and property to meet the invader at the threshold of our country, we were unwilling to take upon ourselves, as colonists, a duty which belonged to the parent state.
But does this correspond with the views that are now adopted by the Ministry of the day? I hold in my hand an extract from a speech delivered by one of the most prominent members of the Government at a recent banquet in the city of Toronto. And what did that hon. gentleman say? Speaking of the Conference at Quebec, he stated that “the delegates unanimously resolved that the United Provinces of British North America shall be placed at the earliest moment in a thorough state of defence.”
Hon. gentlemen, I was not aware that the Imperial Government had ever cast off the burden of the defence of this province. But we are told by an hon. gentleman, high in the Executive, that this Conference, self-appointed as it was, by a resolution that we do not see laid upon the table, promised to place the province in a thorough state of defence. Hon. gentlemen, what does that mean? It means an expenditure here of four or five millions of dollars annually, or else the statement exceeded the truth. Again the hon. gentleman stated:—”The Conference at Quebec did not separate before entering into a pledge to put the military and naval defences of the united provinces in the most complete and satisfactory position.” Before we discuss this scheme further—before we are called on to give a vote upon it—I say we ought to know something more with reference to this important matter. (Hear, hear).
Hon. gentlemen may perhaps argue that there is no necessity for this question going to the people—no necessity for further time being allowed to the people of Upper Canada or of Canada generally to consider this matter.
Why, hon. gentlemen, has it not been stated by every hon. member who has taken the floor to address the House on this question, that it is the most important question ever submitted to this or any other British Colonial Legislature? And yet many of those hon. members are unwilling that the people of this country should have any further time to consider this important matter—although, by the laws of our land, no municipality has a right to enact or pass a by-law creating a little petty debt, not to be paid off within a year, without submitting it first to the vote of the people. (Hear.)
Hon. gentlemen assign as a reason why the matter should not be submitted to the people—that we have had a number of elections to this House since it was known that the scheme of Confederation was under the consideration of the Government, and that these elections went favorably to the scheme. I would ask, hon. gentlemen, how many elections have we had in Upper Canada since the scheme was printed and laid before the people? I would like to see the hon. gentleman stand up, who has been elected to come here to vote upon this scheme since it was submitted to the people. It is true we have had one election in Upper Canada since that time—my hon. friend near me (Hon. Mr. Simpson) alluded to it yesterday—the election in South Ontario, a constituency until recently represented by one of the hon. gentlemen who entered the Ministry which brings this scheme before us—our present esteemed Vice-Chancellor of Upper Canada, Hon. Mr. Mowat. What did the candidates say at that election?
Both of them, as stated by my honorable friend, in asking the suffrages of the people, had to promise that, if elected to Parliament, they would vote for a submission of this scheme to the people. (Hear, hear.) And that is the last election we have had in Upper Canada. It is true that many honorable gentlemen now present, in their addresses to their several constituencies, when seeking election last fall, said they were in favor of a union of the British North American Provinces. But, hon. gentlemen, there is not a man in this chamber, within the sound of my voice, who would not say the same. I am myself as much in favor of Confederation to-day as ever I was in my life; and I will challenge any one to say that at any time, on any public occasion, I ever said aught against the scheme of the Confederation of the British North American Provinces. (Hear, hear.)
But, honorable gentlemen, when I look at this scheme, imperfect as I conceive it to be, it receives my opposition, not because it is a scheme for the Confederation of British North America, but because it is a scheme containing within itself the germs of its […]
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[…] destruction. The resolution before the House is not, as I said before, aimed at the destruction of the scheme; and I hope, before the debate closes, the Government will see the propriety and the advisability of granting the reasonable delay therein asked for. Suppose the Government concedes even the short delay of one month, it can do no possible harm to the measure. If the measure be good—if it be so desirable as the governments of the respective provinces tell us it is—the simple permitting it to stand over for a month will certainly not destroy it. If, on the other hand, it be bad—if it contain within itself the elements of decay—it is better to know it now than hereafter, when the resolutions will have been embodied in a Statute over which we have no control.
To show my own feeling in the matter, all I have to say is this: give a reasonable delay—allow the section of the country I have the honor to represent to speak on the subject, and if it be found to be the will of my constituents that the measure in its present shape be adopted, honorable gentlemen may be assured that I shall give them no further opposition; and that instead of doing everything in my power to impede the progress of these resolutions, I will do nothing to impede their progress through the House. “But,” say hon. gentlemen, “delay means defeat.” If it be a good measure—if it commend itself to the approval of the people, supported as it is by the most able and brilliant men in Parliament—the scheme is in no danger. And, hon. gentlemen, supposing a month’s delay is granted, we will even then be further advanced with the measure than the people of the eastern provinces. The writs for the elections in New Brunswick are returnable, if I mistake not, on the 25th March.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—On the 9th March.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Then it will be at least the 21st or 22nd of March before the Legislature of that colony can be called together.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—I misunderstood the statement made by my hon. friend. What I meant to say was that the Legislature of New Brunswick is expected to assemble on the 8th or 9th of March.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Then they are going to hurry up matters there, I am sorry to hear, nearly as fast as in Canada, the people of which have not had the same opportunity, at all events, of considering the question as the people of New Brunswick. The people of New Brunswick seem to be fully alive to the importance of this momentous question, and I hope that when their verdict is given it will be a well-considered verdict; but this we do know, that it will not be given until after a free and fair opportunity has been afforded them of discussing the question on its merits in all its bearings. My hon. friend from the Western Division (Walter McCrea) really surprised me the other day when he declared that an elective Legislative Council was neither asked for nor desired by the people. My recollection is that the Council under the nominative system was a standing grievance in Lower Canada as well as in Upper Canada.
Walter McCrea [Western, elected 1862]—That was before the union.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—The demand arose that the Council should be elective.
Walter McCrea [Western, elected 1862]—Not alter the union.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—My hon. friend is, I can assure him, mistaken in stating that there were no petitions in favor of an elective Legislative Council at the time of the change. If my hon. friend will consult the Journals of Parliament, he will find there petitions for the change; he will find also that from the town of Cobourg a petition was received in favor of representation by population in this as well as in the other branch of the Legislature. But my hon. friend, in his ignorance of the facts of the case—although he certainly handled the subject with a good deal of ability, though not with the ability he usually puts forth when he has a good cause to plead—(a laugh)—made a statement which he could scarcely have considered before bringing it under the notice of the House. He said that a House appointed by the Crown would be more responsible to the people than the present House.
That, hon. gentlemen, is certainly a new doctrine to me. If such would be the case, why, I ask, do you not apply the same system to the other branch of the Legislature? In such an event I feel assured that the Government of the day would have a much more comfortable and pleasant life of it than even the present Government, strong and talented as they undoubtedly are. (Laughter.)
But, says my hon. friend, once more, the people of Canada are in favor opt the scheme, in regard to which they have had ample time […]
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[…] for holding meetings and adopting petitions. But, I would ask what did most of the members even of this House know of the scheme when they first came to Quebec? Did we know as much about it then as we know now?
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Yes.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—My hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross] says, “Yes.”
An Hon. Member—No.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Another hon. member replies, “no.” I may say for myself that I have learned something even from the speech of my hon. friend from Toronto [John Ross] that I did not know before. The people of the country have been waiting, expecting this matter would be discussed in Parliament, and that the whole scheme would be presented so as to enable its being judged of as a whole. Unfortunately, however, it is only a part of the scheme which we have at this moment before the Council.
I did not have the pleasure of hearing the whole of the remarks of my hon. friend from Montreal (Hon. Mr. Ferrier), but I was greatly interested in listening to the portion I did hear. I refer to whit he said respecting the ministerial crisis in June last. I thought that the celebrated memorandum, which, by the bye, has since been in great part repudiated by the Government of the day, contained all the Ministerial explanations. But that scene, so forcibly described by the hon. gentleman, where the President of the Council [George Brown] met the Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier]—
James Ferrier [Canada East, appointed 1847]—I did not say I saw it. I only heard of it.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—When the Hon. Mr. Cartier embraced the Hon. Mr. Brown. (Laughter.)
James Ferrier [Canada East, appointed 1847]—I simply said it was so reported on the streets.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—And the Hon. Mr. Brown promised eternal allegiance to the Hon. Mr. Cartier. (Laughter.)
James Ferrier [Canada East, appointed 1847]—I was simply giving the on-dit of the day. I said I knew nothing whatever of it further than what I had heard on the streets.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I must have misunderstood my hon. friend. I thought he was a witness of the affecting scene. (Laughter.) But my hon. friend did tell the House something which was new to me, and which must have sounded as new to the country, when he said that the Grand Trunk Railway cost the people of Canada very little. The hon. gentleman seemed to think that I was very much opposed to the Grand Trunk. But never in my life have I spoken a single word against the Grand Trunk as a railway. I believe there is no hon. gentleman who can possibly appreciate more highly the commercial advantages to this country of that work than I do.
At the same time, I have taken occasion, and may do so again if the necessity requires it, to speak of some of the transactions connected with that undertaking. Let this work or any other public work come under the attention of this Chamber, and it will receive at my hands in the future, as in the past, that degree of consideration to which as a public work it is entitled. I hope the day is not far distant when the Grand Trunk will become what it ought to be, a strictly and entirely commercial work, and when the people of all classes and parties will look upon it with favor.
James Ferrier [Canada East, appointed 1847]—It is strictly a commercial work now.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—My hon. friend stated that it had cost the country a mere trifle. But unluckily the Public Accounts do not tell the same story, and they do not exactly confirm the views of my hon. friend in relation to this work. If he looks at the assets of the province—the valuables of the province—he will find there is a charge against the Grand Trunk of $15,142,000 for debentures. And besides there is this little $100,000 which has bean used in redeeming the city of Montreal bonds. There is something more besides about subsidiary lines.
James Ferrier [Canada East, appointed 1847]—I spoke of the first capital investment.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—My hon. friend from the Erie Division (Hon. Mr. Christie) admitted in opening his case that this scheme was very much marred by its details. Admitting this—which is just the whole argument—that the details so greatly mar the scheme, it is much to be feared that the measure will not work so peacefully, usefully, or harmoniously as its originators expected, and I believe sincerely hoped it would do; because I do these hon. gentlemen the credit of believing that in devising a scheme which should be for the future as well as the present welfare of the country, they were animated by a desire to do the very best they could under the circumstances. Their great error, in my opinion, lay in […]
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[…] their yielding too much on the part of Canada to gratify the eastern provinces, so as to enable them to bring about this scheme at the present moment. If the scheme is so marred in its details as to destroy the whole measure, why not reject it? Then my hon. friend alluded to the state of the country, just before the present Government was formed, in terms which I hardly think he was justified in using. He claimed that the country was in a state of anarchy and confusion. Now, hon. gentlemen, I must say that for my part I saw none of that anarchy, and I must say very little of that confusion. I assert that there may be witnessed in other lands what was witnessed in this.
We saw weak governments staving month after month to keep themselves in power, and we saw these governments daily and hourly attacked by a strong and wary opposition. But, hon. gentlemen, I have yet to learn that the giving of 17 additional members to Upper Canada and 47 members to the eastern provinces will ensure us against the same state of things in the future. It was very well put by the hon. member for Wellington (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) when he said, if there was more patriotism on the part of our public men, and less desire to sacrifice the country for the good of party, we would not have had that state of confusion to which my hon. friend from the Erie Division [David Christie] has alluded.
Then my hon. friend who represents the Erie Division [David Christie], in order to fortify the position he took in supporting the scheme, took up the resolutions adopted by the Toronto Reform Convention in 1859. He stated that I was a delegate present at that convention; but I can only say that, although elected a delegate, I took no part in the proceedings, and know nothing more of them than I learned from the public prints. The hon. gentleman, however, conveniently read only a part of the resolutions. But it must be admitted that these resolutions were the identical basis upon which the present Government was organized. This Government was organized for the express purpose of carrying out the arrangements embodied in the resolutions of that body. And, hon. gentlemen, a committee was appointed by the Toronto Convention, and that committee prepared a draft address to the public. That was submitted to the executive committee, and considered on the 15th of February, 1860, I and was revised and sent to the country as the address of the convention, of which the hon. member for Erie [David Christie] was a member, and over which he also presided as one of the vice-chairmen.
And what did they say?
That convention never intended that Parliament should change the Constitution or give us a new Constitution without consulting the people and allowing the public an opportunity of passing its judgment upon the proposed new Constitution. And how did this convention propose to secure the people the right of passing judgment upon so important a scheme as the adoption of a new Constitution? Here it is, in large type—and I have no doubt my hon. friend has often read it in going through his large, wealthy, and prosperous division.
David Christie [Erie, elected 1858]—It was not presented to the convention.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I wish to put my hon. friend right. The meeting was held on the 23rd September, 1859, and was presided over by the late Hon. Adam Fergusson; and my hon friend, the member for Erie Division [David Christie], and Mr. D.A. Macdonald were vice-presidents. A special committee was appointed at that meeting to draft an address to the people of Upper Canada on the political affairs of the province in support of the resolutions then adopted. A draft of the address was submitted to the executive committee.
David Christie [Erie, elected 1858]—I was not a member of that committee.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—The public meeting was held on the 15th February, 1860.
David Christie [Erie, elected 1858]—And when was the address published?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—It was published in this shape in February, 1860. Well, one of the provisions contained in that address was this:—”Secure these rights by a written Constitution, ratified by the people, and incapable of alteration except by their formal sanction.” Hon. gentlemen, I fear the hon. member for Erie Division [David Christie] will hardly be able to justify the course he feels called upon to take on this occasion by anything contained in the address or the resolutions of the Toronto convention. The hon. gentleman would never have thought of preparing such a scheme as this to be submitted to the members of such a convention. But think you that had such a scheme been presented they would not have demanded that it should be left to the people? Think you, hon. gentlemen, that that scheme would have met the approval […]
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[…] of that body in its present shape? I am sure that my hon. friend, warm as he now is in support of the scheme, could hardly have accepted such an issue. I am sure that even the present Government, backed as they are by a large majority in both branches of the Legislature, and possessing as they do a large amount of the talent,—I may say a majority of the talent—of Parliament, dare not bring such resolutions down as a Government measure and ask the Legislature to support them in carrying it through. Then my hon. friend thought that the scheme had gone through the length and breadth of the land. Hon. gentlemen, it is quite true that the resolutions have gone through the length and breadth of the land; but where has there been that discussion in Canada to which resolutions of so much importance are entitled—except in Lower Canada, where I am told that fifteen counties have repudiated the resolutions when they were submitted to public meetings? And in Upper Canada, where is the single instance of discussion of the facts having taken place except in the city of Toronto, where there was little or no discussion, and where it was promised that that city, like Quebec, should be made the seat of one of the local governments?
I understood my hon. friend from Erie Division [David Christie] to take issue on the fact that the delegates to the Conference were not self-elected, and I heard my hon. friend from Montreal [James Ferrier] deny it also. But if you take up a copy of the resolutions and the despatches accompanying them, you will find that they were in every sense of the word self-elected. And if they were not self-elected, who deputed them to come and do what they have done? Did the basis on which the Government was formed authorize them to enter into this compact? The basis on which the Government was formed speaks for itself. The measure they promised the people of Upper Canada was simply a measure to settle the existing difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada. They were to form Upper and Lower Canada into a Federation upon such a basis as would hereafter allow the other provinces, if agreeable, and if they could agree as to terms, to also enter the Federation.
These are the bases on which the present Government was formed, and these are the bases on which the members of that Government went to the country and asked for the support of their constituents. And to bear me out in this assertion, I have only to read the language of His Excellency the Governor General as I find it embodied in His Excellency’s Speech at the close of the last session of Parliament. You will find it in the latter part of the Speech. His Excellency says:—”The time has arrived when the constitutional question, which has for many years agitated this province, is ripe for settlement.” What province is alluded to in this paragraph? Most certainly the province of Canada. “It is my intention,” proceeds His Excellency, “during the approaching recess, to endeavor to devise a plan for this purpose, which will be laid before Parliament at its next meeting.” Hon. gentlemen, where is that plan? Where is the measure so promised in the Speech from the Throne. “In releasing you from further attendance,” His Excellency goes on to say, “I would impress upon you the importance of using the influence which the confidence of your fellow subjects confers upon you to secure for any scheme which may be prepared with this object a calm and impartial consideration both in Parliament and throughout the country.”
Now, what does this mean? If it means anything, it means this, that the Government promised to bring down a measure to this Legislature to enable us to Confederate Upper and Lower Canada. “Well,” hon. gentlemen say, “they have brought down a larger scheme.” Yes, but who asked them to bring down that scheme? It is said that it makes no difference which scheme was laid before the House; but I contend that it makes all the difference, for if these resolutions had reference simply to Upper and Lower Canada, they would be susceptible of amendment by this House. In such a case, hon. gentlemen would not have come down as we now see them shaking their resolutions in the face of the members of the Legislature, and saying, “Here is a treaty which you must accept in its entirety or not at all.”
They would not be warning us at our peril to alter a word or erase a line on pain of being branded as disunionists, or perhaps something worse than that. Had they brought down the resolutions they were pledged to bring down, we would be sitting here calmly and dispassionately, aided by the Government of the day, framing a measure which would be in very deed for the benefit of the two provinces. But why do the Government seek to shelter themselves so completely behind these resolutions—[…]
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[…] resolutions which, as they stand, are incapable of justification—resolutions which show concession after concession to have been made to the eastern provinces, but not one of which (I challenge them to the proof) was made by the Lower Provinces to the people of Canada? Then look at the representation at the Conference. Both parties, I believe, from all the provinces were represented, except as regards one section of Canada. There was no one representing in the Conference the Liberal party in Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
While in the eastern provinces the Government of the day were magnanimous enough to ask the cooperation and consideration of the leaders of the Opposition in those provinces, the hon. gentlemen in Canada ignored entirely the existence of the Liberal party in Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.) My hon. friend from the Erie Division [David Christie] tells us that he is strongly opposed to the details of the scheme.
David Christie [Erie, elected 1858]—I did not say so. I stated in reference to the elective principle that I was opposed to its abrogation.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—If the hon. gentleman feels towards the elective principle as strongly as I do, he will oppose its abrogation to the last. I have reason to feel strongly in regard to that principle, being, like himself, indebted for it to a seat in the Legislature; and I will resist the measure very long before I vote against a principle giving the people power to send me here as their representative. The hon. gentleman also told us that the whole country is in favor of Federation. I have no doubt the whole country is in favor of Federation in itself, but there are many people throughout Canada who are opposed to the present scheme on account of its details. Then the hon. gentleman declared that the country understood the scheme. Now, what better illustration can we have of the falsity of this position than what was witnessed on the floor of this House last night?
We then heard one of the most intelligent and one of the most able members of the mercantile community in Upper Canada, my hon. friend from Ottawa Division (Hon. Mr. Skead) tell us it was only within the last twenty-four hours that he had understood the scheme as now submitted to the House. And yet we are gravely told that the whole country understands it! Do the people of the province generally know anything in reference to the cost of working the scheme? Hon. gentlemen, it has been stated in various parts of the country, by leading public men of the country, that the local subsidies proposed in the scheme will be more than sufficient to carry on the local governments of the several provinces. But, hon. gentlemen, we must judge of the future by the experience afforded by the past. If you will look at the Public Accounts of Upper and Lower Canada—take for instance Upper Canada in 1838,–you will find that the expenditure on 450,000 of a population was $885,000 for one year. But hon. gentlemen may assert that at that time Upper Canada had to bear the burdens of the militia and pay the cost of collecting the customs, and some other small charges which it is now proposed to throw on the Federal Government.
But what were the charges of the militia for that year? The insignificant sum of £649. 19s. 11 1/2d . Then there was received from fees and commissions £317 15s., thus making the total cost of the militia to Upper Canada no more than £332. 4s. 11 1/2d . Then as to customs. Why, honorable gentlemen, the whole cost of collecting the customs revenue in Upper Canada, during the year 1838, amounted to £2,792. 14s. 2d.—just about one half the cost, hardly one half the cost—of collecting the present duties at the port of Toronto. Then if you come down to Lower Canada you will find that at the time of the union you had a population of 650,000 souls, and that the expense of governing the people was $573,348. And I venture to say that no people in the world were ever more cheaply governed than were the people of Lower Canada before the union. (Hear, hear.)
But if you can govern them after the union just as cheaply per head as before, what do you find? You will require $980,000 to carry on the government of the country, independent of paying the interest upon the large portion of debt saddled upon you. In Upper Canada, we have been told that we really shall not know what to do with the large amount of money about to be lavished on the Local Legislature. (Laughter.)
Walter McCrea [Western, elected 1862]—Who said that—that we would have more money than we know what to do with?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—You must have read it in the speeches made in the other House, and particularly in the speeches of the Hon. Mr. Brown. Well, if we can govern the people of Upper Canada as cheaply […]
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[…] after the union as before, it will cost $2,170,000 or $1,054,000 more than the amount of the local subsidy. I am sure no hon. gentleman will believe that we are going to be more saving of the public money in the future than we were in those early days of our history. Hon. gentlemen, it is said that the people of the country have had those resolutions before them, that they perfectly understand them, and that they are prepared to pass a dispassionate judgment in the matter. It ill becomes the members of the Government to make such a statement.
Why, what has been witnessed on the floor of this House? A simple question was put to the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] as to the manner in which the members of the Legislative Councils of the various provinces were to be appointed. The Hon. Commissioner informed us that the appointments were to be made by the local governments, and he was confirmed in that view by the hon. and gallant Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché], who had the dignity conferred upon him of presiding over the Conference of delegates held in this city.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—I do not think that my hon. colleague said anything on the subject.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I understood him to confirm the statement of the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell]. But at all events, he heard the statement and did not object to it. But what did you find? After the absurdity of that position was pointed out, my hon. friend, the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell], asks a day to give an answer to the question, and he comes down next day and gives a totally different reply. A few days later, the question of the export duty on the minerals of Nova Scotia came under consideration, and I understood the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] as saying that in his opinion only the coal and minerals exported to foreign countries would be liable to duty.
But according to the explanations given by the hon. gentleman afterwards, I understand that the export duty will apply to all coal and minerals exported from Nova Scotia. My hon. friend went on to explain the meaning of this export duty. And what is his explanation? He tells us that it is nothing more than a royalty. The export duty is imposed simply upon the coal which leave the country. In Nova Scotia they now impose a royalty, and that royalty they intend to change for an export duty, and the difference in their favor will be this—that on the coal they consume themselves there will be no duty, but on the coal they send to Canada there will be this barrier of an export duty.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—My hon. friend will see this, that had all the Crown lands in the different colonies been placed in the hands of the General Government, the General Government would have received all the proceeds therefrom. But those have been given to the local governments, and as in Upper Canada we will have timber dues, so in Nova Scotia they are entitled to a revenue from their coal.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Any one not acquainted with the subject would naturally fancy from the language of my hon. friend that under Federation we are to have something which we did not possess before. But the Crown lands are the property of Upper and Lower Canada now, and we are entitled to the revenue from them.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—And so is Nova Scotia entitled to a revenue from their coal.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—But you give them a privilege not accorded to the other provinces of imposing export duties. Hon. gentlemen, I would now desire to allude to another matter which I think the people do not thoroughly understand, and that is the apportionment of the public debt. I stated before and I again assert that revenue is the only true basis on which the people should go into Confederation as regards their debt; and I think my hon. friend from the Saugeen Division (Hon. Mr. Macpherson) saw the matter in the same light.
David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—Not in this case, because we have not the revenue to base it upon.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Why have we not the revenue to base it upon? Hon. gentlemen, the Trade Returns of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, are in the Library below, and twenty-four hours’ work of a competent accountant would show what each province would contribute to the general revenue from her trade under our present tariff.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—But does not the hon. gentleman see that when the tariffs are assimilated, they will not bring in the future what they have brought in the past?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—This I can see, that you are giving to the Lower Provinces privileges which we do not enjoy Hon. gentlemen […]
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[…] speak of the imports from the Maritime Provinces. But take the import of coal from Nova Scotia, and we find that in 1863, its whole value amounted to $67,000. Then they refer to the fish trade. But why need we go there for fish, when in our own waters we can have for the catching as fine fish as the world produces? But Confederation will give us no privileges over the fisheries which we do not at present enjoy. Canadian fishermen can as well go, and have as much the right to go, and fish in the waters below before as after Confederation. We will continue to go there if we desire it, not because we are members of the Confederacy, but because we are British subjects. But I was going to speak of the trade of these countries. We derive now little or no duty from the trade of the Lower Provinces, at the same time much of the revenues of the Lower Provinces is derived from exports from those provinces to each other, all of which will be lost to the General Government, as the Confederation will only be entitled to collect duties on goods imported from foreign countries. We are told, too, that our tariff is to be greatly reduced under Confederation.
I am sorry to hear that statement, because it is impossible that it can be correct, and there is too much reason to fear that it was done with a view of influencing legislation elsewhere, by holding out the hope in Newfoundland and in the other provinces, that if they joined us, the tariff would be less burdensome than it is at present. But if the tariff is reduced, the people of Canada may rest assured that they will have $4,000,000 or $5,000,000 to raise in some other way; so that if you take it off the tariff, you must put it on the land. I wish now, however, to speak of the unfair apportionment of the debt. I have always taken the ground that revenue is the true gauge by which you can measure a nation’s ability to pay debt.
Well, taking the tables of the Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt], we find that New Brunswick, with a revenue of 81,000,000, goes into the Confederation with a debt of $7,000,000, while Canada, with a revenue of $11,500,000, is only entitled to go into the Confederation with a debt of $62,500,000. Is this fair?—is it right?—is it honest? Take the revenue as the basis of ability to pay—and it is the only true basis—and instead of Canada going into the Confederation with a debt only $62,500,000, she would be entitled to go in with a debt of $80,000,000, or more than “her present indebtedness. Then it is said that the people understand the whole scheme, and that they are perfectly satisfied with it. If that were so we should have petitions coming down.
But I have yet to learn that, when the people, especially of Upper Canada, understand the scheme and how it is going to work, they will be at all satisfied with, it. Take the little Island of Prince Edward, with its population of 80,857 souls, or a less population than a single constituency represented in the other branch of the Legislature, and we find it getting $153,728, while it is relieved of a debt of $240,633.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—And what does it contribute?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—It simply contributes custom and excise duties by the operation of the same tariff and under the same law as the people of Canada.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—But how much does it contribute?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I find the whole revenue of the island set down at $200,000. But, hon. gentlemen, pray do not run away with the idea that all this comes to the Confederate Government. All that comes to the Confederate Government are simply the duties from excise and customs on goods imported from foreign countries.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—Which is the whole amount of their revenue, except $31 000.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Surely my hon. friend does not wish to get up and argue that the people of this little island—a frugal and industrious people—contribute more to the revenue per head than the people of Upper Canada? Well, let us proceed now to Newfoundland, and what do we find? That with a population of 122,600 souls—less than the population of Huron, Bruce and Grey—less, in fact, than the constituency represented by my hon. friend, the member for Saugeen [David Macpherson]—they get $369,000 a year for all time, and are relieved of a debt of $946,000.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—And what do they contribute?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Simply the revenue from customs and excise, and nothing more.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—And what does that amount to?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I am aware that—
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—They will contribute, under the present tariff, $479,000 per annum.
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James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—My hon. friend surely does not intend to say that Newfoundland has no other source of revenue than customs and excise?
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—No other; and that is the reason why they get $150,000.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Newfoundland is to have $106,000 a year, not for this year only, but for all time to come. She gets as well 80 cents per head for all time to come. Then she gets also, what I am sure the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] can hardly justify, that id a bonus of $165,000 for all time to come; and this, if capitalized, amounts to $3,000,000—and all this that she may come into the Confederation. And why does she receive so large a sum? My hon. friend tells us that she gets it in consideration of the valuable Crown lands and minerals which she surrenders to the General Government. But we have yet to learn as a matter of fact that a ton of coal has ever been raised in the island. And what other minerals have they? We know of none. Their Crown lands, too, are of no value, as is proved by their not having yielded anything at all for many years past.
Then why should we give them $3,000,000, or $165,000 per year for worthless lands? I will not say, however, that they are altogether worthless; but I know this, that for years past a statute has been in force, giving the lands free of charge to anybody who will go and settle on them for five years. And these are the valuable lands for which we are to pay an equivalent of $3,000,000. But my hon. friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell], perhaps, when headdresses the House, will tell us these Crown lands and minerals, whatever their value to Newfoundland, are worth $3,000,000 to the Confederation, and will argue as that they give up these lands and minerals, and have no local source of revenue, it is necessary they should receive this subsidy in return. But why have they no local source of revenue? Why not adopt the same means to raise revenue in Newfoundland that we adopt here? Why should we he called upon to contribute from the public chest $165,000 for a purpose that we in Canada tax ourselves for? Hon. gentlemen, I stated that the country was taken by surprise in regard to the manner in which this measure was brought down to the House; and I think I have good reason for making that statement. Before we came here we had very little explanation of the financial part of the scheme; and that is a most important part.
I am not one of those who, while favorable to Confederation as a principle, would put a few hundred thousand dollars in the scale against it. But my grounds against the scheme are these—that if it is commenced upon a basis which is unjust to one portion of the community, it will be based upon a false foundation, and the tenement thus proposed to be erected will not withstand the breath of public opinion. We had reason to suppose that when we came here the measure promised at the close of the last session would be submitted; but instead of that we have a very different measure altogether. But supposing this Address passes—supposing these resolutions are carried, and the other colonies do not concur in the same Address as ourselves, what is to be the consequence? As I understand it, the consent of all the provinces must be had, and if they do not concur, the scheme falls to the ground. What we ought to have had in Canada was the promised measure to put an end to the sectional difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada.
But, instead of that, we are placed in consequence of the Quebec Conference in this position—a scheme is brought down which is declared to be in the nature of a treaty, and we are told that we are to have no voice in its alteration. No matter what the details my be—our discussion of them is to be a mere farce. Even the reasonable delay I am now asking for will, I fear, be opposed by the Government of the day. Hon. gentlemen, in order to show the necessity which exists for the measure being equitable and just to all classes of the people and all sections of the country about to be affected by it, I will read the remarks of a distinguished statesman—one of the ablest men, perhaps, that Canada can claim. This is his language:—
No measure could possibly meet the approval of the people of Canada which contained within it the germs of injustice to any, and if, in the measure which was now before the people of Canada, there was anything which bore on its face injustice, it would operate greatly against the success of the measure itself.
These were the views of the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] as expressed by him only a few months ago, and it is because I feel that there are parts of the scheme which will do gross and wanton injustice to portions of the proposed Confederation, that I feel it to […]
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[…] be my duty to oppose it. It may be said that it is not proper for this branch of the Legislature to delay the measure, but I quite concur, on this point, in the views of the hon. gentleman who represents one of the largest and most important constituencies in Canada (Hon. Mr. Macpherson), when he said:—
Although the Legislative Council is precluded by this Constitution from originating money votes or making money appropriations of any kind, they have it nevertheless in their power zealously to guard your interests, protecting them against hasty and ill-considered legislation, and preventing improper and extravagant appropriations of the public funds.
David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—I approve of all that.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I fully concur in all the hon. member from Saugeen [David Macpherson] stated in his address to his constituents, with reference to this subject, and I hope the hon. gentleman will now, when the opportunity is offered him, act up to the professions he made, and I feel confident he will do so. Now, hon. gentlemen, what have we here before us? We have a scheme which is calculated to do manifest and untold injustice to that section of the province which the hon. gentleman has the honor to represent. We have a scheme pledging us to construct the Intercolonial Railway without our knowing whether it is to cost fifteen, twenty or thirty millions of dollars. The only estimate is that alluded to by the hon. member from Toronto, who stated that Mr. Brydges was prepared to build it for seventeen and a half millions of dollars.
David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—This House has nothing to do with money matters.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—If my hon. friend entertains that opinion, he will very soon learn a very different and important lesson respecting the privileges of this House. It is our duty as honest legislators to protect the country from the baneful effects of hasty and ill-considered legislation. Well, is not this hasty legislation that is now proposed to be transacted by the Government of the day?
David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864].—I do not regard it so, and I tell you why. My constituents have considered the question and are fully satisfied that the proposed legislation should take place.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—It has been said by hon. gentlemen that the whole scheme consists of concessions. I would ask what concessions have been made to Canada? What concession has been made to the views of the people of Upper Canada? The people will understand why it is that everything was conceded on the part of Canada, and comparatively nothing on the part of the Lower Provinces, when they know that the little colony of Prince Edward Island, with its eighty thousand people, has as much to say in the Conference as Upper Canada with its million and a half, and as Lower Canada with its million and a quarter of people. (Hear, hear.)
When we conceded to them that point, the series of concessions on the part of Canada began. Then we conceded to them the right of depriving us of an elective Legislative Council. (Hear, hear.) Who challenges this statement?
I defy any hon. gentlemen to say that it was not at the dictation of the eastern provinces, that the character of the Legislative Council was changed. In order to settle this point, it is only necessary to refer hon. gentlemen to what the Hon. Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] stated in his celebrated Sherbrooke speech with reference to it. That was concession number two. Then look at the proposed Constitution. The Lower Provinces had only a population of 700,000 people. One would think they would be satisfied with the same representation in the Legislative Council that Upper Canada with double the number of people should have, and that Lower Canada with nearly double the population should be given. But instead of being satisfied with 24, they must have 28 members.
There are three distinct and most important concessions on the part of Canada to the people of the eastern provinces. And then we go into the Federation with a debt of only $62,500,000, instead of with $82,500,000 as we were entitled to. Then we are to saddle ourselves with a burden of 115,000,000, and give them a bonus for coming in, in the shape of an annual payment for local purposes, which we defray in Upper Canada by direct taxation.
Walter McCrea [Western, elected 1862]—That is because they are to help to pay our debt.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—My honorable friend from the Western Division [Walter McCrea] says, they have to help to pay our debt; true they have to help to pay the debts of the Confederation, but that is no reason why they should receive money from us to pay their local expenses. Then look at the absurdity of giving each […]
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[…] province so much per head on its population for the expenses of the local governments. Every one knows that the population of the Lower Provinces will not increase nearly so fast as that of this province. We will therefore have to pay a greater proportion of this amount through the increase of our population than we can receive under the proposed arrangement. This is concession number four.
The next concession is to New Brunswick. We are to give New Brunswick a bonus of $630,000 in addition to building the Intercolonial Railway through a long section of the country—leading the people to believe that the road is to pass through nearly every town in the province.
Then Nova Scotia gets the right to impose an export duty on its coal and other minerals coming into Upper Canada, or going elsewhere.
Then Newfoundland, as I have said before, is to have upward of three millions of dollars, if you capitalize the annual gift, as an inducement to come in and join us. Then, hon. gentlemen, my hon. friend from Port Hope [Benjamin Seymour] spoke of the common schools of Canada, of about one million and a quarter of dollars that is to be abolished by a stroke o the pen—that is another concession, I suppose, made to the people of the eastern provinces. What do we get for all these concessions?
Do we get anything that we are not entitled to as a matter of right. We get 17 additional members of the Lower House for Upper Canada—but that is nothing more than we are entitled to—at the same time that we get 47 added from the east. We are told that the reason for having so large a number of members is to avoid narrow majorities. If everything works well, therefore, under the new constitution, we are told we will always have a strong Government, somewhat similar to that with which we are now blessed. Hon. gentlemen say, that this question is perfectly understood by the people of Canada, and that they are satisfied with the arrangement; then what danger, I would ask, can there be in allowing the people a few months to consider the matter still more fully? In my opinion, it is far better to take the thing up deliberately and proceed cautiously with it, than to attempt to force a measure upon the people, so hurriedly, that they will feel hereafter, if they do not now, that you are doing them a very great injustice. (Hear, hear.)
It is most extraordinary, the grounds on which these resolutions are supported by different classes of people. Some hon. gentlemen support them on the ground that the Confederation is to build up an independent nationality in this part of the world. Others, on the ground that it is going to cement us more closely as colonies. And a third party uphold the resolutions on the ground that the injustice of the thing will disgust the people and float our country over to the American Republic. I feel myself that unless the people have due time to consider the matter, and are not driven into it against their will, these resolutions will amount to nothing more than so many withes to tie the provinces together until we all drift like a raft into the American Confederation. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Walter Dickson [Canada West, appointed 1855]—Honorable gentlemen,—Every honorable member of this House must be aware of the difficulties which an individual member has to encounter in rising to address the House at this late period of the debate, when the subject, after a fortnight’s discussion, is almost exhausted. I have, however, refrained from offering any observations at an earlier stage, in consequence of a desire to confine my remarks more particularly to the principle embodied in the amendment of my honorable and learned friend from the Niagara [James Currie] Division. I shall now briefly refer to the introductory remarks of the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] at the head of the present Government, when he submitted the matter for the consideration of this honorable House.
That honorable gentleman told us that the unsatisfactory state of things which had existed in the politics of this country for the twenty-five months prior to the Taché-Macdonald Administration, rendered it necessary that some great political exertion should be made to remedy those difficulties. Well, gentlemen, what were those difficulties? Why, it was that five different administrations had been formed, and five different administrations had been unable to carry on the administration of public affairs, and had either resigned or become so weak, in consequence of their small majority in the popular branch, that they could not conduct the Government in a satisfactory manner.
The Taché-Macdonald Government had arrived at the same state as the five preceding administrations, and finding themselves in this political dilemma, were again about appealing to the country, when a “still, small voice” was heard in the distance; and what was that “still, small voice,” and where did it come from? It was the voice of a great man, and came from an individual who solicited an opportunity of […]
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[…] pouring oil on the troubled political waters. (Hear, hear.)
Permission was granted, the oil poured on; the effect was miraculous—the commotion ceased, and a calm succeeded—a circumstance which caused no surprise when it was discovered, as it speedily was, that the magical oil came fresh from the wells of Bothwell. (Great laughter.) The Government, as the honorable and gallant Knight told us, received a communication from the “real chief” of the Opposition. And there is no doubt but that he was the real chief of the Opposition, and by his apostacy—this individual from whom the still, small voice came—is the real chief of the Government party. (Laughter.)
Well, he was desirous of making overtures, and he did, as a matter of fact, make overtures, with the view, as the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] has told us, of sinking all previous differences. We are told he went into the Government for the purpose of settling this one question of a new political existence, and we are therefore justified in inferring that he is either going out of the Government again at an early day, or else is going up to a higher position.
Well, gentlemen, what difficulties have been settled? None as yet, but the scheme now before the House was to be a panacea for all the difficulties and dissensions that have afflicted the country for the past five and twenty years. From whom does this panacea emanate? Why, from the very individual who has been more instrumental than any other man in creating those difficulties. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable gentleman at one time stated that he was a governmental impossibility, but it does not appear that he has been so in reality. After the oil was thrown on the troubled waters, then came the period for making some little delicate arrangements between the Government and the gentleman possessing the still small voice. Well, what were the little arrangements? Why, the honorable gentleman insisted on being an outsider. He would not go into the Government under any circumstances whatever. (Hear, hear.)
No, no, he would not. (Laughter.)
Well, the members of the Government said: “But we must have you among us; we are too well aware of the power you can bring us, to consent to your remaining on the outside.” Well now, it is astonishing the sacrifices public men will sometimes consent to make. (Laughter.)
It is really surprising, gentlemen, what sacrifices they do feel called upon to make for the good of their country. (Laughter.)
And here we have a very notable example of it. We have an instance of how much can be sacrificed at the shrine of patriotism for the salvation of one’s country. (Laughter.)
Towards the last of the delicate arrangements before alluded to, he thought he would go in—this still, small voice gentleman. (Laughter.)
Well, this being determined upon, he thought it would be necessary to go in upon some principle, but that was a most difficult operation. What principle could be found applicable to the case? (Laughter.)
Some inventive genius suggested that he might go in on the homoeopathic principle. Well, he finally went in on that principle, and took with him an infinitesimally small dose of Grits. (Renewed laughter.) And the result of his going in on that principle is that we have now a Government composed of three Clear Grits and nine Conservatives. The honorable gentleman, to whom I have alluded, went to the country and got returned to his seat in the House and Government.
My honorable friend from Toronto [John Ross] says he got returned by acclamation. Well, when we look at the individual and consider that he has been for years the leading spirit and guiding genius of a large political party, made up of a majority of the representatives of Upper Canada, and look at the acknowledged intellect of the man, and take into account the influence of the pen which he has the opportunity of wielding so powerfully—when we take all these things into consideration, it is not at all surprising that he should be returned by acclamation. (Hear, hear.)
He came back from the country and has since taken part in the Government; and here I wish to make a few observations with reference to the Government as it stands today. You must recollect, honorable gentlemen, that we are enjoying, or at least have enjoyed, a system of government in this country which has a great many admirers, and which some honorable gentlemen admire a great deal more than the quality of the people. The system is known by the name of Responsible Government. If I understand the subject properly, that system of government is defined in this way—that the Government of the country must be carried on according to the well-understood wishes of the people, as expressed through their representatives on the floor of the House of Assembly. (Hear, hear.)
Well now, I take exception to the formation of the present Government, on the ground that it was not established on that principle, because they are not a government emanating from the people. I cannot hold them in the same respect that I […]
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[…] did before the three Conservative members from Upper Canada, who retired in favor of the three Grit members, left it. The Government then all belonged to one political party, were all consistent members of that party, and taken together, were equal in talent to any Administration that has ever had charge of the affairs of this or any other province. All holding the same views on leading political questions, even those who opposed them could not but feel a very large degree of respect for them as sincere, honest, consistent Conservatives, and as I believe, entertaining sound political principles. But the introduction of the three other members altered the whole face of the Government. And the first thing this unholy alliance does is to go to work at the suggestion of the chief with the still, small voice to upset our Constitution. (Hear, hear.)
When a great constitutional question comes before this House, designed as it is to sweep an entire constitution from our Statute Book, and replace it with another, I think you will agree with me, honorable gentlemen, that this is one of the most important measures that could come from any government on the face of the earth. (Hear, hear.)
Well, I would ask those people who are so anxious to see responsible government carried out in this country in its integrity, is this a government that you can recognize as representing the well-understood wishes of the people? A government claiming to be a responsible government ought to have for its basis returns made from the polls, and ought not to have its origin through the instrumentality of ministerial convenience. (Hear, hear.)
I would like to ask if, at the last general election, this subject was mooted to the people in any section of the province?—whether it was a subject to which the slightest reference was ever made by the votes of the people when they returned their representatives? I do not think that it could have been, because it is a measure that has emanated from the particular individual to whom I have referred, since the Taché-Macdonald Government got into that unfortunate political dilemma. The people were not aware at the last general election that any such measure as this was to come before the Legislature.
Honorable gentlemen, I would not stand up here and speak in this manner if the subject brought under our consideration was any ordinary measure which could be passed this session and repealed at the next, if found unsatisfactory.
But these resolutions, if adopted by all the legislatures, will become embodied in an Imperial Act, and the people of Canada will find some difficulty in having any change made in respect to them. The power that creates Confederation, by passing the act for that purpose, will be the only power by which any change can be effected in that act. Therefore, after passing these resolutions, it will be out of our power to alter them in the least degree.
This, honorable gentlemen, is one of the reasons why I have refrained from addressing the House until the resolution which has just been proposed by my honorable friend from the Niagara Division [James Currie] should be brought forward. I would take this opportunity of saying that I do not think the observation made by an honorable gentleman, to the effect that it would be in bad taste for this House to suggest a dissolution of the other branch of the Legislature, should have any influence in disposing of the amendment now before us. Why, honorable gentlemen, there is nothing of the kind in the amendment.
We argue for delay, and we are perfectly willing you should delay the measure until after the next general election. But, if the Government think that delay will be so dangerous to the measure, there is a constitutional remedy open to them, which, of course, it would not be proper for me to refer to in a more pointed manner.
I do not argue for a week or a month’s delay. I think there ought to be a much longer time allowed. I think the question ought to be submitted to the people of this country for their approval.
I do not want the thing to be gone about in a peddling kind of style, one honorable gentleman running here and another there, and endeavoring in that way to learn the views of his constituents. If we cannot have the usual constitutional mode of arriving at the true views, opinions, and impressions of the people in relation to the scheme, I do not want any delay at all. I do not want the opinion of the people taken, unless it can be done in such a manner as will give us something upon which we can depend.
If an honorable gentleman consults the electors in one portion of his constituency and they are opposed to the scheme, while those of another section of the same constituency are in favor of it, he is no bettor off than when he began. Nor do I believe in taking a vote of the constituencies, “yea or nay,” on the measure, in the manner in which the people have to vote with reference to stopping the supply of intoxicating drink under the Temperance Act. (Laughter.)
I go for the whole British constitutional mode, or nothing. I have no idea of wishing to see honorable gentlemen going […]
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[…] round among their constituents, knocking at every door, and asking: Do you go Confederation? (Laughter.) I would as soon see them going around peddling wooden clocks. (Renewed laughter.)
I say, honorable gentlemen, that the whole scheme has emanated from the fertile and imaginative brain of one individual. That individual suggested the scheme to the Government; the Government took that individual in amongst them; he proposed this arbitrary mode of carrying the scheme through with the assistance of a united following—and it is going to be done.
The whole thing, I say again, proceeds from that individual, who has [sown to the storm and reaped the whirlwind long enough, and does not intend to reap it any longer if he can help it. But my opinion is that he is, perhaps, unwittingly sowing a greater storm than ever, and that a whirlwind will ensue of a most fearful character. It is just possible, however, that it will be found the most advantageous measure for the country that has ever been introduced to the Legislature, and if so, the honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown] is entitled to the whole credit of suggesting it, and taking the initiatory steps, without which it could never have been brought about; while on the other hand, if it should prove the most disastrous to the country that has ever been mooted, as I fear will be the case, unless submitted to the people in the constitutional way, that honorable gentleman will be entitled to, and will receive, the most bitter condemnation. (Hear, hear.)
Well, I now come to the position which the measure now occupies before the House, and the relation in which I stand to this House in dealing with it. When the proposition was made to change the character of the constitution of this House, I did everything in my power to prevent its becoming law; but all my efforts, with those of a number of honorable colleagues, were of no avail. And those gentlemen who, on that occasion, agreed with me that it was a most unwise step to alter the Constitution in that respect, when they and I found we could do no more, we filed a protest against it, because—
First,—The Act of Union conferred upon the people of Canada a Constitution as nearly similar to that under which Great Britain has attained her place among nations, as their colonial position would admit; and the Legislative Council, an integral part of that Constitution, was early established on its present basis as a check equally upon the hasty action of the popular branch, as upon the undue influence of the Crown.
Secondly—Because the introduction of the elective principle into the Constitution of the Upper Chamber gives an undue preponderance to the popular element; diminishes the proper influence of the Crown, and destroys the balance that has acted as a proper check upon both since representative institutions were given to the colony.
Thirdly,—Because the measure now proposed tends to the destruction of executive responsibility; the adoption of a written Constitution; the election of the highest officer of the Crown, and the separation of Canada from the parent state.—Signed, P. B. Deblaquiere. John Hamilton, George J. Goodhue, Wm. Widmer, Jas. Gordon, J. Ferrier, R. Mathieson, G. S. Boulton, Walter H. Dickson.
Well, honorable gentlemen, the change took place in spite of all we could do. I condemned the proposed change on that occasion from my own personal views respecting it, for I had no constituency, as some honorable gentlemen now have, to consult, and I now take exception in the same manner to the scheme before the House.
I do not take such strong exception to the details of the measure as some honorable gentlemen do, because when I reflect upon the number of individuals that took part in the Conference, and the ability possessed by those individuals, I would not, as a matter of course, have the temerity to rise in my place and proceed to point out an error here and another error there, even if they seemed to me to be errors, as some of them do seem, unless I felt satisfied not only that I possessed sounder judgment than they, but also that I was better acquainted with all the circumstances having a direct as well as indirect bearing upon the question.
But, honorable gentlemen, let me ask who is going to be chiefly affected by those changes?
Why, the people of Canada. And therefore it is that I ask, and all I ask is what appears to me to be only what is reasonable, as applied to the every day transactions of life, and that is, that those who are going to be affected should have some voice, at least, in these proceedings. (Hear, hear.)
This appears to me to be a sound mode of viewing the question; and claiming to myself the right of exercising my own personal judgment, with the limited means of doing so which the Almighty has thought proper to place me in possession of, I feel it my duty to stand up in this House and record my views and my vote in such a manner as that, while I live, I may look back with some degree of satisfaction upon the view that I took and advocated upon the floor of this House.—(Hear, hear.)
I do not think some honorable gentlemen who have stood up and argued […]
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[…] against continuing the elective principle in this House, can have done so with as much satisfaction to themselves as if they had not, on a previous occasion, pursued a different course. I well recollect that when I found it was the determination to introduce the elective principle in relation to the membership of this House, I said—Gentlemen, if the principle is good in one case, it is good in another; let us make the Speaker elective. No, no, they said, that will not do; that is republicanism. They would not have the Speaker made elective.
You know there was a little patronage at disposal by keeping the appointment of the Speaker in the Government. At that time I could make no progress in getting the House to go for making the Speaker elective. Since then, however, they made the Speaker elective, and therefore the House must admit that I was right on that occasion. I opposed the House being made elective, but honorable gentlemen made it elective, and now they are going to reinvest the appointments in the Crown. So it is clear that when the first change was made I was also right on that occasion. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
When the proposal was made to grant three millions of money to the Grand Trunk, I saw it was being done for political support, and I therefore opposed it. I also opposed the grants to the Arthabaska, and Port Hope and Peterborough railways, because I considered them only convenient methods of acquiring parliamentary support on the pretence of getting money for the Grand Trunk proper. Those roads were termed “feeders” for the Grand Trunk, but I called them Grand Trunk “suckers.” (Laughter.)
I take to myself some little credit for having taken this view of those questions. I am willing to admit that the Grand Trunk is a very great benefit to the province in a material point of view, but I do believe that we paid very dearly for the whistle. (Laughter.)
Having paid so dearly for that road, running, as it does, through the very finest portion of the country, I am disposed to be very cautious about entering upon the construction of this Intercolonial Railway. (Hear, hear.) I have often availed myself of a leaf out of the book of my honorable friend (Hon. Mr. Ross) and I like to stick pretty close by him, because if I get off the track he has the happy faculty of putting me on again. Now, I would like to ask him whether or not, in the remarks he made this afternoon, he stated that there had been no demand on the part of the people for an elective Legislative Council since the union.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—What I said was, that there had been no general demand for the change on the part of the people of Upper Canada. I am well aware that there was agitation on the subject in Lower Canada.
Walter Dickson [Canada West, appointed 1855]—Well, I find here in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly for 1855, that on the 21st of May, when the second reading of the Bill to make this House elective was defeated, the following was entered on the Journals by eight honorable members, in the shape of reasons for their dissent from the vote, viz.:—
Dissentient—Because public opinion has long and repeatedly been expressed on the necessity of rendering this branch of the Legislature elective; because the almost unanimous vote of the Legislative Assembly, irrespective of party, has, in the most unequivocal manner, ratified the opinion of the people as hereinbefore expressed; because the opposition of this House to the universal desire of the inhabitants of Canada, unsustained either by a party in the other branch of the Legislature or out of it, is unprecedented, and of a nature to cause the most serious apprehensions.
The first name, honorable gentlemen, signed to that protest is the Honorable John Ross, and the second is my honorable and gallant friend, Sir E.P. Taché. Then there are the Honorable Messrs. Panet, Belleau, Armstrong, Perry, Legaré, and Cartier. Well, lean now exonerate all those gentlemen, after observing, as I have done, how well the elective principal has worked in its application to this House. But I cannot understand how honorable gentlemen could have entertained the view that great disaster would be the result of refusing to grant the elective principle, and then inside of ten years, when their ideas had been put into practical effect, and had worked so admirably, they could again rise in this House and advocate a return to the system which then was so bad, and which the people were so determined to have altered. (Hear, hear.)
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I was then a member of the Government, and spoke their sentiments.
Walter Dickson [Canada West, appointed 1855]—Well then, honorable gentlemen, it seems I am to understand that the honorable gentleman did not then express the sentiments of Hon. Mr. Ross as an individual, but of Hon. Mr. Ross as a member of the Government. I have never been in the Government, and therefore, perhaps, I am pardonable for not having understood that the gentleman carried about with him a double set of sentiments, either of which could be used as occasion seemed to demand. (Laughter.)
But, in furtherance of the argument for delay, […]
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[…] I desire to say that I am anxious to have the further consideration of the scheme in this House postponed for other reasons than those which I have given expression to. My honorable friend the gallant Knight, in his remarks last evening, made allusion to the burning of the Parliament buildings. I agree with him that that was a thing sincerely to be regretted. But he stated that, if the conservatives in the Legislative Council had had the prudence and good sense to exercise the amount of wisdom that they might have exercised, they would have put off the Rebellion Losses Bill another year, which course of proceeding would, in all probability, have prevented the deplorable occurrence to which he referred.
Now, honorable gentlemen, I stand here to ask you to take the advice the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] has given, and apply it to the present scheme. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
You do not know what disastrous consequences may ensue, if this huge scheme is carried out without an appeal to the people in a constitutional manner. I do sincerely hope you will allow that powerful argument for delay adduced by the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] to bear upon this question. (Hear, hear.)
This is a revolution, gentlemen, not a mere payment of a few thousand pounds, that is proposed. A revolution may be carried out by the exercise of political power, as well as by physical force. If the Government of the country is subverted, it makes no difference how it is done. It is a revolution all the same, no matter how it is brought about. The effect is the same upon the country. The proposal is to sweep our present Constitution away, and supply its place with another, which may be better or a great deal worse. As I see by the clock I have only five minutes left before six, and do not desire to speak at a greater length, I will have to draw my remarks to a close. (Cries of “go on,” “go on.”) Well, as honorable gentlemen seem to desire it, I will make a few further remarks after dinner.
A message was here received from the Assembly, after which the House took a recess until 8 P.M. That hour having arrived, and the House having re-assembled—
Walter Dickson [Canada West, appointed 1855] said—The great reason for delay I conceive to be that it is proposed by the adoption of the resolutions of the Government to wipe out the present Constitution of the country without consulting the people affected thereby. I have not yet heard one single observation from the Government, or from any honorable member of this House, tending to show that there is any necessity for the unseemly haste with which the matter is being pressed. I think it ought to be laid over until after the next general election; and I beg honorable gentlemen to observe that I make no suggestion respecting a dissolution of the other branch of the Legislature. But if there is really any necessity for haste, then there is a constitutional mode of hastening an appeal open to the Government.
My honorable friend opposite argued that the prerogative of the Crown was taken away, in reference to the appointment of members of this House, without an appeal to the people, and that therefore no harm could result from taking away the boon then given them without any demand on their part or any appeal to them. Gentlemen, we were then experimentalists, and the experiment succeeded well. Then why not stick to it? We improved on the Constitution on that occasion. And you may give the people privileges they do not ask, very safely. But what is now proposed to be done?
It is proposed to take that power from them without consulting them, and I hold that such a thing ought not to be done. Having raised them to the highest state of political exaltation, without their even asking for it, it is now proposed to reduce them, almost without notice, to the lowest possible position of political degradation. It is the main principle of the Government under which we live, that the people, through their representatives, shall be consulted as to the composition of their Government. As for a mutual understanding between the electors and the elected, in relation to this scheme, there is none whatever, and I have thus urged delay because I do not think there is any need of hurry. There is a constitutional mode of ascertaining the views of the people, and it ought to be made use of. But honorable gentlemen say, “Oh, don’t throw out any hint about bringing on a general election before the proper period; we have had elections enough during the past five years.”
Why, honorable gentlemen, what is proposed to be done by the passing of these resolutions? Will their adoption not bring on a new election inside of eighteen months? There is another observation I desire to make with reference to honorable gentlemen endeavoring to obtain the views of their constituents by knocking at their doors, and asking whether they favor the first resolution and the second, and so on, through the entire list. I do not think that even by such a proceeding you could arrive at a thorough understanding of the views of your constituents. The common way of doing it is for a […]
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[…] member to call his constituents together in a large room in some hotel or other building, and lay the whole subject before them, expressing his opinion on the various clauses as he proceeds. In so doing he is more than apt to imbue their minds with the same view that he himself holds. I have only heard one member allude to having received the resolutions, and he merely opened and sealed them up again in consequence of their being marked “Private,” without endeavoring to ascertain the views of his constituents. I do hope that some course of procedure can be devised by which the spirit of the amendment proposed by my honorable friend from the Niagara Division [James Currie] may be carried into effect. The amendment simply states—
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.
Well, honorable gentlemen, is this House willing to assume the responsibility of depriving the people of the opportunity of expressing their wishes on so momentous a question as an entire change of their Constitution. Those who are willing to take the responsibility will vote against this amendment, while those who are willing to have the matter referred to the people, will vote for it. My sentiments are well expressed in the amendment, and exercising my own individual judgement, having no constituency to be governed by, I shall vote for it, and if it is defeated it will strengthen the hands of the Government in carrying out their great principle of Confederation without an appeal to the people—and, as a matter of course, according to our present system of responsible government, they must assume the responsibility.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said—I would like, honorable gentlemen, to continue the debate in that excellent and happy spirit in which my honorable friend who has just sat down has addressed the House. I envy my honorable friend very much for the possession of that happy faculty of amusing and instructing the House in combination. I am somewhat grieved to feel obliged to call the attention of honorable members to that which is, perhaps, more of a business character and less interesting than the remarks which fell from my honorable friend.
I must say that I very much regret that my honorable friend should have thought that on this particular amendment being proposed, it was his duty to come to its support, because it is evident to my own mind, and must also be so to every honorable member present, that my honorable friend, while giving his support to the amendment, entertains very different views from those which were enunciated by the honorable member for Niagara [James Currie], who moved it. My honorable friend says, “If there is to be delay, let it be a substantial delay; let it be such a delay as will ensure a dissolution of parliament; such a delay as will enable the people to speak in that manner, and in that manner only, that is known to the British Constitution.”
I can respect that sentiment. There is something real in an argument based on that foundation. I do him the justice to believe that he takes that view with a sincere desire that the delay should not militate against the scheme, but that the people when referred to them should adopt it. But, honorable gentlemen, contrast that view with the idea suggested by the honorable gentleman who moved this resolution. What view does he take? Not that there should be such a delay as would enable the people to express themselves in the manner in which Great Britain and all her colonies speak, but in that sort of way which, as my honorable friend (Hon. Mr. Dickson) has graphically described, is more nearly allied to the peddling of clocks than to anything connected with British constitutional procedure. What does the honorable gentleman say? He says, give us twenty days or a month.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I said that was the least time I would ask.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—What could be done with twenty days or a month’s delay? Is it possible for the people to speak in any constitutional way in twenty days or a month? The honorable gentleman knows very well that it is not possible, and that under no system of government could such a plan, as his mind has suggested, by any possibility be sanctioned by the Legislature. Would the people of New York State, or any of the States of the Union, sanction a proceeding of that kind? On the contrary, they would adopt the course at once of having the scheme submitted to a direct vote of the people. If you adopt the British constitutional way, then there will have to be a dissolution of Parliament; but, if you adopt the American system, the people will be called upon to vote “yea or nay” on the scheme as it stands. Let it be expressed in one way or the other, fairly and constitutionally, in accordance with our system of government. […]
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[…] My honorable friend does not contemplate that. He contemplates a postponement of the subject, in some way or other, for twenty days or a month, and I am sorry that my honorable friend, who spoke last, should have felt himself called upon to adopt a scheme so entirely contrary to what I know are his views as to what is correct and proper, according to those constitutional and British views which he entertains. I am sorry that he should have been led to adopt a scheme which is evidently not advocated by him from the same motives as those which actuate my honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie].
Walter Dickson [Canada West, appointed 1855]—I approve of the resolution as it stands, and I entertain the views that I have expressed. I have always held that a general election was the proper constitutional mode of learning the people’s views, and I distinctly stated that I did not care to have a short delay.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—All I suggested was that the Government might at least give twenty days or a month, if they would grant no more. Of course, I desire to get what my honorable friend Mr. Dickson has asked.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—Then I do hope my honorable friend will withdraw his support to the amendment, when he sees that he does not concur with the mover of it, who evidently contemplates some other course than is known to the British Constitution for ascertaining the views of the people—for instance, by members going from door to door, or by holding meetings in convenient places and making themselves agreeable to their constituents by indulging in hospitalities, &c. I am quite confident that is not the idea which my honorable friend opposite entertains; nor, I am satisfied, is it the view which any honorable gentleman of this House can entertain who is desirous of promoting Confederation of the provinces—that these resolutions, important as they are, and necessary as it is that we should arrive at some conclusion in reference to them, should be laid aside until my honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] goes about from door to door throughout his large and intelligent constituency, knocking at each and asking the views of the electors on each separate resolution.
My honorable friend is charged with the duty of representing his constituency on the floor of this House, and it is to be supposed that he is well capable of representing them in point of intellect and good judgment, when he is called upon to say whether or not he believes the scheme, I as a whole, to be a desirable one for the country. (Hear, hear.)
But he seems to ignore all that. He does not seem willing to pronounce his judgment upon this scheme. He will not say that it is so objectionable that he will vote against it on the merits of the case. If he is unable to come to a decision, he ought to resign his position, and give place to some one who can come to a decision. But look at the position of a man who says in effect, “I have no opinion of my own; if the people whom I represent are favorable to the scheme, I have not a word to say; I will vote for it to please them, though I disapprove of it.”
Gentlemen, let him give his constituency the benefit of his best judgment, and consider whether, reflecting upon the fact that there are five different provinces to be consulted, and constituencies upon constituencies to be canvassed, that which he desires can be ascertained in any better way than by this House, considering itself a fair representation of the sentiment of Canada, coming to an immediate decision. He says his constituents have not charged him with the duty of altering the Constitution.
Well, but he is charged with the duty of exercising his best judgment upon every subject brought before this House. We are not here for the purpose of altering the Constitution. We have not the power to alter the Constitution if we desired to do so, but we have the sacred duty incumbent upon us of expressing our views in relation to such alterations as may be considered advantageous to the country. (Hear, hear.)
Do these resolutions alter the Constitution of the country? Not at all. They merely state that such alterations are desirable. The Constitution itself can only be changed by the Imperial authorities. We are not exceeding what our French Canadian friends called the mandate with which we are charged. We have no power to alter the Constitution, but we have the power of expressing our views in an address to Her Majesty, which it is proposed to adopt in all the legislatures, stating that such and such changes would, in our opinion, prove advantageous to the country.
We are exercising exactly the duties which are incumbent upon us. We are giving to our constituents the benefit of our experience and honest convictions upon the topics which are committed to our charge, and which events force upon our attention. Has not the House, on previous occasions, adopted resolutions, the effect of which has been to bring about changes of the Constitution? And has it ever before been argued that this House had no right to debate such resolutions? Nothing […]
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[…] of the kind. The first alteration asked for, was for the purpose of allowing the use of the French language in the House of Parliament. Honorable gentlemen might have said then that they had not the power to ask for such a change, but such an idea was never mooted.
An Hon. Member—It was carried unanimously.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—I had not the honor of having a seat in this House at the time, but I am happy to hear that it was unanimously carried. Next, a change was asked for in the composition of this House. This House was at one time nominative, and was, in 1856, made elective. Was that not a change of the Constitution? Nobody, however, urged at that time the idea that this House had no power to pass such a resolution. We stand exactly in the same position now, and it seems to me a most futile and illogical argument to say that we have not the power to do what it is proposed to do in passing those resolutions, that is, to pray the Queen so to change the Constitution of this province that we may unite in one Government with the other provinces of British North America. I am quite satisfied that, when honorable gentlemen reflect upon it, they will see that they are not in any way exceeding the powers committed to them by their constituencies.
My honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] suggests this amendment in a spirit that is comparatively poor to that in which it is supported by my honorable friend opposite. He says he is in favor of the union, but is opposed to some of the details. It is painful to me that any honorable gentleman, who professes a desire to advance the union, should yet shelter himself, in opposing it, under an objection to some of the details. Does my honorable friend seriously propose to submit to the country all those various details? Can he imagine that he could get an intelligent expression from any part of the country on those details? All he could get would be a general opinion in favor of Confederation, and we are all satisfied that he would have that. I believe there are but two or three honorable members in this House who are really opposed to Confederation. Take ten thousand people from the country, and you will find nine thousand of every ten in favor of Confederation.
Several Hon. Members—No, no.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—Well, I will submit to the opinion of honorable gentlemen from Lower Canada, for I do not pretend to be so well acquainted with the feelings of their people, but I am in as good a position to speak for Upper Canada as any other honorable gentleman, and I have no hesitation in saying that the people of Upper Canada are almost unanimously in favor of Confederation. I am satisfied that, if the question were put before the people by means of a general election, there would be an unanimous vote in Upper Canada in its favor.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Hear, hear.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—My honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] says “Hear, hear.” My honorable friend cavils at every statement which is made, attempts to throw doubt and distrust upon the figures which have been produced in advocacy of the measure, and has not restrained himself from using every method of opposition which his imagination could invent or his ability turn to account. I must say that I can hardly believe an honorable gentleman to be in favor of the scheme, who takes every opportunity to attack it, and, when accused of hostility, shelters himself under objections to the details. (Hear, hear.)
It shows to me that his feelings are not sincere, but that he desires to upset the very foundations on which Confederation rests, not perhaps because he is opposed to Confederation in the abstract, or a Confederation such as he would like to see established, but because be desires to thwart and defeat the efforts of those who have been honestly and industriously engaged in bringing about the scheme which is now before this House. I say, honorable gentlemen, if the people could express their opinions as we may express ours tonight, they would all concur in the first resolution. (Hear, hear.)
Well, gentlemen, it being granted that we are all in favor of union, how are the details to be settled? Is it possible that the nearly four millions of people who compose the provinces to be affected by the union, should meet together en masse and settle those details?
It is not possible, and those who argue that the scheme should originate with the people, know very well that it is not possible. Well, then, could the parliaments of all these provinces assemble together and agree upon a scheme of Confederation? Look at the difficulties that we have to encounter on every point of the details in carrying the scheme through this House, and judge for yourselves whether the parliaments of all the provinces could meet together, and originate and decide upon the details of Confederation. There is no other practicable way than that delegates should meet together as they have done, and frame resolutions on the subject, upon which […]
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[…] the act constituting the union could be founded. Honorable gentlemen have asked who authorized those delegates to meet together for the purpose of framing those resolutions. Honorable gentlemen know very well that the present Government of Canada was formed for the very purpose of considering and submitting a scheme of this kind. My honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] again takes shelter under the statement that what the Government proposed to do was to bring down a scheme for the Confederation of Canada alone, and that the bringing of all the provinces into the Confederation was only a secondary idea. The honorable gentleman knows very well that that statement of the case is a mere pretence.
Everybody knew that the Government would endeavor to overcome the difficulties which presented themselves in working the government of Canada, either by one project or by the other.
The honorable gentleman has quoted from the Speech from the Throne delivered at the close of last session, in which an allusion was made to the formation of a Federal union between the two sections of this province, and not to a Federal union of all the provinces. Why does he not refer to and quote from the Speech from the Throne at the opening of this session? My honorable friend will find there, and I suppose he will place the expression on even terms with the other, the following:—
At the close of the last session of Parliament I informed you that it was my intention, in conjunction with my ministers, to prepare and submit to you a measure for the solution of the constitutional problem, the discussion of which has for some years agitated this province. A careful consideration of the general position of British North America induced the conviction that the circumstances of the times afforded the opportunity, not merely for the settlement of a question of provincial politics, but also for the simultaneous creation of a new nationality.
Now, my honorable friend says in effect that we were not right, when the opportunity presented itself of endeavoring to carry out the idea, in seizing upon it, and endeavoring to combine these provinces in one nationality, under the common flag of Great Britain, and under the rule of a Viceroy of the British Crown. Every honorable gentleman feels in his heart that we were not only right and patriotic in thus assembling, but that we were doing that which was promised to the Legislature of this province at the close of last session of Parliament. Honorable gentlemen, I am surprised and grieved that my honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie], whom I know to be a patriotic and loyal subject of Her Majesty, does not feel it his duty to unite with us in bringing about that which is so dear to all of us—a closer connection with the Mother Country, and a better means of perpetuating British institutions on this continent. (Hear, hear.)
My honorable friend says the whole scheme is characterized by concessions to the Lower Provinces. Why, honorable gentlemen, place him in any portion of the Lower Provinces and let him listen to the opposition that is made there to the scheme, and he will find that the whole cry of those who, like him, do not reflect on the necessity of yielding something for the common good, is, that everything has been conceded to Canada. It is said, “We are going to be united with a province which is infinitely beyond us in point of population and wealth, and whose public men are able to command, by their ability, a much larger influence than our public men.” They profess to believe that they are coming under the shadow of Canada, and that everything which they desire for themselves will be trampled under foot.
My honorable friend, forgetting those duties which he owes to the Government, and forgetting the duty which he owes as a patriotic citizen to his country, contents himself with finding fault with the details of a scheme which he believes will be for the benefit of the country, and picks holes in every part of these details which he does not happen fully to understand. He not only complains that the people of Canada have not been consulted, but that in every respect the interests of Canada have been bartered away. Does he forget that the members of the Government all love their country, and have interests as great and as dear to them as the rest of the people of Canada?
Is it likely that my honorable friend at the head of the Government, the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché], would give up everything that is dear to his race and to the people of this province? Is it likely that any of us would ruthlessly throw away any advantage which we could reasonably retain? On the contrary, if my honorable friend could be brought to look upon the measure with that liberality which ought to characterize a public man, he would concede that, although we had to give away some things, we did that which was best for the interests of our country. Let him find himself surrounded, as we were, by diverse interests—peculiarities here, prejudices there, and strong interests in the other direction, and let him produce, if he can, a scheme which, on the whole, is more advantageous to the people of this province, or which promises better for the country at large than that which […]
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[…] is now on the table of this House. Let him do this, and then I will forgive him for the liberality which he exhibits towards those who have honestly endeavored, to the best of their united ability, to arrange the scheme which is now under your consideration. (Hear, hear.) I could forgive my honorable friend altogether, if, like my honorable friend opposite, he took the ground that the scheme ought to be delayed until after a general election. But, instead of that, he leaves no stone unturned to prejudice this House against the measure. It seems to me that if he could prejudice the House sufficiently against it to insure its defeat, as a whole, he would leave no stone unturned to accomplish it. So far from showing that he is in favor of the scheme, I cannot for one moment imagine how any one can believe him to be a sincere friend of Confederation under any circumstances.
It is all very well to say, “I am in favor of the scheme, but opposed to some of the details.” Was not every one of those details tested and tried in all its bearings, so far as such a thing was possible, by gentlemen as intelligent and well informed upon the subjects embraced as any honorable gentleman in this House? Every honorable gentleman now listening to me knows very well that it was not possible to adopt a scheme that could not be found fault with. No matter what scheme was put upon the table of this House, even if my honorable friend had been able to submit a scheme infinitely superior to this, does anybody believe that certain honorable gentlemen in this House would have supported it?
The resolutions may be objectionable here and objectionable there, but it is for honorable gentlemen to consider all the circumstances out of which they have grown, and consider whether, under those circumstances, they ought not to be adopted as a whole by the House. Honorable gentlemen say, where is the advantage to be gained by Canada from Confederation?
Well now, can any honorable gentlemen in his senses believe that the removal of the obstacles to intercourse between the provinces, the doing away with the customs duties, and the developing the trade of the St. Lawrence, is no advantage to Canada? Can it be said that to open up commerce with three millions of people along the St. Lawrence and the lakes will be of no advantage to the people of the Lower Provinces? Can any Briton, advocating as he does the continuation of our connection with the Mother Country, say—”I would rather be alone, be an Upper Canadian and be left to myself, and that my fellow-colonists be left to take care of themselves.” Then my honorable friend asks: “Where is the additional military strength?” Does my honorable friend pretend to deny that there is no additional strength in union over isolation? Does any man pretend to say that eight hundred or a thousand men belonging to a regiment are just as strong in units as when they are combined in a regiment and directed by the intellect of one man? And just so the forces of all these provinces are comparatively weak in their present isolated state.
If we could say to the United States that we had the control of four millions of people to guard our frontier and repel attack, would not that form a strong barrier of defence? Would that be no weapon in the hands of a government desirous to avert an appeal to force of arms?
It is the strength of a large number of people wielded by one mind, affording a power vastly superior to that which Canada alone could bring into the field, and giving the Government, when negotiating, an opportunity to point to what might possibly result from that power being called into active service. How can men be so lost to all that is true and useful and patriotic as to oppose a union of the powers of defence, and to oppose a scheme which is alone likely to afford the means of maintaining, for any long period of years, that connection with Great Britain which we all regard as so valuable? My honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] took occasion, in the course of his remarks, to throw doubt upon one or two of my statements, and particularly in regard to the value of the mineral deposits of Newfoundland.
I stated that I could satisfy the House that there were mineral deposits in Newfoundland of a valuable character. I will not detain the House by reading it at length, but I hold in my hand a copy of a report that was made on that colony in 1840, stating that those deposits consisted of galena, gypsum, marble, gold, iron, copper, etc. There are most important lead mines in operation, and Professor Shephard states that he saw 3,500 pounds of pure galena thrown from a vein at a single blast, fie goes on in this report to describe the very convenient position of the mines, showing that they can be approached very closely by vessels drawing twelve or fifteen feet of water. This report plainly shows that my honorable friend was mistaken in supposing that there were no valuable minerals in Newfoundland. But support, for the sake of argument, that there were no minerals there; suppose we were simply giving the Province of Newfoundland $150,000 a […]
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[…] year for the purpose of getting that island into the Confederation, would it not be better to have the Confederation complete than to refuse to agree to that condition? One would suppose, from the manner in which some honorable gentlemen treat the question, that the various sums to be annually paid to the Lower Provinces were to be paid by Canada alone; but it is nothing of the kind,—they are to be paid by the whole Confederation, the population receiving the benefit contributing as much per head to the amount as that of the Province of Canada. What does my honorable friend suppose the Province of Newfoundland gives up to the Confederation in return for the $150,000? It transfers to us the whole right of property in its unsold lands, and the whole of its general revenue. In 1862, it had a gross revenue of $480,000, only $5,000 of which was from local sources, and it is calculated that the colony will bring a revenue of $430,000 per annum to the Confederate purse, while the total amount it will receive will be $369,200 per annum out of which to defray its local expenses.
Is there anything so marvellously outrageous in that? In addition to the fact that Newfoundland will pay the Confederation $430,000, and receive $369,000, we have a complete yielding to the Federal Government of all her territorial sources of revenue. And so it is with all the provinces. Each of them will contribute to the general revenue, or to the Confederate purse, more than they will receive from it, so that the revenue of the whole country will show a surplus. The honorable gentleman from Niagara [James Currie] evidently contemplates much more by his amendment than my honorable friend opposite, who has so ably supported it, contemplates. My honorable friend who supported the amendment contemplates a delay until there shall be an expression of the people taken through a dissolution of Parliament. Well now, how can a dissolution of Parliament be brought about in a constitutional manner?
Suppose this scheme to receive the support of an immense majority of the Lower House, as it plainly does, and also of a large majority in this House, how, I would ask, under our system of government, can a dissolution be brought about? A dissolution is unknown to the British Constitution, as carried out in this province, except when a measure, originated by the Government, does not receive the support of Parliament. Receiving the support of more than two-thirds of the representatives of the people, as the present Government does, how is it possible that Parliament could he dissolved to suit the views of a small minority? That is asking quite too much, even if it were possible to grant it. (Hear, hear.)
What, therefore, do honorable gentlemen ask, when they ask that the scheme be submitted to the people? They ask us as a Government to leave that which we consider the safe, sound, British constitutional mode of procedure, and resort to the American system of obtaining assent to constitutional alterations, by taking the votes, yea and nay, of the individual members of the whole community. What sort of a conclusion could be arrived at by that mode of procedure?
Is it possible that any hon. member of this House desires that the people should have the opportunity of saying yea or nay to each clause of these resolutions? I am satisfied that that is not what my honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] desires, because he only asks for a delay of a month; and my honorable friend opposite does not desire it, because he knows the British Constitution and loves it too well to contemplate such a course for a moment. What conclusion, then, can we arrive at, but that those who oppose the passage of the scheme through this House, by moving and supporting amendments to it, are desirous of defeating it, and make those amendments for that purpose? (Hear, hear.)
I am satisfied, from the best information I can obtain, that the passage of the amendment would have a very great tendency towards defeating the measure. It has to be agreed to in both branches of all the other legislatures, and then in the Imperial Parliament. All the other legislatures are now waiting upon the action of this House. They are waiting to know whether honorable gentlemen of the Legislative Council of Canada concur in the scheme—whether you are satisfied to put on one side small objections to minor matters of detail—to put to one side your individual opinions on this point and on that point, and give it your support as a whole. Every person who reflects upon the subject must be satisfied that that would have to be done under any circumstances.
Do you desire to have a union of all the British American Provinces, or do you desire to remain as you are? That is the issue. For myself, I feel that our connection with the Mother Country cannot be maintained for any great length of time without such a union. What have we found in the utterances of the public men of England from year to year? Have we not found them asserting, with more and more vehemence every year, that we were not doing our duty on this side […]
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[…] of the water in relation to our defences? If Great Britain should get into a war with the United States from circumstances over which we had no control, still our destinies were linked in with those of the great empire of which we form a part, and it is our duty, under all circumstances, to do something more than we have yet done, to prepare for events that may happen from one cause or another. But suppose that during the past summer armed forces from the United States had entered Canada in pursuit of raiders escaping into this province from the other side of the border, as they might have done had not Gen. Dix’s order been withdrawn; and had we found that our integrity as a member of the great Empire was not respected, and Great Britain had coincided with the views of our Government and declared war against the United States, because that country had exercised liberties in one of her provinces to which no foreign power was entitled, where then would have been the cause of the war?
It would have lain in the assertion of the right of the people of this province to maintain the position of an integral portion of the British Empire. Well, supposing the cause of a war with that nation to have been elsewhere, still we must partake with the Empire in upholding its integrity, and must stand or fall with that Empire. Shall we say that we will contribute nothing towards our defence except to keep up the volunteers, and depend entirely upon what the Mother Country, for prudential reasons, may do for us? Is that a feeling that any honorable member of this House ought to be actuated by in relation to this or any other question? I am sure no honorable gentleman would be willing to sit down and fold his arms under the protection which the money and arms of Great Britain give us; and I am sure my honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] himself would not unite in such a view plainly expressed.
Still, my honorable friend thinks these resolutions ought not to pass this House, but ought to be postponed indefinitely, leaving the colonies in the divided condition in which they now are. I believe, on the contrary, that the interests and destiny of this country are bound up in the union now contemplated taking place. Suppose, as many believe, the end of that unfortunate fratricidal strife in the United States is at hand, and a reconciliation takes place at any reasonable time between the Northern and Southern States, I am quite sure the maintenance of the integrity of these provinces will depend upon this union having been consummated. If the scheme is postponed now, it is postponed indefinitely. For years past the effort has been making to get the Lower Provinces to assent to a union with Canada, and, if the question is now postponed, there is no knowing whether we shall ever be able to get their assent to it again or not.
Action in the parliaments of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, is now hanging upon the proceedings in this House. If you pass an amendment, it will indicate to them that the people of Canada are not warmly in favor of the scheme. Honorable gentlemen, are you ready to take the responsibility of declaring that the people of Canada are opposed to Confederation? There is no knowing when circumstances will allow of its being brought to this forward stage again. Those of you who know what difficulties and objections were met with—the selfish interests of the various sections of this and of the other provinces, which we had to overcome—must feel that a very great advance was made when the measure was brought to the present forward stage. When again will it be likely to happen that the representatives of the various provinces will be brought together to consider the question? When will it again happen that the governments of the several provinces concerned will be able to lay upon the table of their respective legislatures a scheme so complete in all its details as this is? It is impossible to say when that happy coincidence of circumstances will again occur. Then my honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] says,
“You have not given us the scheme in detail. You have not given the whole of it. The House has not before it the proposed Constitution under which Upper and Lower Canada are hereafter to meet. You have not told us what are to be the rights and the powers of the local legislatures.”
Well, honorable gentlemen, all I can say is, that it would be impossible, and not only impossible, it would be useless for the Government to have brought down this scheme at the same time that they submitted the scheme now before the House. Until this scheme passes, until it shall be adopted in the other provinces, until we know whether or not we are to form portions of a Confederate Government, there is no occasion for introducing the scheme relating to the local legislatures. But, honorable gentlemen, is it likely or can it be possible for such a scheme to be adopted without the sanction of both branches of the Legislature? The plan, whatever it may be, for the constitution of Upper and Lower Canada, is it a matter […]
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[…] which the ministers of the Crown can carry in their pockets and put in force without the sanction of Parliament? No, it is a measure which must hereafter be laid on the table of this House, which must be debated, and upon which we shall all have an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion before it comes in force. At the proper time, a full opportunity will be afforded to those who dissent from the views of the Government, in regard to the constitutions of these provinces, of expressing their opinions, and of seeking to give effect to them. The same may be said in regard to the objections taken to the Intercolonial Railway. It is asserted that the Intercolonial Railway is something that we ought never to have agreed to. But honorable gentlemen will acknowledge, as a general proposition, that union is impossible without the railway, and such as believe that union is important and necessary, must be content to take the railway as a condition which is indispensable.
But, honorable gentlemen, the Government cannot of itself build the Intercolonial Railway. There is no power either in this Government or the Governments of the other provinces to build it. We must come down to Parliament for the sanction—not to this Parliament, but to the Confederate Parliament, and the Confederate Parliament will have an opportunity of saying upon what terms we shall build the Intercolonial Railway. The fullest opportunity will be afforded for discussion before either the Intercolonial Railway is built, or the constitutions are adopted for Upper and Lower Canada. The former will be submitted to the Confederate Parliament; the latter, should the resolutions now before the House pass, to the present Parliament of Canada; for that must necessarily be a matter for the disposal of the Legislature of Canada. I am not one of those who would, as suggested, desire to take shelter behind the resolutions before the House for any unworthy purpose; but this I will say, that the amendment now before the House ought not to receive its sanction.
I am quite satisfied that no honorable member of this House, who is really and truly an advocate of this scheme, and who believes that Confederation of all the provinces is important and desirable, will be found voting for this amendment, which would place a barrier in the way of Confederation, such as, perhaps, we could not overcome. Fancy the number of years during which this matter has been contemplated. As my honorable friend who sits near me pointed out, it is a measure which has long been agitated. He showed you that for years and years it has engaged the attention of almost every person who took any kind of interest in the public affairs of this country.
I have only one thing to add to my honorable friend’s elaborate statement on this point, and that is, to quote an extract from the resolutions proposed in this House many years ago by an honorable friend of mine, whom I am glad, and whom every one of his fellow members is glad to find still occupying his accustomed place in this House—I refer to my honorable friend Hon. Mr. Matheson. In 1855, my honorable friend proposed a series of resolutions in this House against the elective principle, the last of which is in language prophetic of the result which now we are testing by actual experience.
The resolution is in these words:—
- Resolved,—That as the subject of a union of the whole of the British North American Provinces has for years occupied the public attention, it would manifestly be unwise to complicate future arrangements by a change in the Constitution of one of those provinces, which has not been sought for, and which this House believes, would not be acceptable to the others. It is, therefore, the opinion of this Council, that any proceedings on the subject at the present juncture would be premature, unwise, and inexpedient.
My honorable friend at that time looked forward to that which we now see about to take place—a union of these provinces—and he anticipated also that the elective system, if introduced into this branch of the Legislature, would be fraught with difficulty. It has been fraught with difficulty, and it is a difficulty which we must surmount—a barrier which we must strive to overcome. The personal objections which my honorable friend from Niagara [James Currie] division has started, are the poorest kind of objections. It is not what my honorable friend near me, or my honorable friend opposite, possibly thought or said at some remote period, that we have now to consider.
We are all more or less exposed to this sort of attack; but fortunately the time during which I have had the honor of being in public life has been so short, and the position I have since occupied has been so obscure, that I am not so much exposed as many others to these accusations; but I am well aware that this is owing to my comparative insignificance. I must say that for my part I am disposed to put aside all these things. I am disposed to put aside all reference to what an honorable member may have done under other circumstances and in other times, and I would merely […]
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[…] ask myself this: “Is this Confederation desirable? Do I wish for it as a lover of monarchical institutions? Do I desire it as a subject of the British Empire? Do I wish for the perpetuation of the connection between this country and Great Britain?” If I do I shall waive my objections on this point and the other, in my desire for the success of the principle. This Confederation has been sought after for years, but never until now has it approached so near a consummation—never was it a possibility as it is now a possibility. After years of anxiety, after years of difficulty, after troubles here and divisions there, the scheme is found possible, and I will not put it away from me because I object to this point or to that. If this harness of the Confederation of the country is to be put on, we cannot but expect that it will chafe here and chafe there; but time will give relief and provide the remedy, as it has done in other circumstances before. It was so in regard to the union of 1840.
The Lower Canadians had a grievance in the French language being excluded from the Provincial Parliament. That chafed, as was to be expected, and provoked remonstrance. And what was the result? The injustice complained of was done away with, and both languages were thereafter permitted to be used. Then it was the desire of the people that the elective system should be introduced into this House. I believe myself that it was a mistake, but a change was desired, and a change was brought about. And so it will be in this case.. If change is seriously desired, it will be had. It would be unwise and unstatesmanlike, in my opinion, to declare that because we cannot have our way on this point or on that point—that because the scheme in all its features is not exactly what we would like it to be—we will not have it at all. Where, honorable gentlemen, is the union effected between any two countries, or any two individuals even, which has lasted for any length of time without mutual forbearance and mutual concessions? Let those honorable gentlemen who have had the good fortune of forming unions, and who can therefore speak from experience, say whether any union can be formed either happy or lasting without forbearance on both sides. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
You must give up all thoughts of union unless you are willing to give and take, and cease persisting for everything you think best. Nobody ever did effect a union upon such terms, and nobody ever will. You must forbear here and give way there. I trust and believe that in the present instance this will be the opinion of the Legislature of this country. I trust and believe we are satisfied that Federation is desirable in itself, and that, without insisting on this point or on that point, we will be looking confidently forward to the future, when we shall witness, in this country, a population of four millions, with a valuable commerce, and, in point of naval power and supremacy, ranking fourth in the world. (Applause.)
Particularly am I surprised that any honorable gentleman from Lower Canada should oppose himself to this union, for by union the people of Lower Canada will regain possession of those countries which were once belonging to their race, and in which their language continues to be spoken. I believe that for them, as well as for us, there is a future in store of great promise, to which we can all look forward with the most confident expectations. And shall we set aside all these promising prospects because we cannot obtain this little point or that little point?
I hope honorable gentlemen who favor the scheme see as I see that there is imminent danger in postponing the measure, and I ask them not to pass this amendment, which is brought forward in the poorest of all spirits, which is based on the assumption that honorable gentlemen are not ready to give the country the benefit of their minds and their judgments, but which asks us to wait and go knocking about from door to door, asking what is thought about the scheme upon which we are now called to legislate. Federation is the future safety and salvation of the country. Let us then waive our small objections and vote for Federation. (Applause.)
Benjamin Seymour [Canada West, appointed 1854]—The Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] is right in supposing that I am opposed to Federation I am opposed to it, and particularly on the basis agreed upon at the Quebec Convention. I do not say that I would be opposed to a legislative union on fair and equal terms; but I am decidedly opposed to Federation on the terms now before the House. My hon. friend has said that in all unions there must be forbearance; but in this Federation scheme it appears to me the forbearance has been all on one side. The forbearance has not been mutual. When parties enter into a partnership, there ought to be forbearance on the part of each, and mutual concessions. But in this case the concessions as well as the forbearance have been all on the side of Canada. My hon. friend, with all his eloquence and ability, has not answered a single […]
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[…] objection raised by my hon. friend from Niagara (Hon. Mr. Currie). He has found it convenient to pass them all over for the simple reason that he found them unanswerable. My hon. friend says:—”Was not the French language restored to Lower Canada, and was not this a change in the Constitution?” Hon. gentlemen, it was certainly restored, and by the Conservative administration of that day, and, as my hon. friend opposite (Hon. Mr. Boulton) has said, unanimously. There was no opposition, for it was considered a right to which our French Canadian fellow subjects were fully entitled. But is the restoration of the French language to be compared with the resolutions now proposed—with the great constitutional change which is intended to affect, not only ourselves, but our children and our children’s children for all time to come?
Is a change like this to be compared with the restoration of the French language? Certainly not. It seems to me to be the most extraordinary comparison I ever heard of. Then my hon. friend has referred to the change in the constitution of the Legislative Council. But was not that question over and ever again before the people? Did not the people at the hosting’s frequently pronounce an opinion upon that change? Undoubtedly they did, and it being understood that the people were in favor of it, the change was brought about. My hon. friend says that in the Conference they were surrounded with difficulties. No doubt they were. And why? Because they allowed for Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland as many delegates as they did for Canada. No doubt they were surrounded with difficulties. No doubt they were overwhelmed by the demands of these gentlemen. The hon. gentleman says that Confederation is necessary to strengthen the defences of the country. In what way? Can any hon. gentleman tell me in what way? I have not heard one word to prove, to my satisfaction, how the defences of the country are to be strengthened by Federation, unless indeed it be by placing the whole of the provinces under one head.
Why, hon. gentlemen, did I not show here the other day what was the feeling of the Lower Provinces in regard to the defences of the country? At a time when our Parliament were proposing to pass an act which would entail the expenditure of millions on the defences of the country, what was being done in the Lower Provinces? Why the Financial Secretary of one of the provinces came down with a proposed grant of $20,000, and he was obliged to apologize to the House that the sum was so large! And the present Premier of Nova Scotia—the province second in importance in British North America—proposed to strike off $12,000, and leave the appropriation at $8,000. This was proposed by a province next in importance to our own, and at the time of the Trent affair, when there was an appearance of danger much greater than at present. And what did New Brunswick do? Appropriate $15,000. The people that did all this are the people to whom we are to ally ourselves that we may be strengthened in our efforts for the defence of the country!
Do hon. gentlemen believe that an alliance with provinces whose leading men hold such views as these would add to our strength? Certainly not. My hon. friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] has also said that 95 out of every 100 of the people of Upper Canada are in favor of Federation. My hon. friend is mistaken. I once had the honor of representing a portion of his constituents, and I would inform my hon. friend that I know as much of the feeling, not simply of the people of Upper Canada, speaking of them generally, but of his constituents, as he does; and this I would say that were my hon. friend to go before his constituents and tell them that, in order to get Federation, Upper Canada is to pay two-thirds of the cost of the Intercolonial Railway, and two thirds of the cost of maintenance of the road for all time to come, and that the roads of the Lower Provinces are to be made Government roads, and to be kept up in future at the expense of the Federal Government, and that Upper Canada will have two-thirds of the burden to bear, I will venture to say that my hon. friend would find himself wrong in his estimate of being able to satisfy 95 out of every 100 of his constituents.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—Tell them of all the circumstances, and I would be able to satisfy them.
Benjamin Seymour [Canada West, appointed 1854]—My hon. friend is greatly mistaken. If my hon. friend is to be one of the life members under the Federation, he would not require so much to satisfy them.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—My hon. friend is altogether too fast. I do not look forward to any such thing.
Benjamin Seymour [Canada West, appointed 1854]—My hon. friend has the power in his hands; but if he does […]
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[…] not desire the honor, of course he can avoid its being thrust upon him. But my hon. friend could not for a moment go before his constituents—and he represents a constituency which for intelligence is second to none in Upper Canada—and tell them that they are to contribute to the revenue of the Confederation in proportion to their import duties—that they are to contribute according to their wealth—and that they are only to receive back in proportion to their population—that largely as they contribute, the return will only be the same as to the fishermen and lumberers who form the floating population of the Lower Provinces, and carry so large a majority as he has named with him.
A doctrine such as this is any thing but conservative. I would submit to any thing rather than vote for such a scheme. Were I to support it in its present shape I should consider myself as betraying the interests of my country. Hon. gentleman are of course entitled to their own opinions in this matter; but these are mine, and I shall continue to maintain and uphold them. I assert that the amendment of my hon. friend for delay is a just and reasonable one, and I cannot see how it can possibly be objected to in a matter of this importance, where the dearest interests of the whole country are at stake, and where we are legislating not for ourselves alone but for future generations. Such being the importance of the measure, I cannot conceive how hon. gentlemen can vote against so reasonable a proposition. (Hear, hear.)
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860]—I seek for information from the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell], as to the scheme respecting the local legislatures. Did I understand my hon. friend to say that it would be submitted to the present Parliament?
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—It is so intended.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860]—I also understood my hon. friend to say that before the House pronounced upon the general scheme of Federation, it would not be proper to submit the scheme for the local legislatures. I cannot see the force of that. But still I will not raise that as an objection to proceeding with the present scheme.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—Perhaps my hon. friend from Brock [A.J. Fergusson Blair] is right in the view he takes. But it was through by the Government that it would be premature to bring in the scheme for the local governments until it was seen hither Parliament was in favor of these resolutions.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860]—But many members of this House, before making up their minds as to how they ought to vote on the resolutions, would like to be informed as to the nature of the local scheme, which is to have such an important bearing on the question at issue.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—The Parliament of the country will have the fullest opportunity of pronouncing upon it.
John Simpson [Queen’s, elected 1856]—When?
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—After these resolutions have been passed. We thought it was unnecessary for us to give our attention to the local constitutions for Upper and Lower Canada until we had ascertained whether Parliament was in favor of Federation. That ascertained, we shall feel it our duty to give our minds to the preparation of the scheme for the constitutions of the two provinces; and these constitutions will be laid before Parliament.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I do not know what the views of the Government may be upon this point, but it seems to me that it would have been an extraordinary proceeding had they brought down at this juncture the proposed constitutions for Upper and Lower Canada. There may a great difference of opinion arise as to the constitutions proper to be proposed for these provinces; and it is quite possible that these differences may occasion the withdrawal of some members of the Government. (Cries of “hear, hear.”) Hon. gentlemen cry “hear, hear.”
But I say that such may possibly be the case. And it would be absurd and impolitic for the Government to throw the country in a state of confusion as regards the scheme for the local legislatures if they failed in carrying the resolutions here submitted Hon. gentlemen will see that they would be unworthy of the position they hold were they to do so. I am not sure whether I understood my hon friend to say that the scheme for the local legislatures would be brought down on the passing of these resolutions. I hope that I misunderstood him, because I think we should wait the result of the action of the Lower Provinces. We should see if Federation succeeds there, inasmuch as in case of its failure in the Lower Provinces, even if we adopt the resolutions […]
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[…] here, the arrangement would not go into effect, and we would be placing the country in a state of turmoil and confusion in discussing measures which would be altogether unnecessary. We ought, it seems to me, first to carry out this arrangement as far as it is possible to carry it, and if we can secure the assent to it of the two larger provinces below, there will be a reasonable certainty of the scheme being effected. And then, and not till then will the proper time arrive for the discussion of the proposed constitutions of Upper and Lower Canada. I am perfectly amazed at the proposition of my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Fergusson Blair), because he is friendly to these resolutions, and gave us the expression of his views thereon in an admirable manner at the opening of the debate. And how the hon. gentleman should desire to have the scheme for the local legislatures quoad this project is beyond my comprehension.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860]—I think it is only reasonable that, as hon. gentlemen argue, they should see before voting for or against Federation what are the proposed constitutions for the local legislatures. (Hear, hear.)
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—My hon. friend should a[d]d this to the reflection—that at all events hon. members will have a full opportunity of pronouncing upon it.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863] said—Honorable gentlemen, you may probably regard it as presumptuous in one so inexperienced as I am in parliamentary debate, to enter the lists against the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell], and to venture to dispute the validity of the arguments adduced by him in his eloquent speech against the amendment now under consideration; yet, great as is the existing disparity in point of ability and influence, I do not shrink from the contest, for I believe that I have truth and justice on my side, and have confidence that in its own inherent power, the truth will ultimately prevail. I have listened with delight to the hon. gentleman’s address, and cordially concur with his views on many points, but there are some in which I differ, in none more so than that which regards all who support the amendment of the hon. member from the Niagara Division (Hon. Mr. Currie) as insincere, nay, even as wanting in loyalty to the Crown and to the country.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—What I said was this, that I was slow to believe in the sincerity of those who advocated a measure and sheltered themselves behind details.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—It was more pointedly put than that. It was said that the terms of the motion were such as clearly showed that it was made simply for the object of defeating the measure.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—And I repeat that it is so. But that is very different from what you charged me with saying.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—The hon. gentleman made the remark that we were not altering the Constitution, but that the question before us was one simply for an address to the Crown. Now, strictly speaking, and taking the words of the motion in their mere literal sense, this statement is correct; but I ask hon. gentlemen if it is fair or candid to endeavor to lead the House to believe that this motion, which is undoubtedly for an address, is not in effect for a change in the Constitution? Are we not plainly told that no Imperial legislation will take place on this subject, unless such an Address as this receives the assent of the Canadian Legislature? I hold, therefore, that the motion before us, though it be for an Address to Her Majesty, is in effect a measure, which has for its object a change of the Constitution. Such being the case, the subject is one which demands our most careful consideration, and for which we ought to be allowed all the time requisite to the fullest and freest discussion. The changes which have been referred to, and with which it has been sought to compare this change, cannot with propriety be regarded as similar.
I contend, in the language of the honorable gentleman (Hon. Mr. Seymour) who has just preceded me, that this is in fact a revolution: the word is not too strong. So far from its being as has been stated, a simple change, like the mere introducing or reintroducing the use of the French language into the Legislature, or even the more important step of altering the constitution of this House, it is an entire alteration of our political condition and relations, and affects most deeply the whole country in all its varied interests. Whatever may be the correctness or incorrectness of the opinion of my hon. friend as to hon. members covering their hostility to the scheme of Confederation by objecting only to its details, it will not apply to me; I shall take no shelter under details. My course in voting for the amendment of the hon. member for Niagara [James Currie] is based on broad and constitutional grounds. I differ from that hon. gentleman in regard to some of […]
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[…] these details, and on the whole, I am not sure if my views do not more nearly coincide with those of my hon. friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell].
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—I am very glad to hear my hon. friend say so. I would like him also to state if he goes with the hon. member for Niagara [James Currie] in desiring the delay of a month or delay for a longer period.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—That question will be fully answered when I come to touch upon that point. But I may state, that instead of offering a factious opposition by the course I intend taking, it is my loyalty to our Sovereign and country which induces me to support the amendment now before the House, not with the object of defeating this measure, but for securing its adoption on a broader and more permanent basis. How singular are the different views which are taken of our position and powers according to the manner in which we may vote upon this question! In one breath we are told that we are the representatives of the people, and we have a perfect right to vote upon it as we may see fit; and in a few minutes afterwards, we are informed that if we do not vote upon it in a certain manner, we do not represent the people. I cannot possibly reconcile the two statements.
It is also said—and it is the only argument I have heard on the point—if indeed it can be called an argument at all—that if the present opportunity of securing the union of the provinces is allowed to pass unimproved, it will be a long time before we may look for another. I admit that the opportunity is one which has been long desired, and one which it will be wise policy to improve; and it will be my humble endeavor to seek to do so to the best advantage. But if the measure is in reality fraught with the benefits which have been claimed for it, I cannot see how it will be jeopardized by a little delay; because the more its benefits are looked into, the better, it is reasonable to suppose, the people will be satisfied with them. I cannot see how the measure will be endangered by giving both the people and their representatives a little longer time to become acquainted with its principles and its details. Since the commencement of the debate in this House, much light has been thrown on the scheme, and we have had the advantage of the explanations in the other Chamber, and I am sure that the minds of hon. gentlemen must now be much better informed on particular points of the scheme than they were before we came here.
For my own part, after having had my mind frequently directed to it, and after having listened attentively to the arguments of all the speakers, I am more and more impressed with the magnitude and importance of the various interests on which our action is invited in this matter, and I think we should proceed cautiously and slowly in taking the step before us—a change so great as that contemplated by the framers of these resolutions—a change amounting to nothing less than, as I before observed, a revolution in the whole system of governing the country. This is a step which, in order to be permanently successful, must rest on the principles of truth and justice, and these principles must be intelligently apprehended by the people to be governed.
Notwithstanding all that has been advanced in this chamber—all the assertions which have been made—in reference to the information said to be possessed by the people of this country relative to this measure, I must say that I do not coincide in that opinion. I believe that the people of the country, as a whole, are not acquainted with the details. What new light has there been thrown on the resolutions since we assembled here? Have we not had our attention directed to the fact that even some who assisted in framing the resolutions, did not themselves know precisely what some of them meant?
Moreover, is it not the fact that the attention of the country has not to any great extent been called to any arguments against the scheme? Now, in order to a right appreciation of the value and importance of the proposed Confederation, it is right that the people should know and understand both sides of the question. They should not be carried away with the pleasing prospect held out to them of the advantages to be derived from forming part of a great Confederation, without being told at the same time of the cost at which these advantages are to be purchased. And this is all the more necessary because the movement did not originate with the people. All great constitutional changes ought to and usually do originate with the people. But this is an anomaly. Here we have a proposed Constitution framed by a self-elected body—I do not use the term reproachfully, because I hold that these hon. gentlemen did perfectly right in so meeting together—this, I say, is a Constitution which was not framed by a body appointed for the […]
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[…] purpose; and it is sent down to us as a perfect document, which must be regarded as resembling a treaty which we have no power to alter even in the smallest detail.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—My hon. friend cavils at the question of authority. But he must know that the Parliament of this country had sanctioned the formation of a Government with the avowed intention of bringing about Federation; and therefore there was authority for what was done from the people of this country. But my hon. friend is a monarchist, and recognizes other sources of authority than those vested in the people. There is the authority of the Crown; and on this point I would beg to refer him to the despatch which was received on this subject from the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
It says: “With the sanction of the Crown, and upon the invitation of the Governor-General, men of every province, chosen by the respective Lieutenant-Governors, without distinction of party, assembled to consider questions of the utmost interest to every subject of the Queen, of whatever race or faith, resident in those provinces, and have arrived at a conclusion destined to exercise a most important influence upon the future welfare of the whole community.” So here was the sanction of the Crown so far as the action of the other provinces was concerned; whilst our own Parliament directly sanctioned the formation of a Government having this object in view.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—I have stated clearly and emphatically that I was satisfied with the formation of the Conference and what it did, so why my hon. friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] should have thought it necessary to make the explanations he has just now done, I really do not know. I admitted—I never in the least disputed—that the Conference was properly, legally, and formally constituted. I gave the members composing it all praise for the intelligence and fidelity to the interests of the country with which they carried on their laborious negotiations. But I must still reiterate my former statement, that on account of this movement not having emanated from the people—and the fact of there being no petitions before either branch of the Legislature asking for it establishes this—we ought before us adoption to have some expression of the views of the people, and consequently that the motion in amendment made by my hon. friend the member from Niagara [James Currie] is one which I ought to support.
I believe, after this debate has been concluded in both Chambers, and the full report of it which is being prepared has gone forth to the country, the people will be in a position to form a correct judgment on the merits of the case. They will then have before them perhaps all that could be said on one side or the other, and if they cannot then form a reliable judgment, it will be their own fault. There is no reason why this House should be at the very great expense—some $2,000 I believe—of printing so large a number of the debates as is being done, if the people are not to be consulted; for unless they are to be asked for a decision—if the scheme is to be carried into effect without consulting them—where is the necessity for placing be fore them speeches and arguments which will only have the effect of disturbing their minds?
In addition to saying that the plan has not emanated from the people, I contend that it has not even emanated from the representatives of the people. Had these resolutions been framed by our own Government, brought down like other Government measures into our Legislature, and there discussed, voted upon, and adopted by the majority, I should not think it necessary that there should be any reference to the people, though perhaps I might still think such reference desirable. But the fact is that the representatives of the people have not been consulted in the matter; there has been no way left open whereby they can effect the amendment of any objectionable feature in the resolutions, or influence the Imperial Legislature on the proposed union. I presume honorable gentlemen will concur with me that if, after all that has been stated, the country should not desire the change—if the people at large should think they are really paying too much and making too considerable a sacrifice to secure the anticipated benefits of this measure—it ought not to be passed. (Hear.)
Where, I would ask, is the danger to be apprehended in submitting the measure to the country? Danger is to be apprehended from forcing upon the people a measure of which they may not approve. (Hear.) But nothing can be endangered by submitted this project to the people, if, as has been so strongly asserted and as I believe, the majority are in favor of it. If I thought an immediate reference to the people would jeopardise the scheme, perhaps I might hesitate in urging it as I now do—(hear, and laughter)—but I believe its object is really one desired by the country generally, […]
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[…] and there would be no risk in submitting it. Where is then the danger of delay?—and delay is all we ask for. What struck me very much in the eloquent and able address of the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] was, that he never touched upon the real question of the amendment. It is true he said delays were dangerous, delay would lose the measure, but not a shadow of argument did he advance in proof of this view. I think delay is safety, in that it will enable the country and the Legislature to look into the scheme, to weigh all its advantages and disadvantages, if it has any, and so more certainly secure the passing of it if good, and the rejection of it if the reverse. Of course, honorable gentlemen, divers views may exist as to the way in which the opinion of the people on this question is to be obtained. I am not to be deterred from expressing my views by the taunt of republicanism; a sneer never disturbs me when I have good ground for what I do or say. I have had to bear with many a sneer on account of my adhesion to the temperance cause, but they never moved me from my course.
My belief is theft the views of the people may be ascertained without any such delay as will endanger the scheme. It is to be presumed that the debate will not extend beyond a week or two, in both Houses. A very short time after it is concluded, and the pamphlets containing the speeches printed, a direct vote of the people might be taken with propriety and safety. The proposition to submit the plan to the vote of the people seems at the first glance not to be British—our prejudices rise against it. We are, however, not to be guided by prejudices, but by reason and reflection; and if we can find the best means of clearly and satisfactorily ascertaining what the people wish, that means ought to be adopted, call it by what name you may. I think that to put the matter to a direct vote in this way is the best plan. The people should be told: “Here is the measure; will you take it or will you not?” We should not ask them to discuss amendments; we could not bring the people of all the provinces together for such a purpose, and if we allowed amendments to be discussed, we should have inextricable confusion. The plain question should be proposed: Do you wish for this Confederation or not—yes or no?
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—No power to alter its details?
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—No. That is the way the question is proposed to this House, and if it be wrong to submit it thus to the people, it is also wrong to submit it, in such a manner to the Legislature. (Hear, hear.) An additional motive for suggesting this mode of proceeding is, that I should be extremely unwilling to subject myself to the censorious remarks of hon. gentlemen in the other Chamber who might reasonably say, if we propose to have a dissolution and a new election on the subject, ‘It is all very well, but you keep your seats, while you send us home.” I do not indeed see why we might not with great propriety wait until the next general election, when, after two years of reflection and discussion, the people would be still better able to give an intelligent vote.
I can see no objection to the wish of the people being thus ascertained in this par excellence constitutional way; but as ministers tell us we cannot wait, then I say, let us rather have a direct vote of the people on the scheme than precipitate a general election. I should prefer a direct vote to a general election, because during an election other influences are at work besides purely political ones. In many places the personal popularity of a candidate outweighs the political leaning of the electors; in others, a well-filled purse carries the day, or some local question prejudices a constituency and influences the minds of the voters.
But upon a scheme such as this, if submitted directly to the country, none of these considerations would have any effect, and the electors would be guided by patriotism alone. So that while constitutionally the House represents the will of the people, and no fault could be found if the House, after a new election, were to pass upon the matter, still the object desired, viz., to know the desire of the people, would be more expeditiously and less expensively attained by a direct vote. It is of no use to call this method “Yankee” or “Republican.” It is well known that it prevailed as far back as the days of ancient Rome.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860]—You may call it French, too.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—Yes, or, if you please, you may call it imperial; it has been resorted to in France and in Mexico. It would certainly in this case be fair—no one could have any object for tampering with the votes of the people, or obtaining a decision which was not a […]
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[…] truthful expression of their wish. We could obtain the views of the whole country in a short time—perhaps not within one month, but still in time enough to enable the measure to be adopted within the current year. The Legislature of New Brunswick is not to meet for some time yet; the question therefore cannot be soon settled there; and if it were, it has still to go home to England, there to be embodied in an Imperial enactment before being acted upon. The Imperial Parliament has assembled and will probably continue in session, as it generally does, some five or six months. Surely then there will be time to take the vote here. I should like to have some reason adduced to convince me that there is danger in delay. I have heard an indistinct allusion to such danger as being great in case war should suddenly come upon us. Now, hon. gentlemen, I hold this to be an objection which has no weight whatever. How long will it be, if we adopt the resolutions, before this scheme can be got into operation?
I presume it will be twelve months, and if we can wait a twelvemonth, can we not wait two years without risk? For, what immediate strength is the measure to bring to us? The mere uniting together of these provinces will not give us one additional soldier; it will give us no more money; neither will it lessen the extent of frontier to be defended, nor give us any increase of military power. As for its placing all the provinces under the direction of one mind—the only argument which I have heard applying to this part of the question—if we were in a state of war to-day, the forces of the whole would be under the direction of one mind.
Do we think for one moment, that if a hostile force set foot on the shores of Canada, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, the heart of the Empire would not thrill with indignation, and the whole force of the Empire not be brought to bear against the foe who thus insulted and defied the British Crown, just as readily in our isolated as it would be in our united condition? I think the danger from war is one on which no argument against submitting this measure to the people can possibly be based. (Hear, hear.)
An hon. gentleman has stated that the defences of the country must remain at a standstill until Confederation is accomplished. I do not know the source from which that opinion came, or whether it was spoken by authority. If it were, it is certainly a startling announcement.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—We have certainly been given to understand so, in this House.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—I do not, and cannot think the British Government is going to leave us unprotected and undefended, even if Confederation should not take place.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—We may assume that the preparations the Imperial Government may make for the defence of these colonies may be materially affected by the result of our deliberations on this Confederation scheme—they may be influenced by our capacity for defence, and the willingness shown to exert ourselves.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—They may be eventually, but I am speaking of to-day, and I am sure Her Majesty’s Government will readily send us to-day every assistance we might need.
David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—No progress is being made with our defences—the whole question of defence seems waiting for Confederation—nothing is being done. That fact must be patent to every honorable member of the House.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—They may seem to be waiting, but why I cannot conceive, for every argument that can be brought to bear to show that our defences will progress under Confederation, can be equally available for that purpose now. (Hear.) It has been said by the Hon. the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell], in reply to the member from Niagara [James Currie], that the country has not been taken by surprise by these resolutions. In this I differ from him. It is quite true that as far as the question of union is concerned, it is not new—the thought of union has long occupied many minds—but I do contend, that with reference to many points comprised in the scheme, the country has been taken by surprise. No thought, no knowledge whatever of the character of many of the changes proposed to be introduced ever entered the minds of the people at large.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—It is a satisfactory surprise. (Hear.)
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—It may be a satisfactory surprise; I have no doubt it is to many. It was a satisfactory surprise to find that gentlemen from all the provinces, of different political parties, could meet together in such an amicable way, and make such mutual concessions as to enable this scheme to be presented at all. (Hear, hear.)
This is just what ought to have been done. To represent me as opposed to Confederation […]
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[…] is a great mistake. It is just because I appreciate its advantages, and wish to see them secured without any chance of danger resulting from the scheme having been too hastily adopted, that I speak as I do. (Hear, hear.)
It is said the people were not appealed to when the unions between England and Scotland, and Great Britain and Ireland, were brought about. That is quite true, but it is equally true that these unions were brought about by the Parliaments of those countries—the representatives of the people. The measures were arranged with them, and the people were represented as to those unions by their Parliaments.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—That is just what is the case here too.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon. If he can find anything in this scheme which has emanated from the Parliament, it is few to me. Are we not told that, if even one amendment is passed by Parliament, it will destroy the scheme?
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The course taken here is exactly that which was adopted in England. Negotiations first, then the submission to Parliament of their result.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860]—The unions between England and Ireland, and England and Scotland, were not negotiations merely; they were treaties; they were called treaties—
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—They were negotiated first, and submitted to Parliament afterwards.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—As it is not my intention to occupy the time of hon. gentlemen on any other occasion during the debate, I shall venture to touch o another point, not directly connected with the amendment before us, on which I said a few words when I last addressed the House on this subject. We have heard much about the proposed new constitution of the Legislative Council. We have been told it was political necessity that first forced the elective system of minds that were by no means enamoured of it, and this, I think, has been fully established.
Now, it would ill become me, as an elected member, to dwell on any merits or excellences the elective system may have possessed as applied to this branch of the Legislature—it is a subject we can none of us touch upon with the same freedom which we might if we were not ourselves elected—but I may call the attention of the House to this, that none of the evils that were dreaded, as likely to flow from the elective system, have yet shown themselves, and I do not think it at all reasonable, much less necessary, that they should be anticipated in time to come.
My own views were in perfect accord with those of hon. gentlemen who protested against the system when it was first introduced. I did not then consider it an improvement, and my views have not changed since; I have, consequently, no personal predilections for an Elective Council, but far prefer a Chamber nominated by the Crown. But I am not here to carry out only my personal views or predilections, but to guard the rights and privileges of my constituents; and I would remind hon. members that it is one thing to concede a privilege, but a very different thing to take it away. (Hear.) A privilege may be conceded unasked, but it is a dangerous thing to take it away unasked or unaccented to. (Hear, hear )
I cannot find either that the Canadian Government made any endeavor to maintain the elective principle; I cannot see that the nomination system was forced on them by the wishes of the Lower Provinces. It may have been the desire of some of the Maritime Provinces to maintain their nomination system, but the change in ours was one which obviously met the wishes of the members of this Government, and no effort appears to have been made by them to preserve to the people of this country the privilege they now enjoy of electing members of this House. (Hear.)
I think, also, that there are objectionable features in certain provisions of the scheme for which the Canadian Government are responsible. I speak notes an opponent, but as one of their truest and best friends—one who is desirous to keep them from doing a wrong. It is not as an opponent to them or to Confederation that I support the amendment of the hon. member from Niagara [James Currie].
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I think that amendment is a vote of want of confidence.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—So it has been said; but the assertion is not warranted by the facts of the case; it is merely an arbitrary declaration. I cannot consent to be put in such a position as I should occupy if I thought it were not. It is true, my hon. friends in the Government may say, “You will not do for us if you vote that way;” but I cannot sacrifice my views and vote contrary to my convictions, in order to be counted as a friend.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—My hon. friend […]
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[…] must see that if all our friends entertained the same views, we could never get our measure through.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—In compelling the first selection of legislative councillors from the members of the Chamber, the Conference have put a restraint on the prerogative of the Crown which they had no right to impose. I am unwilling for a moment to suppose that any low or unworthy motive actuated the Canadian delegate?, who alone are responsible for this detail, or that they did this in hopes of securing the votes of any members of this House in favor of their scheme, which they could not otherwise have been sure of; still that part of the scheme has an awkward appearance, and some honorable members may feel with the member from Wellington (Hon. Mr. Sanborn), that if it be not a bribe, it looks something very like it. I, however, do not see it in that light. I do not think there has been anything worse than a desire to make the system of appointment palatable to the people, by taking a certain number of their representatives, whom they then sent to this House, to be members of the new one. (Hear, hear.)
As to the boasted impartiality apparent in the 14th resolution, I do not attach any importance to its provisions. If it were not the understanding that the selection would be made in the manner there laid down, there would be a strong party opposition to the measure, which was a thing to be avoided. (Hear, hear.) One more subject connected with this part of the scheme remains for me to speak on, and I think it is an important one. Twenty-one members of this Honorable House are to be dismissed. It is quite true we do not know who they may be.
A Voice—Ballot for them.
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—I am not speaking of the mode of selection. (Hear, hear.)—Twenty-one members of this Legislative Council are to be told that they are no longer wanted. Are they to be those called by Her Majesty in former times to sit here, or those representing the people? It seems to me only fair that those who hold appointments from the Crown for life are entitled to retain their seats, to go first into the new House, and the rejection will then be of the elected members. It will involve nearly half of these, and it is quite obvious that it places all honorable members of this Chamber in a very anomalous position to be called upon to vote on such a question as this. I may remark that it would have been much the wiser plan, and certainly much more congenial to the feelings of the members of this House, had the Government thought fit to have passed these resolutions in the Legislative Assembly first, and then, if those who are more especially representatives of the people had chosen to pass this clause, we should have felt less hesitation. As it is, I feel it to be my duty to the constituency I represent to lift my voice against it.
I have no right, without their consent, to vote away from them a right they may cherish, a franchise they may value, even though I should thereby vote myself in for life, which would be a betrayal of my trust. Even my hon. friend from Saugeen [David Macpherson]—so recently sent here as the representative of that division—must admit that a great many of his constituents would vote “nay,” if they thought the scheme of Confederation was to be purchased at the sacrifice of their representative. (Hear, and a laugh.)
David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—I believe a large majority of them would vote “yea.” (Laughter.)
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863]—There is a difference of opinion between my honorable friend and myself on this point. (Hear, hear.)
Honorable gentlemen, I have said I am favorable to the scheme of union—I say it sincerely and honestly—and notwithstanding the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] may say “It cannot be so; by supporting the amendment you are destroying the scheme,” I cannot see it so. My course, I think, is that which is most conducive to the success of the scheme. I consider myself one of its best and most faithful friends in seeking to have it more firmly based upon the approval of the people, at the cost of a trifling delay.
A great deal has been said, as an introduction to this measure, that was unworthy of it. We have had long accounts of political and party difficulties, which have been spoken of as appertaining to it. These were too small matters to have led to this great constitutional change. It was clearly seen by the people, as well as by Her Majesty’s representative, that these difficulties were not based upon what they were said to be by some of our politicians What does His Excellency say in a memorandum to the Executive Council, communicated to this House on the 30th of June last?—”During this period, (of the late successive governments since the election of 1861,) no question involving any […]
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[…] great principal or calculated to prevent politicians, on public grounds, from acting in concert, has been raised in Parliament. The time had arrived when an appeal might, with propriety, be made to the patriotism of gentlemen on both sides of the House to throw aside”—what? Their party measures? their political interests? No—”their personal differences! and to unite in one endeavor to advance the great interests of the country.” A little further on he again mentions “the absence of public grounds for antagonism between them,” and intimates plainly that “such a state of things was very prejudicial to the best interests of the province.”
As I have already stated, the people were rapidly coming to the same conclusion, and this evil would soon have been removed by their action at the elections, without resorting to any change in the Constitution.—Such were His Excellency’s views, communicated to his Council in a memorandum, and I rejoiced to hear them enunciated by him. They are views which, if held also by the people, would have led to a thorough cure for the evils under which we labored, even without resorting to Confederation, for the people themselves were beginning to see that their political leaders were too much under the influence of bitter personal feelings; prominence was no longer given to the constitutional difficulty of unequal representation; it was dropped both by its friends and its opponents. Yet representation by population was a question of such political importance, that its satisfactory solution would justify the bringing about such a change as this. That was a sufficient motive to induce statesmen to join together and seek some way of escape from it.
I think the scheme now submitted is perhaps the best that could have been found attainable, and I give its framers all credit for it. I am satisfied with nine-tenths or perhaps more than nine-tenths of the whole, and I am willing to take the other tenth, if really necessary, for the sake of the rest. I think the very name, and the prestige of our larger union will have a desirable influence upon our future prosperity. It will infuse into us that feeling of national pride—those patriotic sentiments connected with our country, which it is worth much to possess. (Hear.)
I think, also, that our credit in money matters will be improved by the union, and it is worth some sacrifice to accomplish such results. I believe, further, that when this scheme is completed it will have the effect of attracting emigration, and thus adding largely to our population. As we are, in our presented isolated condition, we either fail to attract emigrants or do not manage to retain them; but if we were known as one great country, we should find homes for many of those able-bodied, enterprising and industrious men who constitute the great strength and wealth of a State. It would also, undoubtedly, promote our commerce and developed our trade and resources. It is well to weigh all these considerations; they may not promise advantages so great as some of the sanguine advocates of the measure predict, but they are well entitled to fair and honest consideration. (Hear.)
As to Confederation cheapening our government, that idea, I think, is a fallacy; and here is one of the causes which may lead to future dissatisfaction, if the eyes of the people are not opened to it until too late. The proper and the true way to act is to let the fact be known, that so far from Confederation being likely to lessen the expenses of government, it will be directly the reverse, and that to these must be added the cost of those defences which are to be constructed—of this Intercolonial road which is to be a necessary part of the scheme—of these other works on the canals, &c, we hear so much about. Confederation will, doubtless, be expensive; then why not say so—why not say to the people, “Hero are great advantages, but they will inevitably cost a large sum.”
I for one am willing to take these advantages at that cost. I have-not analyzed the numerous figures set before us by my hon. friend nom Niagara [James Currie], for profusion and confusion in matters of figures in a speech are very much the same to me. I will not pretend to follow him. But I have such confidence in the financial ability of those who watched over our interests, that I am unwilling to receive, except with great caution, those objections brought in figures against the measure.
One honorable gentleman remarked that the hand of an overruling Providence might be observed as bringing about this scheme and reconciling so many conflicting influences. That is very true. I delight to recognize an overruling Providence influencing the lives of individuals and nations. I rejoice that the blessing of an over-ruling Providence on the deliberations of this House is daily asked, and I have faith to believe it will be granted to us. But I should have […]
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[…] the same comfortable feeling if the question were referred to the people; so that as an argument in favor of our making an immediate decision does not amount to much, and it certainly does not impose on us the duty of hastily taking the whole scheme as it is. (Hear, hear.)
I have endeavoured, hon. gentlemen, to show that I am guided by an honest, earnest desire to advance the interests of the country by the course I now propose to take in reference to this amendment, and I have endeavored to disabuse the minds of those who think that in supporting it I am acting in hostility to a scheme which I believe will be advantageous to the country, but the advantages of which I think cannot be secured without referring it to the people. I presume it is altogether likely—perhaps I may consider it a certainty—that this is to be the last time I shall appear as a representative in the Council of my country. I am anxious, short as my parliamentary career has been and is probably destined to be, that it should be unsullied by anything that can even have the appearance of selfishness. I am, therefore, unwilling to record a vote which might either have the effect of making me a member for life, or of helping to take away the privilege which my constituents at present enjoy, of having a representative in the Legislative Council. (Hear, hear.)
Jacques-Olivier Bureau [De Lormier, elected 1862]—It is not my intention to take part in the debate on the amendment which is now engaging the attention of this Honorable House; but I really do not feel justified in passing over in silence the declaration which has just been made by the hon. member for Toronto (Hon. Mr. Ross.) That gentleman said, with perfect naiveté, that if the Ministry submitted a bill respecting the organization of the local governments, the course would be a bad one; for, said he, difficulties would probably arise in relation to the matter, which might result in the resignation of several members of the present Cabinet. In those few words the hon. member for Toronto has furnished the best argument in favor of the delay for which we ask; but such was not his intention. In a similar sense, some other hon. members have, in my opinion, exhibited a degree of force and logic which is truly remarkable. But can it be possible to make a request more essentially legitimate in its character than that of the hon. member for Niagara [James Currie]? For my part, I do not think so.
And indeed, what can be more reasonable than the wish to know, and to be in a position to form a sound, complete and satisfactory opinion, both for ourselves and for our constituents, respecting the scheme which is proposed to us? Has not this House a right to require the present Government, within a reasonable period, to lay before it, not only in a general way, but also and more especially in detail, the various aspects of the Constitution which it is wished to have voted with such strange and imprudent precipitation? Let us remember that sometimes no difficulty whatever is raised to devoting an entire session to the consideration of a measure of secondary importance. Last year no attempt was made to pass a new Militia Bill at railroad speed, as it is now proposed to do with the measure for Confederation; on the contrary, all the time necessary to complete it and to examine it in all its aspects was devoted to its consideration. And yet, how immense the difference between these two measures, in regard to their importance and the solemn consequences which might result from them!
And further, it cannot be denied, the plan which it is sought to make us adopt is as yet but imperfectly known to the Canadian Legislature, and the people hardly know its outlines, not having yet had time to examine into it, so closely have our ministers invested it with mystery and secrecy. I consider that the hon. member for Toronto showed rather too much zeal in the cause of his friends when he proceeded to make that declaration, which was heard by the House with well marked surprise. I am prepared to acknowledge that in so doing he has done us a very great service. I have no doubt whatever, in fact, that as we have been told by the hon. gentleman, the disclosing of the organization of the local governments during this phase of the discussion would, for the Administration of the day, be an act of imprudence, and one which, it is highly probable, would subject it to serious difficulties.
I am also of opinion that one of the difficulties, of by no means the least importance, which is feared is that respecting the distribution or division of the part of the public debt which will have to be borne by the different provinces. Indeed it may, with very great reason, be asked whether it will be possible to come to an understanding on this point. With a degree of courage worthy of a better cause, the Ministry now comes to us and says: “First vote the Address, and afterwards we will lay before you the scheme for the organisation […]
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[…]of the local governments.” But let us note the contradiction in this on the part of the Government, and how illogical its conduct is. Let us for a moment suppose that this measure gives rise to difficulties in the Cabinet, during the discussion on the details of the scheme, of sufficient importance to entail the resignation of the Administration. What happens? The Address having been voted by our Legislature, is sent to England, and whilst the Imperial Government is engaged in ratifying it and incorporating it in a bill, which is to become our Constitution, the present Ministry succumbs under the details of the scheme respecting the local governments.
A new ministry succeeds them, an appeal to the people probably takes place in the interval, find when the new Constitution comes to us from Great Britain, we have a Government and a Legislature ready to reject it before its promulgation. In view of such a prospect as this, ought we to be in a hurry to accede to the request of the Government and refuse the legitimate delay asked for by the motion now before this Honorable House? I have, then, considered that I ought not to pass over in silence the declaration of the hon. member for Toronto, for I am of opinion that it is of a nature to convince us that precipitation in so highly solemn a matter is most dangerous. The Constitution of a country should not be changed from base to summit until those who are appointed to watch over the public interests, and the very Constitution in question, have had time to see and to ascertain, in a positive manner, that such a change is necessary and called for by the people. (Hear, hear.)
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—Honorable gentlemen, in again rising to address the House, I beg to assure you that I do not propose to repeat the observations I have already made on a previous occasion; but being pressed for time, I was obliged to omit to refer to certain aspects of the scheme on which I proposed to offer a few remarks when the present motion should be before the House. I was aware that this motion would come up for discussion, as it appeared upon our Minutes of Proceedings.
With these few preliminary observations I shall proceed, honorable gentlemen, to offer a few remarks on some few points in the scheme which I was compelled to pass over in silence on the occasion of my first address on the plan of Confederation now submitted for our consideration. I must refer here, honorable gentlemen, to wonderful incident of this afternoon’s sitting. A declaration, novel in every respect to each one of us, fell from the lips of the Honorable the Minister of Crown Lands, who has only had this one sole reason to offer us in explanation of, and excuse for, the precipitate haste with which his Government is endeavoring to obtain the adoption of the new Constitution:—”We are anxious to obtain the-vote of this House, to transmit it to New Brunswick and to the other Maritime Provinces which are to enter into the Confederation.”
This, then, is the real reason of this incomprehensible and indecent haste, for I cannot believe that the reason given by the hon member who sits immediately opposite to me (Sir N. F. Belleau), in explanation of this haste, can be a serious one. It is difficult, indeed, not to considers somewhat absurd the reason alleged by the Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau:—”The Ministry are anxious that this scheme should be adopted forthwith, because Lord Palmerston is already an old man, and might die at any moment.” I would rather accept the reason given by the Hon. Minister of Crown Lands than that of my honorable friend, because I cannot believe he was authorized to give it. Thus this House and the country now know the secret of this precipitate haste on the part of the Government, and I have no doubt they will bear it, in mind. But I will venture to enquire of the Honorable the Minister of Crown Lands, who has given us this very absurd reason, whether he hopes to deceive the people of the Lower Provinces by the vote which he desires to precipitate.
I will ask him whether it is to be desired that this House should forthwith give a vote on this question, a vote which will undoubtedly have the effect of leading them into error as regards the feelings and opinions of the people of this country in relation to the project of Confederation. Well, honorable gentlemen, I do not for our moment hesitate to declare to this House, that the fact alone of the anxiety of the Government to obtain forthwith a vote of this House on this important measure, is that which ought most of all to put us on our guard, and ought to cause us to determine not to give it lightly, and in a manner unworthy of prudent and wise legislators. Indeed, honorable gentlemen, our vote will have a significance which it will be vain to seek to diminish. […]
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[…] We constitute the highest branch of the Parliament of this country, and when the Lower Provinces hear that we have voted for this measure in the shape in which it has been laid before us, they will naturally and with reason believe that our vote has been given with a thorough knowledge of the matter, and that we fully indicate the popular feeling on this important question. They will never for a moment imagine that we have set at naught and ignored the opinions of those whom we represent in this House; they will never believe that the country has been so little consulted in the matter as it in fact has been. I assert, therefore, honorable gentlemen, that the vote which it is sought to make us give to-day is calculated to deceive the people of the Lower Provinces, both as to the views of this Honorable House and as to the opinions of the vast majority of the people of this province, and that we cannot give it with satisfaction either to ourselves or to those whom we represent.
I have already taken occasion to state before to-day, that the scheme of Confederation had not been submitted to us complete. I am prepared to prove this statement; I maintain that only one part of the scheme has been laid before us, and under these circumstances, I would ask this Honorable House, if it is prudent to accept and sanction that with which we are but imperfectly acquainted? When I accepted from my constituents their nomination to the Legislative Council, I did so with the firm determination never to accept blindly the various measures which might be submitted for my approval in this House.
This resolution I have adhered to hitherto, and I hope that I shall never forget it in the course of my public career. A few minutes ago I remarked, honorable gentlemen, that the plan of Confederation had not been submitted to us complete; I now propose to prove this assertion. By art. 6 of the 43rd resolution, we perceive that the local legislatures will have the power of making laws in relation to education, saving, however, the rights and privileges enjoyed by the Catholic and Protestant minorities in relation to their separate schools at the time of the union; so that by this resolution we are to affirm that the minorities shall be bound by the school laws which will be in force at the moment when Confederation will take effect. On the other hand, we are told that a measure will be brought down for the better protection of the rights of the Protestant minority in Lower Canada, whilst at the same time we are not informed whether the same advantages will be accorded to the Catholic minority in Upper Canada.
Thus these school laws form a portion of the scheme upon which we are called to vote, and if unfortunately, after we have adopted these resolutions we are unable to obtain justice for the Upper Canadian minority, shall we not be guilty of having voted for the scheme without having known all about it? We ought then to be on our guard. If, as it is pretended, the measure will not endanger the rights of the Catholic minority in Upper Canada, why are we refused the details and the information which we ask to have afforded to us before pronouncing on the merits of the plan? I maintain that any one who desires that justice should be extended to the minorities in question, would not know how to vote as we are called upon to do. In the absence of the information which we are entitled to demand from the Government as to the nature opt the guarantees to be offered by the new Constitution to the minorities of the two provinces of Canada, I do not for one instant hesitate to declare that this Honorable House is justified, and indeed fulfils a sacred duty in demanding the delay sought for by the motion of the hon. member for Niagara [James Currie].
If it should so happen that the people are called upon to pronounce on the merits of the measure, it becomes of the utmost necessity that we, their representatives, should be able to explain and point out to them the details of the scheme. We have then every reason to insist that this information should be supplied to us.
The Premier will now permit me to put to him a question. May it not happen, after the adoption of these resolutions, that the Protestant majority of Upper Canada may ally itself with the Protestant minority of Lower Canada in the present Parliament, and deprive the Catholic majority of Upper Canada of the rights which they are entitled to enjoy in relation to the education of their children? Should such an event occur, I would ask the hon. Premier what means the aggrieved minority might be able to adopt in order to obtain justice?
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—I will inform you when the proper time comes.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—The Hon. the Premier ought to give us the details of the measure on this subject. I do not mean to assert that I am opposed to every possible […]
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[…] form of Confederation; but what I can never consent to is to vote for a Confederation of which I know neither the exact nature nor the details. The article which I have already q quoted is one of those to which I desired more particularly to draw attention. I will now quote the 67th resolution. I find by this resolution “that the General Government will fulfil all engagements entered into, previous to the union, with the Imperial Government, for the defence of the country.” Now strange to say, the authors of this document do not even take the trouble to state by whom such engagements must be made. No, they simply assert the obligation in the terms of the resolution I have just quoted. Suppose our Government had entered into an engagement to the extent of fifty millions of dollars, shall we—can we—affirm that the engagement was a necessary one, by voting for the measure without knowing the nature of the engagement?
Coming now to the 68th resolution, I find: “The General Government will cause to be completed, without delay, the Intercolonial Railway, from Rivière du Loup, through New Brunswick, to Truro, in Nova Scotia.”
Now, hon. gentlemen, I maintain that this is another portion of the plan with which we are not acquainted. We do not know what is to be the cost of this railway thus described in the resolution I have just read. Here, again, the present Government keeps us in the most complete ignorance. An honorable member of this House has declared, that though the Intercolonial Railway were to cost fifty millions of dollars, we should not hesitate to support a measure for carrying it out; for, even at that price—that exorbitant price—it would be for the interests of the country.
Well, I ask you, would this House be acting in accordance with that spirit of wisdom and prudence which ought to characterize it, by voting blindly for such an enormous expenditure as that? I do not believe it, and for my part, I do not hesitate an instant to say that I would refuse, I am well aware, it is true, that the construction of this gigantic railway cannot cost so large a sure; but it is generally admitted, both in this House and out of it, that the work cannot be done for less than twenty millions.
Moreover, does it not often happen that public works estimated to cost, say one million of dollars, are found to have cost, when finished, double and more than double that amount? This may happen with the Intercolonial Railway, which, it is perfectly clear, will cost more than is supposed; and I repeat it, this House ought to hesitate before sanctioning such an enormous expenditure out of a public treasury already heavily charged, and which will scarcely be in a more flourishing position when the various British provinces of this continent are united under the Confederation.
I am justified, then, in demanding that the details of the plan should be made known to us before we are called upon to sanction it. I have already stated that I do not pretend to be opposed to Federation of the provinces in every possible shape—that I might support a Confederation not of too onerous a character for this country—but it is obviously quite impossible for me to support a project of this kind, with which I am unacquainted, in its details and as a whole. It appears to me that the Ministry cannot complain if, under these circumstances, we vote against a project which we desired to know fully in order to form our opinions concerning it, and to ascertain that of the people we represent. I do not think it can be pretended that this House is not entitled to make so just and reasonable a request.
As I have shown, hon. gentlemen, if we accept the resolutions presented to us, we endanger the rights of the minorities in both sections of the province; we expose ourselves to the payment of enormous sums for the construction of a railway which may prove to be utterly useless for the defence of the country. It seems to me that, before undertaking such onerous charges, we ought to reflect deeply and to weigh well all possible chances of such serious eventualities. I am quite aware that certain hon. members of this House will never yield to the reasons I have advanced, nor shall
I undertake to bring them round to my views, for I feel that all my efforts must be useless.
The fact that we refuse to accept the measure proposed to us before we are acquainted with it, certainly does not imply, as it is stated and supposed, that we are opposed to every idea of Confederation. Another provision of the project which we cannot approve is that by which the constitution of the Legislative Council is based on the nominative principle, instead of the elective principle which now prevails, as regards that branch of the Legislature, under our own Government. I have already had occasion to express my opinion as to the constitutional […]
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[…] changes undergone by our own Legislative Council, so that I need not recur to that subject. The Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] has asserted that we are justified in voting on the proposed reversal of the Constitution without an appeal to the people. I beg to differ from that opinion. I know the nature of a trust, whether civil or political; they both entail very much the same duties. Well, what is the charge entrusted to us by our constituents?
That of working out the present Constitution to the best of our understanding and of our judgment. Such is the power entrusted to us; but never have our electors authorized us, as it is now proposed to do, to destroy the Constitution itself and to enter into apolitical alliance with the other British provinces of this continent. An instance of a similar constitutional subversion, without the authorization of the people, is net to be found in the pages of history. It has been stated in this House that a portion of the people knew the project of Confederation, and that there was nothing to prevent its adoption being pressed. Here again, I beg to differ with the hon. members who express that opinion. I think that even though the project were, as stated, known by a portion of the people, that would not be a reason for precipitating its adoption, for the plan interests the whole country generally, and it is not sufficient that it should be acceptable to a certain portion of the inhabitants, but to the great mass of the people.
Moreover, if the public meetings already held in Lower Canada serve to indicate the popular opinion relative to this question, in this section of the country at all events, it may fearlessly be said that the project has been condemned in fifteen counties. Will any one venture to pretend that Lower Canada is to be of no account in the Confederation, and that Upper Canada alone has a right to make its voice heard; that only its approval or disapproval of the scheme can entail the adoption or rejection of that scheme? Most assuredly, I do not believe that any one would ever venture to enunciate such a pretension. I know of but one single county in Lower Canada which authorized its representative to vote on the scheme in question as he should think fit. I therefore consider that I am justified in saying, that the reason which induces the Government to cause this measure to be adopted without submitting all its details, is that it fears to have those details known by the people, who no doubt would have no course left save to reject them. After having displayed Confederation clothed in the most brilliant colors, the Administration fears to allow the people to examine it in its true light, and as it is intended to thrust it upon them.
I have already stated that throughout the whole of Lower Canada, but one county has been found which granted to its representative the privilege of voting on this question according to his own judgment. In all the remaining counties in which the people have been called together to pronounce upon it, the scheme of Confederation has been formally condemned.
Jean-Baptiste Guévremont [Saurel, elected 1858]—Several counties pronounced themselves in favor of the scheme; among others, the county of Vaudreuil.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—I am not aware that the county of Vaudreuil voted in favor of Confederation. The honorable member for Richelieu [Joseph Perrault] had also mentioned the county of Richelieu as one of those which bad not rejected the scheme of Confederation.
Jean-Baptiste Guévremont [Saurel, elected 1858]—The meeting in question did not condemn Confederation. It merely declared itself in favor of certain resolutions which were submitted to it, which demanded that the people should be consulted as to the proposed constitutional changes.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—It is perfectly true that the county of Richelieu never condemned the details of the measure, and for a very simple reason: the Government had never allowed thing to be known, and still persists at this present time in keeping the country in ignorance of them. But the honorable gentleman admits that the county of Richelieu directed its representative to demand an appeal to the people. To say that Lower Canada is favorable to the scheme of Confederation, is to make an assertion to which the public meetings which have been held within the last month or two give the lie in the most formal manner.
I know what to think of the expression of public opinion in the district of Montreal; as to the district of Quebec, perhaps the honorable gentlemen who represent the several divisions comprised in it will be good enough to tell me whether or not there have been any meetings in favor of Confederation? Until I am shown that, the project has been approved there, I shall venture to believe that in the district of Quebec, us in the district of Montreal, public opinion has not approved […]
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[…] of the proposed Confederation. I do not wish to assert that the country at large is averse to any idea of Confederation, but I maintain that it cannot be in favor of a scheme with the details of which it is unacquainted, and of the entirety of which it is ignorant. The most effectual means of providing for the defence of a country is to make the people attached to the Constitution of the country; to attempt to force a constitution upon them is, in plain language, to impel them towards anarchy. Ah! we are already surrounded by dangers enough to abstain from aggravating our position. Let us conduct ourselves so that the people may be attached to their constitution, and then we may rest assured that they will be ready to defend it when it is threatened.
Undoubtedly, it is not by eating as we are now doing that we shall attain that result. The reason assigned by the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] for urging on this measure does not appear to me to be sufficient. We are not here to please the Maritime Provinces or to legislate in their interests, but we are here to preserve the rights of our fellow-citizens. We did not come here with a predetermined resolution to throw impediments in the way of any plan of union. We are all interested in the prosperity and greatness of our country. The last time I had the honor to address this Honorable House, I stated that with respect to the questions which possessed the highest interest for Lower Canada, the proposed Confederation would be a legislative union, that is to say, that we should be at the mercy of Upper Canada and the Maritime Provinces. I expressed that opinion in good faith, and if I was incorrect in my conjectures, I hope that the members of the Government will be good enough to enlighten me on the subject, and point out my error.
Such was not done at the time, for I cannot accept as a satisfactory reply the few explanations given on the subject by the honorable member who sits opposite to me. I say that the Federal Government will have power to declare that religious corporations, for instance, shall not be allowed to hold real estate of more than a certain value—more than is required for the immediate necessities of their establishments. It will also have power to enact that there shall be no connection between Church and State. I say that the powers of the Federal Government will be so great that Lower Canada will be a cypher in the affairs which most concern her.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Yes! yes! of course.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—I am glad that the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] confesses so much.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—The hon. member must surely understand my meaning in saying “yes.” He must be aware that I mean it in irony.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—I f the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] says it in irony, I for my part can only tell him that I regret to see, when I ask questions in sober earnest concerning the affairs of the country, when I ask for information on so important a matter, I can get no answer but an ironical one. I ask for information, because I confess, for my part, that I may be mistaken in my opinions on this matter. My opinions are not infallible any more than those of the members of the Quebec Conference—any more than those of the Lower Canadian members of the Ministry; and it is for that very reason that I seek information which may serve to enlighten me and enable me to form a correct judgment on the question. Have those who devised this scheme the presumption to think that they are not liable to mistake? When I ask for the details of the scheme in the name of my constituents, I am answered ironically. But I know what such answers are worth.
I know that some persons have recourse to irony when they have no serious answer to make, when they have no solid reasons to give. I know what discussion is; and, if I have not often mixed in the debates of this Honorable House, I have argued at the bar, and I am perfectly aware that those who have no valid reasons to oppose to the pleas of their adversaries, endeavor to shift their ground and blink the issue, by calling attention to some minor point and calling in the aid of irony. If I am denied the explanations which I claim in this place, how can I answer the questions which my constituents have a right to ask me? But I must now address myself to the consideration of the appointment of members by mandamus which is to be introduced into the new Constitution of the Federal Legislative Council.
When I heard the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] tell the history of the last moments of the Legislative Council sitting under that authority, I took it as the strongest sentence of condemnation of the present scheme. He told us, in effect, that those members who had been appointed for life were honorable men, who by their position […]
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[…] and their integrity were rightly entitled to carry their heads erect; whereas, when they passed along the streets, it was with heads drooping. Why is this?
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—I did not say that they hung their heads as they walked the streets. I said they were honorable men who had a right to carry their heads high wherever they went, but that they were averse to coming here to sit in the Council on account of the prejudices of public opinion which had been misguided.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—The unanimous opinion of a country is not so misguided, and the opinion of the country was unanimous in condemning the system of nomination to the Council by the Crown. In order to produce as great unanimity of public opinion as prevailed in regard to that system, the cause which leads to it must be slow and deep-seated—the grounds of dissatisfaction must be real. Both Lower and Upper Canada must have suffered long under that system, to condemn it as they both did; and I regret deeply to hear from the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] that he is willing to return to it.
It may be that as men advance in years they may change their views and opinions; but it seems to me that they ought not to change them in so short a space of time as the honorable-and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] has changed his in regard to the Constitution of the Legislative Council. It is not so very long since the document which has been read this evening was signed. I say, then, that the history told us by the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] is the condemnation of the system now sought to be introduced. After what the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] has said about the councillors appointed by the Crown, with what grace can the new councillors come here to take their seats? Will not the prejudice against them be stronger than ever? Inasmuch as it will be said that those who have voted for the scheme now before us have done it to keep their seats as long as they live. What respect can the people feel for such a House?
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—We know that you will not barter the rights of the people for a mess of pottage.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—Nor for a dish of gold either. I ask whether the Government of the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] have ever found me among those who ask their favors?
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—I did not accuse you of it.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—No, but you insinuate as much.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—It is you who say that the seats for life are a bait for councillors.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—I see the meaning of the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché], and when I am told ironically that I would not barter the rights of the people for a mess of pottage, I have a right to say that I would not sell them even for a dish of gold; for so far, thank God! no government have ever reckoned me among those who ask their favors. I live by my labor, and want nothing from the Government. I took notice of an expression made use of by the honorable and gallant Knight [Étienne Pascal Taché] in speaking of the last moments of the Legislative Council appointed by the Crown. He told us that to restore the credit of the Legislative Council it had been found necessary to make it elective; but this was not the sole inducement for the change; there was another motive quite as reasonable for making the Council elective, and this motive was that in causing the Councillors to be elected, they would be taken from among all parties in the country, and would, therefore, represent the public opinion of the different parties in it.
There was a time, under the old order of things, when the opinions of two or three men residing in the cities of Quebec and Montreal formed the public opinion of all Lower Canada. This had a bad effect, for the public opinions of the different parties in the country ought to be represented in this House as well as in the other. It was for the purpose of attaining this end that the country was broken up into divisions, that it was required that the councillors elected should be residents in the divisions, or should be the owners of real estate within their limits of the value of £2,000; but under the system of Crown nominations to seats in this House, the choice might fall, as it formerly did, on persons residing in the large cities; it would not be difficult for them to acquire £1,000 worth of real estate in the divisions, and the country would not be equally represented in this House. Another reason why the elective system is preferable to that of nominations by the Crown, is that on every fresh election the newly elected member represents the opinions of the people then prevailing, whereas councillors appointed for life may sometimes represent public opinion as it existed twenty […]
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[…] years before The progress of the country requires that from time to time men should enter this House as representatives of the opinions of the day.
David Armstrong [Canada East, appointed 1855] moved that the House do now adjourn.—Contents, 21; Non-Contents, 29.
Louis Olivier [De Lanaudière, elected 1863]—I shall now endeavor to answer an objection made by the Hon. the Commissioner of Crown Lands (Hon. Mr. Campbell) to the motion of the honorable member for Niagara (Hon. Mr. Currie). He would make it appear that the motion is inconsistent with the position taken by the honorable member who seconded the motion, because he declared himself as favorable to Confederation. For my part, I can see no inconsistency in the proceeding of the honorable member, who merely asks that time be allowed that the people may give their opinions on the question. He does not care in what manner it is allowed. If the Government do allow time for the purpose, it will rest with them to say whether the question shall be submitted to the people by means of a general election, or some other way.
The amendment of the honorable member for Niagara [James Currie] does not suggest any particular way of submitting the question to the country. He only asks that it be so submitted, leaving to the Government to choose the most convenient method of doing it. And this is exactly the position which I have myself taken. I have told honorable members who seemed to believe me altogether opposed to Confederation, that it is not the case, that I only want time to ascertain whether the people are in favor of the scheme or not. Only if the project is submitted to the people, it is desirable that it be presented to them in all its details, and not in the skeleton shape in which it is now laid before us. I have no intention to weary the attention of the House, but I thought it right to express my views and say why I intend to vote in favor of the motion of the honorable member for Niagara [James Currie]. (Hear, hear.)
The amendment moved by the James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] was then put to the vote, and lost on the following division:—
|Editors’ Note (2019): James Currie’s amendment is as follows:
That upon a matter of such great importance as the purposed 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 further manifestation of the public will than has yet been declared.
Contents.—The Honorable Messieurs Aikins, Archambault, Armstrong, Chaffers, Currie, Dickson, A. J. Duchesnay, E. H. J.Duchesnay, Flint, Leonard, Malhiot, Olivier, Perry, Proulx, Read, Reesor, Seymour, Simpson, and Vidal.—19.
Non-Contents.—The Honorable Messieurs Alexander, Armand, Sir N. F. Belleau, Bennett, Blake, Boulton, Bull, Burnham, Campbell, Christie, Crawford, De Beaujeu, Dumouchel, Foster, Gingras, Guévremont, Hamilton (Inkerman), Hamilton (Kingston), Lacoste, McCrea, McDonald, McMaster, Macpherson, Matheson, Mills, Panet, Ross, Shaw, Skead, Sir E. P. Taché, and Wilson.—31.
On motion of the James Aikins [Home, elected 1862], the debate was then adjourned.
 Speech from Macpherson to his constituents. Unconfirmed reference.
 The Temperance Act of 1864 or An Act to amend the laws in force respecting the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors and the issue of Licenses therefor, and otherwise for repression of abuses resulting from such sale (Province of Canada).
 Unconfirmed reference. The passage Dickson quotes doesn’t appear in the published version of the Journals of the Legislative Assembly for 1855. The supposed entry was on 21 May 1855.
 An Act to provide for the indemnification of parties in Lower-Canada whose property was destroyed during the Rebellion in the years one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven, and one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight, 1849 (Province of Canada).
 Matheson’s proposed resolutions (1855). Unconfirmed reference.