Edward Whelan, [Quebec Conference] (22 October 1864)
By: Edward Whelan, The Examiner (Charlottetown), Quebec Conference
Citation: Edward Whelan, “Inter-Colonial Convention at Quebec,”The Examiner (31 October 1864).
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Note: Any endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais, The Quebec Resolutions: Including Several Never-Published Preliminary Drafts by George Brown and John A. Macdonald, and a Collection of all Previously-Published Primary Documents Relating to the Conference (CCF, 2021).
INTER-COLONIAL CONVENTION AT QUEBEC.
SATURDAY, Oct. 22.
The Conference sat from 12 noon until six p.m. today, and commenced the most valuable portion of their work—the arrangement of the financial affairs of the several Provinces. The Finance Minister of Canada made a most able and elaborate exposition of the views of the Canadian Government, which, at the close of his speech, he presented in the form of a resolution. I am not at liberty to give you the resolution, although I should very much like to do so. Indeed, at the time I write, the resolution has not been confirmed by the Conference, but I have every reason to believe that it will be confirmed, although it may be somewhat modified in its details. In general terms, I may say that it is eminently calculated to place the Island in an admirable position as regards its financial affairs. That position will be vastly different from the one conjured up by my friend Mr. Beer, whose letter in the Protestant of the 15th instant, I have only just now received and read. Some of my friends on the P.E. Island Delegation have carried away the paper to laugh over the absurd delusions into which Mr. Beer has allowed himself to be betrayed by an imagination which, to say the least, has been strangely perplexed, but which has never been deemed to be one of the fervid and excitable character. Mr. Beer assumes that our Island people will be taxed to make up a proportion of the Canadian debt, which he has correctly enough stated at sixty-two millions and odd dollars—that the Island will have to bear a proportion of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick debts, and to help to provide the construction of the great inter-colonial Railway, and for military defences. Never was there a greater mistake. Canada proposes to deal with the Maritime Provinces in the most broad and liberal spirit. She emphatically declares that the burden of her debt shall fall upon Upper and Lower Canada—and upon Upper and Lower Canada alone. it is proposed to consolidate the debts of the several Provinces, the Confederation assuming their liability in consideration of the transfer of all provincial property of a public character—such as canals, public harbours, light houses, steamboats, dredges, and public vessels, river and lake improvements, railways, military, roads, public buildings, custom houses, and post offices, except such as may be set aside for the use of the local Legislatures; ordnance property, munitions of war, armories, and lands set apart for public purposes. The Confederation then proposes to place to the credit of each Province, to meet its debt, $25 per head of the population. If the debt of any one does not amount to that sum, that particular one can draw for the interest semi-annually. The debt of Canada is such that she will have nothing to draw—Nova Scotia and New Brunswick not much each—Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island will have a large balance in their favour. The debt of the Island represents about three dollars per head—that leaves twenty dollars per head to its credit, the interest of which can be drawn semi-annually for local improvements. By this arrangement, the debt of P.E. Island will be guaranteed to the extent of $2,025,000.00—the interest on which, at 5 per cent, will be $101,250.00. Add to this, the proportion which the Confederation proposes to give to each Province for the support of its local administration, at the rate of 80 cents per head, making for the population of P.E. Island (say 81,000) $64,800.00—and we have a total of $166,050.00, which P.E. Island will annually receive. Deduct from the latter sum $12,000, interest at 5 per cent on our debt of £75,000 currency, or $240,000, and the balance in our favour will be $154,050.00 or £48,140 12s 6d, P.E.I currency, which will be, under the Confederation, nearly forty-eight thousand dollars more than we now spend for local affairs the Federal Government assuming the cost of certain affairs, to which I shall hereafter refer. And this is, besides having the guarantee of the Federal Government for more than two millions of dollars, equal to about £400,000 by which we could, at any time, effect the purchase of our Township lands. And I have every reason to believe that these golden prospects may be brought home to us without much, if any, additional taxation. So that the alarmists in the Island need not work themselves up into a fever of excitement, touching the financial aspect of the Union question. The only persons who have the least cause for alarm are the proprietors, for if that question be consummated, their oppressive and antiquated tenure will speedily cease. I have many interesting notes to extend, but I must close in order to be in time for the Mail.
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