Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Vacancies in the Senate”, 2nd Parl, 1st Sess (23 May 1873)

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Date: 1873-05-23
By: Dominion of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Dominion of Canada, House of Commons Debates, 2nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1873 at 656.
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[Page 656]

Hon. Mr. MACKENZIE asked the intention of the Government as to filling of the vacancy in the Senate caused by the death of Senator Burnham. A discussion has taken place some days ago with regard to the localities from which Senators were taken. They were informed by the Government at another part of the session that they intended to carry out the understanding arrived at the time of Confederation that an equal number should be taken from both political parties for filling up the Senate. Since that time, twenty-five new appointments had been made, and so far the appointees had been taken from one side and no respect has been paid to location at all.

After referring in detail to several of these appointments, he pointed out that a vacancy had occurred in a certain portion of Ontario where there was a Legislative Councillor Mr. Bennett who had not yet been called to the Senate—and an other was taken from another portion, or at least, promised an appointment. He hoped this was not so, and that some regard would be paid both to the political character of the parties and also to their location.

Hon. Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD said he had rigidly carried out the arrangement made previous to Confederation, every vacancy that had occurred having been filled by the Legislative Councillors. With regard to the consideration of locality, he protested against the principle, as being opposed to the system established at the time of the Union. By arrangement it was understood that as vacancies took place in the Senate they should be filled by members of the Legislative Council who had not got places in the original organization of the Senate, and there were only three of these gentlemen who were yet unprovided for, and he might say at once that it was the intention of the Government to appoint Hon. George Alexander, the eldest of the three referred to, and the one who held his seat the longest as a representative of the people.

Hon. Mr. WOOD: Hear, Hear.

Hon. Mr. HOLTON called attention to the fact that the Hon. Mr. Smith was appointed a Senator without having held a seat in the Legislative Council. He also observed that when Mr. Philip White was appointed, Sir Alexander Galt should have been offered the appointment. He thought if the Government wanted to seize this opportunity of adding to the dignity and lustre of that branch of the Legislature—

Hon. Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD protested against the hon. gentleman wasting the time of the House and country by making speeches in which he desired to usurp as far as he could the powers of the Crown.

Hon. Mr. HOLTON: No, no!

Hon. Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD: The hon. gentleman objected to the appointment made by the Government. The same objections might be made every day in the House of Commons, England. Such a thing was never heard of since the days of Barebones Parliament, when Cromwell made his celebrated selections. Since that time there had been no attempt by the representative branch of the Legislature. Such a course might be taken in a Barebones Parliament or in the Commune in France, but it would not arise in any country where British institutions were known. After defending the appointment of several of the gentlemen appointed to the Senate, he moved the adjournment of the House.

Hon. Mr. HOLTON said the use of this prerogative, like the use of every other prerogative, was upon the responsible advice of Ministers of the Crown, who were responsible to that House. The hon. gentleman was as responsible to the House for the advice he gave to the Crown as to the appointment of Senators as for any advice he gave to the Crown.

Mr. BROUSE said great regret would be felt in the eastern part of Ontario when they heard the decisions the Government had arrived at. Some further discussion ensued.

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