“Letters to the Editor. The Quebec Conference”, The Globe (15 November 1887)

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Date: 1887-11-15
By: The Globe, William McDougall
Citation: “Letters to the Editor. The Quebec Conference”, The Globe (15 November 1887).
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SIR,—Will you allow a member of the Quebec Conference of 1864, and of all subsequent conferences charged with the duty of framing and procuring the adoption of the Confederation Act, to correct your statement that Resolution 24, as agreed to by the Quebec Conference, “was not truly embodied in the B.N.A. Act of 1867”?

Hon. John H. Gray (whose book you quote) must have copied the resolutions of the Quebec Conference from some incorrect reprint which got abroad before they were submitted to the Canadian Parliament. His work is confessedly incomplete. He announced two volumes. The first is largely composed of newspaper extracts and condensed reports of post-prandial speeches. The second is still unpublished. The authentic resolutions were submitted to the Canadian Parliament in February, 1865, and are to be found, both at the beginning and at the end of the volume of Debates on Confederation, published by authority of Parliament in that year.

The 24th Resolution was reported to the Canadian Parliament in the words following:—“24. The Local Legislature of each Province may from time to time alter the electoral districts for the purposes of representation in such Local Legislature and distribute the representatives to which the Province is entitled in such Local Legislature in any manner such Legislature may see fit.”

That some one had blundered in copying this resolution is evident from the following remarks of Attorney-General Macdonald, in moving the address to Her Majesty praying for an Act based on the resolutions of the Conference:—

“A good deal of misapprehension has arise from the omission of some words from the 24th Resolution. It was thought that by it the Local Legislatures were to have the power of arranging hereafter, and from time to time, of readjusting the different constituencies and settling the size and boundaries of the various electoral districts. The meaning of the resolution is simply this, that for the first General Parliament the arrangement of constituencies shall be made by existing Local Legislatures. * * * Afterwards the Local Legislatures may alter their own electoral limits as they please for their local elections. But it would evidently be improper to leave to the Local Legislatures the power to alter the constituencies sending members to the General Legislature after the General Legislature shall have been called into existence.”—Confederation Debates, 1865, pp. 39, 40.

Hon. George Brown, then President of the Executive Council, referring to the 24th Resolution, said:—

“It has also been objected that though the resolutions provide that the existing Parliament of Canada shall establish the electoral divisions for the first organization of the Federal Parliament, they do not determine in whose hands the duty of distributing any additional members is to be vested. No doubt on this head need exist; the Federal Parliament will, of course, have full power to regulate all arrangements for the election of its own members.”—Confed. Debates, pp. 87, 88.

Other public journals have been misled by Judge Gray’s book. Even the Montreal Herald, whose proprietor was a member of the Quebec Conference and of the London delegation, joins in the charge of bad faith against the latter body for altering the 24th Resolution without authority. Respect for the dead as well as the living statesmen who must share the responsibility of unwarranted provisions in the British North America Act, and for my own justification, leads me to ask THE GLOBE to publish this correction.

Nov. 12, 1887. WM. MCDOUGALL

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