Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly (23 March 1867)
By: Nova Scotia (House of Assembly)
Citation: Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly, 23rd Parl, 4th Sess, 1867 at 73-78.
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DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF NOVA SCOTIA. 1867.
SATURDAY, March 23.
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Hon. Provincial Secretary said:—I beg leave to lay on the table copies of correspondence relative to the fisheries and, in doing so, I may express my satisfaction that the time has at last arrived when it is the power of the government to vindicate themselves from the misrepresentation to which their action on this important question has been subject during the past year. For many months the charge has been circulated all over this Province by a considerable portion of the press that the Government had ignored the rights and interests […]
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[…] of the fishermen of this country. I can only say that I think that the course pursued by the Government at the last session of the Legislature—the great interest which they evinced in the protection of the fisheries, ought to have been sufficient to show the fallacy of the charges which have been brought against them. It will be in the recollection of the house that I moved for a special committee to inquire into the question of the fisheries. That committee was composed of the Attorney General. and a large number of leading men on both sides, and I had the honor, as chairman, of bringing in its report, which asserted, in the clearest and most emphatic manner, the rights of this Province to the fisheries, and recommended that every possible means should be taken for the purpose ct protecting them from the encroachments of the American fishermen. The American Government had, by their own act, and without reference to their own fishermen, deprived them of the rights which for ten years they had enjoyed in our waters. The Government of this Province, therefore, emphatically committed themselves to the policy of excluding American fishermen at once from the waters belonging to this country. That report, submitted by myself, was adopted unanimously by the Legislature, and the Government immediately took action upon the subject, and addressed a despatch to the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors of the other Provinces inviting their cooperation—a cooperation which appeared to be most essential in dealing with this question, inasmuch as the fishing grounds resorted to by the Americans do not exclusively belong to Nova Scotia, but are also within the territorial domain of Canada and New Brunswick. Our object in addressing this despatch. with which was enclosed the report of the committee of the Legislature. was for the purpose of devising with the other Provinces a system of protection by which American fishermen might be excluded from the fishing grounds of British North America. In order that no time might be lost in dealing with this question, the Government proposed that a member ot the Canadian Cabinet should meet one of ourselves at Fredericton during the last Session of the Legislature there, for the purpose of taking such measures as would effectually accomplish the object which we had in view. I mention these tests to the house to show how far we were from being indifferent to the fishing interests of this country. A perusal of the papers which I am about to lay on the table will show that the Imperial Government. at an early stage of this question formed the opinion that if the American fishermen were suddenly excluded from the privileges which they had enjoyed for so long a time, difficulties of a very serious character might arise between the United States and Great Britain, which would operate against the renewal of a treaty. This view was presented in a very strong manner, as will be seen by a Minute of Council from their Government in reply, embodied in these papers. It is impossible, I must state, to bring the whole of this correspondence here, because certain portions of it were of a confidential character that precluded their being presented to the house. twill, however, call attention to a statement in the Canadian Minute of Council which shows that the Imperial Government had applied to the Canadian Ministry to allow American fishermen to fish in British American waters for the past year:
“It now has become necessary to consider the further steps to be taken, and the committee have given their best consideration to the suggestion in Mr. Cardwell’s despatch—that for the current year no interference with American fishermen should take place—in view of the hope of a change of policy in the U. States on the quest on of Reciprocal Trade.”
The Imperial Government were led to believe, from whatever source they got the information, that the peremptory exclusion of American fishermen from our waters would lead to such unpleasantness between the two countries as would prevent the accomplishment of a renewal of reciprocal trade between British America and the United States. This policy, it will be seen, did not originate with the Canadians, but was pressed upon them by the Imperial authorities, as is clearly shown by the clause that I have read. The Canadian Government went on to show the great interest that British America had in these fisheries, and the great importance of protecting them, and the inconvenience that would arise from any step that would seem an apparent concession to American fishermen, or would raise a doubt as to the entire right of British America to exclude the citizens of any other country from resorting to their fishing grounds. Yielding finally to the policy pressed upon them, they proposed as a compromise that, for one year only, a system of licensing American fishermen should be pursued. The Government of Canada drew up this Minute of Council, and sent it to the Imperial authorities, as embodying their views, and to show how far they were prepared to meet the wishes of the latter in relation to this question. The answer sent by the Government of Nova Scotia will show that so far from their at once yielding to the proposal thus made, they drew up a Minute of Council expressing in the strongest terms their great objection to any such policy being pursued. They pointed out, as will be seen, at considerable length, the serious objections they had to a system of licensing American fishermen. The same despatch which they had sent to the Governor General and the Lieut. Governors, was transmitted to her Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies. We therefore placed the Imperial Government in a position to learn the views of this Legislature, and also the fact that we had called upon the other colonies to join us in carrying Out these views. The answer of the Governor General contained the despatch of the Imperial Government on this subject, and in transmitting it he said that it was forwarded for the information of this Government, and that they would not reply to our previous proposal until they ascertained what were our own views on the question as it was then presented to us.
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Having given that despatch of the Governor General and the Minute of the Canadian Government the fullest consideration, we felt bound to adhere to the policy which we had previously expressed; and we drew up a strong remonstrance to the proposal which the Canadian Cabinet, in deference to the wishes of the Imperial authorities, had agreed to. We addressed this remonstrance to the British Government, and we urged by every argument we could devise the adoption of our own policy. In the meantime the House will perceive that the Government of Canada had yielded the point, and had agreed, as far as they were concerned, to adopt the system for a year. We were placed in a very difficult position, but, nevertheless, we persevered in it until the very last extremity. We stood out until we received a despatch from her Majesty’s Government expressing the strongest dissatisfaction with the refusal on our part, on a question of Imperial import, to be guided by their wishes, and even going further, and intimating in pretty strong language that if we continued to disregard their wishes we would not be in a position to claim their assistance in the event of our fishing grounds being encroached upon. The Colonial Minister stated in a despatch which is among these papers, that they urged the adoption of this system for a single year, under the belief that such a concession on our part would lead to the renewal of reciprocal trade between the United States and the British American Provinces. If we had continued to resist the wishes of the Imperial Government we would therefore not only have given the deepest offence, but have laid ourselves open to a charge of having prevented the re-establishment of satisfactory commercial relations with the United States.
It is to me a matter of intense pride that I am able to stand here and vindicate the course which the Government have pursued, and prove to the Legislature that everything that was possible was done to carry out the scheme of this House, and the views of gentlemen on both sides. It will be seen that that Government only yielded to the wishes of the Imperial Government when expressed with a vigor and terseness that are not usual in the despatches of the Imperial authorities, and when it was urged that the policy which we had adopted as the true one would be detrimental to the best interests of this country. It may be said that the Government of Canada yielded a much more ready deference to the Imperial authorities than did the Government of this Province. That may be offered as one reason why it is not advisable that Nova Scotia should unite her interests more closely with those of Canada. I receive, however, an entirely different impression from the history of this question. In this instance the Canadian authorities have given weight and force to other more important and pressing interests, and have not exhibited that deep anxiety in these fisheries which they must do when they are immediately interested in them under the scheme of union. When the Provinces are united, then the Canadians will have the same direct interest in the British American fisheries that this Province has. Then you will have brought to bear on Canada the same influences that prevail with us; but I go a step further, and I call the attention of hon. members and of the intelligent people of this country to the fact that the government of Nova Scotia is here proved to have been unable to oppose a policy which was concurred in by Canada. That province, on account of her immense territorial area, of her large population compared with that of Nova Scotia, now possesses an influence which overshadows that of all the other provinces. The moment, however, that union is consummated, the interests of Canada become identical with those of Nova Scotia. Connected with her sister province, Nova Scotia will possess an amount of power and influence that, now isolated, she can never expect to have. We shall have the means, in the Parliament of a united British America, of making the influence of this province felt in reference to a question in which so large a proportion of the people have the deepest interest.
This tax was simply imposed for a single year for the purpose of establishing in the most unequivocal manner the right of British Americans to exclude the citizens of any foreign power from their fishing grounds. I may be asked what shall be the course during the present year. I must frankly state to you that the same policy must probably be pursued, simply for the reason that the delay which has taken place in accomplishing the union of the colonies, would prevent the question receiving the only decisive consideration that it would have been possible to give it. As far as I have been able to learn by communication with the members of the Governments of Canada and New Brunswick, the policy of the present year will be to double the charge upon every ton of shipping which is allowed to fish in our waters—thus again re establishing the entire right of British America to exclude foreigners from its fishing grounds, and to admit them on whatever terms it may deem proper. The object of Canada, let me say in conclusion, was to defer to the Imperial Government until we were united and able to devise such a policy as the United Parliament may think proper to pursue. If the United States will not agree to liberal commercial arrangements, then I entertain no doubt that the policy of the Government of British America will be immediately to exclude the fishermen of that country from any anticipation in our fishing grounds. When I had an opportunity of conferring with the Canadian Government at Ottawa on this subject, it was decided that the Canadians should only receive such portion of the duty collected as was required to meet the expenses of issuing the licenses. The amount received by the authorities in this Province for licenses was $9371.69. The amount taken by the Canadian Government must have been very much larger, and when ascertained, it will be divided between the Governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, with the exception […]
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[…] of the sum required to meet such incidental expenses as those just mentioned.
Mr. Locke was not prepared to say that the Government could have acted differently in the position in which they were placed. It was exceedingly humiliating to think that the Government of the Province should have been so perfectly powerless. He had very strong opinions on the subject of the tonnage duty, and regretted deeply that it should ever have been agreed to. He could not help seeing in the action of Canada in reference to this question conclusive evidence of the manner in which this Province would be treated hereafter under Confederation. It was very obvious that our fisheries would no longer be protected, now that we were to become a part of Canada. He thought that the Government might have made even stronger remonstrances than they actually did, and not permitted the Canadians to place them in such a position.
Mr. S. Campbell looked upon this matter in the same light that his hon. friend viewed it. He looked upon the action of the Canadian Government and the British Government combined as the first step towards the entire deprivation of our people’s rights in the fisheries At no time hereafter would we have the same rights that we have hitherto enjoyed. Gentlemen looked at the question in a couleur de rose aspect when they stated that this Province would be better situated under Confederation. If the British Government, which we had always regarded as the mightiest power in the world, did not feel itself able to assert the rights of the people of this country, what could we expect from that feeble “Dominion” which was about being formed? The impression made on his mind by hearing the despatches read was that the Canadians were at the bottom of this arrangement.
Mr. Tobin believed that if the Maritime Provinces had been represented in the Canadian Government, this system of licensing American vessels would never have been agreed to. When Canada and New Brunswick admitted the system it was impossible for Nova Scotia to take any other course than she did. This was a forcible illustration of the detrimental effects of the system of isolation that now prevailed among the Provinces of British America. He disapproved entirely of the license system, and trusted it would not be continued. The American Government had not made a single concession to these Provinces. For instance, when an attempt was made in Congress to reduce the duty on coal, it was defeated. Such a fact was certainly surprizing in view of the large interest Americans had in the collieries of this country. He was not prepared to grant a single license whether for one or for five dollars. Mr. Tobin then went on to refer to the manner in which the fisheries were carried on in the Gulf by American fishermen. Our most valuable shore fisheries had been almost entirely destroyed by the system persued for some years by the Americans. He believed that under Confederation this question of the fisheries would receive the most ample consideration, and our interests would be better protected than they could be under existing circumstances.
Mr. Coffin did not attribute any blame to the government for the course they had taken, for apparently they had done all in their power to protect the fisheries. He looked with much astonishment and regret upon the action of the Imperial government, and he was much afraid that our fisheries might now be considered virtually taken from us. He did not expect that when we were confederated with Canada, our rights and interests would be any better considered than they are now.
Mr. Ross could not be persuaded that this great Confederation, from which hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to expect so much, would ever be able to protect our fisheries. He did not believe that the large majority of Canadian representatives who would control the Confederate Parliament would take the same view of the fishery question that our representatives would. The large agricultural interests of Canada would be predominant and overwhelm the voice of Nova Scotia, which is so deeply interested in these fisheries. There were certain gentlemen even in this house who regarded the interests of the fishermen as inferior to importance to other interests.
Mr. Blanchard said that he had lived for very many years in the centre of the great herring and mackerel fishery. His opinion, derived from observation and experience, was that the protection of the fishermen of this Province is utterly valueless. It should not be forgotten that Canada, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island possess ten miles of valuable fishery ground for every one belonging to Nova Scotia. Our mackerel fishery really extended from Port Hood to Cheticamp; as respects that between Scattarie and Cape North, it was comparatively valueless. No one, however, would be better pleased than himself if the question of the fisheries could be used successfully to bring back the Americans to reciprocity. He thought the Government had done their duty in remonstrating as they did against the adoption of the license system. The history of the whole question showed the necessity of Confederation. As at present situated, we could not influence the action of Canada and the other Provinces, which had large territorial rights in the fisheries of British America.
Mr. Tobin said that it was the abuse of the fisheries by the Americans that had so largely injured some of the fishing grounds, which years ago had been very valuable to our people. For many years the mackerel fishery of this country had declined, in consequence of the system pursued by the Americans. St. Margaret’s Bay, where fish had formerly been so plentiful, was a case in point; the fishermen of that bay were now obliged to go to the Labrador and the North Shore to catch fish. The system of feeding the fish, pursued by the Americans to so large an extent, was among the causes that had tended to injure the fishery ground close to our own shores.
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Mr. Blanchard said that if the hon. member would come down to his county next summer, he would show him more fish than the Americans could catch. It was an exploded idea that the Americans drew off the fish by feeding them. He believed that our own vessels caught as much fish as the same number of American vessels that name into our bays. One sudden gale of wind, he knew, did more damage to the fisheries, did more to drive them off than any system pursued by the Americans.
Hon. Provincial Secretary said that no one could presume to say that it was not of the most vital consequence to the interests of the Province that our fishing grounds should be protected, and that we should exclude from them the American fishermen, unless we received from them such concessions as would be equivalent to the privileges they would obtain. He contended that the present position of the fisheries arose altogether from the disunion of the Provinces. As it was now, the voice of the Legislature was unable to influence Provinces which were not now bound to us by those social, political and commercial ties that would exist when British America was one Confederacy, animated by a common sympathy and interest. When gentlemen who now so forcibly expressed their views in reference to the fisheries were able to make themselves heard in a Confederate Parliament, no doubt their voice would have the effect it ought to have. The papers on the table proved conclusively that the Canadian Government was fully alive to the great value of these fishery grounds, and of the indisputable right of British America to enjoy them exclusively. So far as the policy of Canada went, it was to modify the proposal of the Imperial Government. The course pursued by the Government of this Province, he was glad to find, was heartily approved by gentlemen opposite.
Mr. Ross said that it was well known to the members from Cape Breton that from Cape North to Scattarie there was hardly a creek or harbour Where valuable fisheries did not exist. During the year 1855 American vessels got fares off the harbor of Sydney, and indeed within it. He only called attention to this fact for the purpose of correcting a misapprehension of the hon. member for Inverness.
The papers presented by the Provincial Secretary were then referred to the Committee on the Fisheries.
THE LOCAL CONSTITUTION.
Hon. Provincial Secretary then asked permission to introduce an Act to amend Chapter 3 R. S., “of the duration of and representation in the General Assembly.” He explained that in consequence of the great change which was about being made in the government of British America, a very large portion of the duties which had hitherto devolved upon the Local Legislature of this Province would be transferred to the Parliament of the “Dominion of Canada.” Under these circumstances it was necessary to remodel our local constitution, and accordingly in the present act it was proposed to diminish the number of representatives in the House of Assembly. It was proposed to give each county in the Province two members. To Pictou and Halifax respectfully, however, there would be given an additional member, in consequence of their large population compared with other counties. Of course it would be at once apparent that the bill did not provide an equal representation according to population for the several counties. The government of which he was a member had in 1859 introduced a bill—which was now law—by which the representation was placed on a far more equable basis than it had ever been before, but, nevertheless, some considerable inequalities still remained. Such inequalities [sic], however, existed in all countries, but nowhere less than in Nova Scotia. It did not seem practicable to reduce the representation from two members to a single one for the smallest counties. It was deemed most advisable to place every county on the same footing, with the exception of those two counties, whose population was so largely in excess of that of the others. As respects the Legislative Council, it was proposed to ask the house to agree to a resolution requesting the Crown to reduce the number of that body to 18 or 19 members: that is to say, one for every county, and one additional for the metropolitan county, if it should be deemed advisable. The House would see that henceforth the electors of the Province would possess larger electoral powers than ever before. They would have to elect two members for the Local Legislature, and one for the General Parliament, except, of course, in Halifax and Pictou, to which additional members were given; but in no case would the number of votes given at the poll be less than three. He believed that the policy proposed would recommend itself to the intelligence of the house and country.
Mr. S. Campbell said that the introduction of the bill was tantamount to a declaration that Confederation was finally passed in Parliament. Under these circumstances he thought it was the duty of every member of the house on both sides to give his […]
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[…] assistance to the furtherance of a bill having in view the perfection of the Local Constitution of this country. It was unnecessary to discuss the features of the measure at this stage, but he would ask whether it was intended to alter the duration of the Local Legislature to five years—the duration of the Federal Parliament under the Act of Union?
Hon. Provincial Secretary replied that no such change was proposed in the bill.
Mr. Blanchard enquired if district representation was abolished:
Hon. Provincial Secretary replied in the affirmative.
Mr. Annand stated that in the Confederacy there would be a variety of electoral arrangements. In Canada there would be district representation, whereas, in this province it would be all county representation. Again, whilst the majority of the counties would have three votes, others would have four and five.
Hon. Provincial Secretary said that the present arrangement was as fair as could be devised under existing circumstances. It would be in the power of the new house, he added, to make any changes they deemed advisable.
Mr. Locke thought that perhaps it would be as well to do away with the Legislative Council altogether, in pursuance of the course adopted by Ontario.
Hon. Provincial Secretary said that the hon. member would have an opportunity of dealing with the question when the resolution was introduced. He need hardly say that the Government believed it would be best for the interest of the country to have two houses.
Mr. Killam thought it questionable policy to reduce the house down to 38 members at the present time. The matter ought to be fully considered. He doubted the propriety of the present house at all touching so important a question: it ought to be left to the new legislature.
Hon. Provincial Secretary said it was certainly surprising to hear any one oppose a reduction of the house, when it was well known that a large portion of the duties it had hitherto discharged would be transferred elsewhere. He remembered reading, many years ago, the debates of the house, and was struck with the tactics pursued by the hon. member for Yarmouth in respect to railways in this country. When he was unable to prevent their construction, he proposed a road vote of an enormous amount, with the object of making the country bankrupt as rapidly as possible, and unable to build railways or anything else. Following a similar policy he would make Confederation as expensive as possible, since he could not prevent its consummation. He (Mr. Killam) had, obviously, concluded that his whole efforts should be directed towards substantiating the arguments of himself and friends, that we would not have money enough, under Confederation, to carry on the Local Government.
The bill having been read a first time,
Hon. Provincial Secretary then laid on the table a bill in reference to the departmental officers and their salaries. It was obvious to the house, he stated, that the same reasons which would require a reduction in the Legislature would exist in respect to the public departments. It was therefore proposed to abolish the office of Financial Secretary, and devolve his duties upon the Provincial Secretary, whose salary would be reduced to £600 a year. The office of Deputy Secretary would also be abolished, but there would be a chief clerk in the office with a salary of $1200 a year. lt was also intended to abolish the office of Solicitor General, whilst the salary of the Attorney General would be reduced to £400 a year. As the larger portion of the duties now devolving on the Board of Works would be transferred to the General Government, it was proposed to abolish that office. In order to provide for the efficient discharge of the public business, it was intended to appoint a Treasurer, with a salary of £500, instead of a Receiver General, and who must have a seat in the Legislature. To this officer will be given a clerk with a salary of $1000 a year. It was also proposed to have a Commissioner of Public Works and Mines, with a salary of £500 a year, as is now paid to the head of the Mines Department, who will have a Clerk of Works and a Clerk of Mines, each at $1000 a year. In view of the great importance of this department, its head would be required to have a seat in the Legislature. He had no doubt that the house and country would accept the measure as an evidence of the desire and intention of the Government to make our local constitution under Confederation economical, and at the same time fully equal to all the duties which would have to be performed under it.
The bill having been read a first time the house adjourned.
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