Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly (29 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 85-91.
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DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF NOVA SCOTIA. 1867.
FRIDAY, March 29.
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The order of the day was moved.
Hon. Provincial Secretary said that in rising to move the second reading of the bill to amend Chapter 3 R. S., in reference to the duration of and representation in the General Assembly, lie did not feel it necessary to occupy the time of the House, having explained the objects of the bill before. The bill was introduced to adapt our legislation to the changed relations which we were called to meet under the Act of the Imperial Parliament for the Union of the Provinces. As the House had been relieved by that act from a large amount of the duties devolving on it, it would be necessary deliberately to review the constitution. He was glad to hear from the observations of the gentleman who had led the opposition on the question of Confederation, that that hon. member would feel it his duty to give the most dispassionate consideration to any measure that would enable us to meet the new condition of affairs. It would have been unreasonable to suppose that on so great a proposition as that of the Union of the Provinces, effecting so great a change in our institutions, a great diversity of opinion would not exist. but it had now become necessary for every one interested in the prosperity of this part of Her Majesty’s dominions to look with a single eye to the interests and advantages of the country. It was only to be expected that such a sentiment would find expression on all sides, and would be re-echoed back from every part of the Province. Taking into consideration the important questions of which the Legislature would be relieved, he thought this would be regarded as a necessary measure, leaving, as it would, a fair and efficient representation for every county, and at the same time striking off a very considerable portion of the expenditure. The bill proposed that in the Local Legislature every county should be represented by two members, excepting Halifax and Pictou, which should have three each. This would be in addition to the members to be sent to the General Parliament. It had been asked, “would it not be better to allow the Legislature now shortly to be elected to arrange the local constitution,” but he believed that the common sense of every member, as well as past experience, would convince every one that no time could be so appropriate and convenient for dealing with the question as the present. The duty of legislation devolved as much upon the House up to the last day as at the first hour of its existence, and there should be no disposition to shrink from this responsibility.
If the bill would put it out of the power of any future Parliament to deal with the question there would be something in the argument, but it was a fact that the people at the polls would have a full opportunity of instructing the incoming members, and while it was very easy to increase the representation it was not so easy to decrease it. The reduction could now be made without creating the impression that any actual reduction was being made, for our relations with the General Parliament caused an actual increase to the representation of some of the counties. On the same day the people would poll their votes for general and local representatives, exercising a larger franchise than at present. He did not consider it necessary to occupy the time of the House in the advocacy of a measure which […]
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[…] commended itself to the judgment, not only of the friends of union, but even of those who having opposed Confederation felt they owed it to the country to adapt the legislation to the existing state of affairs. Mr. Locke said he supposed that any arguments urged against the bill would be futile, but he felt bound to object to the manner in which the bill was brought forward. The Provincial Secretary had almost assumed the position of an autocrat. It was true that the matter would be open to future legislation even if the bill passed, but the Legislative Council might interfere against any such attempt, and whether or not, the incoming Parliament should not be put in the position of being obliged to reverse the action previously taken. He attacked the bill on the ground that it was an interference with the rights of the people, and he believed that this would be the opinion of the country. It should be remembered that the Local Legislature might require to protect the local interests against the encroachments of the General Parliament, and in that case a House of thirty-eight would have comparatively small weight. At any rate the people themselves should deal with the question.
Hon. Attorney General said he had felt that if the present Parliament ceased its functions without arranging the local constitution it would fail in an important part of its duty. He had pressed this view on his colleagues for several reasons, one of which was that the whole scheme of union would be frustrated and left imperfect if such a change were not made. In order to give efficiency to the scheme of Confederation every portion of it should be carried out. If members were able to show that the principle of the bill was wrong or that any county had been neglected their position could be appreciated, but he could not value the statement that this, the most appropriate time for action, should be allowed to pass and a future period selected. He could easily imagine the storm of objection that would have been raised had the government failed to bring this measure forward before the elections were held. It would be said, “these gentlemen went to Canada and framed a scheme, afterwards going to England to mature it, and were unable subsequently to carry out one of its most important provisions.” The government would therefore be wanting in the discharge of their duty if they did not press this matter upon the attention of the House and they would have been open to the charge of deception in leading the people to suppose that a large reduction would be made in the legislative expenses and then in failing to make that reduction when the opportunity arrived. The only question remaining was whether the whole number of representatives and the distribution of the seats was commendable, and as these points had not been challenged he would ask only was it wrong to do then what might be done twelve months afterwards?
Mr. Killam approved of the principle, laid down by the Provincial Secretary, that the House should make the best of the situation of affairs; but he entirely disagreed with the last speaker as to this being the proper time to pass such a measure; nor did he believe that it would interfere with the arrangements of Confederation to leave the House with its present complement. He did not see on what principle the distribution of seats was founded. The bill would make a most important change in obliging candidates to run their election over the whole county, instead of being elected for ridings, as at present. The difficulty of this plan would appear when such a county as Halifax was taken into consideration. This was contrary to the Canadian principle, which gave to every district its representative; and he read from an English authority to show that district representation was the only mode of securing the representation of minorities. The same objection, he thought, did not apply to the election of members for the General Parliament, because the representatives would go there as Nova Scotians and without any sectional feeling. The bill, he thought, would in fact disfranchise some of the districts, because a political feeling which might prevail in one section would be controlled by the feeling in another section. In New Brunswick the policy had been to retain the whole Legislature and he thought Nova Scotia would require all the talent of which she could avail herself to remodel her constitution. The local Parliament would have important matters to deal with; it was not improbable that our most able men would leave the House, and there would be a better selection to be made out of 55 members than out of 38. It was well known that a great deal of influence was brought to bear by departmental officers who had seats in Parliament; that was a reason why the number of members should be large. The object of the measure, he believed, was to crush Nova Scotia down and repress her influence. Another view of the matter was that the general Parliament might at some period require […]
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[…] the assistance of the local Legislature, and it would be a great object. in that case, to have the popular branch large and effective. There was not much force in the argument about economy, for the additional number of members might not cost a dollar more, and could not cost more than $3000. Under Confederation there would still probably be an upper House consisting of eighteen members, appointed by the Crown, to check the lower branch, and, in addition to that, a Lieut.-Governor appointed by the Governor-General, so that there would be every necessity for maintaining the influence of the Assembly. He did not see the slightest necessity for continuing the Legislative Council, when there were so many guards and checks as the Union Bill proposed. Twelve of its members could receive seats in the Senate; the remainder could receive attention from the Government in some other way, and thus a large saving could be effected without curtailing the members of the House. There would be so little left for the Council to do, that its members would probably be soon ashamed to sit in session doing nothing. Upper Canada had resolved to abolish the upper branch, and her course in that respect had met with much commendation [sic]. He did not think the Union Bill intended that the existing Legislature should deal with the local constitution for it said that the local Parliaments should continue until altered under the authority of that Act. This alteration was not being made under the authority of the Act, because the Act had not yet been passed. He was in favor of letting the people decide the question.
Mr. Annand said that as only two members of the Government had spoken on the question he presumed that the passage of the bill was a foregone conclusion. He was of opinion that if ever there was a time in the history of this country when the principle of local representation should be recognized, It was when such important powers had been conferred upon the Parliament at Ottawa, and the subjects left at the disposal of our successors were of a strictly local character. That principle was ignored by the bill. He had taken up the list of counties and found that eight of them enjoyed district representation At present, and these counties, besides having the number of members reduced, would be to a great extent disfranchised as far as local representation was concerned, There seemed to him to be no principle running through the bill,—the principle of representation by population or any other principle. The Attorney General in 1859 had introduced a bill to equalize the representation, but what step had he taken now? The present bill elevated all the smaller counties to the level of the larger ones. He had always been and still was in favor of district representation. He did not oppose the bill from personal interest, but it was a fact that East Halifax would he to a large extent disfranchised for the vote of Its electors would be swamped by the addition of the city and western population. Again, why should the city with its great interests be swayed by the votes of the outlying districts? It was an extraordinary fact that while in New Brunswick the city of St. Johns would send a representative to the General Parliament, the city of Halifax had been ignored. How could the members who now found it difficult enough to attend to the local wants of Western Halifax, represent and advocate the claims of the whole county? The bill gave the same representation to Queens, with a population of 9365 people, as to Colchester with 20,000. He contended that the numbers and weight and influence [sic] of the house should not be reduced, and concurred in the remark that the time might come when the General Parliament might need the assistance of the Local Legislature. What position would it be in thon. if it were reduced, to use Mr. Adderley’s language, to a more municipality? He opposed the bill also on the same ground as that which he took In reference to the larger measure, believing that though the Legislature might increase the number of representatives by two or three, that it had no right to make such a fundamental change as the one proposed—to reduce the number of members from 55 to 38—to disfranchise at least one third of the electors, without the sanction of the people. Could not the members who would son be elected be trusted to deal with this matter? He thought the house should keep the power while it had it, for if the incoming Legislature should attempt to increase the representation, they might find even if the measure was not rejected by the Legislative Council, that it would be voted by the Canadian Government
Hon. Provincial Secretary said that he was glad to bear the tone la which the hon. member for Yarmouth had approached the question under consideration. No doubt It was the duty of every member to endeavour to make the local constitution as perfect as possible: but there was one remark made by the hon. gentleman which would be very gratifying to the house and country, and that was that he entirely approved of the principle of county representation as regards the General Parliament. The hon. member also intimated that whoever went from this Province to the General Parliament should be animated by one impulse—that whatever might be the local antagonisms that now divided gentlemen, all should go to the General Parliament with the desire of representing the true interests of Nova Scotia. Now he did not see why a different principle of representation should be applied to the Local Legislature. What diversity of class, interest or position would there be to prevent the members of the Local Legislature uniting in the same manner? Education was a subject in which everybody was equally interested. Similar [sic] feelings should prevail in the Local Legislature as should animate the representatives in the General Parliament. We were now assimilating our legislation to the system of Our sister Maritime Province, New Brunswick, where, with the exception of the city, county representation was the rule. The present House of Assembly of the neighboring […]
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[…] Province, with its large population and extensive area, only contained 41 members, or three more than the number that would compose the popular branch in this Province when Confederation was in operation. It was absurd to talk of departmental influence in the Local Legislature. It could be shown, by reference to the existing House of Assembly, that departmental influence did not prevent gentlemen from giving the most determined opposition to the Government. For instance, notwithstanding the manner in which an important public department had been filled, the hon. member for South Kings (Dr. Brown) bad opposed the Administration for years past. To such an extent, indeed, had the opposition of that hon. member been carried that he would have been quite willing to prevent his own county having the advantages of railway communication with the capital. He (Dr. T.) had no hesitation in saying that, from his knowledge of the character of the men sent by the people to represent them, he was positive that the Government hereafter in the Local Legislature, would have no more power or influence than was absolutely necessary to carry on the public business of the country. The hon. member had stated that he would be willing to follow the example of Upper Canada, and abolish the Legislative Council altogether. It was certainly satisfactory to find that hon. member was at last able to point to the legislation of Canada-that much abused country-as worthy of our Imitation. But it should be remembered that Upper Canada was very differently situated to Nova Scotia. That Province had no Local Legislature as we had; but, in addition to this, it should be remembered that it had a very perfect municipal system, under which a large amount of local business was now transacted. It was not desirable in this Province to give a sudden and unnecessary check to existing institutions. We had had for many years a Legislative Council, which had been largely composed of men of influence and position in the country, and it would be unwise to abolish it at one stroke. It was absurd to say that the Upper Houle would have nothing to do, when whatever business was transacted in the Lower House would have to pass through that branch, in accordance with the principle of our present constitution. But did not the hon. member see that there was an inconsistency in his argument? He had declared that the house ought not to be reduced—and in that case was it advisable to do away with the Legislative Council? The same reason that would exist for keeping the house as it was, would be found in the case of the Legislative Council. The best policy he (Dr. T.) believed, under existing circumstances, was to continue the Legislative Council, though with its number reduced. The hon. member for East Halifax had at last taken his stand upon principle; but he ought to be able to state on what principle he advocated representation by population for the Local Legislature and opposed it for the General Parliament. The hon. gentleman had taken great exception to that principle, and had urged with all the eloquence in his power that scarcely in any part of the world was such a principle recognized, and certainly not in countries enjoying British institutions.—That was one of the arguments which the opponents of union pressed on all occasions. Now the gravamen of the hon. member’s speech against the Government was that they had not observed the principle of population in the present bill. If he (Dr. T.) remembered aright, the hon. gentleman had been a member of a Government which brought in a representation bill giving Queen’s and Shelburne the same number of representatives that Cape Breton and Inverness, with their far larger population, would have. Under such circumstances the hon. member would hardly be compromised in supporting the present measure, It was impossible, under existing circumstances, to carry out the principle of representation by population in all its entirety. It was impossible to cut down the representation of any county to merely a single member. All that could be done was to give such a representation as would be fair to the interests of all sections. The hon. member for East Halifax has also protested against the right of the present Legislature touching the question at all. Gentlemen must begin to feel a great deal of curiosity to know what the hon. member believed was the duty of the present Legislature; it certainly seemed as if be would deny that they had any right or power to do anything at all. The hon. member need not, however, he under any fears as to the effects of the present measure; it would be within the power of the next Legislature to alter its constitution if It should be thought necessary. He (Dr. T.) believed, however, that the people at large would accept the measure as one which deserved their support.
Mr. Killam hoped the men who might be sent to the General Parliament would not be those who had been instrumental in overturning the constitution of the country. The present bill was but a portion of the scheme which was intended to deprive them of their just rights and privileges. The object now with gentlemen opposite was to crush out Nova Scotia and merge her identity into that of Canada He trusted, however, that Nova Scotians would triumph over those who were bartering away their rights, and that there would always be a Nova Scotian party to rule in the Legislature henceforth.
Mr. Locke said that the people had sent them to the Legislature under a constitution which was now to be legislated away. The Legislature had large powers, but he believed that it exceeded those powers when it changed the constitution under which it was elected without the consent of the people. The people had never elected them for such a purpose. He believed that it would be better to do away with the Legislative Council altogether. In previous years he had moved to abolish the Legislative Council. The business of the city of London was transacted by a single body. The Lunatic Asylum was one of the few important subjects that would come under the purview of the Local Legislature, and it was unnecessary to have too cumbrous a Legislature.
Mr. Blanchard was of opinion that if it were possible to do away with existing anomalies in the representation to a larger extent it would be better. In the island of Cape Breton there were two large and two small counties, yet the representation of each would […]
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[…] be the same. He had, however, thought the whole subject or, and had been unable to see what other measure was practicable. No. county should be loft with a single representative; one single person should have such a responsibility thrown upon him. It was true that the county of Pictou was somewhat favoured for its population was only 8000 more than Cape Breton whilst the population of the later was more than double that of Queens, or Victoria, or Shelburne, or Richmond. He was amused, he added, at the hon. member for Shelburne having in previous years moved to abolish the Legislative Council. Did the people then authorize the hon. member to move in the matter? Yet the same hon. gentleman who would have laid violent hands upon the (Council when the people did not authorize him, now objected to the Legislature reducing its numbers on the ground that the people had not consented or expressed their opinion on the subject.
Mr. Archibald said that he would not believe that his hon. friend from Shelburne would contend that it was not competent for the Parliament to deal with any question touching the franchise of the electors who returned them. It was not long since they had passed an act to add to the number of the representatives of the county of Cape Breton If they were allowed to add one, they could add two or three or four, or as many as they thought proper to the legislature If they had the power to add, they had also the right to reduce. He did not pretend to say that the bill was perfect, but he must acknowledge that it would be difficult to devise a measure which, upon the whole, suited the circumstances of the country better.
It was quite certain that the first thing the Legislature bad to do was to reduce the expense of its local constitution in proportion to the smaller amount of duties that would re. main under Confederation. A very large proportion of the work now transacted by the Legislature would be taken away from it after this. The work that would remain could be easily transacted by a much smaller body. Nothing could be more reasonable than to take away from the Local Legislature about the same number of men who would be sent as representatives to Ottawa. He thought It wise to leave the lines of the counties as they are. The people of each county had certain interests and sympathies in common, and it would be inadvisable to disturb them. He believed it would he impossible to leave any county with only one representative No other county except Pictou exceeded 20,000 in population to any extent. No doubt the same cause that had contributed to give such a superiority to Pictou would continue. It was, therefore, only fair that it should receive larger representation than other counties In the Province. It would he quite allowable for any Legislature hereafter to increase the number of the members if it should think proper; but it must be quite obvious that if the number were left as it is now, nobody elected hereafter would be likely to reduce it.
Hon. Financial Secretary said that if any one would take the census of the several counties and divide the Province into two sections, east and West, it would be seen that at the present measure was remarkably fair. The eastern division, with a population of about 140,000, would have one-half the representation, whilst the western division with 132,000, would have the other half. Under these circumstances it must be acknowledged that the bill was very fair to all sections. It would be impossible to distribute the representation more equitably, except it would he determined to alter and rearrange the existing boundaries of counties. It would be very unwise, however, to disturb the present social and municipal arrangements that exist in the different counties. The superiority of Pictou in respect to population over all other counties naturally entitled it to an additional representative. It was certainly a curious spectacle to see the hon. members for Yarmouth and Shelburne, who pretended to be so desirous of retrenchment, now attempting to make our local system of government as expensive au possible.
If it was as stated by the hon. member for Shelburne, that the Local Legislature would have little to de, why advocate leaving the number of representatives as it was now? A large portion of the duties now performed by the Legislature would devolve upon the General Government, but still the Local Government would have many important matters in its care. Education, the reads and bridges, the mines and minerals, were all subjects of paramount importance. The amount of revenue for local distribution would be considerably larger than the whole revenue was ten or twelve years ago. Under these circumstances, it was absurd to say that the questions which would come under the consideration of the Local Legislature would be very insignificant. It was quite unnecessary, however, to refute the views of gentlemen opposite; there was no consistency in their arguments; what they asserted at one moment was contradicted by the statement they made in the very next breath.
Mr. Coffin said that the Government, after having failed se long to carry out its retrenchment policy, would be able at last to lay claim to having redeemed its pledge. The manner in which it did so—the circumstances that influenced its action, would hardly be acceptable to the people.
Dr. Brown was opposed to the measure before the House, because it made the representation more unequal than before. This House had for many years past being striving to equalize the representation according to the population of the different countries. This bill was a step backwards. Take, for instance, the County of Kings, which had more than double the population of Victoria and Queens, and a much larger proportion of wealth, the assessed value of property of Kings being in 1861, according le the census, over three limes as great as that of Queens and Victoria together-their representation is to remain untouched while that of Kings is to be reduced one-half, to two members instead of four. Nothing could be more unequal-nothing could be more unjust, than the operation of this bill. […]
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[…] Another reason why he must oppose it was because it had never been before the people, and he considered it a very arbitrary proceeding to reduce the number of representatives without the people’s consent. There could be no excuse for passing the bill now, because an election must take place in a short time, when the people ought to be allowed to decide, and fix their representation to suit themselves.
The hon. and learned Provincial Secretary had alluded to his (Dr. B.’s) opposition to the Government while his brother held a subordinate office under Government. He was obliged to the hon. and learned gentleman for that allusion, as he considered it the highest praise that could be given to him. It was complimentary to himself, because it showed he had acted independently, and was alike creditable to the Government, who had not held their officer responsible for that was not his fault.
Hon. Mr. McFarlane said that there was no doubt the measure before the House was one of much importance, especially as it was one of the final acts which they had to discharge. Nobody would deny that the hon. member for South Kings had always opposed the Government with great consistency; in fact, there was never a measure introduced by the men now in power that appeared to meet with his approbation.
Dr. Brown had supported the Government on the Education Bill.
Hon. Mr. McFarlane went on to say that no more favorable or suitable occasion could offer than the present for dealing with the representation of the country in the in the local Legislature. Anomalies would exist under all circumstances, for it was impossible to prevent them entirely. The bill of 1859, no doubt, was a step in the right direction, for it did away with those little boroughs which received a representation they were not entitled to. Hants, with a population not equal to that of six or seven other counties, returned no less than five members to the House. He believed that the true principle was to establish county representation. It was not for the interest of any county to have representation allotted to some particular corner or section of it. The man representing a particular district did not feel any deep interest in the rest of the county. It was the best system to make a man responsible to the whole county. In that case, no section would receive an advantage over another, for it would be the duty as well as the interest of the represetative to look at all alike. In his own county, for instance, they expended the public money according to its particular wants, and not with a desire to benefit any particular section over another. By the proposed arrangement the smaller counties would be placed on the same footing as the large ones. No doubt, when Cape Breton had a population as large as that of Pictou, it would receive an additional member if it required it. It was the duty of the Legislature to so mould our institutions that the public business could be efficiently and, at the same time, economically transacted.
Dr. Hamilton said he felt called upon to say a few words, inasmuch as the bill affected his own county. He remembered when Kings had six representatives in the house, and now it was proposed to reduce the number to two. It might he expected that he would advocate a larger representation for Kings, but which looked at other counties and made a comparison in respect to population, he was unable to argue in favour of retaining the present number. Inverness, Cumberland, Cape Breton and Colchester had each a larger population than Kings, and yet would have no larger representation. It was true that several of the small counties would have two representatives also, but he felt it would be hardly fair to leave any county with only one member. The principle he would prefer adopting would be this: to leave the limits of the counties as they are now, and to allot additional representives [sic] when counties exceeded 20,000 in population by 8 or 9,000 his desire now, was to see the local Legislature so constituted that it would be able to transact all the public business allotted to it under Confederation economically and efficiently. He did not agree with the hon. member for Yarmouth, that there would be so little work to do, the necessity for a Legislative Council would cease. Whatever work would have to be performed by the Assembly would have to pass under the supervision of the Council. He believed in the principle of county representation; If it was applied to the General Parliament it should also be applied to the local Legislature.
Mr. Hatfield looked upon the question before the House as one of great importance in fact, as one of the most momentous questions that had ever been before the Legislature. He felt it his duty, as a member of the House and as a representative of the people, to rise and declare himself against the bill now under consideration. He felt it his duty to do so for many reasons; and one of them was, that the county he had the honour of representing was much larger than many others in the Province, and yet was only to receive a representation of two members—the number that was given to Queens and Shelburne, with half the population. But there were some other features connected with the question that he could not well pass by. It was true that Confederation was agreed to, but in what manner? Contrary to the wishes of the people—in a manner that, he felt bound to say. was discreditable. Delegates bad gone to England, and there bartered away the rights of tie people, without consulting them at all. He would tell the Provincial Secretary and his Government that they should have gone to the country two years ago—that […]
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[…] they ought to have pursued the manly course taken by Mr. Tilley in the neighbouring Province of New Brunswick. That was the course that the men around these benches should have pursued before pressing forward this measure of Union, contrary to the wishes of the people. He was quite content, however, to know that he had done his duty, and that he had the people at his back. He regretted to see such an attitude assumed by those who professed to represent the people. He felt, however, that remonstrance on this or any other subject was useless, for he and others had to submit to the Government, and their majority. He felt an injustice was inflicted upon his country by the bill, but he pressed he was powerless to prevent it. The time would soon come, however, when the people would have an opportunity of expressing their opinions decisively and emphatically.
Mr. Annand said that as there was obviously a large majority in favor of the measure, he felt it was useless to divide the House.
The House then adjourned until the next day at 11 o’clock.