Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Union of the Colonies (29 March 1865)
By: Prince Edward Island (House of Assembly)
Citation: Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, The Parliamentary Reporter; or, Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly of Prince Edward Island, For the Year 1865, 22nd Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 60-62.
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER,
WEDNESDAY, March 29.
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Debate on Union of Colonies resumed.
Hon. Mr. Longworth—Mr. Speaker. This question comes before us with a different aspect from that which it presented last Session. Last year the question of a Union of the Maritime Provinces was discussed on the suggestions of the Lieut. Governors of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. An argument has been drawn from this, that it was wrong in the Island Government to send delegates to Canada without the previous consent of the Legislature. We thought it but right to follow the example of our sister Colonies in complying with the request of Lord Monck. The number of delegates who were appointed to the Conference which sat at Charlottetown was increased by the addition of the Hon Mr. Whelan and the Hon Solicitor General.
The Government had every confidence in the judgment and ability of the gentlemen whom they had appointed on the Canadian mission. Whatever might be the result of the Conference, the Government had expressed no opinion; they left it an open question, and therefore every member has a right to express his own opinion on it. It is not my intention to discuss the great principles involved, nor the various details set forth in the Report of the delegates as the result of their deliberations. In view of the thorough manner in which the subject has been handled in the press and at public meetings, it is unnecessary to encumber this debate with figures and calculations.
The first consideration that occurs to my mind on the subject is the peculiar situation of the Island. We are an agricultural country, our fishers are but partially developed. Our insular position necessitates our entrance into the Union under circumstance less favorable than either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. Canada has great resources, and her agricultural capabilities are un bounded. Nature has united Canada and New Brunswick. It is impossible that we can participate in the advantages anticipated from the Union in proportion to the other Colonies; therefore, in my opinion, the Conference at Quebec should have treated us as entitled to an exceptional status in the Confederacy. I do not mean to say that under no circumstances would a Union be advisable, but we should have been placed upon a different and more favorable footing than the other Colonies. I agree that the Report is an able one, but many of its details will not bear scrutiny.
As to the principle of representation by population; although not objectionable under some circumstances, yet I do not approve its application in the present matter. The representation in the Lower House should have been on the British principle, while the example afforded by the United States Senate could have been advantageously followed in the constitution of the Upper Branch of the Legislature. When my hon. and learned friend, the Hon. Solicitor General, says that the delegates from the Maritime Colonies exercised a controlling influence in the framing and adoption of the Report, it appears to be an admission that they were novel principles, principles not hither tested by the experience of any previous Confederation of which history makes mention. It shows me that it was a plan devised to meet some complications or the particular views of some parties.
The Island representative to the Upper Branch would have some check which might avail to compensate for the wretched minority which we would be entitle to for the Lower House, where a presentation of 5 our of 194 might render it impolitic for our members of oppose a measure they disapproved of, lest they should not be permitted to carry any vote which they might wish. I cannot use any prospect of might for this Colony in a Legislature composed in such proportions. Canada could, at any moment, on vote as; now is there any reason to suppose that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would unite to save us. But Sir, looking at this question in a pounds, shillings and pence point of view, the scheme fails to commend itself to my judgment. What are the terms proposed? We are to receive some £48,000 per annum in commutation of a revenue which has been increasing for the last fourteen years, until last year it approximated to £86,000, and which it is but reasonable to suppose would continue to increase in the same way as it has manifested for the period to which I have referred. When it is asked of us that we should surrender our separate rights and submit to the terms which the proposed Confederacy may impose upon us, do hon members realize the full extent of the concession involved?
We are requested to give up not merely the difference in amount of revenue to which I have referred, but matters of higher moment. We are required to yield up our position of comparative dependence as a separate Colony, and to reduce the scope of our legislative functions to the privileges of a local vestry in the Mother Country—the right of levying parish taxes for local purposes. In reference to what has been said on the subject of free trade with Canada and the benefits we would receive from it, I will take the liberty of confirming my views by extracting from the official statistics the returns of our commercial Intercourse with that country for a few years. From our Public Accounts it appears that the duty paid on Imports into P. E. Island from Canada in 1868, was, on
|Ale and Porter||£9||8||9|
|Those marked thus * (evidently not the production of Canada) paid in duty||75||6||6|
|Leaving for Ale and Porter, Soap, &c. the supposed produce of Canada||£14||1||4|
In 1860, 1861, and 1862 the duty on Imports into P.E. Island from Canada, amounting to the aggregate value of £15 15s, 9d was only £4 5s 6d for the three years, or £1 8s 6d a year!!! Another and most important consideration is the position in which we, under Confederation, will be placed with reference to our obligations to contribute to the defence of Canada. We have been told that an army and navy must be organised for the protection of that country, for the local defence of which, in the […]
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[…] shape of permanent works of military defence, competent authority had declared that no less a sum than £1,143,000 sterling will be required. In view of those considerations, and looking at the vast sums of money which, under the terms of the Report it is calculated to expend in the building of Railways and Canals and other Public Works, I am of opinion that if we should cast in our lot with Canada, instead of witnessing a reduction of her present tariff from 20 to 15 per cent, as intimated by the advocates of Union, we should see it largely increased.
In fact the only argument on which the probability of the supposed reduction can be based is that the Lower Provinces would consume a much larger amount of dutiable articles than they do present. I maintain that it is a reasonable inference that the tariff of Canada would, under Confederation, rise instead of falling 5 per cent. Our exports being a similar character to those which Western Canada furnishes in abundance, the idea of a mutual interchange of commodities is chimerical, and the only result to our people from Confederation would be direct taxation, which would be necessary to raise the revenue, our proportion of which we would have to assume. This question, Mr. Speaker, should be viewed from the single stand point of the individual Colony to be affected by it, and therefore I do not, as one of the representatives of Prince Edward Island, regard the expression of public opinion which has been elicited on it in the neighboring Province of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It is our duty to deal with it as if affects ourselves. The Colonies to which I have alluded are territorially situate with reference to Canada in a manner very different from this Island, and therefore arguments which, on that account might be used in those Colonies in favor of the project, cannot hold or apply here. As a representative of Prince Edward Island I feel it my duty conscientiously to record my solemn protest against the principles and terms of a Union which, in my judgment, would prove most injurious to the best interests of this my native country.
Mr. Sinclair.—The advocates of Union can easily occupy time in speaking on this question. Extensive railways, large canals, and cities springing rapidly into existence is such a beautiful and glowing picture that it forms a theme on which they can expatiate at pleasure. But, Mr. Speaker, when we seek to examine the picture it is found to be nothing but dreams and vanishes away I think it would be most detrimental to the interests of Prince Edward Island to enter the proposed Union. But still I am open to conviction. I have, however, listened to the able speeches of the advocates of Confederation without my opinion being changed-without being able to think otherwise than that Union with Canada would ruin the Island politically and financially. One great argument of the friends of Union is the “glory argument.” It would, say they, open a wide field for our young men.
This Colony, however, small as it is, might send forth talented individuals from among her sons. It is true greatness to product great men. We might belong to Russia with her vast territories, but would that make us great? What is it that leads Englishmen, Scotchmen and Irishmen to be proud of their respective countries? It is because they have been distinguished by many great men. And this Island might be the same. I am proud of being descended from British ancestors, but I am proud also of being an Islander. (Hear, hear.) I believe that the people of Prince Edward Island can take their position beside the people of any country in the globe. There is nothing in her present situation to prevent her sons from rising in the world. It is argued further that by doing away with hostile tariffs this Colony will make great strides in improvement.
I do not admit that we have hostile tariffs. The view I take of such tariffs is that they are to prevent competition, namely to foster manufactures by preventing people from buying in the cheapest market. This would be the nature of the tariffs under Confederation, for it is well known that Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick cannot manufacture for many years the articles which we require. It is well known, also that it is impossible to carry on manufactures extensively with a sparse population, the arguments of the Hon Solicitor General to the contrary not withstanding. Labor cannot be so cheap in a new country. That a large part of the population of Britain is dependent on manufactures, was evidenced by the fact that many of those working for low wages in factories were nearly starved when cotton became high. This could not be the case in an extensive country like America. Prince Edward Island, on account of her position, can never become a great manufacturing country. Our exports will not be to Canada, because she does not want our agricultural produce, still we will be compelled to purchase many manufactured articles there, for if we shut out the Americans by hostile tariffs they will not trade with us; and British goods will be excluded in the same way.
We have, therefore, seen that the “glory argument” promises no benefit, and that the tariff argument is worse. What then are we to receive to induce us to enter Confederation? The hon and gallant member for Belfast says we are to get a large sum of money from Canada to buy up the proprietors’ lands. I maintain that by the terms of this Report we will not receive a single farthing from Canada. The £28, 000 interest, or thereabouts, which it is said we are to draw for the proportion of debt in our favor, would not be drawn at all—it would only be placed to our credit. We would have our share of the aggregate debt of the Colonies to pay, and amount placed to our credit annually would be just equal to the interest which this Colony, according to her population, would require to pay on the debt of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. So that by this arrangement not one penny would really come to the Island—it would only save us from being taxed for the debt of other people. Besides this, however, we are told that this Island is to receive a capitation grant of 80 cents which will yield a little over £20,000; and that the salaries of her judges, and some other expenses will be paid, amounting to about £10,000 more. But as our Revenue is now £66,000, by this arrangement we would lose over £30,000 annually, with the tariff as ours is at present; if the Canadian tariff, however, were adopted, the sum lost would be nearer £90,000. But some maintain that the expenses under Confederation would be less. This is more than questionable, for there would be a general government to support, public works to be undertaken, and the cost of defences to provide for. It has been estimated that the whole expenses under Confederation would amount to $13,000,000, but I believe it would be nearer $20,000,000. It is impossible to say what the future shall be, but I may be allowed to make a calculation, basing my figures on the past.
The expenditure of the Canadian Government for six years, from 1857 to 1862, was 21,432,584, or an average yearly expenditure of £3,572,110. Now taking the population of Canada at 2 1/2 millions, it is a simple question, in simple proportion, if 2 1/2 millions of a population expends 3,572,110 a year, what would P. E. Island, with a population of 80,000 expend at the same rate, and I find we would expend £114,307 a year. Now we will see what P. E. Island did expend during the same period. In the same 6 years the Government of this Island expended £299,168, or an average yearly expenditure of 49,861; so that if we had been in connection with Canada the last 6 years, we would have had to pay for the Canadian Government the sum of £386,672. This is the sum which we have gained by being out of our without Confederation for the last six years. Canada cannot decrease her expenditure, so it is well for us in looking forward to the future in financial matters to judge by the past. But then, again, by this scheme we will be required to give up our political independence. What is dearer to a man than this country and its institutions?
By accepting Confederation we would be surrendering everything which we can politically hold dear. While we have a system of self-government, we may sometimes get into difficulties, yet affairs will soon rectify themselves; but if we cast in our lot with other much more numerous than ourselves we will be driven wherever their fancy leads. I cannot conclude […]
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[…] my remarks without protesting against the manner in which this question has come before us. A subject of such importance as this should have been before us for years, and canvassed fully by the press and the people ere it was submitted to the House in the form which it assumes in the Report under discussion. It has not originated with the people, and almost the first clause which it contains deprives them of a right, as it provides places for at least 77 Councillors in a general parliament of the Colonies, where they will be independent of the people, and independent of the Crown. What authority had the delegates to go to Canada and thus sign away our rights! They may say that they were invited by the Governor General. I say the Governor General has no power to interfere with the constitutional liberties of the people of the Colony. The people or their representatives alone should take up this question, and I look upon the action taken in this matter as a conspiracy against their privileges.
Hon. Colonial Secretary moved an adjournment, and Hon. Mr. Pope opposed the motion.
Mr. Howat.—Mr. Speaker; I would prefer that we should finish the discussion this evening, as the advanced season renders it desirable that we should get through the business of the Session as soon as possible. As to the question of Union I may say that I am opposed to it on any conditions. The proportion assigned to us in the United House of Commons would deprive us of all influence in that branch of the Legislature, and our situation in the Upper Branch would render us more helpless still; and the fact that some of the most able and intelligent men in the Island failed to obtain better terms at the Conference is as strong an argument as I require show me what our position would be under Confederation.
The advocates of Union who have addressed you on the subject have endeavored to show that our taxes will not be increased when united; but how, I would ask, could the expenses to be incurred for an army, a navy, and fortifications be met except by increase of taxation? Increase of manufactures to any considerable amount would require a protective tariff, and our Legislature can adopt the principles of protection or free trade, as it suits them, just as well at present as they could under Confederation. The Hon. Solicitor General has remarked upon the benefit we should receive from Union by having an independent Legislature, but by the Report of the delegates I perceive that our legislation would require approval in Canada, and might afterwards be disallowed at Downing Street. As to the defences in Canada they would be no safeguard to us. The loyalty of some of the Canadians is not beyond doubt in my mind, and notwithstanding the allusion made by the Hon. Solicitor General to such men as Cromwell and Washington, I am disposed to judge of the future of some people by their conduct in the past.
Mr. Howlan seconded the motion for an adjournment. It was unfair to press a division to night when some members had not spoken.
Hon. Mr. Pope, though anxious to close the debate, was not disposed to treat the Minority unjustly, and would consent to the division being taken to-morrow evening.