Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Union of the Colonies (31 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 65-71.
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER,
FRIDAY, March 31.
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Debate on Union of Colonies resumed.
Hon. Mr. Coles.—Mr. Speaker: As leader of the Liberal party of this Island, I felt in a peculiar position while attending the Conferences on the question of Colonial Union now before the House, I felt that in acting as a Delegate I had not my own interest merely to look to, but that of a party who have acknowledged me as their leader for nearly eighteen years. And now, Sir, in addressing you I desire to make such explanations as may satisfy my constituents and the party with whom I am connected, in regard to the course which I have pursued on this question. Explanations of this nature may fairly be expected from me, since I am the only Delegate in this House opposed to the Confederation Scheme of the Quebec Conference—being one against four. It has been stated by former speakers that we all agreed to the scheme while at the Conference. I object to this statement. I admit that we were all unanimous in passing the first resolution of the Report; but it was only with the understanding that the details of the scheme were to be just to the several Provinces. Those who affirm that there was unanimity at the Conference ground their assertion, I believe, on several speeches delivered at evening meetings.
But, Sir, I contend that an occasion graced with the presence of ladies—such being the case when I spoke at Ottawa—was not the proper place to attack any person, or take strong exception to any vote passed at the Conference. I did not do so then; but at the Conference a few days before, I said that if the grant for the purchase of the lands of this Colony was not conceded, they might as well strike Prince Edward Island out of the Report altogether. The public men of Canada knew my views on the subject: this is evidenced by a paragraph which lately appeared in the Toronto Globe, a paper under the control of the Hon. George Brown. The Globe says:—
“The anti-Confederation papers at Halifax are making much of the fact that two of the Prince Edward Island delegates who were at the Quebec Conference have, since their return home, declared against the Confederation scheme. These gentlemen are the Hon. E. Palmer, Attorney General in the present Government, and the Hon. George Coles, a leading member of the Opposition. The attitude assumed by these gentlemen is but what was to have been anticipated from expressions made by them while in Canada, so that their hostility to Confederation is not any indication of the way in which the scheme has been received by the people of the Provinces. The gentlemen had their minds made up before their constituents had heard the details of the Quebec scheme at all.”
Even my speech at Ottawa did not give satisfaction to the supporters of Confederation in Canada, for afterwards, the brother of the proprietor of the Toronto Globe came to me, at Toronto, and desired that I would not persevere in the sentiment to which I had given utterance, namely, that the scheme would require to be submitted to the people for their approval. All that I said on that occasion which can be construed as favorable to the series of resolutions passed at the Quebec Conference, is, that it was creditable to the delegates from so many Provinces that they could agree to draw up such a Report. I still hold to that opinion; and the British Government has also acknowledged that it was a creditable Report. If the people, I remarked, were satisfied with the scheme, I had nothing more to say on the subject. But that I was personally dissatisfied with the new Constitution is clear from the fact that I refused to sign it.
Before I left Canada, the Secretary of the Conference came to me, supposing probably that I was opposed to the Report, and asked me if I would sign the document. I said no. He then answered that if I should agree to sign it he would send it down to Prince Edward Island. I said, “you need not trouble yourself.” I may also mention that Hon. Mr. Gray of New Brunswick, in one of his speeches after his return from Canada, stated that all the delegates at the Conference had signed the Report, and would be bound in honor to support it. This, I thought, was going too far, so I wrote a letter to the newspapers here contradicting the statement, and showing that it was not correct at least as regarded myself.
And, Sir, we have been informed during this debate that two others of the delegates from this Island have not signed the document. The absence of their signatures, however, is a matter of little consequence, as they have agreed to the Report, one of them having broadly declared that its principles are just and liberal to Prince Edward Island. It was understood that the proceedings at the Conference should be secret; but they have been alluded to by delegates at other places, therefore there can be very little impropriety in referring to them in this discussion.
I may also mention here that when the proposition in favor of secrecy was first made at the Charlottetown Conference, I objected to it, but stood alone in my opposition. I was then allowed to state the fact to my constituents. I make these explanations, for it may be necessary in the course of my remarks to refer to the proceedings at the Conference in self vindication. Only two of us, I believe, who were delegates to Quebec, object to the terms of the Report. For this opposition we have been charged as being almost traitors. Indeed it has been affirmed that Anti-unionists are guilty of combining with Americans against British interests. Hear what the Hon. D’Arcy McGee said in the Canadian Legislature on this subject. During the course of his speech on the Confederation question, in replying to some interruption from the opposition benches, he remarked:—
“The hon. member for North Hastings Mr. (T. C. Wallbridge) seemed to repudiate the idea that American influence had anything to do with the result of the New Brunswick elections. He had to tell that hon. gentleman that one of these successful candidates was agent for the American line of steamers, the International line, which did all the carrying trade to New Brunswick, and there was not a pound of the stock of that Company held in New Brunswick. (Hear, hear.) It was in point of fact a fight—a fair stand-up fight of Yankee interests on the one side and British interests on the other; and those who were rejoicing over Mr. Tilley’s defeat were in reality rejoicing over the defeat of British interests. It was a contest between prejudice and patriotism; between ignorance and intelligence; between Yankee influence and the broad national principles of British North American policy. (Hear, hear.) Those who rejoiced over this state of things might congratulate themselves if they chose; but it was for the House to stand by the true public opinion of the country. It was for us to show an example of firmness and good faith in carrying out this scheme. It was for us to shew the Empire that we were determined to adhere to our original resolution and that we were not people who would forget our determination in a few days or a few weeks.” (Cheers.)
I deny these charges. I believe that the Anti-unionists are just as loyal as any Unionist can be. I feel that my loyalty is equally as sincere as that of those who so zealously advocate the Quebec scheme, for I have yet to learn that Great Britain has said we must go into […]
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[…] Confederation. All that we have yet heard is the sanction of the Colonial Minister to the holding of a Conference in Canada, consisting of representatives from all the Provinces to consider the larger scheme of Union, and his opinion that the Report of that Conference upon the whole was creditable to the assembled delegates. And this much too has been accorded evidently to please Canada, owing to the troubles in which her politicians have become involved. What foundation, then, have those for their statements who tell us that we shall be compelled to go into Union? who say that unless we enter the proposed Confederation we shall not get a single ship or man from the Mother Country to defend us? The Home Government has given no intimation of the kind. In fact it seems to be passive in regard to the Union movement.
The Colonial Minister stated in effect in one of his despatches that it the people of the Colonies were desirous to enter into a Union, Her Majesty’s Government would throw no obstacles in the way. This language conveys no such threat as has been held up by some hon members of this House. Indeed Mr. Cardwell does not appear at all satisfied with some portions of the Report. He has taken exception to the provision with respect to the prerogative of pardon, and to the principle of having a fixed number of nominated life members in the Legislative Council. To the latter principle I made strong objections at the Conference, and fortunately for me I also referred to the matter in the public prints before the Colonial Minister’s despatch was received. My reason for opposing such a provision was that as the members of the Legislative Council were to be nominated from the existing Councils in the different Provinces, a number of them would be old men, who had been obstructives, and might remain so all their lives, consequently a dead-lock would probably soon occur between the two branches of the Legislature, in which case an appeal would have to be made to the Imperial Government to settle the dispute. They have had quite enough of disputes in Canada already. In that Province, Sir, the parliament buildings have been burned, and the Stars and Stripes thrown out to the winds. Such proceedings, Sir, have never been seen in the Lower Provinces. (Cheers.)
And are we now to be told that we must enter a Union with them, and submit to such taxes as they may choose to impose? The amount to be allowed this Colony under the proposed scheme is some £35,000 a year, and more than this we are not to receive for local purposes though our revenue should increase to £200,000. but does Mr. Galt say respecting allowances to the local governments? In explaining this part of the Report he remarks:—
“Now one objection to confederation was made on the ground of expense, and in order to meet this, every effort had been made to reduce the cost of the Local Governments, so that the local machinery should be as little costly as possible, for it would not do to affront the intelligence of the people, and tell them we had devised an expensive kind of machinery to do a very insignificant amount of work. The gentlemen from the Lower Provinces had been asked what reductions they could make in the Government of the several colonies, and the figures he was about to give would be most satisfactory as showing the disposition of those gentlemen, who had reduced their requirements to the lowest sum. In her estimate of outlay for 1864 for objects of local character the Province of Nova Scotia had provided for an expenditure of no less than $667,000, but had undertaken to perform the same service in future under a confederation at $371,000, or a reduction of 40 per cent. The expenditure of New Brunswick in 1864 for the same objects was estimated at $404,000. From causes explained at the time and shown to be satisfactory, she proposed to reduce the expenditure to $353,000, and at the same time undertook within ten years to make a further reduction of $63,000; making a total reduction to $290,000. Prince Edward Island would reduce her expenditure from $170,000 to $124,000, and Newfoundland from $479,000 to $350,000. In regard to Upper and Lower Canada he would not undertake to say what reduction would be made; but he could show that under the scheme proposed they would have the means of limiting the present outlay which was, taking the average of the last four years, $2,021,979. Besides that there would be an additional item brought against them for the interest on the excess of their debt over that of the other Provinces, making their full local charge $2,260,149, which was the present outlay of Canada for works which would not become a charge under a confederation. The outlay of all the provinces being however greater than their local revenues it became necessary to make provision out of the general Fund for the purpose of enabling their Local Legislatures to carry on the machinery of Government. It was proposed to take away from them every source of revenue they possessed except minor local revenues, and then to give them from the public chest a sufficient subsidy to enable the machinery to work. The estimate was formed on the wants of Nova Scotia. It was at first proposed to form it on the wants of New Brunswick, but these were found greater than those of the former, which had consequently been taken as the basis. The estimate was that 80 cents a head on the population of Nova Scotia would be sufficient to enable her to work her local system. She would want $264,000. In the case of Upper Canada, 80 cents a head was considerably more than she wanted at the present day, and in the case of Lower Canada was at least adequate with the present local funds that would become available to her. But it was felt that in giving a subsidy from the public chest it was impossible to draw a distinction between one part of the country and another. But it was not intended to hold out any inducement to future extravagance to local Governments, but it was hoped that by the operation of natural causes such a check would be put upon expenditures as would bring them down to the lowest point, or at least prevent them from becoming lavish. Therefore the subsidy proposed to be given to local legislatures was fixed, not at an increasing rate according to population, but at the rate which existed at the census of 1861. By this means, as the population increased, the subsidy would not increase with it. Upper and Lower Canada would thus get within a fraction of two million dollars, and when their population increased to five millions instead of two and a half, would get no more. If they increased their expenses in proportion to the growth of population they would be obliged to resort to direct taxation; and he thought they might trust the people themselves to keep a sharp watch over the local Governments lest they should resort to direct taxation. He thought no surer check could be put upon them than thus fixing the grants they were respectively to receive.”
Now, Sir, this is the opinion of the Finance Minister of Canada, who may be considered as good authority in regard to the contemplated working of the Quebec scheme; and he urged it in an address to his own constituents at Sherbrooke, as a reason why they should gladly accept that scheme. Here we may see the pitiable condition to which this Island would be reduced under Confederation,—our revenues taken away, scarcely enough allowed us to work the machinery of the local government, and should more money be required when our population increased, it would have to be raised by direct taxation. The people of this Colony were battling four years to gain responsible government, and since obtained, I believe it has given general satisfaction. But, Sir, were we to adopt this Report, it would deprive us of our constitution and leave us no corresponding benefit in return.
It is urged that as a compensation for our less we would become part of a great union that in time would form a mighty nation. But I ask what greater nationality can we enjoy than that with which it is our pride and privilege at present to be connected? What greater flag can wave over us than the time-honored banner of Old England? I do not think that Great Britain wishes to throw us off; on the contrary I believe that her statesmen see that the separation of the Colonies from the parent state would cause trouble. Sir, I look upon this talk about the Mother Country casting us off from her apron strings, and this shaking of the stars and stripes in our face, as only stories intended to frighten the timid. Let us remain true to the Mother Country and she will stand by us. Separate as we are from the other Colonies, our hands are just as strong and our hearts as willing to aid in the defence of the Empire, as they could be under any scheme of political union […]
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The union which I advocated was one that would give is inter-colonial free trade and a uniformity of currency. But here is this Report we have a constitution under which we may be taxed at any rate the Canadians think proper. At present we hold the power of taxation in our own hands; under Confederation, it would be placed almost entirely beyond our control, as well as the power to say what portion of these taxes imposed upon the people of the Colony should be expended for objects in which they are immediately interested. To revert to the meaning of the Conference at Charlottetown, I may say that the Government having behaved so handsomely to me by giving me a commission as a delegate without asking my compliance to any particular course, I was disposed not to persist in some of my views. if the administration of the day were inclined to enter the proposed Union. I yielded more of my principles than I would ever do on such an occasion again. When the Canadian delegates came down to the Conference the chief points which they laid down were representation by population for the Lower House, and a nominated Upper House to consist of 60 members—20 for Upper Canada, 20 for Canada East, and 20 for the Lower Provinces.
Representation by population, however appeared to be the leading principle for which they contended. I enquired what they would be willing to concede to us for giving up the privilege of taxing ourselves, and for handing over the revenue; and they asked what I thought would be fair. I said £200,000, sterling, or £300,000, currency: and that this money should be placed into our land funds, entirely at the control of the Colony for the purchase of proprietors’ estates. This proposition, I understood, was assented to. I had also private conversations afterwards with Hon. Mr. Brown and Hon. Mr. Cartier, and they admitted the justice of the claim. With the impression that a grant to the amount, and on the conditions which I have stated, was to be given to this Colony for the purchase of lands, I did not offer that opposition at Quebec to some of the first clauses of the Report, which I otherwise would have done.
I found that two of the leading members of our Government were in favor of Union, and providing that anything like fair terms were allowed this Island, I was disposed to throw no obstacle in the way. I little thought then, however, that such a constitution as this was to be brought down here. We had been in Conference only a few days when the question of representation in the Upper Branch came up for consideration. On account of the Newfoundland delegates taking part in the proceedings, and it being proposed to give that Colony 4 members in the Legislative Council, the Canadian ministers retired into their council chamber, and returned with the proposition that 24 members should be allowed to each of the two sections of that Province. Lower Canada stood out for equal representation in the Upper Branch as a security against the superior influence which the Upper Province would possess in the Lower House on the principle of representation by population. When the question of representation in the House of Commons came up for discussion, this principle was ably and strenuously contended for by the Hon. George Brown; and well it might, for he knew that it would enable Upper Canada to maintain the control of the General Legislature for ever.
Representation by population will give the two Canadas 100 of a majority over all the Lower Provinces in the House of Commons, and by each of the Canadas having as many members in the Legislative Council as the whole of their eastern sisters, they will together always command a majority there of 24 over us, so that the only principle on which we, in the Maritime Colonies, can expect justice will be through the quarrels of the two western Provinces. In view of this, I ask what prospect is there for us if we give up our revenue, but to put our hands in our pockets and pay our own expenses. We cannot hope to contend with the influence which will be brought the bear against us in Canada. What did we see in Toronto but an establishment fitted up with every convenience, which was presented to the Hon. Mr. Brown in consideration of his advocacy of Upper Canada’s interests? And then again in Lower Canada, the Hon. D’Arcy McGee has been presented with a house, furnished complete to the silver plate on the table, for his advocacy of the interests of Montreal.
These examples show what is to be gained by able and persevering politicians in Canada; but here we have no reward save the sense of right in defending the interests of our country. (Cheers.) It has been said by some of the advocates of the Quebec scheme that we should bot blame the Canadians if it contains objectionable provisions, for, at the Conference, votes were taken by Provinces. They were not at fault in all cases; in a few instances the delegates from the Lower Provinces were most to blame. Several of the Canadians were in favor of the elective principle for the Legislative Council; but nearly all the delegates from the Lower Provinces declared against it. They seemed to be carried away with the idea of the members of the Upper House being taken from the existing Legislative Councils in the several Colonies, and voted that they should be appointed for life. On this question the delegates from the other Lower Provinces acted in a most selfish manner. They even agreed to the Canadian proposition that the number of Councillors should be fixed.
This, as I have already stated, I consider a very objectionable feature in the new constitution. We know that in Nova Scotia they had to break through the warrant of Her Majesty and appoint additional Councillors to carry responsible government. And we also know that in Britain it is sometimes found necessary to create new Peers in order to carry certain measures. But I wish to explain further in regard to the action taken in the Conference on the question as to whether the Legislative Council should be elective or nominative. After the motion in favor of making it elective was lost—as I held the opinion that if it were not elective, it ought to be constituted, as nearly as possible, on that principle—I submitted a resolution to test the Conference on the point. When I did so, I was under the impression that it would be placed on record. During the first few days after the Delegates met, all motions were put down, and also the names of the movers and seconders, the understanding being that business was to be conducted according to the practice of the Canadian Parliament.
Subsequently, however, it was agreed that the votes should be taken by Colonies, and that no record should be kept of the proceedings. But to show that the clause as it stands in the Report did not pass without an effort on my part to modify it, I will read the resolution which I submitted:
“Resolved, That at the first and all subsequent elections of members to serve in the Upper Branch of the Federal Legislature, they shall be chosen to a majority of both branches of the Local Legislatures from such properly qualified persons in the Colony as shall be of upwards of thirty years of age; one-half of the said Council to go out every four years after the first election. Those who shall go out at the end of the first four years to be decided by lot, and the drawing to take place during the first Session of the Federal Legislature.”
I considered it advisable that the men who should represent each Province in the Legislative Council, as they would be few in number, ought to be appointed by, and possess the confidence of, both branches of the local legislature. This provision I deemed especially necessary as regarded the interests of this Island, for it is extremely doubtful, should the Union take place, whether we shall ever have a single representative in the General Government; and if otherwise, we at least cannot expect more than one. My motion, however, was lost. I will not accuse my brother delegates from this Island, who voted against it, of being actuated by the same motives as the majority from the other Provinces evidently were. These saw the difficulty of the Confederation scheme receiving the sanction of the present Legislative Councils of the several Provinces unless their leading members felt secure […]
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[…] of a seat in the Upper House of the General Legislature, therefore they provided that the Legislative Councillors of the Federal Parliament should be nominated from the existing Councils. To ensure as much unanimity, also, as possible at the Conference, a clause was thrown in to the effect that due regard should be had to the claims of the members of the Legislative Council of the Opposition in each Province. But this provision will be of little account, for after the divisions which the discussion of the Confederation question has caused, I think it will be difficult to tell how individuals stand with respect to parties.
When I saw the drift of the whole section in regard to the constitution of the Legislative Council as it now stands in the Report, I strongly expressed the hope that the delegates would except this Island from such a piece of corruption. Again with respect to our Local Legislature under the Confederation scheme, what would it amount to! We would be a laughing stock to the world. The City Council would be a king to such a Legislature. In this House scarcely anything would be left us to do, but to legislate about dog taxes and the running at large of swine. Some hon members have referred to the great advantage of this Colony being allowed to retain its local legislature. Probably they intend to remove to Canada themselves, and care little about what they leave behind them. I will now turn to the financial part of the Report.
When the Committee on finance was appointed at the Conference, I was so satisfied that the proposition for a grant of £200,000, sterling, to this Colony would be carried out, that I scarcely gave the appointment any consideration. But, Sir, when the committee reported at the Conference Board, I was struck with amazement, and expressed myself very freely to that effect. At my suggestion it was resolved that the committee should reconsider their scheme. But, Sir, I believe that my objections to the committee’s report aroused the delegates from Newfoundland and New Brunswick, for when it was brought in again next morning a subsidy was provided for each of these Colonies, but it did not include any allowance for this Island. Newfoundland received a liberal consideration at the hands of the committee, the sum guaranteed to her being $150,000 annually. The Report says that this allowance is for the surrender of her mines and minerals and public lands to the General Government; but in reality it was given to that Colony on account of the plea put forth by the Newfoundland delegates that their people were, to a great extent, paupers. The Colonial Secretary informed us at the Town meeting that the grant to Newfoundland was made in consideration of her revenue being nearly wholly derived from customs’ duties, the relinquishment of which would leave her without any local income.
But I ask what are the local revenues of this Island? Would we not be nearly in the same position as Newfoundland if our revenue from duties were given up to the General Government! Then New Brunswick, too, received a consideration to induce her to enter the Union, namely. the respectable sum of $63,000 a year for ten years. This grant, no doubt, was obtained through the able advocacy of Hon. Mr. Tilley, who was on the committee as finance minister for that Province. And, Sir, I am not much surprised that the £200,000, sterling, was not secured for this Island, since I heard the Colonial Secretary, who acted on the financial committee for this Colony, declare that he considered the terms of the Report just and liberal to Prince Edward Island. When I objected to the report of the financial committee on the ground that no grant was to be given to this Colony, the Hon. George Brown said that more money was already allowed us than we would know what to do with. And no wonder that he said so, when the delegate from this Island, who assisted to draw up the financial arrangement, affirms that it is liberal. I shall next refer to the subject of expenses, and show that our taxation must be greatly increased.
Besides having to tax ourselves for local improvements, we will have to bear a share of the expenses of Canada, as she is unable to meet them now, and will be less able to do so under Confederation, for they will be much heavier than at present. In the matter of defences alone the outlay will be enormous. What says Colonel Jervois’ report? I will read an extract from the Quebec Chronicle of March 17, 1865, which, after giving some remarks of the London Times on that report, freely admits that Canada is unable to undertake the share of these defences assigned her. The Chronicle remarks:
“Turn we now for a brief space to the consideration of that portion of the Times’ article having reference to the preparation for defence. There is something in it so naive, and at the same time so thoroughly selfish, that we hardly know whether to be most amused or most contemptuous [sic]. Speaking of the fortifications which Colonel Jervois’s report says are necessary for effectual defence, the Times says—
“‘They are no trifles, indeed. Canada, though with but a small population, has a long frontier; in fact, it may be described as being all frontier, and as being vulnerable all over. There is hardly a village of a farm in the country that is more than a few days’ march from some spot which may be reached at once by a party of Federal soldiers. Hence the magnitude of the works, which if executed by the Provinces will be a rea financial burden to them, and if takes in hand by as will add considerably to our estimates for years to come. Colonel Jervois says that he regards the works for the defence of Montreal and Quebec as being of the most pressing importance. The cost of these at Quebec is to be £200,000, of those at Montreal of £443,000, and the armaments at those places will cost about £100,000. The works of fortification recommended at Kingston, Toronto and Hamilton will cost about £500,000, and the armaments for those places about £100,000. Thus on, fortifications for Canada alone it is proposed to expend £1,343,000, which any one acquainted with the history of such matters is well aware will expand to at least a couple of millions. Now, of this sum Her Majesty’s Government propose to supply £200,000—the amount necessary for fortifying Quebec. This is “an Imperial fortress;” it was the scene of one of the most celebrated of English victories, and has so wide a reputation as one of the strong places of the world that the national honor is committed to maintaining it. We have no desire to quarrel with the decision of the Government. Whether the Canadian Government will really spend half a million on fortifying Montreal, as Lord de Grey expects, we very much doubt, for there is a great difference between calling out Volunteers and Militia at a time of excitement, and taxing the community to raise masses of earthworks and put guns in position. If the fortification of Quebec by England be looked upon as part of an arrangement between the Mother Country and the Colony, then we suppose we must submit and pay the £200,000, or whatever more the works may cost. But we cannot affect to say that it will be done with any enthusiasm.’
“Any one acquainted with such matters, we are told, well knows that these fortifications will cost two millions sterling. Of this sum the Times considers two hundred thousand, or one-fifth, all, and more, than Great Britain’s share of the expenditure. And this view of the relative responsibilities forces us to return to the cause which necessitates the outlay. Again then, we say, Canada has no quarrel with her powerful neighbor, nor would have but as a dependency, an outlaying portion of the British Empire, a weak point, vulnerable and easily assailable. That we are all this is no fault of ours; but says the Times, “you must take the consequences, you must fortify the weakest points, and England will undertake that which requires the least expenditure.” But wherefore must we? Suppose we are not able? How then? And most assuredly we are not. Two millions less one-fifth—£1,800,000 sterling! Something more for armament and militia, and we shall reach perhaps somewhat over the original two millions—a sum as nearly as may be equal to a pound sterling per head of the whole population, or five dollars for every man, woman and child in the Province Gentlemen of Tooley Street, it can’t be done. If Canada wants defending England must defend her.”
Now there is the opinion of ones of the Canadian newspapers, and that of the London Times. About two million pounds, sterling, will be required for fortifications, and of this sum Great Britain will only provide £200,000, leaving an amount to be raised by Canada, together with the armaments she will have to provide, equal to five dollars per head of her population. This sum would be more than enough; yet it is not all that would be required. In connections this subject I will read […]
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[…] the following extract from the Hamilton Weekly Times, another Canadian Journal:
“Equally necessary as the construction of the fortifications will be the creation of an outlet to the sea-board. In case of war with the United States, we would have no means of communicating with the outside world save by the St. Lawrence. At the best this would be unsatisfactory, for it would be liable to be only open to us during the summer months. In winter we could make no use of it, and would be compelled to obtain a new route to the sea independent of that which in time of peace we enjoy through United States territory. The intercolonial railway would be an absolute necessity. Saying nothing as to the infinite difficulty, if not impossibility, that would be experienced in keeping such a line open in the face of a vigilant and powerful foe, we would refer at present only to its cost. The estimate furnished is that it can be built for $15,000,000, and the amount that Canada would be called on to pay would be $6.000,000,—the balance to be provided by the Maritime Provinces. This, together with the construction of fortifications, would have to be proceeded with at once.”
These works, it is said, must be undertaken at once, but it will take some years to complete them; and does any person suppose that if the Americans are going to attack the Colonies they will wait until we are prepared? Sir, this whole talk about invasion from the United States I believe to be a will-o’-the wisp got up to frighten us into Confederation. But let us proceed with the calculation of expenses. The Confederated Provinces would set out with a debt of $25 per head: fortifications will add at least $5 per head more, and gunboats and other naval armaments probably an equal sum. Then there is the Intercolonial railway, which will cost at least $15,000,000, and add a further debt of $5 per head of the population. The enlargement of the Canals is another project, requiring a draft on the finances, which is to be proceeded with as soon as practicable. This work will add not less than other $5 per head to the general debt, and what with the opening up of the North West Territory, and other expenses which I have not enumerated, will run up the debt to $60 per head of the entire population of the Confederate Provinces.
We have been informed during this debate that the debt of the United States now amounts to $125 per head of her people. But this debt was caused by a protracted war. Our debt of $60 per head would be incurred during peace; and should war break out with the States, even for a short time, our debt would soon be equal to theirs. I believe that a few hundred pounds spent on a friendly delegation to Washington would save millions of dollars, and do much more to preserve peace between the two countries than all the fortifications which could be built. All these expenses to which I have referred, a large portion of which will have to be borne by the General Government should Union take place, shew clearly that our taxation under Confederation must be very heavy indeed. But some say that the people of this Island are too lightly taxed. I admit that were the money spent among themselves in local improvements, perhaps they would not suffer by a little higher taxation; but when the money is to be taken away and spent in other Provinces, it quite alters the case.
This House has just voted £50,000 to aid tenants in purchasing their farms; Sir, we would be acting more wisely to vote £150,000 for this purpose than to enter the Union. The £50,000 which we have voted this year would be nearly the amount we would lose every year under Confederation. In Canada they have stamp duties and other taxes which we in this Island know nothing about; and once united with that country they would send down their collectors to gather up the money and carry it off. Talk of our young men rising to judgeships, and to be premiers in Canada; why, Sir, they have far too many hangers on of their own, for our youth ever to expect any favors at their hands. The politicians in that Province are sometimes put to their wits and how to provide snug berths for persons they wish to shelve out of their way. A little transaction of this kind occurred when the delegates were there. A member of the Legislature was appointed to a judgeship under the Stamp Act, in order to make room for the Provincial Secretary, who had lost his election in the district which he formerly represented. Under Confederation such work would, no doubt, be carried on to a much greater extent, and amid the intriguing of Canadian office seekers on the spot, the young aspirants in Lower Provinces would stand very little chance of success.
I wish now to refer to exaggerated statements which have been made by union advocates respecting the prosperity of Canada. This attempt has been so ably exposed by Hon. Mr. Currie, a member of the Canadian Legislative Council, in his speech before that body on the Confederation question, that I think I will be excused for reading his remarks. Mr. Currie said:—
“But speaking of the Lower Provinces, he was really afraid that some public men down there were disposed to exaggerate the advantages of a Union with Canada, just as some of ours seemed prone to magnify the riches of the Lower Provinces. If we were going into a partnership, which he hoped would last if entered into—(hear, hear,)—we should not attempt to deceive each other, for if the people found they had been deceived, the compact would be short-lived. To give honorable members some idea of the manner in which the subject was presented by leading men in the provinces, he would read them an extract from the speech of a Mr. Lynch, at a large meeting in Halifax, as reproduced by one of the organs of the Government there.”
“Hon. Mr CAMPBELL—What organ?”
“Hon. Mr. CURRIE—They had so many organs they did not seem to know them all. (Laughter) He would now read from the speech in question:—
“‘But we are told by others that we had better have nothing to do with Canada, because she is bankrupt. Canada bankrupt! I wish we were all such bankrupts. She is overflowing with wealth. This is now rapidly developing itself, and must eventually place her among the first nations of the earth. I have travelled over and examined that great country, and it would take more than all the time allotted to me to tell you of her wealth and resources. Her rivers are among the largest in the world, and her lakes are mighty inland oceans. I never had any idea of their extent until 1 stood on the shore of Lake Erie, saw before me a large square rigged ship, and was told that such was the class of vessels that navigated those waters. Why, sir, 7,000,000 tons of shipping trade upon those mighty lakes. Again, look at the growth of the population. Sixty years ago it was 60,000, now it is 3,000,000. Upper Canada doubled her population in ten years, and Toronto, in the beginning of this century the abode of the red man of the forest, is now one of the finest cities of British America, with a population of 40,000. The soil is of the richest description, indeed it is only too much so. In some places rich alluvial deposit is found to the depth of 50 feet, and in many instances lands have yielded their crops for years without the aid of a spadeful of manure. Canada has not only the greatest yield but the best wheat in America. It is a. well-known fact that the people of the United States in exporting their best flour mix it to a large extent with Canadian wheat, and in order to give you an idea of the increased growth of it I would inform you that while in ten years the wheat crop increased in the States 50 per cent. (an immense increase), it in the same time in Canada increased 400 per cent. The average crop is equal to that of the best wheat growing countries in Europe, while some places have yielded the almost incredible quantity of 100 bushels to the acre. The yield of last year was 27,000.’
“He only wished that this honorable gentleman alone had been mistaken, but even the Hon. Mr. Tilley, one of the most distinguished statesmen of New Brunswick, had made the statement that our tariff was in fact only an eleven per cent. tariff. But all the errors were not on that side, for they need but to turn to a celebrated speech of one of our own leading men—a speech regarded almost as an important state paper—and there it was stated that the United Provinces would become the third maritime power in the world. (Hear, Hear) England, it said, was first, then the United States, and the speaker doubted if France could take the third rank before us. Our sea-going tonnage would be five millions, and our lake tonnage seven millions. These were vast figures, and it almost bewildered the mind to conceive their magnificent proportions. (Laughter) Now supposing all these vessels were 500 tons each, it would require 14,000 to make up the sum, but unfortunately the census showed that we had but 808 sailors to navigate them—rather small number it must be admitted for 14,000 ships. (Great […]
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[…] laughter. ) The way the mistake—to use the mildest expression—was made, was simple enough. The vessels were entered at the Custom Houses every time they came in and left port, and as some of them came into port 200 times in the year, as at Toronto for instance, their tonnage was counted 200 times. It was easy in this way to run up our inland marine to seven millions of tons.”
Now, Sir, this is the way the advocates of Union endeavor to deceive the people of the Lower Provinces. Even the Hon. Mr. Tilley is not altogether innocent on this point. And in this Island, too, deception has been attempted. The famous speech of the late leader of the Government at the dinner of the Caledonian Club, was an illustration of this, for he spoke of the taxation by the municipal boards in Upper Canada as of no account, whereas wee know it is in a great measure levied for local requirements such as are here defrayed out of the public chest.
Then again the Colonial Secretary came out with a new table of figures every few days, showing that the gain to the Colony by Confederation was to be so and so. But, Sir, their efforts to delude the people did not meet with much success here. Some of the young men of the Anti-union press are as well posted up in figures as their opponents, and have done good service to the country by showing up the fallacies of the Union advocates. In spite of all that those in favor of Confederation can say, it is clear that our taxes will be increased. Before all the expenses which Union will inevitably bring with it can be met, probably even the present high tariff of Canada will require to be raised. Then what will the party in Britain say who advocate a separation of the Colonies from the Mother Country on the ground of their expense? They would indignantly enquire Are our people to continue paying taxes to protect these Colonies who are doing all in their power to injure out trade by levying still heavier duties upon our manufactures.
Sir, I would prefer free trade with England, the land of my fathers, to free trade with Canada. If we are to give any privileges let them be accorded to those who have protected us in times past, and not to those who never did anything of the kind. If we are to pay any sum for defences let it be given to the Mother Country, which can protect us, and not to Canada that is quite unable to protect herself. I am much mistaken if Great Britain would allow the Provinces to impose high duties on British goods; and if this were the case they would then have to resort to direct taxation. But I now come to a point respecting which a good deal has been said, namely, the alteration of the Report by the Canadians. I have here before me three copies of the Report, and they are all different. In the first copy sent down here, which was signed by Sir E. P. Tache, the President of the Conference, the 24th section reads thus:—
“24 The local Legislature of each Province may from time to time alter the Electoral Districts for the purpose of Representation in the House of Commons, and distribute the Representatives to which the Province is entitled in any manner such Legislature may think fit.”
In another copy which I received since, and which is the same as that lade before the Canadian Legislature, the section has been altered to read as follows:—
“24. The local Legislature of each Province may from time to time alter the Electoral Districts for the purpose of Representation in such Legislature, and distribute the Representatives to which the Province is entitled in such local Legislature in any manner such Legislature may seem fit.”
Now, Sir, this is a very material alteration, in a very important clause, and does not say much for our safety should we place ourselves in the power of the Canadians by entering Confederation. It has been said in justification of the alteration that the section referred entirely to the Local Legislatures, and therefore the rendering in the clause as it first stood was evidently an oversight. This apology, however, is unsatisfactory, as the 24th section is not in that part of the Report which relates to the Local Legislatures, but in that which lays down the constitution of the House of Commons. I may say that a dispute arose as to whether the General Legislature should be allowed to arrange the constituencies, and it was understood that this power should be left to the Local Legislatures.
When the delegates for this Island contended for 6 members in the House of Commons instead of 5, our chief argument was that if we were allowed 6 representatives, it would render it an easy matter to divide the electoral districts between the three Counties. The Hon. Attorney General brought forward this proposition, and when it was decided against us, and the principle of representation by population strictly adhered to, l was particular in noticing that the right of distributing the representatives to which each Colony would be entitled, should be left with the Local Legislatures, because I considered such a provision would afford us some protection, by placing it beyond the power of the Canadians to divide the constituencies in order to carry their own objects. Judge of my surprise, therefore. at receiving, three or four weeks after my return home, a letter from Mr. Bernard, Secretary to the Conference, and who is also Clerk of the Executive Council of Canada, a letter, enclosing a copy with the 24th section altered as I have stated, and explaining that the alteration had been made because the wording of the section in the first copy, was an accidental departure from the views of the Conference.
But I have lately received another copy in which there is an alteration in favor of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. providing that the former shall be allowed to impose an export duty on coal and the latter on timber and logs, which special reservation was not in the copy laid before this House. This alteration, I consider, is equally as culpable as the other. What right, I ask, had the Canadian Government to alter one word of the document after it was signed? They might almost as well change the whole Report to suit their own particular views. I wish also to show that this Report, as a whole, does not place Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in such an unfavorable position as this Island. These Provinces have large local revenues, that of Nova Scotia in 1863. being, as shown by Mr. Galt in his speech at Sherbrooke, $107,000, and that of New Brunswick in the same year $9,000. He sets down the local revenues of this Colony at $32,000; but I am at a loss to know how he made up that sum unless he included in the amount the instalments paid in during the year from the sales under the Land Purchase Act.
This money, however, forms no part of our local revenues; it is all required to make up the price paid by the Government for the proprietors’ estates which have been purchased. In the neighboring Provinces the case is different; their public lands are Crown lands, the sale of which brings in a large revenue, that will be wholly available for sectional purposes, Taking into consideration also that these Provinces are to receive 80 cents per head for their local wants as well as this Island, and that New Brunswick is guaranteed a subsidy besides, they are tolerably well provided for. But Canada will fare still better. Her local revenues in 1863, as given by Hon. Mr. Galt, were $1,297,043; and the allowance of 80 cents per head of her population would yield her about $2,000,000, which will just be $2,000,000 more than she now expends out of the public funds for local purposes. This Island hitherto has almost solely relied on her customs revenue, and therefore it is that with the small per capita allowance of 80 cents, we would be unable to carry on the local government without restoring to direct taxation.
We are even prevented from levying an export duty on our produce, while this privilege is allowed Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on certain articles. Taking all these points into consideration, I think it is clear that the Report before us is not such as should be adopted by this House. To enter such a Confederation as is here proposed would evidently prove ruinous to the Colony. If a change is thought desirable, I consider it would be more for our advantage to have a representation in the British Parliament, and to pay a per centage to the Imperial Government out of our revenue for any purpose they may think proper. I believe that one representative there would secure for us a greater share of justice than we are ever likely to receive from a federal legislature in Canada. Should Confederation take place, I believe that in a very few years the people under it will be as heavily taxed as the people of the United States are now at the termination of a civil war.
I shall vote for the resolutions submitted by the hon. leader of the Government, and trust they will receive the support of a large majority of this House; also that an Address to Her Majesty will be passed, showing the true position of this Colony in regard to the Confederation scheme. (Prolonged cheers.)
After a few remarks by Hon members who had already spoken, the motion was put on the amendment submitted by Hon J.. C. Pope in lieu of the resolutions approving of the Quebec Report, proposed by the Hon. Colonial Secretary, which amendment was carried on the following Division:
For the Amendment—Hon. Messrs. J. C. Pope, Longworth, Laird; Davies, Kaye, Coles, Kelly, Hensley, Thornton, War—burton, Benton, Messrs. Ramsay, Montgomery, Yeo, Duncan, […]
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[…] Brecken, Howat, Conroy, Howlan, Sinclair, Walker, Suther land—23.
Against it—Hons. Colonial Secretary, Solicitor General, Gray, Whelan, and Mr. Green—5.
Mr. Sinclair then proposed a Resolution, to the effect that, Whereas the Government had exceeded the authority of last Session by the appointment of Delegates to Canada; and whereas this House, by resolutions, declared that Confederation, if effected, would prove disastrous to the rights and liberties of the people of this Colony, therefore, that the Government should appoint no further Delegations, or take any action to alter the Constitution without the express authority of the Legislature.
A discussion then ensued on the subject of this Resolution, when it was argued that the adoption of such course was unusual and would place extraordinary restrictions on the prerogative of the Government.
The question was then put on the said Resolution which was negatived on the following division:
Against it—Hon. Messrs. J. C. Pope, Gray, Longworth, Laird, Davies, Kaye, Colonial Secretary, Solicitor General, Whelan, Thornton; Messrs. Ramsay, Montgomery, Haslam, Yeo, Duncan, Brecken, Howat, Green, McLennan—19.
For the Resolution—Hons. Messrs. Coles, Hensley, Warburton, Beaton, Kelly; Messrs. Sinclair, Conroy, Howlan, Walker, Sutherland—10.
The Resolution was accordingly lost.
Hon. J. C. Pope then submitted a Resolution for the purpose of appointing a Committee to prepare a joint address to Her Majesty the Queen, founded upon the Resolutions of that House, upon the subject of the proposed Confederation of the British North American Colonies, expressive of the determination of the Legislature, on the part of the people of the Colony, not to assent to such Confederation.
Ordered, that the Hon. Messrs. J. C. Pope, Longworth, Hensley, Coles, and Mr. Sinclair, be a Committee, on the part of that House, to prepare such address.
After which, at a very late hour, the House adjourned.