Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (14 September 1865)

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Date: 1865-09-14
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Tuesday, Sept. 14th” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (15 September 1865).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
Note: All endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais & Michael Scott (ed.), The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada (CCF, 2022).



The Supply Bill

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] then introduced

The formal Bill of Supply for granting to Her Majesty certain supplies required by Her Majesty for the public service for the financial year 30th June, 1866.

The bill was read a first time.

On the second reading—

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said there was no earthly reason for the calling together of the present session except to pass this very Bill of Supply. Now he (Mr. Holton) contended that there was no necessity for this supplementary session, and that all the items in this bill might have been voted at the regular session. Honorable gentlemen, however, made great representations during last session as to the necessity of bringing to a speedy close and going on a mission to England[2]. In order to carry our their object they asked for and obtained a vote of credit, and precipitately prorogued the house. Three or four weeks, however, were lost in this country before their fruitless mission was undertaken. Now by prolonging the regular session for a few days—a week or ten days at the most, the moneys necessary for the public service might have been voted in the usual way, and the country might have been saved the immense expenditure which this useless session, this fruitless session, this costly session had involved.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Well, the Supply Bill was now before us, and if it was remarkable for one thing more than another, it was the largely increased expenditure in every branch of the public service.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The only result of the session in another point of crew was the damaging disclosure and policy of hon. gentlemen on the treasury benches.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and oh, oh.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman went on to condemn the Government for hurrying through the chief items of supply—those items which were most likely to produce discussion which would be at once damaging and embarrassing to them—at an advanced hour of the night or rather boring, so that the House had no opportunity to discuss them. In conclusion, he denounced the Government as being the cause of a useless session and its consequent great cost.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said that the House must be amused at the last ring speech of the hon. Member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton]. He (Mr. Galt) thought that every one saw the necessity that gentleman felt himself under of making some excuse for his extraordinary course this session. He had charged upon the Government that this session had been a fruitless one. It had been fruitless as regards his efforts to prevent the Government from bringing peace and contentment to the country, and in regard to his attempts to damage the position of the country.

But, in relation to holding this session, he (Mr. Galt) thought that hon. gentleman would have told a very different tale if Government had not called this session. We would have heard the changes rung upon our neglect of duty, breach of faith and promises, and so forth, had we not called the House together at this time. He was the last individual that ought to attack the Government with having assembled parliament at an improper or unreasonable moment.

He (Mr. Galt) was sure that the country, if not the hon. gentleman, would appreciate the readiness with which the Government called this House together—called them to give an account of the progress of the great measures we were engaged in, and to see whether Parliament would approve or reject what we had done—to see whether it would sustain us, or deprive us of the power we hold. Well, we were satisfied with the result. We had every reason to be pleased with the verdict the House had given us on several occasions this session. He was at a loss to know how the action of Parliament, either in reference to the Supply Bill or anything else had, as the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] had said it had brought disgrace was incurred. He was sure that hon. gentleman thought our presence on the Treasury benches was a disgrace to our institutions.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Yes; from the acts and facts connected with it.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Acts! Why, the hon. gentleman charged us with having done no act—with having brought down only Supply Bill.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear and laughter.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He did not believe that the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] had found any of his attacks, with the much vaunted disclosures, damaging the present Government. We had endeavored to consider every matter that came before us in the most frank and candid manner. As to the items of the Supply Bill being carried in an immoral way, he (Mr. Galt) did not deny that a great many items were pushed through at a late hour of the night, but the Government was not blameable for that. They were responsible for carrying on the business connected with the Government with all due speed. He appealed to the House whether he was not acting in conformity with the wishes and action of the House in so carrying those items.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—How many were there?

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—There were 40 or 50. The member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] said that our aim was to prevent discussion. If it was, did the Government take the right way to do it? Everybody knew there was not a question of importance that could not have been brought up on the House going into Committee of Supply. Well, that hon. member had made two great attacks upon the Government—one on the question of the sectarian grants, and another on the Grand Trunk postal subsidy. The member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] had as full an opportunity as he could desire of discussing those points, and he must satisfied with the free of discussing those points, and he must be satisfied with the free field allowed him on both occasions to make his attacks good. He had attacked the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] on these matters as if more culpable than anybody else.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He (Mr. Galt) would not go over the field again, as it was unnecessary to add anything to the eloquent defence made by the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], which was perfectly conclusive in every point.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He could well understand that the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] was dissatisfied with the present condition of things, and that he would like to see us brought back to the old state of affairs, with the House divided into two equal portions—with parties so balanced that none could obtain a majority with which to carry on the business of the country. The country, however, he was sure, did not desire it. Had the country so desired, we would have seen some signs of it before. As far as the Government were concerned we had every reason to be satisfied with the expression of option the House had given us on those points which had been discussed. He did not desire to go over the whole ground again, and therefore considered it was as well to let the diatribe of the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] go for what it was worth. We thought we might fairly put the work of the Government against the words of the Opposition.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] said that the only measure which hon. gentleman opposite professed to have was one respecting the North-west Territory. But even this solitary specimen of their administrative ability was not forthcoming. In the written programme of their policy which hon. gentleman had brought down at the beginning of the session the North-west question was specifically set forth as the only point upon which legislation was to be had. It was moreover the pet measure of the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], and the House felt almost certain we would have something about it. But what had we seen? A very short time after the policy of the Government had been announced, the organ of the Government in this city—the Chronicle—came out and condemned the project as impolite. The Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] then found that public opinion in Lower Canada was too strong for him—he dare not carry out his policy, and the matter had been constantly evaded, and would no be brought down.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and oh, oh.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—The session was truly most fruitless. It had been the custom from time immemorial, at the close of a session of Parliament, to review the proceedings of the session. What would there be to refer to in the address to His Excellency [Viscount Monck] at the end of the present session? Of course there was the Bill of Supply.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—And then there was the Cobourg and Peterborough Railway Bills, the bill respecting short forms of mortgages, bill to amend procedure in the Superior and Circuit Courts of Lower Canada.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear and laughter.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—He was free to confess that the Civil Code[3], which had involved so much labor, might very fairly be mentioned. But what had we next? Why bills respecting the spread of the contagious diseases and disorders affecting certain animals.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—These were copies of English bills. To continue the list, we had some very slight amendments to the Gold Mining Act and the Fisheries’ Bill. These and a few private bills were all we had as the result of a session which would cost three or four hundred thousand dollars, while, as the hon. gentleman beside him (Mr. Holton) had stated, we might have been saved the whole thing if the regular session had been prolonged some eight or ten days. He really pities the Speaker on the very limited account he would be enabled to give of the business of the session.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

James Cowan [Waterloo South]—(in reply to some observation by Hon. J.S. Macdonald as to alleged change of feeling in his—Mr. Cowan’s—constituency) read a letter from a friend in Ayr, C. W.[4], expressing confidence in the intentions of the Coalition, and satisfaction with what had already been done, but hoping that some definite action would be taken early next session either towards the Confederation of the British North American Provinces, or the Confederation of the Canadas.

Matthew Cameron [Ontario North] said he fully concurred in the remarks of the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] as respected the unprofitable nature of the session. The Municipal Bill, the Assessment Bill, and the bill relative to Registrars had been delayed over the present late period. There was nothing what ever in the course of the session upon which we could reasonably congratulate ourselves. The hon. gentleman then went on at some length to review the events, and to denounce the course pursued but he Government, and to argue that there was no foundation in the charge made by hon. gentleman on the Treasury benches to the effect that hon. gentleman on this side of the House had delayed the business, although the fact was that there was no business to obstruct.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said that hon. gentleman on the Treasury benches complained that the had no opportunity of discussing the estimates. Now, what were the facts? The supplies came down on the 21st August last, and here we were discussing the Supply Bill on the 14th September, the items of supply having been discussed on every intervening Government day.

Some Hon. Members—Hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Who was to blame till three o’clock in the morning? Why, the hon. members who obstructed the business of the House. There never had been a better opportunity of discussing a Supply Bill than that afforded during the present session. There were, in fact, but three principal questions raised—namely, the postal subsidy, the Montreal Trinity House, and the sectarian grants; and every one of them had been fairly and fully discussed. The hon. gentleman in the Opposition, however, had not dared to take the sense of the House on a single point connected with those questions.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Hon. gentleman opposite talked about the business of this session. Well, what had they done in their own summer session—that of 1863, which was nearly twice the length of the present session?

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Oh, but we had only just come back from the country.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said that hon. gentleman ought to have been fresh to their work when they came back from the country. Well, what had they done? Some 92 acts had been passed, and what were they?

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—There were the bills to incorporate the Drummondville Mining Company and the Sutton mining Company, and the Vale Mining Company.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Those were not Government bills.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Oh, of course they were Government bills. Well, to continue the list, there was the South Acton Mining Company’s bill, the Oxford Mining and Smelting Company’s bill—the Sutton, the Aston, the Harvey Hill, the Logan, the St. Flavien, and a score of others. In fact it might be called the session of smelting companies

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that during the session of 1863 there was the important Volunteer and Militia Bill[5] which hon. gentleman opposite had never attempted to meddle with. In reply to the hon. gentleman who had last spoken, he might say that he had refrained from putting motions of the kind indicated by that honorable member, because he had a regard for the unseated consciences of some members of the Liberal party whom he had hopes would yet return to the paths of rectitude and the ways of purity.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] said that some hon. gentleman could not see what had been accomplished by the present Government. For his part, he thought a very great deal had been accomplished. He looked upon the establishment of a thorough understanding between the mother-country and this colony on a number of great questions as a matter of great importance. In this respect hon. gentleman on the Treasury benches had attained an amount of success which was most creditable, and was, certainly, something gained. As had been truly said by a leading journal, they had been received rather as envoys of a powerful ally than as delegates from a colony.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

After some further discussion, in which Hon. Messrs. Dorion and Brown took part, there were loud calls of “question.” But the usually vigilant first Commoner of the land had at last yielded to the fatigues of his office, and was discovered fast asleep in his chair.

 A few louder calls, accompanied with general laughter, woke the gentleman from his needed slumbers, and to a sense of his arduous and disagreeable duty, necessitating a further stretch of his wakeful attention for some long, weary hours.

The Supply Bill then received its third reading, and passed into law.


[1]      Source: “Provincial Parliament,” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (Sep. 15, 1865).

[2]      The Canadian delegation consisted of John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, and Alexander Galt. They drafted a report on their discussions with the Imperial Government on Jul. 12, 1865 and it was presented to the Legislative Assembly on Aug. 9, 1865, p. C:15.

[3]      The debates on the Civil Code took place during this session, but being only indirectly related to Confederation, have been left out of this volume. For these debates, visit

[4]      Letter from friend to James Cowan. Unconfirmed reference.

[5]      An Act Respecting the Militia (Province of Canada, 1863).

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