Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (21 August 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Monday, Aug. 21st” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (22 August 1865).
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MONDAY, Aug. 21st.
The SPEAKER took the Chair at three o’clock.
After routine business—
Hon. Mr. McDOUGALL presented the Report on the Postal Commission and the Intercolonial Railway Survey.
TOWNSHIP OF RENFREW.
On the motion of Mr. McINTYRE, the bill to facilitate the separation of the township of Renfrew from the country of Lanark was read a third time and passed.
BROCKVILLE AND OTTAWA RAILWAY.
Hon. Mr. ABOTT moved that the House go into Committee on the bill to extend the time for the completion of the Brockville and Ottawa Railway Company.
After considerable discussion of a miscellaneous character—
Mr. CHAMBERS moved, seconded by Mr. JONES (North Leeds), that the House do not now go into Committee, but that the matter be postponed for one week.
Hon. Mr. McDOUGALL opposed the amendment.
After some discussion—
Mr. CHAMBERS’ motion was lost upon a division—Year 23. Nays 38.
The House went into Committee—Mr. MORRIS in the Chair.
The bill passed through the Committee without amendment.
The SPEAKER laid before the House a message accompanied by the ordinary Estimates for the current year.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD moved that the said Estimates be referred to the Committee of Supply.—Carried.
TOWNSHIP OF ELIZABETHTOWN.
Mr. CHAMBERS asked whether it is the intention of the Government to insist upon having any further portion of the interest claimed to be due and owing from the Corporation of the Township of Elizabethtown to the Municipal Loan Fund, by reason of debentures issued to aid in constructing the Brockville and Ottawa Railway, until the papers and all the correspondence between the Government and the said Corporation of Elizabethtown, and the Government and the Bank of Upper Canada, in reference to the loan made by the said Corporation to the Brockville and Ottawa Railway Company, ordered to be brought down last session, are laid before the House?
Hon. Mr. BROWN was understood to reply that he believed the hon. gentleman had moved for the papers. However, the process was going on, and he had shown no cause why that process should be stayed; and from the mere statement of the case made there was no reasons to stay the process.
Mr. CHAMBERS said he had asked for those papers from time to time , but had never been able to get them.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said every attempt had been made to get them, and application would be made to the Company again.
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, (U.C.)
Mr. MORRIS asked whether any, if any, and what measures are contemplated by the Executive Government for the relief of Justices of the Peace in Upper Canada, who have taken the oath of property qualification before a Commissioner per dedimus potestatem, as has been the frequent practice in Upper Canada for many years past, instead of before a Justice of the Peace?
Hon. Mr. COCKBURN was understood, in reply, to say that notice had been given of a bill on the subject which would meet the case.
THE DEAF, DUMB, AND BLIND.
Mr. HAULTAIN asked whether it is the intention of the Government to make provision for the instruction of the deaf and dumb and the blind?
Hon. Mr. McDOUGALL said the hon. gentleman was aware it had been the habit of this House to make annual grants to aid in the instruction of the deaf and dumb in Upper and Lower Canada. It was intended to continue those grants until a more permanent system could be organized, which it was the intention of the Government to bring about as early as possible.
GRANTS AND SALES OF LANDS IN ALGONA.
Mr. MACKENZIE moved for an Address to His Excellency the Governor General, for a statement shewing the several grants and sales of lands which have been made in the District of Algoma for mining locations or for settlement, with a description of the lands conveyed in each such Patent, the amount charged per acre in each case; also a statement showing the quantity and locality of land now applied for the mineral locations, also copies of all Orders in Council affecting the sale of land and the working of minerals in Algoma District.
After some discussion the motion was carried.
ORGANIZATION OF MILITIA.
Mr. CARTWRIGHT moved for a Committee on the subject of organising the militia on a permanent basis. —After some conversation, however, the mover announced that it was his intention to allow the matter to stand.
Some discussion followed, which resulted in the motion being allowed to stand.
MILITARY SCHOOL OF PROVINCE.
Mr. PERRAULT moved for an Address, praying for certain detailed information relative to the military schools of the Provinces.—Carried.
THE MUNICIPAL SYSTEM OF QUEBEC.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON moved for an Address for the reading of the Journals of last Session, in reference to the Petitions of the Hon. Edward Bowen, D.C.L, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Lower Canada, and others, for an Act to appoint a Commission for the management of the affairs of the City of Quebec, and reference of the said Petitions to a Select Committee.—
The hon. gentleman, in making this motion, said there were bills before the House respecting the Quebec Corporation, one conferring certain powers upon the Recorder of Quebec. But, the opinion of a great number of the citizens was that the whole government of the city had been grossly mismanaged for years: and the result was an average yearly deficit of $100,000. The conviction had become strong in the mind of nearly every citizen of Quebec that the municipal ship was sinking, and that there was no means of saving the city from the dreadful financial position into which it was drifting, except an investigation into the whole subject, in order to the adoption of some temporary means to save us from a crisis of the civic affairs, and to preserve the fair fame of Quebec and the citizens’ property from ruin. At present, including rates for all purposes, the taxation of the city amounted to $1 in the 1. One of the reasons why he asked for a committee to enquire into the matter was that upwards of 2000 of the inhabitants had petitioned therefor. He had to complain that a petition sent to the House last session, on this matter, and not returned since. This, he thought, was an unfair proceeding. The citizens complained that the accounts of the Corporation for 1864 had been cooked in such a way as to conceal the truth both in relation to the amount of the expenditure and the manner in which the monies had been spent; and that this had been done to such an extent as to render it impossible to ascertain the real amount of the deficit or the true condition of the city’s financial affairs. (The hon. member here read the first statement of the financial position of the city, as set forth in the petition before the House, but many of the figures were not heard in the Reporters’ gallery.) The document further stated that the portion of the interest of the debt, for 1864, not mentioned, amounted to $31,000, and that the apparent deficit for 1864 was $118,000; but that, in reality, if the accounts had been true kept, they would have shown a much worse state of affairs; that the Corporation had acted in contravention of the law, in misapplying the king fun and the interest thereon, which had been devoted to objects other than those contemplated by law; that the Corporation had violated the law by annually increasing the municipal debt, and so forth. The hon. member went on to say that the whole management of the city was in the hands of two or three men, which was the result of the present system of election, and that the citizens who owned the property and had most to lose by municipal mismanagement were not in the Corporation or adequately represented there. The system was this: a man who wanted to be elected went to those who paid small taxes, who were promised to be relieved of their debts to the Corporation on voting for him. They agreed to do so. Then, on being elected the member ordered the Corporation officials to sue certain parties in the city. (Hear, hear, from Mr. Taschereau.) Where the rate-payers were poor they were forced to pa, and when they complained to the Councillors, they said, with an appearance of anger,—“who did that?”—made them pay the small taxes, but relieved them of the expenses of the suit, which the other rate-payers had to bear. (Hear, hear.) The Councillors would not make parties who had light taxes to pay them only after the elections were over, so that those who had £25 or £30 a ear to pay were not troubled by the tax-gatherer till after the elections, when they had to discharge the whole of their debt. Then it happened that those who did not represent the property of the city—who had nothing to lose—were those who decided the fate of the elections. It would take time to get to the bottom of the whole of the evil, and it was probable that serious difficulties would precede that event. Now, the Barings, of London, paid the six months’ interest that accrued in May, and we were approaching the end of another six months, on 1st Nov., and had nothing to meet the interest then falling due. The Corporation asked for more power, but they had sufficient already if things were only well managed. If such had been done there would have been no necessity to ask for extraordinary powers. But the citizens would not refuse such powers if they were certain that the money which it was proposed to raise was used to preserve the fair fame of the city. He only asked at present for a committee to hold an investigation into the matter, so that the interests of all may be represented and protected. Those whose property was being squandered by municipal mismanagement demanded this enquiry, and if those who were interested in refusing it allowed the committee to be struck, he would be able to prove the correctness of the statements contained in the petition. He proposed to divulge things in regard to the mismanagement of this city’s affairs, which would create more astonishment than all the revelations made respecting any of the other cities of Canada, Upper or Lower. The affairs of this city were corrupt to the core, and it was high time a thorough investigation was held. The citizens were unfortunately too indifferent in regard to the affairs of Quebec, but when they did come here and ask for justice—to be saved from ruin— we should grant that request. The hon. gentleman concluded by reading the concluding portion of the petition paring for the appointment of a Commission by the Crown for the management of the affairs of the city, in order to the establishment of an equilibrium between the revenue and expenditure, without throwing any additional burdens on the citizens. By voting for this motion, the House did not vote for abolishing the elective system, but merely for an enquiry. (Cheers.)
The motion was seconded by Mr. BLANCHET.
Mr. HUOT said he could not allow such a proposition as that which had just been made to pass in silence. He was opposed to the adoption of such a course as would deprive the citizens of Quebec of their rights as rational beings, and reduce them to a system of tutelage like mere children. (Hear, hear.)
No doubt every hon. member of this House had an equal right to discuss this matter, and it was but just and natural that each should give his vote according to his conscience and belief— still he did think it would be but just and natural that more weight should be attached to the statements of one of the city representatives than to those of another constituency. (Hear, hear.) Now, the hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Cauchon), was, in point of fact, the instigator of the movement set forth in the proposition now before the House, but he had been deceived both as to the extent of the movement, the real nature of the condition of the city, and the remed which should be applied. (Hear, hear.)
He (Mr. Huot) was convinced that, if a great number had signed the petitions for the suspension of the municipal system some time ago, they had since changed their minds. This matter could be easily explained. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Cauchon) had many zealous friends—friends who were to zealous in fact. (Hear, hear.)
How did these gentlemen obtain signatures to the petition in question? It was b telling the people that, if this measure were passed, they would have no taxes to pay— that the public employees would all be discharged— that, in fact, there would be no more municipal burthen or difficulty, and all would move, as it were, under the benign influence of the enchanter’s wand. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Some of the persons who had taken part in the movement in question were precisely of that class of malcontents who, when they were taxed for any public improvement, raised an outcry to the effect that they were being robbed. Hon. members should bear in mind that numerous meetings had been held, regularly called by the Mayor, for the purpose of considering the state of municipal affairs, and not a single voice was raised there in support of the proposition to suspend or abolish the municipal system. The statement made by the hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Cauchon) was no doubt to some extent correct so far as the figures were concerned, but he was incorrect in this estimate of the cause and cure of the difficulties. That hon. gentleman had not done justice to the efforts of members of the Corporation of Quebec; and he had endeavoured to throw upon them the responsibility of the present state of affairs. A most undesirable epaulet had arisen from the agitation of the proposition now being discussed. It had caused a state of anarchy to some extent, inasmuch as certain employes of the Corporation were not responsible to the Council, but were amenable one, to the Recorder.— The hon. gentleman went on to say that the present heavy liabilities of the city were not the present heavy liabilities of the city were not created by the Mayor and Council now in office, but belonged to several years back—to 1858, 1859 of 1860. In 1862, the Corporation had caused to be introduced into the Legislature a bill having for its object to legalise certain by-laws which had been set aside, and enable them to work the municipal system to the advantage of the citizens of Quebec.
It being six o’clock, the SPEAKER left the Chair.
After the recess—
Mr. HUOT went on to point out the peculiar nature of the city debt, a great portion of which was caused b the outlay upon the water-works. (Hear, hear.)
The taxes were spoken of as being heavy, but it should be considered that the water rate was simply a charge for an article supplied; and that the actual tax was not so onerous. Now year after year, since 1862, the Corporation of Quebec had submitted a bill to this House for the legalization of certain by-laws and for the granting of the powers necessary to enable them to meet their liabilities. (Hear, hear.)
No doubt, some other changes might require to be made. It might be advisable for instance that the Mayor should be elected for three years, so as to put him beyond improper influences. It might also be necessary to impose severe penalties for unlawfully disposing of the public money. (Hear, hear.)
On the whole. he did not see that there was anything in the case to justify the House in voting to send the petitions referred to before a Committee for the purpose of considering the propriety of suspending the municipal system and appointing Commissioners. He might, however, suggest to the hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Cauchon) the propriety of at least modifying his motion so as to merely call for a committee of enquiry. This would be a much more acceptable proposition, inasmuch as there were no doubt some plausible complaints against the Corporation. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. PERRAULT drew attention to the fact that the three members for the city of Quebec were opposed to this proposition for a committee to consider the propriety of suspending the municipal system and appoint Commissioners. It was nothing else but an attempt to overthrow the electoral principle which prevailed in our municipal system. No doubt the aristocratic portion of the community residing un the Upper Town felt that they had lost control of the city affairs, and that it had passed into the hands of the working classes of the suburbs. It was for the House to say by its action in this matter, whether it was prepared to set aside, in the case of Quebec, the electoral principle which characterized the municipal system of the country. Who made this motion? Not one of the members for Quebec, but the member for Montmorency. (Hear, hear.)
Who seconded it? The hon. member for Levis. No doubt this hon. gentleman (Mr. Blanchet) felt that in so doing he was working in the interest of his own constituency, although at the same time he might be damaging the position of Quebec. (Hear, hear, laughter and cheers.)
That hon. gentleman had served for some time on the frontier, and doubtless having some accustomed to see all power entered in a single individual, wished to see an elective Corporation set aside and Commissioners appointed by the Government named instead. (Laughter.)
No one holding the liberal ideas of the Reform party or a free constitution would vote for such a proposition. It would have come admirably from an enemy of Lower Canada, but it came with an exceedingly bad grace from a Lower-Canadian. (Hear, hear.)
Who seconded it? The hon. member for Levis. No doubt this hon. gentleman (Mr. Blanchet) felt that in so doing he was working in the interest of his own constituency, although at the same time he might be damaging the position of Quebec. (Hear, hear, laughter and cheers.)
That hon. gentleman had served for some time on the frontier, and doubtless having become accustomed to see all power centred in a single individual, wished to see an elective Corporation set aside and Commissioners appointed by the Government named instead. (Laughter.)
No one holding the liberal ideas of the Reform party or a free constitution would vote for such a proposition. It would have come admirably from an enemy of Lower Canada, but it came with an exceedingly bad grace from a Lower-Canadian. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. BLANCHET said he had seconded the motion not as the member for Levis, but as a property holder in the City of Quebec. (Hear, hear.)
His hon. friend (Mr. Cauchon) had also acted as a rate-payer of Quebec. He believed the affairs of the city were in an exceedingly bad state and required some strong remedy. It was much more in the interests of Quebec he had acted in this matter than those of Levis. (Hear, hear.)
If the present state of affairs were allowed to continue, the citizens would soon desert Quebec and go over to Levis. (Laughter.)
The hon. member for Richelieu (Mr. Perrault) was wrong in stating that it was only the “aristocratic” portion of the citizens of Quebec who had petitioned against the present system of management of affairs—on the contrary, these petitions were signed by rate-payers from all parts of the city. The hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Huot) had stated that parties had been induced to sign because they were told the would have no taxes to pay; but surely he wouldn’t pretend to say that men like Chief-Justice Bowen and other intelligent leading property-holders had been induced to sign by such means. (Hear, hear.)
He hoped the motion would be carried.
Mr. IRVINE said that as he understood the motion of the hon. member for Montmorency, it was not to introduce a bill to take away the elective principle of government from the citizens of Quebec, but was one for the appointment of a Committee to enquire into the petition presented to this House, setting forth certain grievances, and claiming a certain remedy for them. Although he was quite willing to regard as important the opinion of the hon. members who represented the cit of Quebec, in this matter, nevertheless, he could not consider it more important than the opinion he had formed himself, with very nearly the same means of information which they possessed. What the House had to consider, it seemed to him, was—whether there had been such a case made out, in the petition as to justify the appointment of a Committee to enquire into the grievances complained of. He was quite satisfied those grievances were real, and that there ought to be an enquiry, in order to give the petitioners an opportunity of establishing, if they could, their allegations.
A MEMBER— What about the establishment of them before a Commission?
Mr. IRVINE said they might be established before a Commission; but he was not aware it would be the proper or constitutional way of getting at the matter. The petitioners simply asked that the House institute an enquiry, under the law, to see whether there could not be some remedy for the evils described. Without going into the whole of the case, he believed that the petitioners alleged one or two facts which were ample to justify the House in granting and adopting some remedy to meet the extraordinary car that had arisen. This cit had been permitted to borrow, for public works, a large sum of money, and it had borrowed on debentures, etc., to a large extent. Loans had been made to Quebec on a condition which the law provided, namely— that a sinking fund should be established, to be invested in stocks of chartered banks, in the Province, and that certain annual sums should be applied to the increase of that fund, and that all the income derived from that fund should be applied to its increase also. This fund was the guarantee of the bondholders, and the security for the ultimate parent of the bonds. (Hear, hear.)
He had reason to know that the petitioners would be able to establish the truth of what they had asserted that the sinking fund had, in reality, been reduced to nothing by the acts of the Corporation of Quebec.
A MEMBER— In what way?
Mr. IRVINE— They have invested the sinking fund, to a large amount. in the stock of the Quebec Bank.
A MEMBER— How much?
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON— Yes, to the amount of $195,000.
Mr. IRVINE believed they had invested to that extent, and that they had in fact, invested the whole of the sinking fund in the stock of that bank, and there had been for many years past an annual deficient in the income of the city. The actual income had been, for many ears, insufficient to pay the interest of the debt, so that the whole expenditure of the city had been annually increasing the debt. Now, for a long time past, the interest of the debt had been met by loans borrowed from this bank, in which this city held this sinking fund; and by the charter of this bank, the sinking fund being held by the Corporation generally, the stock held by the Corporation was pledged for the repayment of the bank’s advances. So that the Corporation had, actually, in this way, thrown away, or wasted the whole of the sinking fund, which was one security possessed by the creditors of the city. He would not go into the consideration of the many other complaints against this Corporation; but he contended that that fact alone, which the petitioners offered to prove, was sufficient to justify the interference of this House, in order to apply some remedy to a state of things so manifestly wrong and palpably bad as that which he described. The hon. member for Richelien stated the evil might be remedied by the citizens themselves, and said let them put men into their representative body who would rectify the existing wrong. That however, was not our affair. It was our business, having granted to this Corporation the rights to borrow money, to protect those persons who had loaned them their money in the expectation of it being repaid, and for whom the securities had been established.
Hon Mr. HUNTINGTON— Are there not means, by the ordinary authority of the Court, of restraint the Corporation?
Mr. IRVINE believed there were; but the hon. member must knew it was an extremely difficult way of arriving at any good or satisfactory result.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON— You never can get a good and speedy result this way.
Mr. IRVINE said that, irrespective of the decision of the Courts, people could have no security— inasmuch as the effect of the existing law had been to produce this state of things— that matters would go on getting worse hereafter. This being so, there must be something radical wrong in such a state of things, and, consequently the citizens prayed the House to provide some means of remedy. The means suggested by the hon. member for Montmorency, he (Mr. Irvine) was not prepared to say were the best; but, at any rate, the petitioners asked for some remedy. He did not say that, unless ever other means failed, it would be right to abrogate the representative or elective system, and place the affairs of the city into the hands of a Commission. He did not say it would be proper to resort to do so extreme a remedy if any other could be devised for the present evils; but, no other offering, he would be prepared to advocate that prayed for, although it may be an extraordinary and stringent one. Better that such a course should be adopted than that it should go abroad that one of the principal cities of this Province was skiing deeper into debt year after year, dragging their affairs into such a position as the petition represented in the present instance. He believed the House would be only doing right in granting this committee and sanctioning a searching enquiry. He believed that a very large majority of the present constituents of the representatives of Quebec in the City Council were people paling a very small proportion of the taxes. The consequence was that whereas one class which contributed little had the expenditure of the money in its hands, the class which did contribute the largest portion of the municipal revenue had little or no voice in the matter. He thought, therefore, that the House could not do otherwise— upon such allegations as were set forth in the petition— than grant the committee to enquire into their truth. He trusted that if the stringent means asked for were not granted, some other would be.
Mr. SCATCHERD—Is the petition from the creditors?
Mr. IRVINE was understood to reply—no; in the way he had described by continually borrowing money the Corporation had been increasing the number of its creditors. They had up to the present almost—except till the half year ending 1st May, 1865—been paid the interest had been paid by Baring Bros., on the urgent representations of the Corporation. The consequence of the mismanagement of the city’s affairs had been that this English house had to meet the demands on the city for the last six months’ interest.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON— This has not been refunded.
Mr. IRVINE— How next half year’s interest was to be paid, he did not know. In 1858 the city had accumulated debt to the extent of about $300,000, or that was the amount of the floating debt over the amount of the debenture debt. At that time an act was passed enabling them to issue debentures to cover the floating debt, it being then the object of the Legislature that this amount representing the full amount of the floating debt, should be set against it, and if permission was granted to Quebec to issue additional debentures, the the whole of this debt should be funded, and no further floating debt should exist. The statute passed enabled the city to do so, and in the act was an express provision that the city of Quebec should thereafter not be capable of contracting any debt; yet, spite of all this, this had borrowed more money.
Mr. DUNKIN— The bigger fools who lent it. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Mr. IRVINE said that might be. But, in their interest some action was required on the part of the House to put matters right.
In reply to Hon. Mr. CARTIER,
Mr. IRVINE said that, according to the allegations of the petition, the Corporation were bound annually to invest in some stock of a chartered bank a certain percentage on the amount of their debt as a sinking fund to pay that debt. They did so, investing in stock held by the bank. When holding that stock they borrowed from the bank sums equal to the amount of that stock. These banks by their charter were permitted to hold stock in the bank as security for any debt due their shareholders. Consequently they held that stock as security and the result was the Corporation had lost that stock in which they had invested. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. HUNTINGTON said that supposing a committee were to be appointed, that all the facts were made out, and that the committee reported in favor of the suspension of the Corporation and the appointment of Commissioners— would we be told that this was the only city of the Province in which an undesirable state of things prevailed? (Hear, hear.)
Was not the step now proposed to be taken a commencement towards the abolition of our municipal system throughout the country? The principle it was sought to apply in this case might be made to apply to a very great number of municipalities in the country, and even to the Province itself, for under our system of responsible Government, charges of abuses having creepy in were made and financial scandals had arisen. (Hear, hear.)
Why should such a step be taken. Was there not a remed in law for wrong doing on the part of the Corporation?
SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS— Yes, yes.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON said there was a form of remedy in law, but how could the whole case be brought up and thoroughly investigated throughout, and who would bear the expense? Were the citizens to ruin themselves by lawsuits after the loss which they suffered by the maladministration of civic affairs. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. HUNTINGTON said that if the petitioners were in a position to tell us that the Courts of law could not afford them protection, then we might consider such a proposition as that which was now made. It would, however, be a reproach to us and a scandal to our free institutions if our first step towards municipal reform were to take away the electoral system of Quebec. (Hear, hear.)
Even if matters had been shown to be at their worst this ought to be the last resort. It was true of many places throughout the Province that the people of wealth and influence did not take sufficient trouble in educating the popular mind into a correct appreciation of the municipal system; and he did not doubt but that the same thing might exist, to some extent, more or less, in the city of Quebec. The representatives of the wealth of the country should take a greater interest in public affairs; they should enter the lists more than they did. In any case, however, it was not right that the first step towards the remedy of alleged evils should be to come here and demand— as was being virtually demanded by this motion—that the House should sanction the principle of suspending the municipal institutions of Quebec. Those who advocated this extreme measure should, in order to make out a good case, be able to tell this House that all other means had failed; but the should not lightly cast such a slur upon a popular institution as to propose its suspension or abolition. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON said that he asked, in the name of thousands of the most wealth and influential rate-pairs of Quebec— who had been ruled to their loss and disadvantage by the Corporation—that there should be an investigation into the management of affairs. The request could not reasonably be refused. Where was the hon. gentleman, of whatever party, who could conscientiously refuse an enquiry sought for by so man citizens of Quebec. The situation of affairs was one which demanded the utmost promptitude. The city owed three hundred thousand pounds to capitalists in England—there was no time to be lost—our fair fame was at stake, and if no remed were applied, not only the credit of the city but the reputation of Canada would be damaged. Hon. gentlemen opposite talked about remedying existing evils and restraining maladministration and excessive expenditure by recourse to the ordinary process of law. How long did they suppose such a proceeding would last? Did they not know that it might be prolonged for years. (Hear, hear.)
What the House was discussing now was not as some hon. gentlemen persisted in alleging a proposal to suspend the municipal system— it was only that the petition of an immense number of the rate-payers of Quebec, to that effect, should be referred to a special committee in order to a thorough investigation of affairs. Suspension of the municipal system was, however, not unusual. It had been resorted to in the case of the city of Edinburgh. He begged honourable gentlemen would consider the urgency of the case and not refuse an investigation. The committee was not committed to report in favor of appointing Commissioners— its scope was not limited to the recommendation of that particular remedy. The hon. member for Richelieu, in opposing the motion, had made an appeal to passions where the question was one of pounds, shillings and pence. (Laughter)
That hon. gentleman endeavoured to raise a false issue management was confined to the “aristocratic” portion of the city. This was not the case; but even supposing it wee, would we be told hat those who represented the property of he cit should be denied an investigation when they believed that it was urgently required. (Hear, hear.)
Of course it was necessary we should maintain our credit and make good our liabilities to the last farthing, but what was complained now was that if the Corporation for additional powers, the [text ineligible] they would thus obtain would not be applied to the payment of the debt but would be squandered. The hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Huot) admitted that the Corporation was in a state of anarchy. This was a very important admission from that hon. gentleman, and should not be lost sight of. Another important point was this—that there had not been a single counter-petition presented to this House (Hear, hear.)
We were told, it was true, that meetings had been held throughout the city, but we all knew what was the value of these meetings. The leading rate-pairs would not go to them—indeed there were scarcely any electors at them; and we all knew, too, that a public meeting was not the place to discuss questions of financial management.—The hon. gentleman then went on at considerable length to reiterate the principal charges against the Corporation set forth in the petitions. They had exceeded their powers in the expenditure of money and in obtaining money—in fact their creditors were deprived of the very guarantee upon which they had been induced to make the loan. They had been postponing the evil day until they could not, by any possible means, obtain any more money; and the interest for the last six months, which had been paid b the Barings, had not yet been refunded the latter. There were gentlemen in the Corporation itself—respectable property-holders—who, when brought before the Committee, would readily admit that there was no redemption for the city unless the curse prayed for by the petitioners, or some other prompt and effective remedy were at once applied. (Hear, hear.)
Matters were in such a state in the civic body that officials no longer took the trouble to go to the Council or any of the Standing Committees for instructions or authority, but proceeded with works entirely upon their own account. Were honorable members going to refuse an investigation in the face of such a record as this and without a single counter-petition? (Hear, hear.)
It would be shown before the Committee that some schemers had been ruling the city for their own ends, and to the great disadvantage of the public at large. He (Mr. Cauchon) asking for an investigation let the Committee after hearing the evidence come to whatever conclusion they considered justifiable; and then let the House take whatever action it deemed advisable upon the report. The petitions now before the House had been signed by two thousand rate payers, only two persons in Jaques-Cartier ward having refused to sign it.
Hon. Mr. BROWN— How many rate-payers are there?
Hon. Mr. THIBAUDEAU—Nine or ten thousand. (Hear, hear)
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—No, no. The hon. gentleman was including the banlieu voters, who were not municipal electors of the city of Quebec. There was a large majority of the rate-pairs of Quebec in favor of the prayer of the petitions.
Hon. Mr. THIBAUDEAU— No, most decidedly not. They are against it.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON contended that the circumstances he had enumerated shewed how strongly public opinion was in favor of the change prayed for—there being over two thousand signatures attached to the petitions, and, as he had already remarked, not a single counter-petition. The hon. gentlemen concluded by referring to one or two additional instances of the defects of the present municipal system and the bad management which, he considered, had prevailed for some time past.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said that few more important questions could be presented to the House, and we ought to go about a matter of such gravity with great caution. Nothing could be more candid and straightforward, however, than the proposition of the hon. member for Monmorency. He stated quite a singular case, and put it to the Legislature how we could get a remed for the evils complained of. He (Mr. B.) went along with the hon. member for Shefford in almost every word he said. We ought to look at this matter conscientiously, reflecting that in a proportion of this kind popular rights were at stake. But we must also consider the state of the Corporation—its financially embarrassed condition. (Hear, hear.)
It was quite clear that when 2,000 people came here and said—we are not properly taxed; we are prepared to pay a rate higher than the present, but the existing system does not permit it; we have no sinking fund and are suffering from a deficit of $100,000 a year— it was clear that some attention should be paid to their petition. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. EVANTUREL— There has been a bill before this House, for two ears, to cure these evils. The Corporation was asking for the measure.
Hon. Mr. THIBAUDEAU—We have been asking for a relief— for some remedy, but the member for Montmorency has opposed it everywhere, both by his voice and in his paper. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON said he could prove there was enough power at this moment in the hands of the Corporation, to enable it to gather money and pay the debt, if they desired to spend it otherwise than at present. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. BROWN said it quite clear there were two or three parties to this case. The difficulty was to find out what we should do. No doubt a remedy existed, but the question was how it would be found. It did appear to him that if the fair reading of the hon. gentleman’s motion was such as the hon. member for Shefford asserted— namely, to take the affairs out of the hands of the citizens of Quebec and place them in the hands of Commissioners, it was too much to ask this House to concede. He (Mr. Brown) however, did not read the motion in that way, but it might be worded to avoid that suspicion altogether. The question might be put thus: to appoint a Commission to hear the whole case and judge of a remedy. There was another remedy, which was employed in Upper Canada, and that was the issue of a Commission, expressed struck for the purpose, in order to have matters of this kind considered. The adoption of the Upper Canada practice would be much more satisfactory to all parties than the appointment of a Committee.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON— We have not got that law here. Let the Committee be appointed and report what they please.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said the motion did not commit the House to any particular remedy, leaving it to the Committee to make recommendations. It could be put in this way: Suppose you got the Corporation of Quebec into a state of embarrassment, so that its debentures would not pay, it would not affect this city alone, but other Corporations throughout the country. It did appear to him we ought to be glad the citizens of Quebec had come to us in this way, that we might look the matter in the face, and provide a proper remedy before stoppage of payment had taken place, so that all might be protected. It might, of course, be said the form of the motion was somewhat objectionable. It might be just as well to ask that the petition of so and so, on the affairs of Quebec be referred to a Committee for the purpose of reporting thereon. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. J.S. MACDONALD said that the tendency of all corporations was, to some extent, to abuse their powers. It was a very grave demand to ask us to interfere with the chartered rights of the people of Quebec. He (Mr. Macdonald) was decidedly averse to any proposition that we should hand over the management of the affairs of the ancient city of Quebec to Commissioners appointed by any Government. He desired to have the fullest investigation wherever there was any reckless extravagance, mismanagement or malversation, but he would not of the length of handing over the affairs of the metropolis of Canada to Commissioners subservient to any Government. Let the hon. mover of the motion now before the House, therefore, content himself with asking for an investigation into the affairs of the city of Quebec, but without any foregone conclusion for the suspension of the municipal system. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. A. MACKENZIE desired to correct an error into which the hon. member for Montmorency had fallen, in quoting as a precedent the cast of the city of Edinburgh. (Hear, hear.)
In that case the Commissioners were entrusted with the management of a particular fund only and not of the whole affairs of the city. They were elected by the Corporation too so that there was no similarity whatever between that case, and the change it was now proposed to make. (Hear, hear.)
He concurred to a great extent in the arguments used by the hon. member for Shefford (Mr. Huntington.) He would not vote for the motion, even with the proposed modification of omitting all mention of the suspension of the municipal system, and asking for an investigation only. The high court of Parliament was not the place to discuss such matters at all. If the existing law was not sufficiently stringent to prevent abuses, let the city charter be amended so as to have that effect. It was, he considered, altogether unwise and unprecedented to ask Parliament to take up pretty municipal abuses. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. CARTIER said that this discussion ought not in fact to have taken place, inasmuch as nearly all hon. members on both sides agreed in the main. The hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Cauchon) had presented a petition signed by a majority of the rate-payers of Quebec, complaining of those who acted as trustees of the local affairs— the Corporation of Quebec—charging them with not administering their business in such a way as to redound to the public good, and also with wasting away the income of the city.
Now, as he (Mr. Carier) understood it, the honorable member for Montmorency did not propose that the Committee which he sought to have appointed, should have for its object to annhilate the Corporation of Quebec; but merely to enquire into the management of its affairs with a view to the adoption of some remedy. This was the true interpretation of the hon. gentleman’s motion; and even the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Huot), while he resisted the idea, that a remedy should be sought in the suspension of the municipal system and the appointment of commissioners [text ineligible] by the Government, did not deny the propriety of having an investigation. Some hon. gentlemen representing Upper-Canadian constituencies, appeared to misunderstand the true purport of the motion and who were opposed to enquiry being made—et what did we find in the municipal code of Upper Canada?— Here the hon. gentleman read the 248th clause relative to the issuing of a commission under the great seal, whenever it might be deemed necessary, in order to enquire into the affairs of a municipality. (Hear.)
In the western section of the Province, therefore, a Commission of enquiry could be appointed under this law, as a matter of course; and it was to be regretted we had not such a provision here.—The hon. gentleman cited a number of instances of the expenditure of the loan fund by a variety of municipalities; and said that to allow the Corporation of Quebec to squander the public funds, and to continue rushing into extravagant outlay would have a very bad effect upon the general credit of the Province in England.
AN HON MEMBER— How is it that Quebec debentures are said to stand so very high in the London market?
Hon. Mr. CARTIER said he would refer to that at another time. The Montreal Corporation, he might observe, had a very wise law by which they were prevented from expending a greater amount in any year than the total income of the previous year. The petitions now before the House bore, as had been stated, the signatures of two thousand electors or more, representing the majority of the capital of the community. No doubt it might happen that while the proprietor expressed himself opposed to the continuance of the present state of affairs, the tenant’s opinion might on the contrary be in favour of the present system— first, because he did not feel to the same extent interested in the credit of the city or injured by its depression as the former. (Hear, hear.)
But the leading proprietors, the great commercial men when hey saw that the civic exchequer was in such a state that might soon find themselves involved in the most serious difficulty they came forward and petitioned this House to grant them a Committee which, after due enquiry, would suggest some means to bring about a better state of things. We have in L. Canada a statute regulating the issuing of writs of prohibition and mandamus to corporations violating their charter.
(Here the hon. gentleman read the clause of the statute in question)
Now the Corporation of Quebec had violated their charter, and would therefore be liable to prosecution and to have their charter forfeited by a court of justice, yet he (Mr. Cartier) would hesitate to recommend such a proceeding, and believed that the course proposed by the hon. member for Montmorency was much more advisable. He repeated all was asked was just simply that we should grant a Committee which Committee would report. The hon. member for Lambtom (Mr. Mackenzie) said he was not even ready to accede to a modification of the motion now before the House. Now he begged to assure that and other hon. members that in acceding to this request, there would be no attack whatever on the popular franchise or municipal rights. Speaking of Commissioners, he might remark that it sometimes became necessary to take certain matters out of the hands of Corporations, and place them in those of special commissioners. Take for instance the city of New York. At one time, the Corporation had power to appoint and manage the Police; but at last a chance was deemed necessary, and Commissioners were appointed by the Government. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. A. MACKENZIE begged to remind the hon. gentleman that there were literally two bodies of police for some time, the city not consenting to or accepting the action of the Government. Moreover, the hon. gentleman should bear in mind that there was no handling over of the whole Corporation powers, but merely the police department. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. CARTIER— Yes, but finally the State law had the best of it, and prevailed over the city authorities.
Mr. A. MACKENZIE—I grant that.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER referred to the case of Central Park, New York, which was also managed by Commissioners, and yet it was one of these things in which the citizens of New York took most pride. He (Mr. Cartier) mentioned these things in order to show that we ought not to fall into the contradiction of stating that because rights are granted to corporations by acts of Parliament, they should not be taken from them when abused (Hear, hear.)
The hon. gentleman concluded by again expressing his belief that the hon. member for Montmorency had taken the proper course, and that the committee of enquiry ought to be granted.
Mr. DUNKIN said the petition had for its object the suspension of the municipal system and the appointment of Commissioners, by Government. This was in reality, their formal demand. The object, therefore, was that of substituting Commissioners named by the Crown for an elective Corporation. Last year when these petitions came before the House they were referred to the Private Bill Committee as were also the petitions for amendments to the charter of the city of Quebec. Now, however, it was proposed to take a most extraordinary course. The hon. member for Montmorency had changed his ground, and asked that the petition against the Corporation be sent to a Special Committee. He (Mr. D.) believed we could not do so, without, implicitly admitting the principle. He believed there was something wrong in the management of the Corporation of Quebec, but there were many Corporations, both in Upper and Lower Canada, against which attacks, almost, if not altogether as strong, could be made. But he did not see that this would justify the suspension of the system without other formality.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON— What would you do in the case of a corrupt constituency?
Mr. DUNKIN— The delay of issuing an election [text ineligible] was quite a different thing from the abolition of an elective corporation.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON— No, no, the suspension only.
Mr. DUNKIN— Oh, well, the suspension is asked for five years or more.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON— Or less.
Mr. DUNKIN argued in the negative. The demand of the petitioners was for five years or more. He was entirely opposed to the principle of the demand, and believed a committee of this House was not the proper machinery for enquiring into a matter of this kind. In these petitions had been sent to the Private Bills Committee last session, why should they not be sent to it this session, so that the Committee might take them into consideration, together with the petitions presented praying for certain amendments to the city charter. If the powers of the Corporation were too extended, let them be limited; if too stringent, let them be relaxed. If they were not sufficiently effective, let them be limited; if too stringent, let them be relaxed. If the were not sufficiently effective, let them be amended in the right direction; but let it not go abroad that the people of the metropolis of Canada were unfit for self-government. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. CARTIER said the Government was simply desirous that such a Corporation as that of Quebec should be in such a position as regards its financial affairs that nothing might be said against it. The creditors of the Province had already suffered severely from the extravagance of the municipalities. Now the city of Quebec, stands next after the city of Montreal, which came immediately after the Government itself in importance. It could not, therefore, be expected that the Government could be indifferent to anything affecting the credit of the city of Quebec.
Hon. Mr. EVANTUREL said the main object of the proposition before the House was to replace the Corporation by a Commission appointed by Government. He was not prepared to support such a proposition. What we had to do was to equalize the civic burdens and pay the debt of the city. The great problem was after all a financial question, and how would Commissioners be able to settle it by means other than those which the Council might employ. He owed it to the Corporation to say they had struggled for years in order to obtain such amendments as would enable them to overcome the difficulties under which civic progress had labored. They had bills and amendments drawn up with great care, and at considerable cost, by most experienced persons; even the Hon. Sol.-Gen. had spent a vast deal of his time and exerted his talents in preparing some of the proposed amendments. Yet, after all, the Corporation had been unsuccessful in obtaining the legal remedy which they sought. This session they again came before the House and asked it to grant them those much needed amendments to their charter. Instead of coming to their aid, and seeing what really ought to be done, it was proposed to place an obstacle in their way in the shape of an investigation. He did not pretend to say there were not evils in the Corporation, or that there might not be designing men in the civic body; but, he believed, nevertheless, it contained a majority of respectable and intelligent men, representing property, and, to say the least, quite as competent to manage the city affairs as any Commissioners the Government could appoint. He had conversed freely with them on the subject of the civix embarrassments, and the chief complaint with every one of them was the delay experienced in trying to get their amendments through the Legislature, arising from a variety of causes. Now, if the amendments were over urgently needed, to facilitate the proper working of the municipal system, it was at the present moment. The present investigation could have no other effect than to throw over both bills to such a late period of the session that they could not even be brought to the notice of the House. We were told the session was to be a very short one; but he thought it would be a most patriotic work even to lengthen it a few days for the purpose of passing necessary measures to maintain the credit of the metropolis of Canada. (Cheers.)
We would almost imagine from hearing the attack of the enemies of the Corporation that the latter had made no exertion whatever to retrieve their position, whereas the House had now before it most carefully considered amendments which, it was believed by those most competent to judge, would have the effect of extricating the city from its present difficulties. (Hear, hear.)
It was true that extravagance had been indulged in, but for these the present Councillors were not responsible, other men being in office at the time. In fact it would be difficult for the present members of the Corporation to indulge in reckless extravagances, for the had, in reality, no money to spend. The members of the Corporation were sincere in their exertions to reduce the city from its difficulties, and the should be afforded facilities for doing so, instead of refusing them all legal aid and then declaring that they were corrupt and incompetent, and that the people of Quebec were unfit to govern themselves. (Hear, hear.)
There were among the civic body some of the best financiers of the city, who saw with regret the time passing away and no step taken by the Legislature to grant the prayer of their petition by passing the required amendments to their charter. The mere appointment of Commissioners could not improve the position of affairs. The liabilities should be met, and we would just have the same charges, the same burthens, the same taxes in order to meet those liabilities. The only difference would be one which would decidedly tell against them—the fact of being appointment by Government and being outside the pale of responsibility to the tax-payers, and liable to be affected by undue influences. (Hear, hear.)
As a citizen of Quebec, he (Mr. Evanturel) implored this House to extend prompt consideration to the two Corporation bills now before the House, inasmuch as he believed they afforded the best and speediest means of getting out of all our difficulties. (Hear, hear.)
These bills might not be perfect, but let them be discussed in Committee, and amended in whatever direction might be thought necessary. The amendments [text ineligible] for by the Corporation remedy, while the most complete and detailed report from a Committee of enquiry would not prevent the credit of the city from suffering great injury. (Cheers.)
Mr. M. C. CAMERON spoke strongly in favor of the motion for an investigation, believing that to deny such an enquiry would be practically to ignore the right of petition.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON said he had understood the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Huot) to say that he would not oppose a motion simply asking for an investigation. He would, therefore, ask the permission of the House so to change his motion as merely to ask for the appointment of a motion as merely to ask for the appointment of a committee of seven members to enquire into the management of the affairs of the city of Quebec.
Hon. Mr. THIBAUDEAU— I oppose the change.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER— Under these circumstances it will simps have to be moved as an amendment.
Mr. IRVINE moved to amend the motion in the sense indicated by the Hon. Mr. Cauchon.
Mr. J B. E. DORION said that the hon. member for Montmorency had succeeded in raising a tempest in a teapot. He abused the municipal system of Quebec, he made charges of reckless waste, corruption and incompetency right and left, he tried to convince the House that nothing short of the abolition of elective institutions would restore the ancient capital to a sound financial condition. Were we to be tood that, in the second city of Lower Canada, this extreme course should be restored to— a course not practised with any of those cities and towns which had run riot in wasteful expenditure. The whole course and language of the hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Cauchon) in this matter was a gross insult to Lower Canada. One would almost think it was upon the very verge of bankruptcy, and that nothing but to deprive her citizens of their franchise would redeem her. Hamilton had been in the lowest depths of financial distress, and yet no one ever came here to ask that the Corporation of that city should be abolished. (Hear, hear.)
Why should a harsher measure be applied to Quebec than had been resorted to in the case of Hamilton? At the same time, he was free to admit that one required to come to Quebec, in order to find electors blindly signing a petition asking that their rights should be taken from them. (Hear, hear and laughter.)
The hon. member for Montmorency talked about the two thousand rate-payers who had signed his petitions. He would like to know how it was these worthy two thousand did not come forward last winter when the hon. member was spoken of as candidate for the mayoralty- why did they not come forward, hail him as the city’s saviour and raise him to the position of first magistrate? (Hear, hear, laughter, and loud cheers)
He (Mr. Dorion) would tell the House too that the embarrassments of the city of Quebec were not the work of the present Council. They belonged to other days when other men were in office. They belonged to the period when the North Shore Railway was the pet scheme, and was talked of everywhere— when there was a mission to England on the subject— and when a wharf was built at the cost of many thousands of dollars. (Laughter.)
Those were the days of extravagance and not the present. The Corporation were, however, suffering from the acts of their predecessors, and they therefore asked to be placed in a position to raise the city from its difficulties by granting them proper amendments to the effect “That inasmuch as there is a bill before the Private Bill Committee with regard to the facts incorporating the city of Quebec, and the whole of the matters connected with the municipal affairs of that city, there s no necessity of appointing a special committee to make enquired this session.” (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. HUNTINGTON said that the best answer to the arguments of the hon. member for Montmorency was his own admission that protection was sought for by a majority of rate-payers of Quebec. An experienced member like that hon. gentleman could not have made such an assertion lightly or unthinkingly and so it must be true. If the majority of the electors of Quebec asked for protection—let them protect themselves. Let them go to the polls and elect proper men. (Hear, hear.)
If they were not prepared to take that trouble they need not ask the House to take the trouble for them, (Hear, hear.)
Mr. J.B.E. DORION’S amendment was then put to the vote and carried, by a majority of eleven, thus disposing of the whole question. The division was as follows:—
YEAS.— Messrs. Biggar, Bourass, Burwell, Caron, Coupal, Cowan, Dickson, Eric Dorion, Alex Dufresne, Evanturel, Gibbs, Gagnon Geoffrion, Gaucher, Houde, Huot, Huntington, Jones, Lajoie, John Macdonald, Alex Mackenzie, McConkey, McGiverin, Munro, Magid, O’Halloran, Paquette, Perrault, Pouliot, Walter Ross, Rymal, Scatcherd, Scoble, Stirton, Thibaudeau, Thompson, T C Wallbridge, Wells, White, Wood, Amos Wright.—42.
NAYS.— Messrs. Archambault, Aunt, Bellerose, Blanchet, Brousseau, Brown, M Cameron, Carling, Cartier, Cartwright, Cauchon, Chapais, Cockburn, J Dufresne, T Ferguson, Harwood, Haultain, Irvine, F Jones, Langevin, J S MacDonald, Poulin, Powel, Remillard, Robitaille, J S Ross, Shanly, Somerville, Tremblay, Walsh, Wilson.—31.
RAW HIDES AND LEATHER.
Mr. SOMERVILLE moved that the House go into Committee of the Whole, on Wednesday next, on certain resolutions amending the Act for the inspection of raw hides and leather.—Carried.
Mr. WRIGHT (East York) moved that the House go into Committee of the Whole, on Wednesday, on the subject of imposing a tax on dogs at so much per head.
Mr. DUNKIN— So much per tail. (Laughter.)
The motion was carried.
The House then, at midnight, adjourned.