Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (9 September 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Saturday, Sept. 9th” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (11 September 1865).
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Saturday, September 9th.
The Speaker took the Chair at one o’clock.
Private Bills – Third Readings
The following private bills passed through Committee of the Whole, and were read a third time: –
Bill to facilitate the separation of Huron and Bruce, and to appoint Walkerton the County Town of the County of Bruce (with amendments.) – Mr. Dickson
Bill to amend the Act for the erection of the Municipality of Kingsey Falls (reported). – Mr. Dorion (Drummond and Arthabaska
Bill to amend the Act intituled: “An Act to incorporate the Village of Mitchell, in the County of Perth.” – Mr. McFarlane
Private Bills in Committee.
The following private bills passed through Committee:-
Bills to change the name of “The Bytown Consumers’ Gas Company; and to confirm, amend, and extend their corporate powers under the name of “The Ottawa Gas Company;” – Mr. Currier.
Bill to enable Joseph Anctil, of S. Jean Port Joly, to be admitted to practice as Notaries in Lower Canada (reported). – Mr. Dufresne (Montrealm)
Bill to legalize certain By-laws and Debentures of the County of Victoria (and amendments). – Mr. Dunsford.
Bill to conform the actual survey of the Township of Bulstrode, County of Arthabaska (and amendments). – Mr. Dorion (Drummond and Arthabaska)
Bill to authorize the admission of William Lynn Smart as a Barrister in Upper Canada. – Mr. Powell
Charter of the City of Quebec.
Hon. Mr. Alleyn moved that the House go into Committee on the Bill to amend and consolidate the provisions contained in the Acts and Ordinances relating to the incorporation of the City of Quebec, and to vest more ample powers in Corporation of the said City (and amendment.)
The motion was carried and the House went into committee – Mr. Broussseau in the Chair
Hon. Mr. Dorion opposed the clause making the election of the Mayor an act of the Councillors, and taking from the people the priviledge of electing their Chief Magistrate. He contended that the present system had worked advantageously, and that there was no reason whatever shown for the change proposed.
Hon. Mr. Langevin opposed that view of the case, and advocated the adoption of the clause making the Mayor elective by the Council. He desired to call particular attention to this fact – that the present system was established only a few years ago. When he (Mr. Langevin) was a member of the Council it was proposed that the Mayor should be elected by the people. He opposed it, but it was carried. He thought then, and was still of opinion, that the system was wrong, and that it would be a great inducement to better men to enter the Council, had they a prospect of being elected Mayor before them. Generally speaking, we could not fail to have a better class of Councillors under the present system. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Dorion) must know very well that there were still petitions before the House asking for radical changes; but the bill merely proposed to return to the old system of the Council electing the Mayor. Cities in Upper Canada had adopted that principle with very great advantage indeed.
Hon. Mr. Dorion said that when the City of Quebec had shown, three times in succession., that it could make the choice of the present Solicitor General for Mayor, under the popular system, it had shown the best evidence of the good working of the principle of election by the people; and he (Mr. Dorion) was quite astonished that the hon. gentleman should propose this change.
Mr. Dunkin said that the system proposed by this bill was in operation for a number of years in Montreal and Quebec, which, however – after a fair trial – had abandoned it; and he had yet to learn of a reason for going back, deliberately, to the system so deliberately changed, and which certainly did not work any better than at present. He did not believe that investing the Council with the power to elect the Mayor did not work any better than at present. He did not believe that investing the Council with the power to elect the Mayor would raise the class of men going into the council.
(Hear, hear, and no, no.)
It would neither raise the class of candidates nor the class of people elected. If there was a fault in our municipal system, which tended to lower the character of our Mayors and Councillors, it was the franchise itself, and there was no remedy of that fault but by laying the ace to the root of the tree.
The franchise was a trust, not a principle, and if we had made the mistake of laying it too low, there was but one remedy, and that was to raise it, giving it only to those qualified to exercise it properly. There was no reason why, because one class of electors was too low, we trust the election of Mayor to a second election. The class of men who aimed at the comparatively smaller honor of becoming City Councillors was not particularly high, and as to imagining that the additional prospect of the honors of the Mayoralty would be elected from that Council, it was all nonsense. A first-class man would not subject himself to the changes of an election to the Council, because there was one change in a hundred of his afterwards becoming Mayor. The only remedy to be applied was in raising the franchise.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon – Will you vote for that?
Mr. Dunkin said it was not for him to say, in his present position, what he would do, but, since the question was asked him, he would vote for it.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon – Introduces a measure to that effect (hear, hear.)
Mr. Dunkin said it was certainly not his duty at this particular state of the session. People would allow a class of electors to elect a lot of pot-house politicians, and then leave them to elect the Mayor, who must be one of themselves. That would surely be no better system. Holding these views he would oppose the clause.
Hon. Mr. McGee would say, in answer to the last speaker, that he believed nine-tenths of the people of Montreal would assert that the election of the Mayor by the people should be put an end to. The system of allowing political influence to weigh in municipal elections was wrong, and this was the result obtained under the present system. A member or politician had to support his political friends in these contests, irrespective of qualifications.
Hon. Mr. Dorion said that the City Clerk told him that politics never entered into the question of municipal elections at all.
Hon. Mr. McGee contended that his view was correct, and pointed out the bad result of mixing up political and municipal questions. If people elected a Mayor on party grounds, they expected him to give political or other support in return. Generally, the Mayors got elected by appeals to popular feeling. Mayors ought to know the city affairs and the working of the municipal government, which knowledge should be previously acquired by service in the Council.
Mr. Pope contented that we had always observed this principle in municipal elections in Lower Canada – that the Mayors should be elected by the Councillors themselves.
Mr. Dunkin – In the country only.
Mr. Pope – Yes of course. He believed that when the whole mass of the people was allowed to come to the polls and vote for Councillors, you allowed all you should do. By this means men were obtained who were fairly entitled to elect their Mayor, and a man properly qualified as Mayor, to manage the affairs of the municipality. Since our municipal institutions had been established and carried on, on that principle, not a voice which was a good guarantee that the principle worked well, and should be preserved
Hon. Mr. Rose would not speak on the abstract points as to whether it was better that the Mayor should be elected directly by the rate-payers or by the Council; but he would like the House to be in possession of the peculiar circumstances that affected this bill before agreeing to expunge that clause which had been objected to by the Hon. Mr. Dorion and others. It was known that the affairs of the Quebec Corporation had given rise to a great deal of difficulty among the citizens.
We had a debate the other night on a serious petition brought in by the hon. member for Montmorency, asking that the Corporation should be abolished and the city affairs vested in the hands of Commissioners. When the bill now under discussion was referred to the Committee on Private Bills, that class of interests represented by the numerous and respectable portion of the community that signed the petition was heard before the Committee in question, and it appeared that there was, do doubt, must to be said in favor of the petition. It was shown that the financial affairs of Quebec were in an extremely unsatisfactory condition – that, in fact, there was a deficit of nearly $100,000 a year between the revenue and expenditures. It was stated also that there were great abuses in regard to the mode of assessment and the collection of the same. The Committee on Private Bills had also had all classes of interests represented before them – including those of the ordinary rate-payers, the commercial community and the Board of Trade. They had heard all the interests represented in the city, as well as the Mayor and civic officials, and endeavored to reconcile the views entertained by the various classes. The Committee, however, agreed to the bill as it now stands – it having been adopted on a division by 17 to 5. Both the abstract question and that involving the credit of the city and country must be considered on the settlement of the affairs of this Corporation; and there must therefore be a compromise, to some extend, in regard to the election of the Municipal Councillors and the Mayor. After the Committee had agreed to recommend the election of the Mayor by the Councillors, the decision was communicated to the Corporation itself. A special meeting was summoned, and after a discussion the Council deliberately agreed to accept the amendment proposed in Committee.
Hon. Mr. Dorion said the Corporation did not want the change, but rather than lose the bill, eight of the fifteen only who were present voted for and seven against it. The latter said they would even rather lose it than adopt that feature.
Hon. Mr. Rose – Of twenty-four members only fifteen were present, and the natural presumption was that – all having been specially summoned to consider the bill – those who did not attend were satisfied with it. If not, why did they not attend and oppose it?
He believed Montreal would be glad to get back to the old system. He repeated that the recognized organs of the city and all the interests, so far as they could be reconciled were satisfied with the bill.
(Cheers and counter-cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Cauchon condemned the system of municipal management which had prevailed in Quebec, where the people’s money had been spent, often even without consulting the City Council; and often without consulting the Committees which should have had special cognizance of the expenditures. The result was the present ruinous debt. There must be a compromise, and if the creditors of the city were to be protected, the citizens should also receive a guarantee. He had only accepted the bill, on condition that such restrictions be introduced as would protect the citizens against future mismanagement and loss in regard to the city government. Without clause and such restrictions, there was no guarantee that the citizens would not suffer in the future from the same causes.
Mr. Dunkin considered it a fallacy to suppose that because a certain system had worked well in the rural districts, it should work well in Quebec. There was nothing to complain of in the franchise in the rural parts.
Mr. Gibbs denounced the clause under discussion in the bill, as an insult and disparagement to Quebec and an encroachment on the popular rights.
Hon. Mr. Dorion moved to amend the clause by providing that the Mayor should be chosen by the electors and not by the Council.
Hon. Mr. Alleyn said that the bill was undoubtedly passed through the Private Bill Committee in a spirit of compromise on all side. As to this bill – which, since the sub-Committee had introduced after being put through the Private Bill Committee itself – he was bound to vote according to his own private feelings. A portion of the compromise had been violated, and that altered the state of things. Besides, an important alteration as to the drainage had been made. As a compromise between the sub-committee’s propositions that the Mayor should be elected by the Council, and the proposed amendments that he should be elected by the people, he would move that the Mayor be elected by the people from among the members of the Corporation. He would desire the Mayor to be a man acquainted with our municipal affairs and the working of the system. In this case the Mayor would be qualified for his position, and would possess a proper – the popular – suffrage.
Hon. Mr. Holton suggested that the change should be submitted for Montmorency wished to force the change upon the people, taking the ground that unless it was carried by the House in the surreptitious way, he would oppose the bill with its needed amendments.
Hon. Mr. Cartier spoke at some length on the peculiar position in which the city of Quebec stood.
Mr. O’Halloran said that the obnoxious clause had been forced into the measure under discussion, by the hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Cauchon), who had displayed in Committee the same animus he had shown when the affairs of the city were first referred to in this House, and again, here today.
Mr. H. MacKenzie believed the people of Quebec were, after all, the best judges of their own affairs. They had shown that they deserved to be considered as such by electing the present Mayor, who was extremely well-qualified for the office. In conclusion, he argued that the municipal system in force should be adhered to.
Hon. Mr. Brown spoke in favor of the bill as reported from Committee.
Mr. Irvine said that if this clause about the election of Mayor stood alone, he did not say that he would be prepared to vote for it.
The measure before the House was, however, a measure of compromise between the various parties; and he believed it would be a ruinous thing for the credit of the city of Quebec if it were to fall through. He believed the franchise was too low and that the management of civic affairs was almost entirely out of the hands of those who bore the burthen.
Mr. Magill was of opinion that, in view of the monster petition presented by the citizens of Quebec, that no radical change should be made in their municipal system, as was proposed by the bill under discussion.
After a considerable length of time lost in Committee, in discussion on the details, the Committee rose, reported progress and obtained leave to sit again.
Churches, Parsonage-Houses, &c. (L. C.)
On motion of Mr. Dufresne (Montrealm), the House went into Committee on the bill to amend the acts respecting the building and repairing of churches, parsonage-houses and church-yards,
– Mr. Bellerose in the Chair.
The bill was reported without amendment.
Rate of interest.
On motion of Mr. Bourassa, the House wen into Committee on the bill to amend the act respecting interest and amendments – Mr. Perrault in the Chair.
After a long discussion in Committee,-
Mr. Powell moved that the Committee do rise.
The motion was lost on a division – Yeas 41, Nays 48.
Finally the Committee rose, reported progress and obtained leave to sit again.
The House then, at six o’clock, adjourned.