Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly [Elective Legislative Council] (4 June 1850)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Legislative Assembly,” The Globe (6 June 1850).
(Concluded from our last.)
Mr. BOULTON (Toronto) had not expected the violent tirade which they had just heard from the hon. Attorney General; he thought that the day had gone by for such clap trap as talking about attachment to the Mother Country. Gentlemen on the other side had no reason either to boast of their loyalty. He thought that instead of weakening the connection with Great Britain, the introduction of the elective principle amongst us would only strengthen the tie which united us, would make us more happy and contented than we had ever been before. To talk of England being opposed to it was absurd, for England had recognised the principle for hundreds of years. The hon. member then proceeded to show that Rhode Island and Connecticut had retained the constitutions first granted them by the English Crown, and under them had enjoyed uninterrupted peace and tranquility. The only objection he had to the proposition of his hon. friend from Norfolk was, that he did not go far enough, he would not stop at an Elective Council, he would have an Elective Governor also. They would not then see the scene enacted every seven or eight years, for the last half century. A new Governor coming out and connecting himself with one or other party in the country and being hated by the other. It was this that had let to the Rebellion both in Upper and Lower Canada. Lord Metcalfe was very popular with one party and equally unpopular with another, and the same might be said of Lord Elgin. He thought such a system was not suited to the people of this country, they would speedily change it, and he could see nothing against their choosing a hereditary monarchy or an elective Governor. He was surprised to hear the Attorney General assert that the people of Great Britain enjoyed more happiness than any other nation is the world. He [Mr. Boulton] had been in the habit of thinking that there was more ignorance and misery joined to more wealth there than in any other country, and that the people of the United States occupied the most inviable position of all the nations of the world. He did not think, therefore, that it was necessary, that in order to be happy and prosperous, the stars and stripes should float over us, nay, he believed that under the British flag they enjoyed great advantages, but he did not believe that the institutions of the Mother Country would bear transplanting to this new world. They had Municipal Councils and what was the Government of Canada but a municipal matter; these Councils had no executive body on their floor; the seats of hon. members opposite, under the constitution, depended on the passage of a bill, and why should the interests of the Province be staked on such a matter as that. The United States Constitution was considerably better suited to this country than that of Great Britain, they might adopt it and still keep the union jack flying. England did not want a province constantly in a state of semi-revolution, she wanted a contented people, and elective institutions would secure it. Then they would have self-government, which they had not, so long as the power of vetoing any bill was held by the Imperial authorities; the copy right bill was refused the Royal Assent although it had passed both branches of the Canadian Legislature unanimously. The interests of Canada must be compatible with the interests of Great Britain or the union between them could not continue to exist, and it was for them to show that their interests were compatible. This change in the constitution would give peace and tranquility, people would no longer fear to come to the country, as they had been prevented for years, on account of the anarchy and confusion which prevailed. The hon. member then proceeded at great length to compare the Constitution of the State of New York to that of Canada, giving the advantage in every particular to the former.
Mr. HINCKS said, that the hon. member for Toronto had forgot to tell them, in reference to the State of New York, that it occurred but seldom there, that members of the Legislature misrepresented the opinions of their constituents; he was astonished when he heard the hon. member enunciate such sentiments, when he reflected how totally they differed from those of the people of Toronto. Could the hon. member say that he was supported by even a fraction of his constituents.
Mr. BOULTON—Yes: his views were those of three-fourths of his constituents. (Cries of no, no, from all parts of the house.)
Mr. HINCKS was satisfied that no other member would agree with the hon. member in his statement, and he did say, that when the hon. member changed his views so greatly from those he had entertained when elected, he was bound to go back to his constituents for their approval.
Mr. BOULTON said that he did not mean by what he had said, to imply that his constituents were in favour of annexation.
Mr. HINCKS—If the hon. member thought that he could carry out the changes he proposed without ending in annexation, he was sure that he stood alone in his opinion. He could understand the members for St. Maurice and Stanstead urging these views, they were consistent in doing so, but he could not understand the propriety of such a course on the part of the hon. members for Norfolk and Toronto. He did not believe those opinions were generally held by the party to which the latter hon. member had belonged. The hon. member had referred to two colonial measures which had been refused the sanction of the imperial authority. In reference to the first of these, the copy-right bill, he (Mr. H.) was fully prepared to justify the course the home government had pursued. He considered that the use of works without any remuneration to the author, as much a robbery as taking bales of merchandise, and the government were justified in taking steps to secure the rights of authors in a proper manner. The bill passed in New Brunswick, which was disallowed, was in direct contravention of the commercial policy of Great Britain for many years past, and it was impossible to carry it out without violence to every principle which they had laid down. The hon. member had twitted the members of the government with borrowing their municipal bill of last session from the United States act. There was no municipal bill of the United States as the hon. member, who was so well versed in these matters, might have known—the U. States had nothing to do with the municipal arrangements. If he meant the State of New York, there was no similarity between the municipal systems of Canada and that State or any other State, so far as he (Mr. H.) knew. The school bill was not drawn from the United States more than from any other country; it was in use in Scotland. The member for Norfolk was so singularly unfortunate in the way of bringing forward his measures, that even those disposed to support their principles were compelled to vote against them. He did not desire to pledge himself against an elective Legislative Council, but he desired to see the subject brought forward in a definite statesmanlike manner. He did not agree with his hon. friend the Attorney-General, on the subject; he had seen two elective houses in Belgium working well with the government. There was a want of plan in the proposition, and he thought, in a quarrion of such importance, the blanks should have been filled up, and they would have seen how it was proposed to constitute the chamber. It should be remembered that there were two parties demanding this measure,—one wished it as a conservative measure, because they believed the government too democratic, and another to render it more democratic. When these two came to discuss the details of the measure, it would be seen that their views were wholly irreconcilable with each other. As the hon. member for Cornwall had said, there was no scheme before on which to vote, and the only course left open to him (Mr. H.) was to vote against the resolution. As to the charge made against the administration or filling the Council with their own friends to carry their measures, there was not the slightest ground for such a charge. When the members of the present cabinet went into power, there were only five or six of the twenty-nine members of the Council friendly to their policy; but notwithstanding this, they only added six to the number, and of these, two never took their seats. They were succeeded in 1843 by the late administration, who, although there was a large preponderance of members in favor of their party, appointed eight new members to the body. When the present administration came into power, there were thirty-six members of the Council, of whom twenty-three were of the other party, and thirteen, although not partizans, were not inclined to oppose their measures. The administration had appointed twelve members, only four more than the last, and as two of their former appointments had never taken their seats, and Mr. Sullivan had been placed on the bench, they did not secure by so doing even an equality in the house, and these were absolutely necessary to secure a sufficient attendance to carry on the business. Neither were these gentlemen partizans of the ministry, two of them had given constant opposition during last session. It could not be charged against the administration that the persons were not eligible to the station to which they were appointed, being generally possessed of large fortunes.
Mr. WILSON was sorry to see so much time wasted on this subject. He was surprised to hear, not the hon. member for Norfolk—he was not surprised at anything from him—but the hon. member for Toronto [Mr. Sherwood] give as a reason for making the Council elective, that he had often seen bills hurried through that House, read short as the hon. member had expressed it. Did he never remember seeing bills pass through that House quickly? not even the notes read but only the titles, yes, and at his own [Mr. S.’s] request. The hon. member had said, too, that the new House would be filled with the elite of the Province, and would attain to new dignity in the eyes of the people of the Province. He would suppose that the change was made, and that the elite of this House were transferred to the new House, the members for Kent, for Toronto, for Sherbrooke, and for Norfolk, would it not be the very same kind of bear garden that this was. He was indignant at what had been said that night, and on another occasion against the members of the Council. Gentlemen would have us to believe that they were a set of ninnies. What right had they thus to contemn them; had they not equal right to contemn us, and had they ever expressed any such feelings. He was sure that they would all acknowledge that the country had good reason to be disgusted with this house. He thought it was the duty of every person to engage in the work of practical reform, and to avoid these discussions on changes of the constitution. When a party was turned out of office, or something did not go smoothly in England, or the United States, they did not immediately begin to call out for a change in the constitution; it was their duty to cease thinking of such things, and turn their attention to the real business of the country, which had been seriously retarded.
Mr. BADGELEY was often altogether inaudible while he was speaking. He was understood to say, that it had been too much the practice to speak despairingly of the other branch of the Legislature; neither side had ever given a fair character to its members. He thought it impossible to extend the elective principle to the Governor, without trespassing on the rights of the Imperial authority. His own opinion was however in favour of the elective principle, which he thought, might be introduced to a certain extent as well in connection with Britain as if separated from her. He did not think however that the House should go in advance of the people on the subject; it should rather follow their lead.
Mr. CAMERON (Kent) thought that the measure should be allowed to go through its first reading, and then he referred to a committee. It was absolutely necessary that the ministry should have made the appointments to the Council which they had done. The Council, in his opinion, represented the talent and wealth of the community as fully as that House did. He was unwilling to raise points of difference with the Attorney General West, and could not help remarking that it was somewhat strange for that hon. gentleman to charge all those who were in favor of an Elective Legislative Council with being annexationists. If the Attorney General was right, then the Inspector General was an annexationist, for he it appeared, differed from his colleague. The people had made up their minds on this subject, their table had been loaded with petitions in favour of liberalizing our institutions, of extending the franchise, allowing the people to elect all officers paid by themselves; all the western counties had declared in favor of them. The Attorney General was quite shocked at these changes, and said that when he was in opposition he had not resorted to such means of opposition. That might be true of the past four years, but if he went back to the time of Sir F. B. Hear, he would find it was different then. He had then wished to alter the constitution, to tinker it, and even in Lord Sydenham’s time, similar changes were proposed.
Mr. ROBINSON was entirely inaudible; he was understood to be opposed to the resolutions.
Mr. MCCONNELL was in favour of the resolutions, because in the present Council the cities were only represented and not the country; there was none for his county for instance, and he knew no body to present petitions for him. The new system would remedy that.
Mr. HOLMES hoped that the measure would be withdrawn in order that a more definite one might be introduced; even if this were not done he should vote for it, because he believed that if it and similar changes were made, annexation would be no longer necessary; we should have nothing to envy in the neighbouring republic as to politics at any rate.
Mr. BALDWIN had not said, as the hon. member for Kent had represented, that all who were in favour of the elective Council were annexationists; he had expressly stated that many of his friends with whom he had pleasure in acting were favourable to it; he had said that the result to be feared from it and similar changes was annexation.
Mr. BOULTON [Norfolk] replied at considerable length.
Mr. SMITH, of Durham, considered the proposal to have a Colonial Representation in the Imperial Parliament as a perfect farce. As to a Legislative Council, he should like to hear stronger reasons adduced than those which had been advanced by the hon. member who seconded the motion; and should have been glad to have him point out some practical evil, which arises from the manner in which it is at present constituted. It was not a little remarkable, he said, that the hon. member for Norfolk had not thought of the proposed alteration some fifteen years since, when he held a situation in the government and parliament, and when the Council thwarted the wishes of the people. This would have been a proof of his sincerity. He had searched, and found that the expense of the Legislature is about £300 a day. He wished it therefore to be know, that several days had been consumed in fruitless debate, and for no other purpose except that the hon. member might hear himself talk, or that an opportunity might be afforded to attack the government. Up to the middle of last session, no one was more obsequious towards the government, than the learned member himself; and he was most indefatigable in his support of the Judicature Bill, which was brought in towards the close. Now he says he wants a government of law, and not of discretion. He (Mr. S.) expected that he would have specified some instance where the exercise of the prerogative had been censurable; but, on the contrary, he had designated the members of the Upper House as being as intelligent a body as is to be found in the country. He (Mr. S.) would take the liberty of telling the learned member for Norfolk—for it was a subject of notoriety in the papers—and with the utmost respect, that, with reference to any disappointment he might have met with as to a recent appointment, it was universally considered that the government had exercised a wholesome discretion in refusing him the situation alluded to.
Mr. BOULTON called the hon. member to order. If any friend of the Government was desirous of discussing the measure referred to, he was ready to do so; but he considered it extremely unfair to make those personal allusions.
Mr. SMITH replied, that what he had said arose from what he learned member had stated himself. Whenever the Government shall be proved not to have exercised a sound discretion, he would join the learned member for Norfolk, in any course which it might be proper to pursue.
Mr. CHRISTIE rose to correct an error into which the member for Durham had fallen: £500 per diem was about £200 more than the actual amount. How much it would cost the country if the House went on as it had done during the last three weeks, it was impossible to determine—probably six months.
Mr. SCOTT, of Bytown, agreed to some extent with the learned member for Norfolk; for whether the Legislative Council were elective or not, it was perfectly useless; and those who were acquainted with the history of the United States, must be aware that it had been frequently proposed to abolish the Senate in that country. If the learned member would bring his resolution in a different shape, he (Mr. S.) would vote for it; but as it stood, it was perfectly useless. The learned member did not seem to know what he wanted himself. The League had broached the same doctrine as they had heard that night, but its members could not agree as to any one measure.
The House then divided.
YEAS:—Messrs. Boulton of Norfolk, Boulton of Toronto, Burritt, Cameron of Kent, Christie, DeWitt, Holmes, Hopkins, Johnson, LaTerriere, McConnell, Papineau, Prince and Sanborn.—14.
NAYS:—Messrs. Armstrong, Badgley, Attorney General Baldwin, Boutillier, Cameron of Cornwall, Cartier, Cauchon, Cayley, Chabot, Chaveau, Davignon, Dickson, Solicitor General Drummond, Duchesnay, Flint, Fortier, Fourneir, Dourquin, Gugy, Guillet, Inspector General Hincks, Jobin, Lacoste, Attorney General LaFontaine, Laurin, Lemieux, Lyon, Solicitor General Macdonald, Malloch, Marquis, McLean, Methot, Morrison, Notman, Price, Robinson, Ross, Sauvageau, Scott of Bytown, Scott of Two Mountains, Seymour, Sherwood of Brockville, Sherwood of Toronto, Smith of Durham, Smith of Wentworth, Stevenson, Tache, Viger and Wilson.—49.
Mr. HINCKS said, at that late hour he would make a few remarks. He believed the Industrial Exhibition which is to take place in London next year, had excited considerable interest in Montreal and throughout the province, which he believed would be fully represented on that occasion. Government had not taken any steps as yet, but were prepared to co-operate with the Legislature. It was desirable that a committee of correspondence should be appointed; and he would therefore move for a select committee, who would report to the House.