Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly [Local Constitutions, The Globe version] (11 June 1866)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Legislative Assembly”, The Globe (14 June 1866).
(Continuation of Monday’s Debate.)
OTTAWA, June 11.
Hon. Mr. HOLTON asked if it was the intention of the Government to submit during this session a scheme for the local legislatures of Canada, and, if so, when it was to be brought down.
Hon. JOHN A. MACDONALD said the paragraph in the address had distinct reference to the subject of local legislatures, and that it was the intention of the Government to submit a scheme for them during this session. He was not prepared to fix the day, which would depend upon the progress of the public business.
In answer to Hon. Mr. HOLTON,
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said there must be an Imperial Act to give force to our resolutions or measures, both for the general and local governments.
Hon. Mr. HOLTON asked how were the details of the Confederation scheme to be come at during this Parliament, to which the Government was pledged.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said the resolutions respecting the local legislatures were to be proposed this session, and the Imperial Parliament would take the earliest opportunity of fiving effect both to them and the resolutions respecting the general constitution passed already.
Hon. Mr. HOLTON wished to understand whether the Government, instead of enacting constitutions for the two Canadas, proposed to invite the attention of the House to the tenor of the resolutions upon which Imperial action is to be formed. If so, their programme was changed since a couple of sessions. According to the present plan, the people of Canada were not to have liberty to settle their own local governments, but must pass resolutions to be embodied in an English Act of Parliament; and our resolutions were to be altered, if seen fit, without our permission to pass upon changes which might be made in the British Parliament. Did the Attorney General West purpose inviting the House this session to come to any resolution respecting the general question of Confederation, the powers of the general government, and the terms upon which the scheme was to be carried out? Did he propose to abandon the commission derived from Parliament two years ago, which could hold him literally to the resolutions of 1864, from which he could not depart one iota; or, asking similar powers to those sought by the Government of Nova Scotia, to vest in a new Conference to be held in England, in consultation with the Imperial Government the whole power of settling the constitution of the general government? Did he intend such questions in any form for this Legislature; or, if not, what would be his course to give effect to these resolutions?
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD denied that any change had been made in regard to the measures for local constitutions. We had no authority without an act of the Imperial Government to alter our own constitution. So far as Canada was concerned, the question of Confederation was closed. We had passed our resolutions, and had effect given them by an Imperial Act; and it depended on the Queen whether the measure for local constitutions, if passed here, would also be carried into law.
Hon. Mr. DORION hailed with satisfaction the announcement in the last paragraphs of the Address. It was a slight concession to the wishes of the people of Canada. The policy here shadowed forth was a departure from that of a few sessions ago. He believed that the opposition to Confederation at present would be found to be far greater than when the scheme was first proposed, if the matter were referred to the people. He contended that those resolutions in regard to local legislatures should not be pushed through Parliament in the way proposed; but that the people should have an opportunity to pronounce upon them. He repudiated the design to have an Act passed in England sanctioning a form of Constitution not yet decided, but which is to be agreed upon by a Conference to assemble in London on some future day. The people’s representatives should not be asked to sanction resolutions, pledging them to a measure of which they, as yet, know nothing.
[Mr. DORION concluded by moving the amendment, which we published yesterday.]
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD suggested the propriety of withdrawing the amendment at this stage. It defeated now, a substantially similar motion would not be introduced on the discussion upon the resolutions, respecting local legislatures themselves. The amendment was inopportune at this time.
Mr. DUNKIN suggested taking a division upon the amendment now, and reserving the discussion upon the details of the Confederation scheme till the question respecting the local legislatures was fairly before the House. This would save time and postpone a discussion that, at this stage, would be useless and irrelevant.
Hon. Mr. DORION thought the Attorney General West did not correctly state the rule of the House, respecting the amendment. He thought he could put the amendment, as it referred to a subject embraced in the address, without thereby forfeiting his right to introduce it, or one substantially the same, when the measure relating to local legislature was introduced.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD replied, insisting upon the accuracy of his opinion in regard to the effect of the present disposal of the amendment by a vote.
Hon. J. SANDFIELD MACDONALD advocated the passing of the amendment, and condemned the attempt to carry a scheme with amendment, upon which the people would have no opportunity of pronouncing. He contended we should not be asked to confide implicitly in any Government promise or conduct, when the construction of a new constitution for the country was concerned. We should not be asked to receive a constitution, cut and dry, from England, the people of Canada should have the liberty of deciding as to the form or nature of that instrument by which they were ever after to be governed. He would, holding these views, support the amendment. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. DUNKIN opposed the springing of abstract motions on the House on all occasions. The amendment was vague, and might be construed into all sorts of meanings, including an expression of opinion in favour of the prorogation of the House, for which he saw at present no necessity. He saw no use in opposing the paragraph at this stage, which he was sure would be carried.
Hon. Mr. DORION contended that the amendment was plain enough, as it sought to commit the House to a decision not to sanction any radical change in the constitution upon which the people had not an opportunity of being consulted. (Hear, hear.)
After some remarks from Mr. HOLTON in support of the amendment, amid loud cries of “call in the members,” the Speaker ordered the members to be called in.
Mr. JOHN McDONALD rose to speak, which, with the consent of the House, he was permitted to do. His views had undergone considerable change since last session on several points. Considering recent events, he was not prepared to do anything that would weaken our alliance with that country to which we owed so much. There was only one country in the world prepared to exert all her power and employ all her resources in our behalf, and that was England. (Cheers.) If our prosperity was to be assured, our peace and happiness guaranteed, it was by a closer alliance with the British nation. While he would have joined a year ago any member in voting an appeal to the people, the circumstances that had transpired since had done away with his belief in the necessity for such a course, which he now considered unnecessary. He concluded with a warm tribute to the bravery and noble services of the Canadian volunteers in the defence of their homes. Hoping that British connections would long be maintained as our greatest pride in peace and greatest security in war, he would vote against the amendment. (Cheers).
The last two paragraphs of the address were then put and carried; and the Attorney-General West moved, seconded by Mr. Cartier, the usual formal resolutions for drafting the address, &c.