Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, [Montreal Gazette version], 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (7 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Montreal Gazette
Citation: “Latest from Quebec”, Montreal Gazette (8 February 1865).
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Quebec, Feb. 7.
CONFEDERATION OF THE COLONIES.
Mr. CARTIER felt unusual responsibility in rising to this question. Before approaching the question itself, he would refer to it history. He then proceeded to read from the programme of the Cartier-Macdonald Government, in 1858 to show that the subject was then alluded to. The general elections had followed, and the people were not taken by surprise. At that time, Newfoundland was the only province which exhibited a willingness to consider the subject. After referring to the negotiations at that period, he went on to say he had, as every one knew, been opposed to representation by population. The moment that was conceded, it would have been a constant source of warfare, as one province would be governing another. It might have caused one of the bitterest struggles that ever took place between two countries, to which that between the North and South could not compare. He was not afraid, however, to adopt that principle when other parties came into federation. He did not oppose the application of that principle because he was unwilling to do justice to Upper Canada; but he did not wish injustice done to Lower Canada. The questions to be submitted to the General Parliament, under federation, could not endanger the interests of either French, England, Irish or Scotch. He did not intend to go into the details of the measure, but to show why the House should adopt the resolutions submitted by Government. The question was, in fact, forced upon us. The struggle going on in the States must necessarily influence our political existence. It did not matter what the result of it would be; either we must obtain this British American Federation. [Cries of No, no] It was useless to deny it. In case of attack on any one of the Provinces it could not defend itself; the whole force of the British Empire could not be brought to bear there. If the country was invaded after the union, the strength of the whole federation would be brought to bear, and we might then look for the support of Great Britain. When speaking in the Lower Provinces he stated plainly that, as regards population, extent of territory, &c., we were the greatest country; but we lacked one important element, the maritime element, which the Lower Provinces had, whilst they lacked the back country we had—He maintained that federation was necessary for our prosperity, commercial interests and defence, and to secure to us the continuance of connection with England. He understood well the French social democrats and annexationists in Montreal opposing the scheme. At a meeting at the Institute Canadian, in Montreal, the opinion had been expressed that the interests of the French Canadians would be better occurred by at once joining the American Federation.
Mr. DORION—You misquote the resolutions.
Mr. CARTIER—He also understand the followers of John Dougall and l’Union Nationale were opposing the scheme, because they were annexationists; and if the scheme was carried out there would be no chance of annexation. He defended the Conference sitting with closed doors if the proceedings had been made public day by day, modifications could not have been had. The difference of the interests in religion and races was the very reason why a federation system should be resorted to. That there should be differences of races here was complained of by some; but he must vindicate the part those of his race had taken. Canadians were called upon as early as 1775 by Washington to leave their new masters, who differed from them in religion and race; but the Canadians resisted the offer, and not only that, but fought against the American invading armies. Their conduct then showed; that Protestants need not now be afraid of being dealt with fairly. If Canada now formed a part of the British Empire, it was owing to the efforts of the priests. He then referred to several old proclamations and documents published at the time when the Americans tried to induce the French-Canadians to join them to vindicate the honor and loyalty of their ancestors. The spirit which induced the Americans to form a federation was to carry out democratic institutions; but our had not that object. We have seen that purely democratic institutions; but ours had not that object. We have seen that purely democratic institutions cannot be conducive to prosperity and good government. We were only carrying out a purely monarchial element, while on the other side of the line they were dependent on the will of the populace or mob. The people there acknowledge that tiny have made a great mistake in giving so much power to the mob, which left the respectable part of the community little to do with the government. We desire to continue under the British system. Besides, there ought to be free commercial intercourse. We had common interests and that was the true basis of a great nationality. As to the differences of race and religion being against us, quite the contrary was the case. With regard to the British Empire, the Scotch and Irish had assisted in adding to its glory; so here, French Canadians could never be exterminated; but all must work together. If the local government in Lower Canada chose to enact laws detrimental to the minority, which he was sure it would never do, such a feeling of censure would be created over the whole federation as would prevent its being carried out. The same would be the case in Upper Canada. The British community formerly had difficulty in enacting commercial laws. Mr. Papineau was quite right in his course, but he not understand the wants of a commercial community. No fears of this kind might be entertained now, as the questions of trade were to be left to the General government. The local government could not enact laws pressing on Protestants, because the same law would apply to all. When the details were being discussed, he would show it was impossible any minority could be oppressed. He went on to allude to the opposition of the Witness and True Witness to the scheme; both on the ground that it would be the ruin of those of their respective religious if carried. Mr. Cherrier had also come out very suddenly to opposite, and they all said the whole cause of this was that confounded Mr. Cartier. As to the clergy being opposed to the scheme, such was not the case. They advocated it because it would only be doing justice to Protestants. The priests did not wish for strife it was not worthy of a minister of religion to drag down religious subjects into a discussion of this kind. The French priests did not like, and did not do that but they saw in the scheme a solution of the evils under which we had been laboring. From each of the three quarters of the opposition in Montreal, the cry of nationality and religion was raised. He (Mr. Cartier) was opposed to the democratic system of the Northern States, and wished to secure here a monarchial system. With that element the Govt. would enjoy more prestige and respectability. He alluded to the system of the election of the United States several candidates were proposed, but one only elected. It was impossible that he could have respect for his political opponents who had been doing everything to place him before the people in the worst possible light. The Ministers here had to bear abuse, but this did not reach the head of the Government in conclusion, he hoped the members would consider well the scheme, which it was his sincere hope would be adopted. The time was opportune, and might never occur again. In all their proceedings the Government had had the approbation of the Imperial Government.
The House then rose, Mr. Cartier to repeat his speech in French after recess.
Mr. CARTIER proceeded to speak in French in half-past.
Mr. DORION afterwards put some questions on the different parts of the scheme, which the Government said would be explained in subsequent speeches.
Mr. GALT following, said he had only to shew that the union would be one advantages to all. The subject might be divided under fire [text ineligible] first. Are the financial, commercial and material interests of these colonies such as to make a union desirable? Second, is their financial position such as to make it practicable and just to all? Fourth, is it likely that the scheme if adopted, will work satisfactory to all? Lastly, are the means proposed [text eligible] such an additional expense will [text ineligible] inexpedient to consider the questions at all? After commending the scheme generally, he proceeded to allude to the trade of the provinces. In [text eligible] the imports and exports of Canada amounted to [text ineligible], or $17 per head. New Brunswick, $8 per head, Nova Scotia, [text ineligible] per head, Prince Edward Island, [text ineligible] per head, Newfoundland, [text ineligible] per head. Altogether, the import and export trade [text ineligible]. The commercial [text ineligible] of the Lower Provinces was such as to make it desirable for any country to enter a union with them. He gave statistics, shewing the immense aggregate of the [text ineligible] of the various Provinces, which would make them, when united, one of the foremost Maritime Powers in the world. Coming to the financial position of the various Provinces, it was such that the proposed union of the [text ineligible] contained in the resolutions, would be a partnership fair and equitable to all. [text ineligible] had been created wholly with reference to the development of the commercial interests of the country; to be carried at the cheapest possible rate in market, and to ensure articles which enter into our own consumption to be delivered to the consumer at the least possible cost. The same might be said of the debts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which had been incurred almost exclusively for Canals and Railways. He went on to shew that the construction of the Intercolonial Railroad, would give Canada and the Lower Provinces the benefit [text ineligible] of their respective public works, so that in assuming each others debts they got also the value for which they had been incurred. He proceeded to show the amounts of the debts of the several provinces, and the principles on which the general government had agreed to assume their several liabilities, so that justice should be done to all. He explained how the figure of [text ineligible] had been arrived at as the indebtedness per head at which the liabilities of the several provinces were assumed by the general government, and how the portion of our liabilities not covered by that figure was provided for. He next gave a statement of the resources of the various provinces with a view to showing that while the debt had been so arranged that the burden would be fairly borne by all the various Provinces, at the same time, they brought into the confederation so proportionably equal as to make the union a fair one also in that respect to all. With that view, he read a statement of the income, expenditure, and debt of the several Provinces, the same as in his Sherbrooke speech. A considerable amount of the debt of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was in the form of Treasury notes and loans at low rates from saving banks. The revenue from public works in these colonies was $100, 000 net. This statement, he said, showed that the union would not add in any way to the burthens of the people; if any, rather on the people of the Lower Provinces. They have a surplus, which we have not, though there is hope that in the future we may also secure it. In each colony the revenue is raised upon a different system of taxation; but, generally, the greater part is from custom duties. In Newfoundland, for instance, importing nearly all the food and clothing of the people, and producing almost nothing but fish, the revenue is entirely thus raised, and at a less of duty, a much larger revenue per her head than here. The first task of the new Government would be to assimilate the system and rates of taxation, and so impose burthens at least to cripple the industry of, and impede the progress of, the country; and as all these consume more imported goods per head than Canada, the change would necessarily be in the direction of a reduction of the Canadian tariff, not an increase. Again, if we look at the credit of several of the colonies in the money market, we see our credit had, of late, in the money market, we see our credit had, of late, been impaired by causes known to all—distrust about the dangers of our position and no preparation to meet them. Those dangers were felt to threaten them less, and thus their securities, formerly lower, now rate rather higher than ours. Thus, it was obvious our credit was to be raised by clubbing our resources, not impaired. With respect to the means of carrying on the governments, it was obvious that the general government, having the right of general taxation, could take care of itself; and here, before entering on the revenues falling to local governments, he would answer the questions put by Mr. Dorion. The export duties were reversed to New Brunswick on timber, and Nova Scotia on coal. In the former case, because New Brunswick had abolished the stampage does as inconvenient and less productive, and substituted other duties instead. They were not prepared to give that up, and as the land and timber belonged to the local governments, they had left that to them. Mines also belonged, with the lands, to those governments Nova Scotia was allowed to continue her dues on shipments of coal. As for levying export duties on Canadian timber by the general government, he should be opposed to it. After allowing Canada to bring in a debt of $62,500,000, about $5,000,000 remained as a charge against Lower Canada, with the Townships indemnity, and the munical loan fund against the municipal loan fund of Upper Canada, was larger than all against Upper Canada. This, he thought personally, was a means of division without great difficulty; but the government objected to enter on those details now. He had now to deal with those details, seeing he must consider the bargain with the other Provinces as a whole. These other details were to be submitted by the Ministry, and the House could alter or amend that part of the a scheme as they saw fit, to secure justice to both Provinces. If any embarrassment arose with regard to the finances of the confederation, it might be anticipated, perhaps, more wish references to the local governments than to the general government. He would examine, therefore, what were the prospects with reference to the local governments. They had certain sources of local revenue reserved—the receipts from the territorial domain lands, mines, minerals, royalties, etc. In the case of Canada, very large sums would be receivable by the local governments from lands and timber, and, he hoped, the mines also from the arrears due to the Municipal Loan Fund, and other funds of a local character. Some of these revenues, as that from the Municipal Loan Fund, would, in course of years, run out; but offer sources of local revenue, it might be expected, would in the meantime developed themselves. If not, the local governments would require to resort to local taxation for the purpose of maintaining themselves. He thought this was one of the wisest provisions in the whole constitution, for it afforded the best check on lavish expenditure by the government. (Hear, hear.) And he hoped the further education of the people in political economy would teach them to be more economical, and to bear more of their burdens by direct taxation. The local revenues of Upper Canada arising from law fees, Upper Canada Building Fund, local public works, Crown Lands, interest on investments, etc., on an average on the last four years, were $100, 000. The local revenues of Lower Canada from similar sources on an average of the last four years were $557, 000, making for Upper and Lower Canada an aggregate of $1,000,000 as receipts from local revenue. Adding the subsidy of [text ineligible[ in the dollar, which would come from the general government, there would be a total income of $1, 260,000, leaving an excess over the estimated local expenditure of $1,043,000, from which would have to be deducted the expenses of the local governments and local legislatures and he thought if the governments of Upper and Lower Canada would not keep the expansion of their legislation and civil government within that sum the representatives of the people would soon call them to account and make a change. (Hear, hear.) He adverted then to the property of the general government granting the proposed subsidy to the local governments, inasmuch as they handed over to the general government all their import duties, excise duties, &c., and to the necessity for such subsidy, inasmuch as the local expenditures exceeded the local revenues, independently of the subsidy. He proceeded to deal with the last question, that of expense, whether the system of federation as proposed was likely to involve so great an additional expense as to render it in that point of view unadvisable. He thought the House would agree with him that expense was no criteria by which to judge of the value of a union of this kind. (Hear, hear) For the purpose of argument, he was prepared to shew that in that point of shew frustration would still be a success; but he protested at the outset against the question of expense being considered a matter of greater importance than the peace, happiness and prosperity of the people. The only mode in which confederation could prove more expensive than our present system was with reference to the cost of the government. Every other item was for object necessary in themselves, or the expenditure would not be incurred. We could understand that a weak and poor country would [text ineligible] to [text ineligible] desirable undertakings because it had not the power or the means to do it from want of credit [text ineligible] regarded, for instance, the question of defences, a small and poor colony, unable to defend itself, would not, from the very nature of things, incur any large outlay for that purpose, but throw itself on the forbearance of its powerful neighbours [text ineligible] on the protection which might be afforded [text ineligible] the further country, but when these provinces came together, and [text ineligible] their resources, they would then be enabled to undertake the work of self-defence, and to incur an outlay for that purpose. It was the same with respect to public works. Many of our public works were of utility, not merely to the locality, but to the whole system of colonies, for instance, the Welland and St. Lawrence Canals, and it was only in consequence of the union of Upper and Lower Canada that we had been enabled to carry out those great works. The same was the case with reference to our great railway works completed or now in contemplation.—Again, the enlargement of the St. Lawrence and Welland Canals, opening us of the North West, &c., which the Colonies could not undertake separately, but he hoped they would be among the first things for which the Finance Minister of the confederation, when established, would ask grants. But looking at the question in the most, restricted sense, whether it would cost more dollars and cents to govern the country under the new system than under the old, he [text ineligible] the new system would not be more expensive in the first place, the governments of the several provinces would be of a less important character and less expensive than now, then, the local legislature, having nothing to do with the general questions which now [text ineligible] in much time, would have their [text ineligible] less [text ineligible], and would be much less expensive. The General Government and Legislature not having local matters to deal with, he was satisfied it would not cost more than than the Government and Legislature of Canada now cost. Through they would have then the charge of an additional [text ineligible], they would be released of the care of the local efforts of these million with which they were now charged. There was only left, therefore, the expanse of the new local governments and legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada as an offset against the reduction that would be [text ineligible] in the cost of the governments with the Lower Provinces if there was any excess it must be [text ineligible] as should not induce this House to refuse its assent to federation. Mr. Gait concluded by an eloquent appeal in the members not in let this opportunity slip of adopting a measure which would be a remedy for the evils under which we had incurred in Canada during the last ten years, and by which the internal prosperity, peace and happiness of all these Colonies would be developed and maintained. (Loud cheers.)
On motion of Mr. Brown, the debate was adjourned until tomorrow at half-past:
The House adjourned at ten minutes to 12.