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
The House then resumed the adjourned debate on the motion of John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] for the adoption of an address based on the Confederation resolutions.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] felt an unusual responsibility in rising to this question. Before approaching the subject itself, he said he would refer to its 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. 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 everyone 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 have been governing another. It might have caused one of the bitterest struggles which 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 the Federation. He did not oppose the application of that principle because he was unwilling to do justice to Upper Canada, but did not wish injustice to Upper Canada, but because he did not wish injustice done Lower Canada.
The questions to be submitted to the general Parliament under Federation could not endanger the interests of either French, English, 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 the 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 might be—either we must obtain this British American Federation, or be absorbed in the American Federation.
Some Hon. Members—Cries of No, No.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—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 were invaded after 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 of the Lower Provinces he stated plainly, that as regards population, extent of territory, etc., 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 which we had. He maintained that Federation was necessary for our property, commercial interests, and defence, and to assure to us continuance of our connection with England. He understood well the French social Democrats and Annexationists in Montreal opposing the scheme. At a meeting of the Institute Canadien in Montreal, the opinion had been expressed that the interests of the French Canadians would be better secured by at once joining the American Federation.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—You misquote the resolution.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] also understood the followers of John Dougall and L’Union Nationale opposing the scheme, because they were annexationists, and if the scheme were 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 interests, religion, and races was the very reason why a Federative system should be resorted to. That there should be differences of races here was complained of by some, but he must vindicate the part 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 part of the British empire, it was owing to the efforts of the priests. He referred to several old proclamations and documents, published at the time when the Americans tried to seduce the French Canadians to join them, to vindicate the honour and loyalty of his ancestors. The spirit which induced the Americans to form a Federation was to carry out 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 the pure monarchical element, while on the other side of the line they were dependent on the will of populace or mob. People there acknowledge that they 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 for the formation of great nationality.
As to difference of race and religion being against this, quite the contrary was the case. With regard to the British empire, Irish and Scotch 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 own course, but he did not understand the wants of the commercial community. No fears of this kind might be entertained now, as 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 details were being discussed he would show that it was impossible any minority could be oppressed. He went on to allude to the opposition of the Witness and the True Witness to this scheme, both on the ground that it would be the ruin of those of their respective religions if carried Mr. Cherrier had also come out very suddenly to oppose it, 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. 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. French priests did not like, and did not do that, but they saw in the scheme the solution of evils under which they had been labouring. From each of three quarters in Montreal the cry of nationality or religion was raised.
He (Mr. Cartier) was opposed to the democratic system of the States and wished to secure here the monarchical system. With that element the Government would enjoy more prestige and respectability. He alluded to the system of the election of the President of the States. Several candidates were proposed, but one only was elected. It was impossible he could have the respect of his political opponents, who had been doing everything to place him before the people in the worst possible light. Ministers here had to bear abuse, but this did not reach the head of the Government. In conclusion, he hoped members would well consider 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 the approbation of the Imperial Government.
The House then rose, Mr. Cartier was to repeat his remarks in French after recess.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] afterwards put some questions on different parts of the scheme, which the members of the Government said would be explained in subsequent speeches.
Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] following, said he had only to show that the union would be one advantageous to all. The subject might be divided under five heads—first, are the financial, commercial, and material interests of these colonies such, as to make union desirable; second, is their financial position such as to make it practicable and just to all; third, is the measures proposed fair to all; fourth, is it likely that the scheme, if adopted, will work satisfactorily to all; lastly, are the means proposed such as will involve such an additional expense as will render it inexpedient to consider the question at all. After commending the scheme generally, he proceeded to allude to the trade of the Provinces. In 1863, the imports and exports of Canada amounted to $67,795,000, or $37 per head, New Brunswick $66 per head, Nova Scotia $56 per head, New Brunswick $66 per head, Nova Scotia $56 per head, Prince Edward Island $37 per head, Newfoundland $86 per head.
Altogether the import and export trade of all the Provinces represented about 130,000,000. The commercial position of the Lower Provinces was such as to make it desirable for any country to enter into a union with them. He gave statistics showing the immense aggregate of the tonnage of the various Provinces, which would make them, when wanted, one of the foremost maritime powers in the world. Coming to the provincial matter, the position of the various Provinces was such that the proposed union, on the terms contained in the resolution, would be a partnership fair and equitable to all.
Our debt had been created wholly with reference to the development of the commercial interests of the country to enable the produce of the western States and of our own western country to be carried at the cheapest possible rate to market, and to enable articles which enter into our own consumption to be delivered to consumers at the least possible coast. The same might be said of the debts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which had been incurred almost exclusively for canals and railways.
The hon. gentleman went on to show that the construction of the Intercolonial railway would give Canada and the Lower Provinces the benefit mutually of their respective public works, so that in assuming each other’s debts they got also the value for which they had been incurred.
He next proceeded to show the amounts of the debts of the several Provinces, and the principles on which the general Government had agreed to assume the several liabilities, so that justice should be done to all. He explained how the figure of $25 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 the view of 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 brought into the Confederation, it was 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 and expenditure and the 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 Savings Banks. The revenue from public works in those colonies was $100,000 net. This statement, he said, showed that union would not add in any way to the burthens of the people of Canada; if any burden were added it would be 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 one.
In each colony the revenue was raised upon a different system of taxation, but generally the greater part was from customs duties. In Newfoundland, for instance, importing nearly all the food and clothing of the people, and producing almost nothing but fish, the revenue has been entirely thus raised, and at a less rate of duty a much larger revenue per head than here.
The first task of the new Government would be to assimilate the systems and rates of taxation, and so impose burthens as least to cripple the industry of, and impede the progress of the country. As all these other Provinces consumed more imported goods per head than Canada, the change would necessarily be in the direction of a reduction of the Canadian tariff, not of an increase. Again, if we look at the credit of the several colonies in the great money market, we see our credit had of late been impaired by causes known to all, distrust about dangers of our position, and preparation to meet them. These dangers would be felt to threaten the Lower Provinces less, and thus their securities formerly lower, now rule rather higher than ours. Thus it was obvious our credit was to be raised by clubbing resources not yet impaired.
Next, 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 the Local Governments, he would answer the questions put by Mr. Dorion. The export duties were reserved to New Brunswick on timber, and Nova Scotia on coal. In the former case because New Brunswick had abolished stumpage as inconvenient and less productive, and substituted duties in its place. He was not prepared to give that up, and as land and timber belonged to the local Governments, they had left that to them. The mines also on lands belonging to these Governments we left to them. Nova Scotia was allowed to continue her dues on shipments of coals.
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 the two Provinces. The Seignorial tenure indemnity would probably be charged against Lower Canada, with townships indemnity and municipal loan fund against the municipal loan fund of Upper Canada. This, he thought personally, would be a means of division without great difficulty, but the Government objected to enter on those details now. He had not now to deal with those details, seeing he now must consider the bargain with the other Provinces as a whole. They would be in due time be submitted by the Ministry, and the House could alter or amend that part of the 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 with reference 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, &c. 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 the course of years run out, but their other sources of local revenue which it might be expected would in the meantime develop 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.—
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—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 revenue of Upper Canada, arising from the law fees and the Upper Canada building fund, local public works, Crown lands, interest on investments, &c, on the average of the last four years, was $789,000. The local revenues of Lower Canada, from similar sources, on an average of the last four years, was $557,000; making for Upper and Lower Canada an aggregate of $1,300,000 as receipts from local revenue. Adding the subsidy of 80 cents in the dollar, which would come from the general Government, there would be a total income of $2,269,000; leaving an excess over estimated expenditure of $1,048,000, 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 could not keep the expenses of their legislation and civil government within that sum, the representatives of the people would soon call them to account and make a change.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He averted then to the propriety of the general Government granting the proposed subsidy to the local governments, inasmuch as they had handed over to the general Government all their import duties, excise duties, &c., and to the necessity for such subsidy inasmuch as local expenditures exceeded the local revenues independently of the subsidy. He then 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 from that point of view inadvisable. He thought the House would agree with him that the expense was no criterion by which to judge of the value of a union of this kind.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—For the purpose of argument he was prepared to show that in that point of view federation 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 under our present system, was with reference to the cost of Government. Every other item was for objects necessary in themselves, or the expenditure would not be incurred. We could understand that a weak and poor country would omit to carry out desirable undertakings because it had not the power or the means to do it from want of credit.
As regarded, for instance, the question of defence—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 neighbour, or on the protection which might be afforded by a mother country. But when these Provinces came together and clubbed their resources, they would then be enabled to undertake the work of self-defence, and to incur 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 where they existed, but to the whole system of colonies—for instance the Welland and St Lawrence canals—and it was only in consequence of the union between Upper and Lower Canada that we had been enabled to carry out these 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, the opening up of the North-west, &c., were works 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 its most restricted sense, whether it would cost more dollars and cents to govern the country under the new system than under the old.
He contended 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 legislatures having nothing to do with the general questions which now occupied so much time, would have their sittings less protracted and would be much less expensive. The General Government and Legislature, not having local matters to deal with, he was satisfied would not cost more than the Government and Legislature of Canada now cost. Though they would have the charge of an additional million of people, they would be relieved of the care of the local affairs of 3,000,000 with which they were now charged. There was only left, therefore, the expense of the new local Governments and Legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada as an offset against the reduction that would be effected in the cost of the Government of the Lower Provinces. If there was any excess it must be so small as should not induce this House to refuse its assent for Federation.
Mr. Galt concluded by an eloquent appeal to members not to let this opportunity slip of adopting a measure which would be a remedy for the evils under which we had laboured 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. He concluded amidst loud cheers.
On motion of George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] the debate was adjourned till to-morrow at half-past seven.
The House adjourned at ten minutes to twelve.
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