Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Representation by Population, 6th Parl, 1st Sess (11 July 1858)

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Date: 1858-07-15
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Montreal Herald, The Leader
Citation: “Parliamentary Summary” Montreal Herald (15 July 1858).
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[From the Leader]


Monday, July 11, 1856.


The first order of the day was the discussion upon the Hon. Mr. Cameron’s motion for the first reading of the bill relative to representation, and on the Hon. Mr. Cauchon’s amendment, “That the bill be read a first time this day three months,” and Mr. John Cameron’s amendment to the latter.

Some discussion arose as to whether a question of such magnitude should be debated in the absence of so many members.

Mr. HARWOOD thought this question was brought forward rather prematurely. Even had Upper Canada a majority of population he did not know that that would entitle them to a majority in the representation. It was clear that Canada, under the union of the Provinces, had prospered to an extraordinary degree; and it was also clear that Lower Canada would not allow the Upper Province a preponderance in the legislation. In Lower Canada, it was undeniable, that toleration was a great guiding principle; and he thought that one of the greatest remedies for the evils real, or imaginary, under which Upper Canada labored would be to swallow a large dose of toleration. There would then be no more of those sectional views, but they would then become one great people.

Mr. FORTIER opposed the principle of the measure as unjust and ungenerous. The bill meant neither more nor less than that one section should impose its will on the other.

Mr. SOMERVILLE said that if the principles of the measure were fully understood the people of Lower Canada would to a man vote for it. Were they to adopt the bill they would get rid of the absurd system of the double majority, and all the inconvenience resulting from parties applying to members of the cabinet differing from them in race and creed. On all hands he believed the principle of representation by population was admitted to be correct. At the same time, however, there was no doubt that the water power of Lower Canada was superior; and as to the population of Upper Canada, he did not believe it would for some years increase at the same rate as it had done hitherto.

Mr. TERRILL said it was his conviction that under all circumstances he had found it to be the case that he was as well attended to by members of the Cabinet differing from him in race and religion, as by the other members. The principle of representation by population was one which under the circumstances, he could not admit. He would look upon its being carried out as a breach of faith with Lower Canada. It would, he felt convinced, be a breach of the conditions on which the Union was effected, to change the representation. (Hear.) The principle of double majority he looked upon as inconvenient—embarrassing to the Ministry, and one which could not long continue to be acknowledged. It was a rule which applied equally to both sides of the House. Were hon. gentlemen opposite to change places with the present Administration, they would, perhaps, find it just as hard to get a double majority. (Hear, hear.) As a principle, the double majority could not be recognized. Another matter in connection with this subject had been brought forward by the hon. member for Sherbrooke in his resolutions on the general confederation of the Provinces. The hon. member’s speech on that occasion had been able and interesting, but it failed to support the utility of the scheme. He (Mr. Terrill) considered schemes of this nature—when their practicability was not shown—as screens behind which hon. members might softly and almost imperceptibly oppose other hon. members. (Hear.)

Mr. HOGAN upheld the principle of representation based on population, as one which was the only thing to enable the people of Canada to assert their rights and common humanity with the people of the States—and to prevent the people of Upper Canada from doing what they never done before—dissolving the Union, or something equally peremptory.

Mr. FERRES thought his hon. friend from Grey too good natured a fellow to be serious when he uttered such warlike sentiments.

Mr. SPEAKER—Order. The hon. member is out of order in using the word “fellow.”—(Laughter.)

Mr. FERRES did not mean to be disorderly. The word fellow was frequently and correctly used. There were fellows of the Royal Society of Arts,—and some good fellows—and some excessively miserable fellows. [Laughter.] He would not further allude to the speech of the hon. member for Grey; for in fact there was nothing in it to allude to.—[Laughter.] On the question of confederation he would like to know where was the necessity for it. Had the Lower Provinces or Canada asked for it? From commercial motives or a wish to strengthen themselves, he could understand the people asking for this union. But there were no such reasons. The sum total of all the merchandise imported into this country from the Lower Provinces did not exceed £200,000. Under such circumstances surely there were no commercial motives for a union. Were there to be any union, it should be a legislative union. [Hear.] As to the double majority system, it was a double absurdity. But even admitting the principle, it was one which rather favored the present Ministry, despite of all which had been said to the contrary. Were they to look at the matter closely they would find the present Administration supported by the double majority of the British and French representatives. [Hear, hear.] He would not pledge himself to the abstract principle of representation by population or any other question. When the first reading of the bill was moved, he voted for it,—as it was an important measure on which there ought to be a full discussion. But matters had now changed. A full discussion had taken place; and he therefore felt himself at liberty to state his opinions on the measure itself. And he would say that during all the discussion he had not heard a single reason advanced to induce him to vote for a change in the representation. From the statements made it appeared that if there were to be any change in the representation, that change would be in favor of Lower Canada. But Lower Canada wanted no increase in her representation. And it appeared to him that Upper Canada representatives had only asked for it in consequence of that strong impulsive feeling which seems to lead people in the Western Province to embrace more than one chimerical project.

Mr. BELLINGHAM thought it desirable we should draw closer to the Lower Provinces; and any practical scheme with such an object in view, would meet his support.

Mr. ROBINSON said that to him the double majority seemed to strike at the root of all their present difficulties. It was a question he should totally discountenance: and coming up at such a moment as this it threatened a dissolution of the Union. Would that union ever have been carried had such a principal been announced at that period? He would like any hon. member to point out any country were the principle was attempted and, if attempted, were successful? Was it attempted after the union between Scotland and England or Ireland and England? In the United States and other countries they had seen this principle in confederation abandoned for that of a perfect union of the nation. And were not all these people quality inteligent [sic] with ourselves? The people of this country, too, prospered under the present union to an unforeseen degree. Then; he would say let them look to those advantages rather that risk the disadvantages incident to nations as to individuals. The principle of representation by population he had pledged himself to vote for and would do it. But he should also say that he looked upon that the question of the union of the Provinces ought not to be discussed before the matter of the intercolonial Railway had been settled. Although favourable in the abstract to the measure brought up by the hon. member for Sherbrooke, he would like to see the matter of this railway first determined on and he thought it would be well if one or two delegates from each of the Provinces were to meet and discuss this project of a union of the Provinces. The question of representation by population, was one he was favorable to; but he would net by his vote commit Upper Canada to the matter until he saw that best interests of that Province should be protected in same business measure.

Mr. DUNKIN said that it appeared to him that the proposition affirmed by both motions before the House—those of the members for Victoria and Lambton—was that equality of representation should cease between the Provinces. The only difference was one of time. The member for Lambton proposed that this change should be initiated at once; the member Victoria proposed it should not be initiated until 1861. Why in the model Republic itself how was this principle carried? It was not applied at all. Look for instance at the election for President. In that case the little State of Delaware was found to vote, as compared with New York, in proportion to three to one. And in Canada its application was as slight. Witness the representation in the City Council. Was there equality there? The fact was, this question was a pure fallacy. Only by a great many very erroneous calculations, could they pretend to obtain this principle. Their real want was that their representative body should be, as correctly as possible, an epitome of the public opinion. In no country should representation by population be apportioned closely. Again he would ask if it was intended to carry the principle thoroughly out. How would it affect their present representation? They found Gaspeé, with but one third the population of Montreal, returning two members, while Montreal returned but three. Now such an arrangement was only fair. Montreal and its wants were well known; while the outlying poor, sparse population required a strong representation to make up for their comparative obscurity. Thus it was that territory must enter into their calculation; and no fair principle could be adopted without it. Now apply the rule to Upper and Lower Canada. Upper Canada boasts the larger population; Lower Canada boasts a larger extent of territory. And in these circumstances it was plain the people of Lower Canada should not be outnumbered in the representation by Upper Canada. Coming to the matter of fact, he would ask why seek to adopt this new rule only in reference to the dividing line between Upper and Lower Canada? Why seek to apply in this case a rule discarded in all countries and in all cases? At the time of the Union, Lower Canada with a majority of 50 per cent. in proportion over Upper Canada—with a large revenue, great extent of territory, and overflowing exchequer—refused to impose this principle. And now, admitting as they must, the principle that the population that has the larger extent of territory, is entitled to the greater representation, how could hon. members acquiesce in the present demand? As to the statement that the population of Upper Canada was 200,000 in excess of the lower province, he attached no credence to it. The excess,—if any at all,—was not one half. The present demand was in reality a demand that Upper Canada should control that House,—aye, and the Upder [sic] House too. For the sake then of a mere doubtful problem, as too the difference between the two provinces, he was not going to adopt a principle which he could not carry out in practice. The time was, in his opinion, past when the British party would seek to form an alliance with the same party in Upper Canada—and he was glad of it. Having seen, as he did, the war of races pass by, in Lower Canada, he was hopeful that the day was not far distant when a similar extinction would take place in Upper Canada. The principle of the bill before the House was such as he denied utterly from beginning to end; and he would feel bound to vote against it at every stage. Before Lower Canada should so much as think of a change in the representation, it was so absolutely necessary they should dispossess their minds of the belief of a hostile feeling in this matter. For his part he did not see the time when their present position could be at all disturbed with reason. (Cheers.)

The House then divided on Mr. John Cameron’s amendment to the effect that as the decennial census, which must by law be taken in 1861, will render necessary a readjustment of the representation should have for its basis the principle of representation by population irrespective of any dividing line.

This amendment was lost by a majority of 22: Yeas, 64; Nays, 42.

YEAS.—Messrs. Alleyn, Archambeault, Baby, Beaubien, Bourassa, Buchanan, Bureau, Attorney General Cartier, Cauchon, Chapais, Cimon, Coutlee, Daoust, Dawson, Desaulniers, Dionne, Dorion, Drummond, Dubord, Dufresne, Dunkin, Ferres, Fortier, Fourneir, Galt, Gaudet, Gauvreau, Gill, Heath, Hebert, Jobin, Labelle, Lacoste, Laframboise, Langevin, Laporte, LeBoutillier, Lemieux, Loranger, Attorney General Macdonald, John S. Macdonald, McLeod, McCann, Meagher, Morin, Ouimet, Panet, Papineau, Piche, Pope, Wm. F. Powell, Price, Solicitor General Rose, R. W. Scott, Sicotte, Simard, Simpson, Tasse, Terrill, Tett, Thibaudeau, Turcotte, Webb,—64.

NAYS,—Messrs.Allan, Bell, Benjamon, Biggar, Brown, Burton, Burwell, John Cameron, Malcolm Cameron, Carling, Christie, Clark, Connor, Cook, Dorland, Foley, Hogan, Holmes, Howland, Macbeth, Donald A. Macdonald, Mackenzie, McDougall, McMicken, Morrison, Mowat, Munro, Notman, Patrick, Walker Powell, Robinson, Rymal, Wm. Scott, Sherwood, Short, Sidney Smith, Somerville, Stirton, Talbot, Wallbridge, White, Wright,—42.

Mr. CAUCHON then moved an adjournment, which was carried on a division—Yeas, 58; nays, 45.

The House then adjourned at a quarter past twelve.

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