Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (13 May 1864)

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Date: 1864-05-13
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 142-144.
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FRIDAY, May 13th, 1864

The Supplies

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] moved

That the House do again resolve itself into Committee of Supply.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that although the hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] had made his financial statement with that easy fluency peculiar to him, his friends must have experienced a feeling of disappointment on his resuming his seat, and must have asked themselves—“is this all?”

Some Hon. MembersMinisterial ironical cheers and laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] was a flashy, dashing financier, and was nothing unless he undertook financial operations on a grant scale.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Of the littleness of the budget he (Mr. H.) need not speak at any length. Its very littleness was the best testimony to the satisfactory condition in which he (Mr. H.) and the member for West York (Mr. Howland) had left the finances of the country. The present Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], the year he left office, left behind him a total deficit of $5,152,000, while he (Mr. Holton), on retiring, left means to meet all the Provincial liabilities immediately accruing, such as the July interest on our debt, and so forth. Now, compare the state in which the finances of the country were found in 1862, on the present Finance Minister retiring from office, with their present condition. The total deficit was $5,152,000, and when Hon. Mr. Howland accepted office, he had to set about collecting means to meet the ensuing July interest, no provision having been made for its payment before the member for Sherbrooke [Alexander Galt] retired. But now, on his accepting office, he found a very small deficit, and the finances in such a satisfactory condition as to enable the Government to meet the Provincial engagements.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, and laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman went on to argue that many of the statements made by Hon. Mr. Galt to his electors, respecting alleged mismanagement of the late Government, extravagant expenditure, &c., were totally incorrect. The present Ministerial party, Mr. Holton contended, were responsible for the increase in the cost of legislation for 1863, owing to their factiousness resulting in a double session of Parliament. The present Opposition could take credit to themselves for having stopped the swelling tide of corruption and extravagance, and reduced the Provincial expenditure to a minimum, the advantages of which now began to be felt. The hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] had talked long of the unprovided items. Well, if ever any Finance Minister had taken extensive advantage of the latitude allowed in this particular, it was the present; and much of his influence throughout the country was unmistakably owing to the use he had made of those unprovided items. Those items in 1858, while he was in office, amounted to $475,000 and in 1861, the last year he held office, to $490,000, while in 1863, during his (Mr. Holton’s) tenure of office, the aggregate was only $146,000. The cost of collecting the revenue in 1862 was fully one per cent. higher ($36,000) than in 1863, when the present Opposition were in office, though half a million more was collected in the latter year than in the former.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Who was responsible for 1862?

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—You were.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. member for Sherbrooke [Alexander Galt] was sick now; but, only give him an unswerving majority in this House, and his two legal colleagues, the Attorneys General East [George-Étienne Cartier] and West [John A. Macdonald], could not frame a measure that would keep him from putting his hand in the public chest, and making extravagant expenditures. What, then, did this Audit Bill mean? It was intended as a sham, and conceived as a sham altogether.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter and cheers.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—He (Mr. Holton) approved of the change in the Financial year, and intended to bring in a measure for this purpose himself. He also intended to submit a bill to originate financial measures in Committee of Ways and Means, and therein make the financial statements as in the House of Commons. He thought the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], though adhering to the scale of expenditure already existing for the half year, for which estimates were submitted, might have struck out a different scale for the year beginning with July next. It appeared he had no reduction of expenditure to propose. The Government merely adopted their predecessors’ scale and financial measures, and relied upon their generosity for support in carrying them out. He did not approve of the stamp duties imposed by the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], which would only yield $100,000, and thought that, if he (Mr. H.) was able to hand over the financial bureau to him in so prosperous a condition, without the intervention of these duties, the present Government might have done without them. He (Mr. H.) proposed to take the sense of the House on this point. He also concurred in the propriety of the spirit and tobacco duties, if the Government could derive a means of collecting them and preventing frauds upon the revenue, which had always been committed in connexion with these commodities. The changes in the excise called for no comment, being a necessary [illegible] of the excise duties. He did not object to the drawback of 80 cents per ton on all ships built here. But this would discriminate to a certain extent in favor of poorly built ships, a difficulty which he (Mr. H.) had perceived while in office. He entirely concurred in what fell from the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] in reference to the handsome and generous conduct of our London agents in regard to the financial affairs of the Province. He thought that the policy of the Government should be such as to render it unnecessary to go London for [illegible]; and was convinced that the conduct of the Opposition, the other night, in assisting the Government to carry into immediate effect their plans for the increase of the revenue to cover all the anticipated wants of the country, would have the effect of raising the price of Canadian securities in England. He now charged the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] with having threatened the House with an appeal to the country in the event of the Government’s measures not being accepted. Such a threat was unprecedented and unjustifiable.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—I never made it—never intended to convey such an impression.

Some Hon. MembersOpposition cries of dissent.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—He never said so.

Some Hon. MembersMinisterial cheers.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he was glad to receive the disclaimer, and proceeded to comment upon the impropriety of such threats. If a dissolution did take place, the Opposition had no reason to be afraid to go before the country.

Some Hon. MembersMinisterial laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The Ministry had no reason to suppose that, if defeated, the Governor General [Viscount Monck] could grant a dissolution, and had no right to expect it. If they did expect it they would, doubtless, be disappointed.

Some Hon. MembersCheers and counter cheers.

John Simpson [Niagara, Provincial Secretary] proceeded to deny that the hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] had ever threatened the House, as charged. He ridiculed the statement of the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] that he had left behind him a stock of ideas of which the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] had availed himself. His speech this evening would show the character of those ideas, which were nothing but an agglomeration of useless notions on finance. The late Finance Minister [Luther Holton] had promised financial measures, but he had, when brought to the point, treated the House to continual negations. He had promised to equalize the revenue and expenditure, but had not done so, the present Government having asked only a million dollars more revenue to secure this desirable object. The hon. gentleman had talked of the late Government having arrested profligate expenditure, of unauthorized expenditures by the present Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] when formerly in power, and of the Audit Bill being a sham. Now, the Government’s bill effectually provided against the recurrence of such expenditures, and the Administration were fully prepared to carry out in all sincerity the measures they had proposed. With regard to the purity of the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton], it would be remembered that in less than a week after he had entered the last Administration, it consented to advance $15,000 more to the Municipality of Stanford, although the Council had reported adversely thereto,—He had complained of the high rate of interest which the present Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] had granted on the London loan to this Province, while he lately allowed the Bank of Montreal 6 per cent. interest on the million and a half dollars he had borrowed from the Bank of Montreal. Besides, without this loan, at all, the money required for the public service might have been obtained, as the $800,000 owed the Province by the Bank of Upper Canada were available, had they been asked for.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—We could not get this money, the Bank having entreated delay to be able to refund.

John Simpson [Niagara, Provincial Secretary] went on the support his view of the case, asking what occasion was there to borrow money from the Bank of Montreal, and allow $700,000 to remain there on deposit? The hon. gentleman could choose whatever horn of the dilemma he pleased.—The Government had placed the canal tolls in the same position as in 1859, and this was manifestly a prudent measure. The hon. Provincial Secretary [John Simpson] went on to defend the stamp duty. He thought the measures calculated to equalize the revenue and expenditure, which the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] had adopted, should not be designated as petty. He believed they would be found competent to this result, and until those measures failed, no such [illegible] observations should have been heard in this House.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

William McGiverin [Lincoln] spoke at considerable length, criticizing and condemning the [illegible] policy of the Government, and considering that any good ideas which they [illegible] were borrowed

  • (p. 144 in the primary document)

from their predecessors.—After the hon. member had occupied the time of the House for about an hour and a half, he proceeded to put a number of questions to the Government relative to financial matters.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] arose and denounced the course pursued by the hon. gentleman (Mr. McGiverin) in taking up the time of the House by speaking against time, and—during the greater portion of the time—without any reference to the question before the Chair.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

After repeated cries of “Question”—

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] then moved an amendment to the following effect:—

That the Speaker do not now leave the Chair, but that it be resolved that this House regrets that, though it is deemed necessary to maintain the public credit, to impose new taxes in order to meet the public expenditure—His Excellency the Governor General has been advised to sanction measures for the purpose of reducing the canal tolls without obtaining any corresponding advantage.

—The hon. gentleman, in making this motion, reviewed the question of canal tolls, and argued that it was bad policy on the part of the Government to reduce the canal tolls, although obliged to impose additional burthens—for instance, a stamp duty and other taxes. It would have been a much wiser course to retain the tax which was not of an onerous nature instead of removing it, and substituting others which would be much more heavily felt.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said the Opposition proposed discussing the motion fully before coming to a vote. He suggested the propriety of adjourning, it being now late.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] had no desire to prevent hon. gentlemen opposite from discussing the matter fully; but, at the same time, thought that the hon. gentleman should have moved this motion before he concluded his speech reviewing the budget, so that the discussion should proceed without allowing the time of the House to be wasted by the long, irrelevant debate that had arisen. He (Mr. Macdonald) would like to know if this was intended as a distinct motion of want of confidence in the Ministry.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] had intimated, last night, the course he intended to pursue; and that, before the House rose, and before the general question was put, it was probable that a motion would be placed in the Speaker’s hands, intended to raise a discussion touching the policy of the Government on the canal tolls; and the motion just now introduced was the fulfilment of that pledge. The Opposition did intend to take the sense of the House on the question. The terms of the resolution were, he thought, sufficiently distinct to convey their own meaning. It was not a general motion of want of confidence, but a declaration on the part of those who approved of the motion that the policy of the Government on the matter of the canal tolls did not meet their approval.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] asked the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] if his motion were one of want of confidence, or a specific motion?

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said this motion was intended to record the sense of the House as to the policy of the Government on the canal tolls.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said that the reason why he asked the question was, that the Government had been threatened in and out of the House with a vote of want of confidence, and he wanted to understand definitely whether this were the motion in question. Notwithstanding this threat, the Opposition were afraid to state so specifically. They shrank from making the confession, spite of the covered threat of the member for North Wellington [Thomas Parker], because they knew the Government possessed the confidence of this House.

Some Hon. MembersCheers and counter-cheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Now, the course of practice to be pursued by the Government depended upon the construction put upon the motion—because if it were not one of want of confidence, they would move the discussion be adjourned till Tuesday, but if it were, they would move that the debate be resumed on the House opening on Monday.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—After the intimation given as to this motion, he thought it but right the mover should state what was its character. However, the Government would accept it as such, although he would not admit the fact. And, therefore, he would ask this House to set aside the rules of the House on Monday, and resume the debate on this motion. The Government were perfectly willing to try the issue to-night, but the Opposition shrank from accepting the challenge.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South] said it was for the hon. gentlemen opposite to determine whether it was a vote of want of confidence or not—it was not for the Opposition to say. If Ministers accepted this as a vote of want of confidence, let them say so?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—We are willing to take it as such; but they are afraid to say so.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South] said the motion was a direct condemnation of the whole canal policy of the Government.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] said it was all very well for hon. gentlemen opposite to talk, but they knew very well this was a motion of want of confidence.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Why didn’t you say so?

Some Hon. Members—Laughter and cheers.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] went on to say that hon. gentlemen on the Ministerial benches had boasted of accessions of strength, and it was well to ascertain by a test vote whether they had received any such accessions of strength—whether they had a majority of this House, in fact.—The hon. gentleman spoke at some length, and observed it was desirable to have a vote, so as to see whether any hon. members—although he believed there were none such—had allowed themselves to be inveigled over to the other side.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said the taunt about inveigling members came with a very bad grace, indeed, from the hon. gentleman opposite. He (Mr. Macdonald) had been accused of rewarding his friends; but he never could be charged with having purchased his enemies—thank God no such charge could be made against hon. gentlemen on this side.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear and cheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—They had never Sicotted members of this House—they had never dragged a member out of this House for the purpose of making him a judge—they had never brought down a judge and forced him to resign on a Friday or Saturday, so that they might bestow his place on another on the day following—they had never given silk gowns as rewards for political partisanship—nor grants from the Municipal Loan Fund either.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—He (Mr. Macdonald) heard the hon. member for Kent (Mr. McKellar) laughing. No doubt, the hon. gentleman might well afford to laugh.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The first act of his political friends was to appoint his son to an office; and as an equivalent for this, the hon. gentleman (Mr. McKellar) went about like a mendicant friar, from one polling place to another, preaching their political creed.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter and cheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The hon. member for Cornwall (Mr. J.S. Macdonald) said this was a vote of want of confidence—well, why did not the hon. member for Hochelaga (Mr. Dorion) and the hon. member for Chateauguay (Mr. Holton) say so?

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The fact was that hon. gentlemen opposite thought this special motion would answer the purpose better than a general motion. But these hon. gentlemen would find when it came to vote that—without inveigling hon. members—without bestowing judgeships or silk gowns—that the House and the country approved of the policy of the Government on general subjects, and the policy on the canal tolls in particular.

Some Hon. MembersLoud cheers.

Lucius Huntington [Shefford] followed in a speech of some length, arguing that the majority of the House were adverse to the Government, and that hon. gentlemen opposite were afraid of a test vote, because they knew they could not stand upon it.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said the tenor of the language used by hon. gentlemen opposite just amounted to this—they had announced a certain course last night, and now they found they had been a little too fast.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—If, as they said, the Government was existing only by their forbearance, then they were forgetful of their duty to the country. He repeated that if the Opposition believed, as some members on that side had stated, that the Government only existed at the mercy of their opponents, then it was their duty to turn this wicked Administration out of office for the benefit of the country.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—After encouraging themselves so long, and screwing their courage up to the sticking point, members opposite were afraid to come to a direct vote of want of confidence at present.

Some Hon. MembersCheers and counter-cheers.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He believed that the House and country would approve of the measures brought down. The whole record of hon. gentlemen opposite, while in office, was one they ought to be ashamed of. The House had nothing from them but announcements of intentions never carried out.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—They sacrificed the position they occupied without a blow, and it ill became them, one week after the House met, and only a few days after the members of the Government returned from their constituencies, to say they should again have power confided to them. If they were able to conduct the affairs of the country, they should have continued in the Government. They had abandoned the responsibilities of office because they felt they were unequal to them; and now they endeavored to offer a factious opposition to the Government that was desirous of going on with the business of the country.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—The House would understand the motives of the gentlemen opposite, and in its intelligent support the Government had entire confidence.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Joseph-Octave Beaubien [Montmagny] made some remarks in reply to the speech of the hon. member for Cornwall (Mr. J.S. Macdonald) which were inaudible in the gallery.

Some Hon. MembersCries of “Question.”

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that the hon. member for Kingston (Mr. J. A. Macdonald) had agreed with him that an adjournment should take place to-night, and he, therefore, thought it unfair in hon. gentlemen opposite to call for a vote.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said that he, of course, understood that the hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] had acceded to a request from the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] for an adjournment; but he (Mr. Cartier) had called out “Question,” when the hon. member for Shefford (Mr. Huntington) went so far as to taunt the hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] with talking for the purpose of keeping up the courage of his friends. Hon. gentlemen on this side of the House repudiated the taunt.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—They were ready to take the vote to-night—aye, they were ready to take it in ten minutes.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Let the Opposition have an hour’s or two hours’ or three hours’ discussion of the question; and then let them take a division if they pleased. If the hon. member for Shefford (Mr. Huntington) thought hon. gentlemen on the Ministerial side were afraid of the result, let him get the arrangement made by the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] withdrawn and take the vote at once.

Some Hon. MembersLoud cheers.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] was understood to say that he desired the adjournment as he wished to speak on the question of canal tolls.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Then let the hon. gentleman move the adjournment if he wants it.

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South] made some remarks in reply to the Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier].

The House, then, at one a.m., adjourned, on motion of Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga].

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