Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (27 June 1864)

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Date: 1864-06-27
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 216-219.
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MONDAY, June 27, 1864

Official Reports of the Debates

On the order being called for the further consideration of Thomas Ferguson [Simcoe South]’s motion for official reports of the debates in both Houses of Parliament; and for reviving the Committee relative to the same—

William McDougall [Ontario North, Provincial Secretary] said he believed the time had come, in the history of Canada, when some means should be taken to preserve correct and full reports of the proceedings of Parliament. We had now arrived at a stage of progress when it was of more importance than enter that the debates of this House should be reported and kept on record for future references. He thought it was necessary that something should be done, and that the sense of the House should be taken on the matter.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] opposed the motion on the ground that [?it?] would impracticable to carry out the scheme of giving a verbatim report, which he, for one, did not want. The undertaking, he was sure, would be found expensive and impossible of execution at this time.

John Rose [Montreal Centre] quite agreed with the last speaker, that it would be [?imprudent?] and [?impracticable?] to have verbatim reports published. It would not be wise for the House to spend $10,000 a year on such a scheme as this, believing as he did that the reporting of the debates should be left to private enterprise as hitherto.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] thought that private enterprise could not supply the want felt in this respect. I was highly important that a correct report of the proceedings of this House should be placed on record for future use; and if ever there was somewhat full and faithful reports of our proceedings were desirable, it would be [?next?] and future sessions, when the Government would be in Ottawa, where it could not be expected that such reports could be taken by private enterprise.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman went on to say that, as a rule, the reports in the newspapers were not sufficiently full at present, and that much less could be expected from the Ottawa papers. He did not know what sum would be required for this work; but, if it costs twenty thousand dollars, it would be the cheapest work that the House could possibly [illegible]; and he, therefore, trusted the sense of the House would be taken—not so much on the details as upon the principle—that it is expedient that a fair, and [illegible] report of the proceedings of both Houses should be provided at the next session.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] was surprised at the remarks of the hon. member for Chateauguay (Mr. Holton) disparaging certain organs of the press, although gentlemen who whose [illegible] it was to report the proceedings of this House did not report his speeches as fully as he could have desired. At the same time the [illegible] who support the newspapers containing the reports of the Parliamentary debates must feel surprised that, in the short time at the disposal of the reporters, even such correct reports as given could be published.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—He did not know, personally, the gentleman connected with the newspapers who reported the debates of this House, but was surprised that they—no having any renumeration except the moderate sum they got from the papers—could give such accurate and full reports of the proceedings of this House. He did not say that fuller accounts might not be given if more money were expended on the work. At the same time, gentlemen on both sides complained of their speeches being omitted from paper of opposite politics; but under all circumstances, the reports were as full and accurate as could be expected.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome] said that the hon. member for Lambton (Mr. Mackenzie) was mistaken in saying that verbatim reports were recommended by the Committee. The hon. gentleman read the report in question in proof of this statement. He went on to say that the idea of a verbatim report of all the speeches was absurd. Nobody could think of such a thing. The questions really was whether a report in the manner of “Hansard” ought or not to be authorised. He thought it became a very grave question at this time. We were now about going to Ottawa, where arrangements for reporting the debates must be much less perfect than in Quebec and Toronto; and it became an important question whether something should not be done by the House to secure an accurate and somewhat extended record of the proceedings.

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency] complained that he had never been fortunate enough to be reported. His points were invariably misinterpreted, though he did not blame the reporters for having done so intentionally. As far as the sum proposed went, he believed that ten thousand dollars was sufficient for the work. One or two papers could combine, and in addition to what they already spent for their own reports, ten thousand dollars would enable them to print a “Hansard”. He thought that proper reports could not be expected in Ottawa, where the papers were comparatively poor. The idea should be—not to have verbatim reports of the debates—not to have so much the word as the meaning brought out.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency]—He would vote for the ten thousand dollars for this purpose.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] complained, at some length, of the exclusion of his own and other speeches from the press, while some hon, gentlemen—particularly since the recent difficulty with the reports were reported at full length. He characterized the reports of some papers as unfair and altogether one sided, and expressed his [illegible] that the only way to obtain full and reliable reports was by establishing a “Hansard” at the public expense.

George Brown [Oxford South] said that the time had come when it was exceedingly desirable we should have a complete and accurate records of our proceedings. But, in order to obtain that, steps would have to be taken which would entail a greater evil than the want of such a report. It was in this way—it was not desirable for newspapers to publish full reports. Never was there a greater mistake made than for a paper to publish full reports. From [illegible] say that one column a day was as much as the public wished to read, and they would not generally read a longer report.

The question was—would newspaper proprietors, after they got a copy of such a record of “Hansard,” publish reports as they do now. He thought it was doubtful indeed. Were full reports published by the House, the reports for the papers would be made up from the former, from which such speeches as the proprietors pleased could be picked out; and the enormous report now published would cease at once. Parties would choose only one speech or two and the usual ran of the debate would not be kept up. The newspapers at present published the pith of the debate.

Several Hon. Members—The pith of some of the speeches.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South] went on to say that, by taking the papers of opposite sides, they got the whole of the debate. He did not, however, mean to say that this was an argument against the motion; but it ought, at least, to weight to a certain extent with the House. If a “Hansard” were published, hon. member would have to get proofs of their speeches to correct them themselves; and, for this and other reasons, it would be impossible to bring out the report before the third day after the debate, when the interest would, to a great extent, have died out several newspapers having anticipated the fuller report by giving the pith of the speeches and proceedings. Ten thousand dollars would not be near enough. He thought it was, no doubt, exceedingly desirable we should have a full and accurate record of our proceedings, if such could be obtained.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

After some further discussion, the question was put on the motion for the official report of the debates, which was lost on a vote of 26 to 42.

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