Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (4 March 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 68-70.
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FRIDAY, 4th March, 1864
On the introduction of the Bill last mentioned, explanations were called for by several members.
Michael Foley [Waterloo North] explained that the Bill was intended to provide for the representation of those counties of Upper Canada, and portion of large counties that were at present without adequate representation upon the floor of Parliament. In the present composition of the House it would be vain to composition of the House it would be vain to hope for the success of a measure calculated to give representation according to population in both sections of the Province. While very strong feelings had been excited between the people of the two great sections of the Province, on the question of the representation of the respective sections, the inequalities between Upper Canada constituencies were greater than those between Upper and Lower Canada.
There was Huron and Bruce counties, with a population of nearly 90,000, both represented by but one member, while the little towns and townships of Niagara and Cornwall, with only from 4,000 to 7,000 people, had each a member. Hon. gentlemen from Lower Canada could not object to assisting in passing a measure designed to remove dissatisfaction in the local representation of Upper Canada. He trusted he should also have the assistance of those gentlemen from Upper Canada who had been so clamorous for the concession of the principle of Representation according to Population; as well, also, as that of hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House who were not willing to concede that principle. He fully counted he said, upon the assistance of those members of the Government who were instrumental in having a paragraph to the same effect introduced in the Speech from the Throne, a year ago.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga, Attorney-General East] asked if the hon. gentleman intended to provide for such changes in Lower Canada also.
Michael Foley [Waterloo North] replied that he had always held it to be his duty to refrain, as much as possible from taking upon himself legislation for the lower section of the Province. If his hon. friend desired to have a chance in his section, he was quite competent to introduce a measure for that purpose. It was not his intention to interfere with the representation of Lower Canada.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall, Premier, Attorney-General West, and Minister of Militia] said the scheme was apparently a very comprehensive one, but he fancied its main design was to deprive Cornwall of a representative of its own. At one time the hon. gentleman had proclaimed to the people of Perth that the Government was about to do away with small boroughs, for which statement he had no authority. The Government subsequently, with his concurrence, of course, agreed that this should not be done, and now, because the responsibility of Government was off his shoulders, he brought up a Bill to abolish those small constituencies.
Michael Foley [Waterloo North] replied that he had not stated that the Government intended doing away with small boroughs. He was only telling the electors of Perth how the representation of Upper Canada might be equalized and he alluded to that as one way in which it could be done. When the subject came properly before the House, he trusted he would be able to shew that though the members of the Administration might not all have agreed to the measure, it had the approbation of a vast majority of their supporters.
James Dickson [Huron & Bruce] said that he had introduced a measure on a similar subject—one to give the Counties of Huron and Bruce an additional representative, and he hoped hon. gentlemen on both sides of the House would assist in carrying it out.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome] remarked that if the hon. gentleman intended to do away with any of the existing constituencies of Upper Canada, he ran a very great risk of not getting it carried.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall, Premier, Attorney-General West, and Minister of Militia]—Oh, he does not expect to carry it.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome] said he thought the only way to get the measure carried would be to increase the representation of both sections.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] suggested that the Bill should provide for adding a part of Huron and Bruce to Niagara.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
John Simpson [Niagara] thought that would be a very good plan if Niagara was not going to grow any larger. They ought to give his constituency time to grow. Assuredly Huron and Bruce ought to have another representative.
The Speaker—Order! The hon. gentleman ought not to use language that is offensive to a member of the House.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
John Simpson [Niagara] begged pardon. He did not intend to say that the hon. member for Huron and Bruce [James Dickson] was an improper representative, but merely to express his opinion that those Counties were not as fully and properly represented as they ought to be.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South] said he was satisfied that the representatives of the central portion of United Canada would never give their consent to any such measure as that of the hon. member for North Waterloo [Michael Foley], because no matter whether it added three or four members to the western portion of Upper Canada, and the same number to Lower Canada, or transferred some of the constituencies of Central Canada to the West, an injury, in either case, would be done the central section, which no hon. gentleman from that portion of the Province could have any hand in consummating.
James Dickson [Huron & Bruce] said the member for Niagara wished them to wait until his constituency should have time to grow, and thus equalize the representation. But if it continued to groe as it had grown for five years past, the hon. gentleman would be without any constituents, and have to elect himself.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
Representation of Lincoln
William McGiverin [Lincoln] introduced a Bill to amend the representation of the County of Lincoln. Being called upon for an explanation, he stated that the county contained a population of about 28,000. It had two representatives in Parliament, and while one of them only had between four and five thousand constituents, the other had twenty-four thousand. Such a state of things was so very unjust, and was so indefensible by any line of argument that he felt it his duty to endeavor to have it remedied.
Edmund Wood [Brant West]—Yes, but the two members represent the whole.
Michael Foley [Waterloo North] was glad to find the member for Lincoln [William McGiverin] endorsing the principle of his Bill, but he hoped he would assist him in having the principle applied to all the municipalities.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome] expressed himself as totally opposed to the changing of districts in the manner proposed, and for the purpose of equalizing them. Where a constituency, by the growth of other parts of the country, became so very small as to make it out of all reason that it should have a representative in Parliament all to itself, he would go for enlarging its boundaries, but not for the purpose of attempting to preserve an equality in the representation. That was a principle that could never be carried into practical effect, because the relative positions of the constituencies to each other were continually changing.
He was in favor of having a number of small constituencies in both sections of the Province, because otherwise, some of the most valuable of our public men would be driven from public life. In England, some of the most valuable public men had been defeated in large constituencies, and only for the existence of pocket boroughs, the services of Lord Palmerston, Sir Robert Peel and others, would have bene lost to the nation. He would not like to see the House a mere representative of the whim of the moment—one day the preponderance of power in the East, and a few years after, in the West—moving about like a shifting sandbank. There ought to be a permanency about the representation, so that the prejudices as well as the principles of every section of the country might be fully shewn in the composition of the House. If public men were forced to go to large constituencies for seats, there would be an ostracisement, in a short time, of every man of character and energy and spirit in the House.
The Bill was then ordered to a second reading.