Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (9 June 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 185-188.
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Reporting the Debates
On the Order of the Day being called for Mr. T. Ferguson’s motion for a select Committee on the subject of the official reporting of the debates of both Houses of Parliament—
Mr. T. Ferguson said he rose to make a motion that he verily believed would be supported, if not by this House as a whole, by a large majority of it. He thought that the necessity of having proper reports of the proceedings of this House, every session form this forward, would be acknowledged by all who ever gave the matter the slightest consideration. We had something of the kind during the session of 1858, and the records then made, in the Mirror of Parliament, had been of great benefit up to the present, and were still useful. He thought that that system of reporting the Parliamentary proceedings ought to have been continued up to this time. We heard very frequently members complaining of not being fairly reported, for which blame was cast upon the press generally. But for his part he believed no blame whatever was to be attached to the members of the press, in reference to the matter. He really thought that those gentlemen were not adequately renumerated for the amount and description of work they were called upon to perform, and that they reported the proceedings of Parliament at greater length than could be expected at their hands, when their number was taken into account.
He thought that a sufficient amount of the matter of the debates should be preserved and kept on record. In England, the system of reporting the Parliamentary debates on the scale now contemplated by this motion was maintained by private enterprise. And those reports had not only been beneficial to that country, but to this Province also, as every member would admit.
Members here could not pretend to say that the records of the debates in this House would be as important or perhaps as useful as that of the debates in the House of Commons; but still it would be serviceable and beneficial to this Provinces. It was impossible to expect that any member or proprietor of any particular journal would take the responsibility of reporting and publishing, at his own risk, the debates of this House in such a way as to serve as an ample and reliable public report. If the time had arrived when a private party could be assured of a sufficient support for such an undertaking, it would be unnecessary for the House to take any action in the matter. But such time had, unfortunately, not yet come. The gentleman who established a Mirror of Parliament in 1858 carried on the work for some time at a great personal sacrifice, and was afterwards obliged to give it up. He, for one, did not like to see any gentleman connected with the press or with any other profession in the country—or any individual whatever suffer loss from an enterprise from which the public derived or was likely to derive benefit.
He did believe that the public would derive great benefit from the carry out of the proposition he was about to submit. He would move that the Hon. Messrs. J.S. Macdonald, John Simpson, McDougall, H.L. Langevin, Cauchon, Huot and the mover, to be appointed a Committee to consider and report to this House as to the expediency of having the debates of the Legislature reported during next and succeeding sessions, at the public expense. He did not care particularly at being himself upon the Committee, being only desirous of seeing a Committee appointed to take the matter into their consideration, and report thereon. Some arrangement might be made by which the debates would be henceforth reported as contemplated, and he was convinced that only a small amount would be required to render such an enterprise successful—an amount so small that very few members would object to it. A few thousand dollars, for instance, given to any public journal that would assume the responsibility of the work, would no doubt ensure the publication of the debates in a form that would give satisfaction to the House and public. If the House did not approve of the Committee, it could select whatever gentleman it pleased to consider the matter. If a Committee should be appointed and the matter considered and reported upon, he, for one would be satisfied. Had the Hon. Mr. Brown been present when he (Mr. F) drew up the motion, he would have willingly added his name to the Committee, he being the proprietor of one of the finest papers in the country. He had no objection, even yet, to Hon. Mr. Brown being put on the Committee, if it were desired.
The motion was carried without discussion.