Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [Ministerial Explanations], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (23 June 1864)

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Date: 1864-06-23
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 210-211.
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THURSDAY, June 23rd, 1864

Ministerial Explanations

George Brown [Oxford South] said that rumors had been afloat to-day to the effect that there was a difference of opinion between members of the Government—especially between members in the Upper and Lower House—in reference to what was meant by the sentence in the printed memorandum read yesterday, to the effect that local matters and matters common to all the sections or Provinces in the proposed confederation be arranged on “well-understood principles of Federal Government.”

He (Mr. Brown) would have supposed that those words were clear enough, and that no interpretation or explanation of them was necessary. The answers of the Hon. Attornies General East [George-Étienne Cartier] and West [John A. Macdonald] to question for the explanation of those words were also clear and distinct. But, in consequence of a discussion having taken place in the Upper House, and some members having conceived there was some mystery in the matter, perhaps it would be well if the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] would again favor the House by stating what was intended by the words in question.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] thought the phrase was well understood. He had heard it was represented that there was a discrepancy in the opinions entertained by members of the Government in Upper and Lower House respectively in regard to the meaning of the phrase in question. But no such discrepancy existed. Sir E.P. Tache had stated in the Upper House that the printed record contained the basis of the arrangement between the Government and the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown], and that he (Sir E.P.T.) would not be drawn into a discussion there in one way or the other, and would express no individual opinion as to the details.

What he (Mr. M.) meant by the Federal system, in this case was—that as to local matters, the local legislatures should guard the particular and local interests and institutions of each locality. But as to the formation of the local bodies, the parties to the negotiations had not directed attention to the details, nor to the subject of the conformation of the local legislatures—had not considered whether there would be one or two chambers—what would be the comparative, or united powers of those bodies—whether there would be elective governors, or any other matter of detail.

They had entered into no details, and it was to the task of working them out the negotiating parties would apply themselves during the recess. If Canada should be divided, under the federative system, into two sections, there would, of course, be a local legislature for each to look after the particular interests, laws and institutions of each. But for all legislation in common, there would be a common legislature, the constitution of the popular branch of which would be based upon the well-understood principles of federal Government.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—What these were would be well understood by reference to the constitution of other large federal States either in ancient or modern times. In one branch of the legislature, under the federal system, the principle of equality, as regards the representation, must prevail; while the popular branch must be formed on a popular basis, and the principle of numbers must prevail.

At the same time it was not to be understood that any member of the Government or even the member for South Oxford [George Brown] considered that this implied any leaning towards universal suffrage or did anything but provide that population and all the interests of property should be fairly represented. The theory prevailing in England was to be introduced—namely that which ensured the representation of all classes and interests as well as the rights of property.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—He would also say that so far from there being any discrepancy of opinion between any of the members of the Government in this matter, the members in this House had seen their colleagues in the Upper House who were perfectly agreed as to the statement he had made.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The hon. gentleman concluded by reading the report of the phrase “well-understood principles of federal government,” which appeared in Thursday’s Chronicle, and stated his meaning was therein fully contained.

The discussion lasted for some time on this matter—Messrs. Cartier, Dorion, Turcotte, John Macdonald, Holton, Brown and other hon. gentlemen taking part.

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