Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [Ministerial Explanations], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (4 May 1864)

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Date: 1864-05-04
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 119-122.
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WEDNESDAY, May 4th, 1864

Ministerial Explanations

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] made an enquiry with regard to the explanations which, he understood, had been promised yesterday.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] suggested that the notices of motion be called over, in case any hon. gentleman desired to move.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—If that is the understanding I have no objection.

At the suggestion of Hon. J.A. Macdonald, the orders of the day having reference to members ordered to attend in their places were also called over and disposed of.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion], yesterday, called upon him for explanations respecting the formation and policy of the Government. Now, explanations relative to the formation of the Administration were already before the House. He would not now recapitulate what every member had already heard respecting the negotiations preliminary to the construction of the present Cabinet. The late Ministry, at the opening of Parliament, promised a great many measures affecting materially the general welfare of Canada, and involving many of the great interests of the country. Although the Opposition of that day felt they could have no great confidence in the power of that Administration to carry out the promises laid before Parliament, we thought it was right to give them every opportunity to do so; and the House would remember the then Opposition did not pass one hostile vote against them, but, on the contrary, afforded them every opportunity of carrying out their policy.

Notwithstanding that a long discussion arose on the answer to the Address, there was no motion in amendment made, no side-issue raised, and nothing in any way done to impede or obstruct the Government in regard to the various measures promised the country. And this course was followed by the Opposition during the month or six weeks that the late Government held the reins of office, not a single vote hostile to the Ministry or otherwise being brought on by any member of the late Opposition. And therefore, when the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] informed this House that the Government had seen fit to place their resignations in the hands of His Excellency the Governor General [Viscount Monck], it was observed that this was their own act and was not forced on them by any act of the Opposition. The House would remember the statement made calmly and deliberately by the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] on that occasion, and the declaration that, for want of numerical support, the Government could not longer continue, and that they felt it their duty to resign. Whether the Government acted right or wrong in so doing was not now the question.

He (Mr. J.A. Macdonald) thought that the moment any Administration considered they were not strong enough to properly conduct the affairs of the country, they acted wisely and constitutionally in giving up power. At the same time it might be questioned whether the Government of the day were not bound to submit to the Legislature the measures they pledged themselves to introduce, so that the House and country might judge as to whether their promises were to be carried out or not. And it was also a question whether the ex-Finance Minister was not bound to bring down his budget so long promised and expected. The Government, however, very properly retired, thinking they could no longer remain in office with credit to themselves or advantages to the country. We all remembered the events which followed. An hon. gentleman, a member of the Upper House and of the retiring Administration, was charged with the formation of a new Government on a broad basis. He failed; after which the present hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] was sent for to form a new Administration.

He, after some hesitation, consented, and subsequently applied to him (Mr. J.A. Macdonald) for aid in the accomplishment of his task. He suggested that the present hon. Commission of Crown Lands (Hon. Mr. Campbell) should be sent for who, when summoned by telegraph, came here and set to work to form the Upper Canada section of a new Administration. The result was that this hon. gentleman failed, as Hon. F. Blair had, when Sir E.P. Tache had only two courses before him—either to state he was unable to form an Administration on a broad basis, or to object to form one with members out of the party with which he had so long acted. It was quite clear to him, and would be to every constitutional statesman, that it was the duty of an Opposition, when so called upon, not to shirk the responsibility of office. If one party resigned office, their opponents were bound by constitutional practice to assume the responsibility of office, having previously assumed the responsibility of opposing the retiring Administration. Sir E.P. Tache, acting according to this constitutional practice, formed an Administration of those with whom he usually acted.

He again communicated with himself (Mr. J.A.M.) when he consented to act with him in the formation of a Cabinet, and the result was, the creation of the present Ministry. These were all the explanations which he had to offer, and all, he thought, that could properly be called for by hon. gentlemen opposite. A Government was formed of those oppose to the late Administration, which had gone to the country, and we all knew the result. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] asked several questions relating to the policy of the Government. It was not the practice in England to take such a course under such circumstances. On the contrary, this course had been condemned by the leaders of several Governments on different occasions; they taking this ground: “We take office, and our policy is to be judged by the measures we submit to Parliament.” Of course, the present Administration was to be judged in the same way. Still, the practice of late years here had been to afford explanations on the formation of a new Cabinet; a distinct programme having been read to the House by the present hon. Speaker, on the formation of the Brown-Dorion Ministry.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—And on the formation of the Cartier-Macdonald Ministry, too.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Yes, and by other Governments. In accordance with this practice, the present Government authorized the hon. member for Montmorency (Mr. Cauchon), and the hon. member for Peel (Mr. J.H. Cameron), to state to the House, before it adjourned, the general policy of the Administration.

He (Mr. Macdonald) would refer briefly to the heads of this policy, as set forth on that occasion. The first paragraph referred to the policy to be pursued in regard to the defence of the country. His hon. friend, Sir E. Tache, had assumed the duties of Receiver General and Minister of Militia, so that the nominal character of the former would enable him to devote more attention to the duties of the latter office, to occupy which he was so well qualified. The late Attorney General for Upper Canada and he himself

  • (p. 120)

(Mr. J.A. Macdonald) had both held the office of Minister of Militia. The hon. and gallant knight possessed the advantage of all the experience derived from long personal service in the militia, and would also have the benefit of all the assistance the Adjutant General’s Department could afford. He had devoted himself for a long time to the study of militia matters, and would be able to deal efficiently with the question of defence. There could be no doubt the country was and had been of opinion for some time, that it required a larger militia, and other measures needed to put the Province in a proper state of defence. The hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] had studiously devoted himself to a consideration of the whole subject, and he believed he would be able to inaugurate such a system, under the present law, as would realise all promised in this first paragraph. It was promised that a more effective system would be initiated without incurring extra expense.

He (the speaker) thought that when the measure contemplated was brought down, it would be found that the present cost would not be increased, but diminished, without in any way impairing the efficiency of the force, which might be expected to be largely increased and improved.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—A question had been asked as to whether there would be any new legislation in reference to the militia. To that we were not prepared to give any definite answer, because the hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] was carefully, considering whether the organisation contemplated could be carried out under the present law. He thought it was generally agreed by all parties, including the late Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché]  himself, that under the present law the expense of the militia force was very great. He believed the hon. gentleman had admitted as such.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—No. I stated the expectations formed as to the efficiency of the militia had not been realised; that the law, as it stood, was somewhat complicated, but that the new system is to come into operation soon, which will, I have no doubt, realise the expectations formed of it.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] hoped the expectations entertained in reference to the militia, by the present Government, would be realised. If the desired result could be accomplished without further legislation, it would be so, but, if not, we should ask for further legislation to that end. The next paragraph of the Ministerial programme was a promise that steps would be taken in order to the continuance of the bonding system and the Reciprocity Treaty. Every one was agreed as to the necessity for these measures, and nothing would be left undone to obtain these objects. The pledge in reference to a conference with the representatives of the sister Provinces, with a view to effecting a closer connection with them in regard to trading operations, would be fulfilled to the largest extent possible.

The next paragraph of the programme related to the development of the North-West Territory. These questions were of the greatest importance, as had been acknowledged by all parties, and the various Administrations that had existed of late. This Government had recognized the importance of the two latter questions, for which reason it had put them in its programme, believing they required immediate consideration. Under the circumstances of the case, we, of course, had not an opportunity of ascertaining what had been done by our predecessors in regard to these matters, and what was their actual position in reference to them. Both those subjects were now receiving the fullest consideration, and we should take the earliest opportunity of submitting the result.

With respect to the North-West Territory, he found that some action had been taken by the late Government in reference to the interests of Canada, an Order in Council having been drawn up to the subject. The Government of the day would follow up this course with the greatest zeal, fully impressed with the vast importance of opening up the Great West, whether it be a portion of Canada or of the territory of Great Britain beyond the limits of the boundaries of Canada. With respect to our western boundaries, this House had papers before it showing the action of the Cartier-Macdonald Government in order to the settlement of this question. That Government had paid special attention to the claims of Canada in regard to opening up this territory, and it was their wish that the question should be submitted for disposal by the Privy Council of Great Britain.

In regard to the subject of improving our access to the seaboard, that was also regarded as a question of the great importance. Ever since 1849, Governments had acknowledged the expediency of securing to Canada access to the sea through British territory, independent of any foreign government whatever. Legislation in 1849 and since had taken place, with the objects of obtaining an Intercolonial Railway, with the aid of the Imperial Government. The importance of that question, instead of diminishing, had increased to this day, and it now involved the gravest considerations, inasmuch as the necessity of having such an access, and a proper harbor in British territory, was more evident than ever.

With the threatened abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty and bonding system, the importance of having such a railway was immeasurably increased. The question was surrounded with a great many difficulties, which had been considerably increased by the acts of the Macdonald-Dorion Administration. In consequence of its course, arrangements were made by which Canada assumed certain duties and responsibilities. The difficulties arose from the fact that while the last Administration contended that those arrangements were at an end, and that Canada was no longer bound to carry them out, the Lower Provinces asserted with great directness of language, and considerable force that the arrangements could not be set aside without the consent of all the parties thereto. A long and angry correspondence had taken place between the parties to those arrangements, which was now under the consideration of the Government, and they would be prepared to announce before long their conclusions on the subject. The Government had received very satisfactory intelligence recently form the engineer appointed to survey the intended route of the Intercolonial railway, to the effect that great assistance was given and kindness shown him by the authorities of the Lower Provinces,

With respect to the announcement in reference to the reduction of the canal tolls, great complaint was made in the country, and he thought, with justice, of the reimposition of the canal tolls by the hon. gentleman opposite. It was asserted that great injustice was done to the country in that measure. One of the first acts of the present Finance Minister [Alexander Galt]  was to place the tolls in the same position as in 1853. From 1853 to 1859, the scale of canal tolls, with exemptions, had existed as established by Hon. Mr. Hincks. The tolls were reimposed by the late Government, and the present hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], thinking it would be for the advantage of Canada those those exemptions should again be put in force, it was done by proclamation recently. The question as to whether there should be further reduction was now before the Government, and due notice would be given the House before any action was taken.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Does the hon. gentleman say the present exemptions are those made by Mr. Hincks—has the Government reverted to his system, or that of the present Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], which we were so strongly condemned for departing from.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said the only action of the Government was to restore the exemptions instituted by Mr. Hincks, leaving the general question of the re-adjustment of the tolls open for disposal—a matter on which no action had yet been taken.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West][1]—The next paragraph related to the steps to be taken for the removal of the Government to Ottawa as soon as possible. It was the intention of the Government to remove to Ottawa as early as could be done, and one of the first acts of the Administration, was to increase the force of men engaged on those works, in order to their early completion, and the speedy removal of the Seat of Government to Ottawa. The Government had also pledged itself, in another paragraph, to administer the departments with economy, which pledge would be faithfully carried out. He would give notice of a bill to be introduced by the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], to amend the whole system of audits.

In regard to the question of representation, it would remain an open one, unless the gentlemen opposite would have it closed. In reference to the settlement of the Crown Lands in Upper and Lower Canada, nothing would be neglected to bring about that desirable result. He would give the late Commissioner of Crown Lands all the praise due for his skill and ability in discharging the duties of his office. His successor would, no doubt, administer this department in a manner equally able and beneficial, and satisfactory to the country. The Government would take steps to institute an efficient police system in the gold region, to prevent anarchy and disorder, and encourage mining operations. A proclamation had been issued with this end in view. The whole police and license system would be carefully considered, with a view to placing them on some judicious and practical basis. The proclamation was only for three months, before the expiration of which, the Government intended to inaugurate a suitable system for the regulation of those important matters. He relied upon the candour and fair play of members on both sides of this House for support to carry out the promises the Government had made, the performance of which was calculated to benefit largely the whole country.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said he had learned very little indeed from the explanations. Indeed, if he had understood anything from them, it was that the Government had no policy at all. For instance, before the recess the Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] had alluded to the necessity of a compulsory militia law. The men were to be called out at the sound of the bugle.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—But now it appeared all the Government were going to do was to consider if the law actually in force was sufficient or not.

He (Mr. Dorion) was not the only one who understood that there was to be a compulsory militia law, for the hon. President of the Council [Isaac Buchanan] had stated at Hamilton that the people of Lower Canada did not care for volunteering, and that they were to be called out at the sound of the bugle.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter and cheers.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The hon. gentleman then went on to refer to the other items of the Ministerial programme, which had been commented upon by the hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], and said that the explanations given were equally vague and unsatisfactory. As regards the Intercolonial question, the statements made were particularly unsatisfactory.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] explained that what he had said, in substance, amounted to this: That the several changes of policy had greatly embarrassed the question; that the Government were duly impressed, as well with the great importance of the subject, as with the difficulties which had arisen. They had the whole subject before them, and it would receive their earnest attention.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] said it was not unreasonable to expect some explanation from the Government on the subject of the Intercolonial Railway, when we considered the great anxiety which the hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. McGee) had displayed on the subject. In fact, we had a right to have an explanation from that hon. gentleman himself, as to the circumstances under which he had entered the Administration. The House was entitled to hear something from the hon. gentleman on this point.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics] said it was very edifying to see the anxiety displayed by the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] now, two years after.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear and laughter.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said it had been currently reported that a vacancy had been caused in the Government by the resignation of one of its members—he alluded to the Postmaster General; and that the office in question had been offered to an hon. member for the upper branch of the Legislature.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—He thought the House was fairly entitled to a reply on this point.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said he could inform the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] that no vacancy had occurred; although, when the election resulted adversely, the Hon. Mr. Foley had, in the handsomest manner, placed the office at his disposal, by a telegram, before he left Kingston. But no vacancy whatever had occurred, nor had the office been offered to any honorable gentleman either in this House or in the other House.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] commenced by accusing Sir E.P. Tache of want of manliness in putting in the written notes of his explanatory speech, delivered just before the adjournment, which he had given to the reporters, a reference to certain language he (Mr. Macdonald) was alleged to have used with regard to the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown], although he (Sir Etienne Tache) had not uttered the statement in his speech to the House.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—He (Mr. Macdonald) was thus deprived of an opportunity of contradicting or explaining the words in question, which went forth to the country through the papers uncontradicted.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Where did it appear?

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—In the Globe, and in several other papers, having been telegraphed over the country. He repeated that the manner in which this statement had been transmitted to the papers, in writing, without having been spoken in the House, placed him (Mr. Macdonald) in a most unfair position, and was unjust in the extreme towards him.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—He now referred to the matter in order to afford the hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] the fullest opportunity of explaining the matter in reference to himself and the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown].

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—The hon. gentleman then proceeded to refer to the militia. He was really surprised that his hon. friend from Montreal Centre (Mr. Rose) did not get up and denounce the Government for want of policy on a question of so much importance. The hon. member (Mr. Rose) was in the habit of talking a great deal about the claims of Class A to a certain allowance. Now, he supposed the Government, by way of shewing how they were going to render the force more efficient without additional expenditure, would immediately devote eighteen or twenty thousand dollars to the payment of Class A. He supposed they

  • (p. 121)

would do this, and the next thing we should hear was that the force was disbanded.

Several Hon. Members—You promised to pay that money!

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] denied that this was correct. He had spoken of making a money payment to the volunteers; but it was not as hon. gentlemen stated. In fact, he would venture to assert, with regard to the militia of the country, that there would be little or no change in the law as it now stood.—The hon. gentleman next went on to refer to the Intercolonial Railway question, charging the Government with having given no real expression of policy whatever. The hon. member for Montreal West [Thomas D’Arcy McGee] was the great champion of the work. During the last session and the early part of the present session, in place and out of place, the hon. gentleman had never ceased his attacks upon the Macdonald-Dorion Government for what he styled their breach of faith. Now, he would like to ask the hon. member whether it was a tact that, while he was in office, he had written a letter to say that the basis of 1862 was abandoned?

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—No, it is not the case.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] went over several other items of the Government programme, complaining that there was in reality no definite policy expressed.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] followed on the same side. He complained that the hon. Minister of Agriculture, in his recent election speech, and charged him (Mr. Holton) with having stipulated for retention in the Cabinet. He would like to know whether the hon. gentleman had been correctly reported, or whether he had made this statement on the authority of Sir Etienne Tache’s remarks before the adjournment. He (Mr. Houlton) could not recollect the precise words used; but he knew that they amounted in substance to an accusation against himself and an honorable colleague of having stipulated for their retention in the Cabinet. All he could say of such a statement was that it was utterly unfounded.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics] said he would certainly claim the protection of the Speaker from such an unjust and unfair attack. Let the hon. gentleman quote the exact language which he alleged to have been used, instead of citing from memory what he was pleased to term its substance. The hon. gentleman first made a vague assertion, without mentioning the exact language involved in the charge, and then proceeded to charge him (Mr. McGee) with untruth, before he had an opportunity of replying.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] went on to charge the Government with not having explained their policy, and then proceeded to charge them with inconsistency of opinion among themselves.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—You first charge us with giving no definition of policy, and then you say that our principles are inconsistent with each other.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and cheers.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Oh, we are obliged to infer a great deal.—The hon. gentleman then continued his strictures on the policy of the Government until six o’clock, when the Speaker left the Chair.

After the recess—

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]  said he desired, before resuming his commentary upon the Government policy, to refer to the language which he had charged the hon. member for Montreal West (Mr. McGee) with having used in relation to himself).

He (Mr. Holton) found, on examining the report of the hon. gentleman’s speech, as published in the two leading Montreal papers, the Herald and Gazette, it did not bear out the impression on his (Mr. Holton’s) mind, to which he had given utterance before the recess. He was under the belief that he had seen another report of the hon. gentleman’s remarks which justified his assertion. He, however, took this opportunity of making an explanation in justice to the hon. member, although even the language attributed to the hon. member for Montreal West (Mr. McGee) even by the two papers referred to, reflected upon him (Mr. Holton).

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics] said that the hon. gentleman had charged him (Mr. McGee) with having said that he (Mr. Holton) and one of this colleagues had “stipulated” on their own behalf; but, on referring to the two leading journals of the city in which the speech was made, he found that this was not the case. He (Mr. McGee) was obliged to the hon. gentleman for frankly withdrawing it.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] continued his discourse, referring in detail to the Reciprocity Treaty, and attacking the Government for an alleged difference of opinion on matters of commercial policy between the hon. Finance Minister, (Mr. Galt) and the hon. President of the Council (Mr. Buchanan.)

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] congratulated the hon. gentleman who had just sat down on the manner in which he had treated the questions referred to in his speech. On leaving this side of the House, he had evidently left behind him all those feelings of responsibility which he seemed to possess while on the Ministerial side. Then it was perfectly impossible for us to get from him any explanations in regard to what his Government intended to do.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—And here, singular to say, the moment he arrived in Opposition, he thought the Government ought to be prepared to enter into all the details of their policy, in order that he should be allowed to canvass it in advance. He had drawn very largely on his imagination if he supposed he was going to receive answers on all the points he mentioned. The answers already given were certainly as full as any ever afforded under similar circumstances in the House of Commons. He thought the House would be content, notwithstanding the remarks of the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton], to wait till they saw the policy of the Government as contained in its measures. In regard to himself and the hon. member from Hamilton, the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] seemed to be laboring under the greatest difficulty to reconcile how it was possible they could combine to do any good for the country.

Well, if he only reflected on the case of gentlemen with whom he himself was now acting, he would observe those difficulties were sometimes got over. We all remembered that there was not a perfect accord between the Hon. Mr. Howland and the late Finance Minister on financial matters, and yet the latter had no difficulty in entering the Cabinet with him. With regard to our policy, he thought it was an entirely new doctrine—that attempted to be laid down by the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton]—that measures of Government were to be judged in any other way than in the measures brought down by them.

He would inform that hon. gentleman that the Government would take the earliest opportunity of laying urgent measures before the country, and when they came down, he would be able to see whether the “labor” question, and others respecting which he appeared very anxious, were dealt with. He would then, doubtless, perceive that everything possible had been done by the Government to promote the great interests of the country. The hon. gentleman, though wanting information on so many points, appeared in a very happy mood, and he could not possibly have experienced such satisfaction in possession of the knowledge he sought as he seemed to have felt without it; and we should not feel disposed to grant his request, desiring to please him and keep him in the best mood.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—This condition of things would not last long, however, for he (Mr. Galt) promised the House that the hon. Attorney General [John A. Macdonald] would bring down measures exposing the policy of the Government at the earliest possible moment. If we withheld any information, at present, we only followed the same course pursued by the late Finance Minister and colleagues when in office. That hon. gentleman alleged that the present Administration was the result of an accident. But that accident was not attributable to us but the late Government themselves.

Some Hon. Members—Hear and laughter.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—The hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] had referred to the grey-headed veterans on this side of the House, and had held out the olive branch to the young and able men beside us. Really we had as strong an appreciation of the merits and abilities of our young political confreres as he had, and should endeavor at all times to maintain ourselves in the position which we thought was necessary for the good of the country.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William McDougall [Ontario North, Provincial Secretary] said that the conduct of hon. gentlemen opposite was really calculated to make the country believe that legislation was looked upon as a mere farce. For instance, there was the organization of the militia, which was such a favorite topic with hon. gentlemen on the Ministerial benches when they were on this side of the House, and which they so frequently used as a text for attack upon the then Government. What did we now behold? Why, that the moment hon. gentlemen crossed the House, they had no fault to find, no remonstrance to utter. They were quite content with the militia law as it stood; they did not intend to alter the law—all they proposed to do was to consider the law, and, possibly, making some changes in the departmental working.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William McDougall [Ontario North, Provincial Secretary]—The hon. gentleman then went on to refer to the subject of developing the mineral wealth of the country. He commented upon the gold-mining regulations recently promulgated, which he condemned as affording an advantage to speculators, and not being calculated to promote the material interests of the country. He (Mr. McDougall) intended to submit resolutions to the House on this subject, in the course of a few days, when the matter could be more fully entered into. He then cited an extract from a speech made by the hon. President of the Council [Isaac Buchanan], at Hamilton, in reference to his commercial policy, and expressed a hope that he would enter into an explanation of his views. This was not a time, however, to enter into a detail of policy, so he would content himself with having pointed out that the Government had, in reality, no principles in common upon any of the questions of the hour.

William Powell [Carleton] said that if anything were needed to convince the House that the practice of coming down to the Legislature and announcing a policy had no advantageous results, to-night’s debate afforded a conclusive evidence of it.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton]—In spite of their announcement, the Government had been taunted, again and again, with having as policy. He would certainly congratulate the hon. member for Chateauguay (Mr. Holton) on the good temper and good humor he had displayed in a new character on the opposite side of the House.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

William Powell [Carleton]—But with regard to the hon. member for North Ontario (Mr. McDougall) the case was different. Both the House and the country would be astonished at the audacity of the hon. gentleman in accusing other members of this House with having completely abandoned their principles on being translated from one side of the House to the other.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton]—Did the hon. gentleman forget his own antecedents? Did he forget his own celebrated resolution on the great question of representation by population—did he forget his declaration that, unless legislative relief were afforded, he and his political colleagues would look to Washington for redress.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

William Powell [Carleton]—But, ere the echo of his voice had died away,—ere the ink with which he had recorded his resolution was dry—he abandoned his old doctrines, he cast aside the principles for which he so long struggled, and crossed the House, where he adopted totally different principles.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton]—And what did we hear even to-night?

Why, that, after denouncing, in one breath, hon. gentlemen for inconsistency, he turned around and deliberately told us that there were ninety or one hundred hon. members in this House, among whom there existed no material difference of opinion. Would the hon. gentleman pretend to reconcile these two statements?

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

William Powell [Carleton]—The hon. gentleman (Mr. McDougall) had talked of the conduct of the late Opposition. What was the case when the hon. gentleman himself and his friends were in opposition? There were ten or a dozen motions of want of confidence each session; every measure was opposed step by step, and the most determined resistance was offered. The hon. member for North Ontario [William McDougall] had also taken occasion to taunt the Government on their militia policy., The House and the country knew full well, however, that anything hon. gentlemen opposite had done, during their tenure of office, to organize our defensive force, was because they were forced by the pressure of public opinion to do it. Their well-known motto, as stated on the floor of this House, was, “the best argument for Canada is no armament at all.”

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton]—He repeated that anything they had done for the militia, during their short tenure of office, was done without good will or inclination, and that the system would require to be properly worked. Now, with respect to another item of the political programme of the Government, namely, the Reciprocity Treaty, hon. gentlemen on this side were attacked on the ground that the press in their interest, or representing their views, had excited a feeling against Canada in the United States, by wantonly assailing the acts of the Federal Government, and by persistently expressing sympathy with the South. Now, if there was one man more than another who, by his writings, had contributed to cause a feeling against the North, and in favor of the South, it was the gentleman whom hon. gentlemen opposite had selected as their special organist. He repeated that the writings of the gentleman in question were extremely hostile to the Federal Government.

An Hon. Member—In papers favorable to your party.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton]—Was that the reason you made him your organist?

Some Hon. MembersCheers and laughter.

William Powell [Carleton]—The hon. gentleman went on to say that he did not know but what the inclinations and alliances of the hon. ex Premier himself tended to sympathy with the South.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] said he had been denounced in the coarsest terms, and had been called a Federal spy, because he performed his duty when a plot was discovered which might have had for a result to involve us in a war with our neighbors.

An Hon. Member—There was, in reality, no plot.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Did you read Mallory’s Report?

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics] said the Report in question was a forgery. It had been everywhere denounced as a forgery. It was most amusing to hear the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] quoting as an authority a document which was subsequently

  • (p. 122)

admitted by Mr. Seward himself to be a forgery; which was stated to be a forgery by Mr. Adams, and which was also said in the Imperial Parliament to be a forgery.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—This was Rip Van Winkle, without a doubt.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] was understood to say that Mallory’s Report had been shown to him in New York by Secretary Seward.

An Hon. Member—But it has been since admitted to be a forgery.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] observed that a joint organ of the Confederate Government and the Canadian Government, a journal published in Montreal, had admitted the existence of the Johnson’s Island plot.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton] said he would leave the paper in question to defend itself, as he believed it was perfectly competent to do. The hon. gentleman then went on to say that the reference of hon. members opposite to the Intercolonial Railway was most unfortunate, when we considered the policy they had pursued in reference to that important question. Referring to the attack of the hon. member for North Ontario [William McDougall] on the gold-mining regulations, he contrasted it with the conduct of the late Opposition when that hon. gentleman introduced his bill relative to gold-mining, when they had acceded to his desire, treated it as a non-political measure, and discussed it fairly, and apart from party views.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said that the gold-mining regulations should not have been made a subject of discussion at this stage of proceedings. As stated by the hon. member for Carleton [William Powell], the hope had been expressed when the hon. ex-Commissioner of Crown Lands had brought down his bill on the subject, that it would not be looked at from a political point of view; and the House met it in that sense. Circumstances, however, had prevented that bill from becoming law; but, as the hon. gentleman himself had said, there was urgent necessity for enactments of some sort without delay. The regulations which had been promulgated were designed—pending a detailed measure which would be laid before the Legislature—to regulate the matter in the simplest possible way. He did not think there was any danger of the country suffering from the alleged improvidence of the Government respecting the fixed price of the lands. The regulations showed upon the face of them that they were incidental to the state of things arising from the adjournment of the House. He might, however, say in conclusion, that the hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mr. Campbell, had the whole matter before him, with a view to proper steps being taken on the subject.

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency] said he was astonished to hear, in his speech to-night, the hon. ex-Commissioner of Crown Lands denying the statements which he had made when he introduced his mining bill. When he was asked on that occasion if he intended to give miners the right to go in on private lands and work them if the proprietors neglected to do so, he replied in the affirmative, saying that if the proprietor would not work the mine other should be allowed to do so.

William McDougall [Ontario North, Provincial Secretary]—Did you read the whole bill?

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency]—Why did the hon. gentleman change his bill after his preliminary explanations upon it?

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton] read an extract from the report of the explanations of the Hon. Mr. McDougall’s Mining Bill, shewing that the hon. gentleman had used the language imputed to him by the hon. member for Montmorency [Joseph Cauchon].

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency] said it was very unfortunate that the hon. gentleman had such a bad memory. He had changed his bill after his explanations, and now he had forgotten his own explanations.—The hon. gentleman then went on at considerable length to explain his views on the mining question, urging that, so to speak, we should have free trade in the matter, and that the price of lands should be fixed low.

Lucius Huntington [Shefford] went on, at considerable length, to assail the Conservative party as a body—charging them with having systematically abused the people of the Northern States, and misrepresented the acts of the Federal Government.—Referring personally to the hon. member for Montmorency [Joseph Cauchon], he said that no hon. member of this House would believe that he had been offered a seat in any Government and had refused.

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency] said he regretted exceedingly to be obliged to rise on a matter of personal explanation. As far back as 1851, he (Mr. Cauchon) had been offered the assistant Secretaryship, with a salary of £600, and a seat in the House, and the office would also have placed a considerable amount of prints patronage at his disposal. He, however, refused to accept it. In 1855 he came into office with the Conservatives, and went out of the Government in 1857. He had, since that period, been in office, with his political friends, and had gone out with them. Then, with regard to the formation of the present Government, he would mention the circumstances so far as they related to himself. It was, he admitted, a delicate matter; and he would not have referred to it, but that he had permission to do so. Sir Etienne Tache came to him, and speaking to him in the most complimentary language, had offered him office.

He (Mr. C.) replied that if anything could have induced him to accept office it was the flattering terms used by the Hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché]. But that he nevertheless begged to decline for reasons personal to himself.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion [Drummond & Arthabaska] spoke at some length, condemning the mining regulations.

Joseph Bellerose [Laval] said that the hon. ex-Premier had denied having stated that he would bring a measure for paying the volunteers. His words, however, were recorded, and it would be found, on reference to the report of the debate on the 14th October last and on the 2nd March, that he had promised to pay the volunteers.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] said that the hon. gentleman was misrepresenting him. What he had really denied was that he had ever consented to recognize the claim of Class A, of the Active Force, for an allowance of $6 over and above their clothing.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] asked whether the hon. member for Sherbrooke [Alexander Galt] intentionally stated in his recent election address, that he (Mr. Holton) had improperly interfered in regard to making up the public accounts in the form in which they appeared.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] thought the hon. gentleman was very sensitive as to this matter. But he admitted that, for any change which might have been made in the form of preparing the public accounts while he was in office, he must be held primarily responsible, and that such was fair subject of attack, as well as anything in the accounts themselves. The point to which the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] referred was, probably, with reference to his (Mr. G.) having stated that owing to a change in the mode in which the public accounts were prepared, the column of unprovided items was not in the first part of the book, and that, consequently, persons accustomed to the return as previously prepared now missing this column would not be aware there were any unprovided items at all. He did not give any report or resume of the public accounts, which he (Mr. G.) thought was a fair subject for attack, equally as for the failure to give information communicated before. It certainly never was his intention to impute to the hon. gentleman any intention of giving dishonest instructions to the officials preparing the public accounts.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said it was well known that the accounts were made out by the officers of the department, who had stated in the preface to the accounts that a change had been made in the omission of the column of unprovided items with the reasons therefor. But those items were really given with as much fullness as before, in the body of the report, and it was absurd to suppose that anybody acquainted with the public accounts who would take the trouble to look into them could pretend he was unable to procure all information as to those items, there being a special table in which they were enumerated. The compilers, therefore, did not desire to encumber the report with such a repetition in another place.

John Pope [Compton] complained that Municipal Councils had not been provided with the statute in reference to the militia, while under the present law they were obliged to have a column in the assessment roll, for the militia., Was it the intention of the Government to distribute the recent statutes on this subject?

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] knew nothing about the matter, but would make enquiry of the Provincial Secretary into the circumstance.

The House then, at a quarter to twelve, adjourned till Friday, on motion of Hon. J.A. Macdonald.

[1] This is separated with a handwritten note in the margin. The newspaper has this speech under Galt’s name. The note seems to indicate that it’s John A. Macdonald. The flow of the speech seems to be in line more with Macdonald as he continues explaining each paragraph of the Ministerial programme.

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