Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [The Prorogation], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (30 June 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 223-224.
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THURSDAY, June 30th.
The Speaker took the Chair at half-past eleven o’clock.
Mr. Bell (Russell) moved that the fee paid on the bill 248 be returned, as the bill had been withdrawn.—Carried.
Mr. Bell (Russell) then moved that the Report of the Printing Committee be adopted.—Carried.
REMOVAL TO OTTAWA
Mr. Bell (Russell) asked the following question: “Is it the determination of the Government to remove the seat of Government to Ottawa this autumn?”
Hon. Mr. Galt replied, that the policy and intention of the Government were not changed.
Mr. Bell—Then the House is to understand that the Government will remove to Ottawa this autumn.
Hon. Mr. Galt—Yes.
Mr. Currier—Mr. Speaker, from what has just passed, we may fairly conclude that when you next take your official seat it will be in the City of Ottawa. Personally I, with my fellow-citizens, will always be happy to meet you there, but especially we will be glad to see you take your seat in the new Parliament House is your official capacity.
A message was then received from His Excellency the Governor General, requesting the attendance of the Assembly at the bar of the Legislative Council, whither the members, preceded by the Speaker, Clerk, and Sergeant-at-arms. immediately repaired.
Mr. Holton said that he had quoted certain language that he (Mr. Holton) had held on the hustings and in this House as to the importance of equalizing the expenditure and income. No doubt he had used that language, and he felt all the importance of the subject. Mr. Rose had asked why in the autumn session he (Mr. Holton) did not bring down a comprehensive financial scheme, and so in that session, after gentlemen opposite had wasted week after week with their factious motions, leaving no time for the proper consideration of a financial scheme in the midst of the business season, they asked why he did not bring it forward. When Parliament met again, the Ministry found gentlemen opposite in the same mood of factiousness, and finding that they had not numeral strength to control the business of the House, they resigned. The Attorney General West had commended them for taking that course, ha said he himself would take the same course if he had not a fair working majority. Perhaps before twenty-four hours were passed he would find himself in a position requiring the fulfilment of that pledge.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
But gentlemen opposite would not question the administrative vigour with which the late Government had conducted the affairs of the country. Not one administrative act of theirs had gentlemen opposite ventured to [illegible] by a vote in this House, except their appointed an ex-Attorney General and ex-Speaker of the House to a judgeship—an appointment which, now that the heat of party feeling was over, no one would deny was an excellent appointment. They had not ventured to condemn the placing of the ocean steam contract on a new footing, saving $200,000 per annum; nor their action with reference to the Grand Trunk Postal subsidy; their arrangement with the Bank of Montreal, the Montreal Court House Commissions, dealing with the defaulting municipalities, and dealing with the defaulting companies, especially the York Roads. With reference to all those matters the press of gentlemen opposite had found fault, but they had not ventured to attempt to censure them by a vote of the House. Mr. Galt had said that it was unfair to complain that he had brought down no scheme of retrenchment, since he (Mr. Holton) had not left in his department any materials for such a scheme.
He (Mr. Holton) would gladly furnish the hon. gentleman with lots of material for such a scheme if they should ever get into Committee of Ways and Means. Mr. Galt had said he (Mr. Holton) characterised the proposed duties on stamps as a petty scheme, and that he would have been willing to impose stamp duties much more extensively. Now the real question was whether it was well to remit the canal tolls and impose a stamp duty in their place.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
He believed if the question were put to our merchants through the country whether they would prefer continuing to pay a moderate rate of canal tolls, or having the canals enfranchised and a system of stamps substituted, ninety-nine out of a hundred would say “get your revenue from the canals, and don’t bother us with this petty, vexations tax.”
If the imposition of the stamp duties was necessary to sustain the credit of the country, they would agree to go any reasonable length in that direction, but that was different from sanctioning a scheme of this sort, to enable the Finance Minister to throw away the revenue from our costly public works. Mr. Galt’s argument had been how little he was taking off the revenue. Mr. Rose’s was how much, and what a boon it gave to the carrying trade. The two positions were antagonistic. He considered Mr. Rose right and Mr. Galt wrong. Mr. Galt had said that he merely went back to the Hincks’ policy of 1851 and 1853; but if the Hincks’ policy was a good one, why did Mr. Galt change it in 1860?
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Mr. Rose’s argument, in fact, was that the taking of the tolls in 1860 was rendered necessary by failure of the Hincks’ scheme. Why, then, did Mr. Galt go back to the Hincks’ scheme, instead of boldly submitting his own policy to the House, or doing it by an administrative act, on which the sense of the House could afterwards have been taken?
Mr. J.S. Macdonald—He is postponing that till after the House rises.
Mr. Holton went on to point out the reasons which induced Mr. Hincks to adopt his scheme, and which did not exist now. Mr. Hincks had a surplus revenue—and besides, instead of having the Reciprocity Treaty about to expire, he had the Reciprocity Treaty to win—and it was part of his policy to show Americans that we could do without them, to hold out a menace, by diverting trade to the St. Lawrence route, just as he also threatened to put on discriminating duties. None of the conditions which induced, and perhaps justified Mr. Hincks in adopting that policy in 1861, and reaffirming it in 1868, existed in 1860, or existed to-day. The Hincks’ policy failed, however, and he (Mr. Holton) maintained that returning to it now would be attended by the same results. It would be throwing away the most legitimate revenue open to us, without adding to any appreciable extent to the volume of trade through our channels. In conclusion, he would submit two or three propositions—1st. No fairer source of revenue could possibly exist than a fair and moderate toll on the public works of this country, especially on foreign transit trade.
Mr. John A. Macdonald asked whether he would put tolls on the Lake St. Peter works.
Mr. Holton said the [?hon?] gentleman opposite said about the Lake St. Peter works the better, or he would tell the House confide [illegible] what he knew about it. Mr. [illegible] mission of this canal tolls [illegible] 1850 as [illegible] means by which he and Mr. Cartier would redeem their pledges to the people of Montreal to secure the assumption of the Lake St. Peter works. In the same way in the case of the conversion scheme in England? Mr. Galt to get a little
- (p. 224)
thing carried out a big thing. Secondly, he pronounced the present scheme wholly unfair towards a large portion of our own people. To the whole producing population of Canada east of Lake Ontario, and as far west as they shipped their produce by Lake Ontario—being a large majority of the people of Canada who built these canals, and sustained by taxation their annual burden—the exemption under these regulations afforded no benefit. Thirdly, he held that we must lead to the enlargement of our canals, and that we must improve the character of our navigation in order to attract trade. He complained of this scheme because it declared to the world that Canada had finished her race of internal improvement, and that her public works were a failure financially. He alluded to Mr. Rose’s invitation to the Independent men to come to the aid of the Administration to enable the Government to be carried on, and asked if gentlemen opposite, by the treatment they had given Mr. O’Halloran, had encouraged members to exercise independence of that sort. He referred to Mr. Rose’s statement that there were eight members who could unite to support a Government. Why, then, should the Government not be called upon to dissolve? In the event of the Ministry being defeated, Mr. Rose would be called on to muster out those eighty. The Opposition would show 68, and Mr. Rose would be expected to produce the other 12.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
He concluded by declaring that the result of this vote must either be to place the Government in a minority or to leave them with such a bare majority that to carry out the pledge given by Mr. John A. Macdonald they must resign. Mr. Holton resumed his seat amidst prolonged Opposition cheers.
Hon. Mr. Moore said he had never been a violent party man, and did not now rise with the view of provoking a party debate upon the subject matter of the explanations just submitted to the House, but at the same time he would claim the liberty of giving expression to the views he held in regard to these topics. In his opinion, the House should take a broad view of the changes proposed, and should discuss them in a temperate spirit. The end of such changes was, doubtless, the benefit of the whole country, and it therefore became the House, on so peculiar an occasion, to lay aside all party feeling, and apply itself earnestly to the duty of inquiring if that end was likely to be served by the scheme agreed upon. While the paper was being read, it occurred to him that the Government had pursued an unusual course, and that it was scarcely necessary for them to have entered so minutely into the details of their negotiations, but that a statement of the results they had arrived at, would have been quite sufficient, and all that the House had a right to expect. It struck him, too, as very strange, that the Government, after an adverse vote, should come down and inform the House they could not at present fill up their Cabinet, but that they had made arrangements to do so alter the prorogation. Then the arrangements were made with a gentleman who held no official position.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—No, but who was to become a member of the Cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Moore—That might or might not be, but, for the present, things certainly remained as they were. Now, under our system of government, it certainly was not usual for a government which had suffered defeat to overlook the fact, and to go on with the legislation of the country just as if nothing had happened, and, further, to enter into negotiations with parties who were responsible neither to the Parliament nor to the country. This was assuming a responsibility which, constitutionally, could only devolve upon Ministers. For his part, he thought that any set of men who undertook to change the constitution of the country were undertaking an extremely critical task, and, under any circumstances, he thought so important a step should not be decided upon without consulting the people. It might be that such a change was proper and necessary, but if so, it should be brought about in such a way as to make it certain that the file country desired it. And he conceived that the most effectual way of doing this was to appoint delegates, who would meet in conventions throughout the Province, where the sense of its inhabitants on the subject could be taken. Without such a guarantee, the step would be a most dangerous one. Surely it ought not to be considered sufficient for the Government and a person outside of it to meet together and resolve upon the change. Possibly, it might not be intended to proceed the length of carrying out such purposes without the appeal he spoke of, but, certainly, the document submitted to the House did not suggest any such idea; and after all, if it were to be done it would be done through the instrumentality of the Government; a course which did not afford the best guarantee for the result. There was not a word in the explanations about the people, not a word about delegates or conventions, and, in fact, nothing to show that it was intended to act advisedly in this matter.
His (Mr. Moore’s) views might be very crude, but he thought that if a federal union was to be brought about, it would be well to consider whether such a union would be consistent with British connection. Whether we could, in such a political condition, continue to be subjects of Great Britain, and if such a federation was not, in fact, laying the basis for ultimate separation? If we have a federal constitution, it will no doubt be conformable to the United States model? and he would ask whether this House was prepared to relinquish that of Great Britain, of which ours was a very fair transcript, and adopt that which had plunged the American Republic in war and bloodshed?
Then, if the connection with Great Britain was to be preserved, how would it do to have the Province divided into subordinate governments with a general government over them, and another, the Imperial Government, over that? He foresaw great difficulties in such an arrangement. Then, again, the multiplication of governments would, unquestionably, increase the expense. Take the United States for an example. There the general government absorbed the whole revenue from the public domain and the duties on imports, and the individual States had to meet their own expenses by direct taxation. Would not similar results follow a federal union in this country.
The General Government would consume all the revenue, and the people would have to put their hands in their pockets to defray the costs of their local governments. He believed the people would pause before encountering such a condition of things. He certainly thought the people of Lower Canada would not approve of it, and he doubted much whether the Upper Canadians would like it any better. Under our present system of Responsible Government, the subject enjoyed the most perfect security to life and property, and there was no country under the sun where the laws were more efficient, or where they were administered with greater impartiality. In view of these facts, he repeated that no steps ought to be taken to change the Constitution without an appeal first had to the people themselves. he had the greatest respect for the gentlemen forming the Government, and believed them to be men of probity and talent, but at the same time they were but men, and, like himself, might be mistaken in their aims and objects. He only desired to raise his feeble voice in warning before it was too late, and he verily believed the difficulties between the two sections could be settled without resorting to the extreme measure proposed. Representation according to population was really the only true principle, but it was not to be applied too rigidly. It was not even applied rigorously in the United States. (The hon. member here gave a synopsis of the American system of representation, which we do not deem it necessary to reproduce.)
Nor was the doctrine fully applied in Great Britain, where large cities like London sent but a very limited number of representatives to Parliament—when compared with their population and with some of the small constituencies in the country. The error committed in this country was in pressing the claim for representation according to population prematurely. At the time of the union of the two Provinces, Lower Canada was not represented in the Council which accepted the bill, and it was well known that it was universally adverse to such an alliance. Upper Canada, however, had its legislature, and it made it a condition that it should have an equality of representation with Lower Canada in the united Parliament, although, at the time, the population of Lower Canada was very much the most numerous. Lower Canada had no voice, and the arrangement was consummated without its consent. This being the case, it was premature, just so soon as the population of Upper Canada had risen to equal that of Lower Canada, to ask, press and agitate for representation according to population.
But he (Mr. Moore) was bound to say that should the population of Upper Canada continue to increase and out-number that of Lower Canada, as it had done in the past, the time would come when the claim for a re-arrangement of the representation, on the basis of that excess, would have to be met, and in such a case his vote would not be wanting, providing, always, that proper guaranties were given to preserve the special rights of Lower Canada. He must say, too, that he admired the perseverance with which the Lower Canadians had struck to their institutions, and such a people, he was sure, would always exhibit a high phase of civilization.—Reverting then to the proposed change, the honorable member expressed the fear that in order to get rid of a difficulty, the Government were about to create a greater one, and inflict a serious wrong on the country. Then it would, no doubt, require several years to mature the plans, and he could not but believe that a much shorter way might have been found to deal with the position. The question of representation by population had been left in abeyance by one Government after another, and it had become pretty clear that the parties who supported those diverse Governments had agreed to disagree. The most energetic agitators of the question had been found supporting two Governments which had purposely left untouched, and no doubt they would have been as willing to do so in future.
He had already said we had a Responsible Government, and he believed it could be faithfully worked. Our troubles were due to some half-dozen ambitious men, who agitated for their own personal ends; and if those men would step aside, and allow the moderate men to come together, a Government could easily be formed, which would be perfectly acceptable to the country. To be sure the lion and the lamb have now professed to have lain down together, but for one, he had no faith in combinations of gentlemen who had taxed each other so long and so violently with all sorts of improprieties. We ought to have a high moral standard in politics, as in social life, and that standard should be maintained at all hazards. When we had men of character, as well as of ability, at the head of affairs, the people would soon find it out, and appreciate them. The meeting of extremes was always dangerous, and, in conclusion, he very much feared the remedy propounded would be four worse than the disease. He dreaded constitution tinkering, and trusted it would not be attempted without a direct appeal to the people.