Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Hon. Mr. McKay’s Resolutions (12 April 1849)

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Date: 1849-04-12
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Legislative Council,”The Globe (21 April 1849).
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THURSDAY—April 12.

The House met at three o’clock.


On the order of the. Day being read for the consideration by the house of the resolutions submitted by the hon. Mr. M’Kay, relating to the constitution of the house in reference to the gentlemen who have been lately called to seats in that branch of the Legislature—
Hon. Mr. M’KAY said, in the remarks he had made in the debate on the Bill of Indemnity for Rebellion Losses, and also on introducing his resolutions to the house, it seemed that some of his expressions had given offence both to gentlemen within and without the house. He never wished to offend any one intentionally, as his remarks were intended to apply to the principle of increasing the members of that honourable house. The hon. gentleman went into a statement of his reasons for bringing forward the resolutions, in which he said that he thought if the Council was an elective body, it would not be so likely to become the mere echo of the Ministry. He concluded by moving the first resolution, which was to the effect, that, in the opinion of that honourable house, the constitution of the Council was defective.

The SPEAKER having read the Resolution, there was a long pause and then a cry of “Question,” when

Hon. Mr. VIGER rose and appealed to the House if it was treating the hon. mover of the resolutions fairly, to keep silent, as if they intended to treat him with silent contempt.

Hon. Mr. MCGILL was not prepared to move that the Council should be an elective body, as he thought the present system and its constitution as analogous to the House of Lords in England as they could get it. So long as the British flag [illegible] on the ramparts of the Province, he would maintain the constitution of the Council as it was, and if a change in the circumstances of the country ever took place, its constitution might then be altered; but he hoped such a change would never occur. Every Ministry was obliged to carry on the Government of the country according to the wishes of the people; and in order that the Government should be effective, the Ministry had constitutional powers which they had a right to exercise. There would always be two parties; and when one party did not act according to the wishes of the people, the majority would soon tell them they were doing wrong.

Hon. Mr. M’KAY wished to know whether Mr. M’Gill thought the action of the Ministry was right in making the large addition to the members if the Legislative Council which they had made?

Hon. Mr. M’GILL was not prepared to say what he in their circumstances would have done. The Ministry had a constitutional right to act as they had done.

Hon. Mr. PINHEY followed at some length. In his opinion, the increase of members to that House was a violation of the rights and constitution of the House as an independent body, and were the same course to be followed by other Governments, the liberty of the country itself would be endangered. The hon. gentleman concluded by moving in amendment to the first resolution, to the effect, that although the Indemnity Bill had been passed, the Legislative Council trusted that the people of the Province would remain quiet and continue [illegible] in their allegiance to the Queen.

Hon. Mr. LESLIE said there was one remark which had fallen from the hon. gentleman who spoke last, which he would wish to answer. That hon. gentleman had said that it was a violation of the rights and constitution of the House for the Crown to exercise its prerogative in calling an additional number of gentlemen to the Council.

Hon. Mr. PINHEY had meant the practical constitution.

Hon. Mr. LESLIE said it was well known that of all the members of the House were present the Government would be in a minority, and between the years of 1843 and 1847 there had been more members added to the House than had been by the present Ministry. In 1841 twenty-four gentlemen were called to the House, seventeen of whom were Conservatives and seven were Reformers, or rather [illegible] might say doubtful. Out of the eleven created in 1847, ten were Conservatives, and one was a Liberal. He therefor thought the opposite party had no reason to complain, because the Liberals had exercised the constitutional right of calling twelve of their friends to the House.

Hon. Mr. FERRIE would not say that the constitution of the House was violated; still he would be sorry if the succeeding ministries acted upon the same principle. If the Council were an elective body he would consider it a greater honor to belong to it than in being appointed to it either by a King or a Queen; but with our connection with the Mother Country he thought the elective system untenable.

Mr. QUESNEL thought the Executive Government was placed in a position to the father of a family, and must exercise the power necessary for governing well. The resolution he did not agree with, and the honorable gentleman who move the amendment might as well have called on the House to vote that the sun was shining when they saw it was shining.

Mr. TACHE thought that the resolutions of the hon. mover were acceptable in two views; 1st, the mover seemed to consider that the Ministry had acted improperly in increasing the number of members in that House; and 2dly, that gentlemen who had been called did not possess the qualifications which the hon. mover thought indispensable in gentlemen who were so selected. If the former Administration had acted with that discretion which they ought to have done in appointing members to the Council it might have given a different aspect to the affair, and rendered it impolitic for the present Executive to make the appointments they had done. Respecting the hon. gentleman who had been selected by the present Administration, he did not wish to say much, as he was one of the number, and it was therefore a delicate subject; but he would remark, that on the whole, he thought they were quite as respectable as any other appointments that had been made.

Mr. MCKAY asked the hon. Commissioner of the Board of Works, if the House were independent in his opinion?

Mr. TACHE.—“Yes.”

Mr. MCKAY.—Then from the language made use of by the hon. gentleman on a previous occasion, their ideas of independence were very different.

Mr. TACHE Said he had a question to put to the hon. gentleman and reply to the one he put to him.—Did the hon. gentleman think that it was the duty of honourable gentlemen to thwart every measure coming from the other House, merely because it originated there?

Mr. MACKAY said it dependent on the nature of the measures. In some cases he considered that it was decidedly their duty to oppose them.

Mr. MCGILL did not think that the independence of the house had been destroyed, notwithstanding all that had happened. It was certainly true that a great Ministerial question had been carried by the majority added by the new members; but it was equally true that if all the members of the Opposition had been in their seats it would have been lost. In conclusion, he would say that he was supposed to the motion before the House.

Mr. QUESNEL said that the old Legislative Council of Lower Canada had been truly called dependent, because they followed the lead of the Governor like a flock of sheep. It could not be said with any justice that they were open to the same charge for instead of voting all together, they had opposed each other manfully on questions of importance.

Mr. Ross said it was evident to every one that the honorable gentlemen recently appointed, had not being very courteously alluded to in the resolution before the House, and that the hon. gentleman who introduced them had been dealt with very leniently. The hon. gentleman had said that there was no honour in occupying a seat in the House since those appointments had been made. He would remind the hon. gentlemen that nothing was easier than to resign his seat, and thus get rid of any dishonour which might attach a seat there He (Mr. Ross) did not think that in such a country is this there was any occasion for making an inquiry into the birth, education, or occupation of any man; for it was quite sufficient if a man were respectable; and if he were the architect of his own fortune, it only increased his merit. Hon. gentlemen should remember that the Government we now lived under was a transcript of the English constitution, and if they had studied the history of England since 1688, they would have found that in every dispute between the Lords and Commons, the Lords had gone to the wall, and give it way to the majority of the nation. The hon. gentleman who had proposed these resolutions said he wished to have the number of members fixed or limited period if that principle were concurred in, the House would necessarily become as dependent on the Executive power as it had been in either Upper or Lower Canada; and if the majority happened to be opposed to the people, there would be no possibility of carrying into effect any measure, no matter how useful, to which that majority might be opposed. The whole business of the country would necessarily be at a dead lock, and he need not say how much that was to be deprecated. The hon. Mr. Quesnel had said that the amendment was quite irrelevant, but he differed with him in opinion. He thought it had a close connexion with the resolution; but he thought that they were all objectionable, and the amendment is specially, as it through a doubt on the loyalty of the people of this Province, for which not one out of a hundred men would be at all grateful to the hon. gentleman.

Mr. PINHEY hoped the amendment would be carried. He disclaimed all partisanship. He was neither a Tory nor a conservative; In short he had a strong suspicion that he was only a “loose fish.”

Mr. VIGER objected to the wording of the resolutions. They were not written in such a style as to express the principles which the hon. gentleman had appeared to have in view. He, therefore, could not support them.

After some conversation, the vote was taken on the amendment, when Mr. PINHEY stood alone.—The vote was taken on the first, second and third resolutions, on which Mr. MCKAY stood alone.—The subject was then dropped.

The St. Anne’s Municipality Bill was read a third time; and the remaining orders having been postponed, the House adjourned.

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