Province of Canada, Legislative Council, [Montreal Gazette version], 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (6 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Montreal Gazette
Citation: “Latest from Quebec”, Montreal Gazette (7 February 1865).
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QUEBEC, Feb. 7.
CONFEDERATION OF THE COLONIES.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] returning the debate on Confederation scheme said to propose to take up that portion of the scheme which had reference to the constitution of the Legislative Council in the Confederate Parliament, in which that house could not naturally feel an empirical interest. He desired first to impress on them the fact that the conclusions of the conference had not been hastily arrived at, but were the result of painstaking consideration of the subjects under debate an consultations and [illegible] of the Canadian Government and leading men of other colonies.
They were arrived at as a compromise of conflicting views, the best that could obtain general concurrence. No one perhaps thought them quite perfect and no one was wedded to them, therefore, as to a scheme of his own production. But they urged the concurrence of Parliament on the whole scheme and every part because it was the result of a patriotic sacrifice of perennial opinions and local prejudices made on all hands, without which any agreement had been impossible. He would have been glad had all the members been present to witness the wise forbearance and consideration shown for the conflicting interest of each Province by all the delegates.
These sacrifices having been made these compromises assented to—which could not have been done had not the leaders of the opposing parties been present from all colonies—it was obvious that if any one province undertook to change the scheme to suit it,—if they expressed an opinion against any part of the scheme elsewhere,—a new Conference must meet, not unfettered and free to devise compromises, but bound by local legislatures to impose the opinion of one colony on another. This fatal divergence of opinions might be established, and the scheme indefinitely delayed, or defeated altogether.
For those reasons the Government felt bound to urge the acceptance of the scheme in its entirety. The hon. member for Brock (Mr. Ferguson Blair) had wisely and patriotically urged that course upon hon. members, pointing out how the announcement of this scheme had raised our credit in Britain and elsewhere, and increased confidence in the mother county of our ability and readiness to do our share for the maintenance of the empire. To reject the scheme, or fatally delay it, were to lose all this benefit, to win discredit and disfavour for us in the mother country, as well as destroy our own future.
After thus urging on hon. members these reasons for prompt and favourable action, he would state the reasons why the proposed constitution was adopted for the Confederate Legislative Council. It was felt, in the first place, by the Maritime Provinces, as heretofore the Lower Canada, that they could not trust their interests to two houses, both based on the representation of mere numbers. Upper Canada had already so large a preponderance, and are likely to be so much increased, that they naturally could not feel that their maritime interests would be safe in the hands of a preponderant majority of members from an inland province, having the control of both Houses. This reasoning which seemed to be entirely lost sight of in England, induced the conference to grant an equality of votes to the Maritime Provinces, to Lower and to Upper Canada, and of course, this involved the fixing the number of members; that settled, it became a question whether the members should be elected or nominated by the Crown.
The member for Tecumseh now represented 80,000 people. The member for Saugeen 130,00; in 1851 the former only 34,000, the latter 71,000. How long, if we go up the elective principle, would members there, representing perhaps 150,000 to 200,000, consent to have no larger voice in the Legislation than the members from the Maritime Provinces, representing only 40,000. Already the agitation threatened to enlarge the representation in that House, and the greatest probability was that an agitation would grow up to apply the principle so long insisted on in the West, and now proposed to be applied to the House of Commons and to the Upper House as well.
Now, the constitution was intended to be formed for all time, yet it was impossible it could long go on based on popular election and not seek some basis in both Houses; therefore the Lower Provinces felt they could not safely consent to the introduction of that principle; the only safety they felt lay in the nominative principle,—Nor could the Canadian delegates gainsay them. Had he been a lower Province delegate he should have felt as they did. Further, he had been impressed since he entered that House, that much of its character and excellence of its legislation resulted in the presence there of life members. The fact that it had worked so well with the other house has due to the gradual introduction of the elective element and the influence over them exerted by a considerable body of life members in it.
The Council had not been made elective to make it more democratic, not to give it powers not had before, to interfere with things formerly not within its jurisdiction, yet it had required the wholesome influence and tradition of nominated body to keep them within proper attributes, and this led him to consider one objection raised of the probability of a collusion and dead lock between the two houses. That was not to be apprehended from the reintroduction of the elective principle—experience had proved that it was much more likely, in fact, more to be dreaded as the result of tired members, a necessity concomitant of an elective house. It also might arise from the from the elective principle itself. For although it had not been often referred to in that House, yet hon. members knew that in corridors and committee rooms it was often discussed.
Why if they were each elected and representing the property of 25,000 to 100,000 rate-payers, should they not have same right to deal with taxation with one representing a third of the number in the Lower House. When this House became purely elective, the danger was, there claims would be urged more earnestly, violently, and perhaps successfully. By adopting the nomination system they got rid of this danger, and of that arising from the government of mere numbers—an influence to which the Council was intended to be a counterpoint.
He had then to deal with the danger of a dead lock arising from the nominated body creating a dead-lock by opposing measures asked for and passed by an elective Lower House. In motion, this danger was only met by a recourse to the [illegible] of Peers, a doubtful expedient, which Government had seldom dared to resort to. Death vacancies were filled by sons of deceased peers, in cases 7 cases out of ten adopting the party of their fathers. Here the danger was less, inasmuch as members of the Council, drawn from the same body as the Assembly, were not a class apart as in Britain, and much less likely to hold opinion widely different from the majority of the other House. All had interests in common.
The Upper Houser should be Conservative, and should represent the settled policy of the country as opposed to passing popular whims, but was not likely, under these circumstances, to be long opposed to the popular views. Now, to what extent could they look for such vacancies. During the first eighty years of the application of the elective principle, out of life members who had passed away and one was a prisoner at home through ill health. In the same time, [illegible] elective members had vacated the seats out of an average of 24 in the House besides those who sought re-elections on entering the Ministry.
It would thus be seen how large were the opportunities of recasting that House which arose out of death vacancies and those created by loss of fortune, and acceptance of permanent offices of appointment under the Crown. He thought this a sufficient answer to the objection raised. The delegate to the conference had earnestly sought to imitate as closely as possible the British Constitution to accrue stability with freedom, immediate direct action of popular opinion on executive authority, together with sufficient executive authority to ensure the firm execution of the laws and the maintenance of order, and he believed their work deserved to receive assent of Parliament and the people of Canada.
In answer to Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863],
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said the 16th clause was introduced as affording a safe-guard to the English-speaking inhabitants of Lower Canada that they should receive due proportion of members. As the population of the other provinces was homogenous, it was not needed there.
Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863] feared it would have a contrary effect, and would reduce the number of English-speaking members. Justice would be best assured by, leaving the prorogative of the Crown [illegible]. The clause was rather [illegible] distinctions of race and creed, which were better forgotten.
Conversation and discussion arose to the meaning of the 14th clause, whether the nomination was vested in the present local governments or in the new local governments to be formed.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] promised an authoritative explanation to-morrow.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863] said his hon. friend had but two session ago lauded the change in the elective principle as a thing the country had [illegible] to regret. What had he seen to make him change his mind. Had the elective members behaved badly? Have the people since misplaced their confidence? Have the people [illegible] or for other? [Text illegible]. Instead of imitating the British constitution the conference had in their anxiety to avoid copying the American model failed to secure the excellence of either. There had been no deadlock growing out of the elective system.
The danger of it was [illegible]. This scheme would not secure the means of [illegible] new blood into the House in order to harmonize with the other Branch as the elective principle did every second year. He thought there was no guarantee in the [illegible] clause for the [illegible] people of Lower Canada. On the contrary the [illegible] as reduced [illegible]. [Illegible] could acquire that in any division [illegible] there would [illegible] great cities and rural interested would not be fairly represented. [Illegible] remaining life members were from [illegible] towns.
House adjourned till to-morrow.
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