Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (24 February 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 13-17.
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Debate on the Address—Resumed
Philip Moore [Canada East, appointed 1841], who had claimed the right reply, begged to waive it for the present to allow the debate to proceed.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary] said he begged to offer a few remarks in answer to the speech of the hon. member for Cataraqui (Hon. Mr. Campbell) and at the outset would say that the hon. member had addressed the House with something more of energy, not to use a harsher word than usually characterized its debates. He feared the hon. member had been misled by reports from irresponsible parties, and that he had no solid proofs for the accusations he had made against the Government. His address resembled more what was usually spoken at the hustings in election times and differed very materially from his usual tone. He hardly knew what to attribute the change to, for he felt satisfied the hon. member had no personal hostility against any members of the Government.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—Not the least.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—Well, perhaps, as the hon. member had recently attended an election contest, he might have brought with him some of the excitement which had characterized the struggle.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—He had apparently based his remarks upon the rumours current in the hotels, or possibly upon the newspaper reports of speeches at public dinners which were not always entirely reliable. Then with respect to the subject matter of his speech, it seemed to be directed more against His Excellency’s [Viscount Monck] advisors than against the contents of the Address. The topics presented were apparently admitted to be of vital importance to the country, and indeed one chief objection seemed to be that there were too many such introduced. This was not usually considered as a fault. if there had been only a few subjects named the charge would have been one of meagreness. But the hon. member maintained that many measures were named which the Government could not anticipate to carry out, and he instanced several former speeches in which similar measures were promised which had not been passed.
Well, for his (Mr. Blair’s) part, he did not know whether every measure now named would be carried out, but he knew that the Government intended trying to do so, and to stand or fall by them. If they did not succeed it would then become the business of their successors to deal with those measures, and he would assure the hon. member that if they brought any of them forward, he would have much pleasure in assisting to pass them. It was undoubtedly true that during the last two sessions the Government had not been able to deal with those subjects, but the circumstances under which they were placed ought to be considered, and at any rate they were not the first Administration which had been placed in that position. Many others had not succeeded in accomplishing their intentions and the hon. member, notwithstanding that, had supported them.
In 1863 there had been two sessions, and in the Speeches from the Throne certain measures had been foreshadowed. The first session, however, was prematurely brought to an end by a hostile vote in the Assembly, when of course the whole scheme has to be abandoned. It became necessary for the Government to resign or to appeal to the country, and the later course was chosen. A general election had followed and the Administration felt it to be their duty, at the earliest moment, to call Parliament together and to take the verdict of the country upon their conduct. No one blamed them for this or for calling Parliament at an inconvenient time. It then appeared to the Government that all it was necessary to do was to get the verdict for carrying on the public business and then to adjourn the session or a few months. In this way the Speech from the Throne necessarily adverted to the business intended to be transacted when the session was resumed. This expectation was disappointed, however, for the session was unexpectedly protracted for two full months.
He was sensible of the propriety of abstaining from remark upon the doings of the other Branch beyond the information conveyed in in their Votes and Proceedings, but from those papers we learnt that several votes of want of confidence had been proposed which had consumed a great part of the time. But the protraction of the session had not retarded, the public business for if there had been an adjournment things would not be more advanced than they were today. The country would now look for the production of the measures promised, and while he might regret they had not been sooner passed there existed no reason why they should not be passed now.
The hon. member had specially alluded to the Bankruptcy Bill and had complained that notwithstanding his invitation to have it brought forward last session it was left out. The hon. member would, however, remember that a Bill of this character had been introduced at the first session of 1863 by Hon. Mr. Abbott, then member of the Government and Solicitor General for Lower Canada, who had been assisted in the preparation of it by Hon. Mr. Wilson, Solicitor General for Upper Canada; that it was referred to a Special Committee of the other Branch, composed mostly of merchants and lawyers, but that upon the defeat of the Government it of course fell through. Mr. Abbott had ceased to be a member, but last session he brought it up as a private member and it now remained with other measures of that session, to be taken up.
[Here, as well as at other periods in his speech, the hon. member was wholly inaudible to the reporter. This was due to the constant coming and going of visitors to and from the gallery of the Assembly, who are obliged to pass through, and who always appear unaware that the Council is holding its sittings below. Owing to this daily disturbances much of what is said by the members fails to be heard, and the observation is now made in explanation of the consequent omissions.]
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary] was next understood to say that Hon. Mr. Campbell, whose speech he was animadverting upon, had found fault with the Militia policy of the Government, and said it had disappointed the English public. In proof of this he had quoted a speech of the Hon. Mr. Adderly in the Imperial Parliament. But what were Mr. Adderly’s opinions to the people of this country, who, of course, must know much better than that gentleman what they were able or unable to do.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—The hon. member was entirely misrepresenting the statements of Mr. Adderly, who had given credit to Canada for much more than it had accomplished, in the way of Militia organization.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—The hon. member had misunderstood him. He (Hon. Mr. Blair) was going on to say that Mr. Adderly had stated we had done more than we had and more than we could do, and that the error had been detrimental by creating an expectation which could not be realized. However, as to the Militia policy of the Government, it had received thew approbation of the highest military authorities, and consequently they could well dispense with that of Mr. Adderly. The hon. member, in the next place, and brought forward charges of bad faith in dealing with the Lower Provinces. This was a grave accusation, and should not have been made without proof. The only attempt he had made at substantiating the charge was by means of the statement put forth by an association in London, which he dignified as the organ of the Government, and this organship was based upon the act that a small sum was paid to the association. Well the association might be good or bad, he did not know, but this he knew that most of its members were so friends of the present Administration.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—The statement published by the association had been taken from the Upper Canada organ of the Government—the Globe.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—The Globe was no organs of the Government.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear from both sides.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—As to giving aid to the association, the facts were these:—When Hon. Messrs. Sicotte and Howland went as delegates to London they were waited upon by parties connected with the association, who alleged that a grant had been promised them by a member of the previous Government, the Hon. Mr. Vankoughnet, he understood, so they agreed to redeem the engagement, but they had taken care not to repeat the contribution.
Then, as to the position of the Government towards the Lower Provinces, in respect of the Intercolonial Railway, he would not go back to the old negotiations, but would commence with last summer, when the delegates again met at Quebec. The result of their deliberations then was that a survey should be proceeded with at the joint expence of the three colonies, in the proportions originally agreed upon, and it was subsequent to this that the obstacles arose which were alluded to in the Speech. He would not go minutely into them, as the papers would soon be laid on the table, but content himself with stating it soon appeared evident that New Brunswick, especially, endeavoured to attach a significance to the proceeding which was not justified by the terms of the agreement, at least not as understood in this Province, and this it was which had caused the delay. But so impressed were the Government with the necessity of the work that they had resolved to go on with the surgery at their own expense, trusting to the good faith of the other Provinces afterwards to pay their part. The hon. member had also remarked disapprovingly upon the paragraph relating to the North West, and had said it was calculated to make the impression that action on an extensive scale was intended.
Well, all he could say was, that the paragraph in question, read according to its obvious meaning justified no such inference. The Government could not prevent people from saying, if they chose, that the language used meant something different from what was actually stated, but he would repeat that there was nothing misty or doubtful about the terms employed. But as to the nature of the fact stated, he must say he regarded the information sought to be attained as of very considerable importance to the Province. Surely, the extent of the territory actually appertaining to us was something worth knowing; and in view of recent occurrences is the West it was very probable that if the territory had been ours the complications would not have arisen, as action would no doubt have been taken in regard to them which would have prevented trouble. But we did not know whether the country belonged to Canada or not;—all that was known was that it formed part of the British Empire. Surely, before say efforts were made to make roads through that territory, and before explorations and surveys were ordered, it was desirable to be informed how far our limits extended. But the possession of territory involved responsibilities and duties as well as call, and from what was now going on it was possible that things might happen which, if the territory belonged to us, would call for our interference. He specially alluded to the recent Indian troubles. He did not say our limits ran so far, but he did sat, if they did we could not suffer such things to happen as had happened there. The hon. member had then proceeded to remark upon the finances, and had said that if the Government were going into extensive public works the Provincial debt would soon be largely increased; but surely he would not say it was not desirable to improve our facilities for business, especially if by the large increase of the Western carrying trade—almost a world by itself—we were sire to enhance very largely the revenues of our public works. The prospect of such increase would, in his opinion, not only justify the contemplated outlay but ensure us a deserved censure if it were not made. The Government was constantly asked to bear in mind the propriety of encourage aging emigration, but immigration would be worse than useless to us if we did not provide employment for the emigrant on his arrival.
At the present moment, in consequence of the withdrawal for what purposes of a large number of men from the labor market in the United States, there was a great demand for labourers; and if we fostered emigration to this country, and did not furnish
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work, we would find that our efforts had been made in effect not on our own behalf but on that of the Untied States. If, on the other hand, we had work to give the emigrants they would become settlers on out lands and assist in swelling our population and our wealth. The hon. member had also said something in relation to the Minister of Finance [Luther Holton] not having gone to London to borrow money.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858] said it was that he had failed to see the remarkable triumph of financial skill on the part of that gentleman in borrowing in Canada instead of in London.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—Well, for his part, he thought it would be much better for us if, instead of going to London, we could borrow at home. The national debt of England was in great part the cause of its stability, owing to the fact that the money was due to her own people. And then, if the money we wanted were borrowed in London it would eventually have to be repaid there, and, meanwhile, the interest accruing upon the loan would have to be remitted thither, whereas, if it were due in Canada the interest would remain with us. And what did the hon. member suppose the Minister of Finance [Luther Holton] was going to do with the money? Was he not going to pay it out again, so that in fact it would not be removed from the uses of trade, as was alleged?
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—The Minister of Finance [Luther Holton] wanted it for the purpose of sending it to London to pay his debts.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—Well, if more money was wanted in the country, had not the Banks the power of expanding their circulation for increasing their capital; and, by the way, there were already several applications to the Legislature for other Bank Charters so that it was not likely there would be a want of money for the legitimate uses of trade. In conclusion, he would merely remark that if the several measures foreshadowed in the Speech were in reality good measures required but he country, they ought to be passed, and if hon. gentlemen opposite would help the Government, they would easily be accomplished. Further, he would say that if the Government should be defeated, and the hon. gentlemen opposite took their places, and applied themselves to perfecting and passing any of those measures, he for one would most gladly give them all the help in his power.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] replied to the honorable Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair], but as his speech extended to a length which would preclude its insertion in this issue, we reserve it for to-morrow, and give the two shorter ones which follow.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863] said he proposed to make a few independent remarks upon the Speech of His Excellency [Viscount Monck], and his views fully agreed with the statement that Parliament had been called together at the best time. It was the best time in regard to the convenience of members, and of the public generally, and most opportune in regard of the necessities and exigencies of the country. The revenue had failed to meet the expenditure, and however much blame the political parties might attach to each other on this ground, the fact itself was patent and required to be dealt with. There had been two short sessions in 1863, but the Ministry was not responsible for them. It was impossible at either of those sessions for the Government to mature the schemes to set the country right, which demanded deep and close thought. The first session they were defeated and the second was avowedly but a provisional one, the prolongation of which was due to the course the Opposition had chosen to pursue. He was happy to see in the debates of this House something more of energy and warmth than had formerly characterized its proceedings,—
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—and so far from blaming the hon. member for Cataraqui because of the vigour he had shown in his speech, he thought the House was obliged to him. Where there were strong convictions, there would naturally be earnestness in the enunciation of them. Courtesy and gravity need not on that account be set aside, and at any rate, they should not supersede the strong impulses of duty. He could not say so much in favor of the logic of the hon. member. The greatest ability could not always ensure a good speech. To do this there must be sound and convincing argument, and to have good argument, there must be facts and reason. The hon. member had complained that the Militia measures of the Government had not been effective, but he (Mr. Sanborn) was not prepared to say so; on the contrary, he thought they were adapted to the necessities and abilities of the country, and that if carried out in practice they would prove sufficient. Then another hon. member (Mr. Ross) had said the present Government, when in opposition, rejected a better Bill which they should have allowed to pass, but he [Mr. Sanborn] affirmed it was not intended to be passed. If it was, why did its projectors allow it to be voted down without a word being said in its favor? The idea was to excite a feeling in England by means of the rejection of the measure, and that end was accomplished. But the country disapproved of the Bill, and knew it was not consonant with its limited abilities. An attempt had been made to fasten the responsibility upon the Government an article which had appeared in the Toronto Globe, but what were the organs of the opposite party going all that time? Were they not doing their best, by articles which would have disgraced the New York Herald itself, to set the people on fire and to excite enmity against the Northern States, our next neighbors? Everybody knew this to be true. It was consonant with the wishes or interests of the country to provoke an aggressive way with that people.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858] would ask what party in the country ever desired such a war.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—Whether they desired it or not, the organs of the present Opposition, or at any rate, the papers taking their side, at the time of the “Trent” difficulty, and when very slight additional cause would have occasioned a war, were doing all they could to engender bad feelings and to embitter those already excited. If the Government of that day was so competent to organize a Militia as the hon. member (Campbell) had said, why had they left the country utterly defenceless?
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]— “I never said a word of the kind.”
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—Well, perhaps it was the hon. member next to him, who, at the time he spoke of, was a member of the Government.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The hon. member is in error. I was not a member of the Government at that time.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—The hon. member for Cataraqui was evidently not disposed to undertake the defence of the former Government, perhaps out of respect for the coming man.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—That hon. member had, however, said that the Government had put speeches in the mouth of His Excellency [Viscount Monck], which were delusions and snares, but he supposed he must have meant the old Government.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—As to the action taken in regard of the Reciprocity Treaty, he held the present Government entitled to commendation, although the hon. member opposite had said there had been no agitation in the States against its renewal until they had come into power.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Did the hon. member allude to him.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—Yes.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—There was an agitation against it in 1861, when Hon. Mr. Galt was at Washington; and when that hon. gentleman had published a pamphlet which stopped the agitation.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863] did not refer to that agitation, but to the more recent one. The treaty was strictly a reciprocal one, and though some of its provisions might affect local interests whose weight was being felt for the moment, the difficulties in the way of its removal arose chiefly from the proceedings in this country which had created an unfavorable opinion in the States.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The re-imposition of the tolls on the canals for instance.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—He did not believe, however, that the dog-in-the-manger policy would prevail either there or here, but still it was painful to see statements published which had the effect of creating obstacles. He did not wish to put all the political sins committed in the country on the heads of the gentlemen opposite, as they had enough of their own to answer for. He must, however, express strong doubts of the realization of the anticipations of the hon. member (Ross) in connection with the Intercolonial Railway. He had seen enough of the working of railway schemes to prevent his acceptance of the predictions in question, and thought the Government had acted wisely in not committing themselves hastily to a gigantic project of this nature, especially when it was well known that the public opinion of the country preponderated against it. The hon. member went on to argue that the present Government ought not to be held responsible for the conduct of their immediate predecessors (the Macdonald-Sicotte Government) and, maintained that they were bound to retain office so long as they has a majority, particularly in view of the fact that it would be impossible to form another which would secure the approbation of a majority of the Western members. The measures they had promised were such as the country needed, and it was no reason for opposing them that one did not like the instrumentality by which they were introduced. The Commissions appointed by the Government had also been objects of attack, but they had served a good purpose. They had revealed a fearful extent of venality in the management of the public departments, and the fruits of such labors were not to be estimated by their money value chiefly, or at all. Their object was to vindicate the right and to bring offenders to justice. So far, there was no evidence that these Commissioners had been very costly, and they certainly had effected some savings. He would only refer to one more topic, and that was the negotiation of the recent loan in the Province itself. This he considered highly satisfactory. It would inspire convince in our home resources abroad, and exhibit the presence of that self-reliance which was at the foundation of stability and success. He considered it a step in advance. Although a large list of subjects was presented in the Speech from the Throne, offering a broad surface for attack, the hon. member who led the Opposition had concluded to let the address in answer pass without offering any amendments. He thought this proved it to be a very satisfactory paper. All the difficulty of the hon. member was in his want of faith. Well, if the measures were good and the ability of Ministers was not so great as he could desire, he ought to come to their help. The country had a right to his best efforts. There had been party spirit enough in the past, and it should now be suffered to relax a little. He trusted this would be the case, and that public men of all parties would apply themselves honestly and practically to the fulfillment of the duties which they owed to the Legislature and the country.
George Alexander [Gore, elected 1858] said that the debate on the Address always afforded the most favorable opportunity to embers to express their individual opinions, or what they believed to be the feeling of the country, in regards the leading questions of public interest. Most of these questions were upon this occasion embraced in the Speech from the Throne, and in a manner which raised public expectation in respect to the improved position of our finances. He could only suppose that when Ministers of the Crown spoke of having paid off a potion of the public debt and contemplated entering upon expenditures for the extension of Public Works, that our embarrassments were disappearing. He most earnestly hoped that when the Public Accounts were laid upon the table of this House, they would be found to verify the expectations thus raised, and that we could heavily congratulate the Government upon the success of their efforts. What, sir, does the country expect? It surely has a right to expect that, after all the labors and heavy expenses of the Financial and other Commissions, and the opportunities now possessed by a Reform Administration, when the Blue Book for 1863 makes its appearance, it will shew a large diminution of expenditure in every Department over which the Government have any control.
He [Mr. A.] during the last Session had upon the floor of this Chamber ventured to point out large savings which might be effected in the Departments of the Civil Government. The present Administration had had a golden opportunity of remoulding the whole financial system, and lopping off all unnecessary machinery, and if they had reason to feel the weakness of their present position, he would with deference suggest, that the true way to strengthen that position, was to proceed fearlessly and honestly to cut down all wasteful expenditure, and they would find both the country and the majority of both houses rally round them. While discharging a number of poor supernumerary clerks, why perpetuate for instance a department of the Government which was now admitted to be of no practical utility, namely that of the Receiver General and save $29,000 a year to the country. Will any hon. member of this House maintain that it would not be far better to reduce the number of the Executive Government to eight and effect a further annual saving of nearly $20,000. it surely cannot be necessary to have an annual expenditure of $123,000 for the mere contingencies of the
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Civil Government; while reductions might and should be effected in the ice, for the administration of justice of $650,000 for both, Provinces, which had already been dwelt upon. So also in the item for legislation a further reduction might be made. Under present circumstances the item for the Colonization Roads should be borne by the local municipalities of each Province, and should therefore be resisted by the Government.
So he (Mr. A.) might go on to particularize different practical reductions. He trusted that all those views would have already been acted upon, and that the expectations of the country would be to the fullest extent realized in the present state of the Public Accounts. There were one or two other questions upon which he wished to offer some observations. It was desirable to have an expression of opinion in respect to the practical working of the Volunteer and Militia Bills of last session; for it was proper that we should go on to profit by the experience of the past and labor to render our Militia organization more and more perfect. it would be freely admitted that there were certain corps of the Volunteers in the cities, towns, and villages which had most patriotically given their time freely to the State—which presented now a most creditable appearance, and went through their battalion drill with a steadiness which commanded admiration; and if the companies in the rural districts had not attainted to that proficiency, it was hardly to be wondered at when we remembered that no compensation or pay had been given. Pay the Volunteers a reasonable and fair compensation. Their expectations are very moderate, but it is not fair to just that in addition to giving their time, they should be out of pocket, as they had hitherto been. A portion of the Militia expenditure has been wasted, because we have not gone far enough. Let the Legislature take the responsibility of saying what number of men we should have under drill, and pay those a reasonable compensation. When the Government is in the position to pay the men, it may then with right entail every necessary military obligation upon all who remain in the service. We ought to be very careful of the public money; but the people of this Province, varying as they of their present relations with the British Empire, heartily approve of our sustaining a proper effective Militia force—but they say the money must not be wasted. Whatever is for must be done thoroughly and effectively. Pay the Volunteers properly, and any number of Volunteers will be found amongst the young men of the rural districts, ready to enter upon every military obligation. There was another subject upon which he desired to offer one or two observations. He earnestly hoped that the Minister of Finance, in any plans which he might have for raising more revenue, did not contemplate disturbing any of those branches of industry which by great enterprise had been struggling through and were just beginning to lay the foundation of solid prosperity in our country.
He [Mr. A.] was opposed to all great monopolies, but it was the great interest of our agricultural population to foster the growth of all those infant manufactories, which would give population to our villages, towns and cities, give the farmer a home market for his wool, for his flax, and all his other products diminish our imports, and consolidate our wealth. The Province of Canada, with her long winters, and the many enemies which now ravage some of our staple products, may still become a highly prosperous and wealthy country, if we adopt a steady permanent policy, in regard to all those branches of industry. It would indeed be a suicidal policy to raise revenue, at so disastrous a cost, as the sacrifice of such industrial interests. He would only in conclusion observe that all that was wanted at present, was an honest and frugal administration of our affairs. We had a magnificent system of railways and canals, quite ample for every want of the country.
He (Mr. A.) did not know what the Government meant in the Speech from the Throne, by projected improvements of our system of inland water communication. He hoped that they did not intend changes of such magnitude, as would lead to the further increase of the Provincial debt. It was very desirable that we should endeavour to secure the carrying trade of the West, but surely our canals were deemed by all commercial men ample and sufficient at this moment. he was sure that he echoed the public sentiment of this Province, when he said that our railways and public works were equal to every requirement for some years to come, and there had been so much robbery and wasteful extravagance connected with every such undertaking that our people very naturally regarded every new scheme with suspicion and distrust.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—said the Hon. Provincial Secretary, (Mr. Fergusson Blair) had remarked somewhat jocularly upon the tone of unusual energy which had pervaded the able speech of his hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Campbell) yesterday, and said it was probably due to the fact that that hon. member had recently been concerned in an electioneering struggle. Well, if the speech to which the House had listened with so much interest was due to such a circumstance they had reaped no small advantage from it. Regarding the Speech from the Throne, which it must be admitted contained many important subjects he felt bound to say that in his opinion so great an array of topics was not desirable on such occasions. He preferred the practice of the Imperial Government, which was to allude to two or three of the more important measures intended to be dealt with, and to pass the answer with as little delay as possible. This practice would be attended with less recrimination, and would greatly economize the time of the Legislature.
In England, the Ministers never failed (the attempt at least) to carry out the promises made in the Speech. There were instances, to be sure, when they had been unable to do so, and had broken down in consequence—not as in this country, where the Government might ignore all its engagements with apparent impunity.
The hon. member (Campbell) had clearly shown that the present Administration had not only not performed what they had promised, but they had not even made the show of an attempt to do so, and the excuses offered for this dereliction of duty he must pronounce utterly unsatisfactory,—to himself at least. he held that when an Administration found it could not carry its measures, it should give way, and devolve the duty upon those who could do so, instead of occupying themselves with schemes for maintaining office. Yet the present Government seemed to think that this was their main duty, and practically that was the defence set up. It was alleged with regard to the first session of 1863 that they had been unseated by a vote of want of confidence, and that consequently they were not responsible for the want of the promised legislation. Of course, after they had been defeated they could not legislate, but before their defeat they had sat nearly three months, during which they had not passed a single measure of importance.
As now, so then, their chief occupation was to maintain themselves in office. There had been three votes of want of confidence proposed last session and each succeeding one was but a consequence of that which preceded it. The numbers by which those votes were sustained encouraged the Opposition to repeat them, and if the reasons by which they were supported had not been considered fair by so large a proportion of the members they would not of course have been repeated. They, the Ministry, had the option of resigning and it was thought they would have chosen this alternative, but they had preferred the other—that was holding on as long as possible to their places. After the general election of last year they were in a small, a very small majority, and intended, when they called Parliament together as the House had been informed after having taken a vote of supply and passing an amended Bill, to adjourn for a couple of months, or until the busy season was over.
And why had they not done so? The adjournment would have saved the country the cost of a session, which was no trifling amount. Why, again, he supposed, the Opposition would not allow them. Well then if they could control the House but must perforce give way and entail a large extra expense, they should have resigned. But no, they preferred power and place to the welfare of the country. It was always so when ministers are so weak as that Ministry was; they invited attack and had to submit to the dictation of their followers. The Hon. Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair], in answering his hon. friend as to the reason why the promised Bankruptcy Bull was not introduced into this House last session, had explained that it had fallen into the hands of its original framer, the Hon. Mr. Abbott, who was no longer in the Government, but that was no sufficient answer, for legislation of that important kind ought, not to be committed to private hands; the Government were bound to bear the responsibility of it.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—The Government had not sought to escape the responsibility, but when the suggestion was made by the hon. member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell] the session was too far advanced to take it up, and besides the motions of want of confidence absorbed a great part of the time.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The reply was not sufficient. It might excuse the hon. member personally, but it could not avail the Government as a whole. But to passion, the Hon. Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair] has objected to the Government being held responsible for the statement made by Mr. Adderly in the House of Common, respecting the extent and efficiency of the Volunteer and Militia organizations of the country, but no one in the House of Common was better informed on Colonial topics than that gentleman, for he had made those matters a steady and a specialty. The honourable member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell] had said the Premier [John Sandfield Macdonald] boasted that his Militia measures had given satisfaction in England, but that the satisfaction expressed was based upon false statements sent him.
Now, Mr. Adderly was the last man to speak without authority, and when he made the statements in question must have done so, because of information he had received from this side of the water. It was for the purpose of making this apparent that his hon. friend had alluded to the matter. If the Government had putted the courts they now asked the Opposition to take—to support their measures irrespective of the parties by whom they were brought—they would not have assisted to defeat the Militia Bill of the Cartier-McDonald Ministry when they were endeavouring to provide an efficient system to defence which would not have been more expensive than that since given to the country.
He [Mr. Ross] did not presume to possess the knowledge necessary to judge of the best means to be adopted for the defence of the Province, but considering the extent of its frontier and the smallness of its population, he did not think it possible to organize, train and bring together a sufficient number of men to do it efficiently. Some other mode, he thought, would have to be adopted, and he knew of some more adapted to the circumstances than the erection of earth-work fortification at points to be indicated by competent military engineers as best suited to the end intended. These forts might be occupied by the British troops to be supplemented by our own forces in case of need. How much such fortifications would cost he could not pretend to say, but if within our means, he thought this would be the easiest way. Out people would thus be left to pursue their own drill in their respective localities, instead of drawing large number of them away from home and from the productive industries of the country. With such forts properly garrisoned, the enemy would not penetrate into the country for they would not leave behind them unreduced such dangerous strongholds. He sincerely hoped it was the intention of the Government to apply themselves earnestly to the question of defence, for of all questions it was one which claimed paramount attention. The measures passed last session had, m as already stated by his hon. friend from Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell], destroyed the old Militia system without substituting another, and had given us a few thousand Volunteers—that was the sum and substance of their operation.
The Hon. Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair], in attempting to answer his hon. friend (Campbell), had said that the charges of that hon. member against the Government, in relation to the Intercolonial Railway, were not sufficiently specific, and that he had not shown wherein the Government had failed in their duty. He [Mr. Ross] thought that anybody who read the newspaper would have no difficulty on that score. It was abundantly proved in the mission of Hon. Messrs. Sicotte and Howland to England in connection with the Intercolonial Railway project. The agreement entered into at Quebec in 1862, between our Government and those of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in relation to that scheme, was set forth in the following memorandum:—
“The undersigned, repressing the throne Government of Canada, nota Scotia, and New Brunswick, convened to consider the dispatch of His Grace the Duke of Newcastle of the 12th April, 1862, with reference to the Intercolonial Railway, having given the very important matter contained in that despatch their attentive consideration, are agreed:—
1st That while they have learned with very deep regret that Her Majesty’s Imperial Government has finally declined to sanction the proposals made on behalf of these Provinces in December, 1861, and at previous periods, they at the same time acknowledge the consideration exhibited in substituting the proposal of an Imperial guarantee of interest towards enabling them to raise by public loan, if they should desire it, at a moderate rate, the requisite funds for constructing the Railway.
2nd. That with an anxious desire to bind the Provinces more closely together, to strengthen their connection with the
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Mother Country, to promote their common commercial interests, and to provide facilities essential to the public defences of these Provinces, as integral part of the Empire, the Undersigned are prepared to assume, under the Imperial guarantee, the liability for the expenditure necessary to construct this great work.
3rd. That the three Government are agreed that the proportion of liability for the necessary expenditure shall be apportioned as follows, via.: Five-twelfths for Canada, and seven-twelfths to be equally divided between the Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
4th. But it is understood that liability for principal and interest shall be borne by each Province to the extent only of the proportions hereby agreed upon.
5th. That in arriving at this conclusion the undersigned have been greatly influenced by the conviction that the construction of the road between Halifax and Quebec must supply an essential link in the chain of an unbroken highway, extending through British territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in the completion of which every Imperial interest in North America is most deeply involved; had the undersigned are agreed that to present properly this part of the subject to the Imperial authorities the three Provinces will untie, at an early day, in a joint representation on the immense political commercial importance of the western extension of the projected work.
Signed by Messrs. J. S. Macdonald, L. V. Sicottee, J. Morris, Wm. McDougall, Wm. P. Howland, U. J. Tessier, F. Evanturel, and T. D’Arey McGee, representing Canada; Joseph Howe, Wm. Annand, and Joseph McCully, representing Nova Scotia; S. L. Tilley, P. Mitchell, and Wm. H. Steeyes, representing New Brunswick.
Here, then, was a positive undertaking on the part of the Government to go on with the work, a clear statement of the proportion of liability and a mutual agreement to proceed to London to arrange with the Imperial Government about the necessary means. But an event happened before the delegates left for England which disordered the scheme and led to that manifestation of bad faith towards the Lower Provinces which had procured for Canada so injurious a reputation. He held in his hand a letter from a gentleman of high position, and who had once been a member of the Government in one of the Lower Provinces, remarking in very severe terms upon the course the Canada Ministers had pursued in this matter.
[Among other remarks he made the following:—]
“I am, as a rule, a believer in non-intervention in the politics of neighbours, but your Government have acted so shabbily in the Intercolonial matter, that I have no faith in their professions. I am informed that they have made some new proposition to us, and if they have, I am at a loss to know what sudden light has shone in upon them. They have so vacillated that I fear it would be difficult to remove the impression they have created in this country as to their want of good faith in any new proposition they may make.”
He (Mr. Ross) had exhibited the letter to some of his friends, to show the feelings which the course of our Government had excited in the Lower Provinces.
James Aikins [Home, elected 1862]—Who was the writer of that letter,—could the hon. member name him.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] said that of course he could if he felt inclined, but he did not.
David Christie [Erie, elected 1858] doubted the propriety of quoting private communications as proof in relation to important public matters.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] replied he had stated the letter was wetter by a distinguished member of one of the Lower Province Legislatures, and it was only offered as proof of the state of the feeling there. It would, of course, be taken for what it was worth. Returning to the paragraph in which the subject of the Intercolonial Railway was mentioned, he observed it did not allude at all to the construction of the road, but merely to a survey of the route.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—The Government could not decide upon the construction until they had ascertained from the survey whether the project was practicable.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Well if it were found practicable would the road be undertaken?
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—It found practicable the question of undertaking the raid would then be taken under consideration.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—That was exactly what the Lower Provinces complained of—a want of policy on the subject and a consequent constant vacillation. If the Government did not favor the project, why had they not the manliness to say so and throw it overboard bodily? Had they considered the danger of proceedings as they were now doing. Had they noted the action in relation to this very matter is the States? If they were sincere in their professed desire to put the country in a proper state of defence, could they not discern the absolute necessity for such a road? If it had been begun in 1862 with the then existing facilities for getting money and materials, the work would have been at this time drawing towards completion, and it might safely be asserted that there would have been no desire expressed, on the part of the United States to abrogate the Reciprocity Treaty, and no action adverse to the Bonding Laws. The Government looked calmly upon this great question and hesitated, and the Hon. Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair] was too candid to say that the proposed action was anything more than a sham. The need of such a highway was not a discovery of to-day. In 1851 an Act was passed by our Legislature, entitled an Act to make provision for the construction of a Main Line of railway throughout the whole length of this Province, the preamble of which commenced with these words:—
“Whereas it is of the highest importance to the progress and welfare of this Province that a Main Trunk Line of Railway should be made throughout the length thereof, and from the Eastern frontier thereof through the Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the City and Port of Halifax; and it is, therefore, expedient that every effort should be made to ensure the construction of such railway, &c.”
Now if a road of that kind was viewed as a primary necessity in 1851, how much more necessary was it now in 1864? It was an absolute necessity for trade, but, if possible, still more for defence. There was a paragraph, too, in the Speech from the Throne, about the improvement of our inland water ways, and the hon. member for Niagara looked blandly upon it, for he, no doubt, expected the Welland Canal would come in for a share. The Americans were now pushing their railways to the frontier of New Brunswick, and would not rest satisfied until the system was completed by joining the link from St. John to Shediac, then from the latter place to Truro, in Nova Scotia, where a railway ran into Halifax. When the system was complete they would get the control of all the trade and Canada would be for ever cut off. There was an annual consumption of 600,000 barrels of flour in the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, all of which was imported, and how much of this did hon. members suppose came from Canada? Just about 50,000. Our chief product, which we could furnish as cheap or cheaper than the United States if we had the Intercolonial Railway, was now ruled out of those markets.
John McMurrich [Saugeen, elected 1862]—Yes, if the hon. member could show how it could pay after going over such a length of railway.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Well it now went to those Provinces part of the way by schooners, but a great part also by railway. Then, as a rule, the prices at the Atlantic ports were determined by the English markets, and why could we not send our flour, in winter especially, by railway as well as the Americans, who now send large quantities in winter from Chicago and other inland depots by the Grand Trunk and their own railways to the seaboard? An offer had been recently made to the Provinces by an American Company to construct their Railways at their own [the Company’s] cost. 1st, from the frontier to St. John, to join the line now running thence to Halifax, at a practical annual contribution of $280,000 in gross, the portions already constructed in the Provinces to be given at a nominal rent, such sums to be reduced as the roads, when brought into operation, yielded interest upon the cost. Taking the cost of the Intercolonial Railway at $3,500,000 sterling, the 7-12ths of the interest payable by the two Provinces would amount to $410,000 per annum, so that by the American proposition they would save $130,000 per annum. Yet so strong was the principle of honor in the people that they would not accept the offer until they had seen the final issue of the negotiations with Canada on the Intercolonial project. He had stated that the Provinces imported 600,000 barrels of flour, of which only 50,000 were contributed by Canada, and he would now exhibit other statistics—all derived from official sources—to show the immense trade which existed in other articles between those Provinces and the States, and the very large balance which resulted in favor of the latter.
In 1862, New Brunswick had imported from the States goods to the amount of $2,960,703, and had exported thither goods to the amount of $889,416. Nova Scotia had imported from the States for the year ending in September, 1863, $3,557,765, and had exported to the United States goods to the value of $1,669,672. In the article of tea half of the imports into Nova Scotia, amounting to $200,000, came from the united States, and into New Brunswick $406,000, or nearly half of the whole imports of that article. This tea we could supply as well as the States. The Provinces also imported leather heavily from the States, Nova Scotia alone bringing thence $152,000, or half of its whole imports of the article. That we could also furnish.
In salted meats 95 per cent were imported from the States, and he believed we could take that trade also if we had the Intercolonial Railway. These were only the principal items of the large trade hat we might establish for ourselves. Then the passenger traffic as of itself a very large item amounting, as he understood, to 1,000 passengers a week each way. The requirements of this traffic had indicated the necessity of larger steamers than had hitherto been used, and he understood that such vessels would be immediately put on. His object in presenting these facts was to show that there was something the way of trade to being with, as soon as the toad was built—in the event of the Reciprocity Treaty being abolished.
David Christie [Erie, elected 1858]—There was no danger of that, so lang as the friends of the hon. member were kept out of power.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The hon. mover of the Address had referred to the able arguments of Hon. Mr. Galt, which he stated had put an end to the agitation for the abrogation of the Treaty of Reciprocity.
Philip Moore [Canada East, appointed 1841]—I did not say it had stopped the agitation, but that his arguments had not been answered.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Then, if there was no attempt at answering them, there was not much left to say, but the agitation had, however, been recommended it seems since the present Government came into power. The honorable Provincial Secretary had not, as he [Mr. Ross] thought, fairly answered the hon. member for Cataraqui in regard to the carious shams; about spending money on all sides; but the deceptive allurements were generally so well understood that he needed not to dwell on them. As to the Canals, he thought they were large enough for out present purposes, if the Reciprocity Treaty be abolished, and the object which, more than all others, needed the attention of Government was, in his opinion, a more perfect system of defence. The Hon. Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair] had endeavoured to show that it was advantageous to borrow at home, meaning in the Province itself, and this was right enough, if we could do so at a low rate from an accumulated capital, but we had no such unemployed capital, and the Montreal Bank in taking the loan had in effect only acted as an agent of the Government by sending the debentures to be sold in England.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary]—Then, after all, it seemed that the money was to come from England, in which case what became of the complaint of the hon. member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell].
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] said he only quoted what he knew as to the usual course of such operation, but here was one advantage of the skillful financing not proclaimed, and it was that the notes of the Upper Canada Banks were refused, unless at a discount, at the Custom Houses in Montreal and Quebec. He commended that fact to the admiration of the hon. members for the Midland [William McMaster] and Saugeen Division [John McMurrich]. His hon. friend [Mr. Campbell] had not alluded to one point in connection with the Ocean Postal Subsidy adverted to in the 12th paragraph.
Before the Cartier-Macdonald Government was defeated, they had protested against the proceedings and general management of the Company. They had remonstrated against the delays and other irregularities, and objected to further payments at the then rates of subsidy. An Order in Council was prepared by that Government before they left office fixing the reduced sum now given, and the fact remained on record. When the new Government came into power, the Deputy Postmaster General had pressed the subject upon the attention of the Postmaster General [Oliver Mowat], who, it seems, was quite disposed to carry out the order, but who could not do so by reason of the opposition of the Premier [John Sandfield Macdonald] himself, who, no doubt, had his reasons for objecting. He [Mr. Ross] would now conclude by suing he would be willing to give his support to any Government which he felt was endeavouring to rule for the benefit of the people and not for its own chiefly. But under the present Government, the country had suffered in its credit and in its reputation. All they gave was promises, and their principal efforts seemed to be expended upon schemes for
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keeping themselves in office. The possession of office was only honorable so long as it was used for the public good, and, when it could no longer be used, office should be abandoned. In his opinion, the present Government were in the position of not being disposed, and, at any rate, not able to give good measures to the country, and for this reason he could not give them his support.