Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, (27 July 1866)

Document Information

Date: 1866-07-27
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, 1866 at 62-66, 67-70*.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
*Pages 67-71 were missing from the Scrapbook Debates and were supplemented by the Ottawa Times edition from August 1, 1866 as it is the source of the Scrapbook Debates.
Note: All endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais & Michael Scott (ed.), The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada (CCF, 2022).

Click here to view the rest of the Province of Canada’s Confederation Debates for 1866.


Friday, July 27, 1866

Public Buildings

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] moved

To resolve, that in the opinion of this House, no further expenditure should be made upon the Parliamentary, Departmental or other Public Buildings in Ottawa, except what may be necessary to prevent the deterioration of the same, until the proposed constitutional changes have being determined upon, and the wishes of the Parliament having the disposal of them thereafter, shall be signified respecting said buildings.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860]—In bringing up this motion, the hon. member said that it was somewhat similar to the motion brought up by another hon. member (Hon. Mr. Bossé), a few days ago, which was ruled out of order for want of notice, but it seemed to him that the opinions expressed were correct and reasonable. Year by year large sums were being asked for these buildings, and now when they had got so near completion another large vote was asked. In view of the fact that the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] was so embarrassed to provide funds for necessary expenses, that he had to resort to the issue of bills, he (Mr. Le Tellier) thought it would be much wiser to retrench then go on laying out more money up on these edifices. Though they were hardly so convenient as was desirable, yet they were quite sufficiently so to permit of the business of Parliament being carried on, there was therefore no imperative necessity for any further immediate large expenditure.

Then, as Confederation was really accomplished, why he would ask, should Canada bear all the cost, which might be found needed to complete the works by the Confederation scheme this country would have large sums to pay the Lower Provinces, and he would ask why they should not bear their part in the further expense for the purpose of their completion?

The proposal looked as if the Government desired

  • (p. 63)

to free those Provinces altogether from any participation in the expense, and to throw the whole burden upon the people of Canada. It was his impression that if the hon. Premier [Narcisse Belleau], who was himself an economical man, frankly stated what his feelings were on this subject, he would agree with him, and he believed there were other members of the government who would do the same. They knew the buildings were great folly, and if they were, why should the folly be further increased by additional outlay.

It might, perhaps, be said that it was not the proper business of this House to interfere in matters of this kind, but he thought that as this would be the only occasion upon which it could express its views and make an effective opposition to the proposed expenditure, it ought to support the motion, unless, indeed, it took the more decided step of rejecting the Supply Bill, which was hardly a thing to be thought of. If the House pronounced his opinion now, the Government might possibly reconsider the matter and so far change its course as to make it unnecessary to have recourse to so extreme measure.

In Toronto this House had, however, taken the responsibility of rejecting the Bill of Supply, because it contained an appropriation of $200,000 for public buildings at Quebec, and then there were conferences and consultations, and finally the ministry concluded to drop the item, and the bill without it was passed without any demur or delay.—The motion now before the House was not one of Want of  Confidence, anymore than the rejection of the bill of supply at Toronto, and he did not intend it as such.

The government was what was called a coalition government, and they had no doubt done many things which would need the use of a sponge. We were told, we must at all hazards, maintain our credit, but it was well known that are securities were lower now than they had ever been before, and he would ask whether it was at such a time that we should be adding to our indebtedness; was it because we had committed a gratefully erecting these fast edifices that we must continue, and add to it. He thought it was quite proper on the part of the House to ask the government not to proceed further for the present, at least in making large additional outlays.

The hon. member then went on to find fault with the government for not having had its measures ready, and said that a full month had been lost in waiting upon them.

The hon. member then presented the motion, and looked round for a seconder, but none immediately appearing hon. Mr. Skead offered his services amid some laughter, but Dr. Malhiot from the other side of the House accepted the responsibility.

Narcisse F. Belleau [Canada East, appointed 1852, Premier and Receiver General] said he regretted the hon. member should have persisted in presenting his motion, and reviving the old vexed question of the seat of government[1], which had caused so much trouble to the country.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said he had no intention whatever of reviving that question.

Narcisse F. Belleau [Canada East, appointed 1852, Premier and Receiver General] said he was glad to hear it but the inference from his action that he wish to do so was perfectly natural. The very language of the motion suggested that this was its object, for the completion of the public buildings was to be deferred until the accomplishment of the contemplated constitutional changes, so that if they were not accomplished it was to remain open. Then, if accomplished the hon. member evidently wish the Confederate Government to decide whether the seat of government was to remain in Ottawa or not.

The hon. member had evidently forgotten the substance of the 52nd article of the Confederation Resolutions[2] adopted by this House almost unanimously, and in which he believed the country had acquiesced with equal satisfaction. By the terms of the resolution in question, Canada was to furnish the Public Buildings in a completed state, and if so was it not proper that they should be finished. If this was not the legitimate meaning of the article in question, he did not know what else it could mean. The set article was short, and in these words,

“The seat of Government of the Federal Provinces shall be at Ottawa, subject to the Royal Prerogative.”[3]

The hon. member desire to know perhaps what was meant to be done with the $500,000 or how the money was to be distributed. Well it was already known that by far the greater part of the amount was to meet balances is due upon the work executed, and when they were paid there would be hardly $115,000 left for the further necessary expenditure. There was first a sum of $42,000 for furnishing the various rooms, then a considerable sum for the means of protecting the buildings against accidents by the electric fluid, to the necessity of providing which the hon. member himself (Mr. Le Tellier,) had called the attention of the House but a short time ago, and who’s arguments on that occasion might be due to the intended appropriations.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said he did not object to any really necessary expenditure.

Narcisse F. Belleau [Canada East, appointed 1852, Premier and Receiver General]—Then there were items for gas, and for the improvement of the water works. It was well known to the hon. member, that means would have to be taken to purify the water, which now came into the building anything but a fit state to be used. To finish works now in progress $153,000 would be needed, and in fact, it was feared that the gross appropriation would be insufficient to meet all the demands up on it. He believed that in view of these facts, every reasonable person would see that it was impossible to avoid voting the money asked.

But the hon. member insisted that in view of the near consummation of Confederation, it was unnecessary to proceed with the works necessary to complete the edifices, and that this Province ought not to bear the whole expense, but this was again said in forgetfulness of the fact that Parliament had approved of the Confederation Resolutions, which declared that Canada was to furnish suitable buildings for the General Legislature. Then, passing on from the actual question in hand, the hon. member had insisted upon the propriety of seizing the opportunity of made a considerable retrenchment, and had alluded to the state of the public credit, to show how necessary it was to do so.

Now, is the obligations of which he (Mr. Belleau) had spoken had not existed, it might be very proper to consider the hon. member’s advice, but in the face of the fact, that by far the largest amount of the money asked for, was already do for work done , it was clearly impossible to do so.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said that as his hon. colleague had spoke in French it would perhaps be as well that he should make a few remarks in English, so that the hon. member should all be able to apprehend the precise position of the matters referred to.

Now he must say at the outset he was rather surprised at the hon. member, whose views were generally characterized by practical good sense, should have consented to connect his name with a motion like that before the House. That motion took no cognizance of existing contracts for works in course of execution, and which had to be finished, but treated them as mere bagatelles. If the government had proposed to spend $500,000 upon new works he could readily understand the hon. member’s objections, but there were no new works proposed, and no additions to the buildings now erected. All that was proposed was to finish the works in progress, and to pay balances due upon completed contracts. In fact the bulk of the money was already spent. Would it be maintained that the Houses were not to be furnished or that the furniture already purchased was not to be paid for?

The only new works, if they could be so called, would be the fencing and accessories, and he presumed no one would deny that those should be provided. True, the expenditures had been large, perhaps larger than it ought to have been, but should be on that account stop short, and leave the buildings unfinished. She did not wish to characterise anything the hon. member had said as absurd, yet he hardly knew what else to call it.

But the worst of the motion was that it threw doubt upon the permanency of the government in Ottawa which had now been settled for seven or eight years. By almost the common consent of both houses of Parliament, the subject had been referred to the decision of Her Majesty, and her choice had been acquiesced in by the country. The buildings were undoubtedly very fine, and were a credit to the country. They might perhaps be considered someone in advance of its present wants, but he hoped not of its future prospects. After Confederation they would probably not be found too large. He did not think the motion addressed itself to the good sense of the House or the country, and certainly it appeared to him to be very injudicious, to excite doubts as to the permanency of a settlement which had been arrived at with so much trouble.

He hoped this chamber would not be the first to excite an agitation upon the subject, and renew again the difficulties of bygone years. If the agitation should be revived, the issue, if successful, could only lead to another large expenditure for buildings elsewhere. This was the only possible effect of the motion, if it were adopted.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—It would immediately induce persons so disposed, to commence a new agitation, which might be fraught with many evils. But the motion, in another view, did address itself to the common sense of the House, as it was not within its prerogative to control the public expenditure which of all the hon. members present would, if he were building a residence for his family, stay his hand if a railing or few trees were wanted to complete it. The motion was contrary to the principles which guided men in their private affairs. He trusted that the House would show its determination not to encourage the agitation, which could not result from the adoption of their proposition, but that fine buildings would be fully completed, and that for many long years the Parliament of the United Provinces would meet and deliberate there.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862] said the motion before the House was no doubt one of very great importance, and he was glad the Government had met it with so much decision. In his opinion it would be in the highest degree inconsistent to adopt it. If carried the action could not stop there, for the House would then be compelled in order to continue in harmony with itself to reject the subsidies. It was in truth most unreasonable thing to ask the House to ascend to such a proposition.

He did not very well know what the hon. member for Grandville (Mr. Le Tellier) expected to accomplish by it, unless it were to revive a cause of general excitement an disquiet. The country had been convulsed for many years with great questions which it had been found extremely troublesome to settle, such as the Seigniorial Tenure[4], the Clergy Reserves[5], and lastly the Seat of Government[6], but happily they had all at last been settled, and he hoped settled forever.

The Seat of Government had been found the most difficult of all, and then disputes about it seem to be endless. At last when agreement in the Province was found impossible, the Legislature had resolved to refer it to the Queen, and no doubt the merits of the question had been fully canvassed and examined by the Imperial ministers assisted by competent persons who had finally decided that Ottawa was, upon the whole, the most eligible place. This decision he believed, was generally satisfactory and should be so considered. It was said the Duke of Wellington, so far back as 1820, when considering the defences of the Province with the map before him, had placed his finger upon Ottawa as the spot for the seat of its general Government.

It was indeed, in respect of the cultivated portions of the country, as near to the centre as possible. The population to the east was no doubt the largest, but the west was vast filling up, and the difference with soon be equalised. Then it was far enough from the frontier for protection, and he could not see what object could be served by disturbing the settlement. And if it were disturbed who would be competent to resettle it? Would it be possible in Canada to agree upon any particular locality?

The experience of the past was an answer to that question. It would then have to be referred again to some other power, to England, and possibly some few might say to the United States, though personally he would never agree to the latter reference.

Some Hon. Members—Hear.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—But the question had been referred, and if we left a matter to be decided by a third person, did we not feel bound in honour to abide by his decision? How much more than were we now bound to abide by the settlement, since it had been made at our own request by the highest personage in the realm—our own gracious Queen.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—It had been said that there was no public opinion in Ottawa, that there were no Houses to accommodate the Civil Service, and that in fact many other things were wanting. He regretted, that to some extent the objections might have some weight, but it should be remembered that Ottawa was a new place, and it should not reasonably be expected that it should suddenly become a community, with all the social advantages of old cities like Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. The people of this region came here poor, and had toiled their way up, and in good time he had no doubt Ottawa would be all that could be reasonably desired.

The very proposition before the House had already excited fears as to the security of the government, and he had seen letters inquiring what is meant. The complaint had been made that the papers here were unwilling or unable to report and publish the debates, but this certainly was a very unfair objection.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—If the same inducements had been offered to the Ottawa papers which were given to the papers in Toronto and Quebec, there was not the least doubt that are debates would have been as readily published here as in those cities.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—No doubt some persons would like to have the seat of government at Montreal, and it could not be denied that Montreal was a very fine place indeed. It was the commercial emporium of the Province, and being at the head of the navigation possessed advantages which could not but make it a large and prosperous city. The merchants there did not want the seat of Government to go there, though possibly other parties might like to have it, but he doubted after all whether it were the best place for it. The House of Parliament had been burned there once in a popular tumult[7], and might be so again.

Some Hon. Members—Oh!

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—Only Quebec would be the seat of Government for Lower Canada, and Toronto for Upper Canada, and the General Government

  • (p. 64)

could hardly go to either of them. But Ottawa had a guarantee for permanency as the seat of the General Government, which could not be taken from it. It was the expenditure of two and a half millions of dollars, and he considered that perfectly satisfactory security. There is not the slightest fear of a removal. As to the insufficiency of accommodation in the city, in two or three years the objection would have vanished. The Government itself was not altogether free from blame for this. The contracts had been suspended; a commission was appointed at a large cost, and a considerable delay ensued before the works were resumed.

The hon. member for Grandville [Luc Letellier de Saint Just] himself who found fault with the expenditure was in part responsible for this, for he was a member of the government at the time. These proceedings excited doubts as to the ultimate issue, and prevented many persons from building houses, who would have been prepared to do so if everything had gone smoothly. If there had been too large an outlay the blame did not rest with the present Government alone, for there had been two or three different governments during the six or seven years that buildings were being erected, and it was there for someone unreasonable for the House to find fault with the people of Ottawa if they had not prepared themselves as they might have done to receive the Government, when at last the removal didn’t take place.

In view of the condition of the finances, it was undoubtedly proper to exercise a rigid economy, but when the details of the $500,000 asked were examined it would be found that there was only $115,000 left to be expanded, and it seems pretty clear that that some was barely sufficient for all that remains to be done. The motion looked like nothing else than one of want of confidence, whatever might be sent to the country, and he thought the only way to deal with it, was to throw it out so that it might be settled in the public mind, once for all, that any change was out of the question.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—A great deal had been said about the cost of heating the public buildings, and some most outrageous stories had gone abroad on the subject, yet while great portions of them were still open and exposed to the cold, the expenditure of wood was for three blocks just 16 ¾ cords per day, or less than $50, and he verily believes that the cost in Quebec, when all the departments were taken into account, was larger. He was told that next winter the consumption of wood would not be over 9 or 10 cords.

Now it was hardly fair that such monstrous accounts should go to the country. Things would continue to improve, and by next winter, he believed, all parties would be better satisfied. As in the delay, he thought that after all, it was not so very extraordinary as was represented. The public buildings at Washington were not as yet quite completed, and the Houses of Parliament in London, though over 20 years and course of construction, we’re not quite finished, in both cases the cost had largely exceeded the estimates, and it was always the case in works of this kind. Then, as to the expense of our own, though large, yet six years’ tax upon the timber made in the Ottawa Valley, in a section of country 100 by 50 miles, would give a revenue of $3 Million and so pay off the whole cost.

The money expended, besides, was not lost. It had gone into the hands of our own people, and remained in the country. It should not be forgotten that the site was chosen by the Queen herself—

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—and long before that it has been pointed out by the Duke of Wellington, as the most suitable for the capital. Other distinguished men had came to the same conclusions, and he thought it very probable that Champlain himself, 250 years ago, when coming up the Ottawa, and passing the bluff upon which these buildings stood, may have said to himself but at some future day it would be the spot upon which the public buildings of the Province of Canada would be erected.

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

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—The stadacona was but a collection of small huts, and Hochelaga was no better, and therefore Champlain could not be particularly prepossessed in their favor, anymore than in favor of Ottawa. But we had all improved a good deal since, and we’re going steadily on to further and greater progress. We had now a population of nearly 4 millions, and under Confederation it would very likely increase much faster that even it had done before. All that was wanted was to establish public confidence in the permanency of the settlement, and with this sense of security Ottawa must ere long become all that was desirable in the seat of government for the great Confederation which was on the eve of being consummated. He thought the hon. member who had placed the motion before the House would see that it was better for him to withdraw.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] spoke low, and was very imperfectly heard, but was understood to say that if the motion prevailed it might lead to a change of the seat of government which he deprecated. For his part he had always been in favour of the alternating system, believing it was beneficial in many ways, and should have been preserved in until the mind of the people was fully made up as to which was the better locale. It had been found utterly impossible to decide the question, for when it came up, and one place was named all the others combined against it. So well satisfied was he that it could not be settled to the satisfaction of all parties, that when the question to decide upon a place came up in the House he moved an amendment in favour of the alternating system, as would appear by consulting the journals. As to the proposal to stop further expenditure when the buildings were drawing near to completion, he thought it a most unreasonable proposition. The motion was equal to one of want of confidence, and for one, he was not prepared to assist in turning out the present government.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—With others he might regret the large expense, but must say he was proud of the magnificent buildings which had been erected, and he wanted them to be suitably finished.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863], in a playful vain, said for his part he had found Ottawa pleasant place, and had spent his time in it agreeably. As the society, it was as good as in most other places, and he saw no reason for disparaging it. Indeed, he believed it would be an excellent society, if it were not injured by the presence of the members of Parliament.

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

John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—Like other places it had its advantages and disadvantages, but on the whole it was a very nice place. As to the motion before the House, the hon. mover had rendered good service and presenting it, since it had elicited a discussion which could not fail to be advantageous. Extravagant reports that expenditure had been sent abroad, and the poor Commissioner of Public Works [Jean Chapais], himself, when asking for the necessary appropriations, had requested them with tears in his eyes.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—He was sorry, he said, to ask for so much, but what could he do, the money was expended, or must be expanded, and must be had. Now for his (Mr. Sanborn’s) part, he was not disposed to consider the expense so disproportion to the means of the Provinces, as some hon. members.—

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—and then we had a great many comforts for the money. He thought, however, that it was a mistake to have sacrificed convenient so much to beauty of architecture, and was of opinion that buildings of less external pretensions and greater internal comfort could have been erected for the some first voted, viz: $900,000. The Assembly’s public room would be too small for the accommodation of Confederate Parliament, and there were not committee rooms enough in either sections. Already this House had parted with three of its rooms to accommodate the other, but they were still short. The fact was that the space towards heaven was too large while the floor space was too small.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—He did not see, however, that the motion was absolutely an offence to common sense, yet, as he was not prepared to aid, by his vote, an exciting doubts as to the permanency of the Seat of Government at Ottawa, he could not support it. If it was not intended to have that effect, it at least looked that way. He did not want to get afloat again, but he would ask the government to have mercy upon the people, and in any future necessary expenditure to exercise the most rigorous economy and the most faithful oversight, and also that they should stop further out lay within some reasonable time.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—The buildings had already cost half as much as the Victoria bridge, and nobody could have put the cost in a more striking light than the hon. member for the Rideau Division [James Skead], when he said it would require the income derived from six years of the lumber tax collected in the Ottawa to pay the amount. On the whole, he was pleased with the discussion, and thought it could not fail to do good.

David Christie [Erie, elected 1858] said, that in common with other hon. members, he could not but say that there had been great extravagance in the construction of the public buildings, and he would therefore implore the government to exercise a more rigid oversight in future over the expenditure of the money voted. He saw that £300 were spent upon the Post Office alone, and this he considered quite absurd, but it was only in keeping with other items which might be mentioned. Yet, no doubt the work must be carried on to completion, and he could not see that he would be doing his duty by voting for the motion before the House. If the motion were carried it was quite clear the House would come in collision with the Assembly. Then the vote must be a record upon our journals, and we could not and stop there. The consequence would be, in order to be consistent, a vote against the Bill of Supply, and this he was not prepared to do.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

David Christie [Erie, elected 1858]—This would be the inevitable result, and therefore, while protesting strongly as he did, against the extravagance in the expenditure hitherto, he could not feel that he would be doing right in ascending to the motion.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Joseph-Noël Bossé [La Durantaye, elected 1864] contended that emotion could not have, as it was not intended to have, any such effect. For his part he have not blamed the government, and in his original motion had only asked for the probable cost and future of maintenance or care taking, with if you only of securing greater economy. If the government had said that the sum asked was in fact already expanded, or nearly so, he would not have objected to the item, and would make no further objection to it now.

George Alexander [Gore, elected 1858] remarked chiefly upon the defects which had manifested themselves in the construction of the Chambers, particularly in regard to acoustics and ventilation. It was lamentable that the members at one end of the room could not hear those at the other end speak, and that the audiences and reporters should almost be unable to catch the sense of what was said. He earnestly hoped that these defects would be remedied before the next session. The motion had not done any harm, but on the contrary had elicited opinions which would tend to settle the seat of government more firmly at Ottawa. For his part he had no objection to the place, and it certainly was not the fault of the citizens that the country around was not more settled. In time then disadvantages would vanish, and the place would be a suitable as any.

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863] said that the hon. member for the Rideau Division (Hon. Mr. Skead) had made use of the language in respect of Montreal, which was wholly uncalled for and unnecessary. He would be sorry to disturb the seat of government, but when the members from the other provinces came to Parliament, they would have a right to express their opinions as to the suitableness of the place for the Confederate Government, and he therefore thought, it was very unfortunate that the hon. member should have brought up any recollections calculated to create a feeling of rivalry. Those old recollections might be discussed on two sides like all other questions, and he thought that in any comparison which might be made between the two places, Montreal was not likely to suffer.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863]—He was delighted, however, to hear that Champlain had foreseen the greatness of Ottawa, and fixed upon it as the seat of government for the United Provinces. It was certainly a remarkable instance of precience on the part of that great man. Of course all must be aware of the advantages of the situation, but yet the Confederated Parliament would, no doubt, claim to exercise their own judgment up on it. He did not remember ever having read of the opinion expressed by the old Duke so many years back, and thought that in any future edition of the lives of Champlain, and Wellington, the facts related by the hon. member, should be carefully narrated.

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

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863]—He was sorry for the illusions to the unfortunate events in Montreal[8], but the place had greatly changed since then. There were no such buildings there as those in question, but thought that if public buildings had been erected there, the work would have been satisfactory, and they would have been more under the public eye and course of construction, then these buildings had been in Ottawa. As to the final settlement of the seat of government, he maintained that it would be for the Confederate Government to decide.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said he thought his motion was the most proper way in which the House could express his opinions on the subject of the expenditure on the Public Buildings, and moreover that it was strictly in accordance with article 52 of the Resolutions on Confederation[9]. In his opinion, that article left it open for the Confederated Parliament to say where the seat of government would be, and he agreed with the hon. member for Victoria. (Hon. Mr. Ryan), in that respect.

He (Mr. Le Tellier) had not objected to any necessary expenses, whoever large he was willing they should be paid, but in the present condition of the public finances he maintains still that we ought not to plunge into any expenditure which could be avoided. He did not agree with the hon. member for Rideau [James Skead] that we shouldn’t do as they had done, or were doing, at Washington or London, and drag the buildings over many more years.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862], I did not say any such thing, but that the expenditure first estimated had been greatly exceeded, and that after a very much longer time than the Ottawa buildings were in construction, theirs were not yet finished.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860], said there were items in a statement of things yet to be done which were quite necessary, but there were some which were not so. For instance the finishing of the central tower, could not this be left over for another winter, to try whether the lower part would support the super incumbent weight. Some persons thought it would not. We were not bound to

  • (p. 65)

finish these buildings before Confederation. The hon. member had said as much as that if we did not we would not be keeping faith with the Lower Provinces, but he (Mr. Letellier) have not discovered any provision of this kind in the scheme. He still maintained we had done more than our share, and that the Lower Provinces ought to contribute their own which under any circumstances would be small. With the consent of the House he would now withdraw his motion.

The Speaker submitted to the House whether the hon. member should be allowed to do so, and it being decided in the affirmative the motion was withdrawn accordingly.


[1]      The ‘fixed seat of government’ question was a highly debated topic since 1849. Governors-General exercised the prerogative of the Crown in choosing various cities. When the issue of ending the alternating system came to the legislature, raised by the Macdonald-Cartier ministry largely for its costs and inefficiencies, the question ended in a deadlock and choosing the new permanent site was referred to Her Majesty the Queen in 1857. After some delay, the Crown chose Ottawa – a small, militarily strategic, backwoods town. Surprised by the Royal decision, various sectionalities in 1858 defeated a vote confirming Ottawa, and the Macdonald-Cartier ministry resigned. Parliamentary maneuvering returned the Macdonald-Cartier ministry and put the decision back on for a vote, and Ottawa was eventually confirmed in the colonial legislature.

[2]      Quebec Resolution 52, which reads, “The Seat of Government of the Federated Provinces shall be Ottawa, subject to the Royal Prerogative.” The Quebec Resolutions which were agreed to by the Legislative Assembly can be found on Mar. 13, 1865, pp. 1027-1032.

[3]      Supra footnote 2. Belleau uses the word “Federal”, but the correct term is “Federated.” This may be the result of a bad translation or Belleau is using an older draft that was mistakenly circulating. For all drafts of the Quebec Resolutions see Charles Dumais, The Quebec Resolutions: Including Several Never-Published Preliminary Drafts by George Brown and John A. Macdonald & a Collection of all Previously-Published Primary Documents Relating to the Conference (CCF, 2021).

[4]      Act for the Abolition of Feudal Rights and Duties in Lower Canada (Province of Canada, 1854) and The Seignorial Amendment Act of 1859 (Province of Canada). The latter Act amended the Seigniorial Act of 1854, by providing the completion of Schedules of the different Seignories directed for the commutation of Seigniorial Tenure, an indemnity to the townships of Lower Canada, and that sums payable under the act be deducted from the Lower Canada Municipal Loan Fund. See also the “Seigniorial Tenure” record in Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (1853). 

[5]      The Clergy Reserves controversies stem from provisions in both the Constitutional Act, 1791 (U.K.) and the Union Act, 1840 (U.K.) that granted land reserves to support the ‘Protestant Clergy’. These provisions were initially interpreted to favor the Church of England over other denominations. The controversies lasted for many decades with piecemeal reform, until the question was decisively dealt with by theClergy Reserves Act, 1854 (Province of Canada)whichrequired the sale of certain land reserves with the proceeds turned over to local municipal funds.

[6]      Supra footnote 1.

[7]      The Parliament Buildings in Montreal were burnt down by Tory rioters on Apr. 25, 1849 to protest An Act to provide for the Indemnification of Parties in Lower Canada whose Property was destroyed during the Rebellion in the years 1837 and 1838, also known as the Rebellion Losses Bill (1849, Province of Canada). There had been legislation in the Legislature of Upper Canada (1 Vict. c.13 [1838]; 2 Vict. c.48 [1839]; 3 Vict. c.76 [1840]) providing for a credit of £160,000, and ordinances by the special council of Lower Canada, but were left inoperative for the lack of funding. The issue lay dormant in the Union of the Canadas until an Act was passed in 1845 to render for Canada West the 3 Vict. c.76 [1840] Act operative with £38,658, and a Commission examined the question for Lower Canada, issuing indemnities of £10,000. The Rebellion Bill 1849 led by the Lafontaine-Baldwin Ministry was intended to rectify those inequities, by providing funds not exceeding £100,000, and by enacting commissioners to ascertain the veracity of claims, prohibiting claims to persons convicted of treason. See Stephen Leacock’s Baldwin, Lafontaine, Hincks: Responsible Government (1912), pp. 305-334.

[8]      Supra footnote 7.

[9]      Supra footnote 2.

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