“Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly.” The Globe (28 June 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly.”, The Globe [Toronto] (28 June 1864).
Debate on the Ministerial Explanations.
SPEECHES OF MESSRS. ALEX. MACKENZIE, McKELLAR, MOWAT, AND COWAN.
Quebec, June 22
Mr. A MacKenzie had a strong repugnance to coalition if formed for ordinary administrative purposes, but he always held that circumstances might arise which would render it wise, if not necessary, to lay aside for a time ordinary differences in order to accomplish some great general object. The question with the House and country now was whether present circumstances were such as to justify the extraordinary combination of parties proposed. (Hear.) There had been no proper Government in Canada for many years, but a mere provisional arrangement, dependent for existence on the votes of a few members from a particular section. It was quite impossible that there could be an efficient Administration of affairs while such a state of matters continued. A dissolution now would not materially alter the position of parties, so much so at all events as to enable anyone to carry on the Government very satisfactorily. He did not consider that a coalition should be formed merely to reconstruct a strong Government, however great the necessity for one but when a large majority of the House, composed of members on both sides, had agreed that some constitutional change had become a necessity and when such changes could only be carried by a coalition of such members, the circumstances fully justified taking that course. When the Macdonald-Slcotte Government adopted a retrograde movement on the Representation question, he (Mr. Mackenzie) stated openly in the House and to his constituents that if the gentlemen then on the Opposition side would undertake to settle this question, he would give them his support independent otherwise of party ties; and in saying this he did not mean merely support for that measure – anyone would do that – but such a support as they required to keep them in existence as a Government, until such a measure could be matured. Party organization and party ties were necessary to political purity, but party obligations must always be dependent on a community of opinions and interests – must be based in certain principles on which all can agree. Whenever the party in Lower Canada with whom he had been connected showed no inclination to yield what as a Western member, he considered the principal portion of his platform, and their opponents manifested a disposition to give Representation by Population some shape, he would feel bound as a consistent politician to give them his support as far as he could conscientiously do so. He admitted that whe he made the promise alluded to he did not have any great expectation that the present Government would ever give him an opportunity of redeeming that promise (“Hear” and laughter) That opportunity, however, was now given and he would have felt proud to give them a general support to carry out the proposed measure, even if the hon. member for South Oxford and other friends should not join the Government. With that gentleman and some friends in a position to urge on the promised settlement, and force details consistent with the requirements of his party, there was a very strong additional reason for giving as liberal a support as would be consistent otherwise to the Government. The hon. member for Hochelaga asserted that there that there was no security for the performance of the Government pledges, and [sic] that they would [sic] to bring gown a measure next session. The Government could not, even if they did intend to deceive, stop the torrent they had let loose – they must either go with it or be swept aside. The movement they had inaugurated was a revolutionary one, and to revolutionary movement could stop short of the accomplishment of some great change. It might not be perhaps what was now proposed, but if not, he believed it would be an improvement on it, and any change must necessarily be in the direction of the agitation which had produced present events. He had perfect confidence in the member for south Oxford, that he would not remain a day in the Government unless the necessary measures should be promptly proceeded with (Hear, hear) Much as he had condemned the conduct of gentlemen on the Treasury benches, he could hardly bring himself to believe that they could be guilty of a deliberate attempt at such a monstrous fraud (Hear, hear). It would end in their personal disgrace and political annihilation, and there could therefore be no motive for an attempt to deceive. The mere possession of office until next session could be secured by them in any case, by resorting to a dissolution. The hon. member for Chateauguay asserted that the Federal Union of the Canadas, as projected by the Toronto Convention, had not taken any hold of the public [sic]. That statement was not perfectly correct. It was quite true that the public mind was set on Representation by Population as the true and best remedy, but the extreme difficulty experienced in obtaining that measure had caused the assembly of that convention, and the people were willing to accept a Federal Union of the Canadas as a compromise between two sections. He had had good opportunity to know the public opinion of Canada West, and he felt justified in saying that, falling Representation by population, the people were prepared to accept such a scheme as that now proposed. He did not however, in saying this, refer to the major proposition of the general confederation of the British Provinces. It was very doubtful if that would be considered so satisfactory as the Federal Union of the Canadas alone. The Toronto Convention decided “That without entering on the discussion of other objections, this assembly is of opinion, that the delay which must occur in obtaining the sanction of the Lower Provinces to a Federal Union of all the British North American Colonies, places that measure beyond consideration as a remedy for present evils”. This resolution conveyed precisely what his opinion was now of a general accepted, but [sic] the agreement that no delay would take place in applying the principle to the Canadas alone. Indeed, it was very doubtful if the people of the Lower Provinces wished for such a scheme of that they would accept it at all. The scheme now proposed he considered practically the same as that adopted by the Convention, and he adopted it as a basis on which sectional difficulties might be settles. The larger project of connecting all the British Provinces was undoubtedly an end to be keep in view as necessary to consolidate British power on the American continent, and commanded respect form a powerful neighbour as well as in Europe; and it was eminently proper that Canada, as the most populous and wealthy of the colonies would be the first to propose a new state of political existence. It was necessary however, in his estimation, that her own internal troubles should first be quieted; that once accomplished her attention could be given exclusively to what might be called national organisations. Members of the House were assuming a serious responsibility in accepting the terms proposed, involving as it did a temporary coalition of parties; but on the other band his friends would assume a more serious responsibility in rejecting the proffered compromise. On great occasions, the representatives of the people had to assume more than the mere functions of a delegate, and although the step now taken was an important one, he fully believed tat the course of the Western Liberal party at the present moment would be endorsed by the people. He could not sit down without referring to the position of the Lower Canadian allies of the Liberal Party. He parted with them (if their course should necessitate any parting) with extreme regret as they had ever shown, the most liberal and friendly feeling and no party alliance could be more cordial or pleasant than that which had existed between them. He trusted that they would not consider it necessary to oppose the course taken by the Western Liberals in accepting a settlement of our difficulties from gentlemen opposite, and if they did think duty called on them to offer opposition, he trusted it would not endure long or have any disagreeable consequences. (Hear, Hear).
Mr. McKellar said as one of those who had for years opposed hon gentlemen on the Treasury benches, and denounced coalitions as fraught with political immorality, he felt that when the intelligence was conveyed to night, as it would be, to the [sic] corners of the Province, that he and the party with whom he had acted had not only consented to support the very men whom they had so long and so bitterly opposed, but had also [sic] with them by agreeing to pace three members from their side of the House in the Cabinet with them – he felt it would not be surprising if when such unexpected intelligence was received the moral sense of the community should be shocked, and they would with one voice, declare that political morality was a humbug; and without explanation no other conclusion could be arrived at. Therefore, he felt that it was due to his own constituents in Upper Canada whom he had addressed in opposition to the present Ministry, that he should, on his place on the floor of this House, frankly declare his reasons for the course he had taken. Had the coalition, which is now about to take place between the leading men on both sides of the House, no higher aim than that of securing a majority to carry through the ordinary legislation of the country, he, for one, would not for a moment give it his adhesion for coalition formed on such a basis, and brought about at the sacrifice of principle by one or both parties, for the sake of office and emolument, he looked upon as in the highest degree immoral. But the ministry now being formed was not of that character. (Hear, hear). It was formed for the express object of effecting such constitutional changes as would remove the sectional differences, which had for so many years proved detrimental to the best interests of the country, and [sic] to the character of many of our public men. These sectional differences have been gradually increasing until we have come at last to a dead lock. [Sic] the last two years we have had four difference administrations, none of which were able to stand and carry on the business of the country. Neither party could carry on the government or make the necessary constitutional changes without the assistance of the other. In this critical state of affairs the leaders of both parties did what he believed to be creditable to themselves, and for the interests of the country. They approached each other in the spirit of conciliation and fairness, and [sic] earnestly to work with a view of finding a basis for such constitutional changes as would be satisfactory and just to both sections of the country. He was happy to say he had reason to believe they had succeeded. (Hear, hear). They had announced their determination to submit to this House, at its next session, a Bill of the federation of all the British American Provinces, or of the Canadas alone. These constitutional changes were not in the form in which many Upper Canadians sought to obtain them, but if they were the best that could be had, he, for one, was willing to accept them. He could not assume the responsibility of refusing them, simply on the ground that Messrs. Galt, Cartier, and Macdonald were in the Ministry. He was willing to accept good measures from the hands of any men, and so strongly did he feel the necessity of constitutional changes that he had in the house, and [sic] of it, declared that he was prepared to support any Government who would concede Representation by Population, or any other measure which would satisfactorily settle our sectional differences. Such a measure, he believed, would be submitted by the present Ministry. He had, therefore, an opportunity of proving the sincerity of his former declarations, and he would not shrink from doing so. He might be charged with inconsistency in supporting a Ministry containing so many of the men whom he had so strongly condemned for their public acts. It was true he had done so; he did it honestly and with good cause, but he would repeat what he had frequently said outside of the House, that bad as many of their public acts were, they were not of their own choosing; they were forced upon them by small cliques of their supporters, who took advantage of their position and made the most unreasonable demands, and the ministry ha either to accede to the demands so made or resign. (Hear, hear). He desired to see that state of political existence changed; that able and honest men who assumed the reins of power may henceforth honestly and independently discharge the duties of the departments over which they preside with out being at the mercy of one or two of their supporters; and [text illegible]… would accept any scheme which would brig about so desirable an end. One of the gentlemen who had preceded him denounced the Federation scheme as revolutionary in its character and dangerous to the well-being of the country. He (Mr. McK.) would not enter into a discussion of the merits of the details of the measure. The proper time to do so would be when the [text illegible]… the Federal principle is involved, and when these institutions were being established they were characterized by Sir Francis Bon Head as republican in principle and as likely to lead to the separation of this colony from the mother country. Twenty-five years have rolled by since this declaration was made, and will any man say that the working of theses institutions have tended to relax the ties that bind us to the mother country. (Hear, hear). On the contrary, he believed had taught us to respect and admire Britain and her free institutions more than we did before. We may therefore, fairly presume that if Sir Francis formed a mistaken judgement in reference to the institution he had referred to, the honourable member from Leeds would find that he was in error as to the effect which the scheme to be submitted by the ministry would have upon this country. Let us suspend our judgement till the Bill is before us. If the, it is not satisfactory, and another measure equally or more satisfactory to the country can be had, let us accept that one. The member for Peel considered that the member for South Oxford (Mr. Brown) and his friends should not have accepted offices – that they should have proved their sincerity by giving the Ministry an outside support. The hon. gentleman should know that Mr. Brown did object to taking a seat in the Cabinet, and preferred that he and his friends should give an outside support to the Ministry in maturing and carrying the measure. (Hear, hear). Such were the views also of himself (Mr. McKellar) as well as of a number more of the friends with whom he acted, but they were overruled by a majority of the party, who voted that the offer to have three seats in the Cabinet should be accepted and that Mr. Brown should fill one of them. This decision coupled with the earnest solicitations of the Government, induced Mr. Brown to accept a seat in Cabinet. In him, and the two gentlemen who would be associated with him from the opposite side of the House, the Liberals of Upper Canada had the best guarantee that the interests of that section of the country. He had reason to believe Messrs. Galt, Cartier, and Macdonald were equally sincere with their own friends to bring this matter to a successful issue. (Hear, hear). He, therefore, resolved to give them his humble support in completing the great and important work they had undertaken, and which he hoped the close of another session would see completed. (Cheers).
Hon. Mr. Mowat said – From the internal evidence which the memorandum that has been read to us affords, and from what they had been told of the hon. member for South Oxford, he (Mr. Mowat) had considerable confidence. He had entire confidence that hon. gentleman opposite, whatever their motives might be, were sincere in their pledge to attempt the solution of our constitutional difficulties. He had a considerable amount of hope; too, that the new Administration would succeed in their attempt. But he was bound to say that his hope did not arise from any idea, as an hon. member had suggested, that the Attorney General East (Mr. Cartier) will be unfaithful to Lower Canada, or that the guardians of Lower Canada would violate their duty to that section of the Province. His hope arose from a conviction which he (Mr. Mowat) held then, and had always held – a conviction that our difficulties may be solved without the abandonment of any duty or any just interest, by the representatives on either section of the Province – that a solution could be found which would be just and fair and safe for both sections. The coalition which we are told has been determined upon for this purpose is certainly a wonderful event. It is a wonderful thing to learn that the hon. member for South Oxford is to enter a Cabinet with hon. gentlemen opposite for any purpose, but it is still more wonderful to learn that the hon. gentlemen opposite are prepared to unite with him in an attempt to solve the great constitutional question, which is at the root of so many of our political evils. If a week ago we could hardly have fancied the formation of such a coalition as is spoken of, we would a week ago have found still greater difficulty in believing that a Cabinet of all parties or of any party would be announced today, the basis of which was constitutional changes. The Hon. member for Peel (Mr. Cameron) has said that parties are desirable in politics, and that this great work when undertaken, should be undertaken by one party or the other, and not by a Cabinet of both parties. Now, parties unquestionably are desirable. It is not possible to put an end to them, and it would not be wise to do so if it were possible. To the successful working of our system of government, all political thinkers agree that parties are essential. But we must take care that in the means we do not forget the end. Parties are for good; we must not allow them upon a great emergency, to stand in the way of securing good government. He (Mr. Mowat) was no friend to coalitions. He hated coalitions. Coalitions for ordinary purpose of government have always seemed to him to be most objectionable. But it may be that, as for ordinary purposes, and is ordinary times, they are bad, so a coalition for an extraordinary and exceptional purpose may not only mot be bad, but may become an essential duty. Ordinarily coalitions, look bad as well as are bad, and [sic] duty of public men to avoid the appearance of doing wrong as anxiously as they avoid actual wrong-doing. But we must take care that, in our anxiety to avoid the appearance of what is wrong, we are not guilty of doing wrong. We must see to it, that in order to avoid the appearance of evil of one kind, we are not committing evil of another kind. What is the real character of the coalition which the hon. member for South Oxford has thought it his duty to agree to? Is the object of it such as to justify or demand a coalition? That is the question we have all had to consider. The people of Upper Canada, have for years placed the constitutional question above all others. They have thought it the most important of all. All other evils they have believed arose in a large measure, from the vices of our constitutional situation. Agitation on the subject has gone on for years, and [sic] hitherto produced no trait. He (Mr. Mowat) entered political life in 1837. The Government then in office did not pretend to deal with this subject. A Government was formed in 1838 to deal with it but so little prepared was Parliament to entertain the custom. That the government lasted but two days. We had Conservatives Ministries up to 1862, but they attempted nothing to remove our constitutional difficulties. We have afterwards two Liberal Ministries, but they were equally unable to do anything in this direction. We have had frequent elections, but they were not hitherto helped us. Honourable gentlemen opposite now acknowledge that the question must be met, and they declare that they are willing to apply themselves to the task, if the honourable member for South Oxford will give them his assistance in the Cabinet. But otherwise they cannot. Without his aid they never thought of making the attempt and would not, and could not make it [sic]. To all appearance, it may be years before he could accomplish the task in conjunction with our own Lower Canada allies. If then, the matter possesses the pressing importance which we have always attached to it, has not the very emergency occurred, which necessitates a coalition? If the question is to be settled at all just now has it not become plain that hostile parties must unite to settle it? Must not every one admit that there is absolutely no other way? Had the subject been so less difficult or complicated one, a measures might be carried by a cabinet of one party with the support outside of the other party. But the question seems far too difficult and complicated to be dispensed of in that way. Our own experience seems to demonstrate this. In the neighbouring States, matters affecting their constitutions are settled, not by the ordinary legislatures, by conventions called together for this purpose, and composed of all parties? Our system of government does not admit of that course be taken; and as we cannot have a convention of all parties, the only alternative open to us in our extremity appears to be a Cabinet of all parties. A new constitution, or a change in our present constitution, is no small matter. It will need time and thought, and investigation and conferences. The outline which has been agreed upon is however, as the hon. member for Chateauguay (Mr. Holton) has said substantially the same as that approved by what has been called the Toronto Convention of 1859. My honourable friend said that that scheme has not taken hold of the public mind, nor been agitated lately. This is true, and what has been the reason The Toronto Convention adopted that plan because they thought it would be more acceptable to Lower Canada than Representation by Population. This did not prove to be so. Lower Canada opposed the Convention’s plan as much as Representation by Population, and there was therefore no object in pressing it forward. Many in the Convention preferred the old remedy of Representation by Population, and to this, therefore all for a time returned. But the meeting of that body has not been without good faith. The result of its deliberation is in effect to be the basis of the policy of the new Government. He (Mr. Mowat) [text illegible]
Is with the [text illegible] old allies in Lower Canada [text illegible] were to part with [sic] he was sure that there has been nothing in our political experiences which we will more regret. We have worked with them in great harmony, and we never can have allies whom we can regard with greater esteem and respect. Their leader, the hon. member for Hochelaga, (Mr. Dorion), has the respect and the affection of every member for Upper Canada who has hitherto sat on this side of the House. He (Mr. Mowat) rejoiced that in some way or other we have now a good prospect that the great constitutional reform is to be accomplished – that our grievances are thereby likely to be soon remedied – the differences between the two sections of the Provinces removed – the harmony and peace restored to both – good government for that future secured. (Cheers).
Mr. Cowan said – Being what is call a stout party man; believing that under the British Constitution the best Government was obtained through party organization – by men agreeing on certain line of policy, and watched by a vigilant Opposition – and having a strong repugnance to coalition, he very much regretted that some mode had not been devised by which the scheme now before the House might have been carried out, other than by members of the Opposition going into the Cabinet. But looking on the constitutional difficulties between the two sections of the Provinces as being of the gravest nature, and anxious that something should be done to obviate them and having confidence in this scheme, especially the confederation of the Canadas, he intended to give it his cordial support, but would have preferred to see it carried into effect by some other [sic] than three members of the Opposition going into the Cabinet.
The Agricultural Bill
Hon. Mr. McGee moved the second reading of the Bill to amend the Upper Canada Agricultural Act.
Mr. Cowan said that he had intended to make a few remarks on this Bill at its second reading, but on account of the lateness of the hour and the thickness of the House, he thought it would be best to defer discussing it until it reached a subsequent stage. The principle feature in this Bill is changing the mode of electing the Board of Agriculture. But bid as he (Mr. Cowan) considered the present system, and little calculated as it is to give that Board the confidence of the farmers of Upper Canada, he would much rather see it continued than have the mode proposed in this Bill substituted in its place. He would not oppose the second reading of the Bill; and if the amendments of which he had given notice were adopted, it would have his support otherwise he would oppose the Bill at all its subsequent stages.
Mr. MacKenzie (Lambton) said that the Bill was an important measure; that it interfered with municipal institutions and ought not to be read a second time without discussion.
Mr. Cowan thought the hon. member for Lambton misunderstood the clause relating to [sic] and that if only meant granting permission to [text illegible] enclosures at provincial exhibitions.
Mr. McKellar thought the clause meant the actual granting of licenses.
Hon. Mr. McGee said that he was not the [sic] of the Bill; that it, had come down from the Upper Canada that he had been requested to put it among the Government orders; that if the Bill was allowed to be read a second time now, it could be amended in the Committee of the Whole.
The Bill was then allowed to be rad a second time.