“Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Wednesday, July 7”, Montreal Herald (10 July 1858)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Montreal Herald
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Wednesday, July 7” Montreal Herald (10 July 1858).
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Wednesday, July 7.
Mr. Galt, in resuming the subject of a Federal Union of the British Provinces, said his resolutions were intended to show that it would be good policy for the Province to change its method of Government. It would not be proper for him to consider now into how many parts Canada should be divided – he thought several – but the resolution affirmed that there should be at least two. This he concluded from viewing the geographical extent of the Province; and the differences of opinion, he might even say the prejudices, the hostilities, between the eastern and western sections of it. There were general interests which both extremes had in common, but there were local differences which rendered harmonious legislation impossible.
The object of the second resolution was to declare that the western territories should have an organized system of Government. The time for this, he believed had arrived, and the adoption of the federative principle would offer the best means of settling the countries in question.
The object of the third resolution – to declare Federation of the Provinces desirable – had been pretty fully explained by him in a previous speech. It was to appoint a committee to investigate the views of the Government of the several colonies and of the Imperial Government in relation to the subject. This was necessary because we could not legislate on the question alone. The committee too should enquire into the various branches of industry practicable in the various parts of the British possessions, for he thought that, as a country, which had but one pursuit, was liable to great revulsions, so one where diverse pursuits were brought together would probably be prosperous. Again, the trade policy of the various provinces was not uniform. The sister colonies stood almost as hostile to each other in this respect as they did to the United States. The trade union of the several States had been most conducive to their welfare. A similar course would be equally advantageous here. He concluded by moving the first of his resolutions.
Mr. Brown rose to make an amendment, to strike out all the words after “that,” and substitute “it is expedient that the representation of the people in the Canadian Parliament should be based on population, without any reference to the dividing line between Upper and Lower Canada.”
Mr. Sicotte said this subject was irrelevant to the proposition of Mr. Galt.
Mr. J.S. Macdonald thought it was unfair to take up this amendment. The honourable member wished to bring in his representation scheme, deprive the House of the opportunity of considering the broader question propounded, and prevent the House from approaching a grave discussion in a calm manner. The honourable member seemed to assume to speak for all Upper Canada, and say, “unless you give us representation by population, we won’t have anything else.”
Mr. Galt hoped the chair would declare that the amendment was irrelevant. The two subjects were indeed associated in the public mind, but, in reality, they had very little in common.
Mr. Foley thought the amendment was relevant. Both it and the main motion referred to a change in the constitution.
Mr. Brown said if the amendment were not proposed, now, it would prevent many from voting who, like himself, preferred Representation by Population, but failing that would advocate a Federal Union.
Attorney General [John A.] Macdonald thought the questions distinct, especially as the Federation principle had been introduced by Mr. Galt expressly to prevent further agitation on Representation by Population.
Mr. Robinson also thought the questions should be treated separately.
Mr. Speaker said amendments should be analogous and bear affinity to the main motions. It was also a rule that any subject which was embodied in a bill before the House, could not be moved as an amendment to any motion. On both these grounds he ruled the amendment out of order.
Mr. Sicotte then said that the resolutions of Mr. Galt were of the most serious importance, but were not couched in such language as to elicit a vote on the main point in view. The great national scheme he aimed at bringing forward was made secondary, in the first resolution, to the proposition as it affected Canada alone. Should he obtain a vote in favour of that one, he would be precluded form bringing the whole scheme of Federation of the Provinces before the House.
Mr. Galt differed from this. He thought that without the division of Canada, it would be too large to confederate with the other Provinces.
Mr. Sicotte said the division of Canada would be the final, not the initiatory step. He (Mr. Sicotte) thought there was such an exaggeration of the evils at present existing as to be a proof that the evil themselves, which required such exaggeration, were of very small magnitude. (Hear, hear) It was said that society was on the verge of a revolution. Where was the proof of it? Even the complaint that Lower Canada ruled – unfounded as it was – was not so fiercely made that anyone felt insecure as to the possession of his property. No; the evils which oppressed us were commercial and financial; not political or social. Nothing, therefore, drove the Government to propose constitutional changes of a violent nature. (Hear.) The existing evils would not cease by the adoption of Representation by Population, or of a General Union. Society would not thereby be made more perfect. Corruption would not cease.
Mr. Dorion did not agree with the proposition that everything was going on smoothly now. But he said that all we could gain by confederation, was additional postal conveniences, and greater reciprocity in matters of trade. This we could obtain without cumbrous machinery of confederation, by sending some delegates to confer with the colonies every three or four years. This would cost but little, where a federal government would cost millions, most of which would come from the pocket of this Province. The little intercourse we had with the Lower Provinces now proved, not that confederation was necessary, but that those colonies had small interest in common with us. New Brunswick raised all its own cereals. We could export but little to it or any other colony which they could not better get elsewhere.
He then pointed out that representation by population was becoming the opinion of Upper Canada, and said it would lead to civil war between Upper and Lower Canada, or to dissolution of the Union. We are going to ruin and bankruptcy now as fast as a young country could. He was therefore willing to consider any scheme which, like that of Mr. Galt’s or Mr. Merritt’s, promised an issue from the present state of affairs. He thought, however, that a Government might be formed which could conduct the affairs of the country, under its present constitution, in a safe and proper manner.
Mr Merritt was convinced that the union of Upper and Lower Canada would not work any longer, and thought a change in the Constitution must be made, He would vote for going in to committee, not for the sake of the resolutions, but for what would come out of their consideration. He would propose that a constitution should be framed by delegates from the people. He opposed the present system of voting supplies, as it was called, after the money had been spent, and thought no debt should be incurred without a direct appeal to the people.
Mr. Turcotte said, in reference to the concluding remarks of Mr. Dorion, that it was not possible, in the nature of things, to find a party such as he desired. He called the party with whom that gentleman cooperated, not a party but a faction, who took up the narrowest possible grounds as their broadest policy. The subject of representation by population was not one on which the Lower Canadians could agree with the so-called liberals of Upper Canada whose leaders voted for orange incorporation against the Soeurs Grises, and wished to drag in the mire the most sacred institutions of the Lower Province.
As for the cry of governing by a minority, he must observe that it was untrue. Ministers governed by a great majority of the votes of United Canada.
He would further observe that – although the dissolution of the union was said to offer the greatest difficulties to the member for Montreal – the feeling of Lower Canadians was that the Union should be sacrificed rather than the much cherished institutions of the Lower Provinces. Lower Canada had accepted the Union, under which great progress had been made, when there were men in Upper Canada who would carry out its spirit. But when the nature of these public men was changed, the union ceased to be mutually advantageous. Confederation was an idea which merited discussion, at least if we entertained the desire at one time of becoming a great nation. (Hear.)
Mr. Drummond had always looked on federation as the second step towards nationality. A colony like this, which possessed the route from one ocean to another, which had the strategical key of the continent, which was settled by men of energy and activity would not always remain dependent. The Lower Canadians hat hitherto held the balance of power, holding, as they did, opinions most truly liberal, and ever being most free from prejudice. As for the present state of matters, he was glad that one member of the Government had the boldness to say that it could not last forever. As things stood representation by population and the double majority were alternatives, one of which must be adopted if the other were denied. The Government of the Province could, however, not be carried on longer by a majority from both sections, and Representation by Population might answer very well if the two peoples were homogeneous, but they were not, so a change must therefore be eventually made. He could not agree with the first of the resolutions; for to divide Canada into a half a dozen municipalities made a fearfully retrograde step. The practical mode of solving the question of a Federal Union would be to unite the Provinces commercially, and that England should, at her own expense lay down an Intercolonial Railway. The discovery of gold, at Fraser’s River, would be likely to promote a Federal Union, and perfect the highway from one ocean to another.
Colonel Playfair was also in favour of the Federal Union of the Provinces and of the Pacific railroad.
The adjournment was moved by Mr. Dufresne – and the House, at midnight, adjourned.