“The Commercial and Financial Prospects of the British American Confederation” New York Times (11 December 1864)

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Date: 1864-12-11
By: New York Times
Citation: “The Commercial and Financial Prospects of the British American Confederation”, New York Times (11 December 1864).
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The Commercial and Financial Prospects of the British American Confederation.

The Finance Minister of the Canadian Provinces has put into what may be called a popular form, a number of interesting facts and statements bearing on the commercial and financial condition of the Provinces which are about to be federally united. The statements is naturally rose-colored ; but we are interested in looking at its main points.

The Quebec Conference agreed to transfer the aggregate revenues of the separate Provinces to the Federal Government with the exception of certain local funds—amounting in the Maritime Colonies to about a quarter of a million dollars annually, and in the Western Provinces to something over a million and a quarter. These purely local revenues, it was further agreed to supplement by an annual vote of 80 cents per capitum from the federal treasury, to enable each Province to provide for the expenses of local legislation and government—making an aggregate of about four and a half million dollars. This disposition of petty local revenues, along with the eight cents per capitum subsidy, it is reckoned would still leave the General Government a balance—estimated on the present resources of the separate Provinces, of over nine millions and a half. The exact figures of the Finance Minister are these :

Gross revenue receipts……………………………..$14,223,320
Local revenue and subsidy………………………… 4,860,892
Balance for General Government……………$9,362,328

The public debt of Canadas is a little over sixty-seven millions ; Nova Scotia, something under five millions ; of New Brunswick, about five and three-quarter millions ; of Newfoundland, almost one million ; and of Prince Edward Island, nearly a quarter of a million. The gross debt of the Confederation at starting would thus be a fraction less than eighty million dollars. That runs close up to $25 a head of the population. There is nothing alarming in this, provided the separate Provinces do not proceed to run up an individual score for themselves. If, however, they are unable to carry on this local machinery with the petty revenues left to them and the 80-cent (per head) subsidy, they will wither have to make up the deficiency by an income-tax, raised in addition to the burdens imposed by the General Government, or become borrowers independently of the Confederation. That sort of arrangement might soon make a wonderful difference in the aggregates of the Finance Minister.

Without taking once into account the immense fluctuations in the trade of a country whose exports include lumber and ship-building to so large an extent, the incumbent of the Canadian Treasury makes ups flushing trade report from the returns of certain years which have been most unusually prosperous in both the lumber and ship-building trade. We are satisfied that the results he reaches—having a regard to the averages—are altogether fallacious. But such as they are, we lay the sum of them before our readers. The gross yearly trade, export and import, of the five Provinces is made to show the vast figure of one hundred and thirty-seven and a half millions—Canada giving a return of nearly eighty-eight millions, New Brunswick about seventeen millions, Nova Scotia eighteen and a half millions, Prince Edward Island over three millions, and Newfoundland eleven millions and a quarter.

This estimate, we say, is founded upon the returns of a year unusually prosperous for both the lumbermen and shipbuilders. The decline in the present year alone as, every business man familiar with the country knows, would reduce the aggregates at least from fifteen to twenty per cent.

From the statement in which these estimates and facts are presented, we learn, for the first time, that the vast Crown domain of the Provinces is not to become the property of the Confederation, but to remain a bone of contention for the local Governments and speculators, repelling, rather than inviting, emigration, and opening innumerable avenues for petty larceny and general plunder.

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