“The Financial Question”, The Globe (11 November 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Financial Question”, The Globe [Toronto] (11 November 1864).
THE FINANCIAL QUESTION.
Mr. Dorion makes two mistakes when speaking of the financial aspect of the Confederation scheme, or rather, perhaps, puts the same mistake into two different forms. He tells us that “Upper Canada only demanded an increase representation because she complained that she contributed more than Lower Canada to the revenue of the Province,” and because she therefore bore much the larger proportion of the public expenses without the power of controlling them; and, he adds, “it is to remedy this grievance that it is proposed to bring into the Union four other Provinces whose resources and revenues are greatly inferior to those of Lower Canada.” Mr. Dorion has not here given the “only” reason why Upper Canada demanded Representation by Population. There were several others with which Mr. Dorion must be familiar. That principle was demanded as a matter of justice— as a means of reliving us from a humiliating position— as a means of securing our local interests and institutions from Lower Canadian interference— and furthermore, as a means of taking and keeping the government of the country out of the hands of the minority. But it is not to point out that mistake that we have made the above quotation. The assertion that the Maritime Provinces are inferior to Lower Canada in “resources and revenues” is that we deem the more fatal to Mr. Dorion’s argument, and the more liable to mislead. A little further along, after speaking of the debt of the Confederation, Mr. Dorion says: — “Taking as a basis the population of the different Provinces according to the last census returns, Upper Canada would have to pay more than four-twelfths, and the other Provinces less than three-twelfths of all these additional expenses.” Both these statements are based upon the idea that, in uniting with the Lower Provinces, Upper Canada is getting partners who will prove as bad, or worse bargains, in a pecuniary point of view, than Lower Canada. If he means to say that the Lower Provinces are per [text ineligible], inferior in resources and revenues to Lower Canada, he says what is not warranted by the facts. As we have pointed out, they are superior. If he is simply saying that 800,000 people will not pay as much revenue as 1,200,000, he is making out an exceedingly poor case against the admission of the Lower Provinces. If he cannot show that the four Maritime Provinces will not pay their way, man for man, with the whole population of Canada, he is proving nothing against the union from a financial point of view. This he would seem indirectly to admit, when he comes to make an estimate that in proportion to population Upper Canada will pay five-twelfths, Lower Canada four-twelfths, and the Maritime Provinces three-twelfths of the Federal burdens. But we are prepared to go further, and maintain that Upper Canada will pay more than five-twelfths, the Maritime Provinces more than three-twelfths, and Lower Canada considerably less than four-twelfths. The import trade of the four Lower Provinces is more than one-fourth of that all the Provinces together. That of Newfoundland, for example, is about twice as large, per man, as that of Canada. The taxable portion of the import trade may not hold quite so good a proportion as does the whole, but it will come sufficiently near it to more than bear out Mr. Dorion’s estimate, that those Provinces would bear about one-forth of the burdens of the whole Confederation. Claiming only that the Maritime Provinces would pay in proportion to population— that is, they would simply pay their way in the Confederation— we must totally dissent from the proportions which Mr. Dorion assigns to Upper and Lower Canada respective. He assuredly knows that it is not correct to say that Upper Canada would only pay five-twelfths while Lower Canada pays four. For many years there has not been an intelligent man of the least candour in either section say that Upper Canada paid less than two-third of the Canadian revenue. Upon that estimate, Lower Canada would pay but three-twelfths, while Upper Canada paid six-twelfths. Unless everybody who has paid any attention to the subject of Canadian taxation has been grossly mistaken, and has done gross injustice to Lower Canada, we are bound to conclude that in the Confederation the four Lower Provinces will prove at least equal to Lower Canada in their aggregate contributions to the Federal revenue, and at least fifty per cent better in their contributions per head of the population. If that fact leaves the Lower Canadian people say ground of complaint touching the financial arrangements agreed upon at the Quebec Conference, we certainly fail to comprehend what it can be possibly be. There is infinitely more plausibility in the objections which a few Upper Canadians make, that the financial arrangements are not sufficiently favourable to this Province. We could wish an arrangement which would place the financial burdens of the State more directly upon the property of the people than the present system of indirect taxation. But we know that that is unattainable at present, and are bound, therefore, to accept the agreement of the Conference relative to the finances as the best which can be got— as a vast improvement upon the present system- and as a decidedly better settlement than could reasonably have been anticipated.
Mr. Dorion seems to make it a point against the Confederation scheme, that under it the Lower Provinces are to get money from the Federal treasury for local purposes. he does not forget surely that Lower Canada is to do likewise, and that, though she does not contribute to the Federal treasury in proportion to population, she will get money for local purposes in that proportion. Mr. Dorion is also aware, no doubt, that this feature of the scheme will be at least as popular in Lowe Canada as it is in the Maritime Provinces, and that any objections which the mass of the Lower Canadian people will make to it will be made on the score that it limits the payments from the general resources for local purposes, in place of leaving them to be swelled indefinitely so long as rapacious politicians have the assurance to make demands for local grants, orc level Finance Ministers are able to meet their demands either by tax or loan. If Mr. Dorion can persuade the people of Lower Canada that local expenses had better be met by local taxation, to the end that each Province shall pay its own local outlays, and that the present burden some taxation upon imports may be reduced one-third or one-half, we at least will not stand in his way. Until he can do that, however, he must not blame us for glad accepting the financial scheme of the Conference as a means of limiting the local drains upon the common treasury.