“The first Bill introduced by the new Government, a Tory one,” The Globe (30 September 1854)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The first Bill introduced by the new Government, a Tory one,” The Globe (30 September 1854).
The first Bill introduced by the new Government, a Tory one.
The great question of the day is whether the present Government is more Tory than Radical in its composition. In profession it is strongly Reform, in personel it is conservative. It is judged according to the previous views of the individual. The Hincks’ reformer expects it to be progressive because its members say it will be so; the Conservative thinks it will be retrogressive, because Sir Allan McNab and John A. Macdonald are men of that stamp. The measures of the Government and their administrative policy are the only tests by which the question can be conclusively settled. Mr. Morin has introduced the first ministerial bill, for the amendment of the Constitution of the Legislative Council, and we turn eagerly to it, to ascertain in what rank the coalition cabinet is to be placed. In answer to Mr. Brown, Mr. Morin gave a short sketch of the character of the new measure. It is very different from that which the same official introduced last Parliament. Matters have changed [illegible] Mr. Morin is no longer the colleague of the liberals [illegible] but of the Conservatives, and he alters his position accordingly. His former bill was Conservative enough, but this is a Tory measure of the most extreme kind; his former measure was crude and ill digested, the new one is the most extraordinary botch which man ever concocted.
The first and perhaps the most obnoxious provision is that the old counselors are to hold seats in the new body for life. We do not hesitate to say, that this clause will be universally scouted by Reformers. It is absurd that councillors, mere nominees of the crown, should have the controlling voice in a house which is henceforth to receive all the powers and privileges of an elective body, chosen by the people and responsible to them. It was about enough arrangement which was proposed in the last bill, that the old member should retire in rotation, one third every two years, but to retain them for life is infinitely worse. So long as the Council could be added to by the ministry of the day; and, therefore, necessarily preserved harmony with the Lower House, the nomince system could not be complained of, but when the Council is to become independent, when its composition cannot be altered, then we must have no more creatures of the cabinet on its benches. It must have all the dignity and power which the choice of the people can confer, and take its place as the highest and most influential body in the Province.
The present number of members is 37, and there are to be twenty added by election every two years, until sixty have been chosen, making the whole number of the house at the end of six years, supposing no deaths to take place during that time—ninety-seven. During the first two years the nominated members would far out number those who were elected, and as the former would be utterly irresponsible, they would be able to do whatever they pleased; no measure would pass which displease their high mightiness no government could hold office which would be unsatisfactory to them. At present, if they are refractory, new counselors can be appointed, a power which always prevents them being obstructive; under Mr. Morin’s system coma there would be no check however. For the first two years, this system would be altogether unbearable, and, even afterwards, it would be nearly as bad. During two years more, the nominated and elected members would be nearly equal, and afterwards, while the lives of the old Councillors lasted, they would form two-fifths of the whole body, and would have the control, in fact, of its affairs Many of the present members are in the prime of life, and others of advanced years enjoy the best prospects of a long life. What an absurdity it would be if the people had to watch the failing strength of the old gentlemen, and to rejoice as one after another they passed away, because each succeeding death brought near the fulfillment of popular desires. Does Mr. MORIN intend that the death of Mr. Mackay or Mr. Beaujeu shall be announced in letters of gold instead of lines of black, that the Liberal or Conservative newspapers, as it may be, shall cry hurrah for Sam Mills or Mr. Tache when these gentlemen shall shuffle off the mortal coil, an event which, but for Mr. Morin’s act we would wish to be far distant? The appeal to the lot to decide which electoral division shall first have the honor of being represented by the new Council, is one of the funny parts of the new plan. It is very odd idea that a section here and there should be represented in the Councils of the country, and that all the rest should be disfranchised. How can any one expect that these latter should be satisfied with the decisions of a body in the election of which they have no share?
The whole House of ninety seven members, which would be the number in four years from the date of the bill’s passage, would be far too large for the purpose required, and even 60, which might be its number in 20 or 30 years hence, would be entirely too great The object of the council reformers is to secure select body of first class men, to form a check upon the lower house. It is evident that a council of 100 or even 60 would have almost the same characteristics as the assembly The constituencies would be no larger than were many of the counties before the new representation act was passed, and inferior men could easily procure their election. There are not, in fact, at present in the country 60 men fit to take the place occupied by the senators of the United States. It is quite evident that in choosing this number, sixty, Mr. Morin was guided not by his sense of the fitness of things, but by the necessity of having such a number of elective members as would equal the nominees. In fact, the whole scheme is of the same nature, a thing of inconsistencies in compromises. It is not the [illegible] principles, not on temporary arrangements [illegible] should be harmony and order in their parts, not the most absurd incompatibility of one portion with another.
A great objection to the plan is that which, we’re sure, will be made by all Upper Canadian Reformers; We mean as to the period of election. There is hardly a Liberal in Upper Canada who will deny that the present term of four years is far too long, and that the power of the people over there representatives would be much stronger if members were elected for only two years. At present, as our readers know, representatives for the first three years of their time are utterly regardless of public opinion, and that it is only as a general election approaches that they show any desire to satisfy popular demands. How, we ask, would it be, if the term were six instead of four years, as Mr. Morin proposes for the new House. We know that we will be pointed to the United States’ Senate for a reply, but it does not follow because the neighbouring country is a Republic that the constitution is perfect, and the sway of the people complete. There are many persons in the States who think the Senate elected for too long a period, and chafe at its opposition to the popular will. It often happens that the House of Representatives is changed by the voice of public opinion, and that the Senate, elected long before, remains in direct opposition. On the Nebraska matter, the Lower House will be revolutionized in sentiment long before the agitation has reached the Upper Chamber.
Said we not rightly in commencing that this, the first bill of the new government, is a Tory one, and indicates that whatever may be the professions of the combinationists, their principles are the same as they ever were. This bill shows most conclusively the folly of the few Reformers who really believe that liberal measures could be procured from the new Cabinet. It was a vain hope, which none but the week could indulge in for a moment. Every succeeding act will only show how unchangeable are the men at the head of affairs, how false were their professions and taking office.