“The Local Constitutions”, The Globe (3 August 1866)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Local Constitutions”, The Globe (3 August 1866).
THE LOCAL CONSTITUTIONS.
The House then resumed the consideration of the resolution on the subject of the Local Governments and Legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said that with regard to some of these resolutions, there might be grave doubts whether the course proposed by the Government was the best, and it was to be regretted that they had received so little discussion, seeing that we had reached the last day on which they could be debated. It might be difficult, under these circumstances, to induce the hon. gentlemen to change their plan. Still, he could not help offering a few remarks on the subject. He thought that it was exceedingly to be regretted that a responsible Government—British Parliamentary Government is the sense in which we had enjoyed it in this country—should be applied to the local bodies. His idea in regard to these Local Governments was that they should be kept as inexpensive as possible, the purposes for which they were created being very clearly defined, and little of that latitude allowed from which we had suffered so much in this country. It was true it would be impossible to establish either Local Governments or a General Government which would be acceptable to the people of this country without giving complete popular control over executive and legislative action. He admitted that gentlemen on the Treasury benches had a difficult task to determine how, in establishing the Local Governments, there was to be a more restricted machinery, coupled with that popular control over executive action which was so very desirable. He agreed with the hon. gentlemen oppos[text missing] that it would be quite absurd to have two legislative bodies, so far, at least, as Upper Canada was concerned; and he thought, if it were possible to devise some plan by which, with the legislative body elected for a definite period—say three years,—and wit the heads of Departments not being members of that body, there would be popular control over their sections. Such a scheme would be much better, more economical, and more satisfactory, to the people of Upper Canada than that now before the House. Of course, it would not do for the Lieutenant Governor to have the whole control of the patronage, and it would be necessary to say how far those members elected for three years should control his action; but this could not be well discussed here, at this stage of the [text illegible]. He thought that if the Atty. Gen. had submitted the matter to a committee such as we had formerly, composed of leading members from all parts of the House, such a scheme might have been devised. It was, no doubt, difficult to devise a new system; but it appeared to him that simply adopting the old system of responsible Government would expose to us a great many evils which another system would have avoided.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON—You can change it when you like.
Hon. Mr. BROWN—Yes; and no doubt the fact that the local bodies had the right to change the system from time to time, removed a good deal of the objection, but his own opinion was strongly in favour of the system he had indicated, because it would avoid the great trouble we had had in Canada, namely, that when gentlemen got upon the Treasury Benches, they used the whole patronage of the Crown to keep themselves there.
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD—Would you have a president too?
Hon. Mr. BROWN said he did not at all approve of the Presidential system. At the same time, it was obvious that if the Governor had been made elective, the difficulty to which he had referred would not have arisen, because in that case the popular voice would be brought to bear. Mr. Brown went on to [text illegible] further remarks in favour of having the heads of Departments, as he indicated, why [text illegible] be bound to discharge [text illegible] duties under the law, and [text illegible] with the view of [text illegible] majority in the House, and expressed his regret that a system of [text illegible[ should not be given to Upper Canada, [text illegible] the excellent working of the county councils showed that [text illegible] produced with advantage. He [text illegible] that there might be some doubts with regard to the missing of the [text missing] resolution. Was it the intention of the Government to give the Local Legislature entire control over the distribution of seats and the divisions of constituencies?
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD—Certainly.
An [text illegible[ conversation followed, in which several members took part, as to the interpretation to be put upon this resolution.
In reply to further questions,
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD stated that the resolution merely provided, in order to set the machine in operation, that the 32 constituencies of Upper Canada should be identical, whether for representation in the Local Legislative Assembly, or for representation in the House of Commons of the federated Provinces. Afterwards, the Local Legislatures might determine the bounds of the constituencies for election to these Local Legislatures, just as they thought proper. This resolution was merely to commence the thing.
Hon. Mr. BROWN thought it would be as well to have it so stated.
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD was understood to say that he would not object to insert some words to state that this resolution merely applied to the first election.
Hon. Mr. BROWN then pointed out that no provision was made for limiting the time within which the results of the census should be declared, and a new distribution of constituencies made.
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD, in reply, contended that this was provided for by the Quebec resolutions, which stated that in 1871 there would be are-adjustment of conconstituencies [sic], according to population.
Hon. J.S. MACDONALD—By whom is the census to be taken.
Hon. Mr. GALT said it would be taken by the General Government, if his memory was not at fault.
Hon. Mr. BROWN proceeded to say that there was another point which the Atty. Gen. had agreed to put into his Resolutions, but had not done so. There ought to be some limit as to the time after issuing of the proclamation when the local systems should go into operation.
Atty.-Gen. MACDONALD was understood to reply that the Local Governments must be constituted and the Local Parliaments meet before the General Government could be constituted. But it was out of place to discuss here when the General Parliament should assemble. That rested altogether with the paramount authority—the Imperial Government. As regarded Local Legislatures, there must be greater speed in starting the machine. There would be a period during which the representative of the sovereign would have advisers or an adviser without a Parliament, and his duty would be to issue the writs. It was not for this Parliament to legislate on that; but so far as this expiring Government could in any way influence the decision of the Imperial Government, they would say that the new Parliament should be called at once.
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Mr. FRANK JONES understood that members for the Upper House were to be chosen by the Local Governments, and he believed, therefore, that there would be no necessity for elections for the Upper House this fall.
Hon. Mr. BROWN, with the consent of the Attorney General West would state state [sic] what was the understanding between the representation of the Liberal and Conservative parties respectively with regard to the appointment of an Upper House. He said each was party was to choose man for man, till the whole number of Legislative Councillors was made up. (Hear.)
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD said that the member for South Oxford and he had not the slightest difficulty for settling the matter, as had just been stated.
Hon. Mr. DORION said that was well enough as regards Upper Canada, but the interests of the Liberal party of Lower Canada might not have been as well provided for.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER—We will do you justice, never fear. (Hear.)
Hon. Mr. BROWN said that member for Hochelaga might feel sure that the rights of the Liberal party of both Upper and Lower Canada had not been overlooked. But there was one point that had not been provided for by the constitution, but which was of considerable importance. It would be exceedingly undesirable that anything like our present mode of expenditure in connection with this House should obtain as regards the [text illegible] bodies. (Hear.) Yet, there must be some provision made in respect to the employees of the present Government. It was quite clear we would not want the immense number under the new system which were now retained. Then, with regard to the distribution of the debts and assets of Upper and Lower Canada, would it not be well to have the whole matter considered in addition to the question as to the way in which the general expenditure of the new Legislatures was to be kept down? Certainly, these resolutions were in such a shape as to enable objections to be met at every point, without giving satisfaction with regard to them. He could make many objectives looking towards economy and the better working of our Upper Canada local system, but we were met at once by the 13th resolution, providing that all systems in operations shall prevail.
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD—As regards the elections merely.
Hon. Mr. BROWN—As regards the form of Government too.
Hon. Mr. MACDONALD—Only as to elections.
Hon. Mr. BROWN read the clause, providing that the Local Government and Legislature of each Province should be constructed in such a manner as the existing Legislature of each such Province should provide. Now that meant the present Legislature. He had hoped that such a resolution as was proposed by the member for North Ontario, to define number of Executive Councillors, would have been accepted it would have been prudent certainly. Now the political party in office, under the operation of this system, would be strongly tempted to increase the number of the Executive to satisfy the exigencies of their supporters. He thought we should have made the Executive Councillors heads of Departments.
Hon. Mr. GALT said they would not get a salary as heads of Departments.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said, that though they might not meet it at first it would be easy to give it afterwards. It was exceedingly desirable that we should commence the making of these Local Governments on an economical system. (Hear.)
Hon. Mr. GALT said that the object of the resolution was simply to establish the machinery whereby the Local Legislatures could exist. They would have themselves power to put these restrictions on if they thought it desirable, and if they wished to say that the Executive Councillors were only to be departmental officers, it would be in their power so to decide; but why should we undertake to forestall the action of the Local Legislatures? It was enacted that the Local Government and Legislature of each Province should be constructed in such a manner as the existing Legislature of [text illegible] should provide, the next line reading thus: —“The Local Legislatures shall have the power to alter or amend, &c.”
Hon. Mr. BROWN said that the point was that should put it in operation an economical system at the outset, it being probably that the Local Legislatures would adhere to it hereafter.
Hon. Mr. GALT said that our action in this direction would not show that we had great confidence in the new bodies about to be formed. He was sure that the Local Legislatures would be competent to judge of the number of Executive councillors they should have, their status and renumeration.
Hon. Mr. BROWN thought that there were other points that might be settled, including the qualification of members of the Local Legislatures. After they had abolished qualification in England, it seemed inopportune and unnecessary to impose a £500 qualification for the Local Legislatures. This was too large, and there ought to be some amendment.
Mr. SCOBLE presumed that the Local Legislatures would have power to settle this matter themselves.
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD replied, yes.
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It being near six o’clock, on motion of the Atty. General West, the resolutions were made the first order of the day at the evening sitting.
LOCAL CONSTITUTION DEBATE RESUMED.
On the second resolution being put,
Hon. Mr. BROWN objected that the first sentence of the resolution might lead to error as to the power intended to be given to the Confederate Legislature over the Local Legislatures. The wording ought to be altered so as to confine that power solely to the special provisions on that head of the Quebec resolutions.
The Government accepted the suggestion, and the resolution was carried as amended.
The third resolution was carried on a division,
On the fourth resolution,
Hon. Mr. DORION said—Judging from the Quebec resolutions and the observations of Attorney General Macdonald himself, he concluded that the duties of the Local Legislature would be of a municipal nature only. All important matters were to be disposed of by the General Government. In that case there was no necessity for a second Legislative Chamber for Lower Canada. He argued that in the great increase in the vote for education for that Province, and considering the inevitable increase of expenses under the new system proposed, it was our duty to practice the utmost possible economy. After some further remarks, he moved in amendment: That the Legislature of Lower Canada consist of one Chamber only, elected by the people, as proposed, for the Legislature of Upper Canada.
Hon. Mr. McGEE said that, during the two years since the Confederation scheme first assumed a definite shape, the member for Hochelaga and his friends had resorted to every means to defeat it, and, having been beaten on every occasion, they now came to nibble at it in detail. The point on which they joined issue now was the question of one or two Chambers. He (Mr. McGee) maintained that two Chambers were necessary to the proper working of our system of government. If found to work of our system of government. If found to work successfully, in Upper Canada, it would be the first instance of the kind. Even in large municipal bodies, two Chambers had been found necessary. Especially in Lower Canada should there be two Chambers. There were two peoples, differing in race and in religion, and in unequal proportions in regard to population. There was now, happily, a good feeling between them. The spirit of conciliation was strong in Lower Canada, and had been so for 20 years, and there was no force therefore in the argument that the second Chamber might become as obnoxious to a portion of the population in future as it had been in the past. The member for Hochelaga wished to belittle the Local Governments in advance, and, therefore, he proposed to cut away one of the Chambers. Now, what were the subjects committed to them? The first mentioned were Agriculture and Education. In relation to the subject of Education, he might remark as to the Bill with reference to Upper Canada, which a member had attempted to introduce tonight, that he (Mr. McGee) was in no way personally responsible for that attempt. It had been said that he (Mr. McGee) had declared that he accepted the Upper Canada Separate School Bill of 1863 as a finality. That was true; but he would declare now, as he declared on the occasion above referred to, that if special privileges were to be given to the minority in one section he should insist, whether the Governments or out of it, that the same should be given to the minority in the other section of the Province. He went on to speak of the importance of our fisheries, public lands, forests, and other matters committed to the Local Legislatures, to show that these bodies would be something more than more municipal councils. Lastly, as a friend of union, he felt bound to oppose this proposition, coming from an avowed enemy of union.
Mr. LAFRAMBOISE supported the amendment. He said Mr. McGee’s arguments amounted to little. That gentleman had shown himself capable of arguing in favour of either side of a question that suited his purpose. He (Mr. Laframboise) believed the majority of the people of Lower Canada were against the whole scheme. Gentlemen opposite wanted not Confederation, but a Legislative Union, and they took this way to get it, knowing that if they proposed a Legislative Union all at once, the whole of Lower Canada would be against them. If one chamber was enough for Upper Canada, why should it not be enough for Lower Canada also?
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON replied to Mr. Laframboise. He enlarged on the good feeling now existing between all sections of the population of Lower Canada, as a guarantee against the recurrence of the evils caused by the attitude of the Legislative Council before the rebellion. He proceeded to meet the argument, that a dead lock would probably result from two chambers, and said history proved that one chamber must give way in the end, when a collision occurred. The member for Bagot wore a grey coat. Why did he not wear a white coat like him (Mr. Cauchon)? He would say it was a matter of taste. So, in the same way, the question of one Chamber or two Chambers was a matter of taste, and if Upper Canada was satisfied with one let her have it.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said the same principle should be applied to the School Bill.
Mr. DUNKIN was glad that as regarded L. Canada, no now experiment was to be tried in the constitutions of its Local Governments. He did not think British Responsible Government was compatible with having a single Chamber. Even in the United States, Republican sagacity had confined the one Chamber system to the Territories. He would like to see two Chambers in all the Provinces, but this was above all necessary in Lower Canada, where the Local Legislature would have larger functions to perform than the Legislature of any other Province, owing to the peculiar character of its laws and courts, which it was not proposed to assimilate, as in the case of the other Provinces.
Mr. SCOBLE thought that Responsible Government could exist with one Chamber as well as with two. At all events, the experiment of a single Chamber might be tried. If we found that we had committed a mistake, it could be amended. He did not think there was anything in the arguments of the member for Brome which should induce members from Upper Canada, who desired a single Chamber for that section to abandon that position.
Mr. M.C. CAMERON wished to know what position Upper Canada members were expected to occupy with reference to this vote. If Lower Canada members were to settle the system for Lower Canada, and Upper Canada members to settle the system for Upper Canada, the same principle should be carried out with reference to two other measures—the School Bill of Lower Canada and the School Bill of Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.) But if he had no vote on this question, he could not vote in favour of one scheme for Lower Canada and of another scheme for Upper Canada. He thought the Minister of Agriculture, in attacking the idea of a single Chamber for Upper Canada displayed very little taste, for in doing so he was attacking the scheme of Government of which he was a member.
Hon. J.H. CAMERON thought it was impossible to come to any understanding that the Lower Canada portions of the scheme should be voted on by the Lower Canadian members alone, and that the Upper Canada portions by Upper Canadians alone. They must act as one Legislature; and what he considered the right principle for one section, he would vote should be applicable to the other. The double chamber system had worked well for both Provinces before the Union and for the united Provinces. He believed that it would still work well, and, at any rate, if we were to try experiments, let us first try the system which we had found successful under other circumstances.
Mr. COWAN thought Upper Canada would be doing wisely when she decided in having only one Chamber.
Mr. CARTWRIGHT said the only objection he had to the scheme lay in the serious doubts he entertained whether it provided sufficiently for a revision of the Acts of a single Chamber in Upper Canada. The power of the Governor to veto within one year would not be a sufficient check; for that power would rarely, if ever, be exercised. He preferred the system of two Chambers.
Mr. BLANCHET spoke in favour of two Chambers
Mr. PERRAULT spoke in favour of one.
Mr. RANKIN said he was not disposed to relinquish his right to vote on any question that came before the Legislature. No man would be discharging his duty if he did so. The proposal to have a single Chamber in Upper Canada met his cordial approval. As regarded Lower Canada, the proposition to establish two Chambers there he looked upon as an ingenious contrivance on the part of those now predominant there to perpetuate their influence. (Hear, hear.) Such a proposition he could not sanction by his vote. He would do his utmost to sustain the Government until they had carried Confederation; but while doing so he felt it his duty to vote for the amendment.
Mr. COWAN regretted that there could not be an understanding some to that Lower Canadian and Upper Canadian members should vote separately on their respective constitutions, but as that could not be arranged, he must vote for the amendment, believing that the Chambers in the Local Legislatures would be a mischievous arrangement for Lower as well as Upper Canada.
Atty. Gen. CARTIER said the resolutions had been framed in their present shape because it was believed the people of Lower Canada desired two Chambers, and the people of Upper Canada one Chamber. He thought, however, Upper Canadians were trying a very dangerous experiment in adopting a single Chamber, but he deferred to their wishes. As regarded Lower Canada, it was believed two Chambers would afford greater protection for every race and every religion. The minority were right in demanding that there should be in the constitution sufficient guarantee against the acts of what might possible be a tyrannical majority. He thought Upper Canadian members should not vote to give Lower Canada but a single Chamber, when the people of that section desired two.
Hon. Mr. BROWN urged that the last remark of Mr. Cartier should be practically carried out by the members from Upper Canada refraining altogether from voting on this question, and the Lower Canada members abstaining from voting when the constitution of the Upper Canada Legislature was considered. But if it was necessary to vote, his opinion was that both for Upper and Lower Canada, one chamber was the best.
Mr. McCONKEY said the appeal of Mr. Cartier could only be responded to by Upper Canadian members abstaining from voting on this question.
Mr. GIBBS said if the members of the Government from Upper Canada had agreed that one Chamber was best for Upper Canada, and the Lower Canada members thought two were best for Lower Canada, why should not the same arrangement be carried out in this House, and each section settle its own affairs. But if obliged to vote, he should vote for two Chambers for each section.
Mr. T.R. FERGUSON also declared himself in favour of two Chambers for each section.
Dr. PARKER was in favour of one Chamber.
Mr. WHITE said that the principle adopted by the Government was to suit the views of each section, and on this question he should vote with the majority.
The House divided on Mr. Dorion’s amendment—yeas, 31; nays, 69—as follows:—
YEAS—Biggar, Bourassa, Brown, Burwell, Cameron (North Ontario), Caron, Coupal, Cowan, Dorion (Arthabaska), Dorion (Hochelaga), Dufresne (Iberville), Fortier, Gagnon, Geoffrion, Holton, Houle, Labreshe, Viger, Laframboise, Lajoie, Macdonald (Cornwall), O’Halloran, Paquet, Parker, Perrault, Pope, Pouliot, Rankin, Ross (Prince Edward), Rymal, Trembaly, Webb—31.
NAYS—Abbott, Alleyn, Archambeault, Beaubien, Bellerose, Blanchet, Bowman, Brousseau, Cameron (Peel), Carling, Cartier, Cartwright, Cauchon, Chapais, Cockburn, Corneiller, Currier, DeBoucherville, DeNiverville, Dickson, Duckett, Dufresne (Montcalm), Dunkin, Dunstord, Ferguson (Frontenac), Ferguson (S. Simcoe), Galt, Gauchier, Gaudet, Gibbs, Harwood, Higginson, Huot, Irvine, Jones (South Leeds), Langevin, Leboutillier, Macdonald (Atty.-Gen.), Macdonald (Glengarry), Magill, McConkey, McDougall, McGee, McIntyre, Morris, Morrison, Oliver, Pinsonneault, Poulin, Poupore, Raymond, Remillard, Robitaille, Ross (Champlain), Ross (Dundas), Scratcherd, Shanly, Smith (Toronto East), Somerville, Stirton, Street, Taschereau, Thompson, Wallbridge (North Hastings), Walsh, White, Wood, Wright (Otawa Co.), Wright (East York)—69.
When the vote was first taken, Messrs. Brown, M.C. Cameron, Parker, A.M. Smith, D.A. McDonald, and Gibbs did not vote.
The attention of the Speaker was called to the fact that the member for South Oxford had not voted.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said he hoped the House would excuse him (cries of No, No!) If then, he was bound to vote on this matter affecting Lower Canada alone, he must vote according to his conscience, for the amendment.
Messrs. Cameron and Parker also voted yeas, and the other three gentlemen, nay.
The fourth resolution was agreed to.
Hon. J.H. CAMERON moved in amendment to the fifth resolution that the Legislature of Upper Canada be composed of two chambers. He spoke at some length [sic] in support of the amendment, and stated that he would desire the Upper House to be nominated.
Mr. M.C. CAMERON spoke in favour of one Chamber.
Hon. J.S. MACDONALD said he was opposed to a nominated Council in whatever form it might be proposed. He referred to various events in Canadian history to show the grounds he had for this view.
The House divided on Mr. Cameron’s amendment, which was negatived—yeas, 13; nays, 56.
The yeas were:—Messrs. J.H. Cameron, Cartwright, Currier, Dunkin, Ferguson (Simcoe), Gaucher, Gibbs, Huot, Morris, Poulin, Smith (Toronto), Street and Wright (York).
The fifth resolution was then agreed to.
Hon. A.A. DORION moved in amendment to the 6th resolution, that the members of the proposed Legislative Council of Lower Canada shall be elected by the people instead of being appointed for life by the Crown. Negatived—years 31; nays 63.
The 6th resolution was agreed to.
Hon. A.A. DORION moved in amendment to the 7th resolution that Legislative Councillors of Lower Canada should not hold any office of emolument under the Federal or Local Governments, and that they should receive no salaries for their services. Negatived—yeas 27; nays 67.
The seventh resolution was then agreed to.
The eight was also agreed to.
Hon. A.A. DORION moved in amendment to the 9th resolution that the Speaker of the Legislative Council be elected by the members thereof at the opening of each Parliament, and hold office during the duration of that Parliament. Lost—Yeas 24; Nays 63.
The 9th resolution was then agreed to.
The 10th was also agreed to.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON moved, in amendment to the 11th, to strike out the provided with reference to altering the limits of the twelve British Constituencies.
Hon. A.A. DORION supported the amendment.
Hon. Mr. GALT replied, defending the proviso.
Mr. DUNKIN thought the guarantee a very imperfect and slight one, but being offered, such as it was, he did not hesitate in accepting it.
Amendment negatives, —yeas, 24; nays, 66.
The 11th and the remaining resolutions and schedule “A” were agreed to.
Schedule “B” setting forth the new distribution of Upper Canada constituencies, was reserved for another sitting.
The House adjourned at twenty minutes past two o’clock.