“The Pacific Colonies”, The Globe (28 February 1866)

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Date: 1866-02-28
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Pacific Colonies”, The Globe (28 February 1866).
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The question of Union is again under discussion in the Pacific colonies. About a year ago, the House of Assembly, of Vancouver Island, passed resolutions in favour of immediate union with British Columbia, and called upon the Home Government to effect this, and frame a constitution for the united colonies. No word having been received as to what was being done by the Colonial office, the House of Assembly, at its late session, again passed resolutions on the subject. While endorsing those previously agreed to, these made the important addition, that no Constitution would be satisfactory which did not embrace “a representative government which would give to the people the right to determine the mode and the amount of taxation, and which would make the official Heads of Departments responsible to the people of the United Colony.” The resolutions of January, 1865, gave no intimation whatever of the kind of constitution wanted. So anxious were the people for union, that it never seems to have occurred to them that the nature of the constitution might interfere with the advantages of the Union. Upon reflection, however, and (as some suggest) on receiving hints of the nature of the constitution about to be given them by the Home Government, the House of Assembly now tack on some conditions to their former resolutions. Still, they repeat their ardent desire for union, and declare that to be paramount to every other question at the present time. So anxious were they on the subject, that some advocated the sending of duplicate copies of the resolutions through the Speaker of the House, while others went for appointing delegates to present them in person to the Secretary for the Colonies. The British Columbians, on the other hand, appear to be rather cool in the matter, and in that probably lies the main reason for the delay.

In the proceedings of the Vancouver Island House of Assembly, we find other matters of interest besides the Union question. There was a proposition to issue legal tender notes to the amount of $100,000: a proposition to amalgamate the two chambers of the Legislature, in order “to put an end to clashing and to needless expense;” one to abolish imprisonment for debt, and another to expunge the word “British” from the Franchise Act, and let all foreigners vote and be eligible to the House; a Homestead Bill; a measure to establish steam communication with San Francisco; and so forth. Our follow-colonists do not lack variety of topics for consideration, and they do not seem to lack courage in dealing with important questions. But, we fancy, their courage outruns their discretion in some respects. Our latest advices apprise us of little more than proposals, however, and it is possible that the actual results may be all right enough.

The Estimates for 1866 are published. The estimated revenue is set down at $206,376, and the expenditure at $193,895. Last year, the estimated revenue was $212,309, but the actual revenue only $192,444, while the expenditure amounted to $275,000! In 1864, the estimated revenue was $184,464; the actual revenue $149,836; and the actual expenditure, $284,576! This, we find that in the years 1864 and 1865, the actual revenue fell far short of the estimated, while the expenditure far exceeded even the estimated revenue. If the same rule holds good in 1866, we may expect to find the Vancouver Islanders a great deal further in debt at the end of the year than they are even now. Business being very dull, and the population of the Island being about 20 per cent less then it was eighteen months ago, the prospect is rather gloomy. And when we look into the details of the estimated expenditure, we find little to encourage. Most of the expenditure is for salaries of officials. Were the outlay made upon public improvements and productive enterprises, the incurring of debt might prove an ultimate gain; but to have to borrow merely to keep the machinery of government running, is sure to lead to embarrassment. In 1864, when the population was larger, the expenses of the Civil Service were only $57,000; now, it is $93,000. The “Police and other Departments for public protection,” in 1863 (when the population was still larger even than in 1864), was $33, 780. This year, $56,000 is asked. In the same year, the Departments of the Treasurer, Auditor, Surveyor-General, Registrar-General, Assessor, Harbour-master, and Postmaster, cost $15,954; this year’s estimates are $37,109. Here is a remarkable increase; but in the very department where outlay would be pardonable, there is a remarkable decrease. While the expenditure for Public Works in 1863, was $58,000; in 1864, $140,000; and in 1856, $110,000— it is, in 1866, to be only $8,000! Public roads, steam communication, education, emigration, are cut down to the lowest, while salaries swallow up most of the entire revenue. Our fellow-colonists are beginning their career with too much extravagance. To live above one’s income is, with nations as with individuals, the sure road to embarrassment. It is to be regretted that a Colony which has made such astonishing progress, should so soon fetter itself in this way. But there is et time to check the evil, and we hope the anticipations of the local press will be realized when they predict that the style of budget which has astonished them for the past few years will never be presented again.

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