Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly, 20 April 1865, Nova Scotia Confederation with Canada.

Thursday, April 20.
Mr. TOBIN said that for the last few years so much had been said upon the question of Railroads, it was impossible to bring forward anything new on the subject. There were a great many things in the speech of the hon. leader of the opposition, to which he would have liked to refer ; but as he perceived that he was not in his place, he should refrain from doing so. If the present position of this country were contrasted with the condition of affairs a few years ago, it would be found that from some cause or other, whether from the construction of railroads or the spirit of commercial enterprize, or the gradual expansion of trade, the Revenue had swelled to an extent beyond the expectation of the most sanguine. He had taken the trouble a year ago, when it was proposed to extend the railroad to Pictou, to look into the question, and to contrast the state of our Revenue then with what it was before the railway system was inaugurated, and what did he find ?
(The hon. gentleman here said that he had mislaid the memorandum of figures he had prepared ; but speaking from memory) the Revenue, which in 1851 amounted to £102, 632, had swelled in 10 years (1861) to over £281,000, and this year the Financial Secretary estimates it at over $1,300,000. So it will be seen that since the construction of railroads has been commenced, that the trade of the country has increased—labor has been multiplied,—and the expenditure of the Province has been kept within its income. He had prepared a few calculations as to the amount of liability annually imposed upon this country by the construction of these public works, and first as to the two links already completed to Truro and Windsor. Some hon gentlemen wished to leave these where they were ; but that he never could assent to. He believed that they never could be made properly remunerative until they tapped the waters of the St. Lawrence on the one hand, and the Bay of Fundy on the other.
In approaching this subject, he wished to do so in a spirit of fairness and candor. He did not wish to state the liability we would be called upon to assume at a dollar less than it really would be. For many years we have spent large sums of the public monies in constructing mud roads. This session, over $250.000 has been voted for that purpose.  And yet it is argued by some, that altho' the Province can afford to do that, she cannot undertake the construction of the e public works, which will add so much to the wealth and material prosperity of the country.
To return, however, to the subject of liability— he found that the Province had issued debentures to the extent of a million of pounds for the construction of the lines to Windsor and Truro—this involved an annual liability of £60,000 for interest.  No difficulty had ever been experienced in paying that interest—the Province had always been prepared when called upon to meet all demands, and certainly she was in a better condition now, than when railway construction was commenced.  Then again, we have, after some delay, undertaken the construction of the line to Pictou—the propriety of that extension has always been admitted, and it was only a question of time as to when the finances of the country would admit of its being undertaken.  The estimated cost of that work is £500,000, which will impose an annual liability of £30, 000.  That liability, however, will not fall upon us immediately ; but will be extended over three years, as the work goes on—and as the business of the country would also go on increasing, there is no doubt, that there would be no trouble in meeting these obligations.  The Government now propose to subsidize any company to construct the line to the borders of New Brunswick—which is estimated to cost £400,000, when capitalized, involving an annual charge on the Revenues of the Province of £24,000 a year. It is also proposed to extend the line to Annapolis.  Last year, a resolution was passed by the House, offering any company that would undertake to construct the line, a subvention of 4 per cent. on £6,000 per mile.  It appears, after a lapse of'a year, that no company is willing to undertake the work, unless the Government will build the bridge over the Avon—that bridge is estimated to cost £40,000. The cost of the Annapolis road, at £6,000 per mile, will amount to £50,000—if that is capitalized at the same rate of four per cent—it will give £20,400 annual interest to be paid by the Province.
Then again, take the cost of bridging the Avon— the hon. leader of the Opposition undertook to question the accuracy of the estimate—but the only means of judging, was from the report of the Engineer, and he did not think that the Government had any motive or desire to conceal from the country the real cost of the work—the interest at six per cent upon the cost—as estimated by the Engineer, will be £2,400 a year.
It appears that Mr. Leversey on behalf of the In— ternational Contract Company, has offered to construct the road to the borders of New Brunswick, provided the Government, or the City of Halifax, take stock to the amount of £100,000.  The Government, probably looking at all points of the political horizon, have come to the conclusion that they can manage to get the city to assume that amount of stock.  He (Mr. T.) was not going to discuss that question just then—but he thought it would be wise before they passed any law to make 284 PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES. the city liable, that they should have the agreement drawn up and the bond signed. He believed that if the proper papers had been signed by the properly constituted authorities, there would have been no difficulty—but the members of the City Council felt that they were not bound by any loose expressions or pledges made by some persons at a public meeting in the Temperance Hall, and which never had been ratified by any resolution of the City Council. These are the views of many of the members of the City Council, whether correct or not he was not prepared to say. If the city of Halifax, took stock to the extent of £100,000, she would receive from the Province four per cent. If the Province took it—they would have to pay 2 per cent more. All these sums added together, would give a total annual liability of $578,700, which the Province would have to pay after the whole of these works were completed—representing a debt of $9.645.000 ; but this of course would not accrue at once, but would be spread over a number of years. This appeared a pretty large debt for a population of about 350,000 people, amounting to about $1.65 per head.
Mr. LEVESCONTE.—Have you taken into consideration, that the Province only guarantees the amount for 20 years, and that it will not be a permanent debt.
Mr. TOBIN perfectly understood that the liability would cease at the end of twenty years—on the extension to Annapolis, and New Brunswick.
Mr. LEVESCONTE.—It does not require as much money to capitalize a sum for 20 years, as if it was for ever. He thought the hon. member had made this mistake.
Mr. TOBIN had made no mistake whatever.
He had also included the St. Peter's Canal in his calculations, which he had put down at $125,000. He had also taken the trouble to make another little estimate of the indirect advantages which had been derived from the construction of the two short lines of railroad to Windsor and Truro. He found upon looking over the returns of 1863 that there were 110,137 passengers carried over the road and 56,471 tons of freight—9,784 free passengers and 1,192 had season tickets—then take into consideration the time saved in travelling—a farmer leaving Windsor for Halifax by the old route, would have to stop at the various places of call on the road, each one costing him something, and by the time he had completed his business to Halifax, it would be several days before he could get home again—whereas now by the railroad, he could transact all his business and be back in two days.
He put down time saved at $99,161—saving in freight as compared with the cost of transportation over the ordinary road at $282,355—free passengers must have saved in time—at the rate of $2 each $19,568—season tickets, these are chiefly used by parties who have opened up a number of works along the line, such as slate quarries— powder mills—ice houses—he would put down the direct advantages to the parties at $5 each, which would amount to $5,960—then add the amount of net proceeds received according to the Commissioners report, $149,647—42 making a total of $556,718,42-100 while the amount of interest, the Province will be liable for, after the completion of the entire lines, will only be $578,700. Therefore, in view of these calculations, he thought it would be the best thing to go on with these works, even if we had to run some risk. It was true that the obligations they were about to assume were heavy, but he believed that the revenue and resources of the county would increase to such an extent as to meet every liability that they were about to incur.
No one could deny but that it would be a great advantage to this country, to have direct railway communication with the whole continent of America, and if New Brunswick has determined to construct her line to the borders, it surely was the duty as well as the interest of N ova Scotia to connect with her, and thus open communication with Canada and the United States of America. It was well known that people who travelled abroad, had a great repugnance to sea voyages, and no doubt if these lines of railroad were completed, travellers from Canada, New Brunswick, and the United States, would come to Halifax, to take passage to Europe, and thus increase the passenger traffic and consequently the remunerative qualities of the road.
They had all been accustomed for years to build great hopes upon the construction of the Intercolonial Railroad. For his part he must confess that but as a means for the consummation of a Union of the Colonies he had no great faith in it. As a commercial speculation it would be years before it could pay. As a national work however it was a matter of great importance, and as a means of transporting mails and passengers it would be exceedingly valuable. At present the mails and passengers have to be transported through Boston by sufferance. Suppose any disturbance should take place between England and the United States and that should happen in midwinter, and it would be necessary to land the mails and passengers, it would take ten or twelve days to transport them over land to Canada.
Unless this line is continued, and the contemplated union takes place, he had serious doubts whether Canada would long remain in her present position as a province of British America. She must have an outlet to the seat. He read a speech the other day of Sir Etienna Tache in which he said, that unless acrostatic science was more fully developed, Canada could not reach the sea by ballooning. However, it is quite certain she cannot remain much longer in her present position. He could not help regretting that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick should be so unpatriotic in a matter of such national and paramount importance as this, as to talk about dollars and cents, that they should be so unpatriotic to the mother country who had spent so much for their defence, as to refuse to make even a small sacrifice for the purpose of helping her to maintain her power on this continent.
He must confess that his views rather went with the member for Yarmouth in his idea that the Government ought to retain the control over the trunk line to New Brunswick, but if there was PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES 285 any doubt as to whether New Brunswick would build her line to the border, it there was any danger of any difficulty occurring, he was willing to agree to this proposition, rather than run the risk of the line not being built.
On the subject of the Intercolonial railroad he would say that if built by the United Provinces, even if it remained unremunerative for a while, it would not bear too heavily upon the revenue, because when all our revenues are combined we would be in a better position to bear the burden than we are now. All the revenues would go into the common treasury, the public works would be of such a nature that the combined means of all the Provinces would be sufficient to sustain them. It appeared to him surprising that hon. gentlemen in discussing the question, appeared to think that Nova Scotia was always going to be Nova Scotia, they forget that they would all be British Americans—all our people would be associated together for business purposes, with one code of laws, one currency, one system of custom duties.
But he would not say any more at present, about the union of the colonies. The hon gentleman concluded by recapitulating the advantage Nova Scotia would derive from the extension of railroad communication, if providently and economically carried out.
Mr. MILLER said, he did not intend, at that period of the session, to weary the house with any lengthened remarks upon the subject then under discussion. The resolution before the house proposes to grant from the public treasury, as a free gift for the next twenty years, the sum of four per cent. on $40,000 a mile to a company to complete railway connection between Truro and Moncton, and the further sum of four per cent. on $24,000 per mile to extend the railway from Windsor to Annapolis, not including the Avon bridge. This resolution will, therefore, add to the burthens of the country about $23,000 for the next twenty years.
It would be in the recollection of the house that when this question was brought up last year, and the subvention resolution was moved by the Provincial Secretary, he (Mr. M.) moved a resolution, by way of amendment, to this effect:—
"Whereas, The revenue of this Provinee is now burthened with a liability of about ÂŁ60,000 annually for interest on the money invested in our existing lines of railway.
And whereas, The Act of this Session; providing for the construction of the line to Pictou, will entail a further charge of at least ÂŁ25,000 annually.
Therefore resolved, That it is unwise, at the present time, to pledge the public credit to the extent required by the resolution before the House."
That amendment, he regretted to say, was lost by a large majority, and by the votes of many whose duty it was to have sustained it. It was true, that the impression prevailed at the time, whether rightly founded or not, that although the subvention for the Annapolis line was included in the original resolution, there was no serious intention of carrying it into effect; and some of those who voted for it might have been influenced by that idea. Whether that was a sufficient excuse for the action of any hon. gentleman upon a question of such magnitude as this, was not for him to say. If any such consider ations controlled the votes of any members of the house last year, he trusted such would not be the case on the present occasion, and that the people's representatives would consider well the consequences that would flow from the vote they were about to give—a vote which must add enormously to the taxation of the country.  When he looked at the conduct of the gentlemen who were now conducting the government of this country—when he observed the reckless extravagance of their general policy, and contrasted it with their retrenchment pledges, and the course they pursued a few years ago, when in opposition— especially with regard to railways, he was inclined to look with much suspicion and distrust upon their present action on this subject. What had produced a change so startling and extreme?  If the government then in power had endeavoured to fasten upon the resources of the province the liability which is now sought to be imposed, those gentlemen would have raised a howl of indignation throughout the whole country.  He was curious, therefore, to enquire into the causes which had let to this sudden change of policy. To his mind there was only one satisfactory solution of the inconsistency of the administration, and their apparent desire to plunge the country inextricably into debt.  They all knew that the members of the present government were heart and soul wrapped up in carrying to a successful termination the confederation of the British North American provinces, and that hitherto the most powerful argument used by the opponents of that measure was the increased taxation it would involve, and the necessity of raising our tariff from ten to twenty per cent.  Now, if they succeed in embarrassing the finances of the country, if they succeed in burthening our resources with the enormous debt the resolution on the table of the house will entail, so as to compel us to increase the taxation of the people by doubling our tariff, they, at the same time do away with one of the principle objections to their pet scheme of confederation.  It was hard to fathom the motives of these gentlemen, but it was clear they were not governed by a prudent regard to the best interests of the country.  Perhaps, also, a desire to secure the political favor of one or two western counties has something to do with the extension to Annapolis.  These were the only motives that suggested themselves to his mind for the reckless course the government were now pursuing on this question. When this subject was discussed last session he had endeavored, feebly no doubt, but to the best of his ability, to urge his views against the policy then under consideration, because he keenly felt its injustice to those he represented.  All he could say then had no effect in deterring hon. gentlemen from the headlong course of extravagance they seemed determined to pursue, and he supposed anything he might say now would be equally useless and unavailing.  He did not intend to go into financial matters, which had been so ably treated by the learned leader of the Opposition— but he thought that any one who listened to the arguments of that hon. member—with a sincere desire to arrive at a correct conclusion —could not fail to be convinced of the correctness of the views he enunciated, and the wisdom of the course he advocated.  That hon. 286 PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES. gentleman, with his usual ability had so clearly justified the attitude of opposition he had assumed to this resolution, and shown it to be the duty of every man who regarded the credit and welfare of the country to oppose it, that it was unnecessary to go over the same ground. He could not, however, refrain from alluding to the impropriety of the course pursued by the government, in delaying the consideration of this important question—the most important, financially, that had engaged the attention of the house—until this late period of the session, when some of the members had returned to their homes, and there was no probability of its receiving that attention its importance demanded. Too much of the business of the house was done in that way. On the subject of railway extension, he would say that if the province was justified at all in entering upon any further expenditure, the line to the borders of New Brunswick, to connect with the railway system of the United States, should be the first to receive consideration, and he was not prepared to say if that had been proposed by itself, whether it would have received his opposition, provided he could be convinced the country could bear the burthen of its construction without injury to other important services. But there certainly could be no doubt that the finances of this province would not admit of the construction of both lines at the same time even if they were admitted to be necessary to the public convenience. With regard to the Annapolis line he could only look up it as an accomodation to one or two counties at the expense of the whole province. Party necessity or political expediency might secure its construction, but those who helped to place this liability on their constituents would yet have to meet a day of reckoning. The Finl. Sec. endeavoured to shew in supporting the Railway policy of the government that certain services could be cut down, some of them of the most vital consequence to the country. Thus admitting that we must hereafter either lose our pubic grants or be more heavily taxed. He thought that if there was no other reason for opposition if the Finl. Secy. was obliged to admit that he could not expect to meet this expenditure, without depriving them of some of the most essential services the province required, that of itself ought to be suffiicient reason to deter gentlemen from voting for this resolution and he begged them to be warned in time. He had promised not to make any lengthy observations and he should not do so. He had risen principally to make these explanations in consequence of the position he had taken last year, and because the remarks he then made had not been reported. He would ask gentlemen from all parts of the province, and particularly these representing the more remote sections, whether they were prepared to assume the enormous liability this resolution proposed—a liability which would cramp our resources, and weigh upon the industry and energies of our people for the next twenty years. He for one was not prepared to do so; and in voting against the resolution he considered he was acting with a due regard to the interests of the whole province, and those especially who had elected him as their representative. The adoption of this policy, it was admitted, would lead either to the increase of the tariff or the reduction of those grants which have been always considered essential to the interests of the country. Their constituents might not complain until they experienced that result; but when railway interest had absorbed all the revenue, and nothing was left for roads, schools, navigation securities, or other services, gentlemen around these benches would then hear their reproaches. Instead of diminishing the grants to these sources as intimated by the Financial Secretary, he contended they should be increased from year to year with the increasing wants of the country. In that view of the case, then, he did not think it was wise or prudent, but on the contrary the most reckless folly, to incur this heavy expenditure. He would be ashamed to show himself among the people of Cape Breton, who are already so largely taxed for railways in Nova Scotia proper, from which they derive little benefit, if he voted for this resolution. He could be guilty of no greater injustice towards them than to add so largely to the railway burdens they now so unjustly bear. In comparison with this question every other of a financial nature before them this winter was simply insignificant, and no small considerations should influence the course of gentlemen in regard to it. The hon. member concluded by referring to the haste with which this measure was pressed through the house. It took years before the Pictou railway bill was placed on the statute book; and here they were asked with scarcely any discussion on consideration, to pass a measure involving an annual liability of something like $230,000, in addition to $360,000 which they would at least have to pay on the completion of the Pictou road. He trusted that gentlemen would pause before they committed themselves to this measure, and would, at all events, wait until the Pictou road was completed before they incurred fresh liabilities—which he was convinced the province was not at present in a position to assume.
Mr. BLANCHARD said that he did not agree with the member for Richmond in his idea, that the government in introducing this measure were influenced by a desire to assist the confederation scheme. In his judgment, the government, by taking this step, had put confederation out of the question for at least 20 years to come. When these proposed lines of railway are completed, the debt of Nova Scotia will amount to $11,085,000 ; and if he understood anything about the terms agreed upon at the Quebec Conference, the Province was to be admitted into the Union with a debt of $8,000,000—anything beyond that was to be borne by the Province individually—and would have to be raised by direct taxation. Therefore he could not see that the government were serving the best interests of confederation by the introduction of this measure. At this late period of the session, when most of the members had returned to theirhomes, and those" who remained were not in the humor to listen to long speeches, he did not intend to address the house at any very great length, but he would refer, shortly, to some of the remarks made by the honourable Financial Secretary. That honourable gentleman stated that he based his calculations upon the assumption that the revenue for this year would be the same, if not larger, than the last.  On a former occasion he (Mr. B.) had made the assertion that at no time did our PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES. 287 commercial prospects look more gloomy than at the present—and he had appealed to the hon. members for Richmond and Halifax to say whether he was right. Neither of these gentlemen had ventured to endorse the statement of the Financial Secretary, because being engaged in trade themselves they knew his anticipations of an increased revenue were without foundation. According to the calculation of the member for Colchester (Mr. Archibald) an additional burden of $400,000 a year will be placed upon the revenues of the province by the resolution now under discussion. The member for Halifax (Mr.Tobin) makes out that the whole debt will be $11,085,000, and he calculates the interest at $500,000. How he arrived at that conclusion he (Mr. B.) was at a loss to imagine ; it certainly was not at six per cent. By his own calculations he made out the yearly liability to be $665,000 on the debt as stated by Mr. Tobin, and this, deducting the present debt, just agrees with Mr. Archibald's estimate. He would ask the house whether they were prepared to assume an additional liability of $400,000 per annum for twenty years to come? If the Financial Secretary can demonstrate that the financial condition of the country will bear that enormous burden he should be surprised indeed. How, he would ask, could the members for Cape Breton go back to their constituents and justify themselves for voting for this resolution which will put £20,000 additional every year upon them. The great cry in that island always had been that Nova Scotia swallowed up the whole revenue, and did not return to Cape Breton a fair share of what she contributed. He for one could not go back to his constituents and tell them that he had consented to put £20,000 more upon them to build a railroad to Moncton and Annapolis. The hon. member for Victoria (Mr. O. J. Campbell) denounced the resolution introduced last year, in the strongest manner, in pretty much the same terms as he was then doing; but the resolution of last year sank into utter insignificance when compared with those now on the table. When it was considered that the Pictou railroad was going to cost £100,000 more than was anticipated when it was commenced, he did not envy the man who undertook to justify to the people of this country the increased expenditure which it was proposed to make. He would be the last man to say, that.upon every public question, a representative was to be bound and influenced solely by the views of his constituents. It was his duty to regard the interests of the whole country, but still, in a question of this kind, it was proper that he should consider whether he was justified in imposing this additional burden upon them. Any one who took the trouble to look into the statistics on the subject will find that Cape Breton. paid into the revenue, for loyalty on coal, $29,000 being ten thousand dollars more than Nova Scotia proper, and yet this money is to be expended for the construction of a railroad to the western part of the province. The Finl. Sec'y appeared to think that the large expenditure which is going on in Cape Breton will tend to increase the revenue. He (Mr. B.) did not think that there was much in that argument. If any reduction took place in the price of agricultural productions, she would lose more than could be made up in that respect. Cape Breton sent to market, in 1863, a million of pounds of butter; upon that article alone, if the price remains as it is, which is about one half of what it was a short time ago, she will lose $125,000. The advantages derived from the expenditure of capital in Cape Breton will be more than counterbalanced by the loss she will sustain in the price of agricultural productions. The Finl. Sec'y admits that we will incur a liability of $323,000. Now he would ask the house to look these figures in the face. He would ask the members for Cape Breton if they were prepared to assume a liability of $323,000 in addition to the sum already borne by the revenue?
The Pro. Sec. says the tariff must be increased in order to provide for the increased expenditure upon the public works. What a commentary upon the course pursued by that hon. gentleman a few years ago. The government then to meet a temporary emergency were forced to increase the tariff. Did the Financial Secretary agree to that? On the contrary he denounced the government and appealed to the country with the cry that this reckless and extravagant government, instead of retrenching their expenses, were going to increase the burdens of the people by adding to the duties they would have to pay. He and those associated with him succeeded in frightening the people for the time, and he attained the object he had in view. But what did he propose to do now—instead of carrying out the retrenchment he then advocated, he proposes to add this additional burden of $323,000 a year to our present liabilities and to increase the tariff as well. He also said that there were certain public services which will not require the assistance they now receive; and first of all he proposes to reduce the grant for navigation securities from $49,000 to $5,000. If the people of this province will agree to that reduction he (Mr. B.) would be much astonished. Then again he said the St. Peter's Canal would be finished and that expenditure would be saved. He was at a loss to know how that could be the case. That work would certainly not be completed before this liability would accrue. It was rather singular that the Financial Secretary, in his present retrenchment scheme, should have hit upon the same figures as the hon. Provincial Secretary used a few years ago; or, at all events, should have arrived at the same result. He is going to save $80,000 a year—just as the hon.Provincial Secretary intended to do before he got into office; but the tables are turned now—he has got into power and not a word is heard about reducing the salaries of public officers. His plan now is to reduce the grant to navigation securities and other important services.
Hon. FINL. SEC.—The only reduction proposed is with respect to those grants which will terminate in this present session.
Mr. BLANCHARD—Then the idea appears to have been to get as much as possible this session, so that none will be wanted next. year. He agreed entirely with the member for Halifax (Mr. Tobin), in his remarks as to the advantages of railway extension, but he did not agree with him in some of the calculations he had made—when he talked about the saving that was effected by railroad travel, and put it down at a dollar a day—he forgot that many of these passengers did not go further than the four mile house, or to Bedford—and it could not 288 PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES. be said of them that they saved that much. The Hon Finl. Sec. undertook to prove that the member for Colchester was wrong in his statement that a larger expenditure would be required for the future, for the maintenance of the railroads, than had been necessary in the past. Upon referring to the returns he found that the cost of maintenance had been steadily increasing year by year. He would be the last person to alarm people as to the state of the railroads, but every body knew that every year the roads necessarily became more worn out, and required repair. In 1861, the cost of maintenance amounted to $34,000; in 1862, $37,000. In '63, $47,000, and in the nine months of 1864 $50,000. He did not wish to detain the House much longer, but he would give them a few figures shewing what Cape Breton would have to pay towards the railway system of Nova Scotia. She would be required to pay one-fifth of the whole debt—or $128,000. The hon. member for Halifax talked about mud roads as if they were of no consequence at all. If he represented a country constituency he would find it a matter of a little more importance then he seemed to think it now. He is only willing to give us $100,000 for what he calls mud roads, but is perfectly ready to vote $556,000 a year for iron roads. Now he (Mr. B.) would yield to no man, in his opinion as to the importance of railroads to a country, but if they were only to be obtained by sacrificing the common roads which were of so much importance to the great mass of the people he would be inclined to pause, before incurring any greater liability. At all events he could not see how any one could doubt the propriety of adopting the course proposed by the member for Colchester, to wait for a twelve month, and see how affairs looked then, we would then be able to ascertain how much the Pictou road was actually going to cost. At present that was uncertain. He had had a conversation with contractors who had been employed on the Truro road and they laughed at the idea of its being built for two millions of dollars. Under these circumstances as a member of the house, and a representative from Cape Breton he was not prepared to authorize the enormous expenditure contemplated by the resolution before the house and he should vote against them.


Nova Scotia. The Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly. Halifax: Croshill and Bourinot, 1864-1867. Digitized by Canadiana.



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