Legislative Assemblies of Alberta and Saskatchewan, 2 November 1903, Alberta and Saskatchewan Debates over Confederation with Canada.



Gets Down to Business With Little Delay.

Address in Reply to Speech Passed. —Premier Haultain Declares There is no Change in Position of Demand for Provincial Autonomy. — Had Pressed For It and Must Continue to Do So. — Time for Decentralisation of Work Had Arrived and Some Simple and Economical System of Rural Municipalities Must Be Provided. — The Territorial University. — The Game Ordinances.

MONDAY, Nov. 2.
Mr. Fisher (Banff) on rising to move the address in reply to the Speech of the Lieutenant Governor was greeted with cheers. Referring to the reference in the Speech to the adverse climatic conditions prevailing at harvest time, Mr. Fisher said that the farmers of the country were prosperous and better off this year even than last. The increased prices prevailing would more than make up for the decrease in grades. In the ranching country south and west the ranchers had their own difficulties but the House would agree with him that taking everything into consideration the country as a whole was in a good and prosperous condition. Respecting the change in the time of calling the Assembly together Mr. Fisher said that while it might personally inconvenience some of the Members he was sure every Member would agree that they must consider the welfare of the country and the calling of the House together in the fall would place them in a better position than at any other time to find out and consider and meet the needs of the country. (Cheers.) In regard to the increased anthority and powers conferred on the Assembly over the election of their own Members and in matters affecting the administration of justice, he thought all would welcome it. They were all aware that their authority was somewhat curtailed and the sooner we had greater authority the better for the North-West Territories. (Cheers.) The most important question to come before the House would be the decentralisation of work performed by the Government. The time had come when there must be a change. The change, however, must be very simple and economical at the start. The sooner the local improvement system was improved the better for the people at large. As to the establishment of a University he was glad to see that steps were being taken to secure an endowment fund of lands from the Dominion Government for the purpose of establishing a University that the sons and daughters of the Territories might secure the advantages of higher education without going to the east. 
Mr. Lambert, the newly-elected Member for St. Albert, seconded the motion in a first rate speech. He said he had a difficult task before him, first, by reason of the fact that he was not altogether at home speaking in the English tongue, and, secondly, on account of the very excellent way in which the Member for Banff had moved the Address in Reply. The actual condition of the affairs of the country warranted His Honor in congratulating the House on the same. He was thoroughly in sympathy with the aspirations of the House for the immediate obtaining of provincial powers. (Cheers.) He believed that the opinion of the House on that question reflected the opinion of the great majority of the people. He had been elected to support that policy which had been so unanimuously voiced by the House.  It was only with a modified feeling of satisfaction, therefore, that he referred to the extension of the jurisdiction of the Assembly over the matters referred to in the Speech. He would suggest having much of the work at present done by justices of the peace done by fully qualified police magistrates.
Touching on the proposed decentralisation of some of the work at present performed by the Public Works Department, Mr. Lambert said that the country was too large to permit the Department to deal with the work required in different parts of the country and matters, such as roads, should be left to the people themselves. At the same time he could not see that our requirements demanded any extensive municipal system, or heavy taxation, but some simple method by which the people could elect a board or committee to do the work and which they would be quite willing to pay for.
After a considerable pause Premier Haultain rose. He said that although he was not given the usual lead by some one from the Opposition side of the House he must at least take an opportunity of congratulating the hon. gentlemen who had moved and seconded the Address. He did so not in any formal manner for they had performed in a highly creditable manner the most difficult duty which fell to any member of the House. It was easy enough to speak on ordinary matters of business but it was not so easy to make a formal speech on a large amount of general work which is necessarily referred to in the Address. He congraulated both the speakers, and particularly the seconder of the Address, and in doing so expressed his regret that the members of the House had not all received such an education as to enable them to follow the hon. gentleman if he should address them in his own language. (Cheers.)
On the question of the general prosperity of the country there was only one note to be sounded in the House. The climatic conditions unfortunately had not been all that could be desired at harvest time but there was nothing to affect the feelings of hope and aspirations of the whole of the country for its future. There was no cause for pessimism. There would be lean years and fat years, good harvests and bad harvests, but the adverse conditions which prevailed this year were only another cause to give us confidence that we have the best soil in the world and are destined to become the granary of the Empire. (Cheers.)
He need not say anything about the holding of the fall session of the House. The previous speakers had given reasons for the change. In future, except under very extraordinary circumstances, the House would be called together in the fall.
With regard to the extension of the powers of the Assembly there seemed to have been some misapprehension in certain quarters as to the conditions under which these had been asked for. The House would understand that in their annual pilgrimages to Ottawa the members of the Government had two duties to perform. In the first place they had the duty of carrying out the wishes of the legislature in the matters on which it had expressed an opinion. On the more important matter, therefore, they had gone down with de mands for provincial autonomy. (Cheers.) They had also to deal with the practical affairs of the day and there was no reason why, while waiting for the establishment of provincial institutions, they should not get an extension of powers to enable them to more eficiently carry on the government. We pressed for autonomy and asked for additions to our powers, not in lieu of autonomy but while waiting for it. Autonomy might be delayed from week to week and year to year but there was no reason why they should not receive larger powers along certain lines.
Although it was not mentioned in the Speech the most important question before them was provincial autonomy. It must he gratifying to the Members of the House that an important constituency had just recently declared in favor of the aspirations of the House on this question. In the election in St. Albert both the candidates were agreed on provincial autonomy. There was no necessity to discuss the question at length at the present time. The Legislature had declared itself over and over again on it. Not more than six months ago the House passed an address to the Governor General in Council in the following words: "That the Legislative Assembly, representing, as it does, the unanimous opinion of the people of the Territories, believes that nothing short of that system of government enjoyed by our fellow citizens in the provinces will afford a solution of the legislative and financial difficulties which confront it; therefore we do humbly pray that Your Excellency in Council will cause such action to be taken as will provide for the present and immediate financial necessities of the Territories and will further provide for the establishment of provincial institutions in the Territories upon fair and just terms analagous to those upon which the old provinces have been dealt with."
There has been no change, continued the Premier, in the conditions affecting this question since the passing of that address. The only difference between now and then is that six months have elapsed. The same reasons which justified action then still exist. The necessities then are  still necessities at the present moment. The population is increasing and will continue to increase. The Government must continue to lead in, and the House continue to support, the demand for those institutions and in pressing for the claims that, in the language employed in the address to the Governor General in Council, "is enjoyed by our fellow citizens in the provinces and upon fair and just terms analogous to those upon which the old provinces have been dealt with." (Cheers.)
The Address was then ordered to be engrossed and conveyed to His Honor the Lieutenant Governor and the House adjourned.


Regina Leader, 1896-1904. Digitized by Google Books.



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