Legislative Assemblies of Alberta and Saskatchewan, 21 November 1903, Alberta and Saskatchewan Debates over Confederation with Canada.

The House met at 11 o'clock this morning to resume the consideration of the Estimates. On the vote for the brand book, Mr. Finlay drew attention to the long delay which had occurred in the issue of the book and the great inconvenience which resulted. He suggested that a supplement to the book be issued every month and sent to all inspectors so as to enable them to identify and trace stock. Mr. McDonald suggested that the Government should endeavor to ascertain how many export cattle there were in the country. An interesting discussion occurred on the vote for education, in which it was shown by several speakers how the foreign population coming into the Territories was adapting itself to our conditions and particularly in the desire to have educational facilities for their children. The Estimates were passed through committee and the House rose at 12.30 o'clock.
When the House re-assembled at two o'clock Dr. Patrick resumed the debate on the budget. He commenced by again referring to the reasons which the Opposition had to congratulate themselves on the legislation of the past three sessions. There had not only been an improvement in legislation but also in the policy of the Government respecting several important Ordinances.
On the question of provincial autonomy and one or more provinces Dr. Patrick said the first resolution they passed did not commit the House one way or the other. Later the Government in their negotiations at Ottawa declared for one province, but now the House had once more urged for autonomy regardless of the number of provinces. The Premier in his last election address had said, if he remembered rightly, that one province would do for the present time; the other question could be considered later.
Mr. Haultain. I said nothing of the sort.
Dr. Patrick. Maybe my memory is at fault.
Mr. Haultain. It is.
Dr. Patrick then took up the question of the capital advance. At first he said he feared that it might be accepted but the announcement made in the House yesterday cleared the Government when the Premier declared that it was not intended to accept it. It would be a mistake for the Government to borrow money from those who owed us. The question as to whom the advance would be made also arose as they did not know the boundaries of the provinces which were to be. As to the statement that it would be loaned without interest, the Speaker declared it would be charged against us for all time to come and after the settlement when we became a a province we would be mulcted for five per cent. for all time to come. The interest which we would lose would amount to $12,500 a year. He believed when we became a province we could borrow money as low as three per cent., which, capitalised at three per cent., meant $166,000. This represented the loss which would result to the country from the acceptance of the capital advance. The Opposition felt constrained to support the Government in its policy. The Legislature was powerless to do more than it had done. Unfortunately the Territories had been placed in an equivocal position by reason of the fact that the Territorial representatives at Ottawa thought one way and the representatives here thought another way. That was a position which the Assembly could not help or end without surrendering its opinions on the matter. The position could only be ended by the people of the Territories themselves and could only be done by sending to Ottawa men who believed in the immediate granting of provincial institutions, men who believed in granting to the people of the Territories their rights of local self-government. Until that time arrived they must be content with things as they were. In conclusion Dr. Patrick said that while the Opposition supported the Government on its general policy they would examine their actions with a critical eye, but otherwise they would not oppose it, "not in the life of the present House at least."
Mr. McDonald said the present session of the House was the most important held for many years. Some of the legislation which they had to deal with touched them in a most important way. On that side of the House they had not said much in speech on the question of autonomy, but on looking into the matter fully he was satisfied that the Government had done the proper thing in refusing to take advantage of the capital account placed within its reach by the Dominion Parliament. (Hear, hear). They should  let the authorities at Ottawa know that we are not going to be satisfied with money only. There were principles at stake. (Hear, hear). They  were pressing for autonomy and all the advantages that should go with it. If they had accepted the grant it might have placed them at the mercy of the Dominion Government forever. If at any time it was agreed upon by the Assembly to authorise the Government to seek for a capital advance from the federal authorities they should first decide on what works the money was to be expended. When matters came to be finally dealt with, when the time arrived to make two provinces, the matter of a final adjustment of capital account between the different parts of the Territories would have to be dealt with. The House should be unanimous on this question. The people in the country had watched the Opposition on this question as closely as they had watched the Government. They had suspicions that some Members of the House were going to treat this other than as a North-West question. It should be treated purely as a North- West question. (Hear, hear).
Mr. McDonald did not consider the present the most favorable time for holding the session of the Legislature. It was neither at the close of one financial year nor at the beginning of another. If they considered the best interests of the whole country the best time for holding the sessions would be in the early part of the calendar year, both for the convenience of Members, the benefit of the country and the transaction of business as it should be transacted. He looked with favor on the amendments brought in at the present session but he wished to again record his disapproval of establishing local districts of only four townships. The people would find that that area was much too small for any proper system. He also wished to take exception to some language used in the House the previous day with reference to our demands upon the federal government. He did not think it was a wise thing for the Leader of the House to say that no Government at Ottawa could grant their demands. They should not place ourselves in the position of saying that we have not got a good case, as the language used would lead them to believe. They had good demands and had evidence to support them and should urge them in that spirit. If, said Mr. McDonald, the Dominion Government believes that we do not believe in them ourselves, or that they cannot grant them, that is a very good argument for not meeting them. He trusted also that in future the Government would leave out the question of one province and simpy seek for the granting of provincial rights and then this point of contention would not be brought up in that House. They could agree with the Government on the main question of the day; other questions should under existing circumstances be left alone. (Applause.)
Mr. A. S. Smith (Moosomin) congratulated the Government on the very large amount of money they were able to vote during the session. The requirements of the country were very much greater than they were a year ago or even six months ago and they would continue to increase. The demands on the local Government would continue to increase and our demands on the federal Government would also continue to increase until provincial autonomy was granted. He neither agreed with the Government nor the Opposition on the question as to whether the capital advance should be accepted or not. In the past they were all well aware that the amounts of money sufficient to carry on the government of the country were not forthcoming. They voted and spent money and created debt and the federal Parliament had paid it. The country required roads and bridges today more than ever. The transportation question was the big question in the West and roads and bridges were a part of that question and affected it as much as anything else. He believed the Government should have accepted the capital grant. He would not like to go back to his constituents and say that he had not raised his voice against the Government refusing that grant. He understood at the summer session that it was because the amount necessary to construct the two bridges in the western portion of the Territories was being charged against this advance that the local Government would not accept it. That was the position then but it was altered now because the federal Government was paying for those two bridges and that objection was therefore withdrawn.
In the House and in the country he had discussed the provincial question as strongly as any Member, and, while perhaps not with the same ability as some others, he had always brought the question before the people as forcibly as he had been able to do. As to the question of one or two provinces, if the time ever came when the Assembly and the country thought there should be two provinces it would then be for the people of the Territories themselves to decide. His opinion was one province and that it would be best for the whole country. It was never expected that the Dominion authorities would at the very first see eye to eye with the Territories in their demands. He hoped that eventually the settlement would be on the lines suggested by the Government of the North-West and the people would thank the Government in years to come. He regretted that on the question of the capital advance he had to take a different view of the question to that taken by the Members of the Government. His convictions forced him to it and he would stultify himself to do otherwise. (Applause.)
congratulated the House on having been able to provide an expenditure which would not place the Territories in debt or which contemplated any overdraft, but the only solution of the difficulties with which they were faced was the granting of the provincial status. The Premier's speech appealed to the sound common sense of the House and would appeal to the country. It was not the speech of a party leader but of the leader of a great people crying out for a change. There had been two sets of reasons advanced by two sets of persons as to why the granting of provincial autonomy should be delayed. There were what he might call the official reasons and the semi-official reasons. The first of these were those given by the Premier of Canada and the Minister of the Interior but it was not his purpose to discuss these. They were not sound. The  House by the adoption of the resolution that week had said they were not sound, that they were insufficient, inadequate reasons, and he would leave them there. If by an accident there should be two sides at Ottawa seeing matters in a different light, that was no reason why one side should be considered to know our affairs better than ourselves, or why if one side supported our claims and were willing to grant our petition we should not support them. He referred to the fight against railway monopoly in Manitoba, where, he declared, the Conservatives had opposed their party friends at Ottawa in the interests of the province and he appealed to the patriotism of the Members of the House to stand united in the struggle whether it be against a Liberal or a Conservative government until the Territories received that measure of justice to which they were entitled.
He would refer to the semi-official reasons for delay. The Member for


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Saskatchewan was clear and distinct on the question. He said we do not need provincial autonomy. He would leave that to the sound judgement of the thirty-five representtives in the Assembly. The Member for Alberta alleged that it was a good deal better to continue as we are and that it was only a matter of dollars and cents.
Then there were the reasons advanced by the Member for West Assiniboia as to why provincial autonomy should be refused. These had been satisfactorily answered by the Attorney General. He ( Bennett ) had taken the attitude in times past in the House that the Government ought to co-operate as far as possible with the Members at Ottawa representing the North-West Territories to the end of procuring better terms. He believed that four Members at Ottawa supporting the Government would have a great influence to that end. He had moved a resolution to that effect. It was no doubt in pursuance of that policy that Mr. Bulyea wrote his personal letter, backed up by the Liberal Members of the Assembly. He had no fault to find with it in so far as it referred to the Territories as a whole and not to a part of it. It was a common thing to write such letters and he had done so himself in the past and would probably do so in the future. But the House had every reason to believe that their representations would be received and considered with care at Ottawa. It came to him as a surprise the reasons given by the North- West Members. He had believed that these gentlemen would stand up for the rights of the West apart from all considerations. He did not intend to go into the reasons they had advanced as it would be idle to do so after the speech of the Attorney General. The House, however, owed a large duty to itself which it must discharge. He had read yesterday an editorial in a paper published by one of the gentlemen representing the Territories in the House of Commons, he referred to the Regina Leader, in which the statement was made that the solemn demand made by this House in 1900, in 1902, in 1903 and reaffirmed the other day was, after all, what? Merely an attempt on the part of a great corporation to help to assist the movement for autonomy in order that certain rights might accrue to them and that the lands in these Territories, which we are so anxious to obtain, should be granted to the end that a Conservative administration might be empowered in the Territories. A statement like that called for refutation. It was not what he contended for; further it was not what the House contended for. It was a statement insulting not to one man alone but it did violence to every instinct of decency coming from such a source. Coming, as it did, from a journal which had supported the Government in this House, which called upon the federal Government to grant our demands, the statement of yesterday ill accorded with former statements. It ill accorded with the editorial utterances of that paper in the past and with the speeches of that gentleman. In the interests of a sound public opinion, in the interests of the stability of our institutions, he protested that the policy of a demagogue should not be intruded on a question such as this. He did not believe that any Member in the House believed that any attempt was being made by that Legislature to have provincial institutions granted to the country immediately and the lands given to us to promote any interests of any corporation.
He had made the statement that so far as taxing C.P.R. lands in school districts was concerned that was a question that was solving itself. He made that statement before and he made it again and it was absolutely correct. He would say that it was an unfortunate thing that so large an exemption was granted to that corporation and it was the duty of the House to get some compensation for it. Who could cast the horoscope of the future and see 20 years in advance? No man in the House of Commons of that day could to it. The same policy had been followed in the United States. It was unfortunate that in the early stages school taxes were not paid for school purposes by that corporation, but was it any reason because a few thousand dollars of school taxes would be lost in Assiniboia that the Territories should be deprived of the right of self-government? He adopted the reasoning of the Attorney General with regard to the contention as to taxing stations, and the other property of the corporation in so far as the rights of school districts were concerned. If the court of last resort held that the Territories had a right to tax C.P.R. lands for school purposes then could not the Parliament which granted the exemption insert a provision giving us all the rights as a province which we have as Territories?
The larger question had been raised as to whether or not they should spend the $250,000 held up before them by the Dominion Parliament. For one he said they should not. It would be unsound business to touch it. There were several reasons against accepting it. First, until our just demands had been satisfactorily met by the federal Government. Second, because it meant a direct lessening of the federal expenditure in this country. The Dominion Government was paying for the two bridges in the west which had been referred to but what happened the other day when a deputation went to Ottawa and asked for the construction of a large traffic bridge at Saskatoon? Sir Wilfrid Laurier simply said "Go to Regina and they will build it for you out of the capital advance." That meant that instead of building the bridge and charging the cost against Canada as a whole it would be charged against the capital account of the Territories. Here in the West we had no canals or harbors to be constructed as public works by the Dominion and in this country he contended that these large bridges should be considered public works for the benefit of Canada and the whole of Canada should pay their share towards them in the same way as the people in the West were paying their share for digging canals, erecting lighthouses, dredging harbors, etc., in the old provinces. A third reason was that it was fastening a loan on the people of the Territories on terms about which they had nothing to say. With provincial autonomy they could borrow money at least as low as four per cent. While they would get the sum offered without interest now it would ultimately cost them $12,500 per annum for ever. In the early days in the Western States the States and Territories enjoyed the power of borrowing money and pledging the public credit and so confident were they of the future that they paid as high as ten per cent per annum and the investment had proved a good one. Fourth, it would mean putting off the granting of provincial institutions. The Dominion would take the position of the federal Members that it was merely a question of money and not of principle. Fifth, the very fact of being styled Territories instead of having the dignity of a province was an injury and a man going abroad to do business would soon realise the great advantage of coming from a province rather than a territory. The business men today were writing at the head of their letter paper "Regina, Canada," instead of "Regina, N.W.T.," or "Assiniboia." It was difficult to divest oneself entirely of party bias in dealing with this question but he had endeavoured to do so. In conclusion he appealed to his Liberal friends not to allow party exigencies to outweigh the country's interests. The constituencies which had returned them before to press for autonomy would return them again. (Applause.)
followed. He congratulated the Government on the result of its efforts on behalf of the North-West, not only on the result of its appeals to Ottawa, but also on its legislation and the administration of the affairs of the Territories. He congratulated also the members of the Opposition upon the fact that they too had found themselves in complete unison with the Government policy on those questions which during past sessions they had complained of so strongly and that that legislation which they had been pleased to term as an invasion of the people's rights had been so modified that they had found themselves without a place as adverse critics and that henceforth we might expect to see them good and valiant supporters of the Government.
So far as asking for provincial autonomy was concerned, or the demands made upon the Ottawa Government for increased financial assistance, as well as the extension of our Legislative powers, he said the House had taken no step at variance with his opinion. The question as to whether there should be one province or two, was, in his opinion, a minor matter as compared with the question of keeping the Territories as a whole separate from conditions other than conditions which they themselves had created. The great question was that the Territories should be either erected into one large province, or, if it were argued that on account of their immense area they should have a preponderating influence in the affairs of the Dominion, then it might be considered advisable to divide the Territories as now constituted into two or more provinces, but he did not think that any one in this country would disagree with him when he said that it would be unfair to any portion of these Territories to be united to any of the other provinces against their will and to be subjected to the conditions and burdens, the creation of which they are not responsible for. It might be argued that on their being thrust into another province, matters could be arranged so as to give them justice, but he submitted that even if such were done, the chances of the minority retaining in the end what they were morally entitled to would not be very promising. The interests of all parts of the Territories are similar, the conditions which obtain throughout the country are uniform. In the business world of today companies were amalgamating and consolidating in order that business might be conducted more cheaply, and he believed the same business principles which govern private business could be applied with equal force to public affairs and he firmly believed in the one province idea.
Regarding the financial position, Mr. Brown said, that while they all agreed that the amounts received from the Dominion Government in the past were not sufficient, nor what we were justly entitled to, still it was a matter for congratulation to the Government of the Territories that they had secured such a very substantial increase to their current revenue.


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



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