House of Commons, 16 April 1869, Canadian Confederation with Alberta and Saskatchewan

[...] now returned after a most successful mission and the negotiations could be renewed. In the meantime he could inform the House that the Department of Inland Revenue had been most successfully managed by the Postmaster—General, who attended to these additional arduous duties during the whole of the winter, though at great personal loss and labour. The interests of the public service in this respect had not, therefore, suffered in any way. The thing, of course, could not be carried on, and it was the intention of the Government to fill up the vacancy, and place a responsible man at the head of the Department. As to the proportional representation of the Provinces in the Cabinet, his honourable friend would remember that it was stated by the Government during the first session that these matters, the formation of the Government, division of the offices, &c., were of necessity experimental, and this was the case yet. In the event of the absorption of the great North—West and Newfoundland into the Dominion, new duties and responsibilities would be involved, and very probably a re-adjustment of the different heads of the Departments. But he had no doubt that within the limits of a legitimate opposition, the Government would be supported in any efforts they might make to administer the new state of affairs. As to Mr. Howe, he (Sir John) hoped the people of Hants would soon enable that hon. gentleman to explain his own position on the floor of the House.
Hon. Mr. Holton thanked the Minister of Justice for his full and explicit information. It would be unusual and inconvenient to debate at that moment the policy involved in the explanations; but there was just one point more that ought to be explained. The Minister of Justice said in the course of his explanations, that negotiations had been entered into with the view of filling the vacant offices before the two members of the Cabinet went to England. As a matter of courtesy, the House was entitled to know what direction these negotiations took, and why they did not go on. Having been informed that negotiations had been entered into, the House was entitled to know all about them.
Sir John A. Macdonald said that at the proper time a full and frank explanation would be given. The negotiations ought never to be stated until they came to a result.
12 COMMONS DEBATES April 16, 1869
Hon. Mr. Holton—You mentionedthem yourself. (Laughter.)
Sir John A. Macdonald said that it was merely mentioned.
Mr. Mackenzie said there was one other point. The House had just been informed that the filling up of certain offices had been a matter of experiment. It would be desirable that the House should be informed concerning the two offices of Secretaries of State. Of course, this House was aware that the duties of both offices had been discharged by one person, the member for Dorchester. The House was entitled to know if that honourable gentlemen was hereafter to discharge the duties of both offices.
Sir John A. Macdonald was glad his attention had been called to that subject. The office of Secretary of State had been created because the necessity was felt for having a channel of communication between the Dominion and Provincial Governments. It was deemed desirable that the numerous questions which it was supposed would arise in this way should be disposed of by some one Minister. On the commencement of the new order of things, however, it was found that until the relative positions of the Provincial and Dominion Governments were ascertained, until they came to be clearly defined like those of the old established Governments, a good portion of the subjects which would be ordinarily assigned to the charge of the Secretary of State, had to be disposed of by the Minister of Justice. So many questions arose in constitutional law and kindred topics, that he, as Minister of Justice, had been obliged to direct his attention to them. Therefore a great deal of the work which would eventually fall on some such officer as the Secretary of State, devolved at present on the Minister of Justice. All correspondence between the Provinces and the Dominion of course was conducted by the Secretary of State. For the present it was proposed that things should remain as they were, because it was clear that if there was proposed that things should remain as they were, because it was clear that if there was any necessity for the offices, before the extension of the Dominion boundary, that necessity would be greatly increased the moment Newfoundland and the North West became part of the Dominion. As he had stated before, the distribution of the offices and power was of necessity to a great extent experimental in the Dominion. From the mover of the Address they had heard what the Government would be expected to do if they assumed the control of the North-West. The subjects then alluded to as having to be dealt with were numerous
and of great moment, and this, along with the other circumstances in which they were placed showed how hopeless would be any attempt to sit down and form a more definite plan of administration. The number of duties thrown on the Government were such as might cause a very considerable distribution of and re-arrangement of the offices.
The first paragraph was then agreed to.
The second paragraph having been put,[...]


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1875-1949. Provided by the Library of Parliament.



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