House of Commons, 30 March 1871, Canadian Confederation with British Columbia

298 COMMONS DEBATES March 30, 1871


The following private and local Bills were read a second and third time and passed:
Bill No. 45—An Act to incorporate the Isolated Risk Fire Insurance Company, as amended by the Standing Committee on Banking and Commerce—Mr. Harrison.
Bill No. 51—An Act to incorporate the Kingston and Pembroke Railway Company, as amended by the Standing Committee on Railways, Canals and Telegraph Lines.


Mr. JONES (Halifax) resumed the debate on the Bill to admit British Columbia into the Dominion. He moved that the following words be inserted after the word "purpose" in the amendment: "The proposed engagements respecting the said Pacific Railway would, in the opinion of this House, press too heavily on the resources of the Dominion." He argued that the Government might well hesitate to enter into such engagements after the fears and doubts expressed by the hon. member for Sherbrooke and other fathers of the Confederation. But, the Government would do well to hesitate if they desired to consummate the Union. There were other colonies to be added to the Dominion. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island had yet to be brought in and it was not likely that they could be induced to join the Confederation under less advantageous terms than were now offered to the Pacific Colony. Hon. members opposite argued that if the Dominion was not immediately extended to the Pacific, the Western colony would be absorbed into the American Union, but the hon. members were adopting the very measures which would promote that movement.
The strongest argument against annexation had always been that our taxes were light, that while the Americans had a debt amounting to $60 per head, ours was not quite $27 per head of our population. Let these engagements be entered into by the Dominion, which were now before the House, and the result would be to leave us with a heavier debt in proportion to our resources than at present weigh down the American Union.
The cause of our prosperity hitherto had been the contrast between the United States and the Dominion, but the Government proposed to reverse the present position of the two countries. While the Americans were paying off their debt and reducing their taxes, Canada was about to incur liabilities too great for her to bear. He referred to the immense charge which the construction of the Pacific Railway would bring on the country. He asked the House to take a business view of this engagement, and ask themselves should the Dominion undertake it. (Hear, hear.) This extravagant proposal was the natural sequence of the Finance Minister's budget speech in which that hon. member had spoken of the advantages of a great national debt, and quoted from Macaulay in support of this view.
Hon. Sir FRANCIS HINCKS said he had not advocated the creation of a national debt, nor had he quoted from Macaulay in support of such a view. He had merely quoted the passage referred to, to show how the great resources of England had enabled her to surmount the difficulties of a great national debt.
Mr. JONES (Halifax): Then why refer to it at all. If the Hon. Finance Minister had no intention to foreshadow the creation of a great debt, why quote the passage? There was no doubt that the hon. gentleman had that end in view, and the House should unite in opposing such a suicidal policy.
Mr. BODWELL in seconding the amendment of the hon. member for Halifax, spoke at considerable length against incurring the heavy liabilities which the construction of a Pacific railway would cause. He denied that there was any danger that British Columbia would be annexed to the United States if it were not brought into the Confederation. Did hon. members opposite suppose that Great Britain would allow the republic to absorb any portion of Her Majesty's possessions without a struggle? If the cause was so weak that the government was obliged to resort to such an argument in order to coerce their followers into voting for this measure, it would be better to drop it altogether. He quoted from the speech of the hon. member for Brome in the report of the Confederation debate to show how some of the advocates of this measure had once been most bitterly opposed to Confederation.
Hon. Mr. MORRIS said it was most surprising, in looking back on the past history of Canada, to see what great tasks had been accomplished. The government had been taunted time after time with not being sincere in the great work of building up a British power on the Continent, but they could turn to their record, and challenge their opponents on the other side of the House, by what they had really done. Was it nothing that the Dominion already stretched from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains! And now the question was whether they should or whether they should not make what had once been considered a dream a living reality, by doing their utmost to weld the provinces from one ocean to the other into one solid Dominion. He was surprised at the course taken by some hon. gentlemen in the present debate, and especially at that taken by the hon. member for Sherbrooke, who had formerly taken the deepest interest in the question, and had spoken most earnestly in favour of the union now proposed; and he was more than surprised at the course of the hon. member for Lambton, who, though a later convert to the benefits of Confederation, had, with his party, stated that he should set himself to assist to establish and consummate the work.
But now, after speaking so often of his zeal for union, placed on record a motion which, while admitting the Pacific Railway to be an "urgent political necessity," attempted to prevent the House from entering on the discussion of, and adopting the proposed terms of union. The member for Sherbrooke had dealt with the matter on a broader basis than had more recently been introduced into the debate, and, while admitting that he had no quarrel with the amount of subsidy to be granted to British Columbia, stated that he would March 30, 1871 COMMONS DEBATES 299 have preferred the terms originally proposed by British Columbia to those now proposed by the Government. He was sure, however, that that preference would not be shared by the House or the country. The original terms had provided the building of a coach road within three years of union, and that the railway also should be built as early as possible, with a specified expenditure of a million a year. The member for Lambton stated that he had never contemplated anything more than a road from Lake Superior, but of what benefit would such a road as that be.
He also told the House that he was opposed to locking up the lands of the country by handing them over to a company, but he (Hon. Mr. Morris) maintained that the course being pursued by that hon. gentleman would lock up the lands for ever. How could the lands be available for settlement and cultivation unless facility of access was provided? The Illinois road, which had been used by the hon. gentleman as an illustration of the danger of locking up lands by handing them over to a company, was a proof that the very reverse was the case, for the results of that road were that Illinois was peopled rapidly, and the lands, instead of being locked up, were almost entirely disposed of, for out of a grant of two and a half millions of acres, only half a million remained in the hands of the company. He asked the House seriously the nature and character of the land proposed to be acquired. That land consisted of the United Province of British Columbia and Vancouver's Island, and no one, who understood the matter, could deny that the addition of that province would increase enormously the wealth, the resources, and the prosperity of the Dominion. He had several extracts from works on the country, showing its valuable nature and character, and thought the member for Lambton was not justified in the remarks he had used to the effect of there being scarcely any arable land in the whole of British Columbia.
Mr. MACKENZIE stated that what he had said was that after descending the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the country was the roughest on the continent.
Hon. Mr. MORRIS thought the construction he had put on the hon. member's remarks was not very far wrong, but he could state on the undisputable authority of Mr. Trutch, the Surveyor General of British Columbia, that taking the whole of British Columbia and Vancouver Island fully one-third, or about 50,000,000 of acres was good farming land, while the whole acreage of Ontario was 77,000,000 acres. It appeared to him that throughout the whole debate a strange fallacy had existed. The Railway had been spoken of as a mere bargain to induce British Columbia to enter the Union, whereas that work was of more importance to Canada than it was to British Columbia, for, having already acquired the great North West they were compelled by force of circumstances to go forward and render it a valuable acquisition, and he was convinced that if the House turned its back on British Columbia by adopting the amendment of the member for Lambton, it would do a grievous injury to the cause of Confederation which might prove irreparable. The present position of Canada was analogous to that of the States some years ago, when that country, recognizing the importance and necessity of communication from one side of its territory to the other, both as a bond of union between the people of the east and west, and as a means of securing the vast trade between Europe and Asia, had taken steps which in a short time would result in three different lines from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the reasons that had urged America should be equally powerful with Canada, and he believed the Canadian line could be constructed in a satisfactory manner, by means of the proposed land grand without in the least degree overburdening the people.
The House in the course of the debate had rung with cries that a debt of a $100 million was being incurred, but the speakers knew well that by means of the land, the line could be constructed without any approach to a burden that the people could not bear, and no Ministry would ever dare to propose to incur such a debt as had been spoken of in this case. The Northern Pacific was being constructed on a land grand only, and could it be doubted therefore, that Canada, with better lands and fewer difficulties, would be able to devise such a scheme as would attract foreign capital, as the Americans had done. The House must be aware that before a dollar could be expended or an acre of land granted, a scheme would have to be submitted to and endorsed by the House, and therefore the whole matter would be within the control of Parliament. The question was whether or not British Columbia should be invited to join the Union, and whether or not the railway should be constructed, and he believed that when the Union should be accomplished and representatives from British Columbia should sit in that House, there would be no doubt of the railway being proceeded with as rapidly as the resources of the country would admit. He had every confidence not only that the House would endorse the proposition of the Government, but that it would be approved by the people of the country also, and it would be a bright day for the Dominion when the first sod was cut on the Canadian Pacific Railway, and in time to come many of his friends opposite, who were really desirous of consummating Confederation, though they might now oppose this scheme, would rejoice that the Government had not been deterred from following out the work, but had persevered in their determination to carry forward the work of union with the Pacific colonies.
Hon. Sir A.T. GALT would not again have spoken but for the allusions made to him, but under the circumstances he felt bound to express his views on the important question before the House. Referring to the remarks of the Minister of Inland Revenue he (Hon. Sir A.T. Galt) considered that the course he was pursuing would tend much more to build up Confederation on a sound basis than that pursued by the government, and that a policy of prudence and foresight was more necessary for the future progress of the Dominion than the unwise incurring of obligations now proposed could possibly be. They should not lose sight of the real interests of the country in rushing forward in the path, which, though all might desire to follow it ultimately, if too hastily followed would defeat the very object desired to be obtained.
As to the coach road proposed by British Columbia, involving a useless expenditure of money, he maintained that the necessities of the railway would require the construction of such a road so that it 300 COMMONS DEBATES March 30, 1871 would have to be made in any case. As to the railway, the people of British Columbia had only asked for an expenditure of a million yearly, and even if that were continued in perpetuity it could not represent more than twenty millions. Those people had never presumed to demand that the line should be completed within a given time, and the proof that they had not done so had been shown by the Minister of Inland Revenue himself, who had argued that it was Canada that wanted the railway and not British Columbia.
Hon. Mr. MORRIS stated that what he had said was that, throughout the discussion, the matter of the railway had been deliberately treated as if the whole benefits were to accrue to British Columbia, whereas Canada also had an equal interest in the work.
Hon. Sir A.T. GALT said he could not admit the statement that if the Government's resolutions were carried, Parliament would still retain the control of the matter. The details of the measure might come before them, but the obligation would remain that the work must be carried through coûte que coûte. Five years ago, it had been decided that the lntercolonial Railway could not be undertaken without an Imperial guarantee; five years ago, the Province of Canada had to take a portion of the circulation of the country to meet her floating debt, two years ago, the Government had to borrow $2,500,000 from the Bank of Montreal, to enable them to say that the money borrowed for the lntercolonial was still within their control, and only one year ago, the Finance Minister had to ask an increase of 5% on all duties to provide against a possible deficiency of revenue, but yet, when it now fortunately happened that we had a surplus, it seemed to be believed that this state of things must continue, and that it was safe to incur any amount of obligation. He thought the people of British Columbia, if they really desired union, would be quite satisfied that the Dominion would construct a railway as rapidly as her resources would admit, and would not ask for any more. He hoped and believed the House would confirm the amendment of the member for Lambton.
lt being 6 o'clock, the House rose.


Mr. OLIVER resumed the debate arguing that the pacific colony should be admitted into the Union on the same terms as the other provinces. He denied that those who favoured the amendment were opposed to the admission of British Columbia, or even to the building of the Pacific railway. He favoured these schemes, but thought we should consider the effect of such a very large expenditure at the present time. He considered that to allow six gentlemen from British Columbia to take their seats as representing only 100,000 people, was unfair to the other parts of the Dominion. Another feature in the scheme was unfair. The debt of British Columbia was taken at $1,666,620, which was assumed by the Dominion. This amounted to $20 odd per head of the population, whereas in Quebec and Ontario the amount per head of debt assumed by the Dominion and subsidies was only $2.07. lt had been proposed that thirteen million of acres of lands running alongside the railway should be appropriated. If so, these lands would be a constant cause of expenditure for management and surveying. (Hear, hear.) lt would be better that these lands should remain in the lands of the Local Government of British Columbia; otherwise they might pass into the hands of land speculators, a state of things which would prove ruinous to the settlement of the country. If these lands were not locked up, they would be sufficient to support a population of two millions, and it would be better that a money bonus should be given and these lands opened up to the people for settlement. (Hear, hear.) He believed that the railway should be prosecuted with energy, and all the money that could be spared spent upon it. That was the proposition contained in the amendment before the House. It was the duty of the Finance Minister in introducing this scheme, which pledged the country to complete the road in ten years, to tell the House where the money to build it was to come from. He calculated that our present debt, and obligations already or soon to be incurred, would amount to $127,000,000, and if to this were added $100,000,000 for the Pacific Railway, the amount would be $227,000,000; the interest per annum would be $11,350,000. He for one was not prepared to go that length. To do so would injure the present and future prospects of the Confederation. He would support the amendment.
Mr. MAGILL was in favour of bringing all British North America into the Union, but on terms equitable and fair to all the provinces. The terms proposed by the Government were not of that nature, and if the measure were carried, it would have the effect of driving immigration from our shores. It was proposed to sap the very foundations of the constitution which had been framed with such care and at such a cost. It was too much to expect this colony with its 13,000 of a population to override our constitution and create dissensions in this Dominion with its four millions of people. He protested against the position in which the Government had placed the House by bringing down this measure, framed by themselves, without having had the opinion of this House or of the people of this Dominion on the subject, and say that it should not be altered in any degree. It was unfair and he, for one, should record his vote against it. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. COLBY believed that the hon. member for Lambton expressed the opinion of the whole country when he said that it was desirable to bring British Columbia into the Union, that it was expedient to prosecute the construction of the Pacific Railway and to commence and push it through as soon as the financial condition of the country would permit it. That was exactly the policy announced by the Government. They brought down no cast-iron treaty. No one supposed that if they failed to complete the railway within the 10 years they would be guilty of a breach of faith. They proposed to do their best to complete it within that period. All the opposition which had been offered to this measure now before the House, had been presented in exactly the same manner as the opponents to Confederation had fought against the Union in the past. He would not be surprised if the people of British Columbia should fail to obtain this union with Canada, if they looked to the United States for the introduction of capital to open up their country.
March 30, 1871 COMMONS DEBATES 301
Hon. Mr. ANGLIN said this was a matter of too great importance to be made a party question. He hoped every member would look upon it in a purely practical light, and oppose it as a utopian measure brought in by the visionaries who were hurrying the country to ruin. Looking at the measure on its merits there was something objectionable in every one of the clauses. He disapproved of the unfair Parliamentary representation, giving six members to 13,000 people; to pensioning officers, and to the payment of $100,000 per annum to sustain a corrupt and extravagant Government, given, too, under the pretence that it was rent for public lands. Let the House know all the meaning of these terms. The Government of the Dominion were to undertake the construction and completion, under any contingency, of a Pacific railway within ten years after the date of the union. Why could not the Government come forward honestly and friendly and tell the truth, that they knew it would lay a heavy burden on the Dominion to carry out this engagement? But no, each member of the Government tried to make light of the difficulties to be encountered in the construction of this road.
The Red River expedition, in their march to Fort Garry, had given evidence as to the nature of the country between the head of Lake Superior and Red River, and they had proved it to be of the most sterile character. It was proved to be, for hundreds of miles, a wilderness of rock, swamp and lake, quite uninhabitable, and presenting the greatest difficulties to the construction of a railway. At the Rocky Mountains, fresh difficulties were to be met, and the British Colonist, a paper published at Victoria, V.I., favourable to confederation, spoke of the route through which it was proposed to run the railway, as a "sea of mountains." If this account were correct, it would be difficult to find those vast tracts of fertile country spoken of by hon. members opposite, and it could be no easy matter to run a railway through it. With this much known, this House should be enabled to understand how much of a burden they were expected to bear, before they were asked to vote for this measure. He spoke of the resources of the United States as very superior to those of Canada.
Hon. Sir GEORGE-É. CARTIER: We have more in proportion than they have. You may defend the American system; we are opposed to it.
Hon. Mr. ANGLIN said that the proposed debt would take away Canada's only advantage over the States, and the policy of the Government was breaking down all barriers and would ultimately tend to annexation. He condemned the proposed expenditure as enormous, and pointed out how a proposition to incur an amount in England equal, in proportion to her wealth, would be received, and said it could not be supposed that the amount could be paid without a greatly increased taxation. He spoke of the present surplus revenue as very exceptional, and spoke of the difficulties and deficiencies of former years, and said that the Minister of Finance himself understood that in the proposals now before the House, a debt of $100,000,000 was incurred, under which the Dominion would stagger. In addition to this amount for cost of construction there would be the working expenses to add to the burden, and the result would be as described the previous night by the member for Wentworth. Where was the amount to be obtained? It could not be obtained, and the obligation was only to be incurred because some few thousands of people on the Pacific coast were discontented and would otherwise seek annexation to the United States. The Statement that the cost incurred would only amount to a million and a quarter, could not be believed by a single member of the House. They would pledge themselves to construct the line in ten years, and who could say that the country would not have to pay every dollar. A company had been spoken of, but where was the company? How could any company raise seventy-five millions of dollars on fifiy million acres of barren waste land, and the Government only played with the House and imposed on the credulity of their supporters in saying the work would be done by a railway.
The question should be viewed calmly and dispassionately and not as a party question, as the Minister of Militia had tried to make it. The Minister of Customs had imagined a teeming and prosperous population in British Columbia and the North West, but were they to base their vote on baseless imaginings. Where was this population to come from when it was well known that the population of British Columbia had materially decreased of late years! It could only be explained by the fact that the country was not inviting to settlers. It was hard to persuade settlers to come even to Ontario and the other parts of the Dominion, and how could it be supposed that a larger immigration could be directed to these new colonies. The House had been told that it was bound to construct the railway to the Rocky Mountains, but he would like to know how, when and where that obligation was incur;—they were bound to do nothing of the kind unless the finances of the country fully justified it. It had also been stated that although they incurred the obligation, they would not be compelled to carry it out unless they chose.
Hon. Mr. MORRIS said he had stated that the House was not to be led away, but was to remember that any scheme for carrying out the work would have to be submitted to it, and that it would control the whole matter, and those were the facts.
Hon. Mr. ANGLIN resumed that if the representative of British Columbia honestly considered the interests of his people he would repudiate the whole Government scheme. Let not the members believe the statement of any Minister, but let them read the words of the resolutions themselves, and judge what a burden they involved, and he believed that if every duty and tax was doubled the expenditure would not be met, but when the debt and taxation was then increased, the way to annexation would well be opened, and he stood there to do what he could to save the country from the fate, and from the irresistable ruin that would ensue from this scheme. He implored the House to ignore party and think of the country.
302 COMMONS DEBATES March 30, 1871
Hon. Sir FRANCIS HINCKS had been anxious before speaking to hear the views of others. He had listened with great attention to the gentleman who had preceded him, and there could only be one opinion that the whole tone of his remarks showed opposition to the acquisition to British Columbia, and opposition to the constructions of a railway, and the coalition that had taken place on the opposite side showed only opposition to the cause of union with the Pacific colonies. He would ask members on both sides to consider the position of the Government, and he assumed they were all in favour of Confederation. He desired to call particular attention to the fact that all proceedings were of the character of negotiations between two parties, as to the best means of accomplishing an object on which both were agreed. The Government entered into the negotiations, and with one or two exceptions the whole House seemed in favour of the Union with British Columbia and of the construction of the railway.
He was surprised, however, to hear the member for Gloucester cheered by the gentleman round him when speaking of ignoring the whole population except the whites. The remainder of the population contributed most largely to the revenue, and he could speak from experience that the Chinese were an exceedingly valuable class as a duty paying people. The objections of hon. gentlemen had dwindled down entirely to the matter of the railroad. The proposition made was that the railway was an absolute necessity, and that Canada should use every exertion to construct it at as early a date as possible. In the negotiations that took place, it was found impossible that Canada could undertake to commence this railway and make a stated payment annually, and it had never been understood that the Government themselves should undertake the work, but that it should be done by means of Companies with a land grand and money grant. Every calculation had been based on that understanding.
Mr. MACKENZIE: Give us the calculations.
Hon. Sir FRANCIS HICKS said it was necessary to give minute details, and he had already given a rough estimate based on statements of the most eminent engineers. Hon. gentlemen had admitted the necessity of the railway, but that had not been the tone of the member for Gloucester. His views were widely different from those of the representatives of Ontario. During the course of the discussion, he could not help thinking of the important proceedings at Washington, and thinking of those and of the important negotiations with the delegates from British Columbia, he was surprised at the cavilling on small matters which had taken place. The member for Gloucester seemed entirely opposed to the railway, but that was not the view of the member for Sherbrooke, who was well known as a promoter of such a railway, and a believer in its practicability. The Government scheme was a modification of the propositions of British Columbia, and although they would not undertake a stated annual expenditure, they fully admitted the necessity of the construction of the railway.
Mr. SCATCHERD asked whether if the land would not build the road, the road would not be built. Hon. Sir FRANCIS HINCKS said no, he had already stated that it was estimated that the Dominion would have to pay about a million and a quarter a year, but it was well understood that if insurmountable difficulties arose, the Government could not be supposed to proceed to anything ruinous.
But it was necessary to satisfy British Columbia that Canada was in earnest in going on with the work, and therefore a time was specified. No one had answered the argument that the railway was not entirely a bargain with British Columbia, for if that colony had not consented to join the Union would not a railway to the Rocky Mountains still have been a necessity. The negotiations had necessarily to assume the shape of a Treaty, and in all such matters concessions had to be made on both sides. The delegates themselves had been of different opinions, and the result of the conferences that had taken place was embodied in the resolutions before the House, and no amendments could be made without throwing open the whole question. These were questions on which the people of British Columbia dissented from the terms now settled, and any amendment would reopen the whole matter. The matter must be dealt with and accepted or rejected as a whole.
Very many more forebodings had been expressed as to the financial result of the propositions. The debt of Canada was about $20 a head and that of America $60 a head, and yet they could undertake three different lines of road, and he did not think Canada need have any fear on the matter. As to the debt of $100,000,000 Government had no intention of incurring anything of the sort. Of course the Government undertook the work in ten years, but if after doing everything to carry out the engagement in good faith, it should be found that untoward circumstances should prevent the completion of the work, could it be supposed that Canada would be required to proceed to her own serious disadvantage, even if the work might be delayed for some years? He referred to the strictures of the member for Wentworth as to the Municipalities Laws, and shewed that the measure he had proposed had been most generally supported, and yet he was charged individually with the whole matter. All that had been done however, was to enable municipalities to borrow money in their own discretion. He spoke of what the member for Oxford South had said, as to his departure from, and return to Canada, explaining the circumstances that had led to his doing so, denying all charge of inconsistency. He then continued, they had either to spurn or accept British Columbia, and the result of the amendment, if carried, would be to do away with all hope of bringing British Columbia into the Union.
Mr. WORKMAN deprecated any party feelings in the discussion, the question being one of the utmost importance to the future of the country. He regretted very much that he would have to dissent from the Government scheme, which appeared calculated to damage the country. He was friendly to the completion to Confederation, notwithstanding. It was his opinion that this railroad would involve Canada in an expenditure of at least fifty millions. The cost of this work, the great difficulties natural and other in its way were reasons for our carefully considering this scheme and its consequences before rashly embarking in it. He ridiculed the March 30, 1871 COMMONS DEBATES 303 spread-eagle anticipations and flourishes indulged in respecting this railway, and particularly the notion that the trade of China and Japan could be attracted over North America by this transcontinental road. Any merchant or intelligent man knew that the products of the East would be damaged by railway carriage, and that the shipping presented the best means of transportation. It was all nonsense to attribute to Confederation the credit for the present prosperity of the country. As to the expectations connected with the Intercolonial, he believed from reliable information that it would be a source of expense, trouble and anxiety to us. But at any rate let us see how it worked before entering upon another and longer railway. It was bad enough to have one elephant on our shoulders without a second. In the name of his constituents and of the trade and commerce of the country he protested against this scheme, which made him tremble for it; and it was because he thought it would be ruinous to the Dominion that he would vote against these resolutions.
Hon. Mr. McDOUGALL (Lanark North) said that although the debate had extended over three days there were two or three points to which no reference had yet been made, to which he felt it his duty to draw attention. He believed that a very large majority of the members of this House were desirous of seeing British Columbia united to the Dominion. Some twenty years ago, when he first entered into public life as a journalist, he had placed on his political platform as one of its most prominent planks Union of the British North American Provinces. In 1859 he was present at the Reform Convention in Toronto when the political condition of the country was discussed, and on that occasion he moved a resolution which embodied the principle on which this great scheme was founded. It received the assent of a majority of that assembly, and ever since then he had been endeavouring to the best of his ability to promote and advance this great measure.
Along with hon. members opposite, it had been his good fortune to help push forward Confederation, and he now accused them of having failed in the performance of their duty in the final accomplishment of the work. He said so boldly, looking at it from no political or party standpoint, and feeling no desire, as might be the case with some hon. members of the Opposition, to see the Government displaced from their seats at the present moment if they would only do their duty. Taking an impartial view of the case, he must charge them with having struck a fatal blow at the great measure with which for the last few years they had been connected, and for the success of which they were pledged to this House and responsible to the country. They propose, in order to induce, as they alleged, British Columbia to enter the Union, to load the Dominion with a debt double that under which the country now suffered, under which, at all events, it now labored. For the purpose of accomplishing this Union, no such sacrifice, no such burden, no such evil consequences were at all necessary. He failed to hear any decent reason why this Government should, without the authority of Parliament and without submitting the proposition in any form for public discussion, spring it on the House as they had done. Under the constitution, no such authority was delegated to the Government. No authority was given them, of their own motion, to enter into, and finally conclude, negotiations which, as the House was told, must be accepted without qualification of amendment.
Hon. Mr. TILLEY: What did you do at the Quebec conference?
Hon. Mr. McDOUGALL (LanarkNorth) had expected to hear this question asked, but he would tell the hon. member that this was an entirely different case. The Quebec conference was a body of gentlemen assembled together to discuss the propriety of passing the law which regulated this very matter. The terms of that law were publicly discussed in the press and in the various existing legislative bodies of the several Provinces. It was agreed by them and alterations were made in accordance with expressions of opinion at the very last moment in England to meet the difficulties developed by these discussions. These circumstances were altogether different from those which surround the present case. In the Union Act were the ipsissima verba which show how the Union of the other colonies is to be consummated. The Constitutional Act points out the parties who are to negotiate. It declares that the members of this House are one body, and the members of the other House another body, who are to settle its terms.
Hon. Sir GEORGE-É. CARTIER said the proper way to bring in the colony was through the Government of the day. It involved a pecuniary expenditure, and could not emanate from any other source.
Hon. Mr. McDOUGALL (Lanark North) said the proposition which had been under debate for the last three days was not subject to the ordinary rule. The Government had taken every precaution to tell the House that this measure was in the nature of treaty, that not one of its details could be altered, and that it must be accepted as it was submitted to the House. Now, the meaning of the constitution was very different. It was only after full consideration in this Parliament that the measure should be accepted. Of what use was this debate at all, if the measure must be adopted without amendment? He would remind the House, that British Columbia was a Crown colony, with a population principally of miners and adventurers, and a very small number of permanent settlers. It was so at the time of Confederation, possibly the population was larger then. There was no popular representation at that time. This position did not fail to strike the attention of the Conference. It was the policy of the Imperial Government, and the four Provinces to complete the Union and all British America as soon as possible. He with others at the Conference had contended that it was the duty of the Imperial Government to bring pressure to bear on its own officers of British Columbia to submit to reasonable terms in order to secure Union with Canada. The small number of the inhabitants did not justify the admission of a colony on more favourable terms than those offered to the older and more populous Atlantic Provinces. The circumstances were entirely different and it was absurd to say that the future destiny of that country was in the hands of a few adventurers who were mining there. Since Confederation was agreed upon, the Imperial Government has put it out to their power to use that effective influence they might have used to secure 304 COMMONS DEBATES March 30, 1871 proper terms and compel their acceptance by the Government and people of that colony. He did not believe there was any desire on the part of the majority of the people of British Columbia to make demands unreasonable or impracticable. What right had they in discussing terms with Canada to stipulate for construction of public works not only inside their own territory, but in the North West territories or in Ontario? He did not believe the people of that Colony ever expected that privilege or would have insisted on this railway on the present conditions. The railway would have three sections, differing as to character of country, quality of the land and other features. We know that no person would settle along the Ontario end of the line stretching to a distance of a thousand miles between the Ottawa valley and the Lake of the Woods, for it presented no agricultural or trading advantages to attract settlers. The middle sections consisted of good land, but had too sparse a population to afford a business for a railway for many years to come. Through and beyond the Rocky Mountains the country was of a nature most difficult for a railway and most discouraging as regards the prospects of settlement and traffic.
It was absurd and unreasonable then for us to rush into a vast expenditure for a work of this kind without accurate knowledge of the country, without surveys, without any means of enabling us to form a reliable estimate as to its cost. Did the Government, then, in the absence of any knowledge, that capitalists would undertake this road, contemplate the construction of the line themselves? Or did they really intend to delay the completion of the road if serious difficulties arose, notwithstanding the pledge and promise now offered British Columbia? If that was the intention of the Government, why not say so frankly and honestly? All, he thought, that should be promised or undertaken at present was the construction of a telegraph and coach road, or at the utmost, of a railway from Pembina to the Rocky Mountains. In a short time the American road from the borders of Ontario to Pembina would be completed, and be as accessible and serviceable to our people as to themselves. Besides the Government of Canada would shortly establish a mixed land and water communication from Lake Superior to Fort Garry, which would provide all the facilities we needed for the present, perhaps for years. He saw no difficulty, whatever, in making use of the American road to reach Fort Garry and the Rocky Mountains. By giving liberal land grants to a company, and retaining alternate sections of land we might secure a railway across the plains and promote the rapid settlement of the fertile belt. Beyond that a good serviceable post road could be opened to the Pacific coast, realizing all the people of that colony some short time ago solicited, and accomplishing all the trade and interest of the Dominion, generally, required.
He was as anxious as any man to see this Confederation completed; but denied he was therefore bound to accept every absurd, extravagant scheme proposed professedly with that object, and not shown to be either necessary or practicable. Was he to be blamed for hesitating to agree to every wild proposition of this kind? If we assented to this proposition we should weigh down the Dominion to a position which would not only excite dissatisfaction among her own inhabitants, but destroy all confidence in our future among the people of other nations.
With respect to the political arrangements he considered that the representatives for so small a number of people was a violation of the principles laid down in the Union Act, but the evil would be cured in a few years if the matter was not of serious consequence. The Manitoba measure had been passed under peculiar circumstances and was no precedent to sanction the present violation of the fundamental principles of the constitution, but, as he had said, the evil would be temporary, and might be conceded to British Columbia. The same might be said of the money grant, which, though based on a larger population than really existed, did not form a serious objection, for it had always been understood that the small Provinces should be enabled to carry on their Government and local works and he would be quite ready to vote directly a sufficient sum to enable British Columbia to meet her expense. While, however, the matter of the railway stood on its present basis he had no hesitation in opposing the Government scheme, although he yielded to no one in his desire to complete Confederation.
He was astonished that Government should have attempted to impose the condition that no alteration should be made, for the Act of Union gave to the two Houses of Parliament and to no other body the right to make any amendment they might deem expedient, and while the Legislative Council of British Columbia had discussed every detail of the scheme, he contended that the same right belonged to the people and Parliament of this Dominion.
Mr. BEATY had received no intimation from his constituents to oppose the Government scheme, and he believed the general impression in Ontario was that Confederation could not be completed without British Columbia. He had every confidence in the Ministry both in legislation for the present and future, and he believed the interests of the country would be well cared for by them. In the matter of Manitoba the people of Ontario had been warned against the narrow minded Frenchmen, but he maintained that for every liberty they possessed, civil and religious, they were mainly indebted to the representatives of Lower Canada. If the present scheme carried and the railway was constructed successfully, as he believed it would be, the honour would belong to the Minister of Militia and his noble band of reformers. The matter had been fully discussed, and what was the policy—well, his idea was that the policy was whether the gentlemen of the Opposition should be allowed to sit on the Government benches. That was their policy, and they did not care whether the North West was developed or not. The Government now proposed, however, a scheme of opening up the country and numbers of emigrants would come in, instead of leaving for the States as at present, and before many years elapsed, thousands of emigrants would be attracted if the Government were allowed to carry out their plans of development. He looked forward to a great future for Canada on these grounds, and having every confidence in the resolutions he should support them, and if he did otherwise, he would think he had degraded himself.
March 30, 1871 COMMONS DEBATES 305
Hon. Mr. DORION said the question had two aspects, the political and the financial; the latter, however, was much the most important and had listened to the Government statements on that head in hope of being able to vote for the resolutions, but the minister of Finance had been able to give no favourable statement. He took great care not to give any details, and beyond the assertion that a cost of $100,000,000 would be practicable, they had heard nothing. The American lines had been cited as examples, but it had not been stated that in addition to the land grants an enormous amount of money had also been granted. The Minister of Finance ought to be able to state definitely the amount involved so that the House might not have to make a blind vote, and he regretted the humiliating proposal of the Minister of Inland Revenue, that after the pledge had been given it might afterwards be retracted. He spoke of the heavy obligations the Dominion already sustained, and maintained that the Union Act provided that the canal system ought to have been completed before any other responsibilities were incurred.
Hon. Mr. TILLEY read the resolution at Quebec to show that the North West question was to be an express object of Confederation.
Hon. Mr. DORION said that matter had already been attained. He had never had, and had not now, any faith in Confederation, but he had felt in duty bound not to oppose it, but if he were most anxious for the downfall of Confederation, he could desire for nothing more than the present scheme to attain that object. Reverting to the canal improvement, he considered it unjust that the credit of the country should be pledged to this immense extent before that canal improvement was completed. He quoted from a report of Mr. Fleming, characterising the Pacific Railway as a commercial absurdity and that the maintenance of such a line would cost eight millions annually, and in fact that it was altogether impraticable, and stating that a macadamized road to the Rocky Mountains would require seventeen years for construction, and yet hon. gentlemen opposite presumed to say that this gigantic work could be commenced and completed within ten years. What greater absurdity could be uttered in any intelligent Assembly? If Confederation must be had in some direction better have it with the 150,000 of Newfoundland and the 100,000 of Prince Edward's Island than with the 10,000 of British Columbia, while the inhabitants in one case were settled, and in the other mere roving adventurers. He did not admit the necessity of a Canadian Pacific line, but thought the American lines should be used, and expend the money rather in opening up the North West by roads. He thought the four millions of people inhabiting the basin of the St. Lawrence were entitled to greater consideration than the small population of British Columbia, and if this large expenditure were to be incurred rather let it be used in enlarging the canals and so securing the great trade of the West.
The members were called in at one o'clock and the amendment of Mr. Jones, of Halifax, was put with the following result: Yeas, 63; Nays, 98.
Mr. ROSS (Dundas) had ever been desirous of uniting the Provinces into one compact body, but the scheme was not perfected, and he thought the amendment he was about to move would open the way for a better settlement than that proposed in the resolutions before the House. He felt the country did not properly understand the question and thought every one should be able to communicate with his constituents. He proposed in amendment that in the opinion of this House the further consideration of the question be postponed for the present session of Parliament in order that greater and more careful consideration may be given to a question of such magnitude and importance to the people of this Dominion.
The vote on this amendment was as follows: Yeas, 75; Nays, 85.
Mr. MACKENZIE'S amendment was put with the following result: Yeas, 67; Nays, 94.
On the main motion being put,
Hon. Mr. DORION moved in amendment that the speaker do not now leave the chair, but that it be resolved that, in view of the engagements already entered into since the Confederation and the large expenditure urgently required for canal and railway purposes within the Dominion, this House would not be justified in imposing on the people of this Dominion the enormous burden required to build within ten years a railway to the Pacific as proposed by the resolution submitted to this House. The amendment was lost on the following division: Yeas, 70; Nays, 91.
The main motion was again put.
Mr. MACKENZIE gave notice that he would move other amendments in Committee.
Hon. Mr. ANGLIN said the Government had not had a clear majority of the total number of the House.
Hon. Sir GEORGE-É. CARTIER said that had all been present, the Government majority would have been greater.
The main motion was carried and the House went into Committee on the resolutions. Mr. COLBY in the Chair. The resolutions passed through Committee and the Committee rose.
The House adjourned at 2 o'clock a.m.


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1871. Edited by Norman Ward and Pamela Hardisty. Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services Canada, 2007. Original scans accessible at: http://parl.canadiana.ca/.



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