House of Commons, 16 April 1869, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba



Friday, April 18, 1869

The Speaker took the chair at 3 o'clock.


Several petitions were presented.


Sir Geo. E. Cartier took his seat amid applause.


Mr. Ross, of Centre Wellington, was introduced by Mr. Stirton and Mr. Mackenzie, and took his seat.


The consideration of the address in answer to the Speech from the Throne was then taken up.
Mr. Simpson (Algoma) moved the adoption of the Address. On looking round him he saw so many in every way better qualified for the task he had undertaken that he felt keenly his own inability; but he trusted that the same kindness which had been extended to him on a former occasion, would also be extended to him on this. With the opening paragraphs of the Speech few hon. gentlemen would, he believed, differ. He would desire more particularly to allude to the acquisition of the Hudson's Bay Territory. They could not go into a single railway station without finding crowds of emigrants, some of them the young men of the country, who were going to find their home in the Western States which the Dominion had not to offer. Hence, it was a subject of profound congratulation that these negotiations had been carried on and completed, and that there could be now opened up to emigration a Territory offering far greater advantages than any portion of the United States. It was high time this Hudson's Bay difficulty should be surmounted; for if Canada did not take hold of that country at once, in the course of a few years she would be squatted out. Minnesota and Dacotah were rapidly filling up, bringing the tide of immigration to the very borders of that North West Territory. He had lived some time in that section, and believed that its opening up and access to it by way of Canada would be an immense boom to the farming population of this Continent—as well as Europe. He knew the hardships endured 6 COMMONS DEBATES April 16, 1869 by settlers in the bush, where a man's lifetime almost was spent before he could earn a competency; while, in this new territory, a poor man could go in and get a splendid start in a couple of years. As a grazing country, too, it had no superior. But the first thing to be secured, on the acquisition of that territory, would be good and easy communication between Canada and the North-West, through the British territory. For the last two years the Government had been engaged in opening a road between Thunder Bay, Lake Superior, and Fort Garry. His opinion was that there was only one mode of communication by which they could hope to accomplish much in that section, and that was by railroad. If the Dominion had not cash enough, then let them give lands to build such a railroad. One of the earliest steps to be taken regarding the North-West was, the formation of a proper Government there. A land oifice of some description ought also be speedily established. The aborigines, he would also remind them, had to be dealt with. A very material step to take would be the establishment of a department which would act honourably and justly towards the Indians; and though the Hudson's Bay Company was excessively unpopular in Canada, he believed the Government could not do better than take a leaf out of the Company's books, in the management of the Indians. The Company certainly never had any trouble with them; but had since they came into their country always maintained the most friendly relations with the aborigines. In the North-West, he conceived, free grants of land would have to be made. The reservation of the treaty to be given to the Company had been objected to; but he thought it indispensable even if regard were had merely to that class of the Company's officers which conducted their trade in the country. Many of them had left their homes when young. It was certain the stockholders in London would never give them a sixpence on transferring the territory, and these traders were men unfitted for the ordinary occupations of life. It would be hard to cast them abroad on the world without giving them a chance. In connection with the opening up of this territory, something had to be done to improve navigation on Lakes Huron and Superior. Additional steamboat communication and harbours of refuge would have to be provided. Coming to the paragraphs regarding the admission of Newfoundland into the Union, the House would, he was sure, fully agree with him that was a subject of congratulation. With the Union full and complete, there would be strength and  7 peace. Having alluded to the other paragraphs of the address, the hon. gentleman sat down amid cheers.
Mr. Bolton, in seconding the Address, said he would not trouble the House at any great length. It was gratifying to have His Excellency's assurances of the prevalence of peaceful counsels among the nations of the earth, giving the Dominion the assurance that it might continue to enjoy the peace it had hitherto been blessed with. In future, he trusted their resources would be devoted to the extension of the peaceful and industrial interests of the Dominion. In view of prospective large additions to the Dominion, it was to be hoped that those peaceful sentiments would continue to prevail, and that the resources of the Dominion would be largely increased. Having expressed his gratification that Newfoundland had asked for admission into the Union, he expressed the pleasure he felt at the prospect that the discontent of Nova Scotia would be allayed. He was sure that for wrong done to Nova Scotia, if any, reparation would be made. That was something against which not a voice would be raised. There were other topics of great importance alluded to in the speech; but they did not at that stage require a more extended notice. He had great pleasure in seconding the motion for the adoption of the address.
The Speaker having put to the House the adoption of the first paragraph of the address,
Hon. Mr. Holton said that before proceeding to the debate on the address, he desired to call the attention of gentlemen on the Treasury Benches to the necessity for offering to the House explanations touching the changes made since last session in the constitution of the Government. They all heard the rumour that a distinguished member of the House who had been in strenuous opposition to the Government during the whole of last Session, and not only in strenuous opposition to the Government, but to the fundamental laws of the country, had become a member of the Government. It was to be taken for granted that the Government 11 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 Post- master-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 mentioned them 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 gentleman 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 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 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 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 16 COMMONS DEBATES April 16, 1869 held in Norfolk in order to consider whether it was possible for that hon. gentleman to secure his re-election. The meeting, he presumed, turned out to be rather unsatisfactory in its results, and a careful investigation of the wording of the Act enabled the Government to come to the conclusion that it was possible, in violation of the spirit of the law, to allow the hon. gentleman to continue to sit here without obtaining from his constituents their sanction to his acceptance of office. How were they to know to what extent this might not be pushed; if this were permitted what safeguard was there against the filling of this House with office-holders? During the last session of Parliament there had been considerable discussion on matters of economy; and the hon. gentleman with whom he claimed connection, had endeavoured to enforce economical principles on the Government. Various large amounts were asked for by the Administration. They wanted $5,000,000 for fortifications; but in common with others he had contended most earnestly against granting any such sum for the fortification of an impossible frontier. It had been claimed by the Minister of Justice that Mr. Howe had not taken a position against the Government, having come here pledged to adherence to no party in the House. Now he (Mr. Mackenzie) had happened to have taken down the words of that distinguished gentleman. He desired to speak with all possible respect of him and say as little as possible against him until he was present, if he was to be present, and able to defend himself. But speaking of the acquisition of the North-West Territory, Mr. Howe said— "in speaking on this question, I shall try to consider myself a Canadian, and speak from that point of view." Mr. Howe then spoke as a Canadian, supposing the Union to be consummated. He was not speaking merely as a Nova Scotian, but he gave his views as a distinguished member of the House, and these views were not only hostile, but bitterly hostile to the hon. gentlemen opposite. (Hear, hear.) Who did not recollect the powerful language in which he denounced the entire fortification scheme of the Government and ridiculed the absurdity of the Dominion Government, assuming control of the management of the far North-West. The hon. gentleman then seemed to prefer rather that the territory should fall into the hands of the United States, than that it should become part and parcel of the Dominion. On that policy he was at entire variance with the Government, and it would be instructive to know whether he has reversed his opinion on this question, or whether the Government 17 have altogether ignored his opinion on this and other material points of their policy when they asked him to assume ofiice with them. These observations had been made by Mr. Mackenzie simply in consequence of the statements of the Minister of Justice that he had occupied a neutral position in the House. Had the remarks not been made, he should not have taken the liberty of dealing with the President of the Council in his absence. Reverting to the question of fortifications, he (Mr. Mackenzie) expressed his surprise that nothing had been said as to the progress of these extensive works. Last year they were considered necessary, because the Ministry were apprehensive of war. The House was now assured that there was no danger of such a calamity. It would be well they should be informed as to what had been done in the way of fortifications, and if anything had been performed during the recess. He had visited certain portions of the country. He had been up the Ottawa through the interior, and had observed a number of points on the Ottawa and Lake Superior admirably adopted for fortifications if hon. gentlemen could only induce the Yankees to come to these particular places to make their attacks. (Laughter.) He felt at present as he felt last Session, that they had a most extravagant mode of conducting the public affairs of the country. In their attempts to re-organize their Departments; and even in their Militia Law, what was it but the same story—expense, expense continually! Take the Militia Law as a sample. Under the former law, the enrollment was effected without expense. The same service had cost $63,000; and what was the grand result of their attempt at improving the Militia system? Simply that a more ridiculous farce than their present organization was never perpetrated on any civilized country. In the western Province they had old superannuated men, who, for social and other reasons were appointed as captains and colonels. Men in every local city, as far as he knew, had been appointed to officer the battalions without any reference to their military qualifications. Then they had Military Schools established by gentlemen now at the head of the Ontario Government; Schools, which it was supposed would be of advantage in this respect, that when they had been in operation some years, they would have turned out a body of trained officers, capable of discharging the duties appertaining to commanders and subalterns of the militia force. He did not know how it was in other counties; but he believed that in his own county, though many respectable men had been appointed, men of both political parties, still there was 18 COMMONS DEBATES April 16, 1869 not among them a man who could make any pretentions to military knowledge, and he believed matters to be worse still in the county adjoining. These appointments had been avowedly made from one little party; and they had the hon. gentleman who was in- trusted with this selection avowing in his own paper that, until all his Tory friends had been satisfied, not one should get a commission who had opposed the Government or himself at the last election. (Hear, hear.) This was the new mode of administering the Militia affairs of the Dominion. (Hear, hear.) In the Militia administration there had not only been extravagance, but there had been a direct violation of the votes passed by this House, and the utmost practical inefficiency. He was told the other day, on good authority, that in one parish, where it was known there were altogether only 65 male adults, a return had been made of something over 300, in order to increase the amount allowed per head for enrollment. He made these complaints with profound regret. He was desirous to see the Militia force organized on an efficient footing, and he was sorry to say that, so far as he had been able to observe, this had not been done. The Minister of Militia was not directly to blame, having been absent from the country for six months, but some one ought to be held responsible. Until the papers were brought down, it would be manifestly inexpedient to discuss the question as to the admission of Newfoundland into the Confederation; but as a sincere friend of the Union of the Provinces and British connection, he congratulated the Government, the House and the country on the application of another of our North American Colonies to be admitted into the Union, and he begged to say that anything he could do to aid the Government in carrying this matter to a successful completion should be done most heartily and most cheerfully. (Hear, hear.) In regard to the opening up of the North-West Territory, he hoped the propositions of the Government would be so well considered that it would not be necessary for the hon. gentlemen acting with him to propose any serious amendment, as it was for the interest of the country that all questions connected with the opening up of that vast Territory should be settled as soon as possible, and upon as equitable a basis as possible. It was a serious matter to undertake the government of that great Province, as it soon would be, and the whole matter was one which would require the utmost attention of the Government and all other members of this House. He particularly recognized in that his own responsibility, as a member of the House, and should aid in 19 perfecting arrangements which would have an influence on the condition of all the Provinces for many generations. Mr. Mackenzie then reverted to the pernicious system inaugurated by this Government, in allowing officeholders to retain their seats in the House without even requiring them to go before their constituents for re-election. He said they might just as well admit Judges and other such functionaries as the Arbitrator between the Provinces and the Intercolonial Railroad Commissioners. He had heard that another member of the House was to be appointed a Commissioner for codifying the laws; but he sincerely trusted that if such a step had been intended it would be reconsidered. Such a policy was in the highest degree destructive of public morality, and would gradually destroy in the public mind that respect which ought to exist for the Legislature of the country. There was another point to which he would allude before sitting down. The Minister of Justice professed to have constructed this Government on the Coalition principle. They had been told by the Minister of Public Works and the late Minister of Inland Revenue that it was solely because it was a Coalition Government that they had entered it—that it was solely because such a Government was necessary in order to the right conducting of our affairs, and in order to sustain some hon. gentlemen in the Lower Province who had taken office, that they had consented to enter it. Those hon. gentlemen also claim that the three Reformers from Ontario, and the others from the Lower Provinces, would be able to counterpoise the Conservative element, or at least to equal it. Well, if it was necessary that the Province of Ontario should have three representatives from the Reform ranks in the Cabinet, how must it have suffered when there was only one such representative, and that one absent from the country for the last six months, allowing the Conservative element to run riot in the organization of the militia, the management of the Intercolonial and everything else. (Hear, hear.) The Minister of Customs belonged originally to the Reform party, and perhaps it might be said that the hon. gentleman had been sufficient for the interests of that party in the Cabinet, in the absence of his colleague; but if the hon. gentleman yielded as easily on every matter that concerned the party he professed to represent as he seemed to have yielded with reference to the Intercolonial route, the protection given by him amounted to very little. The result had shown that he (Mr. Mackenzie) was right in the prophecy he ventured to make when the Coalition was 20 COMMONS DEBATES April 16, 1869 formed, that it would end in the absorption of the minority element. (Hear, hear). Some of the Conservative organs, indeed, had claimed that, as at the last election, the Conservative element came a majority amongst the representatives of Ontario; therefore, the Ontario Conservatives were entitled to three seats in the Cabinet, and the Reformers to but two. With reference to this he (Mr. Mackenzie) contended that this result had been obtained by its being sedulously urged upon the people that it did not matter whether a Conservative or a Reformer was elected, and that the only question with reference to a candidate should be whether he would support the Government. In this way, by the joint action of the Minister of Justice and the Premier of Ontario, the Reformers had been cheated out of a fair representation in this House.
Hon. J. S. Macdonald—We beat you, at all events.
Mr. Mackenzie said they had tried to beat him, but had completely failed. The honourable gentleman ventured to make a pilgrimage into his (Mr. Mackenzie's) county, but was compelled to beat an ignominious retreat, and his majority was twice the number of the electors, if not of the souls, in the whole constituency. (Hear, hear). He had thought it expedient to call the attention of the Liberals in the House to the manner in which they had been treated by honourable gentlemen opposite. He had never expected that the Minister of Public Works would be either the representative or the protector of the Reform party in the Cabinet; but he had expected that some decent measure of attention would have been paid to the position that was taken in the organization of the Government. Mr. Mackenzie then said he would refrain from entering on any more full discussion of the matters embraced in the address, until the papers were brought down, and again congratulated the House on the prospect we had that we should soon be not merely in theory, but in fact, a Confederation of the British North American Provinces- knit together in such a way as to promote mutual interests and to maintain the glory of our fatherland and our connection with it. (Cheers).
Paragraphs two to five were agreed to. Paragraph six, relating to the North-West negotiations having been put-
Hon. Mr. Holton said there was an evident desire on the part of the House not 21 to prolong the debate, and agreeing in that desire, he would not make a speech. He felt bound to say, however, that so far as he could judge from the papers which had been published, he conceived we had nothing whatever to congratulate ourselves upon in the result of the mission to England. He had been from the initiation of the movement an agreeing party to the policy of acquiring the North-West and he still thought it most desirable we should acquire it; but he must say, so far as he could judge from these papers, that our case had been most deplorably mismanaged. We had now, perhaps, an opportunity of getting that Territory; but it was on terms which ought never to have been assented to. He should be prepared at the proper time to show, unless there were something in the papers which had not yet been given to the public, that our representatives had been completely out-generaled by the very able men who represented the H. B. Co. in England, and also by the Colonial Minister himself.
The sixth and the remaining paragraphs of the Address were agreed to.
Sir John A. Macdonald then moved that the resolutions be referred to a Committee, consisting of Messrs. Cartier, Tilley, Langevin, Simpson, Bolton and the mover to prepare and report an Address. —Carried.
The Committee immediately reported the Address, which was ordered to be engrossed and presented to His Excellency by such members of the House as are members of the Privy Council.
Hon. Mr. Holton reminded the Premier that the names of the Intercolonial Railway Commissioners had not yet been finally announced to the House.
Sir John A. Macdonald said a message, making the announcement, was in his office ready to be brought down.
Mr. Mackenzie asked when the papers relating to the Nova Scotia arrangement, the admission of Newfoundland and the acquisition of the Hudson's Bay Territory would be brought down?
Sir John A. Macdonald said the Nova Scotia papers were complete, and would be brought down immediately. The Newfoundland papers were incomplete, but he would consider whether he could bring down the papers showing what had been done so far. The Hudson's Bay papers were also incom22COMMONS DEBATESApril 16, 1869 plete. The Governor-General was warranted in making the statement he did as to the acceptance of the proposal by the Company, having received a cable despatched to that efiect from Earl Granville; but of course a despatch from Earl Granville must be received before the House could be invited to take action.
Hon. Mr. Rose then moved that on Tuesday next His Excellency's speech be taken into consideration as the first formal step towards constituting a Committee of Supply. Carried.
The House at 20 minutes past 5 adjourned till Monday.


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1869. Edited by P.B. Waite. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1975. Original scans accessible at: http://parl.canadiana.ca/.



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