House of Commons, 17 February 1870, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba



Thursday, Feb. 17. 1870

The Speaker took the chair at three o'clock.
Mr. Savary rose to move the Address in reply to the speech from the Throne. With reference to the first paragraph he believed the House would agree with His Excellency that this was a most suitable time for the meeting of Parliament. The last session was held at a later period, but that was owing to circumstances which rendered it necessary. The circumstances under which they met was referred to in the second clause of His Excellency's Speech. The country had cause of congratulation for an abundant harvest last year throughout the whole Dominion. The Fisheries also had been unusually productive, and not only that, but the prices for fish ruled high. Representing as he did a county largely interested in this important branch of our industries, it was especially gratifying to him to be able to make this statement. He would not enlarge upon the question of fisheries; but it was well known that the American Government had adopted a policy of excluding our fish from their markets, except upon payment of a very high duty. This system still continued. It was satisfactory to know, that though our fisheries were subject to these burdens, our citizens were not subject to other burdens which the people of the United States had to bear. A more loyal, industrious and contented class of people, he was glad to say, did not exist in the Dominion, than the population of Nova Scotia engaged in the fisheries. (Hear, hear.) Notwithstanding the burdens under which they laboured, they were prosperous and contented, and looked with the utmost confidence to this Government to give them that protection which the importance of their industry demanded. His Excellency had not promised any particular measure with reference to the increased protection of the fisheries guaranteeing to them those rights which the law of nations had given them; but he had reason to believe, that now that the United States were apparently determined to maintain their restrictions upon our fisheries, our Government were disposed to take steps to protect this important branch of our industries. With regard to the North-West Territory misapprehensions had undoubtedly existed with reference to the intentions with which that country was sought to be acquired by Canada. There had been a complete misunderstanding on the subject. What object could the Dominion have in acquiring that Territory hostile to the inhabitants of the Territory, (hear, hear). It 14 COMMONS DEBATES February 17, 1870 was inconsistent with the very spirit of our institutions not to recognize the rights of the people of every portion of the Dominion, however small in number they might be. Whether the country was large or small their rights were the same, and though the people of the North-West were now small in number, we look forward to the day when that country would contain millions. It was contrary to the very spirit of our institutions that we should seek to obtain possession of that country for any other than the mutual good of the inhabitants of the Territory and ourselves. He rejoiced, and he believed the House would also rejoice, at the assurance His Excellency had given, that it was desirable to exhaust every means of conciliation before resorting to other measures. This proved that peace and harmony were recognized as the basis of our Government. We did not seek to extend our country by conquest but by peaceable means, and by mutual co-operation of the whole people to extend British institutions on the whole northern portion of this Continent, which in the Good Providence of God still belongs to the Crown of Great Britain (hear, hear). The Opposition had given them to understand that there would be a discussion on this subject, and it was quite right that all steps taken in connection with the acquisition of that Territory be thoroughly discussed.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—Hear, hear.
Mr. Savary—It was very easy to be wise after the event, but if errors had been committed, though he would not say there had been any, this was a question on which the Government could confidently look for the generous consideration and forbearance of the House. He was not forgetful of the fact that he was one of those who could not at first see the propriety or necessity of so early seeking the incorporation of this Territory into the Dominion; but his objections were founded upon doubt as to the pecuniary ability of the Dominion to expend so large a sum of money as he then believed to be necessary for the acquisition of the Territory. But the negotiations with the Hudson's Bay Company were conducted with consummate tact and ability—a tact and ability crowned with a gratifying success, entitling the two gentlemen who were charged by the Government with those negotiations to the gratitude of this House and of the country, and the result was the acquisition of the Territory at a cost infinitely less than was apprehended. He had no doubt that, with the spirit in which the negotiations had been conducted, before long all difficulties connected with the immediate acquisition of the Territory would
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wield the sceptre of our great Empire, and long may we remain loyal, devoted and law-abiding subjects of that Crown. He had great pleasure in moving the Address in reply (cheers).
Mr. Scriver in rising to second the Address, said he would claim the indulgence of the House, which he was sure would be extended to him while he endeavoured to fulfil the task which he accepted, and he would rely upon their indulgence, for the topics in the Address had been eloquently referred to by the honourable mover. He could rejoice with His Excellency that the circumstances under which they met were so auspicious. They were in striking contrast with those under which the House met last session, when general gloom was cast over the country by the deficient harvest and other reverses, which tend to discourage the people. Though there were some adverse circumstances, there was every reason to feel thankful for our gratifying bountiful harvest. It was desirable that a better market should be obtained for our agriculturists, and he had hoped that there would be a renewal of the commercial relations which formerly subsisted with the United States, and our agriculturists have this market for the disposal of their coarse grains; but they had been disappointed. It now becomes us to assume an independent policy (hear, hear), and to build up our manufacturing interests, and thus create a home market for surplus produce. He hoped that future legislation would be in that direction. They would all rejoice at the prospect of a termination of the difficulties in the North- West but though the Act for the government of that Territory would, he hoped, be a liberal Act, that portion of the Dominion would continue to be a Territory for some time. He trusted, however, that it would soon exchange that condition for a full grown State. He endorsed the views of the hon. mover in regard to the Finances, and also with regard to the desirability of an assimilation of the Currency. He considered that the franchise could advantageously be extended here as in the Mother Country, and saw no reason why a large class of intelligent people should be deprived of that privilege merely because they did not possess a certain amount of property. He thought that the Census would show progress in every part
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Brunswick. He could not congratulate the House upon progress of Confederation. It was time it was carried, but from expressions he had heard from members of this House he was forced to conclude that the Province was not satisfied. The policy of the Government with reference to the Intercolonial Railway had already been fully discussed and he did not intend to say anything further than that he should have been glad to have seen the policy with reference to the construction of that road materially altered. He thought a policy of economy should have been pursued. The policy which had been adopted in the construction of the Intercolonial Railway has given us the management of several hundred miles of railway—an arrangement that could not be carried on as well under Government control as by private parties, and it involved responsibilities which it would have been better not to assume. He was convinced that the expenditure upon this railway would itself form a serious burden upon the resources of the country. He regretted to observe that the policy which had been pursued with reference to Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island had borne results worse than barren. They had received a more decided negative from Newfoundland as regards Confederation. And this House stood in the awkward position of having legislated with regard to terms to be offered to Prince Edward Island, which terms had been rejected entirely. With regard to the North-West question he was sorry to arrive at the same conclusion. An avowed resistance had been given to attempts to incorporate that Territory into the Dominion. Who was responsible for that state of things he would not pretend to say until all the correspondence and other papers connected with the matter had been laid before the House. When he looked from one end to the other of the Dominion he must pronounce the administration of the hon. member for Kingston a failure as regards the important measure entrusted to him, (hear, hear). He would further say that if there had been one thing that had saved Confederation from public disapproval, it was not what had been done by the Dominion Government but the efficient management which had characterized the Local Governments of Quebec and Ontario—eminently the populous and wealthy Province of Ontario, and these Provinces could be appealed to as a proof of the satisfactory manner in which local powers had been administered. The Speech of the Governor General was a serious disappointment to him. There was but one source of congratulation in that Speech—it was thankfulness for the bountiful harvests; there was no hope held out that there would be a reconciliation of difficulties with that Province, and there is nothing to make us hope that
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would have refused his support to the Government, on the ground of the hon. gentleman entering the Cabinet. The Finance Minister now stated that he (Sir Alexander) had accorded him support, when in office, but he had been mistaken. He had given the hon. gentleman no support, unless it was for a very short time just previous to the dissolution in 1854. He (Sir Alexander) was in opposition to the Hincks Government of which Lafontaine and Baldwin were chiefs, and was in the strongest possible opposition with the present Minister of Justice, and moreover opposed the most important part of his policy. He (Sir Alexander) gave Hincks no support in his financial plans. Great excitement was caused about the Clergy Reserve and Seigniorial Tenure questions, and because nothing was put in the speech of Lord Elgin, he had opposed the Government of the day, of which Hincks was a member. With regard to the financial policy of those gentlemen there were some policies which required a certain amount of time to develop, and the policy which had been installed and carried out by the present Finance Minister was one which time had developed and which time and the country had almost unanimously condemned. He (Sir Alexander) had had experience in the finances of this country, and the difficulties and labours which had devolved upon Finance Ministers, from the time the present Finance Minister left, have been caused by legislation he originated.
Mr. Jones (Leeds and Grenville) saw little good in Coalitions, and said when the Reform element was fully represented in the Cabinet by Brown, Howland and McDougall, some of the most extravagant acts of the Government took place. He regretted to see nothing in the Speech having reference to the fraudulent transactions of certain Government employees, and respecting which the country demanded information. He also regretted that no reference had been made to Reciprocity, and spoke of the protection the Americans gave to their produce, which was admitted free to Canada, while Canadian produce had to pay heavy duties. He had a right to complain that the Reform party had seats offered them in the ministry, and good Conservatives, like himself, had a very poor chance. (Laughter.) This was very demoralizing. He had to stand alone in advocating the rights of the country, the Reformers following the Hon. George Brown, and Conservatives going like sheep after their leader. (Laughter.) He hoped they would devote more time in future discussing the real interests of the country, and less to personal 51 explanations. A great deal of personal discussion had taken place but he could not see that the country had derived much benefit from the Reform element in the Cabinet. Several arbitrations had been allowed under their rule which every Government had resisted. He instanced the Grand Trunk postal allowance, which was formerly $70,000, and although they had demanded an arbitration repeatedly, it was disallowed till Brown came in, and the result of the arbitration then sanctioned was that the grant was increased to $167,000. There was the claim for extras on the Ottawa Buildings also submitted by the Coalition Government, and he could only congratulate the country on the end of the Coalition. He was glad to welcome some new adherents to his way of thinking, and excited some laughter by complaining that when the Government were hard pushed they went to the opposite side of the House and purchased the leading men in Opposition, instead of taken respectable Conservatives like himself. He asked why there had been no allusion to the state of the Public Departments, in which plundering had been going on for the last fourteen years, and for which the heads of the Departments should be held responsible. He complained that no reference had been made to reciprocity, for want of which the country was suffering, and said that there was intense dissatisfaction among the farmers of Ontario on account of the want of protection, which allowed the Americans to send their Corn and coarse grains to the lumberers and millers to the exclusion of the producers here, who were undersold. The question of Confederation had seemed to occupy every mind to the exclusion of other matters, and he hoped that information of an important kind regarding the North-West would be furnished by the Secretary of State for the Provinces, who had lately been visiting the half-breeds and who he trusted had effected an improvement on that race. (Laughter.)
Mr. Bowell said the introduction of the Finance Minister would prove the destruction of the party in power. There was scarcely a man in Quebec or Ontario who had not opposed the appointment when it was proposed. The course followed by the Premier in bringing in such men, would result in his having a smaller following than he had at the time of the Coalition. He could easily understand the position of the member for Sherbrooke, who had to bear the burden of the sins committed by the 52 COMMONS DEBATES February 17, 1870 present Finance Minister when he had formerly been in office. Not a man who took the stump in defence of the Government, of which the member for Sherbrooke formed a part, who did not take that ground in his defence and had to defend him (Sir Alexander) against the sins and iniquities of the present Finance Minister, to which he had fallen heir. It was strange that when the Finance Minister took office, if he was a Reformer, that he could not get a Reformer to resign in his favour, but had to get a Conservative to do so in a Conservative county. Galt's action in resigning on the Clergy Reserve question was quite intelligible to those who knew that it had been kept as a stalking horse for 25 years, and would never have been settled but for the Minister of Justice and his friends who grappled with the subject, and settled the question equitably to all parties. He demanded that the charges against Messrs. Howe and Langevin should be explained, for if guilty of a tithe of what they were accused, they should be dismissed by their colleagues; if they supported them, they should all be driven out of office.
Hon. Mr. Howe was about to speak when Mr. Mackenzie said the ministerial explanations should be separated from the real debate on the Address, which it was almost too late to discuss at that hour.
Hon. Mr. Howe said he would be judged by his acts, and not by the slanders of the last few weeks. When the papers came down he would be ready to meet his slanderers.
The first clauses of the Address were passed. On the one referring to the North-West being put,
Mr. Masson (Terrebonne) expressed his dissatisfaction at the position taken by the Government, in reference to the North-West, and stated that on the introduction of the resolutions for an address to Her Majesty for the acquisition of the North-West in 1867, the Government had been asked to delay the matter at least until the second part of the session, a period of about two months, in order to afford the members an opportunity of well considering the question which might in the future involve us in great difficulties with the Indians, and be a source of enormous expense to the country. The answer given was, that no time could be lost, as the Americans were pouring into the country, and as any delay on our part would result in the annexation of those Territories to the United States, who were only watching an occasion. Over two years had 53 passed since then, and, notwithstanding the dissatisfaction of the immense majority of the inhabitants and rumors of armed interference, our neighbours have not shewn the slightest idea of taking possession of the country. He charged the Government with great imprudence, inasmuch as while buying not property but individuals, no care had been taken to ascertain their wishes. Until lately there had been a complete Government in the Territory, of which the Governor only was connected with the Hudson Bay Company, the interests of some of the members of the Council being in fact different from theirs, and if the Government here did not consult the people, they should at least have consulted the existing Government. Among the members of the Council were the Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops who had always worked most harmoniously together for the good of the Colony, and whose advice would have been of the greatest importance. He then referred to a book or report written by Bishop Taché, who had lived over a quarter of a century in that Territory and travelled over it in every direction. That report, he was informed, had remained unpublished in the hands of the Government for over two years, while the House had been furnished with the opinions of men who had remained in the country only a short time, gathered the greater part of their information from hearsay, and generally got up their reports with a particular object in view. He reflected severely on the Government for hinting at the use of force, and asked how it would have been regarded had the people of Nova Scotia been threatened, that every attempt at conciliation having been tried, other means would be used. He asked for the same treatment for the half-breeds of whatever race, as had been given to Nova Scotia.
Hon. Mr. Howe wished the remarks of the hon. member for Terrebonne had been made after we had seen the policy of the Government, which would be based upon broad liberal principles.
Mr. Mackenzie moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Holton, the adjournment of the debate.
The House adjourned at a quarter to eleven.


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1870. Edited by P.B. Waite. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1979. Original scans accessible at: http://parl.canadiana.ca/.



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