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

[...] now returned after a most successful mission and the negotiations could be renewed. In the meantime he could inform the House that the Department of Inland Revenue had been most successfully managed by the Postmaster-General, who attended to these additional arduous duties during the whole of the winter, though at great personal loss and labour. The interests of the public service in this respect had not, therefore, suffered in any way. The thing, of course, could not be carried on, and it was the intention of the Government to fill up the vacancy, and place a responsible man at the head of the Department. As to the proportional representation of the Provinces in the Cabinet, his honourable friend would remember that it was stated by the Government during the first session that these matters, the formation of the Government, division of the offices, &c., were of necessity experimental, and this was the case yet. In the event of the absorption of the great North-West and Newfoundland into the Dominion, new duties and responsibilities would be involved, and very probably a re-adjustment of the different heads of the Departments. But he had no doubt that within the limits of a legitimate opposition, the Government would be supported in any efforts they might make to administer the new state of affairs. As to Mr. Howe, he (Sir John) hoped the people of Hants would soon enable that hon. gentleman to explain his own position on the floor of the House.
Hon. Mr. Holton thanked the Minister of Justice for his full and explicit information. It would be unusual and inconvenient to debate at that moment the policy involved in the explanations; but there was just one point more that ought to be explained. The Minister of Justice said in the course of his explanations, that negotiations had been entered into with the view of filling the vacant offices before the two members of the Cabinet went to England. As a matter of courtesy, the House was entitled to know what direction these negotiations took, and why they did not go on. Having been informed that negotiations had been entered into, the House was entitled to know all about them.
Sir John A. Macdonald said that at the proper time a full and frank explanation would be given. The negotiations ought never to be stated until they came to a result.
12 COMMONS DEBATES April 16, 1869
Hon. Mr. Holton—You 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
18 COMMONS DEBATES April 16, 1869
Mr. Mackenzie 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 intrusted 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 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 suflicient 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 Provincesknit 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 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 incom 22 COMMONS DEBATES April 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 effect 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/.



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Personnes participantes: