House of Commons, 30 March 1870, Canadian Confederation with Newfoundland

774 COMMONS DEBATES March 30, 1870
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald give back to Nova Scotia what she had spent since the Quebec Conference. Thank God the Dominion was rich enough to be honest. Gentlemen opposite did not always adhere to the Quebec Resolutions. Last session when the resolutions respecting Newfoundland were before the House, although it was provided by these Quebec Resolutions that the Dominion should buy up all the Crown Lands, gentlemen on the opposition benches supported an amendment against that arrangement respecting Newfoundland. They did not think the Quebec Resolutions were so sacred that they could not be amended. How did the Parliament of the United Kingdom treat Ireland after 1800? Every one of the arrangements entered into respecting revenue, had since been altered, as he showed by the report of the special committee appointed to investigate the matter. It was well known with what difficulty the Union had been carried, and yet the arrangements were altered shortly after. That this Parliament had acted wisely and justly was evidenced by the decision of the Imperial Parliament as well as by the altered tone of the representatives of Nova Scotia in dealing with general interests and entering heartily into their consideration, even although many would still be anxious to be separated. But they would all confess they had been treated justly here. All had heard of the struggles of nations for liberty; and of English patriots not fearing to wade through blood and war. They saw how the Colonial system had grown up from a bureaucracy to responsible Government, won by persistent exertions. But history was silent on any case but this, where a people said they had too much liberty and were not fit to be trusted with their own money, like the lunatic, feeling the fit coming on him, asking to be manacled. A people which considers itself a nation which some thought fit to walk alone, they asserted was not fit to spend its own money. That was what was said by the hon. member for West Durham. When Fox said that the Prince of Wales was Regent by Right Divine, Pitt said, "Then marry him." They could not unwhig the mover for bringing forward a motion to deprive the people of their liberty, which might have been expected from an old Tory like himself, (laughter). Had he brought forward such a motion, how many stones would have been thrown at his head. He held that he and his friends were the exponents of the wishes of the people, and would maintain their liberty. Then, of what use was the motion? The mover says that the alteration would have been obtained by an Address to the Imperial Parliament. It would not, therefore, prevent all the log-rolling, and all they would obtain by this was a mess of pottage. The Imperial Parliament had handed over all power to the Dominion, except the treaty-making power and that of making peace and war. Everything asked for would be given, just as was done in 1841, when everything asked for was given at once, and all the changes at once acceded to, even the Civil list. And so the attack upon the Constitution was useless, worse than a crime—it was a blunder. Nobody knew this better than the member for Lambton. He did not know how he was going to vote, but if he supported the motion of Mr. Blake, he would vote against all his recorded opinions. He declared that the salary to the Governor, fixed at £10,000, was an infringement on the rights of the people, and would not be satisfied till the stain was removed by asserting the duty of maintaining the right of this House to deal with its own money.
Mr. Mackenzie—It was a good vote.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—So good that he would follow it. He would move an amendment in the very words of that motion, that it is the undeniable privilege of Parliament to fix and determine the amount of all expenses chargeable to the public funds of the country, (cheers and laughter.)
Mr. Mackenzie said it was a mistake of the Minister of Justice if he thought he would embarrass him by this amendment. His amendment then was to the motion of the Minister of Justice, who maintained that the Imperial Parliament had a right to expend any money of this country that it chose for civil Government. He was, however, compelled by indignant public opinion, as expressed by the members of the House, and was compelled to accept his motion. He was amused by hearing the Minister of Justice refer to a book with which he was less familiar than with the Statute Book. He charged the member for West Durham with troubling Israel. If he was satisfied to occupy the position of the other parties to the parallel, that gentleman need not be dissatisfied. He did not seem to be aware that the quotation
776 COMMONS DEBATES March 30, 1870
referred to the meeting between Ahab and Elijah, before the false prophets were put to the sword. The prophet Elijah when accused of troubling Israel answered, "I have not troubled Israel but thou and thy fathers house in that thou hast forsaken the Commandments of the Lord and followed Baal" (loud laughter and cheers). The Minister of Justice had followed Baal, and it took the prophet in the shape of the member for West Durham to bring him back to reason and righteousness, (renewed laughter). When the Minister of Justice lacked argument it was always made known for he made up for it by being voluble, noisy and declamatory. His first point was that they had a perfect right to do what they pleased with their own. He denied this. They could only do with it according to the usages of civilized society. If every one could do as he liked with his own, why had Ontario been prevented from doing so with its own? The Minister of Justice told that Government they had no right to vote $1,000 to the judges because it was against the Act. (Hear, hear.) If the Legislature of Ontario were bound by that Act, the Dominion Government were bound in the same way to the Imperial Government. (Hear, hear.) But the hon. gentlemen would not get off with the mere statement that as he did what he pleased with his own, so they had a right to vote a certain sum of money. He (Mr. Mackenzie) was a little surprised that the hon. member for Colchester should have been so disingenuous as to have put the matter in that way. It was more than that. The wording of the resolution passed last year, followed very closely the words of the 114th section of the Confederation Act. The section stated that Nova Scotia should be liable to Canada for the amount by which its debt exceeded $8,000,000, but the words of the statute passed by the hon. gentleman—for he assumed the responsibility of it—were in the first clause "that Nova Scotia shall be liable to Canada for the amount by which its debt exceeds $9,160,000", so that the very words of the Union Act were changed, and they were told in the succeeding section that this Act shall be considered as amending the 114 and 115 sections of the Union Act. (Hear, hear.) The Hon. Minister here assumed the responsibility of deliberately amending an Imperial statute settling the amount of debt by which that Province was to come into the Union. The hon. gentleman had alluded in defence of that to the fact that the Parliament of England and Ireland had changed the terms of the debt upon which the two countries had become united; but there was no analogy since there was no superior power in that case to appeal to, or that had given them their existence as a Union. Here they lived under a Constitution furnished them by the Imperial Government itself with their own consent, and there still existed that authority without which they could not move; and unless the hon. gentleman could prove that they were in a position to alter the Union of the four Provinces without reference to the Imperial Government, his argument was extremely worthless. With regard to the high opinion expressed of the law officers of the Crown, and the respect they were to pay them according to the hon. gentleman, it was absolutely not a week ago that he had sneered at men who occupied much higher position in the Government of England than the Attorney General. He seemed to make them just as it suited him, making them great or mean as necessity required. (Laughter.) He even called the Under Secretary of State, on the receipt of some despatches, very destructive to the credit of himself as a statesman, "a mere understrapper"; but now they were to bow down to his opinions. (Laughter.) Another Minister had declared that he would never yield to the opinion of any English Minister, and perhaps he would show the House how far the Minister of Justice was wrong when he yielded to the dictation of the Attorney-General. (Hear, hear.) The Minister of Justice said that Mr. Blake did not accept the decision of the House last year. In so far as that was considered to be inevitable they accepted it; but they took their ground, not that Nova Scotia was not entitled to some consideration of her claims, for they supported an amendment that the House should go into Committee to consider their grievances, but the hon. gentleman took opposite ground, and the attempt to go into Committee failed. The Honourable Secretary of State had not had manliness yet to acknowledge the efforts made by the Opposition on that occasion.
Hon. Mr. Howe said he was not there at the time, and he knew nothing about it.
Mr. Mackenzie said the hon. gentleman had a convenient lubricity of memory occasionally. The hon. gentleman did not fail to make enquiry when he returned from England.
Hon. Mr. Howe—I made no enquiries.
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Mr. Mackenzie—Well, you have got it now, and I hope you will profit by it. Another thing the Minister of Justice made a great point of was that they were a great people. That they had rights and should protect them; but it was not a week since they were told that Canada was so petty a country that if we were to send a delegate to any foreign country they would not know where he came from. It suited the hon. gentleman's purposes to make them out now a powerful country, but another time and they were a very weak and contemptible people indeed. (Great laughter.) He did not consider it necessary to go over the able arguments of the hon. member for West Durham, because not a single one had been referred to by the Minister of Justice. He imagined that they acted inconsistently in objecting to the terms of Newfoundland, because it had been adopted at the Quebec Conference. It was unnecessary to go over arguments on this point brought forward last session. The resolutions were agreed to at Quebec on an understanding that they were to be accepted at that time, and the whole were to be as a treaty, to be either wholly accepted, or not. Newfoundland, however, refused to accept those terms; but when they sent a delegation to this place, he (Mr. Mackenzie) felt most anxious that such arrangements should be made as would lead to her entry. He believed that the proposition which they made would have been accepted by that people; but the resolutions which the Government insisted on passing, ensured their rejection at the polls. The hon. gentleman had made one statement—he said that the course they proposed was precisely the same, except in name, such as if they had proposed to pass an Address to Her Majesty, in order that they might pay that sum to Nova Scotia. The ground they took was that that was a union of the four Provinces, and they could not alter the Act of Union without the sanction and agreement of those four parties to the agreement; that an appeal to England should be made, which, if favourable, then the Act could be passed; but if the Government could alter the 114th section of the Act, they could alter any part of it, and could, for instance, give a larger representation to any of the Provinces in that House by the same means.
Hon. Mr. Howe said that Nova Scotia would have been compelled, without the compromise of last session, to resort to direct taxation to enable her to maintain her local services, whereas Ontario had a large surplus on hand, so that the Premier of that Province could, as he had been informed he did, sometimes, carry [...]


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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