House of Commons, 18 March 1870, Canadian Confederation with Prince Edward Island

[...] cious and unfriendly to say beforehand, what the electoral franchise shall be in the Provinces, not yet in the Union; to tell them, in fact, that their influence here shall not be felt. He called the attention of the House to the irrelevancy of the franchise proposed. He thought that the Minister of Justice could, with propriety, adopt the franchise of the local Houses. His opinion was that the time was not far off, when every man in the country would have a vote, when the political sentiment of the country would not be demoralised by the registration system.
Hon. Mr. Wood—The hon. gentleman says that it is desirable that the elections should not be simultaneous and on one day, because it would deprive persons having votes in different constituencies from exercising the franchise in more than one constituency. Should he not then, to be logical, provide for the elections to take place in each constituency on successive days, so as to give full opportunity for all having the franchise in different constituencies, (hear, hear).
Hon. Col. Gray—Why this would be impossible; it is the reductio ad absurdum.
Hon. Mr. Wood—It is_ reducing your argument ad absurdum, (hear, hear and laughter).
Hon. Col. Gray thought that the House was indebted to the hon. member for Bothwell for awakening an interest in another subject of discussion than the one they had for the last seven or eight days, (hear). If every man were an educated man, and if there were no moral wrong, then the theories of the hon. gentleman would be right. But they must take men as they were, and look at the interest a man had in the country in which he resided. The possession of property was an evidence of capacity of an interest in the country to be affected by legislation, and should serve as a criterion on which the franchise should be based, (hear, hear). As to the argument that the proposed franchise was different from that of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, with whom we were negotiating to enter the Dominion, he (Col. Gray) would say that it would be absurd to frame a measure not based upon the wishes, the wants, or the interests of the 4,000,000 of the Dominion, but on the local practice of a population not larger than two of our counties in Ontario, and of Provinces which refused to join us, (hear, hear). If the Govern 514 COMMONS DEBATES March 18, 1870 ment had brought down a measure of that character, it would be absurd. One might as well ask the people of the United States to frame their laws on the customs of the inhabitants of the Fiji Islands. If there were any attempts to deprive the people of the Maritime Provinces of their rights, as the member for Bothwell seemed pleased to intimate, there were men from those Provinces, their own representatives, who were perfectly able to look after their interests. The people of New Brunswick were content with the franchise as they had it, and the franchise there was based on the £100 qualification, mixed of real and personal estate or income—and in case of land of $100. In Ontario the franchise had always been connected in some way or other with the land. In the Maritime Provinces the franchise went further, and was based on salary and income. The principle of the Bill was to extend to Ontario the same advantages which were possessed by the Maritime Provinces, (hear, hear).
Mr. Mackenzie—The franchise for the counties remains the same as it is now in Ontario — $100.
Hon. Col. Gray said that the provisions of the Bill were more liberal to Ontario than those of the Act passed by their own Legislature last winter. In this respect this Bill represented the interests of Ontario better than their own Legislature represented them.
Mr. Mackenzie—Hear, hear.
Hon. Col Gray—Another principle of the Bill was to prevent the floating population of the country from controlling the affairs of the country, by making residence a qualification of voting. Registration as well as residence and property was required. If the representatives of Ontario were prepared to adopt the principle of universal suffrage, then he would say that the people of the Maritime Provinces would not have it, (hear, hear). Those people were determined that practical and not theoretical qualifications should be the result of voting.
Mr. Mills—But you would employ these men who have no property to defend the country? (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Col. Gray said he would trust every man brought up in the country to defend it even if he had not a shilling, (hear, hear).


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



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

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