Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

ascertained what was the deliberate voice of the representatives of the people on the subject. In this country, we must remember, that the gentlemen who will be selected for the Legislative Council stand on a very different footing from the peers of England. They have not like them any ancestral associations or position derived from history. They have not that direct influence on the people themselves, or on the popular branch of the legislature, which the peers of England exercise, from their great wealth, their vast territorial possessions, their numerous tenantry and that prestige with which the exalted position of their class for centuries has invested them. The members of our Upper House will be like those of the Lower, men of the people, and from the people. The man put into the Upper House is as much a man of the people the day after, as the day before his elevation. Springing from the people, and one of them, he takes his seat in the Council with all the sympathies and feelings of a man of the people, and when he returns home, at the end of the session, he mingles with them on equal terms, and is influenced by the same feelings and associations, and events, as those which affect the mass around him. And is it, then, to be supposed that the members of the upper branch of the legislature will set themselves deliberately at work to oppose what they know to be the settled opinions and wishes of the people of the country? They will not do it. There is no fear of a dead-lock between the two houses. There is an infinitely greater chance of a dead-lock between the two branches of the legislature, should the elective principle be adopted, than with a nominated chamber-chosen by the Crown, and having no mission from the people. The members of the Upper Chamber would then come from the people as well as those of the Lower House, and should any difference ever arise between both branches, the former could say to the members of the popular branch-"We as much represent the feelings of the people as you do, and even more so; we are not elected from small localities and for a short period; you as a body were elected at a particular time, when the public mind was running in a particular channel; you were returned to Parliament, not so much representing the general views of the country, on general question, as upon the particular subjects which happened to engage the minds of the people when they went to the polls. We have as much right, or a better right, than you to be considered as representing the deliberate will of the people on general question, and therefore we will not give way." There is, I repeat, a greater danger of an irreconcilable difference of opinion between the two branches of the legislature, if the upper be elective, than if it holds its commission from the Crown. Besides, it must be remembered that an Upper House, the members of which are to be appointed for life, would not have the same quality of permanence as the House of Lords; our members would die; strangers would succeed them, whereas son succeeded father in the House of Lords. Thus the changes in the membership and state of opinion in our Upper House would always be more rapid than in the House of Lords. To show how speedily changes have occurred in the Upper House, as regards life members, I will call the attention of the House to the following facts-At the call of the House, in February, 1856, forty-two life members responded; two years afterwards, in 1858, only thirty-five answered to their names; in 1862 there were only twenty-five life members left, and in 1864, but twenty-one. This shows how speedily changes take place in the life membership. But remarkable as this change has been, it is not so great as that in regard to the elected members. Though the elective principle only came into force in 1856, and although only twelve men were elected that year, and twelve more every two years since, twenty-four changes have already taken place by the decease of members, by the acceptance of office, and by resignation. So it is quite clear that, should there be on any question a difference of opinion between the Upper and Lower Houses, the government of the day being obliged to have the confidence of the majority in the popular branch-would, for the purpose of bringing the former into accord and sympathy with the latter, fill up any vacancies that might occur, with men of the same political feelings and

sympathies with the Government, and consequently with those of the majority in the popular branch; and all the appointments of the Administration would be made with the object of maintaining the sympathy and harmony between the two houses. There is this additional advantage to be expected from the limitation. To the Upper House is to be confided the protection of sectional interests; therefore is it that the three great divisions are there equally represented, for the purpose of defending such interests against the combinations of majorities in the Assembly. It will, therefore, become the interest of each section to be represented by its very best men, and the members of the Administration who belong to each section will see that such men are chosen, in case of a vacancy in their section. For the same reason each state of the American Union sends its two best men to represent its interests in the Senate. It is provided in the Constitution that in the first selections for the Council, regard shall be had to those who now hold similar positions in the different colonies. This, it appears to me, is a wise provision. In all the provinces, except Prince Edward, there are gentlemen who hold commissions for the Upper House for life. In Canada, there are a number who hold under that commission, but the majority of them hold by a commission, not, perhaps, from a monarchical point of view so honorable, because the Queen is the fountain of honor, but still, as holding their appointment from the people, they may be considered as standing on a par with those who have Her Majesty's commission. There can be no reason suggested why those who have had experience in legislation, whether they hold their positions by the election of the people or have received preferment from the Crown-there is no valid reason why those men should be passed over, and new men sought for to form the Legislative Council of the Confederation. It is, therefore, provided that the selection shall be made from those gentlemen who are now members of the upper branch of the Legislature in each of the colonies, for seats in the Legislative Council of the General Legislature. The arrangement in this respect is somewhat similar to that by which Representative Peers are chosen from the Peers of Scotland and Ireland, to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. In like manner, the members of the Legislative Council of the proposed Confederation will be first selected from the existing Legislative Councils of the various provinces. In the formation of the House of Commons, the principle of representation by population has been provided for in a manner equally ingenious and simple. The introduction of this principle presented at first the apparent difficulty of a constantly increasing body until, with the increasing population, it would become inconveniently and expensively large. But by adopting the representation of Lower Canada as a fixed standard-as the pivot on which the whole would turn-that province being the best suited for the purpose, on account of the comparatively permanent character of its population, and from its having neither the largest nor least number of inhabitants-we have been enabled to overcome the difficulty I have mentioned. We have introduced the system of representation by population without the danger of an inconvenient increase in the number of representatives on the recurrence of each decennial period. The whole thing is worked by a simple rule of three. For instance, we have in Upper Canada, 1,400,000 of a population; in Lower Canada 1,100,000. Now, the proposition is simply this-if Lower Canada, with its population of 1,100,000 has a right to 65 members how many members should Upper Canada have, with its larger population of 1,400,000? The same rule applies to the other provinces the proportion is always observed and the principle of repre sentation by population carried out, while, at the same time, there will not be decennially an inconvenient increase in the numbers of the Lower House. At the same time, there is a constitutional provision that hereafter if deemed advisable, the total number of representatives may be increased from 194, the number fixed in the first instance. In that case, if an increase is made, Lower Canada is still to remain the pivot on which the whole calculation will turn. If Lower Canada, instead of sixty-five, shall have seventy members, then the calculation will be, if Lower Canada has seventy

members, with such a population, how many shall Upper Canada have with a larger population? I was in favor of a larger House than one hundred and ninety-four, but was overruled. I was perhaps singular in the opinion, but I thought it would be well to commence with a larger representation in the lower branch. The arguments against this were, that, in the first place, it would cause additional expense; in the next place, that in a new country like this, we could not get a sufficient number of qualified men to be representatives. My reply was that the number is rapidly increasing as we increase in education and wealth; that a larger field would be open to political ambition by having a larger body of representatives; that by having numerous and smaller constituencies, more people would be interested in the working of the union, and that there would be a wider field for selection for leaders of governments and leaders of parties. These are my individual sentiments, which, perhaps, I have no right to express here but I was overruled, and we fixed on the number of one hundred and ninety-four, which no one will say is large or extensive, when it is considered that our present number in Canada alone is one hundred and thirty. The difference between one hundred and thirty and one hundred and ninety-four is not great, considering the large increase that will be made to our population when Confederation is carried into effect. While the principle of representation by population is adopted with respect to the popular branch of the legislature, not a single member of the Conference, as I stated before, not a single one of the representatives of the government or of the opposition of any one of the Lower Provinces was in favor of universal suffrage. Every one felt that in this respect the principle of the British Constitution should be carried out, and that classes and property should be represented as well as numbers. Insuperable difficulties would have presented themselves if we had attempted to settle now the qualification for the elective franchise. We have different laws in each of the colonies fixing the qualification of electors for their own local legislatures; and we therefore adopted a similar clause to that which is contained in the Canada Union Act of 1841, viz., that all the laws which affected the qualification of members and of voters, which affected the appointment and conduct of returning officers and the proceedings at elections, as well as the trial of controverted elections in the separate provinces, should obtain in the first election to the Confederate Parliament, so that every man who has now a vote in his own province should continue to have a vote in choosing a representative to the first Federal Parliament. And it was left to the Parliament of the Confederation, as one of their first duties, to consider and to settle by an act of their own the qualification for the elective franchise, which would apply to the whole Confederation. In considering the question of the duration of Parliament, we came to the conclusion to recommend a period of five years. I was in favor of a longer period. I thought that the duration of the local legislatures should not be shortened so as to be less than four years, as at present. and that the General Parliament should have as long a duration as that of the United Kingdom. I was willing to have gone to the extent of seven years; but a term of five years was preferred, and we had the example of the New Zealand carefully considered, not only locally, but by the Imperial Parliament, and which gave the provinces of those islands a general parliament with a duration of five years. But it was a matter of little importance whether five or seven years was the term, the power of dissolution by the Crown having been reserved. I find, on looking at the duration of parliaments since the accession of George III. to the Throne, that excluding the present parliament, there have been seventeen parliaments, the average period of whose existence has been about three years and a half. That average is less than the average duration of the parliaments in Canada since the union, so that it was not a matter of much importance whether we fixed upon five or seven years as the period of duration of our General Parliament. A good deal of misapprehension has arisen from the accidental omission of some words from the 24th resolution. It was thought that by it the local legislatures were to have the power of arranging here

after, and from time to time of readjusting the different constituencies and settling the size and boundaries of the various electoral districts. The meaning of the resolution is simply this, that for the first General Parliament, the arrangement of constituencies shall be made by the existing local legislatures; that in Canada, for instance, the present Canadian Parliament shall arrange what are to be the constituencies of Upper Canada, and to make such changes as may be necessary in arranging for the seventeen additional members given to it by the Constitution; and that it may also, if it sees fit, alter the boundaries of the existing constituencies of Lower Canada. In short, this Parliament shall settle what shall be the different constituencies electing members to the first Federal Parliament. And so the other provinces, the legislatures of which will fix the limits of their several constituencies in the session in which they adopt the new Constitution. Afterwards the local legislatures may alter their own electoral limits as they please, for their own local elections. But it would evidently be unproper to leave to the Local Legislature the power to alter the constituencies sending members to the General Legislature after the General Legislature shall have been called into existence. Were this the case, a member of the General Legislature might at any time find himself ousted from his seat by an alteration of his constituency by the Local Legislature in his section. No, after the General Parliament meets, in order that it may have full control of its own legislation, and be assured of its position, it must have the full power of arranging and re-arranging the electoral limits of its constituencies as it pleases, such being one of the powers essentially necessary to such a Legislature. I shall not detain the House by entering into a consideration at any length of the different powers conferred upon the General Parliament as contradistinguished from those reserved to the local legislatures; but any honorable member on examining the list of different subjects which are to be assigned to the General and Local Legislatures respectively, will see that all the great questions which affect the general interests of the Confederacy as a whole, are confided to the Federal Parliament, while the local interests and local laws of each section are preserved intact, and entrusted to the care of the local bodies. As a matter of course, the General Parliament must have the power of dealing with the public debt and property of the Confederation. Of course, too, it must have the regulation of trade and commerce, of customs and excise. The Federal Parliament must have the sovereign power of raising money from such sources and by such means as the representatives of the people will allow. It will be seen that the local legislatures have the control of all local works; and it is a matter of great importance, and one of the chief advantages of the Federal Union and of local legislatures, that each province will have the power and means of developing its own resources and aiding its own progress after its own fashion and in its own way. Therefore all the local improvements, all local enterprizes or undertakings of any kind, have been left to the care and management of the local legislatures of each province. It is provided that all "lines of steam or other ships, railways, canals and other works, connecting any two or more of the provinces together or extending beyond the limits of any province," shall belong to the General Government, and be under the control of the General Legislature. In like manner "lines of steamships between the Federated Provinces and other countries, telegraph communication and the incorporation of telegraph companies, and all such works as shall, although lying within any province, be specially declared by the Acts authorizing them to be for the general advantage," shall belong to the General Government. For instance the Welland Canal, though lying wholly within one section, and the St. Lawrence Canals in two only, may be properly considered national works, and for the general benefit of the whole Federation. Again, the census, the ascertaining of our numbers and the extent of our resources, must, as a matter of general interest, belong to the General Government. So also with the defences of the country. One of the great advantages of Confederation is, that we shall have a united, a concerted, and uniform system of defence. We are at this moment with a different militia system

in each colony-in some of the colonies with an utter want of any system of defence. We have a number of separate staff establishments, without any arrangement between the colonies as to the means, either of defence or offence. But, under the union, we will have one system of defence and one system of militia organization. In the event of the Lower Provinces being threatened, we can send the large militia forces of Upper Canada to their rescue. Should we have to fight on our lakes against a foreign foe, we will have the hardy seamen of the Lower Provinces coming to our assistance and manning our vessels. We will have one system of defence and be one people, acting together alike in peace and in war. The criminal law too-the determination of what is a crime and what is not and how crime shall be punished-is left to the General Government. This is a matter almost of necessity. It is of great importance that we should have the same criminal law throughout these provinces—that what is a crime in one part of British America, should be a crime in every part -that there should be the same protection of life and property as in another. It is one of the defects in the United States system, that each separate state has or may have a criminal code of its own,-that what may be a capital offence in one state may be a venial offence, punishable slightly, in another. But under our Constitution we shall have one body of criminal law, based on the criminal law of England, and operating equally throughout British America, so that a British American, belonging to what province he may, or going to any other part of the Confederation, knows what his rights are in that respect, and what his punishment will be if an offender against the criminal laws of the land. I think this is one of the most marked instances in which we take advantage of the experience derived from our observations of the defects in the Constitution of the neighboring Republic. The 33rd provision is of very great importance to the future well-being of these colonies. It commits to the General Parliament the "rendering uniform all or any of the laws relative to property and civil rights in Upper Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, and rendering uniform the procedure of all or any of the courts in these provinces." The great principles which govern the laws of all the provinces, with the single exception of Lower Canada, are the same, although there may be a divergence in details; and it is gratifying to find, on the part of the Lower Provinces, a general desire to join together with Upper Canada in this matter, and to procure, as soon as possible, an assimilation of the statutory laws and the procedure in the courts, of all these provinces. At present there is a good deal of diversity. In one of the colonies, for instance, they have no municipal system at all. In another, the municipal system is merely permissive, and has not been adopted to any extent. Although, therefore, a legislative union was found to be almost impracticable, it was understood, so far as we could influence the future, that the first act of the Confederate Government should be to procure an assimilation of the statutory law of all those provinces, which has, as its root and foundation, the common law of England. But to prevent local interests from being over-ridden, the same section makes provision, that, while power is given to the General Legislature to deal with this subject, no change in this respect should have the force and authority of law in any province until sanctioned by the Legislature of that province. The General Legislature is to have power to establish a general Court of Appeal for the Federated Provinces. Although the Canadian Legislature has always had the power to establish a Court of Appeal, to which appeals may be made from the courts of Upper and Lower Canada, we have never availed ourselves of the power. Upper Canada has its own Court of Appeal, so has Lower Canada. And this system will continue until a General Court of Appeal shall be established by the General Legislature. The Constitution does not provide that such a court shall be established. There are many arguments for and against the establishment of such a court. But it was thought wise and expedient to put into the Constitution a power to the General Legislature, that, if after full consideration they think it advisable to estab

« AnkstesnisTęsti »