Hon. K. Kellie Leitch (Simcoe—Grey, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this morning to rise to speak to Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation.
Confederation is an important event for Canadians, but especially for Conservatives, since two Conservatives, Sir John A. Macdonald, our first prime minister, and George-Étienne Cartier, a minister and Quebec lieutenant, were involved in making sure that this country came together.
Sir John A. Macdonald, as our first prime minister, was at the Charlottetown Conference that took place between September 1 and 7 of 1864. It changed the course of Canadian, North American, and world history.
What would Canada be if not for John A. Macdonald, a man with a vision of a Canada from coast to coast, and of delegates in Charlottetown, recognizing that we would be stronger together? How would the manifest destiny so loudly proclaimed by our southern neighbours have turned out? They had tried invasion once before, only to be foiled by a combination of British redcoats, English and French-speaking Canadian militia, and loyal indigenous warriors, who worked together to bravely keep the invading Americans at bay.
We managed in that campaign to occupy Detroit and burn down half of the White House, but that is another story.
While we had repelled the Americans once before, many here in British North America at that time were very worried about a potentially victorious Union army turning its Civil War guns north and taking our territory. They had already taken a good chunk of Mexico only 20 years earlier.
Many of our early leaders thought we would be stronger together than we would be apart, and they were most certainly correct. We cannot say for sure if Confederation kept the Americans from launching a second invasion, but it certainly did not hurt.
Since Confederation, what about the contributions that Canadians have made to the world, in sports, medicine, industry, science, and our brave contributions to numerous wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations, where Canadians have always punched above their weight? These contributions were certainly aided by an optimistic and forward-looking country that continues to defy the odds. If Canada did not form as one, and each region of our nation was its own entity, would different parts of Canada have the same voice internationally as our united Canada has had throughout our history? I would say, likely not.
We would not be in the G7. We would not have the same sporting record, particularly Team Canada, women and men on the international stage. We would not have the enviable list of inventors, like Sir Frederick Banting, who is from my riding of Simcoe—Grey. We would not have come together in that meeting. We would not have had that opportunity in Charlottetown in 1864.
Charlottetown was in many ways the ideal location for such a conference. It was not involved in the daily tug-of-war among the provinces of Canada, nor the larger Maritime partners of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island were a neutral ground, where all players could speak freely.
At that conference, the delegates from the regions that now represent Quebec and Ontario were not even invited to begin with. The original conference was to discuss a maritime union between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. When the Province of Canada heard about the conference, members invited themselves. It was an invitation to pitch a full union between the Maritimes and the Province of Canada. While welcome, their arrival did not stir much excitement, and why was that? Quite literally, it was because a circus had come to Charlottetown for the first time in 20 years, and the whole town was occupied with those sights and sounds, not something else.
Having been recently at my own party's leadership convention, which was held right beside an anime convention, I have a pretty good idea of what was going on in Charlottetown that day.
Despite the lacklustre start, meetings proceeded over the next few days with great success. What was even more successful were the relationships forged between individuals from across our then fledgling country. I am sure that the welcoming and friendly atmosphere, still present today, had something to do with building those friendships in Charlottetown.
I am also quite certain that the boatload of champagne, that today would cost about $200,000, contributed just a tad to making sure that people got along. That is Charlottetown.
Each time I have visited, I have felt the warmth of its presence. In fact, I and my family, this past February, learned of our own family farmstead, the Conway farmstead on Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown is friendly. Friendships are easily made. Charlottetown stays in one's memory.
There is no place in Canada that I could think would have been a better place to host the leaders of the Maritimes and the provinces of Canada. It certainly worked. Charlottetown, aided by a bit of champagne, charmed the delegates into unanimous support of the creation of a united Canada, based on the values we hold dear today. There were a number of steps afterward that led to the creation of Canada and what we would be known to become on the international stage. Quebec, a month later, nailed down the final details, then meetings in all the colonies to approve the union, and then finally in London in 1866, there was the approval of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
Charlottetown is where it started and, for this, I am happy to say that Charlottetown is the birthplace of Confederation. It is also why I am happy to support this bill.
Subtopic: Recognition of Charlottetown as the Birthplace of Confederation Act