February 21, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)

LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

I would divide the two sections at about the line which now divides the provisional district of Mackenzie and the provisional district of Athabaska, about the 60th parallel of north latitude.
The southern section is of a different character. It is absolutely an agricultural country, and I need not say that it is one of the finest in the world today. It is traversed by large rivers flowing from the Rocky mountains to Hudson's bay, and the valley of the Saskatchewan is, as every one knows, equal in fertility to the valley of the Red river. Everybody knows also that the valley of the Red river and the valley of the Saskatchewan are today the most fertile wheat fields under the sun. We propose to give autonomy, not to the whole of the Territories, but to that section which extends from the American Sir WILFRID LAURIER.
boundafy up to the boundary line between the provisional district of Mackenzie and the provisional district of Athabaska, that is the 60th parallel of north latitude.
When we were first approached on this subject, it was proposed to us that we should make a province extending from the American boundary up to the 57th parallel, that is to say, somewhat to the south of the provisional boundary between the provisional districts of Mackenzie and Athabaska, but we thought it preferable to take in the whole district of Athabaska. The reason for this is, that although Athabaska is not considered to be a fertile country, and the eastern portion of it is barren, the western portion, the valley of the Peace river, is equal to the valley of the Saskatchewan and settlement there is already proceeding rapidly. There are to-day on the Peace river two grist mills, provided absolutely from wheat grown in the Peace river valley, and therefore we have decided to include within the new provinces the provisional district of Athabaska. The area of these two provinces together will be about 550,345 square miles. This is, in our estimation, altogether too large an area to be made into one single province according to the size of the other provinces, the largest of which is British Columbia, and the next largest Quebec, British Columbia "with an area of 372,000 square miles and Quebec with an area of
351.000 square miles. By dividing it into two you have two provinces of 275,000 square miles in round numbers, each about the size of the province of Ontario. If any of the members of the House will care to look at the map, they will see that we have put the provisional boundary on the fourth meridian and according to our present information, this will give about the same area and also the same population to the two provinces. It is estimated that the population to-day in these two provinces is about
500.000 souls. We have no accurate data, but we can proceed pretty confidently upon this information. The census in 1901 gave to these Northwest Territories a population of a little over 160,000 souls. Since that time, during the seasons of 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1904, the population, by immigration alone, has increased by over 100,000 a year, so that to-day we feel we are on pretty safe ground when we say that there is in those two provinces a total population of 500,000 souls, and we calculate that this population is about equally divided between the two provinces, giving a population of 250,000 to each.
Since I am upon the question of boundaries I shall also come to another question, connected therewith, that is to say, the demand which has been made upon us by the province of Manitoba for an extension of its boundaries, westward, northward and eastward. Yesterday a morning paper in this city published an interview given by the Hon. Mr. Rogers, a member of the govern-

ment of Manitoba, upon this subject. I shall take the liberty of referring to that interview of Mr. Rogers, so that the House will better understand the point to which l am about to direct its attention. Mr. Rogers said in this interview :
It is not a matter ot agreement. We are simply presenting the unanimous request of the people of our province for the extension of our boundaries at least as far west as Regina and north as far as the northern boundary of Atha-haska, which would include Fort Churchill, the Nelson river and the territory tributary thereto. This is no new request on behalf of Manitoba. In 1901 a resolution was introduced in the legislature by Mr. T. A. Burrows, then a member of the legislature and now a member of the Dominion parliament. This resolution was supported by Mr. Greenway, who was then leader of the opposition, now a member of the House of Commons. This was accepted and supported by the government of the day and voted for by every member of the House. A similar resolution was introduced by Mr. Roblin, leader of the government, and unanimously carried in 1902. A further resolution was introduced at the recent session and voted for by every member of the legislature, in which action they reflected the unanimous desire of all Manitobans. Mr. Campbell and myself have been appointed to come here to plead for what is considered by Manitoba to be her just claims, before the government who are the tribunal in the case and whose decision must be final.
I may observe that Mr. Rogers might have gone hack much further than 1901 for records of the presentation of the claims of Manitoba for an extension of territory. Indeed as far back as 18S4 a similar request was presented to the government of Sir John Macdonald. At that time the Privy Council dealt with this question in these words :
The boundaries of Manitoba were originally fixed at the instance of the delegates from that province who came to Ottawa in 1870 to adjust with the government of Canada the terms upon which Manitoba was to enter the confederation of Her Majesty's North American provinces.
The limits then agreed to embrace an area of about 9,500,000 acres. In the year 1881 these limits were enlarged and territory added to the west and north, making the total area of the province 96,000,000 acres or 150,000 square miles.
The further enlargement now asked for by Manitoba would add about 180,000 square miles to the already large area of the province, and would be viewed with disfavour as well by the old provinces as by the new districts of Assini-boia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Athabaska, which have been created in the Northwest Territories, and which will ultimately become provinces of the Dominion. It would largely add to the expense of the government, without increasing the resources of Manitoba, already pronounced by the government of the province to be insufficient to meet its normal and necessary expense.
The committee, under these circumstances, humbly submit to Your Excellency, that it is inexpedient to alter the boundaries of the province as prayed for.
This answer to the request of Manitoba was a categorical refusal. I may say that there is an error in this Order in Council.
It states that the area of the province of Manitoba at that time was 150,000 square miles, whereas it was only 73,000. That, however, is not very material. But I want to point out that the request of Manitoba now is one which could not be granted except with great difficulty. It would have been far more easy for the*''government of that day, twenty years ago, to have extended the limits of Manitoba than it would be to-day. At that time the Territories were still in their infancy ; but to-day they have grown to manhood, and how can it be expected that we shall take from them a portion of their territory to give it to Manitoba ? If this could not be done in 1884, I submit that there is still less reason for doing it in 1905.

Topic:   PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT IN THE NORTHWEST.
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