June 4, 1908 (10th Parliament, 4th Session)


Oswald Smith Crocket

Conservative (1867-1942)


In the session of 1905. Yet when my hon. friend from St. John brings this matter before the House, we find the Minister of Public Works absolutely dumb. I was occupied in the Public Accounts Committee this morning and had not the pleasure of hearing my hon. friend from St. John when he introduced this subject and am consequently not able to say whether the Minister of Public Works was then in his seat. But I do know that he was in his seat fifteen or twenty minutes this afternoon while the hon. member for Gloucester (Mr. Turgeon) was opposing the resolution of the hon. member for St. John (Mr. Daniel). He then left the House and has not since been seen in the chamber. This is the hon. gentleman who expressed, in so earnest and sincere a manner, in the legislature of New Brunswick, his hope that the members of parliament from that province would stand by its rights In the matter of our representation in this House and not let up until justice was obtained. In the course of the debate in the legislature of New Brunswick, I find these expressions used by the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Pugsley) :
I have faith in the sense of justice of those administering the affairs of the Dominion.
And again :
I feel that in passing this resolution we shall have done our duty, and after that the responsibility will rest with those who have the power to remedy this injustice.
The Minister of Public Works has since then become a member of the federal cabinet. He has become a colleague of those in whose faith he expressed such confidence in 1905. He is a member of that cabinet on whom, he then said, the responsibility would rest if justice were withheld from the province of New Brunswck. In view of those declarations, what can be said of the Minister of Public Works not so much as making himself heard in the course of this debate. He has been a minister of this cabinet for ten or eleven months and has sat as a member of this House for the past six or seven months without having once raised his voice on behalf of what he declared so solemnly he regarded as a matter of most vital concern to the province of New Brunswick. I must say-and I have no hesitation in expressing my surprise in this instance-that I was surprised to find my hon. friend from Gloucester (Mr. Turgeon) addressing the House this afternoon in opposition to the proposal of my hon. friend from the city of St. John. As that hon. gentleman himself said, this is a matter of the most vital concern to the Mr. CROCKET.
people of New Brunswick and has been recognized for some years past as one of the most important political questions that has been discussed in this parliment affecting the interest of the maritime provinces. I will venture to say his views are at variance with the sentiment of the entire province upon the question.
If I remember correctly, the board of trade of the maritime provinces, and the board of trade of the province of New Brunswick have both passed unanimous resolutions upon the question in favour of amendment of the British North America Act so as to provide that the representation of the maritime provinces should not be further decreased. I was not at a loss to understand upon what ground my hon. friend from Gloucester (Mr. Turgeon) opposed this proposition. As I understand him, it was because of the great admiration he had for the constitution and its framers, and his profound confidence in the resources of Canada. As my hon. friend the senior member for Queens * (Mr. A. Martin) said, the hon. member (Mr. Turgeon) took the position that he should stand by the rock of the constitution. But as my hon. friend from Queens has already pointed out, this constitution in which the hon. member for Gloucester expresses such great confidence has been amended on more than one occasion, and within the past year that constitution, on representations of this parliament was amended in its provisions respecting the subsidies to the several provinces. I did not observe my hon. friend from Gloucester at that time standing by the constitution as it was originally adopted; on the contrary he approved of the resolution which passed in this House changing the basis upon which the subsidies were appropriated to the different provinces, and changing them, as has already been shown, very much to the disadvantage of his native province of New Brunswick. At that time, I pointed out that New Brunswick came out at the small end of the horn, that it got the smallest percentage of increase of any province of the Dominion. And yet my hon. friend from Gloucester who tells us to-day that he has such a regard for the constitution as originally passed that he is willing, as a member of this House, that New Brunswick-should continue to suffer what is undoubtedly an injustice with respect to our representation here, rather than change the Act, did not raise his voice against that amendment of the constitution.
Now. as to the merits of this question, it seems to me there can be no two opinions. There can be no doubt that, although, at the confederation conference population was agreed upon as the basis of representation, as the guiding principle, yet this was expressly made subject to a limitation wb'ch is set out in subsection 4 of section 51 of the British North America Act. as follows :

On any such readjustment the number of members for a province shall not be reduced unless the proportion which the number of the Population of the province bore to the number of the aggregate population of Canada at the then last preceding readjustment of the number of members for the province is ascertained at the then latest census to be diminished by one-twentieth part or upwards.
It has already been shown by the quotations made from the proceedings of the confederation conference that the delegates representing the maritime provinces contended that there should be a provision that the representation assigned to the maritime provinc. s at the time they entered the union should not be subject to diminution. The clause which I have quoted was regarded as an absolute safeguard against that possibility. I believe that my hon friend fr m St. John (Mr. Daniel)-although i did not have the pleasure of hearing his speech-made quotations from the confederation documents proving that it was stated that if this clause were embodied in the Act there would be no possibility of the diminution of the representation of the maritime provinces in this House. That clause was accepted on that assurance and it is clear that had the conditions as they then existed and were in the minds of the confederation delegates not been altered by the admission of five new provinces and subsequent legislation with reference to which the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were not consulted, the clause would have operated to prevent any decrease in our representation down to this day. Now, that being the case, I ask could the delegates representing the maritime provinces reasonably have been expected to foresee these subsequent developments? I think it goes without saying that no man could fairly have been expected to foresee, in the year 1866 or 1867, the admission of the five provinces that have been since added to confederation and whose population has been counted in their entirety against the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the scheme of representation. There is no question that the bargain that was made between the four original provinces of confederation has been altered without the consent of these provinces. If that be so, is it unreasonable that the representatives of New Brunswick and the other maritime provinces should insist in this House upon that bargain being kept and their provinces restored to their original rights ? My hon. friend (Mr. I,e-furgey) who preceded me, quoted a section from the British North America Act providing that the boundaries of none of the provinces should be extended without the consent of the other provinces. But we know that the boundaries of the province of Quebec have since been greatly extended, so that the area of that province is now nearly double its size at the date of the consummation of the union. It has been stated in this debate that 150,000 square miles of territory has been added to the province of Quebec by virtue of the legislation of this parliament, thereby materially altering the unit of representation as laid down by the terms of the original Act Now, it was stated by my hon. friend from Gloucester as another reason for his position in this matter that the judgment of the courts had determined the case and that therefore there should be no further agitation of the question. Now, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that is a statement which should not have come from a gentleman so intelligent and well informed as my hon. friend from Gloucester. Surely that hon. gentleman sees at once that had the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council upon this reference, been otherwise than it was, there would have been no necessity for the intervention of this parliament. If the judgment had been favourable to the contention of the provinces, then we would have had within the four corners of the Act as it now stands all we are contending for. It is for the very reason the judgment of the Privy Council is to the contrary effect that we are now asking the intervention of this parliament, and the passage of a resolution memorializing the Imperial parliament to make the amendment. Now I want to point out in this connection that the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was based, not upon the Act as it was originally passed and accepted by the four original provinces of the confederation, but upon the subsequent amendments to the Act to which these provinces were not parties, and with reference to which they were not consulted. Last session I took occasion to examine the judgments of the several judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, and I find in them these extracts bearing upon that point. In the first place, I find this passage in the judgment of Mr. Justice Davies:
After careful consideration of the whole Act and its amendments I have concluded that the expression ' four provinces ' means and must he constructed as ' several provinces.'
That conclusion was based not upon consideration of the original Act, which embodied the agreement of the four original provinces, but upon subsequent amendments to which the original contracting parties were not privy. Further :
If any reasonable doubts did exist as to the true meaning of the sections under review, this subsequent Imperial legislation would seem to remove them.
Subsequent imperial legislation to which New Brunswick and the other maritime provinces were not parties.
Upon the whole, after careful consideration,
I am of the opinion that after the admission

of new provinces and territories into th union, the expression ' Canada and prov inces ' throughout the Act of 1867 must, unless specially restricted by the context, be necessarily given on interpretation different from that which they respectively bore before these provinces and territories were admitted.
Showing that the judgment of the court In this matter reposed entirely, not upon the orignial Act to which they were parties, but upon subsequent legislation and subsequent events. Then, in the judgment of Sir Elzear Taschereau, there is this passage :
.It may well be that the framers of the British North America Act have not foreseen or provided for every possible eventuality in the respective positions of the different provinces of the Dominion as to population or other matters; it may be that some provinces would have refused to join the union had they foreseen all the results that their adhesion to it is now ascertained to carry, but with such consideration we are not here concerned.
Of course Sir Elzear Taschereau sitting as a judge was interpreting in strictness of law the language of a statute that was before him. But I ask you. Mr. Speaker, and the members of this House, if that which iSir Elzear Taschereau said was not <a consideration for him is not fairly a consideration for this parliament-whether the confederation delegates could re-sonably have foreseen these conditions. If they could not, and the conditions have since been altered by legislation with which they had nothing to do, then I say it is but simple justice and equity that this parliament should intervene to restore the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, to the position which they undoubtedly occupied, to the position which was undoubtedly guaranteed to them by the Act as it was originally passed. In conclusion I feel that, although this matter has been before the House on several occasions, it is one of such great importance to the province of New Brunswick that I must renew my urgent request that the government take action and remedy the injustice, the admitted injustice, from which we have suffered.

Subtopic:   C831 COMMONS
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