March 12, 1902 (9th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Thomas Barnard Flint



It is well known that in order to carry any important phase of legislation through this parliament, or in fact through, any parliament, there must be very strong pressure brought from some quarter upon the legislature. Where would the necessary pressure be obtained to operate simultaneously upon this parliament and upon the local parliaments to systematically enact, and to follow up these enactments in connection with such a variety of subjects. The local legislatures are peculiarly adapted to attend to these matters on account of the small number of subjects under their jurisdiction ; on account of the small number of members dealing with these questions, and on account of their more intimate knowledge of the local circumstances. Of course, I do not suppose that even my hon. friend (Mr. Russell) would go so far as to advocate that laws relating to the devolution of intestate estates ; and that the laws relating to the distribution of real estate should be dealt with by the Federal parliament, because these are peculiarly local questions. The habits and customs and feelings of a people who have been accustomed to certain modes of dealing with real estate, have grown up in different ways, and they become, so to speak, an ingrained portion of the characteristics of the people. It would be almost impossible for this parliament to deal with matters of that kind. I do admit that upon several questions to which my hon. friend (Mr. Russell) has referred it might be possible for this parliament to enact wise and satisfactory legislation. Still another difficulty presents itself to our minds-not an absolutely irremovable difficulty, but one which it is necessary for us to face honestly. It is this. In dealing with so many legislative bodies, there must necessarily be conferences between them. There must grow up out of any elaborate system calculated to carry out clauses 94 and 97, a conference between the Dominion parliament and the different provincial legislatures through the various governments ; or there must be appointed a commission by the governments of the different provinces and by this government, in order that this parliament could deal properly with any preliminary legislation.
I only indicate a few of the difficulties- not to imply that they are insuperable, but to show with what caution and prudence we must approach this subject. Certainly, Sir, it is a most inviting one. Legislation In regard to property and civil rights reaches out in so many directions and touches so many interests that if this parliament is to assume the duty of legislation upon those subjects, we must expect an enormous increase of the business of this parliament. There must be some branch of the government, probably the Department of Justice, specially charged with the duty of following up and studying the various questions which may be presented to parliament for eonsidera-1 tion with any reasonable hope of their being

carried to a successful issue. There is, hovyever, one way, which I trust some hon. members may within the next few years take, to bring this question to an issue. It is not necessary that any law, in order to take advantage of section 94, should be introduced by the government. No orfe in this House is better fitted than my hon. friend from Hants (Mr. Russell) himself to prepare a Bill on one of the numerous and important subjects which he has referred to. With his experience, his ability, his knowledge, as a student of practical law, and his enthusiasm, I believe no hon. gentleman could present a measure dealing with some aspect of trade and commerce, or property or civil rights, with better prospects of its successful passage through this legislature, than my hon. friend himself; and I would like to see the experiment tried of sending such a measure to some of the local legislatures for their ratification. But we must bring our minds to this conclusion, that once having taken any of these subjects out of the control of the local legislatures, this parliament will be charged with the responsibility of legislation on that subject for all future time. The difficulty of this, as I said before, is manifest, and is very great.
The terms of the hon. gentleman's resolution are that the time has arrived when steps should be taken to carry out this provision of the British North America Act; ami if he has not proved, that the time has arrived to pass legislation of that kind, he has abundantly proved that the time has arrived when fuller attention should be giveu to the powers of this parliament in that respect and to the importance of some of these questions to the general welfare of the country. The attention which has been called to this subject by my hon. friend may induce some of our enthusiastic legislators to take up some of the questions to which he has alluded, and present to this parliament Bills dealing with those questions in the hope that after they pass this parliament they may be ratified by the local legislatures and become part of the laws of the Dominion, and effect to that extent a change in the constitution of the country. I have great pleasure in seconding the resolution.

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