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


John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. JOHN HAGGART (South Lanark).

Mr. Speaker, I desire to say a few words on the important subject which the hon. member for Hants (Mr. Russell) has brought before the House. It is a subject which to me has more interest than any other that has been introduced this session. The hon. gentleman suggests that something should be done, under clauses 94 and 97 of the British North America Act, to further the views of the men who drew up that Act, and who were the founders of confederation. First of all, we have to consider, as the hon. gentleman did, what were the opinions of those gentlemen when they framed that Act. He has entered into that ques-35
tion pretty fully, quoting from resolutions and protocols adopted at Charlottetown and elsewhere. As to the opinion of my old leader, I think the hon. gentleman has stated it fairly correctly. He was in favour of a legislative union of all the provinces. That fact meets the view in the British North America Act. He thought that by the decisions of a court to be formed, the Supreme Court, confirmed by the Privy Council, larger powers would be given to the Federal government than appeared in the British North America Act; and clause 94 was incorporated in the Act for the purpose of assimilating the laws of the different English speaking portions of the country. The hon. gentleman who has seconded the resolution (Mr. Flint) showed a difficulty. He said that this proposal to assimilate the laws only applied to ' Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Ontario. That is true; but that is a very slight difficulty and could easily be got over by an amendment to the British North America Act. Now, what is the object of every English speaking person in this country ? It is to have as nearly as possible a legislative union of the English speaking portions of the country. We do not wish to interfere with the laws of Quebec; but we hope to show, by an assimilation of the laws and a legislative union of the rest of the Dominion, that it would be of advantage, even to Quebec, to be included. As the introducer and the seconder of the resolution stated, there is no intention on the part of the rest of the Dominion to interfere with the right of local self-government in regard to property and civil rights which that province at present possesses. Now, what is the best way to accomplish the object in view ? I know the idea has oceui'red to other members of this House. The first thing that ought to be done-and if I were a young man belonging to the maritime provinces, it would be the primary purpose of my politics-is to bring about a union of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. That is the first thing to be done in order to have common laws for the English speaking portion of the Dominion. It is absurd for these three provinces to have three separate legis-latui-es and three separate systems of local government. If they were united, a great many of the difficulties suggested by the seconder of the resolution would disappear. In any conference between the different provinces, three of them would then be united into one.
I know that it was the opinion of my former leader, the late Sir John Macdonald-I do not know whether he ever stated it in public or not-that the ultimate result of confederation would be the accomplishment of that design. That would give the three disunited provinces a power in the Dominion which they had not before, and eventually bl'ing about legislative union. But although we may entertain the hope of

reaching that goal of legislative union in the future, at present we have to do the best we can under the British North America Act; and until there is a far more serious agitation in the country than now exists, there is no probability of any change in the direction I suggest. I merely wish to explain what, in my opinion, was the view of the founders of confederation when they passed the British North America Act. 1 have not any doubt that, so far as the English portion of them was concerned, their object was a legislative union of the different provinces. Such a union would, 1 believe, be the best thing for the Dominion. I believe it to be the goal which we should all desire to reach. But at present there is no agitation in the country for any change, and we may look upon the idea as utopian- as a subject for academic discussion rather than any immediate practical solution.
I listened with pleasure to the remarks of my hon. friend from Hants (Mr. Bussell) in introducing his resolution. He has given us a striking picture of the difficulties under the present system and of the necessity of assimilating the laws of the different provinces. There are hundreds of provincial laws which might be assimilated by this federal parliament, without any objection on the part of the provincial authorities, and the assimilation of which the different provinces would have no hesitation in adopting. Among all members of our English speaking population, there is a strong desire for an assimilation of the various laws in the different provinces affecting civil rights and property, and which are in a different class altogether from municipal laws that affect only particular localities. I do not think that any insuperable difficulty lies in the way, but still nothing is done. As my hon. friend from Hants (Mr. Bussell) has said, it was the general hope and expectation that as soon as our first parliament met, a step would have been taken in that direction, but instead we have followed the policy of drift until we have reached the present stage, when that confusion exists among these various laws which the hon. member has so well described.
What effect this discussion may have I do not know, but the first thing to be accomplished is an assimilation of the laws in the maritime provinces. If that were effected, you would have virtually legislative union, to all intents and purposes, between the maritime provinces, and then legislative union between them and the province of Ontario would be easily accomplished. That would be greatly in the interests of the country, and would be a step towards the end which the man, who framed primarily the British North America Act, had in view, namely, the legislative union of this Dominion. He thought that would have beeu gradually brought about, even under the present British North America Act. He thought that the decisions of our courts,

Full View