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


William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. W. F. MACLEAN (East York).

The Minister of Justice when he addressed the Iiouse, professed to be a Liberal and he held up Mr. Gladstone-as his colleagues always do-as the great type of a Liberal. But if Mr. Gladstone was anything he was an advocate of the doctrine of British constitutional progress. He believed that the constitution had not come to an end ; he believed that it could develop ; and if there is anything that places the British constitution before every other constitution in the world it is, that it has not become stereotyped, and it does grow and does progress, and under it they have the best laws in the world. Let me say that while I accept the Federal constitution as it exists, I am sorry we have it. 1 would very much prefer the government of Canada to be a free parliamentary one, as in England, with power to make a uniform law for this country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The trouble with the Federal constitution of the United States is, that under it they have not got uniform laws, and so there is a strong agitation in the United States for uniformity, even if the constitution has to be revised. I am free to say that I am enough of a liberal and enough of a progressist to be in favour of constitutional revision, and I am sorry to hear hon. gentlemen on the other side say that the constitution of Canada is absolutely perfect and must for ever remain as it is. As was pointed out by the hon. member for Hants (Mr. Russell) there is even under the constitution as we have it, provision for constitutional progress in Hon. Mr. CARROLL.
this respect, and if so the motion of the hon. gentleman is a constitutional one, and it does away in no sense with the laws of the provinces. Speaking of the provinces, I have not a moment's hesitation in saying that the result of provincial government in Canada has been del rimental to the progress of the country. I say that the interpretation of the law that has been given by the English Privy Council in regard to the distribution of rights as between the provinces and the Federal power, has been against the interests of the country as a whole. That I regret. I agree with the hon. member for Lanark (Hon. Mr. Haggart) that some day we will have the whole jurisdiction in this parliament, and in some way we will work it out, and in some way we will increase the Federal power and wipe out gradually the provincial power. I take issue directly with hon. gentlemen who oppose that view. I say that provincial government, and the enlargement of provincial rights, has not been in the interest of this country, and I say that Sir John A. Macdonald was right, and was a most farseeing statesman if he believed in a legislative union and desired it carried out in this country.
We can say that without for one moment being chargeable with trying in any way to destroy the rights of the province of Quebec, I respect whatever rights that province has; but there is in our constitution as we have it to-day provision for constitutional progress and a unification of our laws; and notwithstanding what the Solicitor General says, the initiation of that matter is in this parliament more than in the provincial legislatures. Hon. gentlemen opposite say that they are Liberals. Are they '! I have heard their leaders say that there is nothing to reform in this country. There is reform possible under that very British North America Act, as was pointed out by the hon. member for Hants (Mr. Russell) to-day, and his statement has not been contradicted ; and there is need of reform on the lines pointed out by the hon. leader of the opposition. Yet we are told that there is no hope of progress, that the main thing ds to uphold local rights. That is the doctrine of the Minister of Justice of Canada. I take issue with him there. The thing which the Conservative party of this country committed itself to was to build up a nation, with a unification of laws, if that was possible, and that this country should in some way try to recover the federal power which has been lost to the provinces in the last few years. Although the Solicitor General quoted the instance of Australia, which has adopted a federal constitution, I say that federal constitutions have not justified themselves in the way the free parliamentary system of Great Britain has justified itself. England today, by reason of her free parliament, can do anything, and can deal with any question, and deal with it immediately in one week. In the United States, under their federal sys-

tem, where they are governed by men who have been In tfce cemetery over a hundred years, they can do nothing, and they have a multiplicity of laws that are directly against the public interest. The two great questions in the United States are how to secure a uniformity of laws and how to handle the great trusts which have grown up, and which the lack of federal law seems to prevent them dealing with effectually. So that what has been said on the other' side of the House to-day in regard to constitutions, is not borne out by the facts. The federal system, as we know, is not perfect, and it is the duty of a parliament to try to be progressive and to try to improve things. There is in our constitution, as we have it, room for progressive legislation on the lines suggested by the bon. member for Hants, and I hope that hon. gentleman will be more than academic, and will bring forward a measure in that direction. If he does, I will give him my support. That, is a much better way of dealing with questions of this kind than discussing them in an academic way. At the same time, I compliment the hon. gentleman on the step he has taken. For one thing, he has raised the question in the public mind, and has shown that constitutional revision is a live question in this country. I am not afraid to say that I am ready to see the constitution of this country revised. It has got to be revised; it is over thirty years of age. The British constitution changes every day. The time has arrived when public attention must be directed to this subject, and when it cannot be dismissed as hon. gentlemen opposite have tried to dismiss it to-day ; and the proof is that an hon. gentleman who is a supporter of the government has brought it up. The question being up, it will not down; and one reason is that the constitution may be strained too much in the province of Quebec. I say that in all friendliness-and perhaps it is being too much strained to-day by a Bill which has been introduced in regard to the Supreme Court.

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