March 31, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


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



tion from my right hon. friend before this Bill goes to its second reading, and that is whether or not there have been any representations made by the governments of any of the provinces in regard to the proposed reduction in the representation of the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and whether or not the opinion of the law officers of the Crown has been given in respect to the contention made by these provinces. My right hon. friend has suggested to-day that there is no possible question upon this subject. I understand that the law officers of the province of New Brunswick have given an exactly opposite opinion to that which my right hon. friend expresses today. I have not seen their opinion, I do not know of it except by mere report, but this is what I understand. I do not propose to-day, to make any argument upon the question but merely to bring to the attention of the House and of my right hon. friend what I understand the question is which has been presented from certain quarters in regard to the reduction in the representation of the provinces I have named. Section three of the British North America Act of 1867 provides :
It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the advice of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, to declare by proclamation that, on and after a day therein appointed, not being more than six months after the passing of this Act, the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick shall form and be one Dominion under the name of Canada ; and on and after that day those three provinces shall form and be one Dominion under that name accordingly.
Section four of the Act is as follows :
The subsequent provisions of this Act shall, unless it is otherwise expressed or implied] commence and have effect on and after the union, that is to say, on and after the day appointed for the union taking effect in the Queen's proclamation ; and in the same provisions, unless it is otherwise expressed or implied, the name Canada shall be taken to mean Canada as constituted under this Act.
Now, take the case of the section that immediately follows by way of illustration and what do you have ? Section five provides :
Canada shall be divided into four provinces, named Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
It is perfectly obvious that the word ' Canada, as used in teat section, implies and includes only the four provinces that have already been named. The next section to which I would invite the attention of my right hon. friend and of the House, is section thirty-seven, which declares as follows :
The House of Commons shall, subject to 'he provisions of this Act, consist of one hundred and eighty-one members, of whom eighty-two shall be elected for Ontario, sixty-five for Quebec, nineteen for Nova Scotia and fifteen for New Brunswick.

Then, the next section to which I would invite the attention of the House is section fifty-one, which reads as follows :
On the completion of the census in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, and of each subsequent decennial census, the representation of the four provinces shall be readjusted by such authority, in such a manner, and from such time as the parliament of Canada from time to time provides, subject and according to the following rules :-
(1) Quebec shall have the fixed number of sixty-five members ;
(2) There shall be assigned to each of the other provinces such a number of members as will bear the same proportion to the number of its population (ascertained at such census) as the number sixty-five bears to the number of the population of Quebec (so ascertained);
(3) In the computation of the number of members for a province a fractional part not exceeding one-half of the whole number requisite for entitling the province to a member shall be disregarded ; but a fractional part exceeding one-half of that number shall be equivalent to the whole number.
Fourth, and this is the important subsection :
(4) 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 as ascertained at the then latest census be diminished by one-twentieth part or upwards ;
(5) Such readjustment shall not take effect until the termination of the then existing parliament.
There is another section whicli is important to be considered in this connection. It is section 146, which provides as follows :
It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the advice of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, on addresses from the Houses of the parliament of Canada, and from the Houses of the respective legislatures of the colonies or provinces of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia, to admit those colonies or provinces, or any of them, into the union, and on address from the Houses of the parliament of Canada to admit Rupert's Land and the North-western territory, or either of them, into the union, on such terms and conditions in each case as are in the addresses expressed and as the Queen thinks fit to approve, subject to the provisions of this Act ; and the provisions of any Order in Council in that behalf shall have effect as if they had been enacted by the parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Now, it is important to observe in construing this Act, in the first place that it contemplates the incorporation of other colonies and provinces into the Dominion which are referred to in section 146 of the Act and it is important to pay particular attention to the language of section fifty-one, because section fifty-one says that:
Representation of the four provinces shall be readjusted by such authority

And it uses the word ' Canada,' in subsection 4. What the word ' Canada ' means has
been defined by section four of the Act. Canada in all the subsequent provisions of the Act means * Canada as constituted under this Act.'
What is the meaning of the expression ' as constituted under this Act ' ? Certainly it means, in section five, simply the. four provinces of Canada, because that section provides that:
Canada shall be divided into four provinces, named Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The suggestion is that section fifty-one constituted a compact between the four provinces which was not to be disturbed by the admission of any other colonies, that it constituted a compact under which t l>roviuce of Quebec should never at any time have less than sixty-five members and under which the other provinces should never have a smaller number of members than the proportion they were entitled to according to the population of Quebec, and there was the further provision that their representation should at no time Be reduced unless the population had been diminished by one-twentieth part as compared with the total population of Canada.
I know that there are important provisions affecting this question in the shape of the addresses which were subsequently passed by the legislatures of the different provinces afterwards admitted, and which were passed by the parliament of Canada. And also I do not put out of my mind the legislation passed by this parliament and ratified-if that is the proper expression- by the imperial parliament, with regard to tbe admission of Manitoba and Rupert's Land. But the argument which I think may be fairly made is this : That if you once regard section 51 as a contract between these provinces, fixing as between themselves the terms upon which their representation shall be had in future, then you must find very clear language indeed within the addresses or within subsequent legislation such as I have spoken of, if you are to depart from that contract so established between the four provinces which constituted Canada in the first instance. I think, Mr. Speaker, that it is a fair subject for inquiry at the present time, as to whether or not any representations have been made with regard to this by any of the provinces; and whether the opinion of the law officers of the Crown has been had with regard to it. I think it is also right, that the opinion of the law officers here, if any lias been obtained, should be laid on the Table of the House and should be printed for the information of all hon. members who may desire to address themselves to that subject.
I may only say further in dealing with the matter at the present time, that my right hon. friend in introducing the measure which was brought before this House in 1S99 laid down the principle that any division of counties should take place by means

of a judicial commission. I will quote to my right lion, friend the language which he then used and I may say that I did not gather from his remarks to-day any special reason why the principle which was laid down then should he departed from now. The right lion, gentleman said :
Whenever a county is to be divided into ridings ; whenever a county which up to that time is entitled to one member becomes entitled to two or three members; the division should take place by judicial decision and authority. This is the second principle upon which we base the Bill that we introduce to the House now.
I suppose it is in view of the departure from that principle, that my right lion, friend speaks of the measure now introduced as a measure of a different character from that which he then laid down before the House. I do not know in what respect it differs. This measure is of course wider reaching in so far as, being based upon the results of the last census it gives a very much increased representation to Manitoba and the North-west Territories; but apart from that, the principle which is proper for one Act would seem proper for the other, although I do not wish in saying this to qualify in any respect what X have already said with regard to the proposal which the right hon. gentleman has made. I therefore will not take up the time of the House further at present, but I will ask my right hon. friend or the Minister of Justice to inform the House upon the matters which I thus briefly bring to their notice in order that we may be able to more intelligently discuss this Bill when it comes for its second reading.

Full View