…the Nova Scotia difficulty
“I now come to THE GRAVE SITUATION IN NOVA SCOTIA. It is lamentable to think that in the twentieth year of Confederation there should be an appeal to the people on such a ground and with such a result as has just taken place in Nova Scotia, and I feel bound to point out, in the interest of the Confederation and of our future as a country some of the causes which, as I conceive, have led to that unhappy and humiliating event. To do so satisfactorily would require me to discuss fully the questions of the tariff, the debt, the taxation, the expenditure, the question of reciprocity, the fisheries, and other subjects, which, in view of the historical sketch which I am obliged to give, there is no time to touch. I must turn back to
THE EVENTS WHICH PRECEDED CONFEDERATION
and recall your attention to this fact, that we are reaping to-day some of the evils of old violations of constitutional principle, of old mistakes of policy, as well as of later acts of misgovernment breach of faith and neglect. When Confederation was mooted in Old Canada the Maritime Provinces were in actual conference at Charlottetown with a view to establishing a legislative union. The Canadian delegates proposed to that conference to give up the idea of a legislative union of the Maritime Provinces, and to go, each Province by itself, into a federal union with the two Canadas. I always thought that a mistaken plan. I thought, and think still, that a
LEGISLATIVE UNION OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES
would have been the best precursor of a federal union between the one Maritime State so formed, ‘he Provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and the great Provinces formed and to be formed in the West. I believe that the proximity of the countries, the similarity of the characteristics of the people, the size and shape of the territory, the numbers of the population, the close community of interests, and the identity of the principal industries, all pointed to the fact that they together would form one strong, powerful Province by the sea, which might be constructed with all due regard to the efficient management of local affairs, to which I have referred, and which would have been better for them and for the other parties to the federal union than their entry into that relation as three comparatively small Provinces, each retaining its local identity, and each having a distinct federal relation to the others of them and to the Central and Western Provinces. But in this and other matters everything else was subordinated to the one idea of consummating some scheme of confederation quickly — itself an error ; for the gestation of a nation, as has well been said, is not like the breeding of a rabbit ; and, besides, time was on our side. This was a grave error, yet it was only an error of policy. But worse followed. There followed a most serious
BREACH OF CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLE.
Nova Scotia was forced into the Confederation under a resolution passed by a House not elected with any reference to that most important and fundamental change. That Legislature, unhappily, grossly misinterpreted the feelings of the people upon the subject, and the people believed they were betrayed by their representatives, in being resolved into confederation without being given an opportunity to express their opinion at the polls. I am afraid this course was pursued, not because an election was thought unnecessary, which was the allegation as to old Canada, but because it was feared that an election would result in a popular condemnation of the plan. And, if that be so, I say that those who forced the Province into a constitutional change like Confederation without an election, because they feared an election would result in an adverse popular vote, were guilty of a great public crime against the liberties of a free people. (Loud cheers.) Not only was it a great crime, but it was also an enormous blunder, because the feelings which that step necessarily aroused, the passions it excited, and the prejudices it evoked were calculated to greatly impair the chances of success of the union itself. It created a bitter feeling in Nova Scotia, a sense of wrong, a sense of injustice, a sense of coercion, a feeling strongly hostile to Canada, a feeling which caused every proposal emanating from Canada to be suspected and disliked, just because it came from those who were supposed to have forced the Province into the union. Better far to have followed the constitutional course of an appeal to the people, and, if unsuccessful, of a repeated appeal after an inter- val, as
WAS DONE IN NEW BRUNSWICK.
The result in that Province is that, whatever grievances the people may think they have to complain of, they have not this at any rate — they cannot say they did not enter the union by the will of the majority of their people expressed at the polls. You can see, therefore, that the experiment of Confederation has had in Nova Scotia no fair chance. This feeling has never died out. The sense of injustice and wrong lingers for many years, and it was sure to impede our progress toward a real union. Now, when eighteen out of nineteen men came from Nova Scotia to Ottawa opposed to Confederation, an effort was made to arrange for an alteration of the financial terms of the union with Nova Scotia, and so to conciliate the Province, through the intervention, as the other parties to the bargain, of some of these same members at Ottawa, instead of trying to come to an agreement with the Local Government and Legislature, which was the real representative of the Provincial as distinguished from the Dominion interest. This, again, was a harmful blunder; the Provincial Government should have been respected and treated with as the lawful and constitutional representative of the Provincial interests. As to these financial terms, you perhaps know that I never admired the plan of the Provincial subsidies. It would have been preferable, as I have always thought, that the Provinces should have some sources of revenue of their own, so that they might have the power and responsibility of settling the scale of both income and expenditure.”
Blake, Edward, 1833-1912. Federal And Provincial Rights ; License Law ; Escheats ; Ontario Boundaries ; the Nova Scotia Difficulty (Simcoe And Guelph). [Toronto?: s.n.], 1886. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/aeu.ark:/13960/t3kw5r00v