March 5, 1912 (12th Parliament, 1st Session)


Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)



Before discussing a subject of great public interest now under the consideration of parliament, I desire to touch upon certain questions of paramount importance to the people of tEe west. To-day in Canada six provinces enjoy the right to control and administer the public lands, mines, minerals and other natural resources within their boundaries. That right is not enjoyed by the three prairie provinces. The Liberal-Conservative party since .1902 has firmly asserted and maintained the rights of these three provinces to their public domain. We stand for that right to-day and we will maintain it. The public lands, and natural resources are vested in the Crown, to be administered for the 'benefit of the people. In six provinces the Crown, in dealing with the ipu'blio domain acts upon the advice of the provincial ministers and under laws enacted by the provincial legislatures. In the three prairie provinces the Crown in dealing with such lands acts upon the advice of the federal ministers and under laws enacted by the federal parliament. Why should there be any such discrimination against the people of these three provinces? The day is not far distant when Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta will receive from a Liberal-Conservative government at Ottawa the just recognition of their undoubted right to their public lands and natural resources.
' There is a Conservative administration in Ottawa to-day and it is dealing with that province, not however, by giving the lands to that province.
Then at Brandon my right hon. friend spoke in these words:
In 1902, in 1905, in 1907, and again in 1910, we have stood for the right of the western provinces to own and control their public domain. It is the right of the people of those provinces to have their public lands and natural resources administered by their own governments under the control of their own legislatures. They say that they are free men and being free men in a free country have as good a right to control through their own local legislatures, and by their own provincial executives, the administration of their public lands and natural resources as have the people of any of the eastern provinces who enjoy and have enjoyed * that right. The Liberal-Conservative party supports that claim and will enforce it at the first opportunity.
Will enforce it at the first opportunity ! Is there not the opportunity here to do so? What prevents my right hon. friend from carrying out the promises which he made to the people of Brandon and the people of Winnipeg and the people of the whole province of Manitoba, in Manitoba?. My right hon. friend had the opportunity to do so, but has deferred doing so. What reasons he has for this course I do not know, tout I know one thing, and the statement was cheered a moment ago that the opportunity would come for him to do so, I know one thing that whenever my right hon. friend attempts to carry out the promises he made to the people of those provinces Sir WILFRID LAURIER,
and to give back to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, their public lands, he will find in his path the same lions which he finds to-day and which make him recoil from his position and force him to go back upon his promise.
That is very significant, but there is something which is perhaps more significant than what has been said by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not the only one who has spoken in grandiloquent terms upon this question. My hon. friend the Secretary of State (Mr. Roche) in a speech delivered in 1906 on this question, on a motion made by Mr. Lake, then member for Qu'Appelle, on the question of the coal strike, said:-
The hon. member for Qu'Appelle (Mr. Lake) has spoken about the humiliating position in which our country has been placed. In the first place I claim it was a humiliating position in which to place those new provinces to withhold from their hands the control of their own public lands. Had the rights of the people of those provinces been fought for as they should have been fought for by hon. gentlemen supporting the government, the provinces would have control over their lands to-day, and the provinces would have been able to grapple with their own coal strike without calling on the federal government for relief.
It was a humiliation to the people of Saskatchewan and Alberta that their own public lands were not given to them. If it- was a humiliation for Saskatchewan and Alberta, how are we to characterize the deeper humiliation of Manitoba whose lands are given, not to Manitoba, but to another province, the province of Ontario? I have only to say that, in my humble judgment, the position taken in this respect, by Manitoba and by the government of Canada in relation to Manitoba is poor business, politics, and still poorer statesmanship.
Wtih regard to the financial terms given to the province of Manitoba, I have not much to say beyond what has been said by my hon. friend from St. John (Mr. Pugsley) and my hon. friend from Edmonton (Mr. Oliver). I do not begrudge at all the money which under the terms is given to the province of Manitoba. My hon. friend from Selkirk (Mr. Bradbury) stated that 1 had been the enemy of Manitoba. Why should I be the enemy of Manitoba? I am a Canadian, and look upon this question as a Canadian. And, as a Canadian, and a representative of the people,
1 am bound to regard it not merely from the standpoint of the extension of Manitoba's boundaries, but from the standpoint of the stewardship which I, like the hon. zentleman and every other member of this House, owe to the people of Canada. So far as I am concerned, Manitoba is welcome to the money. But I have serious objection to the principle upon which this money is to be given to Manitoba. It. is

not to the giving of the money, nor to the sum, high as it is, that we take exception; but I say without hesitation, that the principle involved in this Bill cannot be defended before any audience outside of the province of Manitoba. Nay, it cannot .be defended, even in Manitoba. Manitoba is following the example so often given of trying to secure special terms from the Dominion, and it is a rather ungracious task to fight against the province of Manitoba getting more money than she is now receiving from the Federal Treasury. But I have this to say to my hon. friend from Selkirk, that the question is higher than the mere question of money. We stated in 1908, when we introduced the resolution now partly implemented by the present government, for the extension of the boundaries of Manitoba, that, so far as this territory was concerned, as the addition to the province would involve a greater expenditure on the part of the provincial government, it would be fair, as Manitoba was not getting the lands, that she should get the equivalent of those lands. But that is not what is done to-day. It is not an equivalent for the land of this territory that the present government has agreed to, but this government undertakes to review the whole financial terms of Manitoba, a province which has existed for more than thirty years, and to give new terms, new facilities, new subsidies to that province over that which she has enjoyed for many years past. Is there any justification to this? What justification can there be for such an attitude? This provision to give more money to the province of Manitoba over the subsidy which she now receives from the Federal Treasury is in no way a corollary of the extension of the boundaries in Manitoba. Whether the boundaries are extended or not does not affect this question. Manitoba can always come here, if she chooses, to ask for better terms. But there is a limit to this thing. There is a parity amongst the provinces, and there is no reason in the world why one province should be better treated than another. But since the principle is admitted by the present government of treating with Manitoba on a basis which was not the basis of the resolution of 1908, since the principle is admitted that better terms should be given to the province of Manitoba, because of what she is now receiving for the cost of the administration in the province, I should have supposed1 that the most natural way would have been for the present government to give Manitoba lands and not money. I believe Manitoba preferred to have the lands, and no one knows it better than my hon. friend the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Rogers). Again and again the province of Manitoba through its legislature, expressed its preference, in the arrangement of the matter
which we are now considering, to have lands and not money. Why were not the lands given? Why were not the promises made by the Prime Minister to the people of Manitoba not twelve months ago-hardly eight months ago-why were they not implemented? It was his policy, a policy for which he has fought for years. He proclaimed that policy from one end1 of the Dominion to the other. He has the majority; every one behind him was ready to vote to give the lands to Manitoba. And yet, it is not lands but money that he is giving to Manitoba. What the reason can be I do not know. But one thing I do know, and that is that the question is not so simple for the right hon. gentleman now that he bears the responsibilities of government, as it was when he sat on this side without responsibility. It was easy to say: We will
give the lands. And, for my part, so far as concerns those lands which are not prairie lands, I see no difficulty at all in giving them to-the province. My objection to handing over the prairie lands is that these lands are the basis of our policy of immigration, and it has always seemed to be right that we should retain that basis of our policy in our own hands. I do not know hut that my right hon. friend (Mr. Borden), may have come to the conclusion^ now that he has the responsibilities of office, now that he must be responsible for what he does, now that the difficulties which we saw when in office, but which he ignored, loom up so large and so dark before him, that he must recall his oft-proclaimed policy and declare that he will not give the lands, but will give the money instead of the lands. With regard to the compensation in money, whether the province of Manitoba receives less or receives more, for my part I am not very much concerned. If she receives more, she is welcome to it; if she receives less* that is her business. The question is not there, the question is in the constitutional difficulty. What Teason can be given for changing the allowance for debt which was given in 1885, to the province of Manitoba? What reason can oe urged in behalf of Manitoba that cannot be urged also on behalf of every other province in the Dominion? I listened yesterday with great attention to the argument on this point presented by my hon. friend from Portage la Prairie (Mr. Meig'hen). As usual, he put his case clearly and in felicitous language. I have no objection to offer to his case or to the premises he laid down, so far as they went. But he did not go far enough in the premises he laid down. I followed him and agreed with him as to the basis of his debt allowance. When the four original provinces of confederation were joined, the Dominion

assumed the debts of those provinces, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The terms were not very clear at first. But, in the course of time they were all elucidated. The debt, I think, was calculated to be some $90,000,000. At all events, it was stated officially, and has been accepted ever since, that the debt which was then accepted by the Dominion government, and of which the provinces were relieved represented an average of $13.43 per head of the population of that day.
And whenever a new province was brought into the Dominion, it was thought reasonable, seeing that the newcomers were to undertake a share of the burden in the government of the province, that an allowance should be given to them at the rate of $32.43 per head of the population. That has been the accepted policy ever since, that was the policy accepted for Manitoba, that was the policy accepted for British Columbia, for Prince Edward Island, and for all the other provinces as they came into the Dominion. But after the province had come into the Dominion, if she was entitled to compensation on her population at the time she entered the Dominion, what reason can be alleged why she should be given better terms than any of the other provinces, on an increased population? The only reason advanced by my hon. friend was that the thing had been done for Saskatchewan and Alberta. I take issue with him. Alberta and Saskatchewan were not treated differently from Manitoba, or Prince Edward Island or British Columbia. Remember that the population of Alberta and Saskatchewan, when they entered confederation, was larger than the population of Manitoba when she entered confederation, or that of Prince Edward Island, and of British Columbia. But the moment British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba entered confederation, from that moment they assumed their share of the advantages and of the burdens of confederation. After that they are on a parity with the other provinces. I repeat that there is no difference whatever between the position of Manitoba and the position of Saskatchewan and Alberta, with the only exception that the population was larger in the one case than in the other case. If there is any difference at all, it is- that Manitoba was treated more generously than any other province of the Dominion was ever treated. No one knows it better than my hon. friend. He knows that time and again the terms which were originally allowed to Manitoba were improved, as he said so himself yesterday four or five times. It is so, they were increased from time Sir WILFRID LAURIER.
to time, but they were increased not on any principle but out of generosity, they were increased, and more favourable terms were given every time, not because -Manitoba was entitled to more favourable terms, but simply because she was in some condition of dire distress. My hon. friend states, and that was the only argument which he gave in support of his views, that there were precedents for what we are now doing. There is no precedent at all. Again I repeat that the terms which were given to Manitoba from time to time were not advanced on any principle at all, but simply in order to assist the province 'in somewhat difficult circumstances.
The hon. gentleman stated in answer to a statement made yesterday by my hon. friend from St. John (Mr. Pugsley), that the thing had1 been done without a conference. True, the terms were increased without a conference; but this shows only the necessity of having a conference. If we had had a conference we would not be where we are to-day, we would not have Manitoba coming and knocking at our doors for better terms, and another province likely to come for better terms. We would not have British Columbia knocking at our door for better terms if we had had a conference at that time, or at any time, to settle once for all what should be the relations between the provinces one towards another, and it seems to me that the basis of confederation would be more secure, secure though it is. What answer can be given to the argument of my hon. friend from St. John when he says that if you do it for one province you have to do it for another province? Why is it that Manitoba is to-day receiving a uebt allowance on some $8,000,000? Simply because the population of Saskatchewan and Alberta, when they entered confederation, being estimated only at 250,000 each, their debt allowance amounted1 to $8,000,000. If the population of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta had been 100,000 they would have been entitled to less, and so would Manitoba; if their population had been only 50,000, they would have been entitled to still less. That would be acting according to principle. There is no answer at all, I submit, to the statement which was made yesterday by my hon. friend from St. John that you are opening the door to claims which you cannot resist when they are presented. If the province of British Columbia asks to have her terms improved under the same pretence as Manitoba is asking, because the population of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, estimated at 250,000, gets $8,000,000, what answer can you give British Columbia? Will it be any answer to say, you are a mountain province and Manitoba is a

prairie province? because after all, that is [DOT]vvhat it amounts to. You have to treat the three provinces similarly, and so far as the money terms are concerned, the amounts should be exactly as they are.
I see no serious objection to that. But so far as the debt allowance is concerned this is an abuse of the power of the majority; and moreover, I do not hesitate to say and to repeat that you are opening the door to consequences which you will reap at no distant time.
There is another feature of this Bill for which there is also no possible justification, and that is the arrearages to be given to the province of Manitoba. Again I repeat , what I said a moment ago to my hon. friend from Selkirk (Mr. Bradbury), it is not a pleasant task, it is rather an invidious task, to have to insist on this principle, because the effect would be to deprive the province of Manitoba of what she is getting under this resolution. But what is the basis of this resolution? My right hon. friend stated, in opening this debate, that Manitoba had asked her arrearages to date back to 1905. Why? Because it was in 1905 that Alberta and Saskatchewan were brought into the Dominion. He thought, however, that would be giving Manitoba too much, even for his extravagance, and he said, we will give her these arrearages dating back to the month of July, 1908. Why from the month of July, 1908? Because at that time this parliament passed a resolution to which I will refer, providing for the extension of the boundaries of Manitoba. Well, I could conceive that there would be some justification for the allowance which is now made if the province of Manitoba were in a position to tell us in 1908, we would have accepted the boundaries which were then offered, but we could not come to any settlement, because the late administration denied us the terms you are now giving to us. Under such circumstances there might be a basis of justification. But if Manitoba did not get her enlarged boundaries before this year, it is because the late administration differed with Manitoba upon the financial terms. The reason why Manitoba was not given enlarged boundaries at that time was because she did not accept the offer that was made her. Shall I give you the proof? Here it is, in the petition presented to this government by Manitoba herself. This is what is said in the memorial of the province:
While we maintain that the province has been unfairly dealt with in this respect, and, as a matter of right, is entitled to have included within its area all the northern territory proposed to be divided between Manitoba and Ontario, we desire to apprise Your Excellency of our decision, and the conclusion
arrived ait by the legislature of the province in the year 1911.
In the year 1911. It was only in the year 1911 that Manitoba acepted these boundaries and, under such circumstances, I put it to the common sense of every hon. gentleman in this House, what reason can there be why Manitoba should be given the extra time which is granted before she accepted these boundaries. It is too palpable not to be interpreted at once. But the government has decided otherwise, for what motive I do not know, for what motive I cannot comprehend, and, therefore, for these reasons it seems to me that this Bill and these terms are altogether extravagant, uncalled for and unjustified. As to the allocation for public buildings, I think the terms are generous but I do not discuss them. There is, Sir, in the province from which I come an agitation going on upon this question and in a paper which supports the government, 'L'Evenement' of Quebec, we read two or three days ago, that there should be no agitation, that the minister would speak and that they would give us an explanation. They are not in a great hurry to speak. We have been expecting that they would give us their policy. They have not done so and as they have not discussed this particular part of the subject I will not discuss it.

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