Robert Knowlton SMITH

SMITH, Robert Knowlton, K.C., LL.B.

Personal Data

Conservative (1867-1942)
Cumberland (Nova Scotia)
Birth Date
December 28, 1887
Deceased Date
October 26, 1973

Parliamentary Career

October 29, 1925 - July 2, 1926
  Cumberland (Nova Scotia)
September 14, 1926 - May 30, 1930
  Cumberland (Nova Scotia)
July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
  Cumberland (Nova Scotia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 50)

May 26, 1933

Mr. SMITH (Cumberland):

By comparison, as regards the length of the constituency, I would refer the hon. gentleman to the constituency represented by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Rhodes), which has been stretched out to the extent of 220 miles. I would refer him also to the constituency of Inverness. These two constituencies combined have a length of 220 miles as the crow flies. I do not think therefore that my hon. friend has very much to complain about in that regard.

The hon. gentleman says he is being legislated out of his seat. There has been a lot of talk in this chamber within the last few days with regard to political majorities, and comparisons have been made between parties' standing, and no doubt this is important and significant. But we were up against a problem in Nova Scotia that had to be dealt with on a higher plane, a problem that had to be approached from the point of view of principle and ideals, and we could not take into consideration the question of party advantage one way or the other, because the problem did not lend itself to that sort of treatment, nor could we have solved it either on the island of Cape Breton or on the mainland if we started out on the premise that we had to carve constituencies in Nova Scotia with an eye to seeking political advantage one way or the other, either for the Conservative or for the Liberal party.

I do not know that there is much more I have to say except this. The hon. gentleman speaks about the large population of his constituency, and as I said it is regrettable that it is so large under the present arrangement; and he complains about the small population in the constituency of Antigonish-Guysborough. In 1924 when the unit of representation in the dominion was slightly over

36,000, a constituency was formed in the province of Nova Scotia containing a population of slightly over 17,000, less than one-half the unit of representation. On the other hand, there was another constituency formed containing three times that population. In the province of New Brunswick we have a constituency with less than 22,000, another one containing over 60,000 and a second one very close to 60,000. In the province of Quebec there are a good many rural constituencies containing well over 50,000 and a half dozen or so containing under 22000. In the province of Ontario there is the urban-rural constituency of Welland containing 83,000; there are others with 60,000 and 70,000 and many under 22,000. There is an anomaly in the province of Nova Scotia the same as there is in New Brunswick, the same as there is in Quebec and Ontario, and I assume in every other province of the dominion. It would be impossible to deal with the questions dealt with in this and past redistributions without having anomalies. They are impossible to overcome under the procedure followed in the past and which is being followed to-day.

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May 26, 1933

Mr. SMITH (Cumberland):

That would leave the constituency of Digby-Annapolis and Kings with complete counties containing people of common interests maintaining their county and municipal lines with the exception of the municipality of Clare.

In effect, all that has happened to the bon. member for Digby-Annapolis is this. He has had a small portion cut off the western end of his constituency, namely, Clare, and he has had a larger portion added to the eastern end, namely, Kings. It is unfortunate, I admit, that this constituency is larger than desirable in population and area, and no one regrets it more than I do, but we had to come to that conclusion under the circumstances. Somebody in the province of Nova Scotia had to get hurt in this redistribution; someone had to make a sacrifice, and in the layout and recasting that presented itself to me I felt that the sacrifice would have to be made where recommended.

With respect to the length of the new constituency, my hon. fnend said that it was 140 miles-he says now, 145. Well, according to the official map, leaving out that portion comprising Long Island and Digby Neck, the length of his new constituency as the crow flies is only about 100 miles.

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May 26, 1933

Mr. R. K. SMITH (Cumberland):

Mr. Chairman, I feel it necessary to reply briefly to the remarks of the hon. member for Digby-Annapolis. Due to the reduction of two seats in Nova Scotia the redistribution problem there became one of extreme difficulty, surrounded by intricacies. Of necessity some sacrifice had to be made in rearranging county lines to make the necessary reduction. The island of Cape Breton was pretty well agreed to as between the other members of the committee and myself, and I do not feel it necessary to dwell on that phase at this

moment. Later I wish to refer to the comparative length of a constituency there, in reply to the remarks made by the hon. member regarding the length of his new riding.

Now, with respect to the mainland of Nova Scotia, Colchester being in the centre of the province was the pivotal point from which we had to approach the solution of the problem. The population of Colchester is roughly, 25,000, and it was felt that we should concentrate our attention on Colchester in a manner that would be satisfactory to the people there, as well as just to the other bordering constituencies, some of which would be affected in whatever rearrangement was made. Three different proposals were considered. It was proposed to divide Colchester county, throwing one half into Pictou and the other half into Cumberland. That would mean the complete elimination of Colchester. It would mean throwing the people of Colchester county, at least part of them, into Pictou, notwithstanding that their general interests were not common; the community interests of each are as far apart as one could possibly imagine. The same applies to the other half which would have been thrown into Cumberland. Consequently the committee opposed it, and the hon. member for Hants-Kings (Mr. Ilsley) ' agreed with me that it would not be fair to divide Colchester, eliminating it completely. That proposal was therefore put to one side. The next proposal was put forward by the hon. member for Hants-Kings, namely, that the county of Pictou be practically split in two, and one half of the population and area thrown into Antigonish-Guysborough, which would bring the county of Antigonish-Guysborough up to approximately 45,000, the other half in with Colchester, making the second constituency out of the existing three. That again would mean the complete obliteration-yes, the complete elimination of Pictou county, that fine old Scottish county with their high pride of ancestry and tradition. The population according to the last census, is over 39,000, and the proposal would have meant throwing these people of Pictou into other constituencies with whom they had nothing in common; and whose interests were as far removed as the poles. I did not think it was fair; I did not think it would be just to divide Pictou county throwing one half into the county of Antigonish-Guysborough and the other half into Colchester. With respect to county boundaries, it would have split in two a county which is a municipal entity; it would have disrupted the county lines federally, provincially and municipally. It would have been a most disturbing and far reaching change. That proposal was submitted by the hon.

Redistribution-Mr. Smith (Cumberland)

member for Hants-Kings, and I felt I could not agree to it, and I am convinced to-day that I was right. The third proposal was to treat the county of Colchester as a unit, linking it with the county of Hants, making a population of 44,444-five fours-which is approximately the unit of representation, taking the rest of Hants-Kings, namely, the county of Kings, and joining it to the constituency of Digby-Annapo'lis and cutting off the municipality of Clare from the western end of Digby-Annapolis and throwing it into Shelburne-Yarmouth, which would leave the constituency that has been named Evangeline. That is the name given it by the committee but it can be changed.

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March 10, 1933

Mr. SMITH (Cumberland):

I was paired

with the hon. member for Antigonish-Guys-borough (Mr. Duff). Had I voted I would have voted to sustain the ruling of the chair.

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February 6, 1933

Mr. R. K. SMITH (Cumberland):

Mr. Speaker, I regret very much to occupy the time of the house and delay proceedings by a further discussion of this important matter, certain phases of which have been fully covered by the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens). I am sorry also that my knowledge of the French language is not sufficient to have enabled me to follow the mover of the resolution (Mr. Barrette). After listening to the clear responses made by the minister, however, I believe I have a fair grasp of the pertinent portions of the mover's remarks. It would appear from what has transpired in the last few years that the farther we remove ourselves from the time of confederation, the farther we remove ourselves from the spirit and intentions of the fathers of confederation and get down to the strict and rigid interpretation of the British North America Act. I believe before I have concluded I shall have established to the satisfaction of hon. members the fact that at least in some measure that is so.

With the few minutes at my disposal I should like to give a brief history of the question of representation in this house as it affects the maritime provinces, and the inequalities with which we have had to contend for a great many years. Representation in this house is a burning question in the maritimes to-day on account of what would appear to be a further decrease in our representation in the near future, which we claim is already too greatly reduced.

A conference of the representatives of the provinces of Canada met in December, 1910, convened by the premiers of Ontario and Quebec, to consider the representation of the maritime provinces in the parliament of Canada. This question was discussed at considerable length, but no decision was reached.

A further conference was held in October, 1913, at Ottawa, to continue the study of the question of representation and other matters. A resolution was moved by the premiers of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island:

That, in the opinion of this conference, the representation granted to the maritime provinces at the time they respectively entered confederation should be restored and rendered irreducible.

After considerable debate, this resolution was withdrawn and another substituted to the effect that an amendment to the British North America Act be sought providing an irreducible minimum in the representation of the maritime provinces of eighteen for Nova Scotia, thirteen for New Brunswick and six for Prince Edward Island. This also was withdrawn, and a resolution dealing with the problem of Prince Edward Island was introduced. Finally, the conference passed the following:

Resolved, that this conference expresses the opinion that, not representing the provinces for the purposes of this matter of representation, it declines to take any action in regard to it.

At this conference two memoranda were presented, one by the premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and the other on behalf of Prince Edward Island, urging its special claim. At that time, 1913, as a result of the census of 1911, Nova Scotia's representation had been reduced from eighteen to sixteen, New Brunswick's from thirteen to eleven, and Prince Edward Island's from four to three. The representation of the western provinces had increased according to their population.

One result of the conference was an amendment to the British North America Act, 5-6 George Y, chapter 45, providing that " notwithstanding anything in the said act, a province Shall always be entitled to a number of members in the House of Commons not less than the number of senators representing such province." This enabled Prince Edward Island to retain a fourth member.

For a moment or two I should like to speak concerning what we claim is the loss of a federal member from the province of Nova Scotia, despite the present method of establishing the unit of representation for each of the provinces of Canada.

The population of Nova Scotia increased from 1911 to 1921 by 31,499, Quebec's population increased at a relatively larger rate, so that the unit of representation after the 1921 census became 36,283. Nova Scotia's representation in the House of Commons was therefore reduced from 16 to 14. The population contained 33,965 more than was necessary to give fourteen representatives, but because we had fallen 2,318 below the fractional part, not exceeding one-half of the whole number required to entitle the province to a member, our population to that

Redistribution-Mr. Smith

extent was disregarded, and we suffered the loss of one member. Nova Scotia could not

*'ain its members, as Ontario did, under subsection 4 of section 51 of the British North America Act, whereby no reduction can be made unless the proportion which the population of the province bears to the total population of the dominion be diminished by one-twentieth part or upwards.

It may be difficult to overcome an effect such as this, but it is a fact that there are 33,965 persons in Nova Scotia unrepresented in the House of Commons while there are in Canada, outside of the maritime provinces ninety-six electoral districts returning members with less than that population within their bounds. The membership for Nova Scotia cannot be reduced below ten, the number of our senators. But if by the increase of population in Quebec our representation were lowered to this minimum, it would mean a total reduction since confederation of nine. This is a condition which is being rapidly approached. Had the unit of representation, instead of being 36,283 been 36,125, a difference of 158, Nova Scotia would have been saved another representative, and instead of having fourteen members in the House of Commons would have had fifteen; that is, if the population of Quebec had been less by 10,287 persons the unit would have been so reduced.

By the British North America Act, section 51, subsection 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).

Quebec is defined by this act, section 6 as follows:

The part of the province of Canada (as it exists at the passing of this act) which formerly constituted respectively the provinces of upper Canada and lower Canada, shall be deemed to be severed, and shall form two separate provinces. The parts which formerly constituted the province of upper Canada shall constitute the province of Ontario: and the part which formerly constituted the province of lower Canada shall constitute the province of Quebec.

That is, the population to be taken is the population of the territory known as Quebec at the passing of the British North America Act. But the population of Quebec which has been taken as the basis for the unit of representation since 1900 is the population of that province as originally constituted, plus the population of the extensions made by chapter 3 of the acts of 1898. It is now possible, from information at hand to ascertain just what population was counted in these added

territorities, for they contain all of Abitibi, the district of Labrador, and what is known as part of east Maine, all that territory north of the height of land, part of it being traversed by the National Transcontinental Railway. In extending the boundaries further in 1912 the territory then given to Quebec was excluded in considering the population forming the unit of representation but the population added by the Act of 1898 is included. A statement from the dominion statistician shows that there were 13,644 people in this area. These should not have been counted in determining the unit of representation. Excluding them, the unit becomes not 36,283 as used, but 36,073. This figure divided into the population of Nova Scotia, 1921, gives 14 and a fractional part, exceeding one-half of the whole united number by 778 and entitling this province to another federal member. The representation in the House of Commons from Nova Scotia, as fixed by the Redistribution Act, 1924, should therefore have been fifteen members. The province was under-represented in the last parliament by one member and will be in the next unless immediate steps are taken to correct this error.

Now let me refer you to some remarks of the fathers of confederation. I begin with a statement by Sir John A. Macdonald in the parliamentary debate on confederation in 1865:

By adopting the representation of Lower Canada as a fixed standard-as the pivot on which the whole would turn-that province being the best suited for the purpose, on account of the comparatively permanent character of its population, and from its having neither the largest nor the least number of inhabitants.

But instead of the population of Quebec being "comparatively permanent" in its Character it has shown a relatively large increase and is overflowing into territory which did not form part of its original area. Taking the original provinces into consideration, Nova Scotia has increased in fifty years 35.8 per cent, New Brunswick, 35.2 per cent, Quebec, 98.17 per cent, and Ontario, 80.99 per cent. Quebec, therefore, has shown the largest relative percentage of increases of the four original provinces and is the least stable in character instead of being comparatively permanent.

Gray, in his account of the conference at Quebec, states:

Thus at the first inception on entering into the union, population was not intended to be held as the only rule for representation. Though taken as a guide, the apportionment must be more or less arbitrary. Existing arrangements. territorial and other considerations must be taken into account, and modifications to suit

Redistribution-Mr. Smith

circumstances necessarily made; but after entering the union, future changes of the entire representation were to be governed by that principle. . . The conference, therefore, while

taking population as the basis, and laying down that strictly as the rule, acted upon the principle that in the first instance territorial area and local circumstances must also be considered.

The memorial which was presented at the interprovincial conference in 1913 on behalf of the three maritime provinces forms substantially their claims to-day. The memorial reads:

The question of the legal right of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to retain their original representation was referred to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1903, and was decided against these provinces. On appeal to the privy council the answer of the supreme court to the question submitted was held to be correct.

We must bow to this decision so far as the strict interpretation of the written contract is concerned, but this was not the expectation and belief of the delegates at the time of the negotiations of the terms of union, for the Honourable George Brown, in moving the resolution fixing the number of representatives which each colony should have in the house, stated: "The practical result will be that while Lower Canada certainly will not be less and the lower provinces may increase in population, they cannot decrease in the number of representatives. It keeps the bouse within a reasonable limit."

And in a speech delivered at Sherbrooke in 1864, shortly after the Quebec conference, Hon. A. T. Galt had said:

We have supposed that the population of Lower Canada, being tolerably equable in its character, would afford the best basis. But having respect to the rapid increase of Upper Canada, we think the lower provinces should not be reduced if they do not increase in the same ratio. Therefore, the lower provinces would have the same as they have now unless in the very improbable case of any one falling off by five per cent or more-that is, a decrease relatively to the whole federation.

Representation by papulation, while accepted as a guiding principle in fixing the representation of each province, in the dominion parliament, was intended to be made subservient to the right of each colony to adequate representation in view of its surrender of a large measure of self-government. In consideration of surrendering its independent colonial status, each colony was entitled to such a representation in the federal parliament as would be sufficient to guard that right.

A self-governing colony wras something more than the number of its habitants.

The principle that population was not the sole consideration in fixing representation was recognized in the cases of Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island when these provinces respectively entered the union.

Manitoba, with a population less than one unit of representation, was given four, with a provision that after the census of 1881 its representation should be "readjusted" under the terms of the British North America Act.

The census of 1881 showed a population of sixty-two thousand two hundred and sixty,

which would have entitled it to three members, but it was "readjusted" up to five.

British Columbia with a white population of less than ten thousand and a total population not exceeding forty thousand when it entered Confederation, in 1871, was given six members as an irreducible minimum. In 1881 it had but two units of representation and in 1891 four units.

Prince Edward Island obtained six members upon entering confederation with but five units of population, passed the census of 1881 in the same condition, but, not being safeguarded as was British Columbia, was reduced to a representation of five after the census of 1891.

It may be said that in each of these cases there was an expectation of such increase as would in time bring all the provinces upon the basis of representation allowed upon entering confederation. Admitting such to be the case, it goes to show that the splendid optimists who made confederation thought only of readjustment upwards and not downwards.

When the maritime provinces entered confederation it was impossible for them to have foreseen the extent and effect of the development of western Canada. They never imagined that in the days to come the growth of the west would strip them of their influence in the councils of the nation. Though the times were not over prosperous, they contributed their share to the cost of purchasing the lands from the Hudson Bay Company and equipping them for 'settlement; bore their part of the cost of Canada to the Canadian Pacific Railway and all the other vast expenditures that went to link together the far-flung provinces of Canada and to convert the wilderness into thriving communities out of which have developed the splendid prairie provinces of to-day. But most of all, they gave their sons and daughters to the ivest. From Manitoba to the Pacific coast the maritime provinces people form an important element of the population who have played no small part in the development of these new lands. . .

All these contributions the maritime provinces have cheerfully made in the interests of Canadian unity and progress: but they feel it a cruel exaction of the strict letter of the bond which will impose a lasting penalty upon them for the sacrifices they have made in such a cause.

I appeal to this house, Mr. Speaker for unity and justice in this matter. This resolution may not be the appropriate time to express our views on this question, but as it would appear that this may be the last opportunity to present our case before the redistribution bill is brought into the house and passed I appeal to this parliament for a spirit of unity and fair play with respect to the representation of the maritime provinces in this house which has suffered so badly. I feel that we have every just right to put forward this claim, which I have humbly endeavoured to do in the interest of the province from which I come.

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