§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that the last vote which he was about to propose was, for a grant of 296,000l. to complete the water communications in Canada. When the present Government came into office, they found estimates to a large amount for the Rideau Canal, and the works carrying on in Canada; and his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, thought it proper to have these documents laid upon the Table, in order that the opinion of Parliament might be taken upon them. The papers were referred to a Select Committee; and the Select Committee, having investigated the matter, made a report which embodied the vote now asked.
§ On the Chairman putting the motion,
wished to know, whether any more information had been communicated to the present. Government, as to the sum necessary to complete the works in question, than what the Committee who had recommended the grant, possessed?
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that no additional information on that head had been received. He expressed regret, that the information which the former Government had in its possession had not been laid before Parliament, for if so, it would have been more satisfactory. The sums since voted for these works, amounted to about 1,000,000l. He found by a Minute, that in April, 1826, an estimate of 169,000l. was made, and an order given to proceed with the works, before any communication was made to Parliament.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
said, in the absence of the late Under Colonial Secretary, who was now appointed to the Governorship of Ceylon, and under whom the vote complained of was recommended, no satisfactory explanation could be given. He was quite sure, however, that the Ordnance Department had acted in conformity to directions given from the Colonial office. He was sure, that the canal was of the highest importance to the welfare of the colony. The Ordnance Department had acted solely for the defence and the well-being of the colony; and he thought that the Colonial Department was in some degree warranted in their proceedings, from the great benefit, commercial as well as military, likely to ensue.
§ Mr. George Robinson
complained, that although 1,049,000l. had been already expended on this canal, the work was still imperfect; and more money, it appeared, was still required, to erect defences against the probable incursions of the Indians. The whole expenditure, he could not help considering, under all the circumstances, to be a great misapplication of public money, for which his Majesty's late Government, in his opinion, were justly censurable.
referred to the existing discontents in the Canadas, and also in Nova Scotia, to which he begged leave to call the attention of the King's Ministers, especially since he had been intrusted with a petition of considerable importance on the subject, which he would take an early opportunity of presenting to the House. The two branches of the Legislature, though the members of each were unanimous among themselves, he regretted to state, were diametrically opposed to one another; and the collision had occasioned so much political jarring and public disquiet, that it had become the indispensable duty of Parliament itself to interpose, by an exercise of its own vigorous authority, without further loss of time. The legislative assembly, he conceived, would never be a complete and satisfactory political body, until a spirit of full, free, and fair election should be effectually infused into the whole mass; and they ought to have either a Governor and a House of Assembly without an intermediate body, or, if they had the latter, it behoved them at once to introduce the principle of election, as Mr. Fox had originally proposed. The next point to which he wished to call the attention of the Committee was, that system by 306 which the Government party engrossed the whole of the offices and places at the disposal of the executive. Whether a man was popular or not, he was thrust into office provided he was connected with this little oligarchy. What would be thought in this country, if the Sovereign were to strain his prerogative, and have only what Ministers he liked, whether they were pleasing to the House and the country or not? The result would be, that the country would be in an uproar from one end to the other. Yet this mode of selecting public officers hostile to the feelings of the public, had been the practice in the Canadas for the last ten or fifteen years. He must, however, say, that the people of Canada, in spite of all these grievances, were attached to the British Government, and British connexion, but that was an additional reason why they should expect and obtain justice at our hands.
§ Sir G. Murray
defended the system adopted towards the Canadas by the late Government. The whole of the works undertaken were, while they tended to strengthen British power in that quarter, also calculated for the great local advantage of the colonists. For his own part, he would say, that the policy of the Colonial Office was, to discourage, as much as possible, party dissensions. One great object which he had endeavoured to impress on the government in the Canadas was, to increase the members of the legislative council, by introducing into it a large number of efficient persons. It was also recommended that Government should be careful to avoid giving one part of the legislature a triumph over the other, which was the foundation of much discontent and heart-burnings in the colony. With respect to the expense of the Rideau canal, it was necessary, not only as a line of defence, but was of the first utility as it concerned the local advantages of the colony.
said, that we should look to the Canadas as a possession on which we could not count permanently; and he did not see the policy of keeping up such a line of defence as was between the Upper and Lower Canadas.
§ Sir G. Murray
said, that it would be impossible to retain the Lower Canada, if we lost the Upper. As to the expenditure, he must say, that none was directed by the Colonial Department directly. All expenditure of this kind received, in the first instance, the sanction of the Treasury.
asked, whether there was any document in the Treasury to show that the Colonial Department was authorized to expend money on the Canadas without first applying to Parliament.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that there was no document to show, that what he considered the objectionable part of the grant had been sanctioned by the Treasury.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, this line of defence ought to be left to the inhabitants to maintain; for if war took place with the United States, we were not likely to retain either of the Canadas. There had been some warmth in the discussion, about whether expending a million of money on a canal in Canada was a job or not. In a Reformed Parliament, some person would be made responsible for such acts, but now one party shifted the blame to the other. The House was referred from one officer to a second, then to a third, and so on. He had only to add, that if the Committee divided, he would vote against the grant.
§ The Motion that 296,000l. be granted for improving the water-communication between Montreal and the Ottawa to Kingston, and from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, was carried.