HC Deb 23 July 1875 vol 225 cc1954-6

, in rising to call the attention of the House to "The Land Purchase Act, 1875," of the Local Government of Prince Edward's Island; and to move an Address for Copy or Extracts of Correspondence between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward's Islandand the Governor General of Canada, relating to the land question in that island, since the 25th day of July 1864, said: I am sorry at so late an hour to trouble the House with this matter relating to Prince Edward's Island; but the Land Purchase Act of that colony is of so extraordinary a character, I think it should not be passed over without being noticed in Parliament. By the terms of this Act, every proprietor owning more than 40 acres of land, is compelled to sell his property by arbitration to the Island Government. There is no option given, and every owner of town-ship lands, when notified so to do, must proceed to have his interest in land valued. This may not be thought a great hardship to those proprietors who are absentees; but many proprietors live upon their estates, do a great deal for them, and their case is one of great hardship indeed. The object of this remarkable measure is, of course, that the tenantry may, by purchase from the Government, become owners of the freehold of their farms. I apprehend there are tenants in an island nearer home than Prince Edward's Island who would not object to similar legislation in their case, and would like well enough to purchase out by compulsion their landlords, and I cannot but feel that this Act is setting a most dangerous prece- dent, and therefore I have felt it my duty to call the attention of the House to its provisions. In my opinion, there was no occasion for this compulsion. By Returns laid before this House, I find that from 1861 to 1871 the Government of Prince Edward's Island has spent £106,144 in purchasing the estates of proprietors, and I believe there are now only about 400,000 acres of land in the Island still unsold to the Government. It is my confident belief the Government would, in the course of a few years, have got possession of all this land, and that this extraordinary legislation is quite uncalled-for. The Preamble of the Act recites that the Government of Prince Edward's Island is to receive $800,000 from the Dominion of Canada under the terms on which the Island became confederated, for the purpose of buying up the township lands of the proprietors, and re-selling them to the tenantry, and three Commissioners are to be appointed—one by the Island Government, one by the proprietors, and one by the Governor General of Canada—and here let me say with how much satisfaction the proprietors have seen that the Governor General of Canada has made choice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ponte-fract as the Commissioner to represent him. The proprietors will feel that their interests are safer in his hands, and had things rested here—and it was understood these Commissioners were merely to assess the market value of the proprietors' lands—I should not have eared so much, but the numerous matters to be taken into consideration by the Commissioners in estimating the compensation to be paid are most extraordinary, and I do hope to hear from my hon. Friend the Under Secretary that, in the opinion of the Colonial Secretary, the Commissioners are not bound to give more effect to these con- ditions than they think just. At this late hour, I will not go into the documentary history of this land question, or allude to the Royal Commission of 1860, that investigated this matter—I will merely say that, in times past, the Colonial Office stood nobly by the proprietors in their defence of their rights, and that it is a matter of great surprise to me that the Governor General of Canada should have thought fit to assent to an Act clogged with such absurd recommendations as a guidance to the Commissioners. I hope my hon. Friend will give the Papers I ask for.


said, he thought his hon. Friend was fully justified in bringing the question before the House, and the Correspondence he asked for would be produced. He might, how-aver, remind him that the Colonial Office gave up its power of allowing or disallowing Acts of the Assembly of Prince Edward's Island, when, it became a portion of the Dominion of Canada, and that power was transferred to the Governor General in Council. He admitted the extraordinary character of the Act, which would stagger those who read it for the first time. But the circumstances were peculiar. There were occupiers, having long leases, who objected to pay rent, a state of affairs which, he was afraid, was not confined to Prince Edward's Island. A still more objectionable Act was passed last year, but the Governor General disallowed it, in the adoption of which course he had the full support of the Secretary of State; and a more reasonable Bill had been introduced this year.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present. House counted, and 40 Members not being present, House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock, till Monday next.