HC Deb 13 June 1907 vol 175 cc1616-7

asked leave to introduce a Bill to make further provision with respect to the sums to be paid by Canada to the several provinces of the Dominion. He would state very briefly the reasons for bringing in this Bill, which was in no sense a Party measure, which was not of great importance to the people of this country, but which had excited a great deal of interest in Canada. Under the British North America Act, 1867, the Dominion of Canada agreed to pay to the provincial Governments certain sums of money in aid of their local and provincial expenditure. The arrangement then made afterwards proved to be inadequate, and in 1887 a conference of all the provinces held at Quebec agreed to a revised scale of payment. The resolutions passed at that conference were re-affirmed by all the States in 1902, and the Federal Government called a conference in 1906 at Ottawa, where all the States were represented. At this conference there was unanimous agreement by all States in the adoption of the proposals embodied in this Bill, with the exception of British Columbia, which claimed to be entitled to special consideration and asked for a larger subvention than had been allocated to it. This claim was recognised by other members of the conference, and an additional sum of 100,000 dollars was granted for a period of ten years. The Government of British Columbia, however, was not satisfied, and on the 25th March, 1907, the Parliament of British Columbia passed a resolution protesting against the settlement being regarded as final and irrevocable. They also laid before His Majesty a petition asking that, in any legislation to give effect to the Ottawa resolutions, the arrangement should not be taken as of a final and irrevocable character. He did not pretend to go into the merits of the difference on a constitutional question between British Columbia and the Federal Government. We on this side did not know enough to decide upon the merits of the claim. On the other hand, he would be very sorry if it wore thought that the action which His Majesty's Government had decided to take meant that they had decided to establish as a precedent that whenever there was a difference on a constitutional question between the Federal Government and one of the provinces, the Imperial Government would always be prepared to accept the Federal point of view as against the provincial. In deference to the representations of British Columbia the words "final and unalterable" applying to the revised scale had been omitted from the Bill. He would like to add a word or two as to the urgency of the matter. He had received a letter from Mr. Fielding, the Finance Minister of the Dominion, saying he hoped that the Imperial Parliament would facilitate the passage of the Bill at the earliest possible moment, because when the agreement was reached some months ago, the provinces assumed there would be no difficulty in securing the assent of the Imperial Parliament. They took it for granted that the additional revenue contemplated by the arrangement would be available by the 3rd July of the present year, and if anything now occurred to postpone the passing of the Bill some of them might find themselves in a condition of considerable embarrassment. He therefore hoped the Bill would be passed at the earliest possible moment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make further provision with respect to the sums to be paid by Canada to the several Provinces of the Dominion," put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Churchill and Mr. Runciman.