HC Deb 17 May 1915 vol 71 cc2086-8

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

9.0 P.M.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)

This is a Bill to amend the original Constitution of Canada, and to provide for the addition of nine members to the Senate. An addition of three or six members could be made under the existing North America Act by the Sovereign, but not a larger number. In all the other Dominions, either because they had more modern Constitutions or because there had been later amending legislation, such an addition could be made by their own Act subject to the Royal Assent. In the case of Canada an Imperial Act is necessary for the addition of more than six members to the Senate. The reason for the Bill is the great development of industry and population, and settlement in the Western provinces since the North America Act was passed forty-eight years ago. The three Divisions, Ontario, Quebec and the maritime provinces have each twenty-four senators, and the four Western provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta have only fifteen. The addition of these nine will bring those four Western provinces to the same number as the other provincial groups, namely, twenty-four. This proposal is not one for resolving any deadlock between the two Canadian Houses. It is based solely on population and development. It is not a party measure. It comes to us as a unanimous request from both parties, and both Houses in Canada, as is shown in the White Paper by the Resolution which I have circulated to the House. The provision as to the Senate if this Bill is passed will not operate until after the next General Election is held. Clause 2 will operate as soon as the Bill receives the Royal Assent in order to preserve the existing representation of Prince Edward Island in the Lower House or, indeed, of any other province which might otherwise be automatically forced to lose membership in the Lower House whilst getting an undue proportion in the Upper House.

I commend the Bill as an Imperial and uncontroversial measure. The Leader of the Opposition stayed here to the very latest moment that was possible in order to say a word on the Second Reading. It was not possible for him to remain longer, but he asked me to say that the Bill has his complete concurrence and support in every way. If, as I know, it is found to be entirely non-contentious, it would be a great convenience if I was allowed to take all the stages to-night in order that it may go to the House of Lords to-morrow, and so that the Royal Assent could be obtained before the Whitsuntide recess, and thus no delay would appear in Canada in our passage of an Act which they have asked of the Imperial Parliament.


I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that these additions were being made on the basis of or proportionate to the present population. I should like to know, having regard to the comparison he made with Ontario, seeing that those distant provinces in the West are enormously greater, and are being filled up with tremendous rapidity, whether in order to avoid the trouble of continually legislating he will provide for an automatic settlement of this difficulty in proportion to the increase, and thus deal with the disturbing factor of growing populations in different ratios over these gigantic areas.


This Act, read together with the original North American Act, which it amends, provides an elasticity in this matter which will probably be sufficient for many years to come.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into Committee on the said Bill."—[Mr. Harcourt.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.