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THE ISLAND PROVINCE-ITS PRESENT AND
An Address by the HONOURABLE J. A. MATHESON, Premier of Prince Edward Island, before the Empire Club of Canada, on January 30, 1913
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I feel it a very great privilege to be able to place before an audience such as this in the city of Toronto something of the record of Prince Edward Island in the past, our present position, and our future hopes. As a colony with a separate government, Prince Edward Island is, in point of time, second in all Canada ; Nova Scotia was the first to obtain as a colony a separate legislature. We came in in 1773, one hundred years before Confederation, and during that period we worked out as strenuously as we could all the great problems of colonial government which confronted the different parts of Canada, and our statesmen of those early days did what they could to bring about that happy relation between the colonies and the Mother Land under which the development of Canada has taken place.
In 1864 the first meeting looking towards the Confederation of Canada was held in Charlottetown. There were present the late Sir John Macdonald, George Brown, Sir Georges Ètienne Cartier, Thomas D'Arcy Magee, and a number of other distinguished Canadians. They met in the capital of our Province and carried on their deliberations to a point which settled that a certain number of provinces at least should enter into the union.
Subsequent negotiations were held in the same year at Quebec, and in the end four of the provinces who met together decided to form the Confederation. Prince Edward Island came in a little later, and just at this point I would like to accentuate one claim which we now have and which we desire to urge on the people of Canada, their representatives, and the Government, as a
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just claim which should be recognized. One reason why Prince Edward Island refused to enter Confederation was that our representatives considered that the allotment of five members, which we were entitled to under the unit of population for representation purposes, was not sufficient, that five members would not suit in a distribution of our electoral district. In the end, when we did enter Confederation, although we were strictly entitled to five only, we were granted six on the full understanding that that was to be the minimum of our representation. We were unfortunate in the wording of the terms; British Columbia has secured the wording that the number of representatives were to be augmented but no provision was made for reduction; we, on the other hand, had another word, which allowed a redistribution with a declining number. That, however, the records prior to Confederation show was no part of the contract in fact; although in the letter and by the strict interpretation of the letter we were subject to redistribution.
I might point this out as one great hardship in relation to that reduction: we were induced to go into Confederation upon the promise that we would, as a Province, be put into immediate and continuous connection with the transportation systems of the mainland. We have waited for forty years, and we only now see that promise in a fair way of fulfilment. The result of the non-fulfilment of that promise was far-reaching. Prior to Confederation, we had our own channels of trade; they were not with Canada, except to a very small extent in the Maritime Provinces. Our trade was directly with Great Britain, with the West Indies, and with Newfoundland; our merchants had built up and established their lines of traffic, and they had ships suitable for traffic of that kind. But by Confederation our trade was thrown into Canadian channels, and it became all the more necessary for our proper development that direct communication with the transportation systems of the mainland should be established. By reason of the disadvantages under which we laboured, we lost our population, and because we lost our population, through the default of Canada, we were to be penalized twice by having our representation taken away. The greater the grievance, the feebler would become our voice in urging the claims of justice. I have spoken of the car ferry. We look forward with confidence to this great work as a remedy for our transportation grievances, and we can thank, to no small extent, the Minister of Railways, Mr. Cochrane, a man of your Province, for the active interest he has taken in promoting that project.
We suffered also from the earliest days of Confederation on account of the insufficiency of the subsidy. We had no public lands from which to derive a revenue. Before Prince Edward Island was born as a colony, its lands were all given away by lottery to favourites of the government of Britain at that time. It cost us $1.600,000 to free ourselves from the burden of absentee landlordism. You in Ontario and in all the Provinces of the West have the resources from your Crown Lands, your forests, and your mines, which contribute largely to your revenue. We had none of those resources from which to derive our revenue, and the amount allowed us by the Dominion proved altogether insufficient. You can judge of that from this fact, that from the day that we entered Confederation until the present year, there never has been one single year in which we have been able to meet our expenditure out of current revenue. We are eating up capital continually. We ate up our capital of $2,500,000 and we were not extravagant. Nowhere in Canada were the salaries of public men and public servants so low. The trouble was that our revenue was insufficient from the very outset. Last year we presented our case before the Government, and we were fortunate in securing some measure of the justice which had been so long delayed. We obtained an addition of $100,000 a year to our subsidy, and in the present year, for the first time in the history of Confederation, we will be able to carry on the public business of the Province without adding anything to the debt and without eating up any of the capital. (Applause)
I have just come from Ottawa, where, in conjunction with the Premier of the Province of New Brunswick, we presented the claims of the Maritime Provinces gen
erally to further consideration, and upon this ground, that when the public lands of Canada were bought they were paid for out of the revenues belonging to the people of Canada as a whole. Afterwards, in 1878, when the Imperial Government handed over to us all the lands in British North America except Newfoundland, it also was partnership land. We complained that one eighteenth of all that land was set aside for school purposes and administered through the local governments of the territories or provinces as the case might be, while we in the east were able to receive none of the territory and none of the benefit to be derived from those lands so set apart. Our claim is based upon that. You will know, gentlemen, that last year Ontario obtained an extension of her boundaries, which is part of that public land. Quebec also obtained an extension out of the public land, but we down by the sea are so situated that it was impossible for us to receive any part of that great national domain; and we think, and we hope to be able to persuade the Government that we are entitled to consideration and that since we cannot get land we should get an equivalent in increase of subsidy. We could use it well, we could use it to advantage, and I think I am within the judgment of every gentleman here when I say that the money that is necessary to enable a province to carry on progressively—not only solvently, but progressively—its local affairs, is money well spent by Canada. (Applause) What we desire above all things is to see Canada progressive and, as nearly as possible, equally progressive from ocean to ocean. (Applause) Lop-sided development where opportunities are very much greater, created so by benefits conferred by Government, is the worst thing we could have.
A day or two ago, in speaking of the matter, I said that I remembered the West when it was a wilderness and when the eastern provinces were strong and progressive because they had the inheritance of generations in their hands; but now the time has come when the West, by the generous aid that has been given by the Government, is able to take all our teachers from us and pay them twice the salaries that we can pay. That is, that we of the eastern provinces—and I mean from Ontario right down to the Atlantic coast—had to bear the burden of the equipment of those western provinces during all those years, and we have been so generous and they have carried the matter so far that we have created conditions for them more favourable than we have at home. The gentleman said, "O, but it is not the teachers alone; we pay higher wages, that is why we get them.” But I said, “How did you come to be able to pay the higher wages ?" Take the subsidies given to the new western provinces. We do not complain that they are too high, but when you compare them with the subsidies paid to the Maritime Provinces you will find that they are vastly greater. Why, a million and a half is paid to a province in the West where only $680,000 is paid to a province in the East, and the western provinces also have the revenue from those school lands, and new lands in some cases, to the amount of about $200,000 a year; and as the years go by that will grow with every sale of the school lands. There are twentysix million acres of the public lands of Canada that were set aside for that purpose. Do not for one moment suppose that I am complaining of the generous treatment which those provinces have received; I am only saying that the same generosity which brought forth so much progress there could be very well applied to the older provinces down by the sea, which have not thriven so well in Confederation, although they have borne their share in the burden of establishing all the great things that we have in Canada to-day.
As to the subsidy, I cannot pass that without returning to say that here again another member of the Cabinet from Ontario has rendered us an inestimable service; in the Minister of Finance, Mr. White, we found a man who was capable of understanding the whole financial situation and a man whose sympathy immediately went out to the smaller province which he called “the little sister of Confederation.”
Now what will the car ferry do for us? It will, I believe, solve for the people of my Province the difficulties of transportation that have prevented us from