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1 Cf. Riddell, "Constitution of Canada," 102-103.

2 Deaths of senators were so frequent in the first six years
of the Borden government that by April, 1917, the minority
of forty-three of 1911 had become a majority of eight.

3 Mercury, Renfrew, Ontario, May 8, 1914.



And is This was the attitude of the Conservative

partisan government, and its house of commons supporters,
toward senate reform after nature and the govern-
ment had adjusted the balance of power in the
senate. The attitude of a Liberal government is
precisely the same when once it is in possession
of a majority in the senate. 1

Senate The Liberals came into power in 1896 after a

irm general election in which they had gone to the

by liberals constituencies on the Ottawa program of 1893.

in power y ne new government chafed for four or five years
under the disadvantage of an adverse majority
in the senate. But as vacancies occurred the
government filled them with its nominees; and
despite the fact that the resolution of 1893,
pledging the Liberal party to a reform of the
senate, 2 was submitted to the Ottawa convention
by three men who were afterwards of the cabinets
of 1896-1911, not a word was heard from the
government about senate reform during the
fifteen years that the Liberals were in power. 3

1 " Since advocacy of senate reform is the strict and in-
alienable prerogative of oppositions, the senate as now con-
stituted seems to rest upon a reasonably stable foundation."
Willison, "Some Political Leaders in the Canadian Federa-
tion," 51.

2 Cf. Official report of the Liberal convention, Ottawa,

1893, 134-

3 "Notwithstanding the fact that one of the planks of the
Liberal platform in 1893 was the reform of the senate, during
the whole fifteen years the Liberal party were in power, there
was no reform of the senate other than through the efforts



The senate has been of some little service Public
in improving details of bills sent to it from the J


house of commons. For five provinces also it
has served as a divorce court. These are its
public services.

Two distinctly party services have also been its
rendered by the senate. Twice since 1896 its ^
existence has made it possible for a political political
party, defeated at a general election, to harass partles
and thwart a new government. Its existence also
has added quite largely to the patronage of
governments, and has thus enabled governments
to keep in line and under party discipline a far
larger number of active and office-seeking parti-
sans than is represented by the actual number of
appointments made by any government to the

The senate, chiefly by its failure to realize the its
professed expectations of the Fathers of Con-
federation, by its failure to make a beneficent to
impression on politics in Canada, or at any time
in its fifty years' existence to convince the people mentary
of Canada that it was of any possible public
usefulness, 1 is, from the standpoint of students

of Divine Providence. No action along that line was taken
by the government or by any member supporting the govern-
ment, with the exception of Mr. Maclntyre." W. M.
German, Liberal member from Ontario, in debate on constitu-
tion of senate, house of commons, May 7, 1917.

1 "W. M. German's proposal in the house of commons
today to reform the senate by making it elective instead of
selective, met with little favor. The mover of the resolution



of the working of parliamentary institutions, the
most interesting second chamber in the English-
speaking world. It is especially so, when it is
kept in mind that it represents the fourth attempt
since 1791 to establish a second chamber, modeled
after the house of lords, in the portion of the
British empire that is now comprised in the
Dominion of Canada.

and all others who took part in the debate paid tribute to the
personnel of the senate, past and present, but regretted that
it had ceased to be an active legislative body, and in a measure
lost the confidence of the people." Ottawa correspondence,
Gazette, Montreal, May 7, 1917.




IN the first session of the first parliament of Number
the Dominion there were 181 members of
the house of commons. Ontario was represented
by 82 members; Quebec by 65; Nova Scotia
by 19; and New Brunswick by 15. After the
redistribution of representation in 1914, the num-
ber stood at 234.* In 1867, when only four
provinces were in Confederation, the population
of the Dominion was 3,250,000; at the census
of 1911, on which the redistribution of 1914
was based, it was 7,206,000.

In the intervening forty-four years two of the
old British North American provinces, British
Columbia and Prince Edward Island, had come
into the Dominion; and parliament at Ottawa, by
virtue of amendments to the constitution which
had increased its powers, had created the prov-
inces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta,
and had conferred on these provinces, and also
on the Yukon Territory, the right to represen-
tation in the house of commons.

1 Cf. An act to readjust the representation in the house
of commons, assented to June 12, 1914 4-5 George V.,
c. -51.



I. The Distribution of Representation

Appor- These additions to the membership of the house

tionment were ma( J e in strict accordance with section 51
sentation of the British North America act, the section
which defines the powers of parliament in the
apportionment of representation among the sev-
eral provinces.

Section 51 a disturbing section since 1903
to the older provinces, which, under its strict pro-
visions, must submit to reductions in their repre-
sentation reads as follows:

On the completion of the census in 1871, and on each
subsequent decennial census, the representation of the
four provinces shall be readjusted by such authority, in
such a manner, and from such time, as the parliament
of Canada shall from time to time provide, subject and
according to the following rules:

(1) Quebec shall have the fixed number of 65

(2) There shall be assigned to each of the other prov-
inces such a number of members as will bear the same
proportion to the number of its population (ascertained
at such census) as the number 65 bears to the number
of the population of Quebec (so ascertained).

(3) In the computation of the number of members
for a province, a fractional part, not exceeding one half
of the whole number requisite for entitling the province
to a member shall be disregarded; but a fractional part
exceeding one half of that number shall be equivalent
to the whole number.

(4) On any such readjustment, the number of mem-
bers for a province shall not be reduced unless the pro-
portion which the number of the population of the prov-
ince bore to the number of the aggregate population of



Canada at the then last preceding readjustment of the
number of members for the province is ascertained
at the then latest census to be diminished by one
twentieth part or upwards.

(5) Such readjustment shall not take effect until
the termination of the then existing parliament.

At each decennial redistribution of represen- Losses
tation, parliament when it enters on this task ** fj
is confronted with these provisions of the con- button
stitution; and when, as in 1903 and again in 1914,
the older and more settled provinces of Ontario,
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward
Island know, from the census returns, that they
are to lose some part of their representation,
there is a reminder from the minister who intro-
duces the redistribution bill that no blame can
rest on parliament for the losses that provinces
must undergo.

II. Quebec the Pivotal Province

"We have," said Laurier, premier of the Liberal Pariia-
administrations of 1896-1911, when he intro- ^ n ee
duced the bill of 1903, "only to take the pro- in
visions of section 51 of the constitution, and ^^
the figures of the census, and find the result, tnbution
In this matter parliament is not a free agent. bms
It has no discretion to exercise. It is simply
the instrument and creature of the law. In
this particular bill we have only to take the
result of the census of 1901, and make the redis-
tribution accordingly. We give to each province



the number to which it is entitled, some having less,

some more, but all being bound by the same rule." 1

Quebec Quebec is the only province which can look

quo l a on without direct concern when a redistribution

able bill is before the house of commons. Increased

representation for the new provinces, and for
British Columbia, the four provinces which,
after 1900, attracted much of the stream of im-
migration, may lessen the influence and weight of
the French province at Ottawa. But no matter
what the census returns may show, Quebec's
quota of sixty-five remains unalterable, unless
there is an amendment to section 51 an amend-
ment of which during the first half-century of
Confederation there was not even a hint at Ottawa.
Unit of In the redistribution of representation Quebec

e " is thus the pivotal province. "Taking the popu-
lation of Quebec at 2,003,232," said Borden,
premier of the Conservative government that
was responsible for the redistribution bill of
1914, "and dividing it by 65, we obtain the unit
of 30,819. Applying this unit to the popu-
lation of the various provinces, we find that
Alberta is entitled to a membership of 12.12
the decimal is disregarded, and Alberta receives
a membership of 12. In the case of British
Columbia, the number is 12.70. The decimal
being in excess of five, British Columbia receives
a membership of 13."

1 H. C. Debates, March 31, 1903.

2 Ibid., February 10, 1914.



The territories west of the Great Lakes came
into the parliamentary representation at the
redistribution of 1892. Four members were
then assigned to what were called the northwest
territories. It was 1905 before portions of these
territories were organized as the provinces of
Saskatchewan and Alberta. The changes in
the representation brought about since 1892
by the operation of section 51 of the British
North America act, and by the amendments made
to it at Westminster in 1871 and 1886, are recorded
in the accompanying table:












6 S




Nova Scotia





New Brunswick










British Columbia





Prince Edward Island




Northwest Territories




















The Dominion parliament has left to the pro- Electoral
vincial legislatures the determination of the fran ~
franchises on which members of the house of
commons shall be elected. This is in accordance
with the federal principle the principle which
from the first has prevailed in the United States.
To the state legislatures also has been assigned,


mined by


from the first, the division of the states into

congressional districts.
Electoral Canada has not followed the example of the

United States in the redistribution of representa-
mined tion. It has never permitted the provincial
rant* 111 legislatures to map out the electoral divisions or

constituencies from which representatives of the

province are elected to the house of commons.

III. The Era of the Gerrymander

partisan The first three redistributions of representation
wbutions those of 1872, 1883, and 1892 were made
by Conservative governments, and in the re-ar-
rangement of the constituencies in 1882 and 1892
the Liberal minorities in the house of commons
were not permitted any part. The Liberal
opposition, led in 1882 by Edward Blake and in
1892 by Wilfred Laurier, had no more say in the
redistricting of the provinces than they had in
the redistribution of seats at Westminster which
accompanied the extension of the parliamentary
franchise in the United Kingdom in 1884.
Redis- The bill of 1882, allotting each province its

Warded l uot:a ^ members, was introduced in the house
as of commons. As part of the bill there was a

privilege scne( J u l e o f the electoral divisions in each prov-

of Party . r ...

in power ince. It was useless tor the opposition to take
a map, as they could have done, and show how
glaringly some constituencies had been gerry-
mandered in the interest of the Conservative
party. The decennial redistribution of repre-


sentation was regarded in those days as offering
an opportunity to advance the interests of the
political party that was in power.

During the Conservative regime of 1878-1896 "Hiving
there was no pretense to fairness in the readjust- ^ ts
ment of the parliamentary constituencies. The
phrase, long in use in Dominion politics, "hiving
the grits," had its origin in those years. It
described the throwing together of communities
that were predominantly Liberal, without heed
to county boundaries, to make other constituen-
cies safely Conservative. Gerrymandering began
in 1872. It was particularly rampant at the
redistributions of 1882 and 1892. 1

At no time in the first fifty years of Confeder- Party
ation was party bitterness more marked than ^ r "
in the years from 1878 to 1896. Much of the
bitterness, a bitterness which characterized de-
bates in the house of commons, and political
discussions on the platform and in the press,
grew out of the gerrymanders. It was partly
attributable to other partisan legislation affect-
ing elections by the Conservative government.
It was partly attributable to a manipulation of
electoral franchises in 1885, which was not cor-
rected until 1898, when a Liberal government
repealed the act of 1885 and established the

1 "Gerrymandering is a Yankee institution, a Yankee in-
vention which the National Policy the policy of a high
tariff does not keep out of Canada." Sir William Mulock,
Ottawa Liberal convention, June 2l r 1893.


principle that under the federal system the elec-
toral franchises must be determined, not by the
federal parliament, but by the legislatures of the

Liberals The Liberals persistently denounced the gerry-
mitted rnanders when the bills of 1872, 1882, and 1892
to non- were before parliament. They were denounced
^^ also at the general elections of 1882, 1887, and
tribution 1891; and in 1893, when the Liberal national
convention was held at Ottawa, a resolution was
adopted that committed the Liberal party to a
reform in the method of redistributing the prov-
inces for representation in the house of commons.
"To put an end to this abuse, to make the house
of commons a fair exponent of public opinion,
and to preserve the historic continuity of coun-
ties," continued the resolution, "it is desirable
that in the formation of electoral divisions,
county boundaries should be preserved, and that
in no case should parts of different counties be
put in one electoral division." 1

IV. The Reform of 1903

Liberals At the general election in 1896 the Liberals
*^^~ were returned to power. In 1903, for the first
their time in the history of the Dominion, a Liberal
government was responsible for framing and
carrying through parliament a bill for a redis-
tribution of the representation. The government

1 Official Report, Ottawa Liberal convention, 129.


availed itself to the full of the opportunity to
fulfill the pledge made in the years when the
Liberals were in opposition.

We on this side of the house said Laurier, when he intro- Partisan
duced the bill in the house of commons have always com-

plained that in previous redistributions the opposition was

unfairly treated. In 1892 we proposed a conference over the
bill a conference at which there should be representation of
both political parties. But though our proposition was not
accepted, we do not intend to depart from the principle which
we then laid down. What we claimed for ourselves when we
were in a minority, we are now ready to grant to our opponents
when they are in a minority.

There is no schedule to this bill. If this bill is accepted by Electoral
our friends on the other side of the house, we intend, after it "^P
has been debated, and read a second time, to refer it to a special !
committee composed of seven members, on which the opposition confer.
will be represented by three, to be selected by themselves, ence
We propose to invite our friends now sitting on the opposition
benches to meet us in the committee room, and there discuss
with us the division of the constituencies which shall be
empowered to elect the members of this house. 1

The complete fulfillment by the Liberal govern- Conserv-

ment in 1903 of a pledge which had been given ^Tg S u

by the Liberal party when it was in opposition, also

ended permanently, it would seem, the scandals &d ^

of the gerrymander. The Conservatives were ence

in opposition from 1896 to 1911. But from 1903 pUn
to 1911 they had no grievance with regard to
the arrangement of electoral divisions; and in
1914, when a Conservative government was

1 H. C. Debates, March 31, 1903.



responsible for a redistribution bill, the precedent
of 1903 was followed in all details.

The bill was introduced by Borden. Again no
schedule was attached; and after the bill had
been read a second time, the readjustment of
the electoral divisions was relegated to a special
committee on which were four representatives
of the majority in the house of commons and
three of the Liberal opposition. 1

V. Inequalities in Electoral Divisions

NO equal Equal electoral divisions have never been
rtrt- ral attempted by either Conservative or Liberal
sions governments. Favorable treatment has always
been accorded to the rural divisions. Under the
apportionment of 1903, Soulanges, a rural division
of Quebec, with a population of 9400, had one
member of the house of commons, and there was
only one for Maisonneuve, a manufacturing and
residential suburb of Montreal, which according
to the census of 1901 had a population of 170,987.
Lisgar, a rural division of Manitoba, had a popu-
lation of 23,501. In Winnipeg, which, like
Lisgar, had then one member, the population
was I28,i57. 2

Larger Both political parties accept the principle of

urban*** a l ar g er un ^ f r urban than for rural constituen-
divisions cies. Borden recalled this fact when he was

1 Cf. H. C. Debates, February 10, 1914.

2 Ibid., February 10, 1914.



piloting the redistribution act of 1914 through
the house of commons.

It is said the premier reminded the house that in a
crty there ought to be a higher unit, for the reason that a city
possesses greater solidarity and compactness. Its interests
are more uniform, and they can make themselves felt more
effectually and cogently than the interests of a rural constit-
uency. It is said also that many men who represent rural
constituencies reside in the cities, and in that way the cities
have a certain voice in the legislature which is denied to rural

Importance also has been laid by some members of this Corn-
house upon the argument that there is perhaps a more stable munlt y

interest in those who dwell upon the land than is to be found !


in the case of a certain floating element of city population, and

Finally there is the English principle of community of historic

interest, compactness and historic association a principle asso ~
that is always regarded in British redistribution bills. 1

These arguments in favor of a smaller unit
of population for rural than for urban constit-
uencies were accepted and indorsed by Laurier.

Without going into all the reasons he said there is Large
one supreme reason. It is that in a country like Canada, Tuia *
where there is a very large territory with a sparse popu- gi< ^
lation, if you give the same unit of population to cities and
counties, in rural constituencies you would have such a large
area of territory as to be almost impossible to cover. That is
quite sufficient to justify the principle which has been adopted
on every occasion on which we have had a redistribution.

Unlike the older universities of England, Ireland, and
Scotland, none of the fourteen universities of Canada elects
a member to the house of commons. It was intended by the
legislature of Upper Canada that there should be a university

1 H. C. Debates, Februaiy 10, 1914.



constituency in that province. An act was passed in 1820
(Geo. Ill, c. II IV, St. of Upper Canada) by which it was
provided "that whenever an university shall be organized,
and in operation as a seminary of learning in this province,
and in conformity to the rules and statutes of similar insti-
tutions in Great Britain, it shall and may be lawful for the
governor to declare by proclamation the tract of land ap-
pendant to such university, and whereupon the same is
situated, to be a town or township, and that such town or
township so constituted, shall be represented by one member."
"No person," continues the section, "shall be permitted
to vote at any such election for a member to represent the
said university in parliament, who besides the qualification
now by law required shall not also be entitled to vote in the
convocation of the said university." There was, however,
no election of a member for the university between 1820
and the union of Upper and Lower Canada in 1840. At
the union of the provinces there was no mention of univer-
sity representation, and no suggestion of it at Confederation. 1

single- With only three or four exceptions, all the
oonstit-* 2 34 e l ectora l divisions are single-member con-
uencies stituencies. Divisions of counties are known as
"ridings," a term that has been in use in British
parliamentary geography at least since 1821,
when the right to elect two members was trans-
ferred from the long notoriously corrupt borough
of Grampound to the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Constit- The term "division" is applied only in cities
ncies Q ana( j a which return three or more members.


guished Electoral divisions are not numbered, as in the

byname Um te cl States. Geographical names are used,

such as Toronto East, or Toronto West; and

1 H. C. Debates, February 17, 1914.



such names as Algoma, Frontenac, Two Moun-
tains, Antigonish, Pontiac, and Yale Caribou
are given the ridings of counties.

As a member of the house of commons must "The
never be mentioned in debate by name, but always & T ~
referred to as the honorable member for Pon- member
tiac or whatever consituency he represents, both *
a new and an old world flavor is imparted to de-
bates by giving names instead of numbers to all
the constituencies that elect members to Ottawa.

VI. Unsuccessful Experiment with a Uniform
Dominion Franchise

At Confederation a large measure of freedom Elections
was conferred on the Dominion parliament in 1 g^ to
regard to the franchises on which the house of 1882
commons at Ottawa is elected. By section 41 ovln .
of the British North America act, it was provided ciai
that until the parliament of Canada otherwise ^~ s
decided the electoral laws of the provinces should
apply to the election of members of the house
of commons.

The year of the passage of the British North influence
America act was the year in which, for the first Brltlsh
time in modern history, all male householders in reform
parliamentary boroughs in the United Kingdom JjJ6 7 f on
were enfranchised. It was a great step towards electoral
democracy when the British electoral law of
1867 was enacted; and there is some reflection
of the new democratic spirit in the section of the



British North America act which was applicable
to Algoma.

House- Algoma is today included in the province of
suffL e Ontario. In l %6? it was a territory; but it was

Online LibraryEdward PorrittEvolution of the Dominion of Canada; its government and its politics → online text (page 20 of 34)