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BC Sessional Papers

FURTHER CORRESPONDENCE In connection with the Report submitted to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor… British Columbia. Legislative Assembly 1904

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 4 Ed. 7 Report of Second Delegation to Ottawa. G 27
In connection with the Report submitted to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor by
the Hon. Chas. Wilson and the Hon. R. F. Green on'their mission to Ottawa as a
Delegation from the Province of .British Columbia.
By Command.
Provincial Secretary.
Provincial Secretary's Office.
29th January, 190f.
Reply of Sir "Wilfrid Laurier.
Ottawa, 4th January, 1904.
Dear Mr. McBride,—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of
the 24th of December last.
You call again my attention to the representations which have been made by yourself, as
Premier of British Columbia, and some of your predecessors in office, in favour of a readjustment of the financial conditions which were agreed to by the Dominion Government and the
authorities of British Columbia at the time of its admission into Confederation.
You say that unless the matter is immediately taken up by the Dominion Government,
your representations must, perforce, " become the basis of an agitation in the Province, and
will, in that event, enter the arena of partisan debate."
It would be much to be regretted if the views which have been presented to the Dominion
Government from time to time were to be approached and discussed from a partisan point of
view, but there can be no objection to their being thoroughly examined and discussed in the
light of public opinion.
I may observe that, as you are aware, and as you represent in your letter, a demand for
a readjustment of the financial conditions now existing between the Dominion and the
Provinces has been presented to us by the Premiers of the seven Provinces of the Confederation in the course of the last year, and that whilst British Columbia has put in a separate
claim for itself, it has also joined the collective demand presented by all the others.
I would see very great difficulties in having separate arrangements for each of the
Provinces, and it seems much more natural that, if the subject is to be taken up, it should be
so taken up with the view of laying down a uniform, systematic and final basis, which should
work and apply mechanically to all the component elements of our federative union.
Since the memorandum of the Premiers has been placed in our hands, there has been no
opportunity of taking it into consideration. The unusual length of the session, which closed
on the 24th of October last, is sufficient explanation of the delay.
With regard to the other subjects brought to our attention by the Government of British
Columbia, I have to make the following observations :—
The subject of the fisheries is .very much involved, and the position taken by British
Columbia makes it absolutely indispensable that the Minister of Marine and Fisheries should,
at as early a day as possible, visit your Province, with the view of having a better understanding, by actual inspection, of the peculiar conditions which you allege in support of your claim.
The assistance asked for out of the Dominion Treasury, by the Province, for the construction of a bridge over the Fraser River, was discussed with Mr. Dunsmuir when he was
Premier.    I see no reason to change the views which were then pressed upon his consideration.
The matter of the Indian Reserves is a purely departmental one, as to which there should
not be any serious difficulties. G 28 Report of Second Delegation to Ottawa. 1904
I am sorry to hear that the increased amount which we are giving British Columbia out
of the revenue arising from the Chinese Restriction Act is not accepted by your Government
as final.
Yours respectfully,
Wilfrid Laurier.
The Hon. Richard McBride,
Premier of British Columbia, Victoria, B. C.
Reply to Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
Victoria, B. C, January 27th, 1904.
Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, K. G. M. G.,
Prime Minister, Ottawa, Canada.
Dear Sir Wilfrid,—I have received and read with interest your reply to my letter of
the 24th of December last.
I do not desire at this time, nor do I think it would serve any useful purpose, to discuss
again the various matters that have been the subject of previous representations, or reiterate
any of the many statements contained in the lengthy correspondence that has taken place.
There are, however, one or two observations I cannot refrain from making in respect to your
communication of the 4th instant.
In passing, I must take exception to one paragraph as follows :—
" You say that unless the matter is immediately taken up by the Dominion Government,
your representations must, perforce, ' become the basis of an agitation in the Province, and will,
in that event, enter the arena of partisan debate.'"
If you will have the kindness to refer to my letter again you will find that it does not
bear out that interpretation, and I feel certain you have misapprehended my meaning. My
language—at all events, my intention—was farthest from holding out a threat to the Dominion
Government. I was pointing out that the representations of the British Columbia Government had apparently been ignored, and I said :—
" So far, your Government has given no indication of its disposition to deal with the
matters discussed, either favourably or unfavourably ; and it is for the purpose of having some
definite pronouncement on your part that I am again calling your attention to them and to the
importance which is attached thereto by this Government."
In referring to the fact that an attempt has been made to give the subject a partisan
turn, I preceded this by remarking :—
" Up to the present all the representations that have been made to you have been conceived and couched in that spirit. Either they are worthy of consideration and definite reply
or they are not. If no reply be forthcoming, they must, perforce, become the basis of an
agitation, and will, in that event, undoubtedly enter the arena of partisan debate very soon."
I am quite sure, Sir Wilfrid, that you have no desire to place any other than the obvious
construction upon my language and that you will agree with me, on second consideration, that
your words and those in the foregoing quotation from my letter convey quite different impressions. I only refer to it incidentally, in order that your statement of my position may not go
on record as admitted.
Coming now to the crux of the matter, I, of course, regret very much that your reply
must be accepted as wholly a negative one. I had hoped that your Government would have
accepted the proposal to refer our claims for re-adjustment of financial relations to a commission of investigation. I do not think that this Government could possibly have offered a
stronger proof of the good faith of its contention than the willingness it has shown to accept
the responsibility of proving its case before an independent, non-partisan and wholly disinterested tribunal, and I am unable to see any political or constitutional obstacle in the way of
such a course being adopted. As I pointed out in my letter, incidentally the constitutional
difficulties of re-adjustment suggested by yourself could have been fully considered, as well as
the relations of the other Provinces to the dispute, which were so obviously in your mind in
framing your present reply.
I was not a member of the Government when the British Columbia Delegation joined
with the representatives of the other Provinces in presenting the Memorial to your Govern- 4 Ed. 7. Report of Second Delegation to Ottawa. G 29
ment to which you refer; but as I understand it, they did so as a recognition of the principle
of general re-adjustment, and not as a relinquishment of special claims. Our claims were
made prior to the action of the Inter-Provincial Conference, in which the Hon. Mr. Parent,
Premier of Quebec, was the leading spirit; and, as a matter of fact, the especial position of
the Province in relation to the whole subject was explained in a letter to Mr. Parent, and that
letter was incorporated with the Memorial presented and was signed by every member of the
Inter-Provincial Conference. The Province of British Columbia, therefore, has not bargained
away any rights to special consideration ; but, on the other hand, has greatly strengthened its
position by the action taken.
You deprecate the idea of separate arrangements with the Provinces, and advocate something which will be automatically uniform. So far as such an arrangement can be shown to
be possible, I sympathize with your view, but we are now dealing with a set of conditions
which are not and have not been uniform in their effect, a fact which is the principal burden
of our complaint. I beg to remind you that the financial arrangements in respect to all the
Provinces are separate. The treaty of this Province with the Dominion is a separate contract;
and so long as conditions differ in Provinces, so long must their financial relations differ. It
is impossible to foresee developments of the future, and, consequently, impossible to adequately
and equitably provide for them. My idea of a solution is a provision for periodic adjustments,
rather than an attempt to make a permanent arrangement such as you suggest. The Austra-
lias anticipated our difficulty in their new Constitution by stipulating for a return of the
revenues to the parent State after a certain contribution to the treasury of the Commonwealth
had been reached. Some arrangement of this kind should have been made in Canada at the
The position of the Province of British Columbia is this : We say that the conditions
which do now and have always existed are so radically different from the rest of Canada—
although the sources of revenue are the same—as to have imposed special burdens on our
people and constituted grievances of a special character. We have set out in a series of
representations what these special conditions and grievances are. These representations have
been before you for some time, and no single statement contained in them has been denied or
refuted. Failing other recourse, we have asked for a commission to find whether these grievances are real and substantial or invented for political effect, as has been alleged. This has
been denied us.
Taking all these facts into consideration, and assuming that the Province has special
claims to consideration, I submit, Sir Wilfrid, that it is not in justice competent in answer to
our representations to say that these claims cannot be considered on the grounds that it would
involve an interference with the theory of uniform, automatic operation of federal relations
among the Provinces—a theory, which, by the way, does not yet exist in practice, and the
practicability of which is doubtful. I appreciate the difficulties of opening up questions of
this kind in which directly and indirectly so many interests are affected ; but this Government
has confidence enough in the fairmindedness of the people of the other Provinces to believe
they will accord us fair play if we can prove satisfactorily, to a properly constituted tribunal,
that our claims are well founded.
In respect to the other matters at issue, I can only say that I am pleased to know that
the Minister of Marine and Fisheries proposes to come to British Columbia at an early date to
arrive at a settlement.
Respecting the bridge over the Fraser, I cannot alter the opinion I have expressed.
I hope that departmental arrangements will soon be made to adjust the Indian Reserves.
There can be no deviation from our claims respecting the apportionment of the revenues
arising out of the Chinese Restriction Act. On principle, if we are entitled to a certain
proportion of the returns since July, 1902, we are entitled to it for all the years during which
the Act has been in operation.
Permit me to thank you for the very courteous nature of your letter, which materially
assists in the definition of the issues.
I have, etc.,
(Signed)        Richard McBride,
Printed by Richard Wolfexden, I.S.O., V.D., Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.


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