Fifty Years Ago.
A digression on being over-governed.-The absurdity of having so much Legislative Machinery.
Dear SIR:—One hundred years ago Nova Scotia was divided and New Brunswick set apart for another province; the reason was that there were NO roads and bridges, and a Government at Halifax could not manage so much territory under such circumstances. Government cost but little in those days.
Now, with railroads and bridges in every direction, the reasons for the little local governments no longer exist. The folly of P. E Island with a population of 109,000 supporting a local government equal in its details to that of Ontario, with its population of 2,000,000, is transparent. If P. E. I needs to support a government, then if population is any criterion, Ontario needs eleven governments to make the necessary laws and keep things right; or if territorial superficies is the standard, then Ontario would need sixty governments. P. E. Island and Quebec will bear about the same comparison. Is it any wonder that intelligent men are crying out against the enormous waste of money in legislation? The entire population of P. E Island is only about two-thirds that of the City of Montreal alone.
New Brunswick is not quite so badly off in comparison with Ontario. It has about one-sixth of Ontario's population, but it is taxed to keep in working order the machinery of a constitutional local government. To make things worse, New Brunswick still retains that useless and expensive branch—the Legislative Council, which Ontario abolished long years ago. Can such a state of things be long tolerated by the people?
Nova Scotia has about one fifth of Ontario's population and pays the same enormous taxes for local legislation that New Brunswick does. Is it any wonder the people of Nova Scotia are going mad over their burdens? Their Government selfishly hide the true cause of the evils that depress the people, that they themselves may retain their lucrative places. They charge their hardships to the Dominion Government’s unjust dealing with them. To Confederation-to the N. Policy —to every imaginable thing but the true one. They shout and fume for a repeal of the Union or annexation, or a change of the Dominion Government, or anything else that will conceal their own extravagance and the all important fact that the people are governed to death.
The people do not, or ought not to elect assemblymen to spend a large part of the winter in selfish enjoyments at Fredericton or Halifax. What possible use is there for four members from Westmorland or Cumberland to do the little local business, while one only is found necessary for all the most important state business of the Dominion? What do we want of three governers at enormous salaries to sanction the acts of our little local men? One governor only is necessary for the Dominion, that has control of all matters with foreign nations, the negotiation of treaties, our navigation laws, the customs, revenues and all else that needs statesmanship.
The three Maritime Provinces together have less than half the population of Ontario with its two branches of the legislature, while each of our provinces pays three. What is all this legislation wanted for in the Maritime Provinces?
Property owners have need to be on the alert. The poorer people, it is true, pay heavy duties into the Dominion treasury, and the Dominion needs it all to pay the expenses of its enormous public works. But while they pay the heavy duties on liquors, tobacco, &c, cheerfully, they pay little or nothing for local taxation and never will.
The press, it is to be regretted, takes but little interest in local affairs and this may be one of the reason why people are lulled into security as the storm approaches.
There are many assemblymen who see and regret that nothing seems to be doing to ward off the certain coming of intolerable taxes on the Maritime Provinces.
Our Sackville member laments the apathy of the taxpayers in the matter, but shrinks from the herculean task of reform unsolicited and unsupported by the people.
It is no excuse for assemblymen that hundreds of thousands have been expended foolishly for legislative halls. Now that we don’t want them, either one of the three could be utilized, and the other two rented for something else. Travel is now so easy and expeditions, that our good assemblymen need not fear the hardships of a day or two’s ride in our finely furnished cars. If they should feel somewhat nervous at the hardships of travel let them call to mind their political grandfathers, with their packs on their backs and snow-shoes on their feet following the trial of an Indian guide with the prospects of very poor pay for their services in the end.
Some may wonder why “Fifty years ago” should stand at the head of this letter. It may serve to call to the minds of our present Assemblymen the honest and the disinterested work of their political fathers and grandfathers in the public service, and make them blush at their own unworthiness, and cause them to do better for their constituents in the future.
Why do the people not arrange to chose their own candidates, men pledged to reform this child’s play at Legislation and dispense with useless officials, high salaries and other grievances? Why do they allow a few men to humbug them with that bugbear, party? The people want nothing to do with parties in local affairs, they want honest men of the business, productive class, who are willing to work for the people and deserve their pay.
One wealthy voter remarked to the writer, “if the people are fools enough to be imposed upon with party cries, &c, they deserve to be taxed and well taxed.”
Oct., 1887. X.X.