The Honourable S.L. Tilley, Provincial Secretary and Leader of the Government of New Brunswick, in replying to the toast on behalf of that Province, said:
I must confess that I rise under no ordinary degree of embarrassment tonight. We are summoned here by the representatives of royalty, and surrounded by the ablest men that Canada has produced at the present day; and I am quite sure that the feelings which embarrass me at the present moment will be, to a certain extent, participated in by my friends of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, when they reflect on the insignificance of our position in comparison with that of the great country so ably represented by the men who have already spoken.
I may say with regard to the question which we have been considering during the past week, that I do not intend to keep my mouth quite as close as my friend Mr. Brown. I don’t hesitate to declare my own sentiments upon one or two matters which I consider are of some importance.
I may state here emphatically as one of those delegates constitutionally appointed for the purpose of considering the Union of the Maritime Provinces, that I am decidedly in favour of that proposition; but I am prepared, at the same time, if an arrangement equitable to these Provinces, can be made, to expand this union and have a general confederation.
I have been in favour of a Union of the Maritime Provinces because it has been my good fortune to represent my government in delegations in England, in Canada, and in Nova Scotia, either for the purpose of increasing or improving our inter-colonial communication, or extending our trade; and I don’t hesitate to say that in every step we have made we have been frustrated by the existence of these separate Legislatures and Governments.
Mr. Chairman, I made a visit to Nova Scotia some years ago, in order to extend, if possible, our trade relations, but when we sat down to consider this, what did we find? We found that any manufacture sent over to New Brunswick from Nova Scotia, was met by a duty of fifteen per cent., and any from my own province to this one had to pay ten per cent. It is just the same as if a man going from Cumberland into Colchester was met by a duty on his products.
We have tried our best to remedy the evil and to remove these absurdities, but we found difficulties presenting themselves at almost every step. The expenditure in some of the Provinces requires a large revenue, and therefore the imposition of large duties. The raw material in some pays two per cent, in another it is free; and so you will perceive that where that article is free, that province would have a great advantage over the other.
Then, again, when we were discussing the subject of an Intercolonial Railway, what did we find? We found at once a difference in the interests of the respective Provinces. In Upper Canada, we found that the people were opposed to the project because it was so far from them, and would not create an expenditure in Canada. And then, as my friend Mr Brown has told you, they have had their constitutional difficulties to settle before this railway could be built; and I am glad to hear that these difficulties have been settled. When we go to Lower Canada we find objections also meeting us there. We go to Nova Scotia, and we hear you say: you have large territories to be opened up, and the road is of greater advantage to you than to Nova Scotia. In New Brunswick they say: all the trade is to be carried away from that Province to Halifax.
Now suppose we were all drawn together into one confederation, you would not be met with these difficulties in any of your negotiations. If you wanted to secure intercolonial free trade or an inter-colonial railway, then there would be no trouble. How much more effectually could measures of self-defence be arranged if we were all united; and I don’t hesitate to say that the time is not far distant when we must do more than we have done heretofore.
It is shewn that we have a population of nearly four millions; that our exports reach $130,000,000; that the value of our agricultural property amounts to $150,000,000; that our assessed property is put down at $550,000,000; under these circumstances, knowing, as I believe I do, something of the spirit and intelligence of the people of these Colonies, they are prepared to say, that in view of the privileges we enjoy, and the responsibilities which we ought to assume, we are ready to pay our share for the defence and the maintenance of the liberties of our country.
When it is said that those who are engaged in securing the confederation of the Maritime, or of the whole of the Provinces, do so because the Imperial Government desires it, I say that those who are acting in common with me, and I think I have had abundant opportunities of knowing it, are actuated by higher motives.
I believe there are no feelings on the part of the Imperial Government that are antagonistic to these Colonies. We have had it from the lips of those distinguished gentlemen sitting by you, sir, that they are ready to assent to any proposition in reference to the provinces which is likely to advance their happiness and promote their prosperity.
If arrangements can be satisfactorily completed, so that the interests of each province will be maintained, I can see no objection to a confederation of the whole. We are in the Lower Provinces a manufacturing people to a large extent, and we would, to the whole of British America, occupy the same position that Massachusetts does to the United States.
Reference has been made to our proceedings having been carried on secretly. I think any man who reflects upon the delicacy of our mission – and knows that we have been discussing it in a merely conversational manner – must see that it was absolutely necessary that such informal discussions should be carried on with closed doors; but when we have come to some conclusion then it will be submitted to our respective Legislatures.
We have only one common object in view – the promotion of the prosperity of these Provinces, their advancement, socially and politically; and I can assure you that all of us fully feel the importance and responsibility of the trust that has been placed in our hands. (Cheers.)