- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 30 Jan 1913, p. 157-169
- Matheson, Honourable J.A., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The record of Prince Edward Island in the past, the present position, and future hopes. Prince Edward Island as a colony with a separate government, second in all Canada to Nova Scotia. The first meeting looking towards the Confederation of Canada held in Charlottetown in 1864. Who was there and what they decided. Subsequent negotiations held in the same year at Quebec. A just claim of Prince Edward Island and why she first refused to enter Confederation. The promise that the Island would immediately be put into continuous connection with the transportation systems of the mainland. The far-reaching results of the non-fulfilment of that promise. Looking forward with confidence to the car ferry as a remedy for our transportation grievances. Gratitude to the Minister of Railways, Mr. Cochrane of Ontario, for the active interest he has taken in promoting that project. Further suffering from the earliest days of Confederation on account of the insufficiency of the subsidy. Hopes as to what the car ferry will do for the Island. Agriculture, again affected by the lack of transportation in trade with the other provinces of Canada. Losses of population and penalties in terms of representation. Emigration from Eastern Canada to Western Canada. Advances in agriculture. The fisheries. The divided jurisdiction between the Island and Canada up until last year. Developing the fisheries. The black fox industry. A spirit of optimism in Prince Edward Island and in the Maritime Provinces generally.
- Date of Original
- 30 Jan 1913
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- THE ISLAND PROVINCE-ITS PRESENT AND FUTURE
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 Etienne 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 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 fulfillment. The result of the non-fulfillment 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 generally 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) Lopsided 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 froth 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 thing that we have in Canada today.
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, l believe, solve for the people of my Province the difficulties of transportation that have prevented us from entering into competition with the other parts of the world. Our manufactures-we had some at Confederation, but they declined-declined because of the uncertainty of communication. They could not compete with similar manufactures on the mainland. Before that they had been protected by their own tariff, although it was not called protection. But when we entered Canada, we entered upon an equal basis of competition with all the enterprises of the mainland, and we could not hold our own. It is not only that passage in winter is interrupted from time to time, but there is an uncertainty hanging over the whole service that paralyzes the energies of the people. When the winter season sets in, no man can feel himself safe, in being able to send his goods abroad, or to receive them in return. That paralysis has been a condition existing for forty years, but we think we have found the right doctor and that the cure is at hand.
In the matter of agriculture, Prince Edward Island has always had a high reputation and has deserved it. But here again we suffered greatly. All perishable goods were liable to loss or deterioration in shipping. In order to get them out of the Province, we sent them away early in the fall and we glutted the markets, with the result that we received for perishable goods not more than one half of what farmers on the mainland received. The loss has been incalculable in the total. It is no wonder then that many of our people went abroad to places where opportunities seemed to be better.
We have lost in population; it is smaller today than when we entered Confederation for the reasons that I have mentioned. And we are penalized in our subsidies by reason of that, where the penalty should, we think, be imposed on the other party to the contract. But one good thing has resulted. You, in Ontario, have done the same thing to a certain extent; so has every province from this down to the sea. You have sent your sons and your daughters to the West, and you missed them from home, and their going has been a loss to their home provinces; but the end is not very far away. In the balance of advantage we will find that emigration from the eastern part of Canada will grow less and less with the growing opportunities of the east. Our sons who have gone into the other provinces have done a work that no others could have done. We are building up in the western half of Canada a population derived from many parts of the world, and many of these people have not had the opportunities of education in free institutions, or the general education which our own people have had. They do not know how to work the institutions of the country. Even those who come out from Britain have much to learn about the new conditions here. The best immigrants that went to the West, the best colonizers were the men and women who went from Eastern Canada. (Applause) And they were absolutely necessary to leaven the mass of population and establish there Canadian views and Canadian methods. But that work is pretty well done; I do not think that we are charged with the responsibility of carrying that on very much further. But I do think that the sacrifices that we have made were sacrifices in the interests of the whole Canadian people and that in the end the reward will come. We have planted men in every important point in Western Canada, and in most of the important positions we have men of eastern birth and eastern experience and, above all things, of eastern sympathy, and the value of that sympathy we can hardly measure. The two parts of Canada are divided by a wide area of desert, shall we say; geographically we may say that one part of Canada is west and the other part is east, but when our eastern population has flowed over the whole West and are there occupying positions of importance and power, we have the greatest guarantee possible that the east and the west will be united in their sympathies and united in their efforts for the future. (Applause)
I have wandered rather far away from Prince Edward Island. Our greatest industry is agriculture, and here again a forward movement has been made that has filled our people with hope. Mr. Burrell, the Minister of Agriculture, who, I think, also claims some relation to this Province, has seized upon this question strongly; and in the proposed distribution of the money to be applied to agricultural purposes our little Province has been most generously treated. (Applause)
In the year that is past we have advanced so far that we have been able to open an agricultural school, and I have just had word that when the roll was called there were over five hundred students in attendance. Under the plan that is now before Parliament, if it is carried through, we shall be enabled to introduce into our public schools the teaching of Nature Study; we shall be able to equip ourselves m such a way that every scholar throughout the country may take up that most interesting of all studies, the study of Nature; and we hope to carry that on grade by grade until those who wish to specialize in farming and make a profession of farming may obtain their complete training in a central school within the Province itself. The advantage of bringing education near to the farmer was never more strongly illustrated than in our own case. We used to pay the expenses of the students to go to Nova Scotia and attend an excellent school there, and the Government of Nova Scotia very generously charged no fees; our Government thought that its duty was being done. The highest number that ever went was over eighty. But since the opportunity has been brought nearer home, the result has been that six or seven times as many have taken advantage of it. Now that is the position in which we stand agriculturally. You have heard the Province referred to, as other parts of Canada have been referred to, as the Garden Province. There is no question that, taking acre for acre, we have perhaps as fine an agricultural piece of territory as can be found, not excepting Ontario, which has some magnificent agricultural areas.
Our other great source of revenue is the fisheries. We have the food fish that command the highest price in the world, the lobsters and oysters. The lobster fishery is one of long standing, as is the oyster fishery; but the oyster fishery in its new, development is something of a very recent date. From the earliest times the Island oysters have been famous, and prices paid for them were the highest paid for any oysters in the world. That was very good for those who had oysters to sell, but it was hard on the oysters. (Laughter) They raked the beds and kept them raked, so that the poor little oysters, instead of leading a dull life as nature intended they should, were kept on the move continually, and as the price mounted higher the fishing became more intense and the number to be caught became less, until we managed to reduce the catch down to twenty percent of its maximum, and we would soon have managed to wipe out that twenty per cent.
The reason nothing was done in connection with cultivating and developing the oyster in the waters around Prince Edward Island was that there was a divided jurisdiction between the Island and Canada; no one could tell where the right of one began and the other ended; and although negotiations went on for years in the hope of some settlement, nothing was done until last year, when we were fortunate enough to procure the passing of a Statute which enabled the Government to transfer their interest in the disputed areas to the Province. Under that Statute we took out an agreement; and having opened the door, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and British Columbia have since followed; and we are very glad, indeed, that we were able to bring about a satisfactory state of affairs not only for ourselves but for these other provinces. We wish to see every province develop its resources to the fullest possible extent. As a result of these proceedings we have had surveys made of the areas in the bottoms of the bays and harbours, and 20,000 acres laid off in five-acre blocks. Up to the 31st of December last, although only two months since the surveys were completed, between three thousand and four thousand acres have been leased to private owners for oyster culture, and we hope before the present year is past that an area of four or five times that amount will be added, and that year by year we will be able to extend our oyster plantations until we will have brought into active use the whole of the areas around our coast suitable for that purpose. We have at least a hundred thousand acres of land suitable for the growing of oysters. The New England States, producing an article very much inferior, and in conditions not nearly so favourable, have developed their fisheries until here is the comparison: Fourteen years ago the State of Rhode Island derived from its oyster leases $6,000; last year, as a result of their development under private ownership, they had reached a total of $133,000. And they have leased only as much in lots as we have in a single bay in our Province, in Richmond Bay which is the home of the Malpeque oyster. We have in Richmond Bay today, ready for leasing in blocks of five acres, some thirteen thousand acres, and there is no question that that will rapidly be taken up, for wherever oysters are known the Malpeque oyster heads the list. He is the aristocrat among all the fish.
This work cannot be done without much labour and very considerable experience. If we look for a few minutes at the early life of the oyster, we shall see just what he needs, and some of the conditions we require to make for him in order that he may prove that brilliant success in life which he was intended to be. The oyster is very prolific--and I speak now on the authority of Dr. Stafford--is capable of producing in a season sixteen million eggs. I may say that I never counted them, but Dr. Stafford, I have no doubt, arrived at the conclusion upon a proper basis. These hatch very quickly in four or five days if the temperature of the water suits--and then the little fellows have the time of their lives. They swim about and have all the fun they are going to have for the rest of their lives. After about a month their shell has formed enough to sink. At this time they are first visible to the naked eye. When they sink down, they have a little foot like a clam, with which they crawl, and they seek some place to which they can attach themselves. What they are afraid of is that if they do not attach themselves firmly, the tides will bear them out to sea, or the crabs or other fish will eat them, or that they will sink in the mud and be choked. They are looking for some hard substance to which they can cement themselves. Each one is fitted out with a little bit of cement, and if he can only manage to get that to stick he will save his life. If he happens to attach it to something covered with slime it slips, and his career of usefulness is at an end. But if it sticks, he is all right. In the fitting out of beds we have to keep this irk mind. If the bottom is mud we must pave it; we must keep him from sinking in the mud; and in order to provide suitable points of attachment we must have hard, smooth, clean substances free from slime. The best thing of all is the clean oyster shell,--the shells of dead oysters which have been piled on the shore, rainwashed and sundried. With these properly scattered over the paved bottom the safety of the crop is assured. The amount which an area can produce is very large. I have authority that I think justifies me in stating that one man this year, from an area a little over five acres, took a crop of eight hundred barrels which he sold at $8.50 a barrel. The Malpeque oyster commands a price double that which is paid for the American oysters. And if the standard is maintained, as we intend that it shall be maintained, I have no doubt that that advantage will continue. Our plan is that we should have a careful inspection made, a rigid inspection, and a stamping of every package containing oysters, so that when the purchaser buys an article with a certain stamp and grade, he shall know that he is getting precisely what that stamp says. (Applause) This industry promises well for the Province of Prince Edward Island, not only in the great general advantage that will come to our people in the employment which it will give and the profit which they will derive, but also in the revenue which we hope to receive as a Government from the rental derived from these leases.
Another industry, one of a different order, that has sprung up, in one sense, very rapidly and has made large fortunes, for a number of people, is the black fox industry. I suppose you have all heard about that. Something over a quarter of a century ago, Mr. Charles Dalton, who is now a member of my Government, obtained a pair of wild black foxes which he kept in captivity and, after many experiments and many failures, he was able at last to understand their nature and habits sufficiently to raise them on a regular paying basis. He knew them well enough; he got to know them a great deal better than they knew themselves. He was able to save their litters of young, which they had formerly destroyed, and soon they multiplied. He sold the pelts for many years but sold no live foxes. A few years ago the system changed, and he and a number of others to whom he had sold some when the embargo was first broken, began to place the live foxes on the market. You could buy them first for $1,000 a piece, but the price went up year by year until at the present time I cannot tell you what it is. I could tell you what it was a fortnight ago, but I have very little idea what it is today. One Company that has been formed has taken over twenty pairs of foxes for $600,000, that is $30,000 a pair. And prices such as that are quoted every day. I may say that I am not one of the fortunate ones who is engaged in the industry, and I am tired of hearing the talk about it. Nevertheless it has made the fortunes of some men; it has made Mr. Dalton--and he deserves it well--a millionaire, and many others have fortunes that rise up pretty well to that point. Then the stock and incorporated companies owning numbers of foxes have spread far and wide among the people of the province, and there are a large number now interested and deriving profits. I do not know precisely what the number of breeding foxes on the Island is at present; I think we are safe in saying that there are about two hundred and fifty pairs, all good standard black and silver foxes; and a large number have been sold into the other Maritime Provinces. The estimate of value that was made by an expert before the Conservation Commission in Ottawa the other day was that there were six million dollars' worth of foxes in the Maritime Provinces, and something over four million of those were owned in Prince Edward Island. That is another of the industries which has been of some benefit in the past, and which we hope may be of future benefit to its; but I will say this, that it does riot promise that continuance and permanence that the oyster fisheries do.
Now, gentlemen, I have taken up all my time and perhaps a little more. I very much appreciate the attention you have given and the opportunity I have had to present-ineffectively, I am afraid-the condition of affairs in Prince Edward Island, and in the Maritime Provinces generally. Let me say that there is there a spirit of optimism which I have never before seen, and that is the spirit which we are cultivating, because we have there resources and opportunities which have been neglected, partly for want of means, partly because our energies with our youth, were carried away to other parts of the world. This we hope to see all changed. It is changing now before our eyes and, if it is my good fortune in a few years' time to meet you gentlemen here again, I hope I shall be able to say to you that the decline in population from which we suffered has ceased, and that we are able not only to hold the natural increase of our own people, but we are in a position to draw from the old countries some assistance in the way of population in order to strengthen and increase our own population. (Applause)