Proceedings of the Colonial Conference, June 28-July 9, 1894
Election of President
Hon Mr. FITZGERALD: I have very great pleasure indeed in nominating Mr. Mackenzie Bowell for the position of president of the conference. It is not necessary for me to put before you his high claims to the position, and I am sure the nomination will be received with pleasure by all.
The Earl of JERSEY: I have much pleasure in seconding the motion.
The motion was agreed to.
Hon. Mr. BOWELL: In assuming the responsible duties which devolve upon the president of a conference of so important a character as the one now assembled, I cannot but express my humble appreciation of the high honour thus conferred, and further to express the hope that in discharging the duties of presiding officer my actions may be such as to meet with the approval of all assembled to take part in the consideration of the important questions which are expected to come before you.
It is with exceeding regret that I have to apologize for the absence of our Finance Minister, Mr. Foster, who was appointed with Sir Adolphe Caron and myself, but is unable to be present on account of illness. The strain of the session, and the rearrangement of the tariff, which is composed of some 900 items, has entailed a great amount of work upon him. He is at present suffering from an attack of lumbago, or nervous prostration; but we shall have the benefit of his valuable services, I hope, in a day or two.
It is exceedingly gratifying to the Government of Canada, to witness the great interest which has been manifested not only in the self-governing colonies of Her Britannic Majesty, but in England, in the meeting together of representatives from different portions of the British Empire for the purpose of discussing questions of vital importance to their future development and all that contributes to a nation's greatness.
At no period in the history of the Empire could the words placed in the Queen's Speech on the prorogation of Parliament in 1886, when it was proposed to hold the first Colonial Conference, be repeated with greater truth than at the present moment. Time has only intensified the force of the utterance which Her Gracious Majesty then made, when she was pleased to say:"I have observed with much satisfaction the interest which in an increasing degree is evinced by the people of this country in the welfare of their Colonial and Indian fellow subjects; and I am led to the conviction that there is on all sides a growing desire to draw closer in every practical way the bonds which unite the various portions of the Empire."
The first statement is verified by the fact that we have present a representative of imperial authority to take part in our deliberations; and the second has a practical illustration of its correctness in the fact that delegates are present form various colonies to consider and adopt measures which have for their object the drawing closer together in a perpetual bond of kinship those subjects of Her Majesty whose lot has been cast in different parts of her great Empire.
The present conference does not meet, as has been stated in some of the public journals, for the purpose of discussing imperial politics or imperial foreign policy, further than they affect the material welfare and well-being of the different British colonies in general, in matters of trade, and that which is incident thereto, cable connection between all parts of the British Empire without touching upon foreign soil.
This conference is the direct outcome of the policy of the Canadian Government in its efforts to extend trade in every direction, more particularly with its sister colonies. With that end in view, as an initial step and as an evidence of the interest taken therein by the representatives of the Canadian people, a subsidy was voted by parliament in aid of a direct steamship service between Canada and Australia. This having been accomplished and the service fairly inaugurated, the Minister of Trade and Commerce was, on the authority of an Order in Council passed on the 7th of September, 1893, "requested to proceed to Australia as soon as possible to confer with the several governments there, with a view to promote the extension of trade between Australia and Canada, also to confer with those governments on the subject of a telegraph connecting Canada with Australia." Under and by this authority the minister proceeded at once to Australia and after conferences with the governments of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia ; and after having communicated by letter with the Premiers of New Zealand, Tasmania, Western Australia and Fiji, the governments of all which entered most earnestly into the projects, it was deemed advisable, owing to the fact that most of the colonial legislatures were then in session, that a Conference composed of delegates from the different colonies should be held in Canada at as early a period as convenient. In confirmation of this view, the Earl of Hopetoun, Governor of Victoria, in proroguing Parliament in November, 1893, said:"The visit to Australia of the Honourable Mackenzie Bowell, the Canadian Minister of Trade and Commerce, as a Delegate from the Dominion Government, is an event of interest. It illustrates the unity under the Crown of the numerous distinct governments which constitute the British Empire ; and the purpose of the visit which is to establish trade relations between Canada and Australia, marks the practical nearness of otherwise distant communities."
His Lordship then added:
It has been suggested that the object in view would be attained by a conference in Canada of Australasain representatives with the Government of the Dominion. Should such a conference be arranged due provision will be made for the representation of this colony on the occasion.
Upon the return of the minister to Canada and the result of his mission being reported to his colleagues, an Order in Council was passed of which the following is a copy:
On a report dated 5th of February, 1894, from the Minister of Trade and Commerce submitting the following recommendation relating to trade and cable communication between Canada and Australia :
To this invitation the imperial, and the majority of the colonial governments communicated with, gave a favourable response, as evidence of the fact delegates are now present to consider and devise the best and most feasible means of bringing about the objects in view, viz., of developing trade interests, not the least of which is cable communication between all the different portions of the Empire. It is to be regretted that Western Australia and Fiji were not able to send representatives; important state duties, which could not be postponed, having prevented. Sir John B. Thurston, Governor of Fiji, though not here, assured me in a letter explaining has absence, that he was in full sympathy with the objects for which we have met.
Before drawing attention to the important subjects, which among others may receive the special consideration of the conference, it is desirable that I should inform those present that on my return from Australia last December, the steamer called at Honolulu, the capital of the Hawaiian Islands, where through the intervention of the president of the Provisional Government, I addressed the members of the Chamber of Commerce upon the subject of more extended trade between those islands, Canada and Australasia, as did also Mr. Hoyle, a member of the New South Wales Legislature.
At the same time I informed the chamber of the proposed conference to meet here, and extended an invitation to it to send a representative. A committee was appointed to consider the subject, and as a result we are glad to welcome Theo. H. Davies, Esq., British consul at Honolulu, as a representative of that body, who visits us with a view to consider how and in what way trade may be best encouraged between the Hawaiian Islands and the British Colonies.
In discussing with the premiers of the different colonies the subject of more extended trade relations between Canada and Australia by means of a modification of tariffs, I found the provisions of the Constitution Acts under which the different Australian Colonies are governed would not permit of the adoption of a policy of differential tariffs in favour of any other portions of the Empire, that while each colony had the authority under their Constitution Act to discriminate against each other, that power did not extend beyond the limits of Australia. In order that this may be made clear, I quote from the Constitution Act of Queensland, as follows:
Subject to the provisions of this Act and notwithstanding any Act or Acts of the imperial parliament now in force to the contrary it shall be lawful for the legislature of the colony to impose and levy such duties of customs as to them may seem fit in the importation into the colony of any goods, wares and merchandise whatsoever, whether the produce of or exported from the United Kingdom or any of the colonies or dependencies of the United Kingdom or any foreign country.
Provided always that no new duty shall be imposed upon the importation into the said colony of any article the produce or manufacture of or imported from any particular country or place which shall not be equally imposed on the importation into the said colony of the like article the produce or manufacture of or exported from all other countries and places whatsoever.
No such provision is found in the Constitution Act of Canada nor any other provision which can hamper the action of the Canadian Government in respect of its trade policy ; but restrictions do exist in certain treaties entered into between England and Foreign powers which bind all the colonies to terms and conditions respecting most-favoured nation treatment ; that, in 1862, between Great Britian and Belgium, contains the following clause:
XV. Articles the produce or manufacture of Belgium shall not be subject in the British colonies to other or higher duties than those which are or may be imposed upon similar articles of British origin.
And in the treaty of commerce between Great Britain, Prussia and the Zollverein (Luxemburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Anhalt, Waldeck and Pyrmont, Lippe, Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, Schaumburg, Wurtemburg, Baden, Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, and the States forming the Customs and Commercial Union of Thuringia, viz., the Grand Duchy of Saxony, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Schwartz-burg-Sondershausen, Reuss-Greitz, Reuss-Schleitz, Brunswick, Oldenburg, Nassau and Frankfort), signed in the English and German language, at Berlin, May 30, 1865, clause VII provides:
The stipulations of the preceding Articles I to VI shall also be applied to the colonies and foreign possessions of Her Britannic Majesty. In those colonies and possessions the produce of the states of the Zollverein shall not be subject to any higher or other import duties than the produce of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or of any other country, of the like kind; nor shall the exportation from those colonies or possessions to the Zollverein be subject to any higher or other duties than the exportation to the United Kingdom of great Britain and Ireland.
It will be seen that these provisions make each British Colony a party to what is known as the "most-favoured nation clause," whether such provisions are in their interest commercially or not.
The practical effect of the provisions in the treaties from which these quotations are made has been to restrict and impede to a certain extent that freedom of action in legislating upon tariff and commercial affairs, which all self-governing colonies should possess in so far as relates to the management of their internal affairs, and external relations with sister colonies or foreign nations when not inimical to imperial interests.
So strong was the feeling of the people of Canada upon this question that the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, during the session of 1892, on the motion of Sir John Abbott, then premier, unanimously adopted the following address to Her most Gracious Majesty:
The demands made in the foregoing address mark "no new departure by Canada from the hitherto accepted traditions and practices of the colonies regarding their relation in matters of trade and commerce with the United Kingdom." Though Great Britain has not yet acceded to the requests of Canada as expressed in that address, it is gratifying to know that no treaty between Great Britain and any foreign power is finally ratified, binding Canada to its provisions, without her consent is first asked and obtained.
The earnest and careful attention of the conference is directed to these two most important points ; the abrogation of which by Great Britain is absolutely necessary before the paramount objects which the colonies have in view can be successfully accomplished.
It is not, I am sure, the desire nor the intention of any colony to adopt a policy of discrimination against the mother country, nor should it do so, but each colony has the right to ask and to receive from the Imperial Authorities the removal of the barriers which now exist preventing full and unrestricted action in dealing with tariff matters in such a manner as will best serve, first, the interests of its people ; and second, the interest of the Empire as a whole. This is the more necessary when we consider the rapid development of trade in each colony, as evinced by the increase that annually presents itself. A comparative statement of the imports and exports of eighteen colonies for the years 1882 and 1892, gives the following results:
Latest Returns at our command show the value of Imports and Exports to be for 1882 and 1892 as follows:
Giving a total in 1892 of $2,074,660,554, of which the Australasian Colonies contributed $594,841,373, and Canada $241,269,443, or a total of $836,210,814 ; but it must be borne in mind that a portion of the exports and imports of Australia are intercolonial, while in Canada under confederation, interprovincial trade is not included in her exports or imports.
A large portion of the above trade is with foreign powers which, by a judicious adjustment of tariffs might be diverted into British channels ; this is therefore deserving of the earnest and careful consideration of those who have the general consolidation of the Empire at heart.
The accomplishment of this great object could, I humbly submit, be attained by each colony retaining perfect autonomy as regards its tariff rates, whether on a basis of free trade or protection, with the one sole restriction, that on all articles on which duties are charged, uniform preferential rates on direct importations shall be accorded to all members of a confederation to be founded for that purpose and to the mother country should she desire to form part of such confederation, as against the rest of the world.
To accomplish this the Imperial Government should be respectfully called upon to terminate all existing treaties to the contrary, at the earliest date possible.
This being attained a joint commission might be appointed to form nomenclature of tariffs so as to insure uniformity of practice in respect to assessments of duties as well as classifications for statistical purposes.
Uniform practice with reference to values for duty and for statistics.
A uniform statistical period and an interchange of statistical, commercial and trade blue-books, as issued.
As a means of ensuring success in the consideration of subsidies for promoting trade relations between the different members of the confederation.
Pertinent to this proposition is cable connection not alone with Australia, but with all colonies which form part of this tariff union-and it is to be hoped that all of Her Majesty's possessions will in due time be incorporated therein-all on a basis of direct British or Colonial control, and touching at or on British territory only.
An extension to Honk Kong of the proposed line between Canada and Australia is under the provisions of the agreement entered into between the Most Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Eastern Extension, Australasia and Chin Telegraph Company, Limited, bearing date the 28th of October last, rendered easy of accomplishment at a moderate cost, while another important link in the grand chain, viz., from Canada via Bermuda to the various British West India Islands is at present under contemplation.
Upon the subject, however, of the importance of cable extension between the outlying portion of the Empire, on the Pacific, it is but necessary to call attention to the proceedings of the Colonial Conference held in London, in 1887, and to subsequent papers upon the subject, all of which will be laid before you.
Correlative to the subject of cable communication and none the less important is that of the increased postal facilities under exclusively British control which the lines of swift communication already inaugurated and those in contemplation will provide, to which no doubt your attention will be directed with a view to the devising of means for further extension and efficiency.
The question of the copyright laws as they effect the colonies is a subject of such importance as to warrant careful consideration. It is not, however, at this moment necessary for me to enter into details upon this subject as fully as its importance demands, from the fact that I shall be enabled to lay before you the report of the Right Hon. Sir John Thompson, Premier and Minister of Justice of Canada, in which he deals fully with the subject ; his report has been approved by the Governor in Council.
Having as briefly as possible, consistent with their importance, enumerated such subjects for consideration as have occurred to me as being of interest to all of Her Majesty's possessions, here represented, I leave for those specially interested therein the presentation of other subjects of interest to individual colonies, some of which may prove to be even greater factors in the working out of the paramount problem, that of the consolidation by the drawing together and binding more closely on the basis of the greatest good to all of the geographically separate portions of the one great Empire, all of which I humbly trust will receive the most earnest and careful consideration of those here assembled.
Printing the President's Address
Sir ADOLPHE CARON. -The address which you, Mr. Chairman, have just delivered I think is a most important one. It is really an address which might be looked upon as a programme. All the questions which the Chairman has touched are of the greatest possible moment, and every colony represented in this conference must feel that upon the result of the discussion of that paper the heavy work of the conference will pretty well turn. I should suggest with your permission, Mr. Chairman, that, considering the importance of this address, it should be printed or type-written and a copy given to each member of the conference, so that the subjects which are of importance to the various colonies might be taken up by the gentlemen who represent such colonies ; and when the time comes for discussing it, from the fact of the paper having been in our hands for a few days it will be more convenient for the gentlemen representing the different colonies to discuss the various subjects which are mentioned in that paper. I move that the address which you have delivered be type-written or printed. It can be done confidentially in the Printing Bureau; and a copy may be given to the various gentlemen representing the colonies and afterwards a day con be fixed for discussing the subjects mentioned in it.
Hon. MR. SUTTOR seconded the motion, and it was carried.
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Source: Colonial Conference (1894 : Ottawa, Ont.). Proceedings of the Colonial conference, 1894: held in Ottawa, Canada, from 28th June to 9th July, 1894 / Printed by order of Parliament. [No.5b-1894.] Ottawa: Printed by S. E. Dawson, 1894. Pages 21-30.