"...the scheme [confederation with Canada] by them assented to would, if adopted, deprive the people [of Nova Scotia] of the inestimable privilege of self-government, and of their rights, liberty and independence, rob them of their revenue, take from them the regulation of trade and taxation, expose them to arbitrary taxation by a legislature over which they have no control, and in which they would possess but a nominal and entirely ineffective representation; deprive them of their invaluable fisheries, railways, and other property, and reduce this hitherto free, happy, and self-governed province to a degraded condition of a servile dependency of Canada."
I'm ambivalent about Canada and I wonder sometimes if we might be actually five or six decent countries caught up in someone else's dream of the biggest nation on earth. Right now this echoes my feelings about our own amalgamated community - some nice human sized natural cities, towns and villages caught up in a 1980's business school imagining of a 'power centre', 'synergy' and 'economies of scale' without a real understanding of what a community is and how they interrelate.
I think this kind of thinking changes through different parts of life and circumstance and there's no denying a rainy long weekend will dowse the fair weather patriot in me. On these Dominion Days part of me secretly hopes Quebec will get up its gumption and push us all in to the next chapter of the story.
I like to say my ancestors voted against confederation. There actually was no vote. Premier Charles Tupper used the power of his majority government to force through the agreement ahead of an election. It was in that election that Nova Scotia voted overwhelmingly against confederation, sending an anti-confederate party to Ottawa and electing a super-majority anti-confederate government provincially.
But the political die was cast.
This weekend we're not celebrating the 150th anniversary of a people or a country... whatever that is in the modern age... we're marking the 150th anniversary of a government scheme that warrants no more celebration than any other.
Joseph Howe opposed the idea of joining Confederation because he thought Nova Scotia would just become a second-class partner in the larger union and lose its special identity. He also thought the voters should be consulted before such a major step was taken. Howe had a lot of support for this view and the premier of the day, Charles Tupper, pushed to have Confederation passed before he had to face an election in 1867.
Howe emphasized Nova Scotia’s geographic and cultural distance from Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Québec). “Did anybody ever propose to unite Scotland with Poland or Hungary?” He asked in the Halifax Chronicle. “Inland countries 800 miles off in the very heart of Europe.” To Howe, the situation in British North America was similar.
Many Nova Scotians in prosperous shipping, shipbuilding and farming communities saw little benefit in uniting with the other BNA colonies. Most felt closer family and economic ties to the New England states than to distant Canada West and Canada East.
“Died! Last night at 12 o’clock, the free and enlightened Province of Nova Scotia,” mourned the Morning Chronicle at Confederation.
On the Halifax waterfront, protesters burned Premier Tupper in effigy, along with a live rat. In the town of Yarmouth, some buildings were draped in black cloth in protest.
Although Tupper had forced through Confederation, the citizens who could vote rejected it. In the joint 1867 provincial and federal election, Howe’s Anti-Confederation League and others opposed to the union won 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature, and 18 of 19 seats federally – Tupper being the only supporter of Confederation elected to the new federal Parliament.Led by Howe, anti-Confederation Nova Scotians fought unsuccessfully for two years to repeal the union.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.