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Local Government of Canada, 1915 — Maritime provinces

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Maritime provinces.

By THOMAS BAHNAHD FLINT, M.A., LL.B., D.C.L., Clerk of the House of Commons of Canada, Ottawa.

The constitution and legislative powers of the provinces of the Dominion are in their general outlines as settled and regulated by the British North America Act, 1867 and amending acts. But in the development of local administration and in the working out of local problems, the provinces have varied considerably. These variations have depended primarily upon the stages and forms of local self-government in force at the time of Confederation, and secondarily upon the financial and industrial policies of the legislatures which then assumed control. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were two of the three original provinces which formed the federal union of Canada. Prince Edward Island became part of the federal system in 1873.

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, immediately after entering the union found themselves each equipped with a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the Governor-General. This official holds office, generally speaking, for five years from the date of his appointment. He is not removable except for cause assigned and communicated to Parliament. The provisions relating to the powers, duties and responsibilities of Lieutenant-Governors are to be found in sections 58 to 68, inclusive, of the British North America Act, 1867, and apply uniformly to all Lieutenant-Governors throughout the Dominion.

The legislatures of each of the three Maritime Provinces, upon entering the union, consisted of the Lieutenant-Governor and of two Houses, styled the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. These legislatures had the same exclusive powers assigned to them as to the other provinces entering the union at the same or at any subsequent period. One of the most important of these powers is that of the amendment, from time to time, of the Constitution of the province, except as regards the office of the Lieutenant-Governor. Like all the other provinces, they have the power of direct taxation within the province, of borrowing money, of establishing public offices, of disposing of the crown lands of the province, of the maintenance and establishment of a great variety of public and reformatory institutions and of municipalities with such powers as the province may see fit to grant. The best of exclusive provincial powers also includes such important matters as the making of laws relating to licenses for raising revenue for provincial or municipal purposes; providing for local works and undertakings of every description (except certain classes specially reserved to the federal power); incorporating companies with provincial objects; and legislation respecting the solemnization of marriage. The whole vast field of property and civil rights within the province, the administration of justice and the constitution, maintenance and organization of provincial courts, with both civil and criminal jurisdiction, as well as the procedure in civil matters in those courts, are retained under provincial jurisdiction.

The exclusive control of each province over the subject of education has given rise to legal and constitutional questions of the highest importance. Their adjustment has engaged the attention of legislatures, of parliament and of the courts of Canada as well as the privy council of the Mother Country from time to time almost since the day of the union. The meeting of provincial responsibilities in this matter has demanded great expenditures and called forth administrative capacity and devotion to scholarship and to the welfare of the young which the people of the provinces may consider with pride and satisfaction.

The provinces have also legislated upon, and devoted large sums of money to the promotion of agriculture, and to some extent immigration in which they have been assisted by the federal administration, which also has jurisdiction over these subjects. These powers are of course common to all the provinces.