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Legislative Council of Manitoba

Legislative Council of Manitoba

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When Manitoba became a province of Canada in 1870 provision was made for a bicameral legislature. The lower house, which was the equivalent of the present legislature, had twenty-four elected members and the upper, or Legislative Council, had seven who were nominated to hold office for life and appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor
When Manitoba became a province of Canada in 1870 provision was made for a bicameral legislature. The lower house, which was the equivalent of the present legislature, had twenty-four elected members and the upper, or Legislative Council, had seven who were nominated to hold office for life and appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor

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Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Nov 16, 2010
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06/06/2013

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Legislative Council of Manitoba (1871-1876): The Forgotten “Upper House”

When Manitoba became a province of Canada in 1870 provision was made for a bicameral legislature. The lower house, which was the equivalent of the present legislature, had twenty-four elected members and the upper, or Legislative Council, had seven who were nominated to hold office for life and appointed by the LieutenantGovernor. Four of the seven members of the Legislative Council were Metis. The first Legislative Council was established in March 1871 by Manitoba’s LieutenantGovernor Adams G. Archibald. A law was valid only after passage by both groups and signature by the Lieutenant-Governor. This arrangement lasted only six years. The Legislative Council was abolished in 1876. The sections of the Manitoba Act of 1870 pertaining to the Legislative Council are shown below: 9. There shall be a Legislature for the Province, consisting of the LieutenantGovernor, and of two Houses, styled respectively, the Legislative Council of Manitoba, and the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. 10. The Legislative Council shall, in the first instance, be composed of seven Members, and after the expiration of four years from the time of the first appointment of such seven Members, may be increased to not more than twelve Members. Every member of the Legislative Council shall be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in the Queen's name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Manitoba, and shall hold office for the term of his life, unless and until the Legislature of Manitoba otherwise provides under the Constitution Act, 1867. 11. The lieutenant-Governor may, from time to time. by Instrument under the Great Seal, appoint a Member of the Legislative Council to be Speaker thereof, and may remove him and appoint another in his stead. 12. Until the Legislature of the Province otherwise provides, the presence of a majority of the whole number of the Legislative Council, including the Speaker, shall be necessary to constitute a meeting for the exercise of its powers. 13. Questions arising in the Legislative Council shall be decided by a majority of voices, and the Speaker shall, in all cases, have a vote, and when the voices are equal the decision shall be deemed to be in the negative. Members of the Legislative Council: Francois Dauphinais (St. Norbert) — Metis 1

Donald Gunn (St. Andrews) Salomon Hamelin (White Horse Plains) — Metis Colin Inkster ((Kildonan) — Metis James McKay (Speaker) — Metis John Harrison O’Donnell (Winnipeg) Francis Ogletree (Portage la Prairie) Council Abolished Over its first years the province of Manitoba grew faster than its revenues were expanding and in 1874 bankruptcy appeared to be imminent. Two members of the government went to Ottawa to ask for a loan and an increase in the grant. The federal cabinet agreed to help but on condition that expenses be cut by abolition of the seven-man Legislative Council. However, the council was not yet ready to agree to this plan for its own extinction. It rejected the bill which could not become law without its assent. The same bill was introduced a second time one year later and met with the same fate as its predecessor. The solution to the impasse appears to have been provided by LieutenantGovernor Morris. He brought pressure on the members of the council, pointing out that money had been obtained from Ottawa on the understanding that their salaries should cease. He also made arrangements to provide some of the members with equally good jobs elsewhere. The way was thus prepared. The bill was introduced for a third time in 1876 and this time it passed by a majority of one. On a meeting held on 4 February 1876, a vote to abolish the Council was held, resulting in a 3-3 tie that was broken in favour of abolition by Colin Inkster, its Speaker. Inkster was promptly awarded the position of High Sheriff of Manitoba, a position that he tended with honour for 51 years. Thus, the Legislative Council was abolished in 1876.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute

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