Provincial elections held in Nova Scotia in 1867 had swept Conservative and the government of pro-confederate Premier Charles Tupper out of office.

Anti-confederates not only won 35 of 38 seats in the provincial assembly, but also 18 of 19 Nova Scotia ridings in the federal election.

In October of 1867, Prime Minister Macdonald wrote to a friend and boasted

"Our majority is too large. Nova Scotia, on the other hand, has declared, so far as she can, against confederation. But she will be powerless for harm, although that pestilent fellow, Howe, may endeavour to give us some trouble in England."

When the First Session of the First Parliament began, Macdonald's biggest fear was that the anti-confederate from Nova Scotia would not even attend the proceedings of the House.

Joseph HoweBut appear they did.

At 7:30 pm, Friday, November 8, 1867, their leader Joseph Howe (pictured) rose to respond to the Speech from the Throne and proceeded to vehemently explain his objections to confederation.


 

Joseph Howe (Hants): Mr. Speaker, with respect to the gratification expressed by His Excellency, it will not be shared by the people of my province.

They feel they have been legislated out of the Empire by being legislated into this Dominion.

They will read His Excellency's speech with sorrow and humiliation, and not gratification.

The bill was passed in the face of a petition of 31,000 of the people of Nova Scotia.

Joseph Howe, 1871They did not ask to throw out the bill, merely to delay it until the Nova Scotians had time to pronounce upon it at the hustings. There is, therefore, on the part of Nova Scotia certainly no room for congratulation for the manner in which it has been treated by the Mother country. Then this new nation, as it is called, we are told, is soon to be extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It has no army to defend it, no navy to protect its shipping. It has been one of the great objections of Nova Scotians to this Dominion scheme that the Minister of Militia might march their young men out of their country to defend a corner of the earth hundreds of miles away from them.

We are asked to annex the Red River territory. What has been the policy of the British government in respect to this territory? Why, while she has been pouring out her population to enrich foreign countries, she has allowed this territory to remain a disgrace to civilization. Well, may she hand over this territory to us and be glad to get rid of the burden! Every man in Canada, every man in all the provinces would defend the British flag but with respect to the Red River settlement, more men could be recruited in the state of Minnesota in a week that would be necessary to cut it off in spite of all that Canada could do.

I do not believe that the people of Nova Scotia will ever be satisfied to submit to an act which has been forced upon them by such unjust and unjustifiable means. What is the union but a mere act of Parliament? If bad, its repeal may be agitated for. Yet this union act has been spoken of as something against which it is treason to say a word. The people of my province were tricked into this scheme.

For thirteen months, Howe would carry the banner for the anti-confederate Nova Scotians. While it would prove to be a losing cause, Howe and his colleague's position in the House, for the brief time that their opposition lasted, gave the first Parliament a unique three-party character which once lost, it would not again experience for 54 years.