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Century of Politics in Victoria County, Ontario Canada

The sketch of a century's politics in Victoria county which is set forth hereafter has been confined to a bare outline of elections and governments. Material had been gathered for an analysis of the political issues which have been faced by electorates from 1821 to the present day, but such a discussion has been found too extensive to include in the present history of Victoria county.

It might be well, however, to note in passing that there have been real issues whose treatment and solution have underlain the political history of the century. There have been, are, and always will be vital problems connected with our national development, and it is the duty and purpose of governments to solve these problems in the best interests of the people. Canadian national life is the phenomenon of a complex of races developing in a new country under the directing influence of great geographical, economic, and sociological forces. Obstacles to prosperous development have arisen in all times through the ignorance or unscrupulous selfishness of men or governments or the operation of economic laws. When such problems do not receive wise adjustment, they persist, like infirmities in the body, to cause continual trouble. For instance clergy reserves, seigniorial tenure, and speculators' land holdings were direct hindrances to settlement in early times and the country knew no peace until these burning questions were disposed of by the McNab-Morin government in 1854. So at all times it is the duty of every true citizen to give impartial study to the real issues which confront his country and to exercise the franchise accordingly.

There have been seasons, however, when the true problems of national development have been almost forgotten and elections have been decided on a very different basis. It is hard to escape the conclusion that in Canada our political predilections have been largely hereditary and based on race and religion. In Victoria County, Irish Protestants have been usually Conservative and Orangemen always so; while Scotchmen and Irish Catholics have been usually Liberal. Hence the type of man who cannot understand loyalty in a political opponent has for decades been conducting a miserable inquisition into the nationality and religious tenets of candidates and has been seeing religious hobgoblins peering from under political beds. Then, too, ignorant gullibility has all too often been plied with specious arguments. Personal loyalties have prevailed. Bribery has corrupted the weak. Party machines have controlled nominations and dominated elections. During the past twenty years, however, we have been moving away from such methods of deciding great issues. The 'rising generation is coming to think for itself, and the younger men of today have nothing but contempt for blind party allegiance.
In this emergence of thoughtful purpose in the people of Canada lies our greatest hope for the future. When a nation comes to know its own mind and to consider its problems on their own merits, a new day has surely dawned.

For the mind and will of the great center of gravity of a democracy must count for something in determining its history. The late Professor Goldwin Smith argued forcefully that Canada's destiny lay in annexation by the United States. John S. Ewart, of Ottawa, claims today with equal vehemence that Canada is to be an independent nation. Both have been great thinkers but both have been blankly ignorant of the conscious will of the Canadian people. Hence both have been hopelessly wrong and have merely spun fine webs of thought in vacant lanes where no man passes.

The people of Canada are coming to realize that there are national problems transcending the importance of mean party politics, and both doctrinaire and professional politician will have to give weight in future to the deliberations and decisions of the people themselves, for by these decisions the future will be shaped.

The U. C. House of Assembly

Victoria County, Ontario Canada Centennial History, Watson Kirkconnell M.A., 1921

Victoria County

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