Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Robson Rules

John Robson was now premier but his concerns were still as it had always been - problems within the province. He held to his basic principles throughout his career. He never stopped advocating political reform and was concerned about land settlement and the development of British Columbia.

In 1882, Robson created an election manifesto in which he complained that B.C. did not have representation by population since 15 electors in the Kootenay sent the same amount of representatives to Victoria as 800 voters in the Fraser Valley.  Renewed mining activity in the Kootenay soon ended the anomaly but the completion of the railroad caused a sudden growth in Vancouver and redistribution became imperative.

In 1890, Robson sought a major redistribution but other cabinet members opposed it since they were afraid of upsetting the balance of power between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Robson tried to explain that he was "premier not only for his own district but for the whole Province". He reluctantly accepted a minor adjustment until the results of the 1891 census came in. This move though denied his own constituents in New Westminster full representation and suggested the Robson couldn't control his own cabinet.

Robson was sometimes out of step with popular thinking of the day. Like when he advocated female suffrage. Although in 1873 he had claimed that "respectable women didn't want the right to vote", he later had second thoughts. By 1885, he was championing the enfranchisement of women based on their good work in voting for school trustees and support of morality. Almost every year after that, John would submit a private member's bill to enfranchise women. Every time, the legislature would reject it but Robson continued to introduce it.

He did share the common view that people of certain ethnic groups should not participate in the political process. In 1872, he moved for an amendment to the provincial franchise law that disfranchised Chinese and First Nations. Robson had been one of the first to call for a special tax on the Chinese since they were "essentially different in their habits and destination," did not contribute a fair share to the provincial treasury and competed with "civilized labour".  While he may have endorsed the Smithe government's anti-Chinese legislation, he defended an employer's right to hire the Chinese.

Robson had a paternalistic view of the First Nations people. He believed that the government had a duty to civilize and Christianize them, even though he felt that they would become "utterly extinct". He felt that the people should be removed from immoral towns and cities, protected from whiskey traders and made aware of the force of the law.

He also believed that the First Nations were the "original 'Lords of the Soul'" and demanded that the treaties be negotiated and reserves established. Robson wanted the people to have land but not more than they could use.

In order to develop the province, Robson wanted more land made available to white settlers. He also wanted to improve transportation, have a sound land policy, a liberal trade policy and to promote more immigration.
So Friday we will look at more of this man's term as premier.

I am getting my information from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website.

As usual, I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. Canada. was not much different then the USA in regards to ethnicity. Shame of all whites to think they only know best. Hard to intergrate people when they must change the fabric of who they are and not allowed to keep their customs

    1. I see it more as the people with the power who decided that their way was the best. If it had been the Japanese that settled North America first, they would have tried to inflict their ideas on the conquered. (I just used Japanese as an example)

      Thank you for reading, commenting and making me think.