Imagine Getting Paid and Not Showing Up at Work!

Louis-Joseph Papineau
Louis-Joseph Papineau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: British General Guy Carleton
English: British General Guy Carleton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Repost and updated post I published on November 29, 2012

One of the problems that hindered the development of Canada for many years was the absence of people appointed to do important jobs. On November 29, 1808, for instance, N. Francis Burton was appointed by the British Government to be Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada. He remained in Britain until 1822, but drew his salary. When he finally did come to Canada, he stayed for ten years.

Many important positions in Canada were regarded as sinecures (a position of little work, but given stature or financial support). General James Murray, who became Governor of Canada, after the fall of Quebec, until 1766, continued to draw his pay as governor for eight years after he returned to Britain.

When Sir Guy Carleton was Governor of Canada, his brother Thomas was made Lieutenant-Governor of the newly-created province of New Brunswick. He held the position for thirty-three years, but was absent during the last fourteen of them. Yet, it was not that he lacked fortitude: on one occasion he travelled from Fredericton to Quebec on snowshoes to see his brother who was ill.

Many absentees were ministers of the church. The Rector of Sorel, an important military post, had a salary of Β£200 a year, but spent ten years of his term in England. Lord Plymouth said he was too charming a neighbour to be allowed to live in remote Canada.

The situation eventually came to a head in 1823 when it was discovered that the Receiver-General of Lower Canada had stolen Β£96,000 of the provincial funds. French-speaking citizens of Lower Canada said this would not have happened if some of them had been given the responsible positions held by absentee British officials. Louis Joseph Papineau, who became one of the leaders of the 1837 rebellion, and John Nielson, editor of the Quebec Gazette, felt so strongly about this that they travelled to London to protest against a proposal to unite Upper and Lower Canada. They felt it would give English-speaking Canadians more power than ever. The union was delayed until 1840 and this possibly delayed Confederation.



  1. Imagine what they would have been doing, if the internet existed then. Carrying out their commissions from London without ever crossing the Atlantic. Then again, how many employees are in their chairs, carrying on internet activities that have little to do with their jobs? (I’m at home right now, just to be transparent, though I am supposed to be getting out the Christmas decorations… just one more cup of coffee first)


    • Yeah, the now-Internet would change so many things and how they’re done … And yet, we still hear of government secret this and that after the deals are done. So I guess some things never change, eh? πŸ™‚


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