Born in Quebec City, the son of Sir Dominick Daly, he was called to the bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1864. He was a private secretary to his father and to three governors of Nova Scotia: Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell, Sir Charles Hastings Doyle, and Sir William Fenwick Williams.
He was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the riding of Halifax in the 1878 federal election. A Liberal-Conservative, he was re-elected in the 1882 elections. From 1885 to 1887, he was the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons. From 1890 to 1900, for two terms, he was the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia. In 1900, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.
Outside of politics, he was also a cricketer, playing twice for the Canada national cricket team in 1874. He also scored the first century in Canadian cricket in Halifax during the 1858 cricket season.