I do not propose to allow the hon. Minister of Public Works to give a free lecture such as he has given, without an answer. The hon. gentleman declares that he is not a demagogue. But I venture to tell the hon. gentleman that he is, unconsciously perhaps, one of the greatest demagogues the country ever new. Now the hon. gentleman declares that it is in the interest of the workingmen. I tell him that the moment he assumes the parental care of the workingmen of this country they have a very doubtful sponsor. What does that mean in the hands of a minister of this country ? Why, it means that these political hacks will get all the work, and that none
others will; it means that the workingmen are all selected by the hon. gentleman himself or by his minions. There is not a little twopenny-hapenny public work going in Canada to-day in which you cannot trace the hand of the Minister of Public Works. The hon. gentleman is very indignant about that case in the city of St. Thomas. When my hon. friend from Elgin (Mr. Ingram) declared that the work was only given to Liberals, the minister asked, What difference 'does that make ? Does he not know that a contractor's life would not be worth anything as a contractor if he did not give the work to Liberals ? If he did not agree to the exactions made upon him by the men put over him by the minister, his contract would be utterly worthless. I know some most disgraceful cases. The hon. gentleman sent a dredge up to the River Sydenham. His agent, before he knew the political complexion of the parties, went unwittingly and bought a little butcher's meat on several occasions while the dredge was working there. This man was told one day that it had been discovered that he was a Conservative, and he could no longer furnish a few pounds of fresh meat to the dredge. I venture to say that is going on from one end of Canada to the other. It seems a very dangerous thing to allow a minister of the Crown to control so much patronage when he permits a thing of that kind. [DOT]
Not only did I not permit it, but I had no knowledge of that case. The hon. gentleman has been misinformed. How could I interfere with that man ? Suppose he does not want to give the work to friends of hon, gentlemen opposite, what have I got to do with that ? That man is free.
No man is free under the hon. gentleman. The moment a man comes under the power of his department, he is a slave afterwards. When the hon. gentleman parades himself as the champion of the workingmen and takes the public money and gives it to his heelers, then I tell him he is a menace to the workingmen of this country, and a menace to their interests. Men who are not in political accord with the hon. gentleman might just as well go to the poor house as look for work from him. The workingmen of this country understand him very well.
Since I have been on this side of the House I admit that I have given patronage to our political friends. Hon. gentlemen opposite did the same thing for their friends during 20 years. They seem now to have forgotten that. What is the use of singing that tune here ? We all know that patronage belongs to the party in office. At present, other things being equal, the patronage belongs to the Liberal party. We have been out of office for eighteen years, now we have
been In office only four or five years, and yet bon. gentlemen opposite already grumble and cry as if they had been out of office for eighteen years. When they have been eighteen years out of office they will have some right to complain. But after they have only been five years out of office, they already begin to complain. Really they should take their medicine with better grace. Now, it may be that in the riding of my hon. friend, the man in charge of the dredge was instructed to buy meat from the political friends' of the party in power. That was the proper thing to do. When lion, gentlemen opposite get over to this side of the House again, they will do the same thing, they know it perfectly well. They will do what we are doing. But there is one thing in which they will not imitate us. We have left too much in the hands of employees appointed by bon. gentlemen opposite. This government has suffered more criticism at the hands of its friends than our hon. friends opposite seem to know. Ministers of the Crown have been assailed by our friends on this side, and reproached violently because we have not dismissed enough men, because we have not given all the patronage to our friends.
I do not deny that I have done my best to serve the Liberal party, and I believe I have not committed an injustice willingly, anyhow. I do not believe I have dismissed a man unfairly, I do not believe I have wasted public money. Other things equal, I have favoured the Liberal party, as it was right to do, and I may add, as it was my duty to do.
The minister says that because my hon. friend from Bothwell (Mr. Clancy) is opposed to certain works being done by contract, that therefore my hon. friend is opposed to the interests of the workingmen. Am I correct in sizing up the hon, gentleman's argument ? Will the hon. gentleman answer ?
I am sure if the hon. gentleman made a confession he would find himself in an embarrassing position. I remember some years ago. when the Conservative government were making repairs to certain harbours and were doing them by day labour, no hon. gentleman in this House took a stronger stand against the government at that time than did the present Minister of Public Works. I maintain that it is impossible in many cases to ask for tenders for the improvement of harbours. I believe that owing to the fact of a public work being in a state of decay, to piers Mr. TARTE.
being in a dilapidated state, it is often impossible for either a government engineer or any other person to ask for tenders to complete the improvement of a harbour. That is a case, in my mind, that cannot be done by contract, but there are cases, and in my county at the present time there is a work going on that could have been let by contract if the government desired to let it by contract. I do not say that the government would derive any advantage by letting it by contract.
That is the improvement of the Port Burwell harbour. The improvement of the Port Stanley harbour is being done by day's work and I want to say to the hon. minister that there has not been a Conservative employed on that harbour, and there will not be a Conservative employed there, so long as the gentleman who has the patronage of that riding has the patronage of this government. I may say that Port Burwell is not subject to the whim of the gentleman who has the patronage of East Elgin, and the work is being done in a creditable manner by the gentleman who has charge of it.
In respect to the purchase of supplies from the friends of the government, I quite admit that, all things being equal, the friends of the government have a right to furnish supplies. But, while I admit, that, all things being equal, the government have a perfect right to give this patronage to their friends, if they are not equal, then, the furnishing of these supplies should not be given to their personal or political friends.