The hon. gentleman (Sir William Mulock) was not so careful as to his speaking in former years. If the system of having three departments under one cabinet minister works so well, might I ask the Postmaster General, or my right hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) when we may expect that reform of which we heard a good deal before 1896-the period concerning which the hon. Postmaster General is so unwilling to speak-the reduction of the number of cabinet minister from 14 to 7. We can all remember how in those days a gentleman very prominent on the other side, now Minister of Trade and Commerce (Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Cartwright), advocated that policy, and perhaps I had better address myself to the hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce unless my right hon. friend would like to deal with the question himself.
Mi-. BORDEN (Halifax). That is perhaps in return for the somewhat taunting speech which the Minister of Trade and Commerce made last year, in which he recalled to the right hon. gentleman the fact that he had made a very strong free trade speech in Winnipeg. The Minister of Trade and Commerce will remember how he turned round to the leader of the government and said that the words he had used at Winnipeg were very excellent words at the time and would be very excellent now. We on this side rather felt for the leader of the government on that occasion. But since
the right hon. gentleman who leads the government will not take this matter up, perhaps his colleague the Minister of Trade and Commerce will. My right hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce belongs to a cabinet which has fourteen members drawing salaries and I do not know how many without portfolio. The Minister of Trade and Commerce was strongly of the opinion in the olden days before 1896, that seven cabinet ministers being enough for the United States should be quite enough for Canada. It would be interesting to know whether or not he is still of that opinion, and if not when and why did he change it. We have it from the Postmaster Genera], that this system of having three departments under the one minister works excellently well. Why not take the department of Trade and Commerce and Customs and Inland Revenue and place them all under the control of the Minister of Customs ?
My hon. friend from St. Mary's Division (Mr. Tarte) has always a valuable suggestion to offer. Why not throw in the Department of Public Works ? This would give my hon. friend the Minister of Customs a somewhat wider scope for the splendid energies he is wont to exhibit on all occasions. I offer this suggestion particularly for the approval of the Minister of Trade and Commerce, who no doubt will take this occasion to urge on his leader and colleagues the advisability of the change. If seven ministers were sufficient for Canada six or seven years ago. they ought to be now, just as they are in the United States.
The hon. gentleman has not quoted me correctly. As a mere matter of personal opinion, I do not object to state that I have not altered my opinion which I have expressed several times to the effect- not that I think we should follow the American system-but that I greatly prefer the English system. Speaking academically, of course, I would rather have the number of cabinet ministers reduced and have a very much larger number of junior officials similar to the under secretaries of state. Theoretically considered, I think that that is a far better system than the one we have fallen into. It is scarcely worth while at this time of day to recall the reasons which compelled us to inaugurate the present system at the time of confederation. They were political rather than reasons of business. My experience has confirmed me in the view that if we were free to act-which unfortunately we were not-it would have been better for all of us if we had a number of under secretaries and a more moderate number of cabinet ministers. That is my individual opinion and the hon. gentleman is welcome to it.
I suppose this is only one of the many instances in which the Minister of Trade and Commerce is suffering, and suffering in silence, from the fact that the ideas he so loudly and strenuously advocated 'when in opposition have not been adopted by his colleagues with whom he is compelled nevertheless to co-operate. There are many other things, I dare say, on which, if we could induce the Minister of Trade and Commerce to unbosom himself, he could similarly enlighten us, but we have not gained much information on the question as to whether the present number of cabinet ministers is to be increased or decreased. All we know is that a very prominent gentleman in the cabinet is convinced that the cabinet is too large, and that we have more ministers than the country requires. But he dare not venture to urge that the number should be reduced even to the extent of one. It seems to me that the right hon. the first minister should take the House into his confidence and tell us to what extent, if any, he sympathizes with the views of his colleague the Minister of Trade and Commerce. That hon. gentleman has been frank. He tells us that he still holds the view that there are too many ministers of the Crown, and the country is interested in knowing from the first minister whether, despite the views of his colleagues, he is not only not going to reduce the number of cabinet ministers but on the contrary proposes to increase them. If we are to place any credence in the well authenticated rumours which were used in order to encourage the hearts of the faithful in the west and to serve election purposes, another portfolio is to be created-that of the Minister of Mines. At one time, the Minister of Mines was to be taken from the province of British Columbia, but lately, during the Yukon election, the country was informed that the government candidate in that election, if successful, was to be chosen for that position. I think that the right hon. gentleman, who, I am glad to see in his place ought to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of the public on this question. He ought to let the country know whether he proposes to reduce the number of his colleagues or whether he proposes to add to that number by appointing a Minister of Mines.
The PRIME MINISTER (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier).
I should think that, by this time, having been for some time in public life, my hon. friend (Hon. Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper) would cease to attach much importance to rumours. For my part, I am a little older than he is, and I have ceased to care what rumours may be. I do not think that parliament should care much or lose time in seeking to ascertain whether any given rumour is true or is not true. Governments have their own way of acting, and that is by official method ; and, so long as
no official action is taken by the government there is nothing to find fault with. But I see that my hon. friend, not having anything serious to criticise in the action of the government, wishes to criticise in advance. He wishes to know whether we intend to appoint a new minister, and, in case that may be done at any time, he indulges in criticism in advance. So far, nothing has been done in the way of increasing the cabinet, it seems to me he is simply borrowing trouble in worrying over the matter. I would suggest to him that he should not allow his sleep to be disturbed by matters of that kind. It will be time enough to worry when the government presents any such proposition. But, so long as they do not do so, I cannot see why he should criticise.
Hon. Sir CHARLES HIBBERT TUPPER, All this sounds very pretty, Mr. Chairman. But, of course, there is nothing in it. The Prime Minister, with the support which the country seems to be blindly giving him of late, can afford to be jaunty and light-hearted about these things, and to tell us that the people have no right to be curious. But it is not so long ago that such questions as I have referred to were made to do duty in the interest of the Reform party, so called. Take for instance the case of my old colleague, Col. Prior, formerly one of the members of this House from Victoria, B.C. He happened to join the Conservative administration and to hold the position of Commissioner of Inland Revenue, a subordinate position in the administration but not in the council. And the party which the right hon. gentleman then led made a great deal of capital out of the implied slight to the province of British Columbia-that it had been so long denied representation in the cabinet, and at last its representative had been given a position in the government but deuied a place in the cabinet. From that time on, the right hon. gentleman's representatives in British Columbia have been assuring the people there that it is only because of the Chinese immigration question, that it is only because the right hon. gentleman is so engrossed with this, that or the other question of, perhaps, great importance, that he has not been able to carry out his heart's desire, which, his lieutenants assure the faithful in that part of the country, is to have British Columbia represented in the cabinet. So, these are not altogether rumours, but are statements which do duty and make votes for the right hon. gentleman. This is the time to air the rumour, if the right hon. gentleman will allow me to refer to it as such, and have it either punctured or confirmed. Let us know whether these people who pretend to speak with authority have the slightest reason for that pretense, or whether they have been simply pleasantly spoken to by the right hon. gentleman, as I have been. Shall we tell them, when they
assure us that the province is to be directly represented in the cabinet, and that Senator Templeman's position without portfolio is an earnest of the intention of that government that soon there will be a member sitting at the head of a department, that there is nothing in it-that it is only rumour ? Or shall we say the same when we are told that the member for the Yukon (Mr. Ross) is to be the happy man ? I dare say it is embarrassing to the right hon. gentleman to be asked to take the House into his confidence. It may be very inopportune for him to explain the situation of the government now. But, surely, speaking as one of the committee on the country's business to the head of the government, I have the right to ask, and to press the right hon. gentleman to say whether there is anything in the statements that have been made and largely circulated throughout the country ; or whether they are, as he has suggested, mere rumours. If he wishes to convey the idea that these matters have been the subject of rumour and nothing more, that is an answer to the question I have put. And, if that be so, then are hon. gentlemen opposite prepared to make good their profession of reducing the number of ministers instead of increasing them ? If, on the other hand, they have been seriously considering the appointment of a Minister of Mines, whether in the person of a representative from British Columbia or of the representative from the Yukon, it is clear that they intend to depart in this particular, as they have in so many others, from their past professions.
The PRIME MINISTER, If my hon. friend quotes any word of mine or of any of my colleagues, I am ready to answer, friend quotes any word of mine or of any thing to say as to where they originated or on what authority they were circulated, I decline to be bound by them or even to answer any questions with regard to them. If, for instance, Senator Templeman has said anything on the subject, or if the hon. gendeman (Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper) can trace anything I said, his question will be a proper one. But life is too short for one to hold himself responsible for what appears in newspapers about one. I do not think that when the hon. gentleman was in the government he held himself responsible for what appeared about him in the newspapers or for rumours of any kind. The hon. gentleman spoke of a wish of my heart not being realized. I must say that that has happened more than once-I have failed to
realize tilings that I had very much at heart. And this may he one of those things-I do not say it is not. The hon. gentleman has not made out a case, and if he wishes to draw me in this way, I am sorry to say he is hardly likely to succeed.
My right hon. friend (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier) does not always hold himself bound even by the statement of his colleagues. I referred him to a statement of his present colleague, the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Hon. Sir Richard Cartwright) and he refused absolutely to be bound by it-repudiated it at the very outset, and left my poor unfortunate friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce to struggle with the matter as best lie might. I think I am justified in saying one thing on behalf of the Minister of Trade and Commerce. He has struggled with the situation, as best he could, from 1890 down to the present hour, seeking to have the number of his colleagues reduced to seven, but not at all desirous of having the reduction commence with the Department of Trade and Commerce. But he will not stand any further additions to the cabinet. I want to say that distinctly on behalf of the Minister of Trade and Commerce. He has made up his mind on that point-the cabinet has grown as far as he will stand. If the Prime Minister attempts to add to the members of the cabinet, I am sure the Minister of Trade and Commerce will strike. I think I have the right to say this in justice to my right hon. friend (Hon. Sir Richard Cartwright) because he does not appear to be inclined to say it for himself.
Now, the Minister of Trade and Commerce says that he would be glad indeed to see the cabinet reduced to the number of seven, if we were free to reduce it. When did we lose our freedom in that regard ? I think my right hon. friend the Prime Minister boasted of our glorious freedom in England, and gave up for that boast our chances of preferential trade with England in 1897. We have that glorious freedom, at least, have we not ? Let me direct the attention of my right hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce to the fact that we can reduce the number of departments at any time, we are perfectly free in that regard. We have just as much freedom now as we had when he made that pronouncement in 1895. In what respect has our condition changed with regard to freedom ? I do not quite follow the observations of the hon. gentleman ; perhaps he will make the situation clearer to the House than it is at present. But coming back to what the Postmaster General said a moment ago, we are in this position, that a gentleman occupying the position of cabinet minister and acting as Minister of the Interior, tells us that the system of working three very important departments together, requiring a great deal of labour Sir WILFRID LAURIER.
and attention to details, answers perfectly well, and is in the best interests of the country. Well, does not this declaration made by one of the right hon. gentleman's most important colleagues, justify us in asking whether the government has any idea of carrying out a system of that kind. My right hon. friend seems to think that he is not obliged to give any answer to this question because the word rumour has been mentioned. Let us dismiss the rumour altogether. I think, however, there was something more than a rumour, because these allegations were made on public platforms by gentlemen speaking in the interests of the Liberal party in a recent election. However, let us dismiss the question of rumour. Here we have a declaration made by a gentleman who now holds an important position in the Liberal party and in this government, the Minister of Trade and Commerce, a declaration never repudiated, so far as I am aware, by my right hon. friend. Then we have the declaration of the Postmaster General that the system under which the pledge of the Minister of Trade and Commerce might be carried out answers excellently well in the interests of the country. My right hon. friend thinks he gets rid of all that by saying that there is nothing more than a rumour. Now, let me ask why it is that a policy which the Minister of Trade and Commerce pledged himself to the people of this country years ago to carry out, if I remember his words correctly, and which his colleague says now would be in the best interests of the country, is not carried out by this government. I think my right hon. friend ought to treat this matter more seriously than by dismissing it on the ground that is a mere rumour.
The PRIME MINISTER (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier).
My hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce can well take care of himself, as perhaps the hon. gentleman opposite will find if he persists in his attempt to draw him out. Let me relate as a warning to the hon. gentleman a story told by the late Hon. Mr. Huntingdon in this House, under somewhat similar circumstances, for the benefit of an hon. gentleman opposite him. A little boy received a present of a jack knife, and, with it he tried to carve his name upon the hind quarters of a mule. Some time after the doctor had tried to put his nose into shape and reduce the swelling of his eyes, the little boy said to his father : ' Pa, do you think I will ever
If my right hon. friend feels obliged to compare the Minister of Trade and Commerce to a mule, that is his own affair. He says the Minister of Trade and Commerce is well able to take care of himself. I entirely agree with that, and I believe he is also able to take care of
a good many persons who are nearly related to him. I do not know but that the same observation could be applied to the leader of the government of this country. Now, we have had a very interesting discussion with regard to this matter, I do not know whether my right hon. friend feels pleased with it or not. He has not seen fit to make a declaration of the policy of his government with regard to it, but he has seen fit to treat a great question of this kind in a flippant manner instead of giving such an answer as might be expected from the leader of the government. Does my right hon. friend think that this flippant way of dealing with a matter declared to be of so much importance by one of his own colleagues, is really what the country expects of him ? Does he think that by telling some stale story he will get rid of public responsibility in this regard ? I do not think that his method of dealing with a matter of this kind is consistent either with public interest or with the dignified position which he holds. The Postmaster General has made a very important statement here today. He says that the system of working three great departments under one minister of the Crown answers very well indeed.