March 31, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)


He is proposing to give to these Territories a constitution which at no time in the future will a Canadian parliament be able to change, and, forgetting the great constitutional rule which he laid down in days gone by, he Is proposing to do this in the absence of any representative of those Territories in the cabinet. He is proposing that parliament should finally deal with a measure vitally affecting the Northwest Territories while these Territories are absolutely unrepresented in the cabinet. For what purpose was that statute passed creating the portfolio of Minister of the Interior ? Why, if not that there shall he in the cabinet a minister representing that country who would be thoroughly competent to safeguard its interests especially in matters of such importance as the one now before us? Why, in those days my right hon. friend was so anxious in this regard, that upon the mere rumour of the resignation of ministers from Quebec, he moved the adjournment of the House and discussed the question at length. Later on, upon full explanation being given, when he had been assured that those gentlemen had not resigned and were at one with their colleagues, he was so much interested in the constiutional aspect of the case that he again moved the adjournment. Bui today when we inquire whether or not the vacant portfolio of the interior will be filled, my right hon. friend seems to emerge temporarily from a condition of forgetfulness. He is as one who would say : ' Why, bless my soul, then there is a Department of the Interior ; I must look after it one of these days. There are Northwest Territories, but I had almost forgotten their existence. One of these days we will take the question up when there is nothing else to do ; but in the meantime we will go on and deal with most important questions affecting these Territories without any regard whatever to the statute.' In those days he was a stickler for constitutional usage hut to-day he displays a complete change of front. Let me read one more brief extract from a speech of the right hon. gentleman of those days :
Moreover here are two seats vacant, vacant since yesterday, and although the hon. gentlemen who occupy these seats may not have tendered officially their resignations to His Excellency, it is quite evident that they are no longer in harmony with their colleagues, otherwise they would be in their places to discharge their share of the business of the country.
In view of the cynical disregard of the constitution which we see every day in this House, is not the reminiscence, brought up by the utterances I have just quoted, perfectly delicious ? Here are two-thirds of the cabinet not in harmony with the other one-third, if we apply the test which the right hon. gentleman himself applied ten years ago. How many of the colleagues of my right hon. friend are present in the House to-day ? There is a vacant seat next to him.

The one next to that is vacant There is another vacant on his left and another alongside of the Minister of Inland Revenue. There is also a vacant seat immediately behind the right hon. gentleman. But still there is an unusually large number of ministers in the House to-day, and I have taken,
1 must admit, an unfortunate occasion to exhibit an object lesson to the country. Usually we have only about three ministers present, and we must therefore, according to the test which the right hon. gentleman applied ten years ago, conclude that the other ten are on the eve of resignation. However that may be, let me say that I do not observe in anything which has been suggested by my right hon. friend any reason why the portfolio of the Interior should not be filled.
He has said nothing on the subject. Has he no material ? If he does not appoint my hon. friend from Edmonton (Mr. Oliver) to be Chief Justice of the Northwest Territories, in view of the constitutional argument he gave us the other day, I imagine that that hon. gentleman would make a very good Minister of the Interior, and I am inclined to press his claims. He is a very good friend of mine personally, though we differ somewhat politically; and I stand here to urge the claims of my hon. friend from Edmonton to this position. He is a gentleman of ripe experience and great ability, and, as we all know a gentleman of absolute and perfect independence on all questions. But, if we cannot have my hon. friend from Edmonton, why should we not have the hon. member from West Assiniboia (Mr. Scott). Is not he capable ? Is there any apprehension on the part of the right hon. Prime Minister that there will be any difficulty about securing the election of either of these gentlemen ? Does he propose to let this matter stand until after the close of the present session, in defiance of all the high constitutional principles which he professed ten years ago ? If there is a lack of material among the members for the Northwest Territories, why not appoint some broad minded man like my hon. friend from Ottawa (Mr. Belcourt), who spoke last night, or my hon. friend from Labelle (Mr. Bourassa)? Could not one of these gentlemen be induced to go up and teach these men in the Northwest Territories, whom they described as so narrow and bigoted that they could not be trusted, some of these men whom my hon. friend from Ottawa (Mr. Belcourt) described as regenade Liberals?-why not send one of these broad-minded tolerant gentlemen to these men of the Northwest Territories to teach them what true Christian charity and toleration really are. I do not think there could be any objection to that, though, of course, my hon. friend from Labelle might be himself a candidate for the Chief Justiceship in oppositon to my hon. friend from Edmonton, for he has said that he is ready
to discuss the constitution with any man in this country or anywhere else.
Now, just one more observation on this subject. The right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) was rather facetious ten years ago. He told us of those two ministers coming back and likened them to kittens coming back to their cream. Well, we have had a couple of kittens who were a little skittish on this occasion. One, it is true, did not leave the cream. It arched its back and curved its tail, but remained within a reasonable distance of the cream, and is still lapping. The other did leave the cream.

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