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


Hon. GEO E.@

FOSTER (North Toronto) The right hon. gentleman has, as usual, risen to the occasion in his own way ; whether that way is satisfactory to the House and to the country is another matter.' He has, as often happens recently, not treated the matter seriously. He seems to think that, as the responsible head of a government, he is not bound to give any sufficient reasons for violations of constitutional practice, violations of precedent and violations of the canons of good government. He read my hon. friend, the leader of the opposition, a lecture upon propriety, which I think was altogether uncalled for. It seems to me that the hon. member for Carleton (Mr. R. L. Borden) introduced his reference to the Department of Public Works in the most kindly and most courteous way. He attempted to find no fault with the minister personally. But what did strike him, and what, I think he expressed to the House very properly and very reasonably, was the fact that one of the most important departments of the government is now, not for one month, or two months, or three months, or four months, but for many, many months more than that, practically without a head. Well, whilst disposed in every way to have a kindly feeling to the hon. gentleman who has the misfortune by illness to be away from his department, I think it is very well understood that there is not a probability of that hon. gentleman again administering that department. He has been out of it for a long series of months. It has been practically taken over by another gentleman who is not responsible in the way that a minister is. I am not at all saying that he would not make a very good responsible minister, but no man can in a lay position, so to speak, administer a department with the same power and with the same sense of responsibility as one .who is specially appointed under the law. So that, in reference to that the maxim which has been so often mentioned here of late that the King's government must go on applies. The King's government must go on. It will not wait even for illness or for death or for any of these circumstances. The affairs of the country are over and superior to all these and there is not the least doubt in the world that the department suffers from the lack of a responsible head.

Saying no more about that, if this department is, for the reasons that the right hon. First Minister stated, vacant and has been vacant for ever so long it ought to be an additional reason and a very strong additional reason why other departments which are vacant or virtually vacant in this House should be filled up. For instance, take the Department of the Interior. The minister himself of that department for a long time, by reason of illness, was unable to be at the department. I suppose there is no department of this government which has so varied a range of interests and requires so much a constant, steady and firm head as the Department of the Interior. The hon. gentleman who was the minister has been away from that department for a considerable length of time. Changes took place whilst he was away, changes which have never been explained to this House. The deputy minister retired or was forced to retire, I do not know which, and a new man was placed in the department. There is an additional reason why there should be some responsible head of the department. With its varied interests, with its multiplied avenues of approach-approach for all kinds of influences extending from the administration of the gold regions in Ihe far north down all through an immense range of territory in Canada itself, with its branches all over the United States of America and all over Europe as well there is not a department which lends itself so much to abuse and to results which inevitably arise from the want of careful and firm handling than that very same department. There have been things said against that department and they are said against that department now. The right hon. gentleman has not read the newspapers and moved up and down Canada without knowing all these things. For that reason then, and when a new deputy minister takes hold, nominally, there should be a strong, firm and responsible man at the head of the department. During the whole session we have not been able to get any information from the Interior Department such as we should have got. There has not been a question of moment brought up because there has been no person in the House representing the department to answer for the department. The right hon. gentleman who leads the government says : I am nominally the head of the department. ' Nominally ' that is the correct word. It is absolutely impossible for him to master the details of that department with the multiplied duties that he has as premier-absolutely impossible and still that portfolio remains open? Why ? Because of lack of material ? The Prime Minister will not say that. In his easy way he has rather attributed it to an embarrassment of riches. Well, the right hon, gentleman cannot delay for ever. He can make up his mind quickly enough if he wishes to. He

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