On this motion to go into Supply, I propose to call the attention of the House and the country to a grave condition of affairs that exists in my own province, that of Ontario. A political crisis exists there to-day that is attracting the attention of all the people of Canada. Certain circumstances have been made public which reflect on the moral tone of that province, which reflect on the political tone of that province ; and I say a crisis has arrived in which the honour of the province is involved, in which the honour of politicians is involved, and every one must be concerned in the settlement of that crisis. At the present moment the Lieutenant Governor of that province has exceeded his term. He was appointed about November, 1897 ; his five years consequently are up, and he is holding office, I think, very improperly. Not only is he holding office after his term has expired, but his condition of health, I believe, is such that he is unable to discharge the high functions of his office. Certainly he was unable to open the legislature last week and it had to be opened by commission. After what transpired not long ago in connection with this affair, I think it is my duty now to call the attention of the House to this condition of affairs in Ontario ; and also to call the attention of the House to the record of the hon. gentlemen opposite in regard to that question. On a motion to go into Committee of Supply, in the year 1895, I find that Mr. Mills (Both-L well) submitted the following resolution :
That, in the opinion of this House, section 59 of the British North America Act of 1867, which prevents the removal of a lieutenant governor of a province for five years from the date of his appointment, except for cause assigned, and communicated to the House of Commons by message, was intended to prevent the undue influence of federal ministers in provincial affairs ; and the practice which has become prevalent, of permitting lieutenant governors to continue in office for long periods of time after the expiry of their commissions, by which they become removable at any time, without assignment of cause, is an abuse of authority calculated to impair responsible government in the provinces of the Dominion.
Mr. Mills supported that motion by an argument, and I propose to read a few sentences from that argument. He said :
Now, the objection I make to the existing condition of things is that in the case of many of the lieutenant governors of provinces, they have been permitted to hold office for several years after their commissions have expired, and at the moment the commission expires, it is in the power of the government to remove a lieutenant governor without assignment of cause, and without any report to either House of parliament. Now, I say that this is a highly objectionable condition of things. If it is proper during the five years that the commission is in existence that the lieutenant governor should not be removed without adequate cause being assigned, and without that cause being reported to both Houses of parliament, it is obviously improper that the lieutenant governor should continue to hold office after that period has expired. If the government desire that the' lieutenant governors shall hold office for a longer period than five years, they should issue to him a new commission, they should put him beyond their power of removal for any subsequent period, just precisely as he was beyond their power of removal for the period for which he was appointed in the first instance. What is the object of the provision of the law ? The object is to make the lieutenant governor independent of the government here, and solely subject to the advice which his constitutional advisers may think proper to give him.
Then he went on
Sir Leonard Tilley held office in the province of New Brunswick from 1885 to 1893, a period of eight years ; so that for three years of his term of service he was liable at any moment to be removed from office by the administration ; and therefore, if the administration had chosen to interfere in local affairs, they could have brought pressure to bear upon the lieutenant governor if he desired to continue in offiee, which was altogether inconsistent with the duties that are assigned to him, under the law to discharge. In 1888, Mr. Schultz was appointed lieutenant governor of Manitoba, and now, in 1895, at the end of seven years, be is lieutenant governor still. For the past two years he has held office by the sufferance of the ministry, he is liable at any moment to be removed without assignment of cause ; and that being so, I say that this condition of things has become an abuse which ought to be corrected, and for that reason I put into your hands this resolution.
Then Mr. Laurier continued the debate. And here is what he said