March 18, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


The PRIME MINISTER (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier).

Mr. Speaker, I have in the first place, to express my regret to my hon. friend (Mr. Maclean) that he has not accorded me the usual courtesy of giving me the notice which is generally given when an important member occupying the position which he occupies in this House- I do not know if it is the position of a prominent supporter of the opposition, or the leader of a new party; at all events whatever the position may be, it is an important one-is about to bring up a question of this kind. I regret, as I have said, that he has not given me the opportunity of knowing beforehand that he was bringing up this question. The hon. gentleman has spoken with a great deal of vehemence on this question. He has spoken of the outrage that has been committed upon our constitution. I do not know if I shall do an injury to my hon. friend or not-if I do I beg in advance to apologize, but I do not believe that my hon. friend has read the constitution of which he pretends to be such a champion. I do not believe that my hon. friend has read the clause of the constitution which provides for the appointment of lieutenant governors, because, if he had read that clause of the constitution he would have spoken differently. He would have known that the lieutenant governor is not appointed for five years, that he is not appointed for four years, nor for a term of years, but that he is appointed during the pleasure of the Governor General. He would have known that during five years he is not removable except for cause, and that after five years he can be removed for cause, that he is appointed not for a term of years but so long as the Governor General thinks that it is to the advantage of the public service that he shall continue in office. Let me therefore call the attention of my hon. friend to this clause in the constitution, which, 1 am sure, if he has read it, he has forgotten it. Clause 59 of the constitution is as follows :
A lieutenant governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor General ; but any lieutenant governor appointed after the commencement of the first session of Ihe Parliament of Canada shall not be removable within five years, from his appointment, except for cause assigned which shall be communicated to him in writing.
And so on. You see, therefore, that within five years he cannot be removed except for Mr. MACLEAN.
cause, but the moment the five years have expired he can be removed at the pleasure of the Governor General. That is all the difference in the world. But, what we called attention to in 1895 was a very different condition of things from that which now exists in the province of Ontario. In 1S95 we called the attention of the House to the fact that some lieutenant governors, for one, Sir John Schultz, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, for another, Sir Leonard Tilley, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, had been allowed to remain, not for days, not for months, but for years, after the expiration of the supposed term for which they had been appointed. In the case of Sir John Schultz he had been allowed to remain in office for two years, and in the case of Sir Leonard Tilley, he had been allowed to remain in office for a longer period, and we thought under those circumstances it was quite justifiable and proper that new power should be exercised and that lieutenant governors should be appointed under a new commission. But, I call upon my hon. friend to show me a case in the long history of confederation, in the thirty-five years during which it has existed, where the lieutenant governor has been removed from office immediately at the expiration of five years during which he has been occupying that position. Such a case is not in existence. It has never been considered to be according to the courtesy of the office that the incumbent should be removed the moment the five years dui'ing which he has occupied the position have expired. On the contrary, we have granted, as a rule, to all incumbents of this office some time before we have felt called upon to name their successors. The usual course has been followed in this case. Sir Oliver Mowat was removable when the day expired; the day expired in November-November, December, January, February; March has not even passed. Yet we are told that we must appoint a successor to fill the position, that because the lieutenant governor has been four months in office, an old and venerable man as Sir Oliver Mowat is, immediately as soon as his term of five years has expired we must apply the axe, remove him and put some one else in his place. If Sir Oliver Mowat has not discharged the duties of the office with satisfaction to everybody there might be some cause which would justify the hon. gentleman in making this demand, but the hon. gentleman does not base his case on the fact that Sir Oliver Mowat has now come to the time in which he may be removed without cause, but he states that Sir Oliver Mowat is not fit to occupy the position which he occupies. Why is he not fit ? Has anything been said in the press, in parliament, or anywhere else, against the mental capacity of Sir Oliver Mowat 7 Not a word has been said against that. It is known and acknowledged that his mental

faculties are bright and keen, although Sir Oliver Mowat is not physically as strong as he was at one time. He is not as young as he was at one time and we all deplore that fact, but I say again, that no insinuation can be thrown against Sir Oliver Mowat, and if Sir Oliver Mowat were physically incapable of administering the office he has too high a sense of honour to occupy the position one day more than he felt himself able to discharge the duties attaching to it. But, if he is occupying the position to-day it is because he thinks he can fulfil admirably the duties which he has in charge. Moreover, it is true, as has been said by my hon. friend, that there is a crisis in the province of Ontario, an important crisis in which the honour or the life of a government is at stake. I ask hon. gentlemen opposite, is this the time, is this the moment, when there is a grave crisis in the province of Ontario, to remove from the helm a man of such experience, of such knowledge, and of such unimpeachable honour as Sir Oliver Mowat ? If we were to remove Sir Oliver Mowat in the midst of such a crisis, I think we would be committing a grave crime against the province of Ontario, if we were to take away at this moment the firm and experienced hand that is at the head of power in the province of Ontario to-day, I believe the Conservative party themselves would protest against such a course, and at all events it seems to me that it would be the part not only of courtesy but of duty for the hon. gentleman to wait until that crisis is over before he calls upon us to remove Sir Oliver Mowat from the position which he occupies and adorns. We are familiar with these tactics; we remember them long ago, and this is only another repetition of the cry with which we have been familiar for twenty years that ' Mowat must go.' This is a new version of the cry ' Mowat must go.' How many times did we hear that cry in the old days ? How many times have we heard the hon. gentleman himself and his associates declare to the people of the province of Ontario that ' Mowat must go ' ? The people would not sanction such a cry at that time, nor do I believe they would do so to-day. Sir Oliver is not as vigorous as he was, but still he is deep in the affections of the people of Ontario, who would resent any action we would take in following the advice of hon. gentlemen opposite; advice which we shall not follow.

Full View