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


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

Mr. Speaker. In pursuance of the notice which I gave some few days ago in answer to a question from my hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Borden, Halifax), I shall now proceed to give to the House the ministerial explanation which the House expects from the government as to the changes which took place some few months ago in the composition of the cabinet. In these modern days such explanations have not the importance which they had at one time, because, in these modern days, with the methods of publicity there is nothing that I could tell the House of which the House has not already been informed. In the month of September last, whilst I was in Europe, on the continent, I received several communications from Canada calling my attention to the course pursued by my hon. friend the present member for the division of St. Mary's (Montreal), at that time my colleague in the cabinet and then Minister of Public Works. It was represented to me that my hon. friend was pursuing a course which was not consistent with the rules of parliamentary government inasmuch as he was advocating a policy which was at variance with the policy hitherto followed by the government of which he was a member. I thereupon ordered that all the Canadian newspapers should be sent to me in London to await my arrival there on my way back to Canada. When I returned to London from the continent I found these news-

papers and on the long passage I had abundant time to acquaint myself with the new situation which had been created by the action of my hon. friend, the then Minister of Public Works, and I had to come to the conclusion that the representations which had been made to me certainly required an investigation on my part. The policy of the government on the fiscal question was laid "down for the last time during last session by my hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Fielding) in making the budget speech, and on that occasion he made use of the following language :
We do not propose to make any changes In the tariff this session. I do not for a moment claim that the tariff is perfect. I think, that, on the whole, it has proved a very good tariff. Indeed, when we recall the circumstances under which our tariff revision took place, when we remember the very complicated and difficult problem with which we had to deal, we may well congratulate ourselves upon our success in devising a tariff so well adapted to the requirements .of the country, a tariff under which Canada has prospered in a greater degree than in any previous period in her history. I have occasionally pointed out the desirability of a reasonable measure of tariff stability. Nothing would be more likely to unsettle business thin a practice of introducing frequent tariff changes. Hence, we have resisted applications for many small changes and we think it well to do so to-day. But I would not have it understood that this view can always be held. As time passes, conditions change in our own country and it will be well for us to take note of this, so that we may adjust the tariff accordingly. Nor is that the only reason that might require some change. Conditions arise in other countries of which we are obliged to take account. We do not propose that we shall stand still and that this tariff shall remain unchanged, but we think the time is not opportune for making changes at present.
Then, my hon. friend the Minister of Finance went on to say that at that very moment it would not be advisable to make tariff changes, amongst other reasons, for this reason that we had just completed the census and that we had not yet before us the condition of the industries of the country revealed by the census. Another reason was that at that very moment we were engaged in some correspondence with some foreign countries, amongst others, Germany, with) the view, if possible, of bettering the condition of our trade with them, and another reason was that we were engaged to proceed at,short notice during the then coming summer to London to engage in the approaching conference, and we knew for a certainty that the tariff conditions which prevailed between the motherland and this country would be examined. These were some of the reasons why my hon. friend, speaking for the government, did not deem it advisable to have a tariff revision and he concluded as follows :
For these reasons we postpone for the present the question of tariff revision. When the moment for revision arrives, the public of Canada may rest assured that the government will

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