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


Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)



undertake the work in the spirit of moderation and caution that has prevailed in their past actions in tariff affairs, avoiding the extremes which almost always find advocates, and having regard to what is best, not for particular industries or particular sections of the country, but for the interests of the people of the whole Dominion.
1 have only to remark at this moment that in holding this language my hon. friend was speaking officially, that he was giving the result of the determined policy that for the present no tariff changes should take place and that we would stand by the policy which was then on the statute-book and that this was to be the case until the condition of the country might require us to recommend a departure from that policy. Such being the condition of things and the policy so laid down In the course pf that summer, my hon. friend the then Minister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Tarte) and the present member for St. Mary's division of the city of Montreal, entered into a campaign advocating the immediate revision of the tariff in the sense of higher duties and more stringent protection. For the purposes of the present question-for the purposes of the constitutional question which is the only question at present before the House and with which I intend to deal-it was of no circumstance whatever whether my hon. friend advocated an increase of the tariff or a decrease of the tariff. The error ; the constitutional error was the same ; it mattered not whether he advocated to revise the tariff up or down. The one important thing was that being a member of the administration he was bound by the policy laid down by the member of the cabinet who had authority to speak upon this subject and whose voice had been heard upon the floor of this House in no uncertain tone, and who had laid it down as plain as language could make it : That the government would not under existing circumstances admit of any tariff changes.
I know very well, Sir, and the House need not be told by me, that the gentlemen who are assembled at the council board are not expected to be any more unanimous in their views because they sit at council, than would be expected from any other body of men. It Is In human nature to differ. It is in human nature, even for the best of friends ; even for men professing the same views politically to differ and to differ materially on some points. But the council sits for the purpose of reconciling these differences-the council sits for the purpose of examining the situation and having examined it, then to come to a solution which solution then becomes a law to all those who choose to remain in the cabinet. It would be a mere redundancy for me to affirm that the necessity for solidarity between the members of the same administration is absolute ; that the moment a policy has been determined upon, then it becomes the duty of every member of that

administration to support it and to support it in its entirety. It can be possible that a member of the cabinet who assented to that policy may not be convinced that it is for the best; it may be possible that he thinks a wiser course could have been taken. But if he remains in the cabinet, it is because he thinks that on the whole it is better that his views on that subject should give -^ay to the views of others, and that whilst his own judgment is not in accord with the judgment of his colleagues, still it is for the best interest of the country that he should resign his judgment to theirs, and continue to occupy a position in the cabinet.
I am also aware that in some instances- not in many instances I must say-a man speaking upon the impulse of the moment may perhaps be led to take a view which is not the view which would be entertained by his colleagues, but if that remains an isolated instance no serious harm could come of it. An appeal from the Prime Minister to the man who has so spoken is generally sufficient to promote harmony and to make him understand that whether he agrees or not he must come to the view held by the cabinet. But when a policy has been determined upon ; solemnly agreed upon and solemnly promulgated to the House and to the people, I need not tell the House-and I think my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Tarte) ought to be the first to agree-that under such circumstances it is not only the duty politically of a member of the cabinet, but it is his duty both as a friend and as a member of the party, to stand by that policy. And, if at a later stage he thinks that the policy is wrong, that it ought to be improved, that it ought to be amended ; then the battle, or the action is to be taken, not before the public, not before the constituencies, but the reform has to be advocated in the first place in the cabinet of which he is a member.
My hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Tarte) however did not follow these rules. My hon. friend took another course and I think he will agree with me that the language is not too strong when I say, that he started upon a campaign for the purpose of advocating a policy in favour of immediate revision of the tariff in the sense of higher duties and higher protection. At the banquet of the Manufacturers' Association in Halifax he declared for such a policy. He repeated the same theory at Gananoque, at Chatham, and at several other places. If it had been an isolated expression, not repeated, not followed by any other, I think the evil done, the course pursued might have been susceptible of being reclaimed. But as my hon. friend started upon a campaign and repeated the course which he had first adopted, and made it plain to the country that what he was aiming at was an immediate revision of the tariff in the sense 1 have indicated against the stated policy of the administration of which he was a mem-6i
her ; there was no course for me to take but the course which I thought it advisable to take as soon as I landed in Canada. And as soon as I landed into Canada I came to the conclusion that the conduct and language of my hon. friend made it imperative upon me to take action immediately in that way.
I arrived in the city of Ottawa on the 18th of October. On the 19th, that is to say the following day, I had an interview with my hon. friend and I met him at his own house. The following morning my hon. friend called at my office early in the morning before his departure for the city of Toronto where he was to speak that same evening. The next stage which I had to take in the discharge of my duties, such as I understand them, was to call upon His Excellency the Governor General to acquaint him of the situation and the judgment which I had formed upon it, and then to meet my colleague which I did upon the same day, namely, the 20th. On the following day, the 21st of October, I received by mail from my hon. friend the following letter :
Toronto, 20th Oct., 1902.
My dear Sir Wilfrid,-I feel it is my duty to place my resignation in your hands, and to ask you to be good enough to have it accepted by His Excellency the Governor General.
In the interview which I had with you, you expressed the opinion that I should not have spoken on the tariff as I have done, that the government had not as yet come to any definite understanding on their fiscal policy for- the future, &c.
I shall not discuss with you' at the present time, the question as to whether I was right or wrong in the course I have followed.
You are the leader of the government, and your opinion, as far as my attitude is involved, must prevail.
You told me that my utterances are causing you trouble. I have no right and no desire to be a source of embarrassment to you or to the party with which I have been connected since 1892.
My views on the tariff are well known to you. I have, on several occasions, stated them publicly in your presence and discussed them often privately with you.
Entertaining the opinion that the interests of the Canadian people make it our duty to revise, without delay, the tariff of 1897, with the view of giving a more adequate protection to our industries, to our farming community, to our workingmen, I cannot possibly remain silent.
I prefer my freedom of action and of speech, under the circumstances, even to the great honour of being your colleague.
Before severing my official relations with you, allow me to express my sincerest hope that you will soon be restored to your health of former days.
You would greatly oblige me by conveying to my colleagues my best wishes for their welfare and their happiness. My personal relations with most of them have been of a pleasant and cordial nature. I hope they will continue to be the same in the future.
Believe me, my dear Sir Wilfrid,
Yours very truly,

Immediately I answered in the following manner :-
Ottawa, October 21, 1902,
My dear Tarte,-After having seen you on Sunday last and having expressed to you my well settled opinion upon the consequences of your recent attitude, my first duty was to wait upon His Excellency the Governor General to inform him that I was obliged to demand the resignation of your portfolio.
After having seen His Excellency, I had to acquaint my colleagues of the interview which 1 had had with you.
In accepting your resignation, it is well to emphasize the points of difference between us.
During my absence in Europe, without any communication with me, and without any previous understanding with your colleagues, you began an active campaign in favour of an immediate revision of the tariff in the direction of high protection.
I regret having been obliged to observe to you that this attitude on your part constitutes a self-evident violation of your duty towards the government of which you were a member.
I repeat to you here what I told you on Sunday : I do not wish to discuss, at this moment, tile economic theory of which you have made yourself the champion. This question, however important it might be, is subordinate to one still more important.
If you had reached the conclusion that the inteiest of the country demanded without delay, an increase of the custom duties, the first thing for you to do as a member of the government, before addressing your views to the public, would have been to place them before your colleagues, with the object of obtaining that unanimous action of the cabinet which is the very foundation of responsible government.
If 3?ou had not been able to obtain from your colleagues their assent to the course which you recommended you would have been obliged then either to accept their own views or to sever your connection with them, and then for the first time would you have been free to place your views before the public.
Such was the very simple course which was binding upon you ; but to remain a member of the government, and, at the same time, to advocate a policy which had not yet been adopted by the government, was an impediment to the proper working of our constitutional system, and implies a disregard for that loyalty which all those who are members of the same administration owe to each other and have a right to expect from each other.
I thank you for the good wishes which you express for the improvement of my health, and I will make it my duty to convey to your old colleagues the wishes which you express for their welfare and their happiness.
Believe me.
Yours very sincerely,

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