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

LIB

Joseph Israël Tarte

Liberal

Hon. J. ISRAEL TARTE (Montreal, St. Mary's).

Mr. Speaker, it will be no surprise to the House if I beg leave to offer a few observations to supplement and perhaps to answer the statements which have just been' made and read by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister. My right hon. friend had been abroad for several months. On his return he reached the city of Montreal on the 18th of October. As it was my duty and my pleasure, I went to meet him and to welcome him. We arranged and agreed that both of us should be in Ottawa on the following day, that was Sunday. On that day he telephoned me that he would come to my house at five o'clock in the afternoon. The right hon. gentleman reproached me-informed me, rather-that some of my speeches made in his absence had annoyed several of my colleagues and were causing trouble to him. He expressed his regret that I should have made those speeches which had been pronounced on the fiscal policy. He thought I should not have taken the position I had taken. I informed him at the outset, that I had no desire to remain any longer a member of his administration-that, in fact, I had waited till lie was back in order to hand in my resignation. I then endeavoured to explain my position to him-not, as I told him, with a view to asking to be kept as a member of the cabinet, but to make my position clear to him. I reminded him then, in answer to the expression of his regret at the speeches which I had made, at what he called my new departure, that the speeches which I had made when he was abroad were not stronger, were not as strong, as several other speeches which I had made when he was here and in his presence. I told him that I thought a cabal had been organized against me, and that under the circumstances I was sure he would understand why I had no desire to remain any longer a member of the cabinet. I said to him : " My
resignation is in your hands ; you are a sick man ; I am in the best of health ; take my resignation at once, to-day ; do not worry ; appoint in my place anybody that you like ; I will do every thing that I can to save worry and trouble to you." These were the very words I used. The Prime Minister did not agree with that view. He told me that it was preferable to leave things in abeyance till I was back from Toronto, on Wednesday. As he stated a minute ago, on Monday morning, before I left for Toronto, I called at his office, and he told me again that it was preferable to leave matters in abeyance till I was back from Toronto. On my way up, the conclusion came irresistibly to my mind that it was better for all concerned that the situation should be relieved without any more

delay. I concluded then not to comply with his wishes, and I dictated to my secretary the letter of resignation which my right hon. friend has just read. Let me read that letter again, as it is of great importance to me that the statement I make to-day should be as complete as possible :- Toronto, 20th October, 1902.
The Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister,
Ottawa, Ont.
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 that 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, etc.
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 sincerely,
(Sgd.) J. .ISRAEL TARTE.
This letter was mailed on tlie 20tk October, in Toronto. It reached my right hon. friend's office, I suppose, about ten o'clock in the morning. At one o'clock in the afternoon, my right hon. friend's answer was taken to my house. I was away. The right hon. gentleman knew that I was in Toronto. My right hon. friend wrote me in French, and I shall read the translation published in the ' Star.'
Ottawa, Oct. 21st 1902.
My Dear Tarte,-After having seen you on Sunday, and having expressed to you my wellfounded opinion of the consequences of your recent attitude, my first duty was ro call on His Excellency the Governor General, and to inform him that I was obliged to ask you for your portfolio. After having seen His Excellency, I informed my colleagues of the interview I had had with you. In accepting your resignation, it is well to precise the points of difference between us.
During my absence to Europe, without warning me and without any previous agreement with your colleagues, you commenced aD active campaign in favour of the revision of the tariff towards very high protection. I regret to have had to point out to you that this attitude on your part constitutes an open violation of your duty towards the government of which you are a member.
I now repeat what I told you on Sunday. I do not wish to discuss at this moment either the value or the opportunity of the theory of which you have constituted yourself the champion. The question, important as it may be, is overshadowed by considerations of much greater importance.
If you had reached the conclusion that the interests of the country demanded without delay the increase of the custom duties, the first thing for you to have done, as a member of the government, before addressing yourself to the public, was to have submitted your views to your colleagues for the purpose of securing a unanimous action of the cabinet, which is the very basis of a responsible government. If you have failed in securing the assent of your colleagues to the new policy which you recommended, you would have had to choose either to adopt their way of viewiDg the matter, or to part from them, and then for the first time it would have been open to you to address yourself to the public.
Such was the simple conduct which was imposed on you, but to remain a member of the government, and at the same time advocate a policy which has not as yet been adopted by the government constitutes an obstruction to the working of our constitutional system and implies a breach of that loyalty which all those who form part of the same administration owe each other and have the right of expecting one from the other.
I thank you for the wishes which you express for the improvement of my health, and I will make it my duty to transmit to your former colleagues the wishes which you express for their prosperity and their happiness.
Believe me.
Yours devotedly,

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   WILFRID LAURIER.
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