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

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The MINISTER OF FINANCE (Hon. W. S. Fielding).

Mr. Speaker, I do not rise for the purpose of engaging in the general debate, for I think that would be out of order, no motion being before the House, and it is only by the courtesy of the House that we are permitted to have this discussion. On the occasion of a formal ministerial explanation, we are properly confined to the constitutional question, and that question has been so fully dealt with by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister that I would not think of entering upon it at all. Neither would I
think of following my hon. friend the leader of the opposition in his wide discussion of the fiscal question in which we are all interested. There will be a proper time for the discussion of that question ; but, as my right hon. friend has pointed out, we

can surely all realize that on the occasion of merely formal ministerial explanations, it is not the time for entering into a general discussion of that character. I would not say a single word but that the attitude of my hon. friend and late colleague, the exMinister of Public Works forces me to say a word or two on one point. I have observed that my hon. friend, in defending what we understand to he his mistake, has quoted my speech made in the House of Commons last year as a justification, claiming it as a promise that there was to be a revision in the following session. In the first place, I hold that if he wras right in that it is no vindication of his action, because if there is a promise, as there was not, and if there was to be a revision of the tariff, it does not follow that it would be on the lines which my hon. friend has stated at all. But I want to go beyond that. The speech has been read by the Prime Minister, and also by my hon. friend from St. Mary's, Montreal (Hon. Mr. Tarte), and no reasonable man who reads it can find in it any promise beyond the engagements of the then present session. I am not a lawyer, but I understand that good judges agree that it is not well to decide anything beyond what is before them ; and, I dealing last sesion with the events of the session, stated- that we had decided that we would make no revision of the tariff that session. What we should do in another session was to be decided when another session came. Whether we -shall make tariff changes this session or not is a question yet to be considered, and it will be dealt with in due course. But there is nothing in the speech of March 17, 1902, to justify the statement of my hon. friend, though I know he makes it in good faith, that it was intended to be a promise. I noticed to-day that, feeling apparently how weak that proposition was, my hon. friend introduced another. He stated that he could find in reports of interviews with deputations the statement made by me that the tariff would be revised this session. I want to tell my hon. friend that he cannot find any such statement; I do not believe it exists, but if it exists, it is a fabrication, for no such statement was ever made. I think hon. gentlemen who know me at all, will believe that I am not in the habit of making statements beyond what the occasion requires. It was known that I was to speak last session of the policy of the government ; but it is never the part of wisdom for any public man to make engagements as to what he will do in the future until he is fortunate enough to have the light of the future to assist him in his judgment. So I stated last session that, for the various reasons set forth, there would be no tariff changes that session. We did not claim that the tariff was perfect; but as the days rolled on, and as matters should be presented to us under changing conditions, 6i
changes might become necessary ; but when those changes should be made, or whether the tariff should be increased or reduced, were questions which were not discussed in that speech at all, and no intelligent person can truthfully say they were. I am just reminded that my hon. friend said that that was Intended to be a pledge for this session. I do not wish to differ from my hon. friend. We have been good friends, and I desire, as no doubt he does also, that we should continue good friends, but I am bound to say that that in that respect he is mistaken,

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   WILFRID LAURIER.
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