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


Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)


plans for the future. Sir, when the right hon. premier, a little later, told us, pointing dramatically to the Hansard of last year, that there, in the speech of the Finance Minister, was embodied the policy of the government, then we at least knew what-that policy was. For, Sir, I defy any man to read the speech of the Minister of Finance last session and come to any other conclusion than that the only policy so laid down was that policy of masterly inactivity of lying behind the lines of Torres Vedras, of which lion, gentlemen have been accused before. Why, Sir, the Minister of Finance did not even pretend to shed the faintest light on the vexed question as to whether or not, when the government did come to revise the tariff, they would do it in the interest of protection or of free trade. He told us nothing would be done last year, he told us something would be done in the future, be intimated very clearly that this year is the year that it would be done, because, from the reasons which he gave showing why they could not revise the tariff last year, the only possible conclusion to be drawn was that they would revise it this year. But beyond that opinion, not a word of information did he give. So we find that hon. gentlemen opposite are in this position, that to-day, in the seventh year of their office, they have no other policy than that of masterly inactivity, waiting like Micaw-ber, for something to turn up.
Now, Sir, when the right hon. gentleman was speaking of his policy being embalmed in that speech of the Finance Minister, it did seem to me there was a striking illustration of the difference between the policies of the two parties. The Conservative party, go back as far as you will, has had a policy, be it right or be it wrong, so clearly defined, that every man in this country from one end to the other, knew what it was. Hon. gentlemen opposite not only have failed to decide on any policy, but they seem to think, from the premier down, that the word ' policy ' means something entirely different from the meaning attached to it in all times gone by. I venture to say they pay a poor compliment to the intelligence of the people of this country when they refuse to deal with pressing questions, and there is none more important than the fiscal question. Yet they expect these people will go on year after year, and election after election, supporting sixteen or seventeen gentlemen who do not pay sufficient respect to tlie remaining five or six million people in this country even to tell them whether, when they come to revise the tariff, they will do it on protective or non-protective lines. Let me say this, for the information of hon. gentlemen opposite, who seem to be ignorant of the meaning of protection, that hon. gentlemen opposite to-day, in consequence of the lack of policy, which has characterized their legislation for years, are not in a position to give protection to the people

of this country even if they wished. For in protection there are two factors: There is the measure of protection, and there is the stability of protection. Hon. gentlemen opposite can give as large a measure of protection as they like, but in view of the dismissal from office of the late Minister of Public Works because of his advocacy of protective principles, it must be evident that ho matter how great a measure of protection they may give the manufacturers of this country, that so-called protection must lack the element of stability, which is just as important a factor as the measure of protection itself. And if we are to see this country grow as we would like to see it grow, if we are to see capital unlocked and expended in promoting the various industries of which this country is capable, it is just as essential that the stability of the tariff should be assured as that protection should be given.
Now, I was rather surprised to hear the Prime Minister defend himself for his change of views by saying that when he was young and green he was a protectionist. If language has any meaning, if the people of this country who are deprived of the right which they should possess of hearing directly from the lips of the Prime Minister what his views are on fiscal questions, if they are obliged to do the best they can with the information given them, surely they can draw but one conclusion from such a description of protection as that, namely, that the Prime Minister is not a protectionist, and that therefore, so far as he has gone to-day, he has adopted the views expressed by the Minister of Customs in the debate last year when he said : We stand for a revenue tariff; and the views expressed by the Minister of Trade and Commerce in the same debate last year when he said that honesty and protection were simply incompatible in the administration of public affairs.
Now, Sir, when the Prime Minister referred to two great statesmen of the motherland, it occurred to me that we might draw both a lesson and a warning from the history of those two statesmen. In speaking of the propriety of a public man changing his views, he referred to the fact that W. E. Gladstone and Sir Robert Peel had themselves changed their views. Mr. Gladstone commenced life a Tory, and he ended life a Liberal. Sir Robert Peel commenced life a Tory and ended it outside the party ranks. As I said before, I think there is both a lesson and a warning in the history of these two great statesmen. When Mr. Gladstone went down to his grave he went down as the idol of his party, leaving a name honoured throughout the length and breadth of the empire; a name which the proudest families in the motherland might be proud to bear. And it is to be said of W. E. Gladstone when we come to read his epitaph, that if he had anything to say he so expressed himself that from the beginning to the end of his career the people knew where W. E. Gladstone stood. There was another statesman, Sir Robert Peel, who began his life a Tory and who ended it in the ranks of tiie opposition party. He left a name very different from that of W. E. Gladstone; he left a name, which, it is agreed by every historian of every school we have in Great Britain, was tarnished and disgraced by his conduct at the time he changed his political views. Sir Robert Peel had a perfect right, as we all will admit, after beginning life as a Conservative protectionist to change his views. If he honestly changed his views it was his right to do so, following up his new information and new light upon the subject, but, Sir Robert Peel did this : Sir Robert Peel, a Conservative, went to the people of Great Britain, asking their support, on the ground that he was a protectionist, and having come into power as a protectionist, he used the power and authority he had got on-that ground to introduce an entirely different policy. Will the right hon. Prime Minister study the history of Sir Robert Peel, will the Prime Minister remember the fate that befell a British statesman who, appealing to the people on the ground that he was a protectionist, when he came into power betrayed those who had placed him in office on the ground of his being a protectionist, and will the Prime Minister remember that in this not distant part of the empire, having appealed to the people on the ground that :
We denounce the principle of protection as radically unsound and unjust to the masses of the people, and we declare our conviction that any tariff changes based upon that principle must fail to afford any substantial relief from the burdens under which the country labours-
And having come into power and finding a protective tariff in which there are 448 items, leaves 244 untouched, increases 54 and decreases 34-will he ponder over the history, the promises, the faithlessness and the fall of Sir Robert Peel.

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