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

CON

Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. C. BELL (Pictou).

Mr. Speaker, naturally, both the House and the country had a great deal of interest in finding out if possible-and I suppose that is the reason why ministerial explanations are a recognized feature in parliamentary life-why our friend the ex-Minister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Tarte) left the government of the right hon. leader of the House (Sir Wilfrid Laurier). I have listened with a very great deal of care to the speeches made in the course of this debate, I have heard the statements made by the right hon. leader of the House and the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works, and I must admit, that, so far as I am concerned, I am yet at a loss to understand why the hon. ex-Minister of Public j Works has been required to leave the government. I think, generally speaking, that 1 the country, after reading the report of this

debate, and even after a careful perusal of every word of this debate, will come to the conclusion that the true reason for the change in the government has scarcely been unfolded to the House when the Prime Minister has stated that in this matter he was vindicating the proper principle upon which parliamentary government by cabinet can alone be carried on, and that is that no member of a cabinet can, in the country or in the House, advocate views which are inconsistent with the general opinion of the cabinet. Now, that would be a very satisfactory answer and explanation of the matter if it could be made to lit in with all the facts, but, here, we have, in the course of this debate, discovered that not only the lion. ex-Minister of Public Works gave utterance to views in the country or elsewhere inconsistent with the course laid down by the government, but that other representatives of the administration have done the same thing and that while the lion. ex-Minister of Public Works'has been called upon to resign on account of these utterances, others, notably the bon. Minister of the Interior (Mr. Siftou) and the hon. gentleman who at present fills the position of Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Hon. Mr. Prf'foutline) are still remaining in the cabinet, although, so far as I can understand, their offence, if offence it be, is precisely the same as that of the lion. ex-Minister of Public Works. Now, that being the case, 1 am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the explanation given by the right lion, leader of the government is not sufficient to explain all the circumstances. We know that members of the government and members of the party in the House are very much troubled to understand an expression that has been used by the hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Borden, Halifax) when he speaks of 'adequate protection.' It seems to afford these hon. gentlemen an immense amount of difficulty to understand what ' adequate means. I think we have in the course of the explanation made here to-day an excellent opportunity of learning what * adequate ' means; that is by its contrary, because, it appears, so far as I am concerned, that the explanations given by the right hon. gentleman are not adequate. They do not explain all the conditions of the circumstances leading up to the last circumstance why one member of the administration is compelled to withdraw from his position in the administration for doing precisely what other ministers are allowed to do without punishment of any kind whatever. The offence of the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works was, that, being a member of the administration and it at that time being determined upon doing nothing in the manner of tariff, he continued to advocate an increase of tariff. The hon. gentleman (Hon. Mr. Sutherland) who filled his place, did not require to run an election; but the position of the Minister of Marine and Fisheries was made vacant Mr. BELL.
and the hon. gentleman who had to go to the people in order to have his seat given back to him, committed precisely the same offence, if offence it be, as that charged against the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works. In the course of the contest which was necessary in order to reintroduce him to the cabinet he took the same course which had been followed by the ex-Minister of Public Works. He secured a seat in Ma? sonneuve as an advocate of increased protection and he sits in the cabinet to-day, having, even at the time when the right hon. gentleman tells us the government had come to the conclusion upon this subject to do nothing, advocated increased protection to the same extent although not, perhaps, quite as frequently, as did the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works. Can it be possible for us to believe that there is nothing more in this matter than these utterances of the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works, or are we not forced to come to the conclusion that the retirement of the hon. ex-Minister was owing to a struggle that had arisen in the cabinet, or in the portion of the cabinet which was left in Canada during the absence of the right hon. Prime Minister, resulting in the Prime Minister being called upon to make his choice between the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works and the other members of the cabinet who had determined no longer to remain in the cabinet with that hon. gentleman ? We know perfectly well, it has been stated in the most open fashion, it has been circulated everywhere in the press, that a demand was made on the Prime Minister for the scalp of the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works, and I must say, so far as the discussion to-day has gone, that I think every reasonable man who listens to the arguments and statements that have been made here to-day will come to the conclusion that it is the true explanation that a struggle had arisen in the cabinet in which one party or the other had to be defeated, and that the Prime Minister, being compelled to make a choice, did make a choice which resulted in the effacement for the time being, or for a long time, I dare say, of the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works. There is another explanation which may be possible; here, we have the case of a minister, the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries, advocating protection at a time when the government is said to have decided upon a position of inertia, or stability, by maintaining its present position on the tariff without change; the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries is left unharmed while the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works, on the other hand, for precisely the same offence, is called upon to retire from the administration. The offence is the same; the punishment is different. Why is it ? It is believed that the hon. ex-Minister of Public Works was marked out for destruction, or else that there must be some difference between the quality of the offence in the hon. ex-Minis-

ter of Public Works and tbe bon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries. It may be that the hon. Minister of Marine and Fisheries did not mean what he was saying and the fact was recognized at the time that he was using the license which members of the administration are using all the time by saying that they are protectionists or free traders, as the case may be, and as required for the purpose of carrying elections. A license is apparently given to them for that purpose. On the other hand it may have been believed that the ex-minister (Hon. Mr. Tarte) was honestly saying what he meant, that he was a staunch advocate of protection and that being in earnest lie was introducing into the political arena a question which it was inconvenient for the administration to have discussed at that time. It was realized that the Minister of Marine (Hon. Mr. Prefontaine) was ready to talk protection to-day and free trade tomorrow, but that the Minister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Tarte) might be relied upon to 'continue his crusade for the protection of Canadian industries.
There has been in the course of this discussion a wide difference of opinion between the ex-minister (Hon. Mr. Tarte) and the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Fielding). The ex-minister pretends that he had every reason to believe that the announcement which was made by the Minister of 1 inance last session was an indication that changes were to be made this session in the direction of a higher tariff. The Minister of Finance explicitly stated to-day that no such intention exists, but so far as the opinions formed by hon. members are concerned-at least on this side of the House-they are in.accord with the construction placed by the ex-minister on the language of the Finance Minister. A great many circumstances which arose in the course of last session indicated that we were to have tariff changes this year. Early in the session the member for North Norfolk (Mr. Charlton) who has a close relationship with the cabinet, reviewed our commercial position and pointed out that our fiscal policy placed us at a tremendous disadvantage in doing business with the United States. His speech led us to the conclusion, that so far as he could influence the policy of the administration he would persevere in a course which would lead the government of the day to adopt a higher tariff. For some reason, possibly because of an understanding with the premier, the resolution was not pressed to a vote but it might fairly be looked upon as a feeler to discover what was the sentiment of the House and of the country. Here was a member of the Joint High Commission, associated with members of the government to negotiate a reciprocity treaty with the United States, a gentleman who is in the next rank to that of a cabinet minister ; a gentleman who enjoys the confidence of the Prime Minister ; here was that gentleman
arguing to show that there was in the Liberal party a strong impression that the present tariff was not sufficiently high to enable us to maintain our position in competition with the neighbouring republic. Then we had the hon. member for Brant (Mr. Heyd) advocating increased protection for the industries in which he and his constituents were interested. A thousand times over voices came from that side of the House during that session showing that pressure was brought to bear on the administration not to continue the existing conditions, but to give us higher protection. Deputations came without number, and we had the assurance of the ex-minister (Hon. Mr. Tarte) that these deputations were merely imt off for the time, were given to understand that the government was not opposed to an increase in the tariff but might under certain circumstances grant it, and were not dismissed hopelessly with a refusal. The impression created on the public mind throughout the country was entirely in favour of the construction placed on the words of the Minister of Finance by the ex-minister. It is abundantly clear therefore that the ex-minister (Hon. Mr. Tarte) was absolutely justified in every utterance he made during the recess, which went to show that the intention of the government was to frame a higher tariff at this session. It seems to me therefore that he did not travel outside of a course consistent with perfect loyalty to his leader and to his party, when he tried to bring forward rapidly the day when a policy of high protection would be entered upon.
Then as to the manner in which the resignation was received or the dismissal accomplished. The hon. ex-minister said, and the premier did not deny it, that he had twice tendered his resignation and that his leader asked him to leave the matter in abeyance until he returned from Toronto. We find however from the premier's own words that so soon as his colleague had left for Toronto he put himself in communication with the Governor General in order to secure His Excellency's consent to his asking the minister for his portfolio. That is almost entirely a personal consideration, and it may be left for settlement to these gentlemen themselves. But there was one statement made by the ex-minister which struck me as of great importance. He stated, and repeated the statement, that if at any time when he was advocating increased protection he had received a request or an order from his leader he would have desisted. He even told the House that if the acting premier had given to him the slightest suggestion that his course was looked upon unfavourably by the cabinet, he would have stopped his advocacy of a high protective tariff. How can we doubt for one moment that when the ex-minister and the premier met in Ottawa the ex-minister did not state to the premier as he tells us he did state : If the

course I have followed in your absence lias been inconsistent with your views of my duty to you ; if I have said or done anything other than I have said or done in your presence before you left Canada I am here now honestly holding these opinions but ready to desist from the further expression of them, and should I find it impossible to remain a member of your cabinet after giving up that propaganda, I am prepared to retire from your cabinet in an honourable manner. I think, Sir, that this much ought to have been granted by the premier to his colleague ; a colleague who has supported him as we have reason to believe with the greatest power, success and ability-it does seem that the premier should have 'given this colleague some decent length of time in which to make his exit in a dignified manner instead of pitch-forking him out of the cabinet as he did. Yesterday the Prime Minister told the House that he repudiated the idea that when the term of a lieutenant governor expired his successor should be appointed immediately as if the administration was anxious to get rid of him. Apparently, a lieutenant governor is to have months or even years to make a dignified exit from, government house, but a gentleman who has been of the utmost service to the administration, who has probably done more than any member of the cabinet to preserve Canada %om that destruction and luin which an interruption of the National Policy would have brought on all its interests ; a gentleman, who, if I am not mistaken, has been an advocate of protection from the time he entered the cabinet, whose hand may be traced in every word of that tariff under which these gentlemen claim Canada has attained such prosperity-such a gentleman is to be pitch-forked out of the administration in the most unceremonious fashion, and even in violation of a courteous request made to him by his premier that the matter of his resignation should be left in abeyance until he returned from Toronto t) the Capital. These, however, are largely personal matters. It strikes me that all we have heard in the course of this discussion tends to convince any reasonable man who has listened carefully to it, and who tries to make all the facts of the case fit in with the explanation offered by the Prime Minister, that we have not had the true reason given for the dismissal of the ex-minister, but it is an evidence of the fact that on this occasion at least, in the absence of the Premier, the members of the cabinet not only fought like blazes, but the end of it was that one of the combatants suffered very serious damage.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   WILFRID LAURIER.
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