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


Rufus Henry Pope

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RUFUS H. POPE (Compton).

Mr. Speaker, coming from the province of Quebec, I take particular interest in the shuffle that has taken place in the cabinet and in the difficulty that has arisen between the Prime Minister and the ex-Minister of Pub-Mr. BELL.
lie Works. Since the days of confederation, the great Department of Public Works has been entrusted to a member from the province of Quebec, and as a rule if not invariably to one of French Canadian origin. Living among the French Canadian people, I can well understand that no kick would come from them on narrow lines ; but it is important to that province, as one of the large provinces of the Dominion, that it should have its fair share of the administration and of the patronage in the government of Canada ; and without wishing to raise the question on narrow lines, I simply wish to enter my protest against the removal of the portfolio of Public Works from the province of Quebec to another province, especially as the first minister called to his aid a man who is supposed to be well versed in public works, who has had large experience in the great city of Montreal, as mayor and leading alderman in that city for many years. Possibly the Prime Minister may have discovered in the administration of those public works in the city of Montreal some cause why he did not care to entrust that hon. gentleman with the larger public works of Canada. Of course, that is not for me to say ; but with the numerous applicants which the right hon. gentleman had for the vacant portfolio, he certainly was not confined to the hon. gentleman who now occupies the position of Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Hon. Mr. Prefontaine). And it was humiliating to observe that after the services of the ex-Minister of Public Works were dispensed with in such a summary manner, it took something like three weeks to find a man to take his place, so great a factor had he been in the administration ; and after they had discovered him, they felt that they dare not trust him with the portfolio which had been vacated, but they took some of the patronage of the Department of Public Works, and by reconstruction patched up a special portfolio for the new minister. As the ex-Minister of Public Works says himself, he has made some mistakes ; but in my judgment, after hearing the speeches to-day, and casting my memory back over the record of the Liberal party in Canada for 25 or 30 years, I am convinced that the greatest mistake he ever made in all his life was when he joined that gang opposite. I venture to say that if the hon. gentleman could stand up in this parliament untramelled by his oath of office as a member of that government, he could tell a round of stories that would prove that statement to be correct. It is not my intention to take up much time in this discussion. The question has been threshed out very thoroughly, but very unsatisfactorily so far as the explanation of the first minister is concerned. We are left practically in the dark ; but what are we to expect ? The other day the right hon. gentleman made this astonishing statement in parliament, and to the country. He said :

What is my position ? I am first minister in what kind of a camp ? Part of it protectionist and part of it free trade. What is my great duty ? It is to conciliate-to maintain power at all costs by acts of conciliation. True you should have a bold national policy, a great policy of protection ; but 1 cannot give it to you and retain power. 1 am not here to lead public opinion. The time has gone by when it is regarded as the duty of a great statesman who is Prime Minister to lead public opinion. Instead of that, it is his duty to knuckle down to it, and reconcile the factions as best he can, in the hope of retaining power in this country at any cost. That is the confession of the Prime Minister, and under these circumstances you cannot expect to get from him a very clear statement of the reasons why he chose to decapitate the exMinister of Public Works. While I do not wish to enter into the family troubles of hon. gentlemen opposite, to any great extent, it is well to recognize that the ex-Minister of Public Works was of great service to the right hon. gentleman in the hour when he needed great services, when it was not " Laurier and luck " that carried the day, but when he needed an organizer in the province of Quebec for his special benefit. When I first read the letter which the right hon. gentleman addressed to the ex-Minister of Public Works, I said, it is ingratitude, such as I did not expect from him. The first minister must know better than I do the obligations he was under to the exminister. We regretted to see that the right hon. first minister, when he returned to this country, did not enjoy the health which we are all glad to see him enjoying at this moment. He was suffering extreme weakness, and I think he must have been visited in that hour of weakness by that miserable combination who had decided that the ex-Minister of Public Works must go. What did they care about their leader provided they themselves got rid of the hon. gentleman and secured the position he occupied and all the influence that goes with it. As has been shown over and over again, it was not the speeches made by the exMinister of Public Works which brought about his resignation. Why, last session we had speech after speech from the other side to exactly the same purport. We had only one free trade speech among the lot, and that was made by a gentleman who has since gone to the Senate to receive his reward as a free trader. He has passed from our midst and gone up above to remain there until he goes still higher. We had a good many speeches from these hon. gentlemen opposite and but one free trade speech among them all. There was not an hon. gentleman on that side, with the exception of the one I have just mentioned, who did not have a jack-knife or harness or carriage
factory or horses in the great west or silver mines in British Columbia, or something else down by the sea, which wanted protection. All along the line we had protectionist speeches, not one of these men has been read out of the party, and yet we are asked to believe that the ex-Minister of Public Works lost his position because he attended public meetings at the request of these very men and delivered speeches along the same lines as those to which they had themselves given utterance in parliament. Such an explanation lacks honesty and frankness and is an insult to the intelligence of a democratically governed ' country like Canada. As to the future policy of the government, that will be precisely of the same indeterminate character as its present policy. You have got a cabinet composed of men holding the most contradictory views upon the vital question of protection. The right hon. first minister has told us that he has protectionists and free traders behind him in about equal numbers. Prom a government composed of such discordant elements, what else can you expect but a weak policy? And the manufacturers of Canada, the men who are interested in our natural deposits, the men who are waiting for government encouragement in order to develop our natural resources-these men will wait in vain. True, they may now and then get a little something but they will only get a half-hearted policy. We are to-day receiving hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the United States as well as from other parts of the world. There has been no time since confederation when wideawake, energetic, broad-minded men were more necessary at the helm of state. There has been no time when a strong resolute policy was more required. We must not forget that these people are going into our North-west and that our great North-west is separated from eastern Canada by the rock bound shores of Lake Superior for about 1,000 miles. One would imagine that these were intended to be the divisions of two separate nationalities, and if we are to bring the west and the east into close unity, we in the east will have to adopt a broad national policy. What do these Americans tell us, who are going into our country ? Do they tell us that they have left then-own because they are dissatisfied with it ? Not at all, they say that they are proud of the United States, and if they are leaving, it is because they can sell their farms in the United States at $50 an acre and buy farms in Canada at $5 an acre. How comes it that they are able to sell their farms at $40 or $50 an acre ? It is due to the industrial policy of the American government, and if we wish to satisfy these men, if we are to give a similar increase in value to our land in the west, we will have to adopt a similar policy, we will have to adopt a

policy that will build up industries in Canada which will rival those that a protective policy has developed in the United States.

Full View