March 20, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN (Halifax).

My right hon. friend (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier) does not always hold himself bound even by the statement of his colleagues. I referred him to a statement of his present colleague, the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Hon. Sir Richard Cartwright) and he refused absolutely to be bound by it-repudiated it at the very outset, and left my poor unfortunate friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce to struggle with the matter as best lie might. I think I am justified in saying one thing on behalf of the Minister of Trade and Commerce. He has struggled with the situation, as best he could, from 1890 down to the present hour, seeking to have the number of his colleagues reduced to seven, but not at all desirous of having the reduction commence with the Department of Trade and Commerce. But he will not stand any further additions to the cabinet. I want to say that distinctly on behalf of the Minister of Trade and Commerce. He has made up his mind on that point-the cabinet has grown as far as he will stand. If the Prime Minister attempts to add to the members of the cabinet, I am sure the Minister of Trade and Commerce will strike. I think I have the right to say this in justice to my right hon. friend (Hon. Sir Richard Cartwright) because he does not appear to be inclined to say it for himself.
Now, the Minister of Trade and Commerce says that he would be glad indeed to see the cabinet reduced to the number of seven, if we were free to reduce it. When did we lose our freedom in that regard ? I think my right hon. friend the Prime Minister boasted of our glorious freedom in England, and gave up for that boast our chances of preferential trade with England in 1897. We have that glorious freedom, at least, have we not ? Let me direct the attention of my right hon. friend the Minister of Trade and Commerce to the fact that we can reduce the number of departments at any time, we are perfectly free in that regard. We have just as much freedom now as we had when he made that pronouncement in 1895. In what respect has our condition changed with regard to freedom ? I do not quite follow the observations of the hon. gentleman ; perhaps he will make the situation clearer to the House than it is at present. But coming back to what the Postmaster General said a moment ago, we are in this position, that a gentleman occupying the position of cabinet minister and acting as Minister of the Interior, tells us that the system of working three very important departments together, requiring a great deal of labour Sir WILFRID LAURIER.
and attention to details, answers perfectly well, and is in the best interests of the country. Well, does not this declaration made by one of the right hon. gentleman's most important colleagues, justify us in asking whether the government has any idea of carrying out a system of that kind. My right hon. friend seems to think that he is not obliged to give any answer to this question because the word rumour has been mentioned. Let us dismiss the rumour altogether. I think, however, there was something more than a rumour, because these allegations were made on public platforms by gentlemen speaking in the interests of the Liberal party in a recent election. However, let us dismiss the question of rumour. Here we have a declaration made by a gentleman who now holds an important position in the Liberal party and in this government, the Minister of Trade and Commerce, a declaration never repudiated, so far as I am aware, by my right hon. friend. Then we have the declaration of the Postmaster General that the system under which the pledge of the Minister of Trade and Commerce might be carried out answers excellently well in the interests of the country. My right hon. friend thinks he gets rid of all that by saying that there is nothing more than a rumour. Now, let me ask why it is that a policy which the Minister of Trade and Commerce pledged himself to the people of this country years ago to carry out, if I remember his words correctly, and which his colleague says now would be in the best interests of the country, is not carried out by this government. I think my right hon. friend ought to treat this matter more seriously than by dismissing it on the ground that is a mere rumour.

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