August 21, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)

?

Right Hon. S@

I desire to inform the House

that the Minister of Public Works has resigned, and that his resignation has been accepted. The correspondence which has taken place is under my hand, and His Excellency the Governor General has been pleased to give'me his permission to communicate it to the House. I shall accordingly read it:
Ottawa, August, 15, 1917. My dear feir Robert,-
Never during the six years that I have endeavoured to faithfully and loyally serve you as leader of our party do I know of any part of my efforts that have ever been kept secret from you. In that same spirit of loyalty and devotion let me say a plain word, and it is this that, in my opinion, as a party we are face to face with very serious difficulties, difficulties, to my mind, that have largely been created by our kindness to our opponents. The question with me is, "What are we doing about it?" Our opponents are strong:, active and hopeful. They do not hesitate in adopting: the most sordid methods imaginable. They have been covering the country for months past with literature of the most damnable character. They have a strong press, through which they are promoting a most cowardly malevolent campaign. I am often made the target for many of their attacks-attacks which they are unable to support with any substance. However, with them it is not a question of substance, of truth, or of common decency. They simply follow their instructions to attack any one that they regard as a menace to their success.
And what are we doing? Nothing that I know of except going on treating the promoters of this slanderous campaign as gentlemen. Surely it is plain that there is only one end to all this. Hard and difficult as it is for me to do so, let me say that if our present inaction and indecision are to continue, may I with feelings of the greatest possible respect and with feelings of the very deepest regret, ask that at your convenience I be relieved from sharing the responsibility for the results that will be sure to follow continued inaction and indecision.
Never in my long experience have I witnessed more clearly than I do to-day the opportunity that rests with us for great good. We have only to remember that we are in a war in which Canada's all is at stake. If we do not win, then the plans for Canada's future development will not be made in our own, capital city of Ottawa, but in the capital city of some foreign country. There is no use deluding ourselves upon this point, for a great, fat, tempting prize like Canada would never be allowed to escape were she to go undefended by the full power of a victorious British Empire. Canada's hope for the fulfilment of her full share in this great struggle largely rests with the party that you represent. Therefore, our responsibilities are great. We must be equal to them, and above all we must be equal to our obligations to our gal'ant soldiers. Under the banner of loyalty, decision and action, we can accomplish these high purposes We cannot afford to delay. We should waste no time tarrying and disputing with opponents whose apparent purpose to-day is to prolong Parliament until the end of its term. In

the hope that if they succeed in this they will he able to add a new chapter to their slanderous campaign by attempting to make it appear to the country that we are hopelessly helpless. '
When Sir Wilfrid Laurier two months ago refused your most generous proposal for coalition, surely, then there was only one course left, and that was to proceed determinedly and fSarlessly with our task. X can, of course, well realize that you delayed in honest, hopeful expectation that some strong action for union would be taken at the Winnipeg convention. True, you have not had the opportunity to know and understand the method, and the designs of those in western Canada who stood up in that convention in support of Laurierism. Under normal conditions, in times of peace, it is always inadvisable and dangerous to have either truck or trade with your enemies when you know them to he such. It is a million - times more dangerous at this solemn moment when the fate of our country is hanging in the balance.
The Canadian people understand that at the outbreak of the war, and every day since the Government have had forced upon them conditions the like of which no Government in Canada had ever before been called upon to meet. Loyal Canadians everywhere realize this, and I am confident they appreciate to the full the many difficulties the Government have had to contend with, and above all they know and understand the sordid means being employed by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as the leader of our domestic and foreign enemies to defeat our honest efforts to faithfully fulfil, in Cam ada's name, a full and worthy part in this great war. Therefore, to my mind, our course is plain. It is this: "Carry on" without delay and with resolute determination to assist to the fullest extent of Canada's power in preserving the unity of the Empire and the future destinies of our own country.
As for myself, let me say whatever the outcome may be, X will in the future as in the past ever remain loyal and devoted to my country and to my friends, prepared at all times to respond whenever and wherever duty calls.
Yours sincerely,
(Sd.) r:. Rogers.
Right Hon. Sir Robert Borden,
Prime Minister,
Ottawa.
To that I made the following reply:
Ottawa, August 17th, 1917. My dear Mr. Rogers,-
I have given attentive consideration to the views expressed in your letter of the 15th inst. which reached me last evening.
You do not specifically define the lack of action of which you complain, hut you do in general terms declare that there has been during the past three months continued inaction and indecision and that you desire to be relieved from responsibility therefor, or for its continuance. I am unable to accept your conclusion nor am I aware of the slightest foundation for the view which you have thus expressed.
As to inaction let me call the following considerations to your attention: Since my return to Ottawa in the-middle of May numerous questions of the very highest national importance
have been taken up and dealt with. I realize that you have not taken so active a part in their consideration as some other members of the Government, but I know you appreciate the immense difficulties and complexities by which many of them have been surrounded, and the vast amount of labour which has been involved in their determination. To refresh your memory let me enumerate some of these matters.
1. Compulsory Military Service. All my colleagues know the enormous amount of time and labour bestowed upon this question and in the preparation of the measure in which it is embodied. That measure was introduced by me on the 11th June and has passed the House of Commons and the Senate, and it now stands for the consideration of some minor amendments made in the Senate. Its importance in providing needed reinforcements for our gallant men in the trenches cannot be over estimated.
2. The imposition of a Tax upon Incomes above a certain amount. This subject required the most attentive study in the consideration of its scope and details. After much deliberation the measure was perfected, passed through its various stages in the House of Commons, and. now stands for Third Reading.
3. Extension of the Parliamentary Term. While this subject did not involve long del)a^ the course of the Government had to be most carefully considered; and you will agree that in importance it does not rank below any of the great questions which have been determined by the Government during the present session.
4. Railway Legislation. Only those who have been called upon to face the problems with which the Government have been confronted can realize the difficulties and complexities which had to be met in dealing with this question. It has demanded and received the most earnest and unremitting study and attention ever since my return. After long deliberation the policy of the Government has been formulated in the Bill which has recently received its Second Reading in the House of Commons and which as I believe embodies a policy greatly in the interest of the country. This subject alone would under ordinary circumstances have been regarded as sufficient to engage the attention of a government during an entire session.
5. Military Voters Bill. It is apparent that under the conditions which have developed during the past two years and having regard to the greatly increased Canadian forces in France and in Great Britain the Act of 1915 has become wholly unworkable It is most essential that all the members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force shall have every possible opportunity of exercising their franchises. The holding of an election in Canada alone necessitates the comprehensive provisions embodied in the Dominion Elections Act to insure full opportunity for voting and every reasonable safeguard to prevent fraud. But under present conditions we must hold an election not only in Canada but in Great Britain, France and other countries as well. The holding of such an election abroad requires equally comprehensive provisions to cover not only the ordinary arrangements for an election in Canada but the very different and highly complex conditions presented in extending the franchise to an army of 300,000 men in the midst of military operations. I am sure that you realize the magnitude of the task thus presented to the Government in order to insure full opportunity and at the same time adequate safeguards. This we have en-

deavoured to accomplish in the measure now before Parliament.
6. The Government also gave close attention to arrangements for assisting the settlement of returned soldiers upon the land and suitable provision for that purpose was made in the Soldiers Settlement Bill which has passed both the House of Commons and the Senate.
7. Conduct of the War. In addition to this vast programme which has been carried out since the middle of May the Government has had to consider and deal with many problems arising out of war conditions. As you know, questions of the first importance are presented for our consideration almost daily. During the period mentioned we have established a Board of Grain Commissioners to regulate the price of grain and to provide for the greatest possible exportable surplus. We have appointed a Food Controller and conferred upon him extraordinary powers of regulation. We have appointed a Fuel Controller and given him power essential for the provision of fuel at a reasonable price. We have dealt with a difficult labour situation in Western Canada through the appointment of a Director of Coal Operations whose efforts have been attended with notable advantage to the public interest. Besides all this the administrative activities of various departments for war purposes have been incessant. Large purchases of food and supplies for the British and Allied Governments have been made, the funds necessary to pay for these purchases and for enormous supplies of munitions have been provided for the British Government and our part in the war has been thoroughly sustained m the midst of a very active session.
Under these circumstances your suggestion that there has been inaction on the part of the Government seems entirely unwarranted. So far as I am concerned I cannot recall any period of my life when I was more actively and intensely occupied or when I gave my time and energies more abundantly and unreservedly to the duties that lay before me.
I do indeed1 admit (and perhaps your charge relates to this) that during that period I have not occupied myself in party controversy or resorted to partisan attack. That has been my course since the outbreak of war and I propose to maintain it. I have defended the administration from attack when I thought such defence necessary and I shall pursue that course in the future.
It is perfectly true that the official Liberal Press Bureau has been disseminating throughout the country in vast quantities for many months, campaign literature of a most unworthy and offensive character. I have sufficient confidence in the good sense of my fellow countrymen to believe that such gas attacks will not prevent victory for the right when the time comes.
You express the apprehension that the Government will encounter obstructive tactics in the House of Commons. While I do not share that apprehension, I may assure you that any such tactics will be met and firmly dealt with.
You charge also indecision. My duty never lay clearer before me than I have seen it since my return in May last and not for one moment have I swerved from the purpose which I then reached. I arrived at the conviction that a union of both political parties was necessary in order that Canada might obtain the united effort of all those earnest in their desire to throw our full national force into the war. On the 25th May I proposed to Sir Wilfrid Laurier
that a coalition should be formed in which both political parties should be equally represented outside the Prime Minister. Negotiation went on for about two weeks but eventually he declined my proposal for the reason that he was opposed to compulsory military service. I then determined that I should ask those Liberals who supported compulsory military service to unite in the formation of a government in which they would be fairly and equally represented. It was and is my purpose to include in such a government special representation of agricultural and labour interests. In seeking to form such a government I naturally placed my proposals before those Liberals who are in active public life and who must thus be regarded as leaders or representatives of their party. Negotiations with them have since continued but have not yet been concluded. I regret that my efforts for the formation of a government based upon a union of all elements prepared to carry on this war to a successful conclusion have not hitherto met with the success which I think they deserved. I am possessed, however, of considerable patience and persistence and I have not discontinued my effort. If Liberals in active public life to whom naturally one must first resort are not prepared to play the part which I think they should play in forming such a government it will be my duty to invite prominent Liberals not in active public life to join with me in consummating the national purpose which I have in mind. Thus I see my duty before me. I cannot agree that it is a time when the fortunes of the country should be entrusted solely to the determination of one political party. I hold on the contrary that at this juncture when the destiny of our Dominion and the whole Empire hangs in the balance I should, notwithstanding every discouragement, persistently seek to bring about a union of all men of good will in both political parties who are animated by the patriotic desire and determination of throwing Canada's full force into the winning of this war.
It is apparent from the terms of your letter that your views as to what has been accomplished and what remains to be accomplished, as to what conditions have demanded in the past and as to what they shall require in the future, are extremely divergent from those which I entertain. I greatly regret this; but under the circumstances I cannot urge you to reconsider your decision and I shall submit immediately to His Excellency the Governor General your desire to be relieved from your responsibilities as a Minister of the Crown.
Let me assure you in conclusion that I appreciate most deeply and sincerely the loyal service which you have given as one of my Colleagues during the past six years.
Your faithfully,
(Sgd.) R. L. Borden.
Hon. Robert Rogers,
Ottawa.
To this, I to-day received the following reply, dated August 18:
Ottawa, August 18, 1917.
My dear Sir Robert.
I have yours of yesterday's date and regret that it still seems impossible for you to see and realize the force of my reference to inaction and indecision. With every possible respect let me say that in my humble judgment, to me this is very plain.

You recount various Important measures that have recently engaged the attention of the Government. In my letter of the fifteenth I was clear, and I was equally clear In our conversation of yesterday, in pointing out that it is, of course, accepted everywhere, that since the outbreak of war the Government have had forced upon them conditions the like of which no Government in Canada has ever before been called upon to meet.
I am indeed truly sorry to note your rather implied insinuation regarding political controversy. I think that on reflection you will admit that this was undeserved, or perhaps it is that you may have misunderstood me. It is quite true that I have always observed and always will observe respectful loyalty to my party, the party to which I will ever plead guilty to being devoted. When our opponents violated that now famous so-called truce and carried on, as they are carrying on to-day, their slanderous campaign, I believed then, as I believe now, that it wag our duty to have taken steps in the interest of our party to counteract the effects of such campaign.
I entirely share your regret that your efforts for coalition during the past three months have been so unsuccessful. You well know that you had my earnest co-operation and support when making your proposals to Sir .Wilfrid Laurier as official leader of thb Opposition. You also had my support in your efforts to effect union with other leading Liberals in the House of Commons, for I quite appreciate that such a strong union under the present circumstances would have been most desirable. Of course, as you say, you still have a chance of a union from outside. I fear that at this period of our crisis that any such union that leaves the official Opposition intact is not likely to inspire much confidence.
Under these circumstances, I of course cannot help but deplore your admission that the fortunes of our country should no longer be entrusted solely to the party you represent. This admission, I am sure, will be read with feelings of pain by your friends in all parts of Canada.
V can assure you I will welcome the time when His Excellency the Governor General may be pleased to approve of my request to be relieved of my responsibilities as a Minister of the Crown.
Believe me, my dear Sir Robert, I am,
Yours sincerely,
(Sgd) R. Rogers.
The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Borden, G.C.M.G.,
Prime Minister,
Ottawa.
I have nothing to add to what is disclosed in the correspondence except that I desire to disclaim any intention to cast a reflection upon Mr. Rogers in that portion of the letter to which he alludes in his reply of the 18th August. I was merely stating my own position and I did not intend to cast the slightest reflection upon him.

Topic:   HONOURABLE ROBERT ROGERS. HIS RESIGNATION PROM THE CABINET- THE LETTERS THAT PASSED BETWEEN RT. HON. SIR ROBERT BORDEN AND THE HON.
Subtopic:   MR. ROGERS.
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