House of Commons, 10 March 1905, Canadian Confederation with Alberta and Saskatchewan

[...] turn carried some time ago concerning Port Arthur and Fort William harbours, has not, to my knowledge, been laid on the table yet.
Mr. HYMAN. When the motion for the return reached the department, I gave instructions to the officers to facilitate its preparation in every way. I will make special inquiry again.
Mr. R. L. BORDEN. I would like to draw the attention of the Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Préfontaine) to the fact that out of some twenty returns ordered from his department—two of them having been ordered very recently and the others on different dates between the 25th of January and the 27th of February—only seven have been brought down, leaving eleven that I think ought to have been brought down ere this. It is desirable that we should have them before the hon. gentleman's estimates are more fully discussed.
Hon. RAYMOND PREFONTAINE (Minister of Marine and Fisheries). So many of these returns were asked from the department that my officers, although they have been working at them diligently, have not yet been able to prepare them all ; but I will bring them down as fast as I can get them prepared.


Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Minister of Finance) moved that the House go into committee of Supply.
Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Carleton, Ont.). Mr. Speaker, before you leave the chair, I take the opportunity of pressing once more upon the attention of the right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) the matters which I took occasion to mention yesterday. What he said in reply to my inquiry at that time was very excellent in its way. He cited constitutional authorities as to the course which should be adopted upon the formation of a government and he read certain quotations from a great authority on that question, but none of his remarks touched at all or were even relevant to the real question which I asked. It seems to me that in a matter of this kind the inquiry is one worthy of some attention by the right hon. Prime Minister when it is made in a respectful and serious way, as my inquiry was intended to be. The circumstances are very unusual. A measure of the greatest possible importance not only to the Territories of the Northwest which are now being constituted into provinces, but to the country as a whole, is brought to the attention of parliament and the right hon. Prime Minister introduces that measure. When he places that measure before the House he says to the House as emphatically as if he had declared it in express words that the measure had been submitted to, had been con 2264sidered by and had met with the approval of every one of his colleagues. That is the situation as I understand it. I have yet to be corrected in that apprehension of my right hon. friend's conduct in introducing this Bill. Well, afterwards it transpires that at least one member of the administration had not considered, and more than that, had not even seen the measure which was brought down by the Prime Minister, and it is an open secret that another member of the administration, then on his way from Europe and expected to arrive in Ottawa within a few days, was not made acquainted with the provisions of the measure as far as we are aware. In making that statement, I am, of course, not making it of my own personal knowledge, and if I am wrong in my conjecture in that regard I shall be glad to be corrected. But the importance of the situation is this, that the two hon. gentlemen to whom I have referred were gentleman who had allied themselves with the right hon. gentleman in 1895 and 1896 in regard to a very similar question. The hon. ex-Minister of the Interior (Mr. Sifton), in 1895 and in 1896, used language in regard to one, of the questions embraced in this measure, language which I have under my hand, but which I shall not read to the House to-day because the views of the hon. gentleman are pretty well known. His language was not only of a pronounced. but, in some respects, even of a violent character and it would do no good to place it before the House to-day. There is no dispute and there never has been any dispute as to the attitude of the hon. ex-Minister of the Interior in that regard. Yet, he is one of the hon. gentlemen who was not made acquainted with the intentions of the government in bringing down this measure. But, there is another hon. gentleman, the hon. Minister of Finance, to whom I have already referred, and in so far as we can gauge the circumstances and in so far as we can learn from the silence of the administration after the statement has been made across the floor of the House, he was also absolutely ignorant of the provisions of the Bill which the right hon. Prime Minister introduced within two or three days of the date when that hon. gentleman expected to return. Now, I have referred to the opinions of the hon. ex- Minister of the Interior. I would like to add also that the opinions of the hon. Minister of Finance, acting as an ally, as the chief of my right hon. friend in the campaign made in Nova Scotia in 1896, although not expressed perhaps in so violent a way as those to which I have just referred of the hon. ex-Minister of the Interior, nevertheless, are of a very pronounced character. My hon. friend the Minister of Finance conducted a very able campaign in support of my right hon. friend in 1896 in the province of Nova Scotia. He was regarded as the leader of the Liberal ranks in that province
2265 MARCH 10, 1905
at that time and the exertions which he then put forth met with their fitting reward in the tender to him of the position which he now holds. This hon. gentleman was acting as the ally and, I suppose. under the direction of the right hon. gentleman in the east as was the hon. member for Brandon in the west of Canada. He pronounced himself in no equivocal terms upon this question. It was thought by his friends in Nova Scotia that the speech which he delivered at Windsor in the county of Hants on the 6th of March, I think it was, 1896, was the ablest deliverance made in that province in support of the policy of the Liberal party at that time, and was perhaps the best exposition of their policy that had been made by any man in Canada up to that time. I will quote a few words not for the purpose of criticising them, not for the purpose of assenting to them, but s'mply to support my position that my hon. friend had very pronounced views to the knowledge of the Prime Minister on this question which makes it all the more strange that the provisions of this Bill should have been withheld from him, if, as a matter of fact, they were so withheld. Said the hon. gentleman on that occasion to which I have referred :
Why should we not believe that Manitoba will be reasonable in this matter ? The Manitobans are not African savages.
I will venture the statement that the true interests of the Roman Catholic citizens of Manitoba will be better advanced by the policy of conciliation than by the policy of coercion. This Remedial Bill which the government are trying to enforce upon an unwilling parliament, even it it should pass, cannot settle the question. it would be an attack on provincial rights... If Roman Catholics are ever to obtain a solution of this question which is worth having they must obtain it through the good will of the majority of the people of the province to which they belong.
Further on in the same speech he said :
I ask the people of Hants county and the people of Nova Scotia to stand by the principle of free schools in the case of Manitoba just as they would stand by it in their own province. We in Nova Scotia know the value of a system of free public schools. We have shown in the past that while we may differ on many questions We are practically a unit in support of that system. If the Dominion authorities should attempt to interfere with our school system, if they should attempt to impose upon this province a system which they are trying to force upon Manitoba, we would expect to have the sympathy of the friends of free schools elsewhere, and we would ex:pect the people of the western provinces to give us their sympathy and support in such a condition. Let us to-day give them our hearty sympathy and support in the struggle until we find that they are not amenable to reason.
Further on after giving credit to Sir Charles Tupper for establishing public schools in Nova Scotia, he continues:
What can we say of the position of that gentleman to-day who instead of standing up as the champion of a free school system and resisting those who attack it scrambles into parliament through the unfair influence of the Roman Catholic pupils of the county of Cape Breton, and is now devoting the evening of his life to the work of destroying the free school system of Manitoba, and forcing upon that province a system which he would not dare to attempt to force upon the province of Nova Scotia.
Further on in a letter to the 'Casket' newspaper published in Antigonish he said :
The uproar is upon us, already the blaze of religious strife has been kindled and is being vigorously fanned every day by the efforts to coerce the province of Manitoba.
In the speech at Windsor to which I have just now referred he used this further language :
For twenty years the Roman Catholic minority thus had the privilege of a separate school system. The result of that system proved exceedingly unsatisfactory to the people of Manitoba. Ample evidence has been adduced to prove that the separate schools were not efficient schools.
Then, one more passage from his speech which is of some importance at the present juncture as embodying his views:
I believe that the people of Manitoba it let alone will settle this question for themselves. Why should we not believe this? We know from our own experience in the maritime provinces that it has been found possible to maintain a free school system and to administer it so as to make it acceptable to the people of every class and creed. We hear no complaint of the Nova Scotia School Law. The Manitoba school system is substantially the same as Nova Scotia.
My object in quoting this language of the Minister of Finance is not to criticise or to discuss it; it is simply to Show that when the right hon. gentleman accepted the aid and support of the Minister of Finance tHon. Mr. Fielding) and when he invited him to enter his cabinet, he knew that the hon. gentleman had used that language, and had made these speeches in Nova Scotia. Thus, the right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) had full knowledge of the views which the Minister of Finance entertained in regard to certain provisions similar to those in the Bill now before parliament.
I wish to once more call the attention of the right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) to the fact that upon the eve of the return to Ottawa of the ex-Minister of the Interior (Hon. Clifford Sifton) and of the Minister of Finance (Hon. W. S. Fielding) he has seen fit to introduce to parliament a Bill in such manner that parliament had every reason to believe, was bound to believe, and indeed every one of us did believe, that the provisions of that Bill had received the assent of every member of the administration. Under the circumstances, that was undoubtedly a grave departure from constitutional usage. I do not 2267 COMMONS know of any modern precedent for conduct of that kind with regard to a measure of any importance, and I think it my duty to once more inquire of the right hon. gentleman what was the overmastering reason which led him under these circumstances to introduce that Bill to this parliament without giving to the people of this country, and especially to this House of Commons, the information that two members of the cabinet, members who above all others, it seems to me, should have been consulted with regard to the provisions of this measure, had not even had it submitted to them, were not even consulted with regard to it, had not even seen it or read it. There must be some explanation for so extraordinary an act. The right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) has not vouchsafed any. I do not want to make explanations for him. I do not want to suggest any explanations. Explanations are being suggested throughout the country, and I would think that it is not only due to this House and to the country, but due to the right hon. gentleman himself that he should. without any further delay, without any further attempt to avoid the issue, inform the House as to the real circumstances under which he took this step in defiance of all unconstitutional usage.
There is one more question which I would again like to ask the right hon. gentleman, and I think that in doing so I am not transgressing my duty. I ask it in the same respectful way and for the purpose of information; it is this: The right hon. gentleman in his speech introducing this Bill referred to the aid in its preparation which the government had received from the members of the Executive Council of the Northwest Territories. What I would like to know is whether or not the educational clauses of this Bill were submitted to, were fully discussed with, and met with the appropriation of members of the Executive Council of the Northwest Territories. In the last place, I would like to ask the right hon. gentleman a question which I have not already asked but which seems to me to be very pertinent in view of his reply of yesterday.. How long does he propose to carry on the affairs of the country without filling the vacant portfolio of the Minister of the Interior? One would suppose that when a measure of the importance of that which has been proposed to parliament, a measure especially affecting the Northwest Territories of Canada, has been introduced and is about to be discussed in parliament, that we should have the advantage of the experience and knowledge of some gentleman of the Northwest Territories, occupying a position in the administration, or, at all events that we should have the benefit of the advice and experience and knowledge of some gentleman filling the 2268 portfolio of the Department of the Interior, appointed to that portfolio for the very reason that he is well qualified to fill it. These three questions I venture to again bring to the attention of my right hon. friend, and I trust that he will be pleased to give to the House, at my request, that full and sufficient information on the subject to which I think the House is entitled.
Rt. Hon. Sir WILFRID LAURIER (Prime Minister). My hon. friend (Mr. R. L. Borden) has to-day asked one question which he has not previously put and as to which I am quite ready to give all the information I have at present. My hon. friend desires to know how long the vacancy in the portfolio of the Minister of the Interior will be left unfilled. I have only to submit to my hon. friend and to the House that there has been no undue delay in filling it. The vacancy occurred only ten days ago, and I do not think it could be expected that in so short a time as that the government could come to a conclusion as to whom they should call to fill such an important office. I hope before long I shall be able to give to my hon. friend the opportunity to give his assent to the appointment we shall make. I do not know whether he will respond to the invitation, but at all events we shall certainly afford it to him.
With regard to the other two questions I do not think that I am warranted in giving more information to my hon. friend than I have already given.
Mr. R. L. BORDEN. That is none.
Sir WILFRID LAURIER. That is not much; but I would submit that strictly speaking my hon. friend is entitled to none at all. The conferences which took place between the government and the representatives of the Northwest Territorial government were carried on confidentially, and I do not know whether I have any authority to give any information about them to the House; no record has been kept of this information; the conferences have been absolutely confidential.
With regard to the other question, which my hon. friend has now put for the third time. I am sorry to say my mind has not changed. I think, with all due respect to my hon. friend and to the position he occupies, and to this House, that I have given all the information the House was entitled to. I can see plainly that my hon. friend is shaping his course carefully; he is going ahead bit by bit, he is taking no plunge, but every day we can see a little more where we are finally to be led. Yesterday we could not see where he was to place his batteries, but today we can see where they are to be placed. He endeavoured to show that there is a difference between the position occupied by two mem2269MARCH 10, 1905bers of the Liberal party and by the Liberal party itself to-day and the position occupied by that party in 1896. My hon. friend (Mr. R. L. Borden) did my hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Hon. W. S. Fielding) the honour of quoting him. I am not at all jealous of that honour which he has paid to my hon. friend the Minister of Finance. I compliment the minister upon it; but he might have quoted some of my speeches on the same question. I took some part in that discussion. I intend to take some part in the present discussion. My hon. friend is re—echoing the attempts that have been made in the press to show that there has been a great change from the position taken by the Liberal party in 1896 in the position taken by them in 1905. Now we shall have an opportunity by and by of discussing that question; when we come to the second reading of the Bill I will endeavour to discuss the question with my hon. friend, and we shall discuss it on both sides of the House. I do not admit that there has been any departure at all in the conduct of the Liberal party between 1896 and 1905; but I am sorry to say that hon. gentlemen on the opposite side are always in the wrong. They never can interpret the constitution as it is. In 1896, the position which we took and maintained before the country was that it was not right for the federal parliament to try to impose on the province of Manitoba a system of schools which the province of Manitoba had rejected, acting within the plenary exercise of its powers. If there had been a system of schools in the province of Manitoba in 1870, when it was admitted to confederation. then, Sir, the minority would have been entitled to those schools by the judgment of the courts; but the courts decided that there had been no such system of schools. and therefore the powers of the province of Manitoba were not in any way curtailed. There is a difference. therefore, in the position of Manitoba in 1870, as exposed in 1896, and the position which we are confronted with at the present time. But I will not discuss this question with my hon. friend to-day—I do not think the time is opportune.
Mr. R. L. BORDEN. I did not discuss it.
Sir WILFRID LAURIER. In my estimation my hon. friend came very near discussing it. He was very guarded, but introduced it in a gentle way, just to create the impression that there was a great difference between the position taken by the Liberal party in 1896 and its position in 1905. My hon. friend understands his business too well to have introduced it so bluntly as to state it in that way, but he led to a conclusion which was inevitable. I do not think the present is the time to discuss that question. but I assure my hon. friend that we 2270 shall take the opportunity of doing so at the proper time and on the proper occasion.
Hon. GEO. E. FOSTER (North Toronto). Mr. Speaker, it was a candid admission of my right hon. friend when he confessed that he had not given much information to the hon. leader of the opposition in response to his question of yesterday and of to-day. It was a charming bit of persiflage that the right hon. gentleman made an exhibition of in those few words—airy, light, well- chosen, skimming all around, but avoiding carefully any expression which would go to shed light upon the grave and serious questions which my hon. friend beside me had raised. Now, I do not intend to be led away by this little diversion into a discussion of matters which are not at present before the House. I want to reiterate, in the first place, the position taken by the hon. leader of the opposition. He quoted from statements that had been made by the Minister of Finance, and could have quoted from statements which had been made by the late Minister of the Interior, to show to the right hon. the premier that he knew thoroughly well, when these hon. gentlemen were in his cabinet, and when just lately he introduced his Bill for discussion in his cabinet, that these hon. gentlemen had well-known and pronounced views with reference to the question of education as it would develop in these new provinces. That is the only purpose my hon. friend had in View. The quotations which he made drove that fact fairly well home, so that the right hon. gentleman could not say that he did not know, in the absence of these two gentlemen, that their opinions had been firmly formed and plainly expressed. The startling thing about it was this—and it was not explained away by all the charming discursiveness of my hon. friend yesterday. The question is: what is the constitutional practice when a Bill, having been discussed in the cabinet and agreed to or supposed to be agreed to there, is launched upon the House as the utterance of the government as a whole ? That is the question, and the startling thing about it is that the premier introduced a Bill for discussion in his cabinet, knowing the views of these two gentlemen in their absence, and with a haste that has not yet been explained. Engaged as it were, in a race for a goal with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of the Interior, he beat them by about two days and twelve hours—he got in ahead, and he launched his Bill. Now, the country and this House had no warrant for believing anything else than that that Bill in its entirety had been assented to and had the cordial agreement of every member of the cabinet. That is the point the country heeds. and that is the point my hon. friend the leader of the opposition makes. What has happened in this case is. I believe, unprecedented in the history of this parliament, and it is a 2271COMMONS matter not of curiosity, but of right, that both this House and the country should know why this was and what it meant. Now, let me say a word or two with reference to the changed methods of my right hon. friend. Take, for instance, the British North America Act. The clauses in it with reference to education were framed to do what? To give legal effect to an agreement between thoroughly constituted bodies who under that agreement went into the pact of confederation. Each had a House with elected representatives from the people enjoying all the powers of a representative assembly. Those provinces came together as independent constituents, and they (did not attempt legislation until they had made their agreement and asked that it be embodied in an enactment. Come to the case of the Manitoba Act. In Manitoba there was no representative body such as an assembly ; but how carefully the men of that time were minded to consult the constituent elements of that northwest country. Delegates were sent ; the men were assembled; their views were got; the views were sent here ; the views were communicated to the British government, and it was upon that tacit agreement or real agreement as to the wants and wishes of the constituent elements of Manitoba that the legislation was based which became fixed in law. How different has been the action of the right hon. gentleman in this matter. Whom has he consulted? Why, I think it is stated in his own speech that there were some reasons why he should not have granted autonomy two years ago or one year ago, and what are the reasons he gave?
That as we were on the eve of a general election, the time and occasion would be more propitious and more fitting after the general election when the Territories would have the benefit on this floor of a larger representation. These views were generally accepted. The elections have taken place and immediately after the elections, or as soon as was practicable thereafter, We invited the executive of the Northwest Territories to send delegates here to confer with us upon the measure which was to be introduced so as to admit them into the confederation. We have had the benefit of the presence of Mr. Haultain, the premier of the Northwest Territories, and Mr. Bulyea, one of his colleagues, and we have had the advantage of several conferences with them. We have had the advantage also of the presence and advice of several of the members from the Territories.
Now, in profession, what does this mean? it means that before this Bill was agreed upon and given to the House, the right hon. gentleman wanted to have all the representative opinion he could possibly get from the west. Did he consult it? There are 500,000 people living in those two provinces. according to the statement of my right hon, friend. Isit on record 2272 that he consulted those people before introducing this Bill? There were a certain number of old and new representatives from the Northwest present in this House. Did the right hon. gentleman consult them with reference to this clause ? If he did, did they approve of this clause ? If they did approve of it, why all this bother since ? Why has the right hon. gentleman been held up? The right hon. gentleman also had an accredited representative of That Northwest country in the person of the Minister of the Interior, a gentleman who had travelled the west, who knew the west, who, before and from his first entry into this parliament had taken a very deep interest in this very subject. Did my right hon. friend consult him ? If so. how comes it that in a race for time, after he had beaten his Minister of the Interior by a few hours, that minister rose in his place in parliament and said to his chief: I never saw that clause until I read it after I came here ? Yet if there was any note in the right hon. gentleman's voice in 1895 and 1896, it was this. He will find it embalmed in 'Hansard,' in the pages of his press, in the hearts of his admirers, in quotations everywhere. What was it? Translated into a few English words, it was this and nothing more : I want my people in Manitoba to have separate schools, but I want them to have those schools by the voice of Manitoba itself. I desire to see these privileges retained for them, but I desire still more not to violate provincial rights. That was his note. There was none more dominant. How has he changed ? Today he is an autocrat. To-day he rushes the Bill. Today he rushes the members of his cabinet, the representatives from the Northwest, and the representative council from the Northwest for he has not been able to state that he did confer with that council—a representative body if there ever was any—and that it ever gave its assent to this clause. In all these cases the old spirit has departed, the old method has been laid aside, and today we have in their stead the work of the autocrat, caring nothing for his Minister of the Interior, caring nothing for his Minister of Finance, caring nothing for the representatives from the west, caring nothing and consulting in no way the 500,000 people for whom we are legislating. That is a change to which I call the attention of this House.
There is another peculiar circumstance in this connection. On the introduction of a Bill, the usual method followed is simply to explain it, but when my right hon. friend was taxed with going beyond an explanation, he defended himself by saying that he did give and only intended to give what was a full explanation of the Bill. What is the purpose of having a Bill explained, especially an important Bill of this kind, on its introduction? It is that the House and the country may become seized with its sa 2273 MARCH 10, 1905 ient points so that before they are called upon to make up their minds to it, they may have the information necessary. I submit that it was not a lucid explanation of the Bill which my right hon. friend gave but an impassioned argument in its behalf. On the one hand he professed the greatest concern that no old cries should be renewed, that no old issues should be called up, that the demon of discord, which had been laid in 1896, should not be roused again at this time, but I submit that the argument he used when he came to that clause was one he should not have made had he desired to live up to his profession. On what ground did the right hon. gentleman advocate his Bill ? It was not explanation but an argument which he gave ? He advocated it on the ground that separate schools were superior to public free schools or secular schools. He raised an issue which there was no need of raising at all, an issue which, in the earlier part of his speech, my right hon. friend declared he did not intend to raise. But he forgot that intention and he raised the question of the respective merits of public free schools and separate schools, and gave the horrible example of the United States as an argument against public schools. There you have his argument and his illustration. He tortured the British North American Act of 1867 and the British North America Act of 1871 in order to get a legal ground—what for ? For an explanation of his Bill? No, but to make strong his argument for the passage of his Bill. He tortured the shades of George Brown of illustrious memory, until I could almost hear the squeaking ghost of that eminent statesman fitting through the passages here, tortured and injured by the violent wrenching and twisting which the right hon. gentleman gave it. And in all these ways, instead of making a lucid explanation of the main feature of his Bill, he entered into an impassioned argument in order that his Bill might gain the assent of this House and the country. Well, the right hon. gentleman has had to eat the fruits of his mistake. Just then, under the glamour of his speech, under his successful avoidance of certain points, under his equally successful exclusion of certain other points in that Bill, every man behind him applauded to the echo ; and if a vote had been called for then, every man would have risen to his feet—perhaps with one exception—and have voted for the Bill. He rushed the House for the time being, but he failed to rush it permanently ; and the disorganization and confusion of these ten days is abundant proof that the right hon. gentleman went further than prudence and good statesmanship justified. He taunted my hon. friend beside me (Mr. Borden) with deftly shaping his course. We11, I hope his course is more deftly shaped than that of my right hon. friend. He lightly told my hon. friend that he was seeking for hills of vantage and 2274 strategical points, forsooth. There are hills of vantage but there are also valleys of humiliation. And it would be interesting to know who will head the procession through the valley of humiliation. Will it be the sturdy young Napoleon of the west with downcast eyes and drooping colours ? Or will it be my right hon. friend who in 1895 boasted that he possessed the courage which did not promise until he had made up his mind, but once his promise was made stood immovable as a rock.
Now, all these are questions which we cannot but be interested in—questions raised in this House and in the country. There is one other thing. Shall I speak of it ? Not content with rushing his Bill, not content with throwing aside his colleagues to rush his Bill, not content with proceeding without taking care to ascertain the sentiment of the west, not content with making his speech on the merits of the Bill and confounding it with a lucid explanation of the measure, the right hon. gentleman tried to rush the country as well. One of his colleagues in another place prepared a pamphlet, a remarkable pamphlet in some ways. It purported to be a ' brief history, from official sources, of the legislation respecting the separate schools since the year 1863 in the united province of Canada, and in the Dominion since confederation.' Now, as I said before, I have no fault to find, nor has any one in this House with the publication by the government of official information that will shed light upon this question. But this pamphlet is a partisan pamphlet. It does give the facts taken from 'Hansard,' but it does also colour them, and it does also argue the points involved. How does it colour them ? I do not suppose, for instance, that Edward Blake or George Brown, or any of these old worthies, some of whom have passed away, others of whom are still with us, in making their speeches, italicized certain parts of them, or altered them in double-leaded columns, to make the arguments impressive. But in the quotations from the speeches of these gentlemen every sentence that favours the contention of the right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) is italicized or given emphasis which points the argument. It is not necessary for me to go into details. But when it comes to George Brown's momentous sentence, the maker of this pamphlet is not satisfied with italicizing it, but he puts it in bolder type, italicizes it and double—spaces it, in order that it may catch the eye and make the impression the compiler intended to make. And, when that is all done, here is the argument with which it ends—not a quotation from Blake or Brown, not an abstract from 'Hansard,' but an argument from the pen of the maker of this pamphlet :
Under the Territorial legislation, the rights of the minority have in the past been recognized. It would be a breach of faith and a violation of the British North America Act to dis2275COMMONS turb now the rights and privileges granted by the parliament of Canada. thirty years ago and enjoyed by the minority up to this time.
Now, I say that this is not a very important matter, but it is significant. I say that no government has a right—and it is poor politics, I think, for any government to assume that it has the right and act upon that assumption—in giving what purports to be official information from the records, to endeavour, by the means I have explained, to point out the argument and lead to a partisan conclusion with regard to a measure that has been introduced.
Now, I have no more to say on this occasion. These are just some thoughts which occur to us. We wish them to sink into the minds of hon. gentlemen opposite. We have no wish to dictate their policy ; but we would fain give them something for reflection, for calm and, if possible, fruitful medi~ tation. This is our contribution, made with the best of intention and in the best of spirit, and in the hope that it will contribute to the benefit of the hon. gentlemen opposite.
Mr. T. S. SPROULE (East Grey). In my judgment, we are face to face with a most extraordinary state of affairs in this parliament to-day. We propose to put through an important measure affecting the destinies of practically half a continent under the leadership of a government that has not a representative of that half continent among its members. Under constitutional government, as we understand it, and as it has been carried out, the cabinet is composed of heads who have received the endorsation of the people before they enter upon their work in that cabinet. And these cabinet ministers are chosen from the provinces according to the population or importance of those provinces. For instance, Ontario in the past has nearly always had five members in the cabinet, Quebec four, the maritime provinces at least three, one of whom was allowed for New Brunswick, another for Nova Scotia and, until recent years, one for Prince Edward Island. Thus every part of the Dominion was represented in the cabinet ; and when important questions came up in which any portion of the country was particularly interested, its representatives in the cabinet were supposed to have influence in swaying the government in regard to that matter. That has hitherto been the case with regard to Ontario and Quebec and either of those provinces would rebel to-day if an important measure affecting its interests were before parliament and it were deprived of its due proportion of representation in the cabinet. But to-day we have practically half a continent without representation in the cabinet, notwithstanding that an important measure is going through that vitally affects the interests of that half continent, and that will seal its fate for the future. The only representative in the cabinet of that part of the country has become so dissatisfied with the 2276 measure that he has publicly declared that it cannot receive his support, and, rather than remain in the cabinet and assume any responsibility for the measure, he has resigned. The government have not dared to put themselves in touch with that great section of the country by appointing another member in his place. Is it because of the unpopularity of the measure or because no one can be found who will take the responsibility of it, as an in-coming member of the cabinet would necessarily do ? Or is it because of the dearth of public men from that country and the impossibility of finding any one in the ranks of the government supporters sufficiently intelligent to be a cabinet minister ? It cannot be the latter, because the government has many supporters from the Northwest, some of whom would be a credit to a cabinet. We are driven, therefore, to conclude that it is because of the unpopularity of the measure, and because the government dare not ask the Governor General to appoint a new minister and, by an electoral contest, allow the people of the Northwest to express their opinion upon the measure.
If they did so, in that election which must take place, this measure would undoubtedly be discussed, every phase of it would be discussed before the people, and the people themselves would have an opportunity to express an opinion on it. The government are in the humiliating position to-day—I am justified in saying so in view of what has transpired—that they dare not risk their reputation by appointing a new Minister of the Interior and sending him back for reelection before this measure goes through. So that great country is not represented in this cabinet, that great country is without a representative to voice their views with regard to this important measure. Is that not constitutional government run mad ? Is that according to the principles of the British constitution that we have heretofore carried out in the Dominion of Canada ? I say it is the very reverse. The government are today in the humiliating position that they dare not put a minister into the cabinet and ask him to go to his constituents and get their endorsation of his appointment and of the measure that is before the House to-day. Now in view of this condition of affiairs what ought the government to do ? In my judgment they ought either at once to fill that position, and give the people an opportunity of endorsing the appointment, and let this measure be discussed by the people themselves, or they ought to withdraw the unpopular part of their measure ; because, if I know anything about the sentiment of this country, especially of that part of the country which this measure will affect more than any other, it is I might say almost unanimous against the Bill, or at least the school clauses contained in this Bill that the right hon. gentleman has submitted to the House.
MARCH 10, 1905 2278
Mr. SPEAKER. I presume the hon. gentleman does not propose to discuss the Bill at this present time.
Mr. SPROULE. If you will first allow me to commence the discussion of the Bill, I shall then be happy to be called to order.
Mr. SPEAKER. I judged that the hon. gentleman was coming very close to a discussion of the Bill in the latter remarks he made.
Mr. SPROULE. I mentioned the Bill as several speakers before me have done, and I assume I have a perfect right to do so, without discussing the principles of the Bill. I am merely referring to the Bill as a reason why the government do not fill the vacant portfolio, and I am asking them to fill it so that the people may have a chance to express their opinion of it. When that is done we will say that the government are acting according to the principles of constitutional government. I need not say anything with regard to another portfolio that has been practically vacant for a long time ; while we are voting large sums of money for that department to spend we are not carrying out the principles of constitutional government both during this session and last session. Until the government bring themselves in accord with the principles of constitutional government as carried out in Great Britain, we are justified in drawing their attention from time to time to their failure to do so, and in asking them to put themselves in accord with these principles which they have always declared they are desirous of upholding.
Motion agreed to, and House went into Committee of Supply.

National Transcontinental Railway—surveys, construction and other expenses, $1,328,500.

Hon. H. R. EMMERSON (Minister of Railways and Canals). I am asking for this money to meet the necessary expenses in connection with the work of the National Transcontinental Railway Commission. The details of that sum are as follows : For salaries of commissioners and headquarters staff. $100,000 ; for headquarters rental, $13,500 ; head office, stationery, furniture, light, telephone, telegrams, travelling, incidental and unforeseen expenses, $25,000 ; for wages of men in connection with the different survey parties, $600,000 ; head office, district and divisional engineers' salaries, $100,000 ; supplies and commissariat, $425,000 ; outfit and instruments, $20,000 ; freight and travelling expenses of engineers and transport of men, $45,000. These sums make up the total.
Mr. FOSTER. Now suppose we raise the question, first, a very important one, before any of this money is voted, as to what information this House is going to get. We have tried on several occasions 2278 to get it, but have not been able to. The thing has been thrown backwards and forwards like a rubber ball. We have incurred a large expense, and we are now to face a million and a third, and we have not a scintilla of information as to what this commission has done, or the results of its labours, if it has done anything. If it has not done anything it has not justified its existence because the expense heretofore has been very great. If it has done anything we want a complete statement placed before the House as to what it is that it has done. We have debated the question casually time and again and it has been called to the attention of the right hon. Prime Minister and also the hon. Minister of Railways and Canals as to the fact that information does get out, but it does not get out to the members of the House of Commons and the country, because there is no medium of communication between that commission and this House. We would like to have this matter settled first before we vote any money.
Mr. EMMERSON. The commission is constituted under the Act of this parliament and it has certain work to do. It is to be presumed that it is attending to its duties. Now, until it has accomplished certain work, until the work is completed, there can be nothing to report. For instance, the presumption is that in the first instance it will have to look after the surveys. It is to have a road surveyed over the whole route. It will be taken for granted that that will take a certain time, and it will be taken for granted that there are certain preliminary surveys to be made. Now, until there is something to report, until it has the work completed which will enable it to lay before the Governor in Council a statement of the result, we could not naturally expect that the information would be placed before the members of this House. We must not anticipate too much. My hon. friend, I think, shows too much anxiety for this information. The information cannot be in existence. It is true that the general statement may be published in the press that the surveyors are meeting with success in finding a route, but until the finished work of the survey is placed before the Governor in Council it would not naturally be placed on the table of the House. My hon. friend, I think, has become somewhat involved as to the question of the means of communication between the commission and this House. There is no question as to the medium of communication. There was a question however as to the medium of communication between the Railway Commission, another and an entirely different commission, and this House. The question was as to whether the Department of Railways and Canals had any connection with that commission or any control over it. On this the terms of the Act seem to be silent. There is an implication in certain of the sections as [...]


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1875-1949. Provided by the Library of Parliament.



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