May 23, 1901

LIB

William Scott Maclaren

Liberal

Mr. MACLAREN (Huntingdon).

I have no doubt that the best test of the quality would be the number of people who remain in the House while an hon. member, who has the floor, is speaking.

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IND

Jabel Robinson

Independent

Mr. JABEL ROBINSON (West Elgin).

I have a charge to make against my hon. friend from Huntingdon, and that is, that he has not stated how many times the independent members have spoken. Now, I have done some criticising myself, but have not gone into statistics like my hon. friend to ascertain how often each member has spoken. If I were to attempt any calculation, It would be to ascertain how long members spoke and how little they said. I have no fault to find with any member of this House who makes a speech on any subject in which his constituents are interested, because that is what we are here for. But when he speaks he ought to say something ; and I do not think I am very far astray in saying that a great deal of time has been wasted in deluging this House with mere verbiage-only sound and nothing more. I have listened very attentively to most of the debates of this House, and I think, as regards attendance, I can carry off the palm from the hon. member for Huntingdon. But I do hope than in the future, when any gentleman rises to address this House, he will have something to say and not bore the House and load down ' Hansard ' for nothing.

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LIB

William Scott Maclaren

Liberal

Mr. MACLAREN (Huntingdon).

I must apologize to my hon. friend from Elgin for not having given the average number of speeches made by the Independents. In order, however, that he may not be disappointed, I have much pleasure in informing him that the speech he has just made is the twelfth he has addressed to this House.

They were all, however, very short, most ot them ten minutes or five minutes in length- but once my hon. friend went as far as twenty-five minutes.

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CON

Nathaniel Clarke Wallace

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. N. CLARKE WALLACE (West York).

The hon. member for Huntingdon is making a very good start, though late In the session, for he has occupied the floor three times within the last hour. He thinks that the new members have not had a fair show in this House, and that the older ones have been monopolizing the time. Well, in one short afternoon and evening, a few days ago, we put through estimates amounting to $3,000,000, and all the eloquence we could get from our good friend from Huntingdon and his colleagues surrounding him was the cry of 4 carried,' even before the item was read by the chairman. When we perform our duty on this side by trying to get information on this enormous expenditure of the people's money, we are met with the criticism that we are occupying the time of the House. But I do not think that an afternoon and an evening are too long a time in which to put through millions of dollars of railway subsidies. " Taking the supplementary estimates of Public Works and further suppleinen-taries. we have voted for the expenditure from now until the 1st July, three and three-quarter million dollars.

We have voted in the first supplementary estimates eight millions and three-quarters and afterwards one million and a quarter, making over $13,000,000 of supplementary estimates, besides the main estimates ; and our good friend from Huntingdon has nothing but censure for those who consider it to be their duty to expose, as we have done in many instances, and as we have failed to in hundreds of other instances, the iniquitous votes. These were thrust upon us in the dying hours of the session, and forced through by the government in contradiction of all the rules of parliament and of statements they made when in opposition, especially the statement of the Minister of Trade and Commerce, who declared that *ample time should be given for the consideration of supplementary estimates and railway resolutions, and that full information should be laid on the Table of the House with regard to them. But this was not done. The Minister of Railways and Canals refused to lay a single paper on the Table of the House, though he had them in his hand, except a bogus map of northwestern Ontario, which 1 have carefully preserved, because I think it is a historical document, made not by the government nor by anybody who dared to put his name upon it as the publisher or as being responsible for it. That is the only information in an official form which we got for the votes of these many millions of dollars. So that whatever censures these gentlemen may make upon this side of the House, we have the consciousness of having endeavoured to

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LIB

William Scott Maclaren

Liberal

Mr. MACLAREN (Huntingdon).

perform our duties in exposing the wrongdoing of the government and challenging these improper expenditures. The right hon. First Minister asked why we did not call in the members ? As 1 stated last night, there is a better way of challenging the government's course, and that is by opposing it by word in the House, which not only-states your opposition, but gives fully the reasons for your opposition. That is the clear and intelligent way, and it is the practice of the British House of Commons which these hon. gentlemen always seem so anxious to follow. So if the hon. gentleman who has told us that he has such a taste for statistics, and who has been spending his valuable time in the innocent amusement which he tells us has occupied his waking hours during the whole of the session, would still further qualify himself for some high position in the ranks of the Liberal party, he might turn up the - Hansards ' from 1878 to 1890, and find there a still more ample field for his investigations in the criticisms of the then opposition, who in 1885 spent twenty-four weeks in what was very largely a mere attack upon the government while waiting for some disaster to happen to our forces in the North-west, where the rebellion was going on, that they might be able to take advantage of it in the interest of the Liberal party. He could find,

I say, in all those years, ample ground for that talent which he tells us he possesses in such a super-eminent degree, and which I hope he will still further cultivate, and thereby add greater lustre to the great Liberal party of Canada.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. S. SPROULE (East Grey).

Mr. Speaker, as this may be the only opportunity I may have

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Oh, oh.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

Since I am on my feet, though I do not intend to refer to- it, I may remind the supporters of the government that if we may judge by their conduct here during the present session, no one would imagine that they were brought here for the purpose of debate, but merely to sit in silence and vote everything through. We are charged with the responsibility of ascertaining whether any proposed expenditure is a proper one, and how it is being carried out, and therefore of necessity we have to occupy more of the attention of the House than hon. gentlemen opposite. But that was not what I rose to refer to. I wish to ask the Premier for the last time-since the government have failed, I think unwisely, to send some congratulations to the new Australian Commonwealth which has started on a career similar to our own-if they have found any trace of the Postmaster-General yet, or can tell us anything of his whereabouts, and whether they expect him to return during the present season ?

5961 * MAY 23, 1901 5962

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The PRIME MINISTER.

I do not admit the fairness in any way of the criticism of my hon. friend when he says that we have failed to send congratulations to the new Commonwealth of Australia. On the contrary, instead of sending a cold message in writing or in print, we have sent a living messenger.

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CON

Nathaniel Clarke Wallace

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALLACE.

Did he ever arrive V

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The PRIME MINISTER.

I have no doubt that he has arrived, but that he has been so busy looking after matters that he has not had time to cable.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Halifax).

I would like to ask for a statement from the right lion, leader of the government ; but before doing so I would congratulate my hon. friend from Huntingdon on his debut before the House, and I trust that the Speaker during the next session will be more attentive to the hon. gentleman when he rises, so that he will get an opportunity to present his views to tfie House, which he has certainly expressed to-day in a very creditable way. I might say to my hon. friend, in passing, that if he had devoted his attention to some other matters besides these statistical questions in which he seems interested, he might have looked into the report of the Department of Railways and Canals, and in that case he would have been able yesterday, when his leader the Minister of Railways and Canals sat -silent under one of the most tremendous indictments ever presented against a minister in this parliament, to get up and defend the govern ment. But his attention was devoted so exclusively to those researches which he lias described to us that he was unable to do the public the service he might have done pn that occasion. I trust that my hon. (friend will correct the manner of the disposition of his time, and that next session, should the occasion arise, he will be able to give his party the benefit of his services in the way I have suggested.

The right hon. leader of the government spoke to us yesterday with respect to the probability of negotiations being resumed in connection with the Joint High Commission. That is a matter on which we have not had very much information ; in fact, we have not had any information during this session; and I think the House might very well have a statement from the right hon. gentleman as to what that probability is, how soon the negotiations are likely to be resumed, and what particular subjects are likely to be dealt with. As I understand from the statement of the right hon. gentleman, a difficulty arose with regard to the Alaskan boundary question. I do not know whether or not that question has been entirely eliminated from the consideration of the Joint High Commission. My recollection is that the right hon. gentleman said it has been eliminated. We would like to know that. If it has been

eliminated from the consideration of the Joint High Commission, I think ihe country is reasonably entitled to know how that matter is likely to be dealt with ; through what medium ; what voice Canada is to have in the consideration of it, and when it is likely to be dealt with ? The position of the matter at present cannot be regarded as very satisfactory. If I understand the position rightly, the United States are now in occupation of a considerable portion of territory which we think, on very clear ground, belongs to Canada. The difficulty arises, as I understand, from the fact that the government of the United States were unwilling to submit this question to arbitration in the same manner as Great Britain submitted the question of the Venezuelan boundary. Now, if this provisional boundary has been agreed upon ; if it includes territory which we think clearly belongs to Canada, it becomes important that some disposition of that question Should be made at an early date. The longer the United States continue to hold property which we think belongs to -Canada the more difficulty there will be in our getting any return. It is not too much for me to ask my right hon. friend to give us such information as in the best interests of the country he can profitably give us at the present time. This is a question in which we are all interested. I have not the slightest disposition to seek to embarrass the government with regard to a delicate matter of that kind by asking any information we are not entitled to receive ; but I do think the country should have some statement from the Prime Minister with respect to the matters which I have ventured to bring to his attention.

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The PRIME MINISTER (Rt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier).

Before I answer the very fair question which my hon. friend the leader of the opposition has asked, it is not perhaps out of place, if I should give a passing word of attention to the remarks which he made against my hon. colleague the Minister of Railways. My hon. friend (Mr. Borden) has rather taunted my colleague for not having spoken in the debate yesterday. It seems to me that the leader of the opposition had better be silent upon this topic ; because if we have to go into this matter deeply at all, the House would be of opinion that if anybody suffered yesterday it was not my hon. friend the Minister of Railways and Canals. We have had during this session, the railway critic of the opposition telling us again and again by word and still more by intimation, that he was preparing a big attack on the Minister of Railways ; -that he was preparing an indictment of his administration. He gave the Minister of Railways notice time and again that he would take him to book for the manner in which my hon. friend (Hon. Mr. Blair) administered the department over which the hon. gentle-

man (Hon. Mr. Haggart) once presided. It was put -off from day to day, and then fixed for the day before prorogation, and when the bugle sounded and when the battle was expected my friend and colleague the Minister of Railways was ready to answer the Indictment. But who got up ? Not the hon. gentleman who had thrown down the gage of battle ; not the railway critic of the opposition, but another gentleman.

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An hon. MEMBER.

A buffoon.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

I would not say a buffoon. The hon. gentleman spoke very well, but if the expression is parliamentary I would say that he was a buffer between the Minister of Railways and the member for South Lanark i.Hou. Mr. Haggart). My hon. friend the Minister of Railways expected the announced attack from the hon. member (Hon. Mr. Haggart) and was prepared to answer it, and it was quite proper for him to ignore the minor guns of the opposition and to reserve his artillery for the big guns of the opposition. Especially is that so because the debate took place with the Speaker in the Chair and the Minister of Railways could only have spoken once, so that it was quite proper for him to wait until such time as the opposition chose to deliver the big attack which they had announced with such a flourish of trumpets for weeks and .months before.

Coming now to the question which has been put to me as to the Joint High Commission. My hon. friend (Mr. Borden, Halifax), has very fairly asked if it is expected that this commission should resume its sittings at an early date. I may say that is our expectation. We must do something to bring this commission to an issue of some kind. If we cannot agree with our friends on the other side of the line with regard to the question that has been referred to, we must know it and see What action we shall adopt otherwise. I have reason to believe-I may say the reasons I have are of a private nature and therefore I cannot give them to the House-I have reason to believe that the commission will resume its sitting at an early date. One of the questions to be taken into consideration, the most important perhaps, is the question of the Alaskan boundary. My hon. friend (Mr. Borden) asked if this question had been eliminated from the programme of the commission. Far from it; it is the very forefront of the commission. I may say, before I proceed any further, that in justice to ourselves and in justice to the sister colony of Newfoundland, which is represented, as we are, on the commission ; it is necessary the commission should resume Its sitting and that there should be a conclusion. If we fail to reach any conclusion ; if we fail to settle the questions which are referred to the commission, or some of them at all events ; then we shall have to revise Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

our relations with our sister colony of Newfoundland. That is all the more reason why the commission should be asked to meet again at an early date.

With regard to the Alaskan boundary, I have nothing more to say than I have already stated many and many a time. It is a question which ought to be settled, and settled promptly. It is of the greatest possible moment, not only for Canada but for the United States and Great Britain as well, that the question should be definitely settled as to what the boundary is between Alaska and Canada. The House is aware that we have not been able to come to any understanding on that, and there is only one thing that can be done under such circumstances between two such civilized nations as Great Britain and the United States, and especially between two such nations related as they are to each other by so many ties, not only of interest, but of blood. It is of the greatest moment that this question should be settled promptly. I am sorry to say that the contentions of the United States and our own contentions are so far apart that it may not be possible that each party may succeed In upholding its own pretensions. If we cannot succeed in that way we must succeed in some other. There are two other ways which are always open to honourable nations such as Great Britain and the United States and Canada, and if we cannot succeed in the first way by a fair compromise, then we must succeed in the other way, by arbitration. If we cannot settle the question between ourselves, we must hope that our friends, the American nation will agree to call in a third party, who will give us the best judgment he can under the circumstances.

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CON

Nathaniel Clarke Wallace

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALLACE.

The right hon. gentleman was not clear on one point. The Alaskan boundary was one of the questions referred to that commission, and as I understand, at a certain stage of the proceedings it was eliminated and handed over to the British ambassador to settle directly, rather than through the arbitrators.

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The PRIME MINISTER.

We adjourned, removing the subject from the attention of the commission. But in the meantime the governments might settle it by diplomatic action

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CON

Nathaniel Clarke Wallace

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALLACE.

That is, by the British ambassador direct ?

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The PRIME MINISTER.

Without the intervention of the commission. That is to say, the commission could not deal with it because it had adjourned. But we hoped that during the adjournment diplomatic action between the British government and the United States government might bring about a settlement. If that fails, it is still within the competence and jurisdiction of the commission.

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CON

Nathaniel Clarke Wallace

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALLACE.

Which means that the commissioners had removed it from the arena for the time being ?

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May 23, 1901