April 17, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Edward Guss Porter

Conservative (1867-1942)


Mr. Speaker, during the course of this debate we have heard a great many expressions of surprise at the position assumed by the right hon. the First Min-Mr. PORTER.
ister upon this question. These expressions of surprise have emanated very largely from this side of the House, but, having heard the address delivered by the right hon. gentleman on the introduction of these Bills and his subsequent explanation of the amendment which is now under discussion, I am bound to say that the attitude assumed by the right hon. gentleman is not to me a matter of surprise. It is to me more a matter of regret. I say it is not to me a matter! of surprise, because from my observation, the course of the political life of the right l.on. gentleman since he was entrusted with the confidence of the people of this country, has been characterized by such qualities of insincerity, of deception, and of pandering to outside influences as to lead me to the conclusion that the course pursued by the Prime Minister on this occasion is perfectly consistent with what has been his political career heretofore. I say, Sir, that since the right hon. gentleman obtained power in 1896, he has shown such a willingness to sacrifice principle ; he has shown such a willingness to deceive the people of this country by the tortuous course he has pursued in this parliament, and he has shown such an utter want of principle as to satisfy me at least-and I think to satisfy the people of this country-that he is no longer entitled to the trust they reposed in him.
I have said, Sir, that his political career since 1896 has been characterized by insincerity, deceit and pandering to outside influences. Now, it would be unfair to the right hon. gentleman to make that assertion unless I were able to offer some reliable evidence in support of it. Ret me, then, offer to the House a few illustrations to prove the assertions I have made.
Perhaps the greatest question that has engaged the attention of the right hon. gentleman and his government since 1890 is the trade question. When the right hon. gentleman received the suffrages of the people of this country in 1896, and prior to that time, what was his attitude upon that question ? I might go almost so far as to say that he was an avowed free trader. He was taken to be a strong advocate of the principle of free trade. I cannot say that lie was a champion of free trade-and here comes in the evidence. We all remember the speeches delivered by the right hon. gentleman on that question in the province of Quebec, and also his speeches in the province of Ontario ; we know how his speeches in one province differed from his speeches in the other. It is perfectly evident to any one who takes the trouble to read those speeches and consider them that on that important branch of public policy, he was playing a double part and was deceiving the people of this country. When he came into power in 1896, he was not satisfied apparently with tne deception that he practiced up to that time; but

when he formed his cabinet, he took into it a gentleman who was before then and who has been since an open advocate on all occasions of the principle of protection. If we are to believe the statements made by that lion, gentleman, when he was taken into the cabinet, it was upon some understanding or arrangement that in the near future legislation would be introduced by the right lion, gentleman tending towards the principles advocated by that minister. Subsequently we found that minister advocating, as he had done before he entered the government, and as I submit he had a perfect right to do, the principles of protection under the arrangement that had been made with him ; but we find that the right lion, gentleman was not willing to carry out the promise he had made to his own minister, but played the double act again, and as a result of that duplicity he lost from his cabinet one of the ablest members who has graced it since 1896.
Let me give another illustration. The conduct of the right lion, gentleman was characterized in the same way upon the question of preferential trade. We all know, from his reported speeches delivered during the time he was in England, the position he took upon that question there. We know the speech he made in the city of Toronto when he returned from England, and we recollect the questions that were put to him on that occasion and the answers that he gave. He was charged there with having made speeches in England on that question that were entirely inconsistent with the position that he took before his Toronto audience ; and what was his conduct when he was accused in that way ? He had the audacity to tell that intelligent audience that when he was speaking in Great Britain, he was only fooling the people there, or, to use his own language, he was only luring them on. thus admitting that he was playing a double game.
Let me proceed a little further in this history. Take the railway policy of the right hon. gentleman, as embodied in the measure brought before this parliament in relation to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. When the right hon. gentleman introduced that Bill into this House, he declared that the agreement made between the government and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was a perfect agreement, and that the Bill he had introduced was one that could not be amended or improved in any particular ; and that measure was forced through this House by the power which the right hon. gentleman had behind him. But, Sir, the very same thing characterized his conduct in that important matter as characterized it on the trade question. When it was ascertained that the Grand Trunk Railway Company were not satisfied with the conditions of that agreement, and of that Bill which he had declared to be perfect and unalterable, we find him coming
again to this House and swallowing holus bolus what he had declared, by introducing amendments to that measure-for what purpose ? Simply to please the outside influences that were operating upon him. And that was the second occasion on which lie refused to listen to the advice of perhaps the ablest minister on that particular subject in his cabinet.
He preferred to ignore the advice given to him by his ministers and to satisfy the outside influence of the Grand Trunk Railway, and upon that second occasion he lost another minister from his cabinet. Let us take another illustration. Look at the position taken by the right hon. gentleman in 1896 upon this very school question. At that time, with all the ability and eloquence at his command, he stood up and proclaimed that the minority of the province of Manitoba should not have remedial legislation at the hands of this government. He was then denying to the people of his own faith, his own church, the rights they were clamouring for. To-day he is making a complete right about face upon that important question. While in 1896 he was declaring hands off Manitoba and that the minority should not have separate schools in that province, you find him to-day just as strongly advocating in just as eloquent and forcible language that this parliament shall for all time to come fasten upon these two new provinces the system of separate schools. Again the right hon. gentleman has been playing a double game. Let me ask me why he is playing this double game ? What influence is it that is making him do so ? It is certainly not the advice of the one minster who above all others should advise him in this particular instance. No, it is due to a pandering to outside influence and a total disregard of that particular minister to whom he should have listened. And upon this, the third occasion, he has lost the most valuable member in his cabinet. So I might go through almost every branch of the government, nearly every particular measure which has come within the attention of this government since 1896, and draw the very same conclusion I have drawn from these two or three matters to which I have referred the House.
But let us take one more instance. We had in 1902-3 in this country a gentleman, a British subject, a soldier who had brought credit to himself and his country, a man who was sent here as the accredited agent or delegate of the Imperial parliament, a man who was charged with the performance in this country of a very great duty; and when that gentleman undertook to advise this government, his reports are said to have been mutilated or pigeon-holed, his advice is said to have been ignored. That was stated on the floor of this House and not denied, and that gentleman, when he found that he could not get the ear of the government and he could not carry out the important duty which he was charged to perform, took the

means lie did to call to the attention of the government and the country the fact that he was being ignored, and that the militia force required and should have certain reforms which he indicated. What was the course taken by the right hon. the leader of the government? That man, a British subject and a soldier, was called upon the floor of this House by the right hon. gentleman a stranger and a foreigner and practically exiled from this country. Let me ask what was the conduct of the right hon. gentleman with regard to a certain other stranger and foreigner. We have in our midst now a gentleman against whom I have nothing whatever to say personally, but a gentleman who is not, to begin with, a British subject, who is not charged with the performance of any public duty so far as Canada is concerned, and that gentleman is not only allowed to interfere in the legislation of this country, but he- is consulted as to what legislation shall take place. And that man is not called a foreigner and a stranger and is not sent away, but is taken into the bosom of the family, so to speak, and petted and pampered and excuses made for him. There was some excuse, whether Lord Dun-donal was right or wrong, for the course he took, but where is the excuse tlmt can be offered to any reasonable man for the treatment of Lord Dundonald in the way in which he was treated by this government and their treatment of Monseigneur Sbarretti. If the hon. gentleman was right in 1896 upon this school question, he must be wrong now. It is not possible for him to take the position he did then and now turn around and take the very opposite and say: I am right all the time. Let me ask you what was the attitude of the influence that was operating upon the hon. gentleman in 1890? Did the church of his faith, when he stood up in this House and defended the doctrine that Manitoba should not have separate schools, throw him out? Did it discard and did it discredit him ? Did it say he was wrong then and he ought not to advocate such a course? No, not one word of condemnation, not one word of criticism. Why? I will come to that in a moment. We find him taking exactly the opposite course on this occasion and he could not have been right in both instances. But was that the ease? No, just as in 1896, when they refused to condemn him for the course he took then, the church is standing by the right hon. gentleman although he is advocating an entirely different theory. There must be some reason for all that. The reason that appeals to my mind is this. That in 1896 there was some well defined plan, thoroughly understood between those two elements which was to have been worked out at some subsequent date, and I think the evidence before us in the Bills now engaging the attention of the House shows the working out of that proposition.

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