§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CROFT
This afternoon, in reply to a great number of questions, the Prime Minister gave very unsatisfactory answers, and for that reason I am raising this question briefly tonight. We heard a very eloquent defence of Mr. Bryce and the part he took during the Reciprocity negotiations, but the questions which were addressed to the Prime Minister this afternoon did not 166 really deal with Mr. Bryce at all, but deal with the action the Government took upon that occasion. I think that all the eloquence of the Prime Minister will be necessary if this country is to endorse the part the Government took during the time of these negotiations with the United States. I think it is, if I may say so with all respect, an absurd suggestion to make, that my hon. Friends have been attacking Mr. Bryce because he gave assistance to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Canadian Ministers. We attack Mr. Bryce for the same reason that we attack the Government, for neglect to watch Imperial interests in regard to this question of Reciprocity. We all remember the utterances of Mr. Taft at the time of that campaign. He told us that Canada had come to the parting of the ways, and he told his fellow countrymen that was the last chance of preventing British Imperial union. But although the Government may have thought his utterances were cryptic, those who have followed the history of this question knew perfectly well what their meaning was. As long ago as 1891 a most influential body was formed in the United States, known as the Continental Union, which had for its avowed object the through extension of the United States to the Arctic Ocean, but had for its first object the establishment of a Reciprcocity agreement with Canada, with the ultimate object of annexation. The gentlemen forming that original organisation were men of the greatest prominence in the United States. They included Mr. Charles Dana, Andrew Carnegie, Mr. John Hay, Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Seth Low, Chauncey Depew, Elihu Root, General Wilson, and many other prominent men. Those who were aware of that fact knew what Mr. Taft meant when he said that Canada had come to the parting of the ways. I remember a remark in a Debate last Session in this House to the affect that Canada was endeavouring to steal what she could not conquer, was received with laughter, but Mr. Taft's letter absolutely bears out that statement. Not only that but Mr. Taft's letter, which was written to Mr. Roosevelt, was submitted to and approved if I understand correctly by the Government. This is very serious. The letter says:—A current of business could be produced between Western Canada and the United States that would make Canada an adjunct of the United States, and would transfer all their important business to Chicago and New York with their bank credits and everything else.167 Is the British Government going to ignore this attempt on the part of a first-class Power to get a hold of a great Dominion of the British Empire which was attempted at the very time the United States were pressing arbitration upon this country? Is the Government going to say that they have for all time dissociated themselves from that policy of reciprocity which they so blindly and hurriedly supported at that time? They must clearly understand what was the original object of that reciprocity agreement. I make three charges against the Government—first of all that the British Government gave their support to a policy that they were ill-informed upon, and the consequences of which they had never really considered in its relation to the United Kingdom and the British Empire. I say, secondly, that that policy was assisted by the British Ambassador, who was well aware of what the consequences of such a policy would be. Thirdly, Mr. Bryce did not keep the Home Government in touch with all that was going on in regard to these negotiations; the consequence was that great trade necessities, which will continually grow larger in the Dominion, were jeopardised through his action. As the Foreign Secretary informed us, the Embassy did make an examination as far as it could, but the attempt was exceedingly short, and yet Mr. Bryce never took any steps to delay that agreement until the Board of Trade had full opportunities of ascertaining what the result would be on British trade. Mr. Bryce was not asked to assist these negotiations, and he was not asked by the Canadian Government, but he did everything in his power to bring about a policy which he had no illusions about. In his book on the American Commonwealth he said:—The material growth of Canada would probably be quickened by the union with the United States on the plan of n commercial league that the United States might have carried out leading to a political union, but it is hard to see how otherwise Canada can have her share in changes which might from time to time become necessary.
§ Mr. CROFT
I am not sure of the exact date the last edition was produced; but, as far as I know, Mr. Bryce has never altered his view. Indeed, it would appear that he is more than ever firmly convinced that it is desirable that such a policy should be carried into effect. To sum up, the Government supported a policy about which they knew nothing, and which they had not had time to consider, and yet which threatened the whole future of British Imperial Union. As Mr. Lemieux said in the Canadian Parliament, the reciprocity agreement was approved of by the home Government, and had been made with the assistance of Mr. Bryce. It is essential, after the Canadian verdict, that Mr. Bryce should be promoted to some other sphere of usefulness, and I am perfectly certain his abilities could be used with great effect elsewhere. Nobody blames Mr. Bryce for supporting the Canadian Ministers, but we do blame him, as we have blamed the Government, for not guarding against what must be a fundamental attack on the whole of the British industrial system. Canada is well able to take care of herself, as she has recently shown. Nobody on this side of the House ever said anything to the contrary. It is perfectly obvious that no Canadian Minister would ever have gone in for this reciprocity policy but for the policy of the "banged door." We are entitled to ask, and we do ask, and we demand an explanation from the Government, and we hope at the earliest possible opportunity—to-night, if possible—that the Government will state that they have abandoned their policy and the support of that policy which was fraught with so great danger to the British Empire. They supported it on the ground that the Canadian people desired it; on the same ground, they are no longer able to support it this evening.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
What I am most concerned to do is to repudiate the really unfair attacks which have been made upon Mr. Bryce. As far as the attacks upon the Government are concerned, we can fight these out in this country, and are ready to do so upon every occasion and there is plenty of time for that. But what ought to be repudiated at once, and without delay, are the attacks upon Mr. Bryce. Mr. Bryce has, in the whole of his dealing with the Canadian Government, rendered the greatest Imperial service that he could have rendered.
169 His dealings with the Canadian Government have not been confined to reciprocity. There have been many other Canadian dealings, and I am sure the general view in Canada is that the support Mr. Bryce has given to Canadian interests has been of the greatest value to Canada. With regard to the reciprocity negotiations, what did he do? He did not initiate those negotiations. He received a letter from the President of the United States for transmission to the Canadian Government. He transmitted that letter. He did nothing whatever to induce the Canadian Ministers to respond to that letter by entering into the negotiations, nothing whatever. He did not attempt to influence them in any way. He received a reply from them and he transmitted that reply to the United States Government. Certain Canadian Ministers were sent by the Canadian Government of the day to negotiate at Washington. When they arrived there, Mr. Bryce, as it was his duty to do, presented them to the United States Government. He took no part in the negotiations. He was not present at them. His only part was to be kept informed by the Canadian Ministers of the negotiations which it was constitutionally within their own competence to carry on and at which he was not present, because it was entirely their affair. When the hon. Member says he does not think he was fully informed himself, I reply that in the Paper which has been published and laid before Parliament, Mr. Bryce says:—It was difficult for us to be kept fully informed, because the discussion ranged over many details all interwoven each with the other. The general scheme of the bargain became difficult to follow from such account as the Canadian representatives from time to time gave of them to Mr. Bryce.Ought he to have stopped the negotiations? That would have been an interference which would have been resented by the Canadians. Whatever may have been their views as to the merits or demerits of a particular policy for the British Ambassador to dictate to Canadian Ministers what their policy should be on a matter constitutionally within their own competence, would be resented by everybody in Canada, however much they might differ about the particular question of policy themselves. In the next place, Mr. Bryce did not overlook British interests in his discussions with Canadian Ministers. He says:—No opportunity was lost in the course of the negotiations of reminding the Canadian Ministers of the regard winch it was right and fitting that they should have to Imperial interests while also, as was their 170 obvious duty, doing their best for Canadian interests. Such reminders on every occasion met with a frank and cordial response.He says further:—When it became apparent the agreement was not to be restricted to natural productions, but was to include manufactured articles, it was pointed out by me to the Canadian Ministers that the extension of the scope might involve consequences not altogether desirable, and might bring into question the interests of the Mother-country, both by reducing or removing the Preference at present accorded to British goods in the Canadian market, and putting British manufactures at an unfair competition with Canadian manufactures in the markets of the United States.Mr. Bryce was not present. The Canadian Ministers gave him information, and whenever it seemed to him there was a risk of British interests being affected, he pointed it out to the Canadian Ministers. I think he performed his duty as Ambassador in the special position in which he was placed with regard to Canadian interests admirably. This is really a very delicate question to raise. The late Canadian Government were engaged in more than one negotiation entirely within their own competence affecting Canadian interests, and we had to instruct British Ambassadors abroad who were concerned as to what their attitude should be. We were very careful to give general instructions to give support to the Canadian Ministers in matters which were within their own competence. We had to deal with a very delicate matter at Tokio, where the Canadian Government were negotiating, with the Japanese Government, and these were the instructions which we gave. There has been one, and perhaps more than one, occasion when an attempt has been made to put forward in the Canadian Parliament the demand that Canada should have separate diplomatic representation. If Mr. Bryce, or any of our Ambassadors had shown reluctance to support the Canadian Ministers who were negotiating matters within their own competence, the Canadian Government of the day would have found it difficult to resist that demand in the Canadian Parliament. It follows, of course, that the support which Mr. Bryce gave to the late Canadian Government will be given equally in the fullest degree to the present Canadian Government, and I trust by any future British Ambassador to any future Canadian Government. But underlying this question is the question of separate diplomatic representation. I believe that in the action which Mr. Bryce has taken he has not only carried out the general instructions of His Majesty's Government 171 to Ambassadors abroad, but that he has rendered in the highest degree the services that a British Ambassador can render not only to British, but also to Imperial interests, by the confidence which he has acquired, not only here but in Canada, and that Canadian interests which are so many and so important in their relations with the United States will have in the person of the British Ambassador some one who will support and assist them, and some one who will have regard to the wishes of the Canadian Government, whether it be the late Canadian Government or the present Canadian Government.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
If the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister think they have created an impression which will be favourable, I can assure them they are very much mistaken. I have opportunities of knowing what the feeling in Canada is, and I am perfectly persuaded that they are mistaken. The Prime Minister asked a question of my hon. Friend as to the date of the book in which Mr. Bryce made the statement. It was some years ago—at all events the book was published before Mr. Bryce was appointed our Ambassador at Washington, and no other book has been published by him since that time. A later edition contains some modification of the original statement. The point I wish to make is this: that at the time Mr. Bryce was appointed his book was a well-known book, well known on this side of the water and well known in the United States, and in that book there was a most emphatic declaration of the advantages of union between Canada and the United States. Indeed, he stated in positive terms that it was inconceivable that Canada would get full benefit of union unless there was community of tariffs. I am not quoting, but paraphrasing his words. I say, with great submission, that I do not think the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was quite frank in the statement he has made to the House. He read a statement from a portion of the correspondence, but he did not read an earlier letter to which I am going to call his attention. If he will look at the papers presented to the House some days earlier than the communications he read, he will find that on the 10th January, 1911, two or three days after the negotiations commenced at Washington, Mr. Bryce—and I will give him credit to this 172 extent—did make a Report to the Government. The Report was that:—The negotiations were continued to-day and may probably last during the week. I have been in constant communication with the Canadian Commissioners and gather from them that the difficulties incident to any general reciprocity still appear serious.There we have an intimation, in a communication to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that the proposition of a "general reciprocity" was introduced, and was under the consideration of the Canadian and the United States Commissioners. What does general reciprocity mean? It means Free Trade between the United States and Canada. Mr. Taft himself, in a speech he made at Atlanta, very shortly afterwards, pointed out in the clearest terms that he authorised his Commissioners to offer Free Trade between Canada and the United States. Did not the Foreign Office so interpret those words, communicated to them by their own Ambassador, and if they did, why did they not send him instructions and so delay the proceedings if possible, and call the attention of the Canadian Commissioners to the fact that Free Trade between the United States and Canada would mean the destruction of the Preference that Canada had given to the Mother-country, and would destroy the general advantage that this country has in trading under preferential terms in the Canadian market. But instead of any instruction coming from the Foreign Secretary, either by letter or telegram, the whole correspondence shows that no intimation was made to Mr. Bryce whatever, and, of course, his were willing ears to questions of general reciprocity because he had said in his book which was in circulation in this country and throughout the world, this would be for the advantage of Canada. So whether he was a bystander or a participant he was a sympathiser with the general proposition then going on. The Government knew what this all meant, and they are more reprehensible than the Ambassador. Why did he not call the attention of the Government to the seriousness of the proposition? Why did not he say in this dispatch if he thought the Government was so dull and inconsiderate of the interests of the country, "This is a most serious thing for the country I represent." But not a word from him to them or from them to him on this very important subject. This is a very grave matter, and I think that the Canadian public understood it, because this document became a matter of public discussion at the 173 elections and the blame attaches not merely to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, not merely to the Ambassador to the United States, but primarily to this Government itself. The Prime Minister said to-day that "Mr. Bryce saw the late Canadian Minister of Finance from time to time during the conferences at Washington in order to learn from him if there was anything which it might be needful for us to know." Did they not get information from the Ambassador of something which it was needful for them to know or did they consider it not needful for the people of this country to know the fact that a proposal of that character was under consideration at the time. It seems to me that the primary blame in this whole matter is with the Government of this country. I have no doubt they were willing to take the responsibility, because they have to take it, and when the public documents are examined, it is clear as the sun at midday that they knew perfectly well what was proposed and what was going on, and if the final proposal did not go through we have to thank, not the Government of this country, and not Mr. Bryce, but the patriotism of the Canadian people.
§ Mr. MARTIN
The hon. Member (Mr. Macmaster) has suggested that the people of Canada would not agree to the statement made by the Foreign Secretary, and that, no matter what Government was in power, they would not allow them to interfere, but would resent any interference by any Government here with regard to a matter entirely under the control of Canada.
§ Mr. MARTIN
I say that the hon. Member could not get an audience of any kind in Canada to agree with him in that. The hon. Member has suggested that Canadian opinion is against the action of Mr. Bryce. He has given no reference to any public man or newspaper in Canada that has taken that stand. On the contrary, I can state that a few days ago the best Conservative paper in Canada, the "Montreal Gazette," which has been established for a hundred years, and which is looked upon in all parts of Canada as the leading Conservative paper, had a leading article on this very subject, in which it stated that in every respect Mr. Bryce's conduct at Washington was entirely proper conduct 174 for a British Ambassador to take, and that any attempt by Mr. Bryce to interfere in the matter one way or another would have been resented by the people of Canada. That is not the opinion of a Liberal paper, but of a strong Conservative paper. What has called forth all this? It is a statement by Mr. Taft which is interpreted as indicating a desire on the part of the American people to annex Canada.
And, it being Half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned at Half after Eleven o'clock.