As a Liberal-Conservative in the early 1870s, Tarte opposed the Programme catholique; in 1876, however, he shifted to ULTRAMONTANISM and for 7 years was one of its chief exponents. (He sat in the Québec Assembly 1877-81.) When Rome resolved the issue of clerical interference in politics, Tarte returned to a more moderate position. Undoubtedly his greatest moment came in 1890-91 when, first in the pages of Le Canadien, then on the floor of the House of Commons to which he was elected in 1891, he exposed the McGreevy-Langevin scandal. This affair discredited the Conservative Party, forced Sir Hector LANGEVIN's resignation from the Cabinet and eventually brought Tarte into the Liberal fold. The MANITOBA SCHOOLS QUESTION cemented this alliance, and Tarte contributed greatly to LAURIER's triumph in Québec in the 1896 election.
As minister of public works in the Laurier Cabinet, Tarte distributed patronage, strengthened Liberal links with the Montréal business community and oversaw the development of the Port of Montréal. He was most notorious, however, for his outspoken and often contradictory views on controversial issues. In 1899 he vigorously opposed sending Canadian troops to South Africa; in 1900 his speeches on Canadian independence drew bitter condemnation from the Conservative press in Ontario; and finally, in 1902, his campaign in favour of imperial economic unity and a higher level of tariff protection led to his dismissal by Laurier and the end of his political career.
Author RICHARD JONES
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A searchable collection of detailed biographies of prominent figures in Canadian history. Produced by the University of Toronto, the Université Laval and the National Archives of Canada.