July 17, 1908

IND

Lorenzo Robitaille

Independent Liberal

Mr. ROBITAILLE.

I do not state that Mr. Cooper made the plans but he approved and corrected them, he was responsible for them which is just the same as if.he had done it himself because it was up to him to see that they were all right. I think I have proven that the whole responsibility in connection with the bridge rested on the shoulders of Mr. Cooper, that there was no supervision on the part of the government although an order in council has stipulated that there should be supervision in order to ensure efficiency in the construction of the work. The commissioners report at page 33 :

The connection of the government with the enterprise provided the means for building the bridge, and the -final approval of plans rested with it, but in no way did the government exercise any cheek on the work itself, or any authority over the contractors. The administration of the contract and the disposition of the funds supplied by -the government were left entirely in the control of the Quebec Bridge Company, subject to the approval of the estimates by tbe government inspector, and except that the quantities of material were checked at Phcenixville by a clerk appointed by the Department of Railways -and Canals, and an officer of that department visited tbe bridge in connection with the checking of estimates, there was no supervision on the part of the government.

We find that the commissioners admit that Mr. Cooper was under a severe handicap. They say this :

In considering Mr. Cooper's part in this undertaking, it should be remembered that he was an elderly imian,_ rapidly approaching seventy, and of such infirm health that he was only rarely permitted to leave New York. Mr. Cooper assumed a position of great res-

possibility, and agreed to accept an inadequate salary for his services.

For the reason, as it was stated to him, that he would be engaged in a consultative capacity rather than to oversee the work.

No provision was made by the Quebec Bridge Company for a staff to assist him, nor is there tiny evidence to show that he asked for the appointment of such a staff. He endeavoured to maintain the necessary assistants out of his own salary, which was itself too small for his personal services, and he did a great deal of detail work which could have been satisfactorily done by a junior. The result of this was that he ihad no time to investigate the soundness of the data and theories which were being used in the designing, and consequently allowed fundamental errors to pass by him unchallenged.

If there had been a joint engineer to control, the work with Mr. Cooper in accordance with Mr. Schreiber's wishes the errors which were proven to exist by the evidence would have been detected and in all probability remedied, and if they had been remedied the bridge certainly would not have gone down. Mr. Douglas of the Department of Railways and Canals appeared before the committee and in a few minutes I will read an extract from his statement. Mr Douglas reported when the plans and specifications were submitted to him that he did not approve of the unit stresses which had been adopted, which were acted on and which were still embodied in the plan when the bridge fell. If that matter had been looked carefully into when it was pointed out I am sure that the bridge would not be down to-day. At all events the criticism of the Royal Commission on this point is clear enough. Now, in answer to my hon. friend from Queens, P.E.I., (Mr. Martin) let me point out that Mr. Cooper, because of the limited financial resources of the company, the disadvantages under which he laboured, his age, his want of facilities to look properly after this work, wrote to Mr. Parent three years before the construction of the bridge was commenced, as stated by Mr. Cooper himself before the commission in New York that he would not he able to continue the work and asked to be relieved.

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ASKED TO BE RELIEVED.


Nearly three years >ago, before construction work at Quebec was commenced, Mr. Cooper informed Mr. Parent that he would never be aible to go to Quebec again, and asked to be relieved from ihis responsibilities, as lie felt impossible to give the work the attention that he should, 'as he was under the ban of his physician. Mr. Parent responded that they never intended to let him go until the bridge was finished, as they had confidence in him and wanted his services continued. He told Mr. Deans the same, but neither would hear of it at all as they did not know of another one who could be mutually agreed upon. There was no government control, no joint engineer, Mr. Cooper was supposed to have Mr. ROBITAILLE. the full responsibility and Mr. Cooper had said that his old age and his feeble health, caused his doctors to order that he should not leave New York. All these considerations were put aside. It may be inferred from the action of the directors that they were better pleased that Mr. Cooper should remain in New York than be on the bridge where he could check things and prove that the work was not done in a business like way. Then, the responsible head of the whole organization in Quebec was Mr. Hoare. Mr. Cooper in his disposition says : All important changes were referred to Mr. Hoare and I suppose through him to the department. But the department was not in a position to ascertain the correctness of these plans from an engineering point of view and so Mr. Hoare was the only one to look after them. Mr. Hoare's responsibility is recognized by the commission who in their report (page 49) says : The company's directors did not seem to have realized the importance of the duties pertaining to Mr. Hoare's position and whilst believing that he was not competent to control the work they still gave him all the powers and emoluments of the chief engineer. There was a letter written by Mr. Parent to Holgate when it was admitted in 1898 that Mr. Hoare had not the ability to undertake the responsibility of chief engineer but still Mr. Parent said : Never mind, we know yon are not capable but you shall be chief engineer. Why was Mr. Hoare accepted under such circumstances ? It seems to me that a grave responsibility rests on whoever was the main instigator of the retention of Mr. Hoare and Mr. Cooper* who admitted their inability to cope with the magnitude of the work. The report goes further : Mr. Hoare personally considered that he was in general control of the construction, and that everything was under his jurisdiction except the approval of plans; the evidence shows that he gave much personal time to the oversight of the fabrication of the material, to inspection of the erection and the preparation of the estimates; it also shows that he lacked a comprehensive grasp of the work that was being done by the inspectors, and that although his subordinates entertained the highest personal regard for him they did not look to him for advice when technical difficulties arose. Was Mr. Parent really the man who was running the Quebec Bridge Company. Probably some bon. gentlemen may challenge that statement but if so I refer them to page 29 of the evidence given before the committee when Mr. Barthe, the secretary of the company, was examined, and Mr. Barthe knows all about the Quebec Bridge Company if any man knows. Mr. Barthe was examined by Mr. Chisholm : Q. You are aware that the chairman, had a good deal of travelling and a good deal of work to do other than what the other directors did P-A. Certainly. He was the soul of the whole thing and he practically did all the work. I go further and I say, that Mr. Parent was responsible for the bad as well as for the good in the management of the Quebec Bridge Company. Mr. Parent ignored Mr. Douglas's report which was subsequently proven to be correct. The hon. member for Lunenburg (Mr. Maclean) admitted that the unit stresses were the fundamental mistake in the design. If we admit the truth of the maxim, that to err is human, is it not strange that an undertaking of that magnitude should be left in the hands of one single man ? Mr. Douglas condemned the unit stresses, and I quote from his evidence : v Q. Are you in a position to state that this accident could have been avoided by the adoption of the unit stresses you recommended ?- A. To answer that question is a very large statement but I think- Q. But speaking generally it would ?-A. Yes, I may say that the experiments that have been made at Phoenixville as a result of the collapse of this bridge corroborate my recommendation. Mr. Hoigate stated about the same thing but still Mr. Parent ignored Mr. Douglas's report against the first plans and he ignored the logical recommendation of a joint engineer to supervise the technical accuracy of the plans. Mr. Parent also ignored Mr. Schreiber's admission that he was not in a position to be able to take the responsibility for the approval of these plans and he ignored also the Eiffel committee's report. I may say in passing that the greatest committee of engineers in the world is what is known as the Eiffel Committee in Paris. Eiffel was a great engineer who promulgated certain theories as to stresses and the flexibility of steel and on account of his great scientific attainments the French government permitted him to exemplify his theory by erecting the Eiffel tower for a period of five years. The French government has been so impressed by the successful carrying into practice of the theories of Eiffel that they have allowed the Eiffel tower to stand. There is therefore a committee of engineer's in Paris which studies every important work in the engineering world. The Eiffel committee reported that they did not see their way clear to accept the present cantilever scheme unless there was a double resting point provided, and that otherwise the bridge would be exposed to great inconveniences. Time has proven that these defects in the bridge existed and the bridge has fallen. In the presence of all these facts I say that there rests on the president of the bridge company the responsibility of wilful neglect 425* which may probably be extended to criminal negligence ; because a man who undertook such an important position should have known his own responsibility, and if he did not he was not fit for the job. I say that a man guilty of such carelessness or want of business ability or the ordinary precautions which anybody should take in the ordinary walks of life must in the eyes of God and man be held entirely responsible for the neglect of a duty which was entirely under his control. What was the verdict of the coroners jury at the inquest in Quebec. which was held to ascertain the cause of the death of those poor three score men who went down with the bridge ? These people were in a hurry to pack that jury with shareholders of the company, who rendered a verdict in consideration of their own interests, and went further than a coroner's jury is expected to go, in stating that all of the necessary precautions were taken by the Bridge Company to prevent the collapse. An ordinary motorman who runs down a vehicle or a human being in the streets, is immediately brought before the courts and tried for manslaughter ; but when these high and influential men cause an accident which destroys the lives of three score men, nobody even considers who is responsible. I think it is the duty of this parliament or of the courts of this country to sift this matter to the bottom and see who is responsible. This government does not know what kind of a white elephant it is getting when it agrees to take over the property of this Bridge Company under the broad wording of this resolution. The probability is that this parliament will have to pay out of the public treasury for the errors of incompetent and irresponsible people. Another point which I wish to impress on the House is that the government had not sufficient control over the finances of the company. The want of such control resulted in loose business methods being resoi'ted to by the company, amounting almost ito misrepresentation. I read in the report: One of the conditions engaged was that before the guarantee should be given the company would secure the subscription andt full payment in cash of $200,000 of additional stock. That condition was only in part fulfilled, through the government, having accepted the written certificate of the company's officer that it had been fully carried out, guaranteed a new issue of bonds. I must say that when the attention of the Finance Minister was called to this, he admitted in his evidence that had this deception been known to him, he would not have authorized the execution of the guarantee. The Finance Minister is a high official upon whose statement relative to finances we can rely, and he considers that the terms of the statute were not fulfilled. How was it ? We find that $2,500 of stock was acquired by Mr. Parent which was paid for not in



money, but in services rendered ; $2,500 was taken by a few of the directors in sums varying from $400 to $100; and the balance of the stock, amounting to $119,900 was taken by Mr. Davis. He signed no subscription list. If you look at the evidence on page 59 of the report, you will find that Mr. Bell, the auditor of the Department of Railways, said that he did not think that the subscription list was signed at that time. Mr. Davis gives his cheque, and it lies in the till from January 27, 1904, to February 21, 1907, a cheque that is worthless. It may be said that Mr. Davis had good financial backing ; but I would like to pay my debts in that way, by giving cheques to people who would not present them at the bank. Rater we find that Mr. Hays took $25,000 worth of stock, which reduced Davis's to $94,900. The argument was used that it was desirable that Mr. Davis should control stock because he was a contractor ; and it was anticipated that the Grand Trunk and other railways would take some ; but up to the present time no responsible railways have greatly interested themselves in the bridge project, on account of the terminal arrangements that were attempted to be forced upon them. When they saw that, they simply withdrew, and never showed any enthusiasm for the project. Mr: TALBOT, With the permission of my hon. friend, who I think wishes to be fair, I would ask : does he persist in saying that no railway corporation in Canada took any stock in that company or any interest in the construction of the bridge ?


IND

Lorenzo Robitaille

Independent Liberal

Mr. ROBITAILLE.

I did not say what the hon. gentleman states. I said that no responsible railways showed any enthusiasm for the project. Furthermore, why have the railway companies never put up a public kick against the terminal arrangements ? As I have already told the Prime Minister, it is because the president of the Bridge Campany is a Transcontinental Railway Commissioner, who has a good pull with the Railway Department and has much to do with the railway legislation of this country ; and as the railway companies have to come here from time to time for legislation, they do not want to incur the displeasure of Mr. Parent, and they thought that instead of opposing the project, it was better for them to show their disapproval by not showing any enthusiasm for it. If I were allowed to give publicly the information which I have received privately from some of the highest officials of railway companies in this Dominion, I would say more ; but I will not, because it might harm them and would not help my case. That cheque of Mr. Davis was uncertified, and was never presented at the bank for three year's, but last year, when the Bill for transferring the bonds of the company to the government was before the House, I made a speech Mr. ROBITAILLE.

which according to the judgment of some men on the ministerial benches was somewhat erratic ; but the Finance Minister, as a practical man, took a hint from it, and thought it advisable to see if there was any foundation for some of the statements made. Mr. Bell went to Quebec in August, and he found that that cheque was there. Mr. Bell said : ' I cannot enter that in my report ; it has either to be paid or the shares will have to be given back.' What happened ? The financial stringency was in full swing, and I know the result, because I saw Mr. Davis in the Bank of Montreal, and he had a very long face, and it was only on the 2nd of February that he was in a position to say to the bridge directors : ' You can pass my cheque now ; I have funds in the bank to meet it.' They put the cheque of $94,900 in the bank, and issued a certificate of stock ; but there was no interest charged to Mr. Davis for these three years. If you look up Mr. Davis' statements, however, you will find that he charges interest for every day that the government does not pay his bills after they are handed in. Why should he be so eager to collect from the government this small amount of interest as compared with the three years' interest on $94,900. In the face of that the Finance Minister admitted himself they do not live up to the statute. Mr. Parent writes to the Finance Minister :

I hereby certify that additional stock to the extent of $200,000, has been duly subscribed to the capital stock' of the Quebec Bridge and Railway Company, and paid up in full.

A cheque, until it has passed through a bank, is not considered worth more than the paper it is written on. The presumption might be that the cheque is worth something, but in fact the cheque itself is of no value ; still the bridge directors accepted it. I shall read part of a letter which I wrote to the Prime Minister last summer advising him of certain facts, and I shall allow the country to judge whether or not my statements have been justified by events. I wrote :

To the item of the Quebec bridge I especially draw your attention. As you are aware I have had occasion to communicate with you upon this important subject and as I then told you it was my intention to study the question and treat it according to its merits. During your last trip, when parliament was considering the Bill authorizing the government to lend the Quebec Bridge Company $7,000,000, I expressed my views upon the subject. Those views are known to the majority of the electors not only of my riding hut also of Quebec city, wiho are about to awaken from their lethargy judging by the agitation made in Quebec in reference to the demand for 50 feet of land for the Ross Rifle Company under the impress-ion that they were combating a suggestion of Mr. Parent. They are to-day aware of the enormous speculation proposed all along the cove and it would be advisable

for yon to well study the question, as your government in the future may he seriously embarrassed by it, and I would be sorry to see a scandal, just when we are on the eve of a general election, which will be keenly contested. Such a scandal would mar your reputation as an honest politician and a great Canadin, a reputation that is recognized by both parties, and political history will be forced to attribute to you, as to the great Mercier, certain unconscious weakuesses in favour of your friends. I hope that nothing will occur that will oast upon your government discredit before the whole country.

That was on July 29, 1907, and on August 29 the bridge fell.

Topic:   ASKED TO BE RELIEVED.
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LIB
IND

Lorenzo Robitaille

Independent Liberal

Mr. ROBITAILLE.

I hear the representative of the Great Northern speaking.

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LIB

Duncan Ross

Liberal

Mr. D. ROSS.

X do not think the hon. gentleman should be permitted to say such things in such a cowardly way, expecting that people will not be able to hear them.

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LIB

Robert Franklin Sutherland (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

I think the word cowardly is improper.

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LIB

Duncan Ross

Liberal

Mr. D. ROSS.

I think it is myself, but I think the circumstances justify it. However, I will withdraw the word. The hon. gentleman made his statement in such a way that he did not expect me to hear it: I hear the representative of the Great Northern. I do not think the hon. gentleman should have made a statement of that kind, and I want him to explain now why he did make it.

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IND

Lorenzo Robitaille

Independent Liberal

Mr. ROBITAILLE.

Since the hon. member is so generous as to withdraw the word * cowardly,' and in order not to disturb his quietude, I will say he is not the representative of the Great Northern; is that sufficient? The Prime Minister said;

I do not understand what you are saying, but if you bave any accusations to make, make them specific.

I then sent him a short affidavit, which reads, in part (translation) :

In March, 1901 or 1905, an amount of more than $800,000 was paid by the Ottawa government to Mr. M. P. Davis, contractor for work done at the Quebec bridge. In August of the same year the said account, certified by the engineer in chief, E. A. Hoare,-

There we see the utility of Mr. Hoare for the Quebec Bridge Company.

-and another who is 9aid to be an employee of his and paid as above was presented to the accountant of the Bridge Company, the deponent, in order to place bis books in conformity with the said account being instructed by the secretary that it was the desire of the directors that his books should accord with this account.

A direct intimation of the wish of the company to have the books made to suit

the account if there was a greater payment than his hooks showed the company owed to Mr. Davis.

In checking the account the accountant found an error of $165,000 overpaid to Mr. M. P. Davis, although it was certified, as follows: X. An amount of $130,000, balance of the provincial subsidy in favour of the bridge company and transferred to the said Davis in part payment of work done upon which amount he bad already cashed $30,000 paid in the beginning of June of the same year. This amount of $130,000 was not credited in the account filed by Davis to the company.

2. An amount of $35,000 which represented a draft which the bridge company had made on the said Davis to finance this draft on, being accepted, was entered to the debit account of the bridge company in Mr. Davis' hooks. This draft on maturity was paid by the Bridge Company and in the said account is charged to the debit of the bridge company.

In looking over Davis' accounts filed here in Ottawa we find that $35,000 is entered as paid in cash to the bridge company. When you accept a draft or give a note, it is bills payable, it is not cash. It may have been a clerical error ; but whatever it was, it was sufficient to induce the Finance Minister to pay on it and not discuss the item.

This is not the only loose thing in connection with the Bridge Company. I mentioned a few moments ago that when they organized the company $50,000 was actually paid in cash, $15,000 of paid-up stock was given for services, $200,000 was supposed to he subscribed by statute, making $265,000; but still the government was content to make that company responsible for $8,000,000 and more. Now, I have some information which I give under reserve, but I think it will be interesting to this House as showing the excellent existing relations between Mr. Parent and Mr. Davis. I have been informed that on different occasions Mr. Davis, knowing how Mr. Parent likes little attentions, has bought certain jewellery for Mr. Parent's family. Furthermore, Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, the late Minister of Justice, when he went on bis summer vacation at Riviere du Loup one summer, enjoyed greatly the nice team of driving horses and equipages which belong to Mr. Davis. The whole thing works in the same

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LIB
LIB

Onésiphore Ernest Talbot

Liberal

Mr. TALBOT.

Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the statement against Chief Justice Sir Charles Fitzpatrick which has just been made. Surely such statements are not allowed in this House against a gentleman occupying such a position in this country.

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LIB

Robert Franklin Sutherland (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

I think the statement is hardly a proper statement to make.

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IND

Lorenzo Robitaille

Independent Liberal

Mr. ROBITAILLE.

My Georgian friend (Mr. Talbot) likes to bear his own voice now and again. Furthermore, I have information to the effect that in Quebec city, in a certain year, Mr. Parent obtained from this government a supply of manure from the quarantine station in L&vis, and that he used Mr. Davis's scows to transport it to his farm at St. Augustin. It is current rumour in the city of Ottawa that the house he occupies to-day is the gratuitous gift of Mr. Davis

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Order.

Mr. SPEAKER, What is the point of order ?

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

The hon. gentleman (Mr. Robitaille) has no right to make insinuations of that kind against any man unless he is prepared to back up his statements with evidence. He has a right to make charges but not to make insinuations.

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LIB

Robert Franklin Sutherland (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

The rule applies to certain named persons.

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CON

Haughton Lennox

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNOX.

This gentleman does not come within the class of persons referred to in the rule.

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IND

July 17, 1908