July 26, 1911

CON

Arthur Meighen

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN.

that there was no temporary letting of a *k&t that word was imported into the discussion simplv to deflect the argument. How could there be a temporary letting of the contract in view of this letter seen on page 241 of the evidence?

August 4, 1908.

The work of dredging in the Gaspereau river has been given to the Maritime Dredging and Construction Company, of St. John, N.B., providing

And the only provision is that they accept for this work the lowest price that in future may be decided by tender.

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LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN.

Does that say part of the work, does that say work done until tenders are received?

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

If you are going to let a contract what is the point of calling for tenders? That would be simply a farce if you are doing the whole work.

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CON
LIB
LIB
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Some hon. MEMBERS

Louder, louder.

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LIB

William Stewart Loggie

Liberal

Mr. LOGGIE.

Suppose the lowest tender would have been 20 cents a yard, would the Maritime Dredging Company have been obliged to continue the work when they had received notice that the department would only pay 20 cents per cubic yard?

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CON

Arthur Meighen

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN.

At law they certainly would have been obliged to, but in practice certainly the minister never would have made them. Mr. Stead was asked by telegram on the 15th July:

Kindly let me know as soon as possible just what quantity of urgent dredging there is at Gaspereau river, N.B. It is represented all that requires to be done at present is removal of bar at mouth. Please say how much that will be.

That is the telegram to Mr. Stead and Mr. Stead reports the amount as 48,000 cubic yards. Then follows a telegram to Mr. Stead stating that the work has been let. How can the ingenuity of mortals argue into that that only a small part of the work had been let until possibly they would he ousted by a lower tenderer on the 14th August? That is imported into the debate by the Minister of Public Works with a skill in which he is practised and for an object that he surely conceives to be utterly aside from the issue. So that, the contract is let. Then, you are to take the lowest tender and, under the circumstances pictured by the minister himself,

he must have been aware that there could not be any other tender. The me.n are put on the work, they are right in the river and there is no other dredge in sight. Any person who might have a dredge would only have ten days to look it over.. If the minister figures up the dates he will find that is correct, and the minister has painted this as being an isolated spot but of the dredging zone. So, here are men, friends of the minister, xeputed and known throughout the maritime provinces, to be close to him, politically, socially and in every other way, actually at work in that isolated place doing the job, ready to tell anybody that comes that they have the work, away out of the dredging zone and certainly without the danger zone. Under these circumstances does the minister expect that anybody else is going to tender? The minister tells us that he made that arrangement and there is no one else in the world who could have made it. He made the arrangement illegally with that company to go on and do the work, knowing that tenders should have been called for and were called for. So that, the first part of the amendment is established without the possibility of excuse that the contract was illegally awarded.

Now, what is the result of it all? Before I go on with that let me proceed with the dates that I was going to give. The contract is awarded and these men are put to work on the 4th of August. On the 14th tenders are to be received and, as everybody would expect, only one came in.

Whether that ever got to the department or not there is no evidence to be found on the record. The tender came in on the 14th of August and Mr. McCordock who is the officer in New Brunswick to oversee such work is only notified on the 29th of September, when the work has been in progress for six weeks. In the meantime they had notified the resident engineer of the province of Nova Scotia, but all they notified him to do was to tell the company that the contract was theirs. Then, Mr. McCordock, whose duty it is to supervise these works in New Brunswick, on being notified, sets to work to find where the Gaspereau river is. It is remarkable that in the case of this work of such tremendous urgency that unless it be proceeded with at once disaster would overtake the Dominion, the river where the work is to be done is not only utterly unknown to the supervisor of dredging of the province, but to the resident engineers of the government at St. John, both of whom inform Mr. McCordock that they do not know where the Gaspereau river is. The minister tells us that the work was so important that it had been urged on the department for 8 years by the member for the county, and yet no report had ever

been asked for as to whether there was any traffic to warrant the expenditure that would be required. To this hour the department is absolutely without a report to show that there was. any prospect of traffic over that river which would warrant the expenditure of this large sum of public money. True they have two reports to show what the cost would be, but these reports do not seem to be much good because according to the minister they are 600 per cent astray in the estimate. After Mr. McCordock found out where the river was he made a report on the 8th October, and in the meantime he had seen the Minister of Public Works, and Mr. Scammell had seen the Minister of Public Works, and the minister had arranged that Mr. Scammell should make a special report on the Gaspereau river. The fact that these gentlemen had seen the minister is clear from several statements in the letters, but if for no reason it is quite clear from the fact that in their letters after that they always used the words 'fair and reasonable' which constitute a favourite expression from the lips of the minister. The minister is at the city of St. John and from St. John he wires to his officer at Ottawa to wire back to St. John to tell Mr. Scammell to go and make the report as arranged. That is to say, after the price is finally fixed, this gentleman is asked to make a report as to certain difficulties. Now, this difficulty matter is peculiar. The minister has let the contract and has committed the country to the payment of 90 cents a yard for the work. On the 14th of August the lowest tender is in and the price is then fixed at 90 cents a yard once and for all, and the people of Canada have to pay for it. But the minister knew, as everbody down there knew, that the price was exorbitant, and that something would have to be done to explain it before the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee, and so he sets to work to bolster up mis exorbitant price. How he did it is evident from the telegram of his chief engineer, sent to Mr. Scammell on the 5th of October, in which he says that certain difficulties had arisen. What these difficulties were nobody knows yet. The price had been determined on then, and the Maritime Dredging Company could have sued for it, and what these difficulties were or what they had to do with the contract we are at a loss to understand. We do know that the Minister of Public Works knew that the price was exorbitant and that he had to bring in something to bolster it up, and so he represents to his engineer that there are certain difficulties and that he should send someone out to report so that there would be evidence before the Public Accounts Committee as to what a terrible struggle these men had to carry on their

contract. Mr. Scammell and Mr. McCord-ock go out on the work, and ffie minister is in St. John at the same time, and between the three of them they get two reports sent in that the price is fair and reasonable. And the minister thinks he is justified before parliament and the country for having entered into an illegal contract if he is able to produce a report of a couple of his subordinates, saying that the price is fair and reasonable. If that is so what is the good of the statute; what is the use .of asking for tenders on any contract? We might just as well have the statute read that any payment whatever may be made by the Department of Public Works providing two subordinate officers are ready to certify that it is fair and reasonable. What the Department of Public Works should have done was to ascertain in the first place 'by reliable engineers what the work would cost, what would be a fair amount to charge for it, and govern itself in accepting the tender by the report of these reliable engineers. The Minister of Public Works .tries to make the House believe they had only one report, but as a matter of fact they had two reports, namely the report of Mr. Day in 1903, and the report of Mr. Stead in 1907, and each fixing the cost at 20 cents. The Minister of Public Works says that the dredge was exposed in this work, that it was not covered by a mountain or hidden behind rocks or something ,of that sort, and that the difficulties were appalling and justified the price of 90 cents a yard. Well, was not every physical and geographical difficulty on the Gaspereau river just the same at the time the engineers reported that the price should be 20 cents a yard as when the work was given out at 90 cents a yard. Worse than that; the minister says the report only meant that it would cost the government 20 cents a yard if they did the work themselves,^ and while the resolution says that the evidence shows the money was illegally and fraudulently paid out, the minister endeavours to defend himself by reading into the engineer's report something not contained in it.

There is nothing whatever to show that the engineer reported that if the government were to do it, and take no account of interest on capital or operating expenses or wear and tear, it would only cost them 20 cents. In the first place there is nothing to show that, and in the next place if the engineer reported on that basis, the government was not justified in advertising for tenders at all, because he should have had a report on the basis on which tenders were to be called for. That is the only report that would be of value to him, and that is the report he was bound to have if he had done his duty in the department. Put where does the minister stand in this Mr. MEIGHEN..

regard? Does he say he had an engineer who ,rePor^ed 20 cents as the price if it had been done by a government dredge, and took no account of these charges? If he did not take account of that what did he take account of, what did the 20 cents include? I can conceive of nothing which the country would be out except interest on capital, operating expenses, and wear and tear. I state this to the minister that m the minister's estimates, in the reports of his engineers as to what it cost the country; they do include interest on capital, wear and tear and operating expenses. Does the minister deny that?

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Mr MEIGHEN.

Then we will take the minister s own statement. Last .spring he gave an estimate to this House as to what it cost government dredges per day. He said it cost, including operating expenses, interest on capital and reasonable wear and tear

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

Is the hon. gentleman speaking of the arrangement with regard to the dredge ' International ' with Messrs. Dussault at Quebec?

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CON
LIB
CON

Arthur Meighen

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN.

The minister stated that in estimating the cost the government took into account wear and tear, operating expenses and interest on capital.

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

I was not speaking of the cost of the government dredges, but of a special arrangement which had been made between the department and Messrs. Dussault for the hiring of the dredge ' International,' and stated that we had fixed the rent at a sufficient amount per day to cover all these items, and keep the government absolutely clear in the matter, and if my hon. friend will reflect he will see that is what I was dealing with.

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CON
LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

That is what it was, an entirely different proposition.

Mr. [MEIGHEN-fnor do I care. The minister .stated that in estimating what it cost the government to operate a dredge, they included all these.

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

I entirely deny that.

I do not know the record to which my hon. friend refers, but I shall be extremely surprised if it bears that construction.

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July 26, 1911