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


Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)


I have seen so much of it from that source that I am about tired of
it. I want the courtesy of the ear of the minister when I am speaking. I was going on to say that a gentleman who passed through Port Arthur on Friday told me that the ice is just as solid there now as it is in the middle of winter, and no examination of the nature of the material could be made unless you bored through several feet of ice. The conditions in the tenders made it impossible for a man living in this part of the country to go up there and examine the work and see what the conditions were, and then return in time here to put in his tender. The minister has now extended the time a little, but there is one condition which says that the dredges must be registered in Canada when the contract is let. Well, you cannot bring dredges across the

lake at this time of the year without paying an exorbitant price for it, and my own opinion is that you cannot bring them across the lake just now no matter what you pay, because most of the harbours are frozen up.
I am told by this gentleman that in all probability the ice will still be there on the 24th of this month, and we know that navigation is not open there very often until the 10th of May, so that no dredge could be brought into Canada at the present time. Year after year, when we press the Minister of Public Works to do some dredging in the Georgian bay, we are invariably met with the answer that there is no dredge available. For this reason the dredging at Collingwood, the dredging at Meaford, the dredging at Thornbury, the dredging at Owen Sound and the dredging at Midland had to be postponed from time to time. The government are not building dredges fast enough to supply the needs of Canada, and the only source of supply is the United States ; and yet, by the conditions in his tender, the minister makes it iimpossible to get dredges from the United States. I do not care where a dredge comes from, so long as it is owned in Canada, if it affords open competition and does the work cheaper than we are getting it done for to-day. That is the only business-like system under which the people of Canada can get full value for their money. When you shut out dredges purchased in the United States and brought over here, the result is that Conmee & Bowman get the work, and get whatever price they like for it. It is very interesting to think over the history of these contractors in the past. They are very useful men ; they are useful for their party. It is only a short time ago since they were reputed to be raiding the Ontario treasury-two millions of dollars of Ontario's money was to be guaranteed for the purpose of helping the Algoma Central Railway to pay its debts, and when the debts were paid, $44,000 of that money was to go into the pockets of Conmee & Bowman. We had an election up there at the Sault, and a protest was entered, and there was an examination as to where this money came from, and it was found that it came from Conmee & Bowman, the contractors who had the contract for the Algoma Central and for the dredging at Port Arthur- $1,000 put up to help to carry an election. Then there were two protests to be filed and the money had to be obtained, and who put up the money ? Conmee & Bowman did. They are very handy men to have around. That same kind of thing has been carried on for years with the same firm, and they are being repaid, in my judgment, improperly repaid, by an improper expenditure of the public money, for which Canada gets no adequate value in return. We want that stopped; we want the attention of the public drawn to it ; and if the acting Minister of Public Works knows nothing about all this, 1484
he is one of the most innocent men in Canada ; a man to whom ignorance is bliss. We give the hon. gentleman (Mr. Hyman) credit for being pretty smart in our part of the country ; and surely, as a minister of the Crown, he ought to know something about the political history of the men with whom he is dealing, especially as he himself has been in public life and has taken an active interest in politics for years. It will be hard to make the people of Canada believe that the acting Minister of Public Works is quite so innocent as he would make out. I say that these men have been raiding the treasury of Ontario for years, and now one of them comes down here, and it is well to have a friend in court. We want this stopped. I know something about the history of these dredges. When the present government came to power they were owned by Conservatives, and they could not get an hour's work from this government. I have it from the mouth of one of the gentlemen that the dredges were lying idle, rotting in the waters of the Georgian bay, and they could not get an hour's work to do for them until they were transferred to friends of the government, and immediately they were employed and they have been employed ever since. I want the country to know it, and I want to tell it to the acting Minister of Public Works, for fear he might plead innocence again of any knowledge of these celebrated contractors, Conmee & Bowman, the handy men when money is to be raised for the party, the handy men when corruption is to be done, the handy men when protests are to be filed. It would be interesting to know whether there is anything in the strange coincidence between the letting of this contract and the fact that there is an election going on in Edmonton. There must be money coming from somewhere ; where does it come from? We know that these men were always available in Ontario when money was needed to protest an election or to carry an election ; and now tenders are called for practically in the winter time for this work of dredging. The only explanation, to my mind, is that there is going to be an election in Edmonton, and money will be needed ; and I am afraid that if we had the whole history of this matter,- we would find that some of the money came through the channels we are referring to at the present time.

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