Mr. A. B. CROSBY (Halifax).
Mr. Speaker, I have to ask the indulgence of the House while I say a few words in regard to the question before us this evening. I would not have undertaken to say anything had it not been that the question of tender and contract came up in the constituency which I have the honour to represent in this House. Therefore, I feel that I am compelled to say a word on this matter. I was somewhat amused to hear the arguments that were put before us as to why we should not have this motion passed. One of these arguments was that set up by the hon. Minister of Public Works (Mr. Pugsley) in which he said that if we give you three members you will ask for four. I say let us have four if we need them and if four are not enough let us have five ; and if five are not enough let us have six, I say that we will ask for the whole House of Commons if it be necessary in order to have this work done in an honest and business-like way. If we cannot have it properly done in the Department of Public Works, or in any other department, we will then move to have these tenders opened on the table of the House and before every member in order that it may be honestly and properly done. Therefore, I say that it was to my mind a very unreasonable and unfair argument for the Minister of Public Works to make in opposition to the motion of my hon. friend. The question is : Are three better than two ? Is there anything wrong with the third man in these departments or is there any reason why he should not call them in ? What is the matter with Mr. MIDDLEBRO.
him ? What is the reason ? Is he too busy? I am informed that the departments are well equipped with officials ; in fact, all the evidence that we have in the country is to that effect. Have you no confidence in the third man ? If you have confidence in him, what is the reason for saying he should not be there ? Is there any reason why the tenderer should not be there ? . As the Minister of Public Works said we will have to give him notice. Tell him that the tenders will be opened on a certain particular day and if he is not there it will be his fault and not yours. That is the position I take. In the constituency that I have the honour to represent we have had a great deal of difficulty over tenders. It has not been between Conservatives and Liberals but between Liberals and Liberals, because we have Liberals and Liberals in our constituency. What has been the condition ? The hon. Minister of Militia and Defence (Sir Frederick Borden) knows very well that in that particular constituency we have a gentleman who supplies ham and bacon to the Militia Department there. What is the result ? A good Liberal sent in a tender for those supplies at the same time as the successful tender was sent in, and he proved to the satisfaction of the public at least, whether he proved to the satisfaction of the department or not, that his tender was lower than that of the man who now has the contract. Moreover, the gentleman who put in that tender is now supplying the gentleman who received the contract to supply the department, and if anybody desires the name of this gentleman I will give it to him. I have risen because in the constituency which I have the honour to represent as the junior member this matter has been brought up and dealt with at very great length. Therefore, diffident as I feel about getting up upon this, almost my first day in the House, I could not forego the opportunity of placing myself on record upon the question. To my mind no argument has been presented to convince this House that the resolution of my hon. friend for Grenville (Mr. Reid) should not be adopted. On the contrary, every argument which has been advanced from the other side of the House indicates very strongly to me at least that I should support this motion. We should not treat this as a party question, are we not here representing the people ? Have we not been sent here by the people ? Should we keep any information away from them ? Should we not give them all the information we can ? Should we let them be part and parcel of the government of the country or should we, having got their votes to place us in this parliament, say to them that we do not want to let them know anything more, until perhaps four or five years from now when we may go back to them and again seek their support, in the meantime
forgetting all about them ? Would anybody say to the people in his constituency that he would oppose such a resolution as this ? Would any member Irom any constituency in the Dominion of Canada stand face to face before his electors and say that he would refuse to support any measure that would give information to the people with regard to tenders and contracts ? Would he say : We are going to award
these contracts as secretly as we possibly can ? He would not dare to say that but he would say : If there is anything wrong, if you think there is any better way in which these contracts can be awarded we will be glad to adopt it and to give to the people all the information that they may require in order to satisfy them as to the manner in which this business is done. We are here for the purpose of dealing with these matters. I do not consider it a party question. It should not be a party question. It is a question that involves the security of the people of Canada.
I was somewhat surprised at the conversational argument which took place between the Minister of Public Works and one hon. gentleman on this side of the House. What was the argument ? To my mind it was an effort to try and persuade those who were listening that something had not happened that had happened, simply by saying: I
did not say that particular thing at that particular time or date, and I am not going to tell you what I did say or at what particular time I said it; you must guess it. The question was asked why it was that some gentleman in St. John was enabled to secure $35,000 or $36,000 out of the contract for which amount he had performed no service. We in our part of the country have not been informed as to how this was brought about. I do not know how he got this money, whether the contractor put his contract in for fifty cents and was told to increase it to fifty-five, and to give five cents to some one else, the fact remains that some one got $35,000 or $36,000 to which he had no right and for which he has never given a day's work to this country. That is how it appears to me. In the city of Halifax we have had a great deal of the patronage evil, so much so that it is almost a wonder to see my colleague and myself here.
My colleague and I have been returned to this House because the good Liberals of the city of Halifax are beginning to realize that public men in offices of public trust must deal properly with the money of the people of Canada. The people of Halifax believed that iii order to bring about that desired end they could no longer return to parliament the two former members, and they were two very good men in private life; no better men ever came to this House in their capacity as private citizens. But the people of Halifax came to the conclusion that supporting as they did the government of the day in all its transactions, they were useless as members of parliament, and they told them: You must stay at home. Of course, Sir, it may happen that my. constituents will at some future date lose confidence in me, but if they do it will not be because during my career in this House I have not stood up under all circumstances for an economic and honest expenditure of the money of the people. It is not necessary that I should cite as examples contracts that have been awarded in my own city, but let me ask, what better security for square dealing can a minister of the Crown have than that when he calls in his first man and his second man to be present with him, there should also be present the men who have tendered. In what more honest way can the rights of the public be guarded." The Minister of Public Works has told us that the tenderers might conspire to secure a higher price, but cannot the same thing occur to-day .under the present system. Will we be in any worse position in that regard, if the resolution is adopted than we are now. I say no. I say that the collusion between tenderers which the Minister of Public Works seems so much afraid of is far easier of accomplishment to-day than it could possibly be under the system which the motion of my hon. friend (Mr. Reid) proposes. I shall support the principle of the resolution before the House, and I shall support it because it is a resolution that the people of my constituency sent me here to support. I take it for granted that there is not a man in this House who can go before any intelligent audience in the Dominion of Canada and defend any other principle than that which is embodied in the resolution which I shall be most happy to vote for.
Topic: OPENING OF GOVERNMENT TENDERS.