February 27, 1901

CON

Nathaniel Clarke Wallace

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALLACE.

Is that the lowest tenderer ?

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

Yes. It would not he advisable, nor in the public interest, that I should bring down either the tender or the contract until the parties have signed the contract. There is no possible objection to these papers being brought down at the proper time, but just now I cannot do it. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Prior) can move later on.

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CON

Edward Gawler Prior

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. PRIOR.

The two tenders were accepted by the department.

The MINISTER OF MARINE AND

FISHERIES. The lowest tenders were accepted.

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CON

Edward Gawler Prior

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. PRIOR.

And, I suppose the deposits were put up by the tenderers ?

The MINISTER OF MARINE AND

FISHERIES. There were no deposits.

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER.

Shall this motion pass ?

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Some hon. MEMBERS

Carried.

The MINISTER OF MARINE AND

FISHERIES. Hon. gentlemen see that I cannot allow the motion to be carried now.

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CON

Frederick Debartzch Monk

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MONK.

The minister says the tender was accepted, and the contract is only a matter of detail.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

It is not by any means a matter of detail. So far from being a matter of detail, one of the parties whose tender had been accepted has already withdrawn. If I bring down the papers, and the whole world is informed who the tenderers were, and the amounts before the contracts are signed, possibly some of them might withdraw. This information is never given to the public, until the contract is signed.

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CON

Edward Gawler Prior

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. PRIOR.

It is not the intention of the minister to call for fresh tenders.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

I do not know what will be my intention if they all withdraw. Unless the House compels me to, I am not going to make public the tenders,, and amounts until the parties have accepted and signed the contract. I am quite sure that has been the practice heretofore.

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CON

Nathaniel Clarke Wallace

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. N. CLARKE WALLACE (West York).

Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt that the tenderers know ail about these matters. I have no doubt that after they put their tenders in, they have communicated to each other, as I am told they usually do, what their tenders are. Now, Sir, a job may be on foot, and if the people know the facts of the case a job can be prevented from being carried out. I am not speaking of a job implicating the minister, but a job in which the tenderers drop out one after another in order to get a higher price for the building of the ship. There is too much secrecy. My opinion with regard to public tenders is that the whole public should know all about them right from the start. What is the object of secrecy ? The government will not tell us what binder twine costs ; they will not tell us anything. What is the object of hiding the facts ? The true way is to give the utmost publicity to all these matters. Let everything be done in the open, and then everybody will know exactly how the matter stands, and we shall have lower tenders, less jobbery, and no deals. The minister tells us that he will not give the information now, because if he does he is afraid it will assist in the carrying out of these deals against the government. But the fact that the people have full information in regard to these matters will prevent deals, if anything can be done in that direction. Therefore, we are entitled to have this motion passed, and to have the minister give full information to parliament. The plan that has been pursued in the past must stop-that of the government, on their own sweet will, without giving sufficient reasons, saying, We cannot bring down the papers about this or that. Parliament is entitled to receive full information on all these matters, and should not be satisfied without

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LIB

Louis Henry Davies (Minister of Marine and Fisheries)

Liberal

Sir LOUIS DAVIES.

having the fullest information in the papers asked for by the hon. member for Victoria, B.C.

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CON

Charles Hibbert Tupper

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir CHARLES HIBBERT TUPPER.

As I understand it, the only thing that, in the opinion of the hon. minister, should be kept secret is the prices of the various competitors, in the event of his asking for further tenders. I would not wish to urge the government to divulge a matter of business which it would be in the public interest to keep private. Still, when that feature is considered, what is there in it ? These tenderers, whoever they may be, have that information. Each one can give the amount of his tender to another ; they can impart that information to any one they please ; the minister cannot prevent them. That is the only reason advanced for withholding the papers. It seems to me, in listening to the discussion, that the interests of the department would be served by the amounts of these tenders being known, should the department have to resort to fresh tenders. There has been no argument at all to support the hon. minister in his determination to keep these papers back. As I understand it, he has these gentlemen in his hands, if they are responsible parties. One safeguard, however, seems to have been overlooked altogether in order to secure bona fide tenderers ; that is, the usual deposit has not been required. A very large amount of money is involved in the construction of these boats, and the ordinary course followed in all the departments is to require a deposit with each tender. That is done for the very purpose of preventing the withdrawing of tenders. The hon. gentleman says that one of the tenders which has been accepted has been withdrawn. But the tenderer cannot withdraw under the law, and, if he is responsible, it seems to me that it would be the duty of the department to hold him to his contract. The House being in session, and there being now an actual contract, it seems to me, unless some other reason is given, that the minister is unduly cautious in withholding the information asked for.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES (Hon. Sir Louis Davies).

The hon. gentleman knows that there has never been a case in the history of the government when tenders have been communicated to the House before the contract has been entered into. There are six or eight of these tenderers, and if I published the names the lower one would withdraw altogether. In this case the lowest tender has been accepted, the contract has been made out, it will be executed in a short time, and the moment it is executed the information will be given to my hon. friend. There is no disposition to withhold the information ; but I could not undertake to advise the House to make a new departure and publish the tenders which have been received before the contract is entered into. It is only a

question of time, and if tlie lion, gentleman renews liis motion at tlie proper time, 1 will tell him when the contract is entered into, and bring down the information.

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CON

Matthew Henry Cochrane

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COCHRANE.

Has the hon. gentleman not introduced a new departure by calling for tenders without a deposit ?

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

I will explain that when the papers are brought down.

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Mr. F.@

I). MONK (.Jacques Cartier). I feel disposed to support the position taken by the hon. member for West York (Mr. Wallace). I think the only papers to be withheld from parliament are papers which are withheld by ministers of the Crown for grave reasons of state. Papers relating to anything done by the departments when parliament is sitting, the House has a right to see.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

No, no.

Mr. -MONK. I differ from the hon. gentleman. What difference does it make that certain contractors have sent in tenders, and have failed to comply with those tenders V The House of Commons has a right to see these papers-in fact, all documents having reference to public business except documents which the Crown sees fit to withhold for grave reasons of state. No doubt the minister will have to call for new tenders even if the names of the tenderers are divulged ; but the tenderers who will tender afterwards will all do so under the same conditions, and it is possible that they will tender at lower figures than before. But I lay my claim on the broad principle that except documents which are withheld by the Crown for grave reasons of state we have a right to see all documents.

The MINISTER OF FINANCE (Hon. W.

S. Fielding). The question involved is one of principle, applying not to this particular department alone, but to all departments which invite public tenders. I have to dissent entirely from the principle laid down by the hon. member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) as to the right of parliament to control these documents in that broad and unqualified way that he states. He admits that ministers may withhold documents for reasons of state. If we accept that definition, the minister of this department says that for reasons of state he does not deem it proper to bring these papers down. No one disputes the authority of parliament; but the public business could not be carried on in the departments If the principle which the hon. gentleman has laid down were adopted. Take the Department of Railways, the Department of Public Works, or the Post Office Department, which make many contracts ; if, the moment a number of tenders were received, the list were pro-17

duced in the House of Commons, there would be an end to all competition. It is said that in this particular case the tenderers themselves have probably a knowledge of one another's tenders. That is only a matter of guess work ; they may or may not. But it is positive that if we bring the papers down, every one of them will have that information, and they will have an invitation to put their heads together and make a combination against the public interest. Those who are in the habit of inviting tenders know perfectly well that when you have a list of tenders before you, it is absolutely necessary, in the public interest, to treat that list as confidential until the contract has been signed, sealed and delivered. The adoption of any policy at variance with that would not be in the public interest, and no self-respecting government should allow such a policy to be adopted.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. JOHN HAGGART (South Lanark).

If I remember rightly, in nearly every state of the union one of the conditions in the letting of contracts for public works is that the tenders shall be opened in public, and this condition is insisted on in the cities and municipalities in nearly every part of America. It is looked upon as one of the guarantees also of proper administration to the public. It is true that a different principle is adopted by the present government.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

And the previous government and all governments in Canada.

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February 27, 1901