February 27, 1901

CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

Yes, but that does not make the principle laid down by the Minister of Finance the correct one. The time must arrive when, in order to assure the parties tendering that they shall have fair-play and to protect the interests of the public, a day will be fixed in every case for the reception and opening of tenders, and all tenders will be opened in public. That is the proper practice, and the sooner we adopt it the better.

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Subtopic:   BRITISH COLUMBIA-NEW GOVERNMENT VESSELS.
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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

How long has the hon. gentleman been of that opinion ?

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

Let me tell the hon. gentleman that I never opened a tender in my life.

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Subtopic:   BRITISH COLUMBIA-NEW GOVERNMENT VESSELS.
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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

That is not the question. We do not open them.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

The tenders in my department were always opened by the officers and a report given to me by 'them.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

So they are now.

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

I never opened a tender, and I defy the hon. gentleman to state that I have done so. No tender for anything in my department was ever opened by me nor was I present at the opening.

Everything done was done in public and above board.

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

Will the hon. gentleman pardon me ? I did not ask him whether he had ever opened the tenders, but I did ask him to tell this House how long he has entertained the opinion he has now expressed.

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Subtopic:   BRITISH COLUMBIA-NEW GOVERNMENT VESSELS.
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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. HAGGART.

I am coming to that particular question. I freely admit that the principle I advocate now, I did not practise when I was administering the affairs of the country, and I admit that the present government is simply following up the practice followed by us. But there is this difference to be taken into account. There is a stranger at present ruling on the throne of the Stuart, and therefore it is perhaps time now that a system, which might not have been used when we were in power, should now be changed and a different principle adopted. But I was simply answering the statement of the Minister of Finance, that all governments would have to follow the policy adopted by this one and that to adopt any other would put au end almost to constitutional government. 1 wanted simply to point out that in nearly every country in the world-I do not know about Great Britain, but in all the states of the union-the contractor, before he tenders, insists that the day of opening of tenders should be published and that he should be given the opportunity of being present when the tenders are opened. I think perhaps that a principle which might have been worked honestly in our time, when there was a fair and honest administration in office, would be opened to suspicion at present and another should be adopted.

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Subtopic:   BRITISH COLUMBIA-NEW GOVERNMENT VESSELS.
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IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. W. F. MACLEAN (East York).

I hope that the doctrine is not being laid down now by the Liberal party that a new and progressive principle should not be adopted.

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The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS.

A pernicious principle.

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IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. MACLEAN.

It is a pernicious principle which the hon. gentleman is advocating, because it leads to log rolling. It is when the tenders are not made public that the people get the worst of it.

The principle of publishing the tenders is adopted, the hon. member for South Lanark (Hon. Mr. Haggart) says, in all municipal corporations. That system prevents log rolling, but if you keep the tenders dark, log rolling is bound to continue.

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Subtopic:   BRITISH COLUMBIA-NEW GOVERNMENT VESSELS.
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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. S. SPROULE (East Grey).

It seems to me that a deposit should have been insisted on as a guarantee that the party tendering is prepared to go on with the work, if his tender be accepted. Had that been done in this case, the successful tenderer would have been bound to carry out the contract. The hon. minister said that the lowest tenderers had dropped out.

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

There were two distinct tenders one for a small ship and the other for a large one. The lowest tenderer for the small skip dropped out. I cannot tell you why he dropped out, but the lowest tenderer for the large ship accepted the contract and it is about to be signed. When it is signed I will bring it down.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

It does not make any difference whether the tender was for a small ship or a large one. Had the party tendering been compelled to put up a deposit, he would not now back out. There is a strong suspicion that he may have consulted with others and have dropped out for reasons.

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The PRIME MINISTER (Itt. Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier).

The question is not, as suggested by my hon, friend from South Lanark (Hon. Mr. Haggart) whether the system is right or wrong or susceptible of improvement. The question is whether or not those papers should be laid on the Table at this moment. No doubt all transactions of the government have to be communicated to parliament to whom the government is responsible, but my hon. friend knows very well, and so does my hon. friend from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk), that it is against all rules of constitutional government to bring down any papers before the transaction they relate to is completed. The reasons are obvious. There are private interests which might be placed in jeopardy if communicated to the public before hand, and the position taken by my hon. friend on my right is a proper one, namely, that as soon as the transaction is completed the papers will be brought down. But it stands to reason that, at this moment, when the government is engaged in a private transaction with private parties, the interest of those parties may be put in jeopardy if communicated to the public. The public interest is not the only thing to be considered ; the private interest involved must be considered also. Private parties having transactions with the government may fairly say : We do not want our business to go to the country at large ; we do not want the nation to be taken into our confidence. But, when the business is settled, the matter will be ready for the public. This is the rule which has been invariably followed in this House. I could cite instances without number in which that rule has been strictly adhered to.

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CON

Edward Gawler Prior

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. PRIOR.

The reason I put this motion on the paper is that there is a very strong suspicion in British Columbia that the letting of these contracts has not been straight and square. This feeling exists, not only amongst the men in the firms that tendered, but amongst others who have been watching what has been going on. I was told by two, aye, by three, of the tenderers that the specifications for these two ships were the most extraordinary they had ever

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CON

John Graham Haggart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HAGGART.

had put into their hands. For one thing, 1 believe, though tenders were called for the steamers, yet no specification for engines was included. Then, again, no deposit was asked on any of the tenders, and that, in itself, was a very suspicious circumstance, according to our idea. These contracts must have involved about $100,000 for the two vessels

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The MINISTER OF MARINE AND FISHERIES.

No.

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CON

Edward Gawler Prior

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. Mr. PRIOR.

Very nearly. One was for about $75,000, and the other about $15,000. Anyhow, we know how these things go. There would be extras probably, if a friend of the government got the contract.

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Subtopic:   BRITISH COLUMBIA-NEW GOVERNMENT VESSELS.
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February 27, 1901