April 17, 1905

CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN.

I suppose I must bow to the chair and do so with pleasure. Thera are some other items to which I propose to refer but will do so on some more favourable opportunity. But I would invite the attention of the acting minister to the expenditure of $10,000 at St. Joseph wharf in South Huron and to another expenditure of $25,000 at Glace Bay in Nova Scotia. I hope the acting minister will take some new lessons from this discussion. I nope he will make a new departure in advertising and that he will advertise almost new for work to be done next year, so that if there are not sufficient dredges in this

country at present, parties -wishing to go into the dredging business will have an opportunity of giving their orders so that the dredges may be constructed in Canada. But if they cannot be constructed in Canada, I think the hon. gentleman should allow them to come in from the United States so long as they pay the duty. Having intimated that he was willing to change the advertisement, I would suggest that the hon. minister should take it out altogether and put in the kind of advertisement which will suit this side of the House, and if he does that he will toe acting in the interests of the country and satisfy the electors of his own constituency.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

With reference to this interesting letter which we have had read from the acting Minister of Public Works, who was also at that time, I believe, Postmaster General, I think it would throw considerable light on this whole discussion if the hon. minister would bring down the correspondence that ensued in answer to that circular.

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CON

Samuel Barker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SAM. BARKER (Hamilton).

The hon. the acting minister referred to a subject which I dealt with briefly some time last week in connection with the Boone contract. And the minister says he gave an answer which he thinks was entirely satisfactory. Well, it may have been satisfactory to the hon. gentleman, but it certainly was not satisfactory to me. My complaint was that there seems to be no system in the Public Works Department as to the manner of letting contracts, either as to the advertising or as to the terms. And I pointed out that while, with reference to the Port Arthur contract, he gave notice to the world at large that no allowance was to be made to anybody for bringing the dredges to the site of the work ; yet, in a case that we had been investigating in the Public Accounts Committee a week or so ago, it turned out that the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Sutherland), the hon gentleman who is responsible for the department, had, in fact, paid the sum of $1,533 to bring a dredge from Sarnia to Dunnville. And it struck me that the department was endeavouring to fit its policy to the particular conditions of each case, and with some regard, perhaps, to the interests of party friends. Now, it did happen in the Port Arthur case that a few gentlemen, friends of the party in power, had a dreilge upon the spot. And there being a dredge there so owned, it appeared to have occurred to somebody in the department that no allowance should be made to anybody else who might want to bring a dredge to the spot to do the work in competition with these party friends. In the other case, there was no dredge at 'Dunnville, but there was a dredge elsewhere owned by a party friend ; and somehow, without advertisement or pretense of advertisement, that dredge owner was told to bring his dredge to Dunnville and re-Mr. BLAIN.

ceived the modest sum of $1,533 for doing so. This was the complaint 1 made. The hon. acting Minister of Public Works (Mr. Hyman) met it by saying that he had determined that in future there should be no such allowance. But it would be more satisfactory if we had that assurance from the minister (Mr. Sutherland). A few months hence, or next year, we may have to investigate some other matters of this kind. And. possibly, If we point out to the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Sutherland) that he is departing from what the acting minister (Mr. Hyman) is now doing, we may receive the answer that that was only the decision of the acting minister. He may say : I, as minister, am not bound to follow what an hon. gentleman who-was temporarily acting for me chose to do. I do not think we are nearer to any improvement, because the Minister of Public Works, who does not happen to be present, has one system, and the hon. gentleman, who temporarily occupies his place has another. 1 think it rather aggravates the evil of which I was complaining. To show exactly how the department acts, how different is its action in one case from its action in another, I would like to take a few minutes to point out what was done in this Dunnville case. In July Mr. Boone, the owner of the dredge, writes to the minister, referring to a conversation he had with him about doing work at Dunnville and Port Maitland. The result is that, without any advertisement, without any tender, Mr. Boone is told to go ahead. And, although that communication was in July, the work was not begun until October, showing that there was no emergency, no reason why the ordinary course should not have been followed-an advertisement published and tenders received. Now, as a fact, it was a breach of the law, I take it, to let that contract without proper advertisement and calling for tenders. The work done amounted to something like $18,000. That is, $10,000 was paid for work done in the autumn, from October to December, and the Deputy Minister of Public Works assured us that the work done in the spring would probaoly be $8,000 more. 'So there was about $18,000 for one year's operations under this contract let as the result of a conversation-no advertisement, no tender. The acting minister (Mr. Hyman), no doubt, will say that that is not his case, because he has called for tenders. To my mind, the acting minister's way of doing it is worse than the minister's. The minister boldly set the law at defiance. There is a statute which required him to advertise the work and call for tenders; he took upon himself to order his officers to write and tell this man to go to work and they advised him of the terms and set him at work. The acting minister does worse than that, to my mind, as regard the work at Port Arthur. He puts an advertisement in the paper calling for tenders within two or three days after the advertise-

ment is published. Does he say that this is a compliance with the statute ? I should say it was an evasion of the statute, and really worse than if he had not made a pretense of complying with it at all. He took great care. It was a sort of ' no Irish need apply ' advertisement-it was a warning to everybody. Any dredge owner reading that advertisement would know that somebody already had the contract, and that he need not go to expense or waste time over it. No man would come to Ottawa to look at the plans or send to Port Arthur, hundreds of miles away, to investigate the soil, knowing what was in that advertisement. He would see plainly that somebody at Port Arthur had a dredge and that that somebody would get the contract. There cannot be any question about that. The minister speaks of ' deductions ' ; but is not that a fair deduction ? The hon. gentleman (Mr. Hyman) practically admits that there was something wrong, because he has altered the advertisement already. But he has not altered it sufficiently. He made the alteration owing to the fact that the hon. member for East Simcoe (Mr. Bennett) had called attention to the matter. Yet he finds, fault with the hon. member for East Simcoe, and speaks of ' deductions ' ; but is not that a But the hon. gentleman (Mr. Bennett) did not say a word about that advertisement that was not quite justified, and I think the acting minister (Mr. Hyman) virtually admits that.

Now, let me say a word as to the work performed at Dunnville, because it bears upon this general question. The acting Minister of Public Works seems to draw a distinction between paying a dredge by the hour and paying by the quantity. But where is the real difference, when It is provided that they may work so many hours a day and must do so much in a day ? You can call it paying by quantity or paying by the hour, but it is practically the same thing. The peculiarity in the work at Dunnville is this : It was begun on the 3rd of October and was carried on until about the middle of December. There were something over sixty days' work of that dredge. The dredge was paid $144 a day-twelve hours' work every day at $12 an hour. I have seen every report of every day's work; and, from the first to the last, from the 3rd of October to the end of the season in December, with the exception of two days, the report of the inspector is that the dredge moved and dumped 1,064 yards-every day, not a change, good weather, bad weather, in October when the days were longer, in December when the days were shorter every day 1,064 cubic yards of earth were removed and dumped.

There is not a solitary change at any period. There have been storms no doubt, days when it would be difficult to do work at Maitland and perhaps also at Dunnville, but every day it is the same, 1,064 cubic qards, for which $144 were paid. I do not

know whether the looseness that we are speaking of extends down to the inspectors, but there does seem to be a want of method and system. The minister, the head of the department, begins by ignoring the statute. In a contract involving $18,000 where he was bound by statute to advertise for tenders, he ignored the statute. Every one in the department knows it; he lets that contract out as the result of a conversation with Mr. Boone. I submit that when the tead of the department does this we cannot blame some official a little lower down in the department for running the business independent of rules. So it goes on, down to the inspector who says that $12 an hour makes $144 a day and that 1,064 cubic yards may quite reasonably be taken for every day and thus we have this account made up. It is about time that the House should know the system that is followed and should insist, in the interest of the country, that the statute relating to public works be strictly complied with, that there should be no verbal arrangements with ministers, that there should be no pretended advertisements, and that whether contracts involve expenditures of $100,000 or of $5,000, no advertisement should be published such as that read by the hon. member for East Simcoe. It is simply throwing away the money of the country ; it would be far better to keep the money in the treasury and do as the minister did, at Dunnville, have a talk with somebody and let the contract go at that. Such an advertisement as was published in the * Globe ' and ' Herald ' in this case is absolutely of no use; you have just given so much money to the newspapers and the country does not derive one cent of benefit.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN (Carleton, Out.).

I think also that the acting Minister of Public Works, should be very much obliged to the hen. member for Simcoe (Mr. Bennett) for bringing this matter to his attention on Thursday last. The minister has to a certain extent shown his appreciation of that circumstance by making an alteration in the .advertisement. I shall speak in a little while as to the nature of that alteration. I rose principally for the purpose of pointing out that the acting Minister of Public Works seems to be under a rather curious misapprehension as to the real object of this advertisement. He says that his object is to secure competition among Canadian dredges. Now, a dredge does not send in tenders for this work ; a contractor sends in a tender for this work and a dredge is simply a part of the plant which the contractor uses. The hon. gentleman should endeavour to secure competition among Canadian contractors, not competition among the three or four Canadian dredges which are on the spot. He should endeavour to secure competition among* Canadian contractors, and that he has not

sought to do by his own statement. He is very earnest about dredges from the United States. He says they should not be used and yet we have it an admitted fact, X tnink in the course of this debate, and in the debate which took place the other day, that the very dredges which are intended to perform this contract were brought from the United States.

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LIB

Charles Smith Hyman (Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Mr. HYMAN.

I am sure the hon. gentleman wishes to be fair. I did not say that American dredges should not be used. If dredges are brought in here and duty is paid on them to ail intents and purposes they are Canadian dredges, but what I do object to and what I try to keep from is the idea of anybody tendering without owning a dredge and then if he received the contract going to the United States and getting a dredge to do the work practically without paying duty.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

That is what I said, my hon. friend desires to restrict competition to the two or three or four dredges which are on the spot, and among which an arrangement can easily be made to double the price. I would like to understand how the public interest will be injured it you create competition among the Canadian contractors and enable them to provide themselves with dredges wherever they can procure these necessary articles. What does the hon. gentleman say in his advertisement? He says in the first place :

Only dredges can be employed upon the work which were registered in Canada at the time of the filing of the tender with the department.

The time is now extended until the first of May ; it was originally fixed for the fourteenth of April. The minister originally desired to shut out every possible competition from every person who was not possessed of a dredge which should be registered in Canada on the 14th of April and we all know what that means. In his amended advertisement he says :

Intending contractors must be ready to begin work within 30 days after the date on which they have been notified of the acceptance of their tender.

1 would like to know, in the public interest, what difficulty would result from the course of procedure which I shall now suggest. Suppose the minister in the first place took security, as I suppose he does in some form from every tenderer, suppose he provided in his tender that every man who undertakes that contract shall be piovided with necessary dredges at the time *uhen he is called upon to begin work under the terms of the tender. Will the public Interest suffer in any way by adopting a course of that kind ? In what respect would it suffer ? By the very terms of the form of tender to which I have adverted, the contractor must be ready with his dredge when

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

file department calls upon him to do the work. Instead of taking that course the minister restricts it to the time when the tender is filed with the department. That is not the important date, the important date for the possession of the dredge is the date on which the man is called upon to begin to carry on the work. I think that should be clear to the meanest intellect in this House. If the minister were calling for tenders for this work as his own work and were paying for it out of his own pocket, can we imagine that he would insert in one of these newspapers such a form of advertisement and give such time as he has given for the commencement of the work in the present instance rehen it is to be paid for out of the public moneys of Canada ?

We all know that the bon. acting minister would not think of doing such a thing. Imagine the hon. acting Minister of Public Works, a business man of ability and experience, with respect to his own affairs, putting advertisements in the newspapers for a work of this kind under the conditions which he has adopted and giving three days in which to put in tenders after the advertisement had appeared in the public press. The thing is absolutely unthinkable, and yet I venture to think that the people of this country are entitled to receive from the acting Minister of Public Works in respect to an undertaking of this kind, exactly the same business treatment which might be expected from him if he were dealing with his own money and with his own private affairs. Now, this dredging business has come before the House for discussion on a good many occasions and there has been a good deal of criticism of the methods which have prevailed in the past in reference to the administration in regard to such matters. I have not the debates before me, but if I recollect very well what has taken place we have known of instances where these dredging contracts have over and over again been given to men who had not the slightest connection with that class of work at the time that the contracts were awarded. We know of one case in which a tailor was awarded a dredging contract. We know what was done with it ; it was simply farmed out at a profit of $1, $2 and $3 an hour by that man without him running the slightest risk and without his having the slightest connection with the actual work of dredging. In another case we had a dredging contract given to a real estate man. That gentleman took no part in the work of dredging, he had no dredge at the time and he simply let the work out to some one else. In all these cases these men got these contracts in the first instance simply because they were very strong partisans of the present administration. I do not know whether that practice prevails at the present time; certainly it did prevail in the past, but now the hon. acting minister is introducing, under the form of

advertisement used in this instance, what seems to savour very strongly of the methods to which I have just referred.

Now, one word more in reference to the point of order which has been referred to by my right hon. friend the leader of the government (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) and which, I think, was not a good point of order after all. The rule laid down by Bourinot in the second edition of his work, page 405, is this:

The rule as to relevancy in speeches has never been applied in the Canadian Houses to motions for the adjournment of the House or of the debate.

That is the rule laid down by Bourinot and that is the rule which I have seen acted upon by this House up to the present time. It is true that when there is a question before the House and a member moves the adjournment, that member must confine himself to the question. But in this case there was no question before the House. My hon. tfriend from East Simcoe (Mr. Bennett) brought up a motion to adjourn as a substantive motion upon the Orders of the Day being called, and any member has the same right to discuss that subject, as he would have the same right when the right hon. Prime Minister moves the adjournment here to-night. If there is a question before the House and a motion to adjourn the House is moved, not as a substantive motion, but as an amendment, no reply is allowed for that reason and the debate in respect to that motion to adjourn must be confined to the question in respect to which the adjournment is moved ; but when, upon the Orders of the Day, a motion is made, not arising upon any question, the hon. gentleman who moves the adjournment of the House can speak upon it and any other hon. gentleman can arise immediately after and discuss a subject entirely foreign to that which has been discussed by the first hon. gentleman. No hon. gentleman of this House more than another has any right to move the adjournment of the House. The Prime Minister has the right to move it to-night at the conclusion of the business of the day. When the Prime Minister moves it to-night; I can arise and bring any particular matter to the attention of the House. Any other hon. gentleman can get up and bring any other matter to the attention of the House. I see that my hon. friend the Minister of Inland Revenue (Mr. Brodeur) shakes his head. Well, he may shake his head, but he does so in defiance of the rule laid down by Sir John Bourinot.

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LIB

Louis-Philippe Brodeur (Minister of Inland Revenue)

Liberal

Mr. BRODEUR.

I think that what Bourinot refers to in the first part is this: When a motion to adjourn is made by the Prime Minister at the end of the sitting the discussion shall be confined simply and purely to the question, whether the House shall adjourn or not, because the question is raised for that purpose. Sir John Bourinot told me that several times, but unfortunately that

rule was not carried out in the House. When I was Speaker I, in several instances, permitted hon. members to bring up questions which were not germane to the question before the House, which was whether the House should adjourn or not. But when we come to discuss a substantive motion I do not think my hon. friend will find that Bourinot lays it down that on that motion some other question may be brought up. It has always been decided and I have decided myself, that the question then should be confined to the subject matter which has been brought up by the person who has moved the adjournment.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

I do not understand my hon. friend's reasoning at all. When we come back to the technical nature of the motion to adjourn it will be remembered that my hon. friend from East Simcoe moves that the House adjourn because it is not wise to proceed with the public business because the acting Minister of Public Works has not been diligent in the performance of his duties as a servant of the Crown. Any other hon. gentleman in this House can arise and support that motion for any other reason. He is not confined to the reasons given by my hon. friend from East Simcoe. He can arise and support that motion on account of any other reason. Subsequent speakers are not at all confined to the matter which was introduced by the hon. gentleman who made the motion in the first instance. When a motion to adjourn is made by way of amendment it is an entirely different matter. There is then a certain question before the House. A motion to adjourn is in that case not a substantive motion, but a motion in amendment and no reply is allowed. The only matter which can be discussed on a motion' to adjourn of that nature is the matter in respect to which the motion was made in the first instance. But this is not a case of that kind. There was no question before the House. My hon. friend from East Simcoe arose on the Orders of the Day and moved that the House should adjourn for a certain reason. Any other hon. gentleman on this or the other side of the House may either support or oppose that motion for the reasons which were given by my hon. friend for East Simcoe or for any other reasons which seem good in his sight. At least that is the way in which I understand the practice.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

Dire word first as to the question of procedure. My hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L. Borden) is right in saying that when a motion is made to adjourn the House the debate upon the motion to adjourn must be confined to the subject matter of the debate. Upon this my hon. friend and I agree. What is the rule which applies to a motion for the adjournment of the House? It is the privilege of any member of the House upon the

Orders of the Day being called to move the adjournment of the House. Our rule is not as severe upon this point as it is in England. In England there must be certain formalities complied with before that motion may be made, but in this House it is the privilege of any hon. member to move that the House adjourn. But the book says that such an amendment shall be moved only on some important and urgent matter and not otherwise, not matters of general debate, but some important and urgent matter. I have my opinion upon this question and I think I shall be able to satisfy my hon. friend the leader of the opposition in regard to it, perhaps not to-day, but at some later time. But when the question is brought up by a member of the House for the purpose of bringing the attention of the House to a certain subject which is urgent and important the discussion must be confined to that matter. My hon. friend says that hon. members are at liberty to roam about and to introduce other subjects. The debate was brought up on the question of dredging at Port Arthur and Fort William. Then the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Blain) wanted to bring in the question of harbour improvements at St. Joseph. If that were the privilege of the hon. member for Peel it might be open to every one of the 200 members of this House to bring up on such a motion any subject that he pleases, and my hon. friend will at once realize-

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CON
LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

That is not the argument of my hon. friend the leader of the opposition. My hon. friend says that the discussion shall not be confined to dredging but that it may be extended to any other subject. The discussion must be confined to the subject matter which is introduced in the motion to adjourn, and I think I will be able to satisfy my friend on that point at an early date. I have no objection at all to this matter being brought to the attention of the House in this man-mer. I agree with the acting Minister of Public Works that the origiual notices were too short, and he has amended them by extending the time. But I take issue with hon. gentlemen opposite as to the nature of the tenders which are to be admitted for this work. The acting minister has very properly confined them to persons who are at present the owners of dredges, or will be the owners of dredges at the time the tenders are'opened. My hon. friend opposite objects to this, but ihis own remarks give a very good reason why that course should be followed. Under the system which prevailed in the past, men who were not the owners of dredges and who did not follow dredging as an avocation sent In tenders. Is it not far preferable that whenever public works are to be done in Canada, those invited to compete should be men in the business ? All governments have to Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

guard against bogus tenders or speculative tenders sent in by men who are not in the business, and who run the risk of putting up a few thousand dollars so that they may get work for which they are not competent. The minister has taken the precaution to provide that no man shall be permitted to tender unless he is the bona fide owner of a dredge.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. SAM. HUGHES.

Suppose that tomorrow a Canadian wished to buy a suction dredge at Duluth in order to enter into this contract, does the First Minister think he would have time to register that dredge under the terms of this contract ?

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

That is not the point. It may be that the notice would be too short in that respect, but the real question is, whether it is better that only men should be invited to tender who can do the work, or whether we should open the door to tenders from all kinds of persons, whether they are competent or not. Under the latter system we would have men undertaking to do the work who were not able to do it properly, thus causing a great deal of inconvenience and damage. It is a question of policy on that point, and as to whether we are right or wrong we are in the judgment of the House. I believe that the action taken by the acting minister in this respect is the action that should have been taken.

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CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT.

It is quite plain that the government intend that Conmee & Bowman should remain in undisputed possession of this work for the coming year. Under the principle laid down by the First Minister, no man can purchase a dredge in the United States and have it registered in Canada in time to tender for this work. In reply to the statement of the acting Minister of Public Works (Mr. Hyman) that I had made an insinuation, I can tell him that 1 do not make insinuations ; I make statements and I am prepared to back them up. I am quite willing to abide by what I say in this House or out of it and I won't take any reflections from the hon. gentleman from London (Mr. Hyman). I have been a member of this House longer than he has, and if he wants to try his hand in London again I will continue to be a member when he is not. This government places the member for London in a position to spend the money of the people, but he is not responsible to any person ; he is not a responsible minister of the Crown In the full sense of the term. He is put in that position because they know where they stand in the province of Ontario to-day, and this government says to the people of Ontario as Vanderbilt once said : the public be d

d. The

acting Minister of Public Works has told us that Mr. Conmee has not been to see him about this matter. I would not insult Mr. Conmee's intelligence by saying that he did go to see the minister. Mr. Conmee has

liis partner Mr. Bowman to do that, and what is more he has his other partner Mr. N. W. Rowell of Toronto. Does the minister know that. The minister won't deny It.

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LIB

Charles Smith Hyman (Minister Without Portfolio)

Liberal

Mr. HYMAN.

I really must object to this. As a matter of fact, I do not know that Mr. Rowell has anything to do with the company at all, and the statement of the hon. member (Mr. Bennett) is most unfair.

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CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT.

The innocence of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Hyman) is wonderful.

I can tell him, if he never heard of it before, that Mr. Rowell is a member of that firm.

I suppose he never heard of Mr. Rowell either? And who is Mr. Rowell ? Mr. Rowell was the gentleman who was employed by the Ross government as a go-between when this company over-reached the people of the province to the tune of $400,000. The public of Ontario does not expect anything honest from any department of this government. The evidences are so flagrant-postmaster, absconders with public money in their pockets and not prosecuted by the criminal law because they are party friends, about which more shall be heard before the session is ended. In the Department of Public Works it has simply got down to this : that men who owned

dredges when the Liberals came into power were literally taken by the throat and compelled to give up their dredges because they could not get any work. Intermediaries were employed and the owners of the dredges were driven out of the business. The result is, that all kinds of contracts were given for dredging which never should be given, and never would be given if we had fair and open competition. No person, in Ontario expects any more honesty from this government than from the Ross government, and the people of Ontario gave their opinion on the Ross government. The acting Minister of Public Works tells us that there are only two or three firms owning dredges; there is the company with which ex-Deputy Speaker Macdonald is associated ; there is the company with which Mr. Boone is associated, and there is the company of Con-mee & Bowman, and they are simply dividing up the work between them and no one else is allowed a chance to tender. So far as dredging goes in the province of Ontario, there is no more healthy or honest competition. It is all fixed, and it is well that the country should know that not only the acting Minister of Public Works does this, but that the Prime Minister stands at the back of his government on this question. I would advise these hon. gentlemen to test public opinion in the province of Ontario. When Mr. William Lount went on the bench they put Mr. Bertram up in Centre Toronto and succeeded in electing him, but the other day they did not dare to contest the same constituency because apart from the school question altogether

they know what the people of Ontario think of them. Go to any part of the province of Ontario where there are public works and if it is not Conmee & Rowell and a crowd of grafters who are making an enormous profit, it is some person else. That is the reason this government stands to-day discredited in the eyes of the people of Ontario ; that is the reason they are afraid to take chances of a fall in the constituency of London, as they were afraid to take their chances the other day in Centre Toronto.

Motion (Mr. Bennett) to adjourn, negatived.

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MANITOBA ELECTION RETURNS.

CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Before the Orders of the Day are called, I would like to direct the attention of the Prime Minister once more to a matter which I mentioned on the 20th of February last. It was as to the performance of their duties by the returning officers in the province of Manitoba at the general election in November last. The Prime Minister was not in the House when I first mentioned the matter; but subsequently on the 22nd of February, I brought it to his attention, and the right hon. gentleman then said :

I may inform my hon. friend lhat I received to-day two memoranda from the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery on this subject, but I have not yet been able to look at them. I will be able to give him an answer to-morrow.

The right hon. gentleman did not give an answer on the following day, but he told the hon. member for North Toronto that as the returns in question were in custody of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, who was an officer of the House, he thought it would be better perhaps to move to have the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery place all these documents upon the table of the House. I have spoken to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery to-day on that point, and I do not think that would be a very convenient course, because the documents in relation to, I think, five constituencies in the province of Manitoba have been sent forward for the purpose of legal proceedings taken in that province. But what I want to point out to the right hon. gentleman is that there are certain provisions-I will not occupy the time of the House in enumerating them-in section 92 of the Dominion Elections Act of 1900 which require the returning officers shall transmit to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery certain documents after the elections have been concluded, among the most important of which are the lists of voters and the poll books. I asked the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery whether there is any supervision over the election returns after they are made by the returning officers, and he frankly says there is not unless some question arises ; and indeed, I

think it would be impossible for him to make any thorough supervision of the returns with the staff he has at present. At the same time, it seems to me that it is not a desirable thing that there should be no supervision over the manner in which the returning officers, who are officers of this House, perform their duties. It has been alleged, with what truth I do not know, that some of the returning officers in Manitoba were not very responsible men. I am not going into that question now ; but if it should happen that a man not very well qualified were chosen in any part of the country, there might be a grave irregularity and sometimes a grave injustice, which would not be discovered at the time. I was very much struck, I think it was in 1897 or 1898, when I was investigating certain matters in connection with the West Huron and Brockville elections, at what the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery told me had actually come within his knowledge. Twenty-five or thirty years ago a certain election was held, I do not remember whether a by-election or a general election, and a certain gentleman was returned. Ten or twelve years afterwards the late Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, Mr, Chapleau, found it necessary for some reason to look over the papers, which had not been inspected up to that time, and he found that the man who had sat here for five sessions had never been elected at all, although returned, the figures at one of the polls having been transposed in the statement of the deputy returning officer. Of course, that is very unusual ; we would not expect that to occur very often, particularly where there was any sort of party organization. But I would think it desirable that the Prime Minister should take into consideration whether there should not be some more effective supervision over the manner in which these writs are executed. At pre-. sent there is very little, and there cannot be much. I am making no reflection on the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery ; he is a very capable, efficient and obliging officer ; I am only speaking of the system. I would think that a more convenient method than that suggested by the Prime Minister would be to have some examination, in respect of the constituencies which I mentioned on the 20th February, of the manner in which the returning officers executed the writs and complied with the provisions of the statute. I should think that could be done without any formal motion in the House ; but if the Prime Minister, after consideration, should think a motion necessary for that purpose, I will be prepared to make it at a later date.

Topic:   MANITOBA ELECTION RETURNS.
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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

I have been unable to satisfy myself that the object which my hon. friend has in view could be reached without a formal motion. I shall be glad, however, to discuss the matter privately with him.

Topic:   MANITOBA ELECTION RETURNS.
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April 17, 1905