May 10, 1905

LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

I am not so well informed. But seriously what I wish to point

out is that I take it for granted that all fences are not of equal value. Because Mr. Smith asks $500 for a fence and Mr. Brown $200, it does not necessarily follow that they are offering the same article. The essence of this question is that there is no deal and no fence ; there is no contract and no offence.

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L-C
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

There is no need of a defence because there is nothing to defend. It is pointed out in the correspondence which the Prime Minister has read that the Department of the Interior had for some time under consideration the question of erecting a fence at the boundary, or in the vicinity of the boundary, between the United States and Canada.

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CON

Richard Stuart Lake

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAKE.

Might I ask the Minister of Finance to tell us the height of the fence, the number of posts, &c.

Mr. FIELDING, I am afraid that my knowledge of fences would not enable me to supply that information.

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CON
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

There is no contract, and therefore I cannot give the information.

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CON
LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

I do not know if the tenders were given in letters which my right hon. friend read. If they were, they will be found in *' Hansard.' I am not arguing that the price of the fence is a fair one. i do not offer any opinion on that except to suggest that the prices of different fences might properly vary. But the principal point and after all the essence of the whole thing was this : that there was under consideration in the department a project for erecting a fence along the boundary line or a portion of it. The Minister of the Interior appears to have attached so much importance to it that he submitted an estimate to this House in order that he might obtain an appropriation. In the meantime the minister had been making inquiries as to the cost of these fences and as to the terms upon which he might obtain them, and the record shows that he invited a tender, according to the documents which the Prime Minister has read, from a concern. Whether or not he should have invited tenders from others is a fair question of debate, and if a contract had been made then undoubtedly that would have been a proper subject of discussion. But the deputy minister points out that after the resignation of the Minister of the Interior he had to deal with this matter, that he was collecting the papers together in order that he might submit them to the successor of the Minister of the Interior, knowing that the new minister would be obliged to submit them to Council.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

Might I ask then who submitted the papers to the Department of Justice to draw up the contract ?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

The information furnished by the department is that one of the officers of the Department of the Interior sent these papers over to the Department of Justice and asked that they might be advised as to a form of contract.

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CON

Francis Ramsey Lalor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LALOR.

Let me ask why it was that the Page Wire Fence Company were notified that the contract had already been given ?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

It is evidently a mistake. The Prime Minister has read the letter of the deputy minister who states distinctly that that was a mistake. Ho\y that mistake could arise has been explained, namely, that the secretary of the department, being aware that a draft of contract had been sent over to the Department of Justice, had assumed, erroneously, that the matter was settled, and he so informed the Page Wire Fence people.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. L. BORDEN.

Has the right hon. gentleman any explanation as to why that incorrect answer given to the company and to his honour the Speaker as well, was not corrected during the interval between the early part of March and the present time ?

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

No, it may be that the secretary himself did not become aware of that. I cannot answer that question. There seems to be a misunderstanding between the deputy minister, who perhaps should have known of these matters, and the secretary who wrote that letter. But whatever the cause of it was, there is the fact that the contract was not awarded, no contract has been signed, not a penny of the public money has been pledged, nothing has been done beyond collecting the information which the deputy minister says he desired to place before the new minister, so that it might be dealt with in the usual way. Meanwhile the Department of Justice, in considering the draft of the contract submitted to them, reported that the matter properly belonged to the Department of Public Works. There the whole matter ends. Nothing further was done, no steps were taken, no contract was awarded, nobody has the fence, nobody has the deal, there is absolutely nothing whatever beyond collecting the information to be dealt with at the proper time through the incoming minister,

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CON

David Henderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DAVID HENDERSON.

Possibly I owe an apology to the House for a statement which I made yesterday. Speaking from recollection, I stated that I did not believe that an estimate had ever been passed by this House to provide for the expense of this fence, and therefore I thought it was not a proper transaction for the government to enter into, not having received the sanction of parliament for the expendi-

ture of this money. After making that statement, which I made in good faith, trusting to my memory, however, I was shown a copy of the estimates of the current year in which it is set forth that the sum of $100,000 is asked for, or is to be asked for when these estimates are voted for the year 1905-6, for the construction of a fence along the international boundary of the Northwest Territories. But accompanying that statement in the estimates of the current year, in the proper column, there is also set out a statement that $100,000 was voted last year, which entirely misled me, and I rose in my seat to apologize to the House yesterday for having made a statement which it appeared, by the estimates which are before us now, was not correct. * I now find out on inquiry, and am credibly informed that no estimate was voted last year at all, and that the estimates that are put in our hands this year are not correct. Why that $100,000 is inserted as having been voted last year I am entirely at ,a loss to know. I would not like to say. but it seems to me there is a history to it. The hon. the minister had been attempting to let a contract, a contract in advance of an estimate, without the sanction of parliament, and in order to cover up the transaction, apparently, the estimates which are placed in our hands are so filled up as to give the impression that $100,000 was voted last year for this purpose.

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LIB
CON

David Henderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HENDERSON.

Seventy-three of the estimates of the current year, under the term ' miscellaneous.' Now I find that the apology I made yesterday was quite unnecessary, that my first statement was correct, that there was no estimate, there was no appropriation in the previous year, that no appropriation existed for the construction of this fence, and that whoever was undertaking to let a contract-because there was an attempt to let a contract for the construction of this fence-was certainly proceeding too rapidly,, not knowing whether this House would approve of the matter at all. Now whilst I make this apology for having as I then believed misled the House, I think some member of the government owes an apology to me for having misled me. I do not know what explanation can be given of this error-and I will not call it by any other name, I assume it is an error, but certainly it was a very misleading one. Under all the circumstances it seems to me that possibly there might have been a purpose in the error, owing to the fact that an attempt was made to let a contract for the construction of this public work, when no parliamentary appropriation had been made. Now I assume I am quite correct in saying that there was no appropriation last year. I think I understood the right hon. gentleman who leads the House to say, when speaking a few moments ago, Mr. HENDERSON.

that there was no appropriation ; and if I am in error, and I do not think I am,

I think my information comes from a correct source, I have not examined the Supply Bill of last year, but I am assured that such a sum does not appear in the Supply Bill, that no appropriation was voted last year for this purpose.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER.

I do not know whether that is correct or not.

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CON

David Henderson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HENDERSON.

Probably the Minister of Finance will be able to explain the matter.

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LIB

William Stevens Fielding (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. FIELDING.

No, I must not answer offhand, I am having the matter looked up at this moment ; perhaps before my hon. friend finishes his speech I may be able to answer more definitely.

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May 10, 1905