February 18, 1910

CON

John Waterhouse Daniel

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DANIEL.

This department is doing a very large amount of dredging all over the country, and I understand that the department has under its control some [DOT]dredges. I would like to ask the minister how many dredges the Public Works Department has? I do not know whether it is the intention of the government to increase the number rather than to have so much of the dredging done by private contractors. We find all over this country that dredging is done at very varying rates per cubic yard, and I have no doubt that if the government did this work itself, it would be done very much cheaper. Where there is so much of this work to be done, I think that the government could get it more cheaply done if. the department had its own dredges and did its own work. I would like the minister to give us an idea of how many dredges there are in his department, and where they are. Then we could judge whether we should advise the minister to have more dredges, so that his own department could do more of the work.

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

I am informed that a return which was asked for last session

will be brought down in a few days, giving a list of the government dredges and their operations for the past three or four years. When we come to the dredging vote, I shall be glad to give to my hon. friend a statement of where the government dredges are at the present time; I have not the information available at the moment. In my opinion, there is a great deal in the suggestion that the government fleet of dredges should be increased. Of course, we cannot always judge of the proper cost of dredging in one place from what it is in another. The prices vary greatly by Teason of difference in the locality or in the quality of the soil, the quantity to be removed, the depth of the water, the liability to storms, and other considerations; but, speaking generally, I am inclined to think that the government is able to get dredging done by its own dredges at a lower rate than by contract. On the Pacific coast, where we have four dredges at work, we are doing all the dredging with our own dredges. In the eastern provinces we have recently somewhat increased the government dredging fleet, and I anticipate that we shall continue to increase it with reasonable rapidity.

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CON
LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

Yes, during the past season every government dredge has been kept vigorously at work.

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CON

Francis Ramsey Lalor

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LALOR.

Can the minister give us the cost per yard of dredging by the government dredges? .

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

As I have just stated, the cost varies so much that it is. only possible to give the cost in each case. It may be ten cents in one case, fifty cents in another, a dollar in another. In order to get the information for myself so as to have it for the committee, I asked the deputy minister to have a statement made, as near as might be, of the cost, of dredging with the government dredge at Gaspereau during the season just passed; and I find, taking the cost of operation, and making a fair allowance for interest, maintenance and sinking fund, that it cost about one dollar per cubic yard. There are other places where the government dredges do the work at fifteen cents, twenty cents or twenty-five cents. When the return comes down, my hon. friend will be able to see the cost of dredging by government dredges at the various places where they have been employed.

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CON

Samuel Barker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARKER.

I would like to call the minister's attention to that Gaspereau work, because it gives at a very recent date the estimated cost of the work done by the government itself and the cost of the work

done by contractors. In 1907 an estimate was obtained by the department for certain dredging work at Gaspereau, and the minister's own engineer on the spot estimated it at from fifteen cents to twenty cents per yard. In the following season the minister let that work by contract at ninety cents per yard.

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LIB
CON

Samuel Barker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARKER.

When the chief engineer of the department was examined on the subject, he said that twenty cents was the estimate made by the departmental engineer of what the work would actually cost the government, and in the face of that the government let the contract to the Maritime Dredging Company of St. John at ninety cents a yard.

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

I am very glad my hon. friend has mentioned this matter, because it will afford me pleasure to give to the committee all the information I can in regard to the Gaspereau dredging. The estimate of the probable cost was made originally by Mr. Day in 1903; Mr. Day was an engineer of the department. Mr. Stead evidently followed his estimate and the chief engineer with no knowledge of the locality, never having visited the spot, accepted the estimate of Mr. Day who evidently was of the opinion that it could be done by the government dredge at that price. As to letting the contract-there has been very strong pressure for a good many years by the people of Port Elgin and by the people of Gaspereau that the work should be done. When I became minister, the member for Westmorland urged me very strongly to have the work done with the least possible delay. I knew from inquiry that there were no government dredges in the vicinity and that it probably would be difficult to get a contractors' dredge. I was aware that the maritime dredging company was bringing a dredge down from the St. Lawrence, in the vicinity of Chicoutimi, to the maritime provinces, and on the route down it would pas Port Elgin and could go through the straits of Canso around the Nova Scotia coast to the Bay of Fundy. I asked the manager of the Maritime Dredging Company if he would be willing to have his dredge stop on the way down as the work was urgent, and, pending the calling for tenders to go to work, and agree to accept for the work which would be done pending the reception of tenders and only that, the price of the lowest accepted tender. He agreed to that and when the dredge reached Port Elgin it stopped there and the engineer was notified it was ready to go to work. Tenders were called in the ordinary way and there was only one tender, that of the Maritime Dredging Company at 90 cents per cubic yard. The chief engineer, having that

estimate of Mr. Day though it had been made several years ago, and also the estimate of Mr. Stead based upon Mr. Day's estimate, thought that the tender price was too high and before deciding he made further inquiry. I say that Mr. W. J. Mc-Cordick. who had been for I think 30 years superintendent of dredging in the maritime provinces-I do not know whether he was appointed by the late Conservative government or by the Liberal government between 1873 and 1878, but at all events he remained for 18 years in the employ of the Conservative government enjoying their confidence as he enjoyed the confidence of this government to the most marked degree. My hon. friend from St. [DOT]John knew the late Mr. McCordick, and I think he will agree with me that it will be difficult to find an official of the government who was ever more careful to guard the public interest than that gentleman. If he ever erred at all with regard to accounts it would be on the side of protecting the government and against the individual claimant-Mr. McCordick was directed by the chief engineer to go to Gaspereau and examine into the work which was being done, with a view to giving his opinion as to whether the tender price was fair and reasonable. There was no man in the lower provinces better qualified to give an opinion than Mr. McCordick for the reason that he had been for 25 years in charge of the government dredges. He knew just what a dredge would do, he was familiar with the weather conditions and the effect of gales upon such an exposed coast. He went to Gaspereau, saw the dredge at work, saw the conditions, and he reported -and my hon. friend must have seen that report because it was on file before the Committee on Public Accounts. He reported that in his judgment 90 cents per yard was a fair and reasonable price. I was not content with that and I directed that Mr. J. K. Scammell, the resident engineer in St. John in charge of dredging work, should also be sent to Gaspereau independently of Mr. [DOT] McCordick to make an examination and give hs opinion as to whether the tender price of 90 cents was fair and reasonable. He went and reported and his report was on file before the committee. In his judgment 90 cents per cubic yard was fair and reasonable. Then Mr. Stead, the resident engineer, who had adopted Mr. Day's original estimate of 20 cents per cubic yard for work done bv the government dredge, also reported that 90 cents per cubic yard was fair and reasonable, and the chief engineer having those reports before him also certified that in his opinion 90 cents was fair and reasonable. Therefore, before the formal contract was entered into agreeing to pay to the Maritime Dredging Company their tender price of 90 cents per Mr. PLGSLEY.

cubic yard, we had the reports of Mr. W. J. McCordick, of Mr. J. K. Scammell, of Mr. Stead, and of the chief engineer Mr. Lafleur, that the price was fair and reasonable. With all these certificates I sent a recommendation to council that the tender price be accepted. Now then, the Maritime Dredging Company continued the work during the fall of 1908, but as it got along towards November the weather became very rough and they took the dredge away to St. John. Last year, in order to continue the work I endeavoured to arrange asj early as possible for one of the dredges to go there to continue the dredging operations. I asked the president of the company or one of the directors, or I think both of them, if they would go back and they said they did not care to do so because of the heavy storms which frequently prevailed there and they also referred to the fact that one of their scows had been swamped, entailing considerable loss.

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CON

Oswald Smith Crocket

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROCKET.

Who is the president of the company to whom the minister spoke?

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LIB
?

Mr CROCKET.

And the other director?

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

Mr. George McAvity. The pressure was continued by the people of Port Elgin and by the member for Westmorland to go on with this dredging. I was urged in the very strongest way to continue it because there are large interests at Port Elgin, there is considerable shipping, large quantities of lumber are shipped from there, an'd it was urged upon me, and I was impressed by the fact, that it was very important to continue the dredging as early aa possible. I was able later on in the season, to remove the dredge 'George McKenzie', one of the government dredges from Nova Scotia and bring it to Gaspereau for the purpose of continuing the work. I have had a statement made up showing the actual cost of bringing the 'George McKenzie' and taking her back, the actual cost of operation while she was at work, and after allowing a reasonable amount of interest and wear and tear and sinking fund, besides a reasonable profit, the cost is as near as may be $1 per cubic yard as against 90 cents paid the contractor. These are the facts with referenced to Gaspereau. The place is very much exposed, the depth of water is not very great at low tide or even at high tide, and the circumstances attending the dredging are very unusual, so that I am satisfied that the engineers exercised a fair judgment when they placed the cost at 90 cents per cubic yard.

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CON

Samuel Barker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARKER.

If the hon. minister is correct in his story, then the chief engin-

eer did not know what he was talking about, because his account contradicts almost in every particular what the hon. gentleman has given us. The department directed that Mr. Stead, the local engineer, should report; his report was obtained, and then the department directed that advertisements should be published for tenders. While those advertisements were being published, and within a week or ten days before the tenders were to be received and opened, the department handed the work over to this Maritime Company of St. John.

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LIB
CON

Samuel Barker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARKER.

The work was placed by the department in the hands of the company, the only condition being that whatever the lowest tender might be, the work should be done at that price.

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LIB

William Pugsley (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY.

My hon. friend has misunderstood me. I thought I stated clearly that the understanding with the company was that if they were not the lowest tenderers, they would leave the work and would only be paid for the work done up to that time at the price of the lowest tender.

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CON

Samuel Barker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARKER.

' As the understanding was in writing, I know that the minister is wrong.

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LIB

February 18, 1910