No other tender was received, except the tender of this company. While asking tenders from the public, the department put this company in possession of the work, under a direct message from the chief engineer instructing Mr. Stead to put them at work and specifying distinctly the condition that they were to be allowed for the work, whatever the lowest tender would be. There was only one tender of course. No man of ordinary, common sense would ever suppose that there would be any other. Why should any people tender to do that work when this company was already in charge and had written authority from the office giving them the work. The minister was placing that work in the hands of the Maritime Company at whatever price they chose to tender for themselves. The hon. gentleman makes the statement, probably on the recollection of a year ago, but there are numbers of gentlemen on both sides who heard all this evidence given forty-eight hours ago and who have read the papers.
I think I can read and understand documents just as well as my hon. friend, and I tell this committee that the understanding-not only verbal, but written-was that the company should be simply given the work temporarily until tenders were received, in which case we would accept the lowest tender and they would be paid for what they had done at the lowest tender rate. That is not new. It is not a practice inaugurated since I became minister, but one which has prevailed a long time-probably ever since confederation. Where there is urgent work to be done, tenders are called, and the person who does the temporary dredging is paid simply for what he does at the price of the lowest tender and then has to quit. In this case if any one else had tendered for even 85 cents per cubic yard, the company would have had to accept that for the work they did and then they would have had to take their dredge away, and the dredge owned by the lowest tenderer would be put in its place. The hon. gentleman says that the fact of the company having been set to work, prevented other people from tendering. I do not believe it. I do not believe my hon. friend can produce the testimony of any dredge contractor who would say that he was deterred from tendering by reason of another being put to work. But I know perfectly well, hy reason of the isolated position of Gaspereau that it was possible, if this company did not put their dredge to work, which they were bringing down through the Straits of Northumberland, we would not get the work done, and it was work which the people of Gaspereau and Port Elgin represented as work of the most urgent character.
On its way to St. John, the dredge stopped as I had recommended. Why should it not stop, it was arranged with the responsible head of the department that it should. They notified the engineer that they were ready to go to work and they went to work upon the arrangement I have mentioned. That was a fair and reasonable and businesslike arrangement. It is one only come to in cases of urgency. It would not have been come to, under these circumstances, but for the fact that this dredge was brought down and passed this very spot, and, on account of the urgency, it was not unreasonable to give it the work temporarily. What should I have done?
How has the country suffered by that? My hon. friend says that if I had not done. that, somebody else might have come in and tendered. But he cannot find the slightest evidence that any contractor was prepared or would have tendered for that work, whether the dredge was at work or not. Is not this the important thing, that I advertised for tenders and nobody evidently wanted to go there to go to works. And is it not an important fact that, the next year, these people, the Maritime Dredging Company, having the opportunity to go there to work, did not want to go? If it were the ' soft snap ' my hon. friend would have the committee believe, would not they have been anxious to go there? But they had had enough of it; they had worked there under most disadvantageous circumstances. And, when we actually put the government dredge to work, we found that a fair and reasonable cost was $1 per cubic yard. Now, does the hon. member think the price is too great? Does he think that the late W. J. McCordick gave a fictitious valuation for that work? Will my hon. friend who represents the city of_St. John (Mr. Daniel) rise in his place and say that he would not rely on the statement which the late superintendent of dredging made? I do not think he will, for he knew W. J. McCordick as well as I did, and he knows there was not a more careful and conscientious official in the employ of the Dominion than that gentleman. And will he say that Mr. Scammell, an engineer of ability and integrity, would go up there, and, having examined the work, make a false certificate? And would he say that Mr. Stead, who also saw the work, had to go on it day after day, made a false report when he said that it was worth 90 cents a yard? Surely, these hon. gentlemen who have taken up days and days of the time of the Public Accounts Committee
The same gentleman. And may I say that not a man from the town of Richibucto, the county of Kent, or the province of New Brunswick, has ventured to come here before the committee, except Mr. Richard O'Leary, and impugn the valuation, and
These hon. gentlemen incurred the expense of summoning a very prominent man, a resident of Richibucto, Mr. James, a prominent lawyer, who has lived in Richibucto all his life, and who drew the deed of this property to Mr. O'Leary, yet not one of them ventured to ask Mr. James the fair value of the property. On the other hand, disinterested witnesses testified that it was fairly worth from $5,000 to $10,000. And I will say this to the hon. gentleman (Mr. Lalor) who asked this question, that the Crown can dispose of a part of that property, retaining the portion which we require more immediately and which is most necessary for the purpose of the Crowm with a view to extending the railway wharf, for $3,500.
And, with this sold, we shall have a most valuable property, which, when it is improved, will be not only of advantage to the general trade, but will greatly promote the interest of the town of Richibucto.