June 26, 1934

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES


Fifth report of the select standing committee on agriculture and colonization.-Mr. Senn. Ninth report of the select standing committee on banking and commerce.-Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury). First report of the joint committee on printing of parliament.-Mr. McLure.


STOTLAND DIVORCE BILL

LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. E. R. E. CHEVRIER (Ottawa) moved:

That Bill Q2 of the Senate for the relief of Hyman Stotland, the preamble of which has been reported not proven by the select standing committee on miscellaneous private bills, be placed on the order paper, under standing order No. Ill for consideration in committee of the whole of this house at eight o'clock p.m. this day.

Motion negatived.

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DOMINION NOTES ACT


Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Prime Minister) moved the third reading of Bill No. 110, to amend the Dominion Notes Act. Motion agreed to and bill read the third time and passed.


PUBLIC WORKS CONSTRUCTION ACT


Hon. H. A. STEWART (Minister of Public Works) moved the second reading of Bill No. 113, to provide for the construction and improvement of certain public works and undertakings throughout Canada. Public Works Construction-Mr. Elliott He said: Mr. Speaker, the general principle of this bill will, I think, prove acceptable to the house. It is introduced in answer to a general demand from various sources for the inauguration of a program of public works throughout the Dominion of Canada. The bill has the threefold purpose of providing employment over a considerable period of time for those engaged in all lines of trade and activity connected with the construction business; of providing useful public services in the way of buildings and other structures, and of stimulating others to go and do likewise in connection with the building trades. There is attached to the bill a schedule which sets out in detail the works that are proposed, with a general item which is calculated to enable the departments to put every public building in the Dominion of Canada in first class repair, including painting, plumbing, heating, wiring and so on. Then there is a similar vote for improvements to wharves and other structures in the harbours. It has been found that some of these wharves are not adequate for present needs. Some of them require strengthening, owing to the increasing use of trucks which has resulted in heavier loads passing over the wharves, and a survey is being made with a view to bringing them up to present requirements. In addition recent storms on the Atlantic have made repairs necessary in many instances, and this vote will provide funds for these purposes. I hope the general principle of the bill will meet with the approval of the house. I can understand that there may be some discussion as to the details and as to some of the items in the schedule, but I submit the bill for the approval of the house with the hope that we may get into the schedule as soon as possible.


LIB

John Campbell Elliott

Liberal

Hon. J. C. ELLIOTT (West Middlesex):

Mr. Speaker, I have looked over the various sections and the schedule of this bill with some care, and I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of the principle of getting away from the policy of unemployment relief which the government has been following, against the wishes of hon. members on this side of the house, for practically the last four years, and adopting a principle which at any rate is an improvement on what they have been doing.

First of all may I point out to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the house that at the special session of 1930 the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) proposed two methods for relieving unemployment. One was to raise the tariffs and the other was to vote $20,000,000 to assist in unemployment relief. The right

hon. gentleman will bear in mind, as I am sure other hon. members of the house will, that at that time it was urged by my right hon. leader and by many other members from this side of the house that so far as the expenditure of public money on public works was concerned, it was not proper to do that without submitting estimates to the house by way of a supply bill. That was the argument advanced at the special session of 1930, and while I am on that point I might read what was said by the Prime Minister at that time. When reference was made to the fact that we were getting away from the usual practice of calling for tenders and having the minister explain the different items in the house, the Prime Minister said:

I think the safeguards of the Public Service Act with regard to tenders are sufficient guarantee as to the money being expended.

I regret to find that these safeguards are being taken away to a large extent under the present bill.

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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart (Minister of Public Works)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART (Leeds):

No.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

My hon. friend says not, but I think I can convince him in this regard as I was able to convince him once before, I think, when he contradicted me as to the relative proportion of the amounts going to the different ridings. I think I can show him once more that he is mistaken and that I am correct.

That was what the Prime Minister said at that time. Now I am going to endeavour to show that in this bill we are getting away from one of the greatest safeguards that the taxpayers of this country have had in regard to public expenditures. Ever since confederation there has been a provision that it shall be the duty of the minister to invite tenders by public advertisement. I regret to see that in this bill the words "by public advertisement" have been omitted. The minister says we are not getting away from the old principle. I should be very glad if he would assure me now that we will get back to that principle and that he will have inserted in this bill the words " by public advertisement," because after all, that is the first objection to the bill as presented to the house.

What does that mean? The wording of the bill is very neat; it says:

-the minister or department of the government entrusted with the administration, management and execution of any of the works set forth in schedule A to this act shall invite tenders for the construction and execution of such works, and contracts for all such works and undertakings shall be awarded under the direction of the governor in council.

4300 COMMONS

Public Works Construction-Mr. Elliott

I ask the minister the reason for including the words "shall invite tenders" instead of using the clause that has been in the Public Works Act, the Public Service Act and the marine act ever since confederation, that it shall be the duty of the minister to invite tenders by public advertisement. That is the first objection to this bill, and I think it is a very serious objection. What is the advantage of doing it by public advertisement? I remember that a year or so ago the minister gave the house a long list of the newspapers in which these contracts were advertised. Everyone from one end of the country to the other who desired to tender on any of these works had an opportunity to do so when public advertisements of that kind were circulated. The result is different when private tenders are called for. I believe the minister will agree with me, and I believe that when I refer the Prime Minister to his words uttered in 1930 he will agree with me, when I state that public advertisement is the proper way in which to govern expenditures of this kind.

I submit there are sufficient safeguards in the act to enable certain work of a pressing nature to be carried on. Under the Public Works Act, as it now stands, public tenders shall be invited by public advertisement, except in certain specified cases. The first exception is that of a pressing emergency, where any delay would be injurious to the public interest. Under this heading would come any damage occasioned by a severe storm. We will suppose that part of a wharf had been washed away. Perhaps it would not be in the public interest to wait until the department could advertise for tenders. Steps would have to be taken immediately to protect the part remaining, and to repair the parts injured) Then, in the second place are those works which, from their very nature, may be more expeditiously and more economically executed by the officers and servants of the department. There are certain types of work which may always be done to greater advantage and more cheaply by the officers and servants of the department. I refer particularly to the repairing of old structures. For instance, in the work of resurfacing or recovering a bridge one cannot tell, until the work is opened up, in just what condition the timbers may be. The probability is that sueh work could be done more expeditiously and more economically by day labour.

I object strenuously to the repeal of that clause of the present law which states that where the estimated cost of any work is less than $5,000, and in the opinion of the minister in view of the nature of the work it is

not advisable to invite tenders, he need not do so. That has been the practice for over fifty years in the Department of Public Works. The amendment to the effect I have indicated was made in 1903 as the result of a practice which had been in vogue for the previous twenty years. Under those circumstances, for a work the estimated cost of which would be $5,000, one had to call for tenders. That was the rule, except in the case of an emergency or in connection with a work which could be done more economically and expeditiously by day labour or in some other way.

But what is the change now proposed? My greatest objection to the bill is that it contains these words:

Provided that no one work or undertaking certified by the chief engineer of the Public Works department to involve an expenditure in excess of $25,000 shall be authorized by the governor in council except on contract based on tenders.

What -is the change? All the works ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 may now be let without tender. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and through you this House of Commons if hon. members think such a change is in the best interests either of the government, the parliament or the people of this country who must pay the bills. What can happen under that change? May I call the attention of hon. members to the fact that while in the schedule appear large contracts for which tenders will have to be invited, over one-third of the items appearing therein range between $5,000 and $25,000. I repeat that over a third of the items come in that class, and it means that we are increasing five times over the value of the works which may be done without calling for tenders.

As I pointed out previously all the leeway the minister requires is that provided -in cases of emergency and in cases where in his opinion or in the opinion of the governor in council the work could be done more expeditiously and economically by day labour. To make a change as sweeping as I have indicated at a time like this is, I submit, not in the interests of the people concerned. I say to the minister that the greatest protection he can have is the protection given him through being compelled to call for 'tenders between $5,000 and $25,000, as obtains at the present time. He kn-ows as well as anybody who has been associated with the Department of Public Works that where works are let without tenders and in cases where the minister in charge is not obliged to let contracts to the lowest tenderers, he is subjected to all the -influences of urgent friends, and some

Public Works Construction-Mr. Elliott

who are not such good friends, wiho aTe trying to obtain contracts by private tender instead of by public advertisement.

I urge upon the Prime Minister who introduced the bill and upon the minister now in charge of it the necessity of going back to the old rule which for over fifty years has been in force and has given satisfactory service. To make a change of this kind under present conditions is not advisable-and I make that statement altogether apart from certain clauses and general votes contained in the schedule. There are some large amounts mentioned in the schedule. For instance, there is the amount of $500,000 to supplement where necessary specific amounts hereinbefore provided, upon the authority of the governor in council. I say the item should not be put in that way. Then, there is another item of $2,000,000 for public buildings generally, improvements, additions, fittings and so on. Then, there is the vote for $2,000,000 coming under the Department of the Interior. These moneys are to provide for the construction and development of public buildings, camp sites, electric light and telephone systems, highways, trails, water and sewer systems, recreational areas, wharves, river protection works, and so on. The lump sum of $2,000,000 is indicated in the schedule, but there are no definite items stating where the moneys will be expended.

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LIB
LIB

John Campbell Elliott

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

Such an arrangement is

not, I submit, in the interests of the people, it is not in the interests of the department and will cause great inconvenience to the minister. Perhaps the minister will remember the objections made by hon. members on this side of the house who urged that the moneys being spent should be authorized by way of a supply hill. In 1932 we had the rather remarkable spectacle of having items tabled for harbours and rivers. While the expenditures there involved did not run into sums as large as the ones now under discussion, the fact remains that apparently no hon. member knew about those items until the session was over. Those schedules were preoared as part of the unemployment relief scheme. When you came to look over the bill, while in the recital it was mentioned that there was no political significance in it, yet when you examined the amounts you found that they were about six times as large in the ridings represented by government representatives as in the ridings not so represented. The same characteristic applies to this schedule.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

You are

not complaining about that surely, after eight and a half years of the same treatment.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

My hon. friend knows

perfectly well that there was not eight and a half years of the same treatment, and nobody knows it better than he does. He will not find the members who are sitting with him on that side of the house backing him up in that statement, because after all there are every year certain items of general public works that require to be done and that cannot be avoided no matter what the constituency may be. I do not think the hon. member for York-Sunbury is very serious when he makes that suggestion in the way he does, and I know perfectly well he will not get many to back him up in that statement.

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CON

Thomas Cantley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CANTLEY:

My hon. friend the exminister was good enough to keep me on the waiting list for four years, and it was only three months before the election that he brought down $48 000 for a post office in my native town of New Glasgow.

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LIB
CON
LIB
CON

Thomas Cantley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CANTLEY:

But only when you were

afraid to keep it back any longer.

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June 26, 1934