I am coming to that:
It is important, of course, that the contract be a good and businesslike contract; but what is more important after all is whether the procedure adopted in making the contract was that best calculated to protect the public interest and to secure the confidence of the people of Canada that there would be no improper profiteering in the private manufacture of war armaments for the defence of the country.
Bren Gun-Mr. Rogers
I have read the entire paragraph given in the report. We will take it for granted, as it ought to have been taken for granted from the beginning of the discussion, that there is no ground whatsoever for the cancellation of the contract upon the basis of its having been tainted in the slightest degree with fraud or corruption.
That brings us to the question of the substance of the contract, as to whether it was in all the circumstances a good contract. The leader of the opposition said that there had been some confusion in the minds of speakers in this chamber with respect to the matters that were really at issue, and I have no doubt that he had in mind that this house had not given sufficient attention to the substance of the contract. Well, I have followed this debate carefully from day to day and certainly the suggestion of my hon. friend did not apply to a number of addresses given from this side of the house by those who were competent to refer in an authoritative manner to the provisions of this contract. I have in mind the speech from the hon. member for St. John-Albert (Mr. McAvity), the speech of the hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Slaght), the speech of the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. McGeer), and the speech of my colleague, the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe). These men spoke either as engineers or as lawyers with respect to both the form and the substance of the contract, and I recall that the member for St. John-Albert stated that the practice followed in the awarding of the contract did not differ in any important respect from the procedure followed in the letting of contracts by the imperial munitions board during the last war. Not onty that, but the Minister of Transport, who is an engineer of long experience, also stated, after a thorough examination of the contract, that in substance it was the kind of contract which would be regarded as a good one had it been entered into by a private corporation in this country.
There is the further question whether or not this contract ought to be rejected simply because it was not given after competitive bids. There are large questions of policy involved in any suggestion of that kind, and that question of policy has been discussed to a limited extent in the course of this debate. It is stated against the method actually followed that it involved the giving of a special privilege to one selected contractor, and the suggestion was made that this practice of necessity should be condemned, because it assumed the form of political patronage. Now, it does seem to me, as one examines the question in terms of policy, that those who 71492-55J
say that we should manufacture all munitions directly in government factories are at least logical to this extent, that by that method one would avoid any suggestion of patronage. But I have not heard it suggested seriously by anyone who has taken part in this debate that in the light of the urgency of the last two years and the critical position of international affairs it would have been wise or practicable for this country to accept the delay that would have been consequent upon the manufacture of Bren guns in a government factory which did not at that time exist.