April 21, 1908 (10th Parliament, 4th Session)

LIB

Charles Marcil (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Q. You have a chief superintendent at St. John?-A. Yes, for the maritime provinces.
Q. And you have also dredging done by contract?-A. Yes. _
Q. In connection with the dredging done by contract you have inspectors?-A. Yes.
Q. There was a statement made in the House of Commons during the last session, I think, by Mr. Bennett, that one of these inspectors of dredging to whom you paid so much a day, farmed it out to another man at half price?- A. Less than half. He was getting $3 a day, and he paid out $1.25.
Q. How are these inspectors of dredging appointed?-A. This year, when we ask for a recommendation for local men we state that they must be men of good standing and reputation, and furthermore they are invited to>
make a declaration to the effect that they are not in any way connected with companies or individuals who are performing dredging. We are trying to avoid the fact of relatives of contractors being employed to superintend them, and we are going to exercise the closest possible supervision so as to see that every inspector is on his work all the time that the work lasts.
By Mr. Fyshe :
Q. Why not hold the local government engineers responsible for that?-A. The local government engineer has perhaps forty works to look after. He cannot be at one work the whole time. _
Q. He can get one of his subordinates to be there?-A. He cannot do it for all the works; he would require an immense staff. One man has to have charge of half a dozen works. The Toronto engineer, for instance, runs as far as Manitoulin islands, and he has to go around the shores of Lake Ontario, and he has perforce to trust somebody for some of the works.
Q. Could not the government so manage that a government official connected with the department could exercise an oversight?-A. We do. Our engineer or the superintendent of dredging visits the places at times, but they are not there all the time, and while they are not there, it is like when the cat is away.
By the Chairman:
Q. It would be in the interest of the contractor to connive at irregularities in inspection?-A. Very few would do anything of that kind, according to my experience, but it

could be done. The remedy I have always favoured for a state of things of that kind is a permanent staff of inspectors, appointed by the government as the engineers are appointed. I would have the inspectors entirely under the control of the department and with no local interests. They would act without fear or favour, while the local man who owes his position to local influence, is more or less influenced by that local power.
Now, Mr. Speaker, consider that within the past few years the firm of Bowman & Company have been paid the enormous sum of $2,000,000 in round figures for dredging -$2,000,000, let there he no mistake in the figures, because they are according to the returns brought down in this House ; and that the firm known as the Great Lakes Dredging Company, which is composed of Mr. .Tames Bowman, member of provincial parliament for North Bruce in the Ontario Legislature, A. F. Bowman, his brother, and Mr. James Whelan, of Port Arthur, son-inlaw of the hon. member for Rainy River (Mr. Conmee), have been paid $1,350,000 within a few years ; that a concern known as the Owen Sound Dredging Company, which is composed of the Hon. A. G. Mac-kay, leader of the Liberal opposition in the Ontario legislature, who is half owner of the whole concern, the other half being owned by a Mrs. E. H. Horsey, have been paid upwards of $350,000 to $400,000. Now I will confine my remarks to these three firms, because these three particular firms have had their dealings exposed before the Public Accounts Committee of this Dominion-and there will be more of that in the future. Now what is the position of affairs with regard to these dredging companies ? We are blandly told to-day by the Minister of Public Works that despite the fact that there are appropriations which will run, I assume, over half a million dollars, that the Minister of Public Works has gone to his colleagues and his colleagues have said : There is no necessity for calling for tenders for this large amount of work, whatever it may amount to ; and I think the figures will show that at the points indicated by the hon. gentleman, the dredging will cost half a million dollars. The hon. gentleman told the House yesterday that with the consent and concurrence of his colleagues he had obtained an order in council by which no tenders are to be called for this year for the expenditure of that vast sum of money, that very considerable sum of money, at all events. Now we have to-day lying in this House, in the custody of the proper officer in that behalf, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the original tenders which the hon. gentleman is going to accept, the figures that have not been discussed yet before the Public Accounts Committee, but will be discussed in the next few months. And what do those figures show ? I would ask, and I think it is with-Mr. BENNETT.
in the rights of this House, that these contracts should now be laid on the table, because they particularly refer to this work where the large amount of from $100,000 to $150,000 will be spent the coming season. Those are tenders for the work to be done at Midland and at Tiffin, and the production of those documents will show this fact, , that there are, or supposed to be, two rival companies competing for the work. Two tenders have been put in, one by what is known as the Midland Dredging Company, of which Mr. If. W. Grant is the secretary treasurer, and the other by what is known as tne Penetanguishene Company, of which Dr. Spohn is the secretary treasurer. Now, both these tenders are in the handwriting of F. W. Grant; and I challenge the Minister of Public Works now to send to the office of the clerk of the Public Accounts Committee and produce those tenders and lay them on the table, because they will prove to the hilt, what X have stated. Is not this an odd state of affairs ? The criminal law of this country says that yon can send to the penitentiary a man who interferes and causes the withdrawal of a tender ; yet though I brought this matter specially to the notice of the Prime Minister ten days ago in the House, and made the same allegation, I have never yet heard the matter mooted by the department. On the contrary, I have heard the Minister of Public Works stand up here yesterday and say that an order in council has been passed (o give these very people who have been tendering and have defrauded the people of Canada, a contract without a tender being called for. Now I think it is high time that these tenders should be brought down, and I will ask the Premier if he will have a messenger sent for those tenders so that they may be laid on the table and may be inspected by members. I do not think I am asking any thing beyond what is in the interest of the government of this country, when exposure has been made along those lines. Now, what did these tenders show ? These tenders showed that the Midland Company, called the Great Lakes Construction Company-that is the corporate name-tendered on the Midland work at 53 cents a yard and that the Penetanguishene Company tendered on the Midland work at 57 cents a yard, that on another work at Waubaushene, the Midland Company tendered at 18 cents a yard and the Spohn Company, or the Penetanguishene Company, tendered at 16 cents a yard.

Topic:   DREDGING CONTRACTS.
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