January 27, 1909 (11th Parliament, 1st Session)

LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. E. W. NESBITT (North Oxford).

Mr. Speaker, it is more on account of the spirit of the motion of my hon. friend from Grenville (Mr. J. D. Reid) and of the speeches by which it has been supported than of the motion itself, that I personally refuse to accept it, because I cannot see 8
that it makes any great difference whether one, two or three persons are present when a tender is opened. The motion and the speeches in support of it have been inclined to cast a reflection on the ministers of this government which personally I do not believe is deserved. It has struck me as peculiar in listening to the speeches this afternoon that there should be such an amount of suspicion in the parts of the country from which our Conservative friends come, because this is the first time in my life that I have heard of any suspicion that the tenders were not properly opened or that contracts were not properly awarded by this government. I very well remember a tender for a public building during the time of my friend the late Hon. James Sutherland, when Mr. Sutherland as Minister of Pubic Works went so far as to put up the money for the deposit for one of the tenderers, a friend of his and of mine, at the same time telling him most distinctly that although he was a very strong personal friend of his, and although he thought a great deal of him his tender would have to be the lowest or he would have no chance of getting a contract. It was only ^ this afternoon that I heard that our ministers are so dishonest that the contracts are not properly awarded. I am sure that the suggestion cannot be well founded, that it is entirely a matter of imagination. I have in my private and semi-public life often heard people accused of graft or of having some hidden reason for doing certain things, although I knew personally and absolutely that there was no ground for the charge except the mean suspicion of the mind of the person who originated it.
I can see nothing in the argument that the minister himself should not be one of those present at the opening of tenders, because under the constitution, so far as I have read it, the matter has to go to the minister eventually and he might just as well open the tender as have his secretary or some other subordinate official do so. After the receiving of tenders, the mere sealing and locking up of the document is of little importance, although I have no doubt they are sealed when they are put away. After all it is a matter of trust. If the minister and one of his subordinates wanted to be dishonest, the presence of the minister at the opening of the tenders would not greatly increase their opportunities of doing so. No matter what safeguard we adopt the tenders will have to be sent to some one. Perhaps they might be sent in some conspicuous manner, by a balloon or something of that kind so that every one could see them, but as it is essentially a matter of trust, I do not see what advantage would be gained by that.
What difference does it make whether there are one or two or three of the minister's assistants present at the opening of tenders? If the minister were dishonest he

Topic:   OPENING OF GOVERNMENT TENDERS.
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