Mr. Chairman, I have neither the intention nor the desire to. follow the
hon. member for West Middlesex (Mr. Elliott) in his wanderings beyond the ambit of the resolution, but I should like to refer to one point raised by the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Stewart). When the public works program bill was being considered last year I believe I was the first member of the house to plead that when contracts under a certain figure were considered, tenders should be confined to local contractors in cities of such size as to create genuine competition. This plea was listened to with a great deal of sympathy and received general support from both sides of the house. I think this was rightly so when we realize that the express purpose of the bill was to provide relief rather than simply to erect certain structures or buildings. It was intended to give as much work as possible to the different communities of Canada. I argued, and I believe my argument was listened to with sympathy, that the purposes of the legislation would not be effective unless some limitation were placed upon the principle of tendering. A large contractor is able to carry his overhead at a comparatively small percentage of his turnover; such a contractor might be successful in obtaining a contract in a nearby city and could come into that city and underbid for a certain job. A considerable amount was allotted to Calgary for a building in connection with the Department of National Defence. A contractor fortunate enough to obtain a large proporton of this contract could go into Edmonton and underbid for work in that city. In this way the purpose of the bill would be defeated. It is of no use to say that when you call for tenders for the erection of a building in Edmonton and a contractor in Calgary, Winnipeg or Montreal obtains the contract, it can be provided in the specifications that local labour must be employed. It is only natural that some local labour will be used, because a contractor is not going to put himself to the expense of transporting the labour from the city to which he belongs. But he will bring his key men and members of his staff, and perhaps considerable of the needed material. The best part of the money spent on the contract will not remain in the locality. Any profit there may be on the contract will be carried back to the contractor's home city. The money earned by his key men and his staff also will be taken away. For these reasons it was logically and properly urged that this principle be adopted, and it was looked upon favourably by the house.
Public tenders were called for in Edmonton, and although it was not stipulated that the
Public Works Program
tenderers must be local men, we were fortunate in having a local man put in the lowest tender. I understand that he is likely to get the contract. A principle which might be perfectly sound when the only purpose of a construction program is merely to provide buildings or structures for the use of the government may not be applicable when the purpose of a program is to provide work in as large a measure as possible under the circumstances. Therefore I think the policy adopted by the Department of Public Works was not only entirely justified but was in accordance with the views and wishes of the majority of hon. members of this house.
I should like to refer briefly to that part of the resolution providing for $15,009,000 as a guarantee, for the purchase of railway equipment. I ask that as much of this work as possible be done locally. In the Canadian National shops in Edmonton we have had 94 men laid off in the car and coach department. A census taken of 63 of these men shows that 54 of them are on relief, some of them having been from ten to seventeen years in the Canadian National service!, and they are now in danger of losing their pension rights and their homes. That is a very serious matter for them, and when we look back at the conditions out of which this situation arose we have to recognize that the men themselves are not to blame for it. Years ago this country, under the influence of a too optimistic conception and estimate of its railway requirements, branched out in every direction in an inflated program' of railway construction. Our program was too optimistic; our actual railway development was too optimistic; but these men entered the service of the railway with the natural assurance that they were entering into what was practically steady and regular employment. They did so on the strength of the wisdom and the decision and action of this parliament, and after working there for from ten to seventeen years they are now out of employment largely as the result of over-optimism in those years. Surely it is the duty of this country to do everything within reason, when work is going, to see that it is spread among the railway men as far as possible. I do not say that all the money can necessarily be used in this way, but I am pleading that to the very limit of possibility the moneys granted in this way be used in repairs in order to take back men in the railway repair shops for the construction of new rolling stock and in equipment, where such equipment is made. I therefore join with the other members of the committee -on both sides of the house who have urged this upon the minister.
Topic: WORKS, UNDERTAKINGS AND GUARANTEES OP RAILWAY EQUIPMENT SECURITIES TO CREATE EMPLOYMENT