When we have a man as worthy as the Hon. Wm. Pugsley in the position of the Minister .of Public Works I do not think we can have any better guarantee that the department will be well conducted. I am sure he will take the responsibility and whatever responsibility he takes is good enough for any of us. I seem to be affording hon. gentlemen opposite a certain amount of amusement, and
as I have not come here for that purpose I shall resume my seat.
Mr- W. S. LOGGIE (Northumberland, N.B.) Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to take up more than a very few moments of the time of the House. It seems to me that the real difference between the resolution and the amendment is whether the minister of a department is to be one of a number to open the tenders for the great works of this country. If any great corporation had a great work to be done and called for tenders, it seems to me that it would be reasonable that the president or managing director of that corporation should be_ present and see the tenders opened. Upon him is the responsibility for the proper management of the corporation's business. In the same way it is the duty of the minister, who is the responsible bead of the department, and in whom the confidence of the people has been placed, to be present and see that the tenders are opened in the regular way. Let me ask the hon. gentleman who moved this resolution: Do the Conservative Premiers of the Dominion of Canada ask that their representative heads of the several departments shall not be present as one of a number to see the tenders opened? Does Mr. Hazen in the province of New Brunswick say that the Commissioner of Board of Works shall not be one of a number to be present when tenders are opened? Does Mr. Roblin, does Mr. Whitney, does Mr. McBride, ask the legislatures of their several provinces to pass legislation that the minister, the head of the department, forsooth, shall not be present when tenders for works in his department are opened? It seems to me that the motion of my hon. friend from Grenville (Mr. Reid) is simply a motion of want of confidence in the government of the day; and surely, before he makes such a motion, he should ask his friends who lead the Conservative party in the several provinces what they are doing in this regard. It does seem to me that our affairs are quite as safe in the hands of the reresponsible heads of the different departments. My hon. friend said that there were not safeguards. Does he name a case? Is it insinuated that in the case of the Mayes contract, for example, there was tampering with the tenders? Such an insinuation, I understand, is not made, and therefore that particular ease is not relevant to the matter before the House, and cannot be pointed to as a reason for passing the original resolution instead of the amendment. In fact, had the original resolution been effective when that tender of 56 cents of Mr. Mayes and another for $1.25 from a firm in Ontario had been considered, no other result could have happened than did happen, namely, that the contract should be awarded to the lowest tenderer.
Now, I want to say only a word about the second clause of the resolution, namely, that the public should be present, or, if you like, those who tender should be invited to be present, when the tenders are opened. There may be something to be said in favour of that; yet there is another side to the story, and I think the Minister of Public Works was quite right when he said that it was possible that collusion might occur and that the interests of the public would not be safeguarded if that were done.
I have heard much to-day about the expenditure on public works in the city and county of St. John; but let me say for my own county that all contracts for public works there have been awarded to the lowest tenderer. Not only has this been the case with contracts for great public - works; but not one mail contract, during the four years that I have represented the county, has been awarded except to the lowest tenderer. I have a case in my mind of a tenderer for a mail contract who came to me and said, ' Can you tell me who has put in the next tender to mine, which is the lowest?' As I was not familiar with the ruling of the department, I asked the question on behalf of my friend. What reply did I receive? This, Mr. Speaker:
' It is against the rules of the department to announce the tenders until the contract is entered into.' My friend, I suppose, had an object. He and his brother had put in two tenders, and he was anxious to know whether his brother's came next to his or not. If it had and he had known of it ahead, would the lowest tender have been effective? No; he would have withdrawn it, and the contract would have gone to the next tenderer. There are cases of that kind, and, as the Minister of Public Works has stated, sometimes the next tender is a hundred per cent above the lowest one. 1 have in mind another case in which a wharf was built recently in my county, and in which a gentleman not from my county was the lowest tenderer at $19,000 in round numbers, and a gentleman from my county tendered at $34,000 in round numbers, nearly a hundred per cent difference. But, as I have said, in this as in every other case the lowest tender has been accepted. This is an evidence that the interests of the people are safeguarded under the rule embodied in the order in council.
An hon. gentleman on the opposite side of the House has said that the fact that this order in council has been passed is an evidence that something was wrong, but that is not necessarily so. I am aware that hon. gentlemen on the floor of this House during the last session did, by insinuation, by innuendo, declare that there were irregularities, but they failed to substantiate their charges in the Public Ac-Mr. LOGGIE.
counts Committee. So far as I am concerned, I want to say that I am perfectly satisfied that the interests of the public are fully safeguarded if we leave the matter in the hands of the ministers of the several departments and an official, or, in the case of the absence of the minister, two high officials. It seems to me that the resolution is simply a motion of want of confidence in the ministers who have just come from the people with an overwhelming majority.
Topic: INQUIRY FOR PAPERS.