1949 The Toronto Subway Contract Another conspicuous example of the Canadian dollars going to the United States has appeared m the letting of the contract for the first portion of the Toronto subway. The announcement was made through the press on July 8th. A syndicate of four contractors, one of which was Canadian, was the successful tenderer.
Sometime before the tenders were let, the president of the Engineering Institute sent a letter to the chairman of the Toronto Transportation Commission, urg- ing that the work be given to Can- adians. A similar letter was sent by the president of the Canadian Construction Association. Both letters argued that Canadian firms were competent to do the work and that Canadian money should be spent with Canadians.
The Institute has obtained some further information from which it is evident that Canadian contrac- tors were not too keen on tender- ing. It looks as though the method of calling tenders had frightened some of them. To make up a price there was considerable engneering work to be done in advance. One contractor has stated “My estimate was that at least eight competent men would be required for the six or seven weeks of the tender call, to make the field surveys, the designs and the actual estimate of cost and that the ex- penditures would be from $5,000 to ,$10,000 in the doing of it “. It would seem only fair that un- successful tenderers should have some compensation for all that expenditure.
Some firms did not THE ENGINEERING JOURNAL September, 1949 bid because they did not wish to spend so much money on a chance that they would be low in a field that was open practically to the world. Although the Toronto Transpor- tation Commission is a publicly owned enterprise it does not follow the practice of most other such bodies in announcing the figures for all tenderers. Therefore, no one knows (or is not supposed to know) just how much higher Can- adian firms were than the success- ful syndicate. Rumour has it that $800,000 separated the two lowest, the second one being Canadian. The contract price was ” approxi- mately $10,000,000 “.’Is this too high a price to pay in order to use Canadian organizations and to keep Canadian money in Canada? While examining this angle of the subject it is interesting to note an editorial in the Financial Post headed ” Canadians Can Build It “. Among other things it says, ” Not by any means is it just a matter of dollars and cents. There is a challenge here to the Canadian engineering industry, an opportun- itv for Canadian engineers to show what they can do without leaving the country which provided their specialized and costly training. . . . In doing it ourselves we will be conserving for our own use two things we can ill afford to lose— foreign exchange and domestic abihty “. The Commission seems satisfied that the award is an excellent one, and places emphasis on the fact that one member of the successful syndicate is Canadian. It is impos- sible for an outsider to know just how the work and the profits will be divided, but from looking uji the records of all four firms it ap- pears as if the Canadian organiza- tion would take but a minimum part.
Their presence in the syndicate does not make it Canadian. Perhaps if the whole story were known, the policy of the Commis- sion would not be criticized in so many places, but in the absence of the details or an explanation, the decision is getting a lot of unfavour- able comment, much of which is reported to Headquarters. Since the above editorial was written, there has been some con- versation and an exchange of cor- respondence with the assistant general manager of the T.T.C.. from which it appears the Com- mission had evevy desire to use Canadian firms, but were unable to pay the price that such action would have required. The following letter was in reply to an inquiry from the Institute as to why the contract could not be let to Canadians. It reveals the position in which the Commission found itself. No mention is made as to why another firm—wholly Canadian— which bid alone on one only of the two sections was not more for- tunate. The rumour which comes to the Journal is that this firm was only $200,000 higher than the suc- cessful bidder for that portion of the work. Probably there are good reasons for letting’ both sections to the one contractor, but the Commission’s rule of secrecy in these matters keeps the public from knowing what they are.—(Ed.) 569