Canada’s CEF First Contingent’s, Drugs, Bandages, Medicine, &c., Contract Scandal Aug. 1914.

Drugs, Bandages and Medicine.


DRUG CASE No. I: Clinical Thermometers Bought at Exactly Twice Regular Prices. Quick Refund when Liberals Question the Deal.


CLINICAL THERMOMETERS: After the outbreak of War, the Militia Department bought from T. A. Brownlee, druggist of Ottawa, 1,062 clinical thermometers. Brownlee charged $1.00 each, and was paid for 702 on August 31, 1914, and for the remaining 360 on October 29, 1914. On February 10, Mr. William Chisholm, M.P., Liberal Member for Antigonish asked for details and was informed on February 22nd by Major General Sam Hughes, that $1.00 each had been paid and “subsequently Mr. Brownlee discovered an error in his charge and refunded half of this, making the net price 50 cents.” Inquiry by Liberal Member February 10th. Refund February 11th. On March 1, answering a demand for more details, it was stated officially that the “refund was made on February 11th. The very day following Mr. Chisholm’s first question. Is not this clear proof that it was the Liberal question that forced the refund! On March 1st, Major General Hughes admitted officially that the Department subsequently had been quoted much lower prices than were paid to Brownlee.


Busy scene at advanced Field Dressing Station. Advance East of Arras. October, 1918.

Busy scene at advanced Field Dressing Station. Advance East of Arras. October, 1918.


OTHER PURCHASES FROM BROWNLEE: It might be assumed that Mr. Brownlee’s transactions with the Department ended with the purchase of these thermometers. Not so. He was more fortunate than that. From the return brought down is shown that Mr. Brownlee got at least $25,000 worth of orders from the Department. These and some other large items were not investigated by the Committee. It is only fair, however, to state that in one item alone he was asked to supply 150 medicine stores boxes filled complete, which he did at $85.00 a piece, the order amounting to $12,750.

Certainly not. No tenders’ were asked. Brownlee was given the order and he filled it, but to-day after the Government have been obliged in some cases at least to adopt the competitive principle, similar medical boxes can be purchased from wholesale druggists for half that price.


DRUG CASE No.2. FIELD DRESSINGS FOR WOUNDED: Field Dressings (Bandages, lint’s, salves, etc., for wounded Canadian Soldiers) had to pay the blood toll. They had to come through a Tory middleman. The middleman was an employee of a Conservative M.P. (W. F. Garland of Carleton, Ont.) Toe middleman added one-third profit. The manufacturers of Field Dressings (Bauer & Black, Chicago) wanted and expected to do business direct with the Government; the same as this firm has always done with all the governments of the world-They could not do business direct-they were told so-because there had to be a middleman.

Bauer & Black of Chicago, manufacturers of surgical dressings and specialists in Military Field Dressings, are one of the largest firms in the world doing this special business. Bauer & Black, knowing that Canada was sending troops to Europe and knowing that the proper outfitting of these troops would include all kinds ‘ of surgical dressings, sent their own representative, W. J. Shaver to Ottawa. Mr. Shaver interviewed officials of the Militia Department, expecting to do business direct with the Government, just, as he would have done with the British War Office. He found he could not do business direct. Let Mr. Shaver tell it in his own words, as he told it on oath on March 23rd, before the Public Accounts Committee (pages 69 to 80).

“I went to see Col. Jones (of the Militia Department). He said that THE GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT DO BUSINESS DIRECT WITH OUR COMPANY.” (Page 70, P.A.E.).

There had to be a middleman! Lest there be any mistake about that, listen to what Mr. Shaver said further on in his examination. He went on to talk with Col. Jones about prices for field dressings, and. the basis of price was talked of. Mr. Shaver swore to the committee: “Col. Jones told me it was the price laid down in Ottawa THROUGH SOME LOCAL MAN EITHER HERE OR SOMEWHERE ELSE IN CANADA.” (Page 73, P.A.E.).

There must be a middleman! Mr. Shaver did not want a middleman. He swore he did not. Listen-“We were prepared to do business direct if the Government saw fit to do business with us AS WE DO IN OTHER COUNTRIES. (Page 70, P.A.E.). And later Mr. Shaver said his company did business with the French, British and Russian governments, to say nothing of the United States. (Page 77, P.A.E.).


Source: CWM  First World War Field Surgery Kit.

Source: CWM First World War Field Surgery Kit.


There was a middleman. But there had to be a middleman, so Mr. Shaver got his middleman. He got him through W. F. Garland of Ottawa, Conservative member for Carleton County and chief owner of the Carleton Drug Company of Ottawa. And the middleman was E. E. Powell, a young apprentice druggist working for $15a week in the store of the Carleton Drug Company, of which W. F. Garland, Conservative member of Parliament, was and is the chief owner. Agent for Government only. Powell was appointed agent of Bauer & Black-to do business only with the Canadian Government. Both Shaver and Powell swore to that. Powell got orders totalling over $41,000 and on these orders he added a profit over and above the prices Bauer & Black would have charged the Government of nearly 30 per cent. Powell added over $9,000, which the Government paid because there had to be a middleman. Powell did nothing to earn the money. Powell swore, and Shaver swore that the goods were shipped direct to the Militia Department from Chicago. Powell never saw them-never handled them-did nothing but write a few letters and make out a few invoices. But the Government, paid Powell, Garland’s clerk, over $9,000 more than it would have paid Bauer & Black. The excess would have been more than $9,000, but for Mr. H. W. Brown, director of contracts. Powell charged 23 cents each for field dressings. Brown’ protested the price and Powell reduced it to 21 cents. Brown still protested and Mr. Garland, Conservative M.P. stepped in and said the price was fair, giving his word as a druggist that the profit says only 5 per cent. Mr. Brown investigated a little further and found it was not 5%. but 5 cents per dressing, a profit of over 30%.

In the face of the disclosure before the Committee Powell turned back to the Government some $6,300, all that was in the· bank in his name. The Government had in the meantime retained $2,600 of his profits. On March 25th at a subsequent meeting of the Public. Accounts Committee the following resolution was passed:- The Committee begs to report to the House the evidence adduced in respect to the contract for supplies purchased from Mr. E. Powell and to express its opinion that the contracts for such supplies do not appear to have fully protected the public interests; and the Committee therefore recommend that the evidence adduced and all papers connected with the matter should be referred by the House to the Department of Justice for any further necessary investigation and for the recovery of any moneys overpaid and the taking of such further action as may be warranted by the facts.


Source: CWM First World War Field Dressing 1915.

Source: CWM First World War Field Dressing 1915.



The Contractor a sister of Albert Sevigny, M.P., Deputy’ Speaker of the House of Commons. Drugs and medical supplied of all kinds for the First Canadian: Contingent, while at Valcartier Camp, were supplied by Mdme G. P. Plamondon of Québec. The total of her accounts for goods supplied at Valcartier was about $23,200. Overcharges running all the way from 70% to 200% and even 300% were proved by the sworn testimony of an expert druggist. Mdme Plamondon, who has continued the drug business of her late husband in Quebec, held the contract for supply of drugs to the permanent military forces at Quebec for the year 1914-15. Her name was put on the Government patronage the two years previously at the request of her brother, Mr. Albert Sevigny, Nationalist member for Dorchester and Deputy Speaker of the House. Mr. Sevigny, giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee on April 10th, admitted this under oath, and also admitted that he had written .letters to the Paymaster General of the Militia: Department asking expedition in the payment of accounts due Mdme Plamondon. Mr. Henry Watters, druggist of Ottawa, in the trade 45 years and recognized as thoroughly competent to tell drug prices, gave evidence on April 9th, comparing Mdme Plamondon’s prices, charged the Government with the prevailing trade prices as, shown on current price lists of the leading wholesale drug firms of Canada, Mr. Watters demonstrated scandalous overcharges from 70 to 300 percent, even after allowing for any change in prices due to the War.


  • Busy scene at Canadian Advanced Dressing Station in the German line. Advance East of Arras. September, 1918 Cambrai.

    Busy scene at Canadian Advanced Dressing Station in the German line. Advance East of Arras. September, 1918 Cambrai.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s