Ernest Bertrand (Postmaster General)
Mr. BERTRAND (Laurier):
I would not be able to answer a question like that without knowing all the circumstances. Mail contracts differ considerably one from the other. I do not know whether hon. members realize it, but they vary from a dog-team route of 100 to 150 miles on the north shore of the St. Lawrence to the man who takes the mail from a station and carries it to a village less than a mile away. It is almost impossible to find a yardstick that would fit all the circumstances. Down below Quebec are mail contractors who must have snowmobiles, while others must have sleighs and automobiles and horses according to the season. Some of these men have to travel over mountains; others go along the south shore of the St. Lawrence down into the peninsula; some have good roads to travel on and others have not.
There is only one sure way of getting a fair price, that is by asking for tenders. All people who are interested have an opportunity to submit tenders because the notices are posted in the post offices, in the city halls, in the churches or in any place where the people might see them. Tenders are submitted, and we take the lowest tender provided that we are satisfied the man has the necessary equipment to carry out. his contract.
I do not think any member of this committee can say that the present Postmaster General has not given every possible attention to this question. Only a few postmasters have been dismissed, and some of them were of my own creed. I have no objection to having a committee consider this matter in an effort to improve the service. The service can be improved but it will cost more money. Rural mail routes are established according to certain rules. A route is not extended unless there are at least four families per mile. We would
not want a mail carrier to go three and four miles up a road, turn around and then retrace his steps. In that case the farmers place their boxes at the corner of the road.
As I say, I have no doubt that the service could be improved, and we are trying to improve it all the time. I hope the time will come when wre can deliver mail by means of helicopters to almost every village. If it were not for the conditions we must face today I am sure we would be able to improve the service. The hon. member for Lake Centre has said that this bill will give the Postmaster General more discretion, but I do not think it will. We cannot grant a bonus for a new contract to someone who has had the contract for less than a year and that only when an application is justified and in accordance with the rates paid in the vicinity. What the hon. member was saying might happen, possibly can happen, but I do not think it will. I shall be glad to give the answers to many of the questions that have been asked when the bill is before the house.
Subtopic: MAIL CONTRACTS-PROVISION FOR SUPPLEMENTAL PAYMENTS