May 29, 1951

PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

You do not send them out because you have good public relations without them. In any event, in so far as the speeches of the members are concerned which leave this parliament to go to the various constituencies, they are only a drop in the

bucket. So far as the real dissemination of news of this parliament is concerned, that rests with the members of the press gallery, the eyes and ears of the nation. I dare say if you were to remove the members of the press gallery for one session of parliament there would be scarcely anyone in the country who would take the slightest interest in what was happening in parliament, because the eyes and ears of the people are in that press gallery. Along with our parliamentary system, they form our democratic system. You cannot separate the two. One is complementary to the other. When you attempt, even, by this method which is employed here, to impose a burden upon the dissemination of that news, you not only attack the press itself but indirectly you are attacking parliament. I cannot, therefore, be too emphatic in expressing to the minister my belief that he should review that part of this post office bill.

If I may, I should like to come to another point which has not been dealt with in this debate, and that is why we have to keep on forgetting the forgotten man. This has been going on now not for years but for decades. There never seems to be enough influence brought upon the minister or upon the government with respect to the plight of the rural mail couriers to have the government act in any definite way. Here we have a great shake-up-at least, I suggest one may call it a shake-up-in our Post Office Department and a number of amendments made to that act. There has been some talk about overhauling an act which has been there since 1867. If we are going to overhaul the act, then why do we not overhaul some of the regulations that need overhauling the most? Here we are taxing newspapers and the dissemination of news, and at the same time doing nothing for the rural mail couriers across this country. While perhaps for some urban people the rural mail courier just appears to be another contractor, that is not the case. Those of us who have been served by rural mail during the many years of our farm life realize that the rural mail courier is much more than just a contractor. He is an institution in the rural life of every rural community.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Rinfret:

What is your suggestion?

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

I am coming to it. Since he is an institution, I feel that he ought to have more consideration than he is receiving in this particular bill. Of course, the minister will say that these couriers are contractors. They have put in the lowest tender. He will say it is because they have tendered low that they are now in this serious plight. I

Post Office Act

want to tell the minister that I was never able to see the justice or the logic in picking out certain people in the Post Office Department and asking them to tender. When the minister is appointed, his position is not put up for tender.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

How do you know?

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

When the parliamentary assistant is appointed, his position is not put up for tender. When the deputy minister is appointed, his position is not put up for tender. One could go all down the line. I cannot see why we continue, year after year, picking out the poorest paid of all our people in the Post Office Department and allowing that condition to be continued. I have made this suggestion before, but I am going to make it again. I realize the difficulties facing the Postmaster General in this regard. It is not an easy matter to solve. I believe a move ought to be made to solve the problem; and for that reason I urge, I hope with a little more effect than in the past, that the rural mail couriers be brought before a special parliamentary committee in Ottawa to explain their suggestions as to how this matter can be properly worked out.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Rinfret:

What is your suggestion?

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

That is my suggestion. I do not think that anyone could make a better suggestion than to have the rural mail people come down here and discuss this matter with a parliamentary committee. They could tell us how this contract system could be improved or changed, because it seems to me that almost any change would be better than the present system. After all, the fact that from time to time bonuses have had to be given to contractors across Canada after the contracts have been in force for some considerable time, and also the fact that departmental officials are tied hand and foot in attempts to try to work out something for rural mail couriers in various instances, are indications of the need for a change.

There is case after case where a courier takes a contract only to find that before the termination of the contract the number of boxes on his route has increased immeasurably.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Rinfrel:

He gets a proportionate

increase.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

He gets a proportionate increase, but it is not always the type of increase that is required under the particular circumstances. More than that, I want to say that when we are dealing with an institution that is as important as the rural mail couriers, surely we owe it to them to bring them down to Ottawa so they can tell us what

Post Office Act

they regard as a proper solution of this difficult problem. After the rural mail couriers have come to Ottawa and given their complaints to a committee, then I would be satisfied with whatever decision was made. I want to emphasize to the minister that I think we at least owe that much to them.

In view of the fact that this is an opportunity for dealing with the Postmaster General's department in general, there is another point I wish to bring to his attention. In places like the constituency I represent, which has been growing perhaps more rapidly than most sections of Canada and in which there are literally hundreds of houses going up year after year with new areas opening up, it seems to me that the question of extending the rural mail or postal delivery service to meet that condition is essential and urgent today. I know that the department is making some effort to meet the situation as they find it. If a committee is formed-I hope the minister has not entirely closed the door on that-that is one question I should like brought before the committee. In the United States there has been adopted some scheme whereby these suburban communities are being serviced by a sort of in-between system, that is between the postal delivery service and the regular rural mail delivery. I should like to see the committee deal with that question as well.

So I say to the minister that when the act is being overhauled, these matters ought to be considered. Once the act is finally passed with such amendments as may be necessary during its tour through the legislative chamber, we may not have an opportunity of satisfying the rural mail couriers that their case has not been glossed over by any procedure of parliament which does not give them an opportunity of being heard.

I am not asking for impossible reforms. All I am asking for is to have them heard. If it is then determined that the present system of contract is the best, I think the minister will have satisfied the couriers, the public and parliament. More than that, he will have done something which is perhaps more difficult: he will have satisfied me.

(Translation):

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Wilfrid Lacroix

Liberal

Mr. Wilfrid LaCroix (Quebec-Monimor-ency):

Mr. Speaker, may I be permitted, first of all, to endorse unreservedly the words of

praise directed a moment ago to the hon. Postmaster General (Mr. Rinfret). I may say without hesitation that, in my constituency, there has never been any patronage because the contracts have invariably been let to the lowest bidder.

[Mr. Gray don. I

I wish to mane a lew suggestions to the minister with respect to this bill and I hope he will give them his earnest consideration.

Subsection 2 of section 11 of this bill, with reference to the new rates for periodicals and newspapers, reads in part as follows:

(a) for those published daily

(i) with a circulation of ten thousand or more copies per issue, four cents for each pound weight or fraction thereof.

In the province of Quebec, the daily newspapers, that really provide a source of information for our people, come from only four cities: Montreal, Three Rivers, Quebec and Sherbrooke. In order to reach the rural population, these newspapers must, of necessity, use the postal services over a considerable expanse of territory. Would it not be fairer and more practical to increase postal rates for newspapers in direct proportion to the area covered by their own mailing lists, as in the case of the railway passenger fares?

Consequently, Mr. Speaker, allow me to suggest to the minister the establishment of a postal zoning system whereby rates would be increased in direct proportion to distances travelled. For instance some papers in Quebec city have sixty thousand subscribers outside the city. It would only be fair to these subscribers to increase postal rates in proportion to the distance involved. The situation in Quebec province is not the same as in Ontario where cities are clustered together and where most dailies can be delivered to their subscribers, who are limited to these centres, by light delivery vans.

Since the minister generally listens sympathetically to the suggestions which are directed to him I do hope that he will carefully consider this idea of a zoning system which would help to prevent an unreasonable increase in newspaper subscription rates for people who live in rural areas.

(Text):

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Joseph-Alfred Dion (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I must inform the house that if the minister speaks now, he will close the debate.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Hon. Edouard Rinfret (Postmaster General):

Mr. Speaker, the arguments that have been brought before the house by the opposition members, and by some on the government side, are in the main all related to one subject, namely the increase in the rates on newspapers. It has been said that these new rates are taxes. May I say that they are not taxes. They are fees for services

rendered. Up till now we have been rendering these services for $15 million and have been collecting only about $3,900,000. With the proposed increase, we shall add another $2 million only on the services rendered the newspapers. That will amount to about $6 million that we shall collect from the newspapers and magazines, out of an expenditure of some $16 million this year and probably much more next year on account of the increase in the cost of transportation, wages, et cetera. *

It has been suggested that the second reading of this bill should be deferred until time has been given to review this section. If the house would like to have the assurance that the section itself might be deferred for further consideration, I have no hesitation in giving it in order to weigh all the arguments that have been made here. I might say, however, that consideration has already been given to practically all of these suggestions. I must point out to the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) that deferring the second reading of the bill would of itself prevent the establishment of certain postal areas in which he might be interested.

The increases that we have made here are not confined to Canada. Similar increases have been made in the United States. It has been suggested that the increase in the United States is only 60 per cent and spread over three years. That is correct. But one must remember that in the United States the deficit in the postal department for the last operation year was $599 million. I should not like to see my department facing a somewhat proportionate deficit.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to answer all the questions at this time. I will come to them in committee. There is one thing, however, that I must answer, namely the question of charging more to certain types of newspapers. Reference has been made to comic magazines. The comic strips included in the papers of course are carried at the same rate as the newspapers. When we come to the comic magazines my hon. friend, the leader of the opposition, has not been well informed, because comics do not enjoy the privilege that he has quoted. Comics have to pay on the regular circular rate of two cents for one ounce or a fraction thereof, and one cent for each ounce over that. Therefore the comic magazines or the sex magazines that have been mentioned pay nine cents a pound as compared with the four cents that we are charging for the big newspapers.

I might point out here-it might be of some interest-that if we had collected the amount

Post Office Act

of $12 million deficit that we had in the department on newspapers and magazines we would have sufficient revenue to reduce the forward letter rate from four cents to three cents throughout Canada. That is, if we did not have this deficit of $12 million we could reduce all the four-cent rates that exist at the present time to three cents so as to make a uniform three-cent rate throughout Canada.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

Ellen Louks Fairclough

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Fairclough:

May I ask the Postmaster General a question?

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Rinfret:

If it were at all possible I should like to answer questions in the committee stage.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

Ellen Louks Fairclough

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Fairclough:

With respect to the $12

million which the minister has said they have lost on newspapers, is that loss not on all second-class mail?

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Rinfret:

Newspapers and periodicals I should have said. Newspapers and magazines; that is the second-class mail.

Referring to the treatment that is given our letter carriers and the question raised by the hon. member for York South (Mr. Noseworthy) I should like to announce to the house-the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mrs. Fairclough) asked me a question the other day-that the department has recommended to the civil service commission and to the treasury board that overtime for letter carriers incurred during the transition period incidental to the introduction of one delivery walks be paid for in cash, effective with the date of change, if any, in the letter carrier walks operating from the office, the actual time of change to be the effective date. There will of course be variations, as all walks in every instance were not changed from the same date. The matter is now before the treasury board, and with the little experience I have gained I think the treasury board will see the well founded effect of this.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Knowles:

Overtime at what rates?

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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LIB

Édouard-Gabriel Rinfret (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Rinfret:

Overtime as is customary in the post office at the ordinary rate, but that will be retroactive to the date of the introduction of the walk after an official check has been made of that walk. We are pressing our inspectors to make the checks as soon as possible; but the letter carriers can be assured of one thing. Even if a check does not take place today, or if it takes place only in a month's time, they continue to accumulate overtime, and will be paid for that.

I do not think that there is any more that I should like to say at this time. I reserve the right to answer all questions that have been asked at the committee stage, Mr. Speaker.

Post Office Act

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

Don't forget the rural mail couriers.

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

May I just clarify one point? The minister referred to the remarks that I made about comics, and what are described as crime books and sex books and things of that kind. Is it not true that these books are exempted from the sales tax that does apply to newspapers? Not the sales tax, but the tax that applies to newspapers?

Topic:   POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO CONSOLIDATE, CODIFY AND AMEND EXISTING LEGISLATION
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May 29, 1951