My remark would not apply to the hon. member for Fort William; but the department reaches into every home and almost every person has some connection with it. For that reason it is a difficult department to administer. All in all the Post Office Department is to be commended on the very efficient service it is rendering, as I have proved by the letter I have just mentioned and which I received only tonight.
In closing I say I am thankful that after a few years' effort, Kipling, the newest town in my constituency, is going to have a post office in the very near future.
I have only two or three short questions that I should like to have answered. I would have been surprised if I had not heard the hon. member for Qu'Appelle wondering what had happened to socialism or has it not had any patronage in its ranks. I find he came through nobly. To me it is a strange state of affairs to have a Liberal member in the house suggesting that a C.C.F. member can be 99 per cent right. Strangely enough, I find myself agreeing in one or two instances in this respect.
What I have in mind is the question of the drop letter rate in the Burnaby-Coquitlam-New Westminster area. The hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam made an excellent case this afternoon when he drew the attention of the committee to the need for such a letter rate. I am quite sure that the minister is not too familiar with the geography of 83276-301
New Westminster-Burnaby and the city of Vancouver or we should have had such a drop letter rate long ago. One must understand that the whole area is a metropolitan area. It is entirely within a division known as the county of New Westminster. Therefore, I would urgently request the minister to give consideration to including New Westminster in the drop letter rate. As I understand it, south and north Burnaby and Vancouver come under one letter rate, namely the drop letter rate but because east Burnaby and Barnet and New Westminster are in separate postal divisions they have not that particular privilege. If the minister were just to come to the British Empire games in Vancouver this year he would be privileged at the same time to see that the whole thing is one large city. Of course each one is a separate entity but is anxious to be assured of a four-cent letter rate as far as postage is concerned between their various post offices.
Another question I have to ask is, when will letter carriers begin house-to-house deliveries in south Westminster and areas south of the Fraser river. The section has been enumerated for letter carrier purposes but up to date we have nothing very definite as to when the letter carriers are to start making deliveries.
One thing further is the justification for a federal building to house the post office. In the Whalley area we have a post office. We are paying approximately $6,000 a year rent for the post office and it serves a large area; but that is quite an expenditure expecially when you pay, in addition to $6,000 a year, another $300 and some odd to have it insulated so that the outside range of temperature does not disturb those inside too much. I would again urge the minister to come out and visit this particular region, and it is part of the whole suggestion that we have it included in one postal area. We have a post office and a new federal building to be erected in New Westminster, but we have rented a building at approximately $6,000 a year in the Whalley area. It is poor business to spend $6,000 a year for rent when we could probably build the same type of structure for about $20,000 or $25,000 and keep it as a national asset.
One other problem has arisen during the course of the year and this is one that touches not just my own riding but several others. The question I have in mind happens to be a post office and the appointment of a postmaster as well. In this case, as was suggested by the hon. member for Winnipeg North, patronage may be involved but I have
not checked the files to see and I am not interested in that at this time. What I am interested in is seeing that something is done to change the act. At the present time those who wish to become eligible for a job as postmaster in a certain area must all get their mail from that particular post office. To give hon. members a full picture of the situation I would like to give this illustration. We have a rural mail delivery throughout the whole of our area and within that area we have one small post office. Now there might only be 50 or 60 people being served with mail from that particular office. But if we require a new postmaster the government will have to send out a questionnaire requesting the names of those who would be willing to apply for that job. But those who are eligible are limited to the number of persons who receive their mail from that post office.
The whole area is surrounded by a postal route. None of the people get their mail from the post office because it comes from cities such as New Westminster. However, these people buy their stamps from the post office and yet they are not eligible to become postmaster or postmistress as the case might be. Certainly I believe there should be some change in the act, or some form of exception written into the act, which would allow these people to become eligible for this office. That is all I have to say, Mr. Chairman, and if I can have an answer to these few questions I will be quite delighted.
Mr. Chairman, I just wish to take up a very few moments to bring to the attention of hon. members a subject which I have no doubt has been raised in this house on many previous occasions. I refer to certain tactics used by the Post Office Department, though I might add that department is by no means alone in adopting this procedure. I am sure most hon. members would agree that the tactics I am about to describe are discourteous to certain hon. members in this house and an affront to the people of the ridings which they represent.
As an example of this I would like to bring to the minister's attention a situation which arose in regard to a post office in my own riding, namely the post office at Beachville, Ontario. This post office is being built by a syndicate and not by the Department of Public Works, and a certain portion of the building is to be leased to the Post Office Department. The architects in the Department of Public Works approved the plans, and I might say, having had some dealings with the Department of Public Works in this matter, that I received every courtesy from the officials in that department. However,
after the architects have approved the plans they go subsequently, I understand, to the treasury and the post office for approval, and approval, of course, is also given to the terms of lease.
Having spent some time on this problem I was very surprised, and I may say not very pleased, to note in the March 24 issue of the Woodstock Sentinel Review the following item:
Clark Murray, former M.P. for Oxford, announced receipt of word from Ottawa that government approval had been granted to the proposal to erect a suitable building at Beachville to provide postal accommodation.
It may be all very well for the hon. member for Qu'Appelle to say, as he did a few moments ago, that the government after all is human and that we should forgive these little human failings, and wink an eye at them, but I would like to submit that such tactics, which I have heard referred to as "pork barrel politics of the 1890's" are a bit out of date nowadays.
I apologize to the hon. member. But it is no excuse to get up and say that other governments have done this and therefore it must be all right. To perpetuate a wrong does not make it one bit better.
However, the Post Office Department is by no means alone in this regard and in order to make the Postmaster General feel a little better I would like to refer to one other item of much the same kind. I have here an extract from the London Free Press dated March 31, 1954 which refers to improvements to the Canadian National Railways station at Woodstock. I will not quote the entire article but it states in part:
News that the C.N.R. station would he renovated was first announced here by Clark Murray, former M.P. for Oxford, who received word from the federal government late today.
Now, that is another example, and perhaps it will enable the Postmaster General to feel a little better and realize that it is not only his department which can be criticized in this regard.
I would not wish to imply that the government have been doing something immoral, because the word "immoral" would imply that there was a certain code of ethics. I would rather say that this
behaviour is unmoral and I am sure most of the senior ministers in the government are now aware of it. Certainly the Prime Minister, for whom everyone in this house has
the greatest respect, cannot possibly be aware of this for I am quite certain he would not countenance such behaviour if he were made aware of it.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I do not think it is necessary to take up much more of the time of the committee in dealing with this matter, but I am sure we all know of the three letters LPP, sometimes meant to refer to the Labour-Progressive party, but I have heard them referred to as "Liberal, Post Office and Patronage."
Mr. Chairman, if I may be permitted to take the minister's mind back to British Columbia for a few moments, I would like to assure him at the outset that the constituency I represent is not part of the county of New Westminster and I have no intention of suggesting that he extend this drop letter rate to include my territory as well.
If I recall correctly the very first problem with which I was called upon to deal after my election was a problem related to the Post Office Department, so I suppose in a sense that makes the department the most important one in the government as far as 1 am concerned, and I am quite sure the minister would be willing to agree with that. The particular problem to which I have referred had to do with the reduction in an air mail service which had been provided on the west coast of Vancouver island. It was a question of whether a mail service should be provided for that area on a thrice weekly basis, although the service had been reduced to less than that.
I think the minister will readily understand that people living in isolated communities on the west coast of an island such as Vancouver island, where they have no railway, no highways, and what they consider to be a very infrequent boat service, find it difficult to understand why the plane which was coming into their community three times per week could not at least carry their mail in and out of the island. It did not take me long to discover the reason for this reduction. However, I would like to assure the minister that the officials of his department in British Columbia were working out the best arrangement they could within the limits of the directives which came from a city known as Ottawa, with which I have since become a little better acquainted.
The reason why I am raising this matter at this time is to indicate that I was one of the members who were quite pleased when the Minister of Finance announced on December 8 that all first class mail would be carried by air if air carriage would speed delivery. I hope the minister is aware of 83276-301J
the fact that Canada does not stop at Regina nor at the community mentioned by the hon. member for Qu'Appelle, nor at Vancouver. I rise at this time simply to express to the minister the hope that when I return to my constituency at the end of the session I shall be able to discover that the statement made by the Minister of Finance on December 8 last means exactly what it says and that this policy of carrying mail by air wherever that carriage will speed its delivery is going to apply to places on the west coast of Canada as well as to points between Vancouver and Montreal. I should like to feel that the minister and the officials of his department recognize that to people living in the more isolated communities, where in many cases no other practicable alternative means of carrying mail exists, it is as important, if not more so, that the fullest possible use should be made of all existing air services. I would even go so far as to venture to hope that the Post Office Department will take an interest, wherever it is possible and feasible, in stimulating the development of air service to the more remote parts of Canada as a means of improving the service the department can provide.
I think it is important to realize that one of the results of the existence of air travel, as far as areas like the west coast of British Columbia are concerned, has been a decrease in the frequency and quality of the steamer services available to many points and that, as a result, many communities today are getting a poorer mail service than they had 20 or 30 years ago. For that reason, as I previously stated, this announcement that all mail is to be carried by air if that move will speed its delivery is a most important one to the people living in the coastal areas of British Columbia at this time.
I have only one other matter on which I should like to say a few words before I sit down. I think I expressed myself on it once before when we were discussing some of the matters affecting the Post Office Department. I expressed some surprise at the rather unnecessary difficulty, as it appeared to me, the department was running into in connection with their personnel relationships. As I think the minister may recall, I mentioned the fact that I happen to have had some association with the organized trade union movement wherein we have developed, in our day to day dealings with the employers in the industry with which I was connected, quite a good working relationship on many matters. Some of the points which have been raised by members in various parts of the chamber as to the problems in the relationships between the employees of the postal
department and the department are rather startling to someone who has had experience with the kind of relationship which is an everyday matter in much of the industrial field today. I think this problem which has been mentioned in connection with supervisory letter carriers is one of them.
I know that seniority is always one of the more difficult matters to arrange, particularly when it comes to the question of leave. Without attempting to go into all the details, may I say this. On reading through the report of the arrangement that has been worked out here, may I say that it strikes me as being a rather topsy-turvy sort of arrangement where senior men are not going to have the opportunity to pick their holidays which their seniority would warrant. I think the crux of the matter is a point which has been raised on a number of occasions by spokesmen for the party to which I belong, namely, that the people who work in the civil service of Canada have not, so far, been allowed to have full bargaining rights as workers in industry understand those rights. I think it is a rather silly thing that members of parliament should have to stand up, in effect, to do the bargaining as bargaining agents for the civil service. That is a lot of nonsense. Those are things which those people who are employed should be able to bargain on directly with their employer, as is done by workers in other fields of endeavour in Canada. The very fact that circular letters addressed to members of parliament come from various branches of the civil service from time to time is, I think, an indication that the time has come when the people in the civil service of Canada should have the ordinary bargaining rights that are assured, by law in many cases, to other workers in Canada.
I will not be more than a few minutes, Mr. Chairman; I can give you that assurance. There are only one or two questions that I have in mind. I do not think we need worry too much about the people wanting post office jobs in British Columbia because the wages are quite high over there, and I do not think they are too greatly interested. But there is one matter about which I should like to ask a question of and to receive an answer from the Postmaster General. It is in connection with the Edmon-ton-Prince George railroad post office. I believe that about the 26th of April a switch was going to be made and was called off at the last moment. Just in case it was called off only temporarily, I should like to get a few details as to just what it implied. It has been called to my attention-whether it is right or not, I do not know-that T.C.A. mail
loadings have at times been so heavy that certain seats have been taken out of the aircraft in order to allow mail to be put on and, as a result, passengers have been unable to travel and to get space bookings. I do not know whether or not that is true but it has been one of the complaints that have come to my attention. I should just like to have the Postmaster General's comment on the matter.
There is one other matter that I should like to mention. We have the C.P.A. plane that leaves Vancouver in the morning and goes through Kamloops, Quesnel and Prince George and return. I understand that it does not carry mail. With the growth that there is in the interior at this time, it would seem to me that many people in the Kamloops area and also other communities in the central parts of British Columbia could well use that service. I understand that mail from Prince George that is going into Kamloops is carried by air from Prince George into Vancouver, and sent out at night on the Canadian Pacific railway train and into Kamloops that way, and vice versa to get back up to Prince George.
These are two or three of the things that I had in mind. I should also like the Postmaster General to comment on the Dawson Creek federal building. I understand it has been promised for a long time now, and since it is going to house the new post office I should like the minister to say something about it.
I do not wish to take up very much time, but there are a few things I should like to draw to the attention of the Postmaster General. I do not think it would be very difficult to criticize but I do not intend to criticize the Post Office Department because of the fact that in most places we are getting very good service. I wish to say a word or two about the rural mail couriers. Some little time ago, when an effort was made to increase their salaries, it was suggested that the route of a person who was complaining should be compared with two or three nearby routes. That may be all right, but perhaps the remuneration on those two or three other routes is too low too. In that case the poor fellow would not have a chance to get much of an increase. In several places this has been corrected but some of the couriers are still dissatisfied with the amount they got.
I should like to remind the Postmaster General of one particular case, that of Albert A. Gammie of Lucknow, Ontario. He got an increase but he did not think it was sufficient. Whether or not he has made representations to the Postmaster General since I do
not know. I did have the information as to the amount of the increase he received, and apparently it was not sufficient to satisfy him. I know of several others. I also know that quite a number of rural couriers who have not even put in an application for an increase are complaining that they are not getting enough money. I do not blame the Post Office Department entirely for that because of the fact that when these men were tendering they had the opportunity to tender high enough to give them a decent wage. The trouble is that they tendered low to get the contract and then, after finding that they could not carry out the contract as cheaply as they thought they could, they started to complain that they wanted more money. I think the Post Office Department has been very fair in a great many of these cases but there are still a few that I hope the department will take note of and correct if possible.
I should like to say a word about postmasters. I want to congratulate the postmasters in my entire riding. I have not had a complaint about a postmaster in my riding since I first came into office. I think that is a credit to them. The postmaster is one of the most important men in any community because he probably knows more about the people in the community than any other one man. If he is doing his job properly he has a lot of friends. I can remember the postmaster we had in our own town some years ago. Looking back over the years I would not complain about him now as I would have then. He was a man who was getting on in years. He was over 70 years of age and possibly a little irritable. He stuck strictly to the law. If the post office was supposed to be closed at a certain minute he would close it right in your face and would not give you your mail. There are not very many of them like that. I have not heard any complaints about any postmasters in my riding. I think they are giving a wonderful service.
I should like to say a word about extending mail routes. The postage rate was increased to five cents and I am sure many people are perfectly satisfied with the five cent air mail service. However, we find that many people on the back concessions have to go a considerable distance to get their mail. I think that perhaps the requirement of four boxes to the mile is too many, and these people deserve consideration just the same as others. I think it should be lowered to two to the mile. It would be a wonderful thing for some of these people living on the back concessions to be able to get their mail at their gates. The roads are all open now in the wintertime. It is very seldom
that a road is blocked for any considerable length of time, and there is no difficulty in getting down the back roads. I suggest to the Postmaster General that perhaps consideration could be given to lowering the number to the mile in future.
Then there is a matter which I took up with the Postmaster General some time ago but so far I have not heard anything about it.
I have a letter from the town clerk of the town of Exeter which reads as follows:
Please find enclosed letter to the Postmaster General which is self-explanatory. The members of the town council would appreciate anything you can do to help in this matter.
I am going to read the letter that was sent to the Postmaster General. It is dated January 21, 1954 and reads as follows:
I have been instructed by the town council of Exeter to bring to your attention the gross inadequacy of the accommodation provided by the post office building here. The building was constructed in 1928 when Exeter was a village of 1,600 and postal facilities were not used as extensively as they are today. Since then the town has grown to over 2,600 and has become the shopping centre of an ever-increasing area.
As far as the public is concerned, the lobby is far too small and the number of private boxes available does not begin to supply the demand. At least every mail the place is so crowded that it is impossible to carry on business properly. Many persons go to the door and turn away to come back later. It is also evident that the working space for the staff is much too small.
Fortunately, there is space for enlarging the building. The town council request that action be taken as quickly as possible to alleviate the present unsatisfactory condition and to make Exeter post office a building of which the Post Office Department and the town may be proud.
I might tell the Postmaster General that I visited that post office. It is a building that has not been up very long and there is plenty of space behind it on which to erect an extension. I do not think there is anything in the estimates this year to take care of it, but I hope that the Postmaster General will take the matter into consideration and that conditions there will be corrected. It is a flourishing town and a lot of business is done. I had a report as to the increase in the volume of business. It has almost doubled in the last few years, and I think they are deserving of some consideration. I believe that is all I have to say. I do not know whether the Postmaster General has any report on the findings at Exeter, but if he has I hope he will tell me about it when he replies. If not, I would be glad to get the information as soon as possible.
The hon. member for Oxford directed the attention of the minister to an incident in his own locality. Just in case the minister may think that is an isolated example, I should like to say at this time that some time last fall an item appeared in the
Regina Leader-Post to the effect that mail delivery service was to be commenced in a new area of the city. This announcement was made by the defeated Liberal candidate in the last election, and the item contained the information that he had received word about this move from the Postmaster General. I do not know the source of the former member's information but I was not worried about it. I do not believe that sort of thing does a defeated candidate any good, but I do believe it is discourteous. I do not know whether or not that is the policy of the department, but when the minister replies I should like him to comment on the suggestions brought up by one or two other members, and tell us whether it is the intention of the Post Office Department to continue having announcements of this kind made by ex-M.P.'s or defeated Liberal candidates.
First of all I want to thank those hon. members who have contributed to the debate. Some were most complimentary in their remarks while others had a lighter form of speech, though the tone was very cheerful. I shall not attempt to answer all the questions. Some of those that I cannot answer now I shall study, but I shall try to answer as many questions as possible.
The hon. member for Hamilton West spoke of two deliveries a day. I have made several statements about this, and my views have not changed. I hope that sooner or later we will be able to return to two deliveries a day, but I shall ask hon. members to bear in mind that it would cost at least, if not more than, $6 million. I repeat what I have already said on this subject, that I hope sooner or later we will be in a position to return to two deliveries. However, that time has not yet arrived. In the meantime we are making whatever improvements are possible. Some hon. members appreciate the fact we are already giving two deliveries a day in the business centres. On the other hand, some of the members said that we should not give two deliveries a day in the cities before we give at least one delivery a day in the rural areas.
Not only this question, but the whole postal problem, is a very complicated affair. I wish all hon. members would take the opportunity of visiting not only their own post office, but also the post offices in the larger centres. They will see then how complicated the problem is. They will probably ascertain that the department is doing all it can to settle the problem. At the same time hon. members should keep in mind that those who participate in the postal administration are human beings. Out of a possible 100 per cent, 99 per cent of the service provided is very good. We do not hear any criticism of that service. We are bound to listen to complaints about the remaining one per cent of the service. We understand that. I do not want to avoid criticism. On the contrary I invite constructive criticism, that kind of criticism that will keep us alert and enable us to ascertain the errors. I believe hon. members will find that out of a possible 100 per cent our average is very high, and the errors are limited to not more than one per cent.
The hon. member for Hamilton West mentioned the price of printed postcards. She made some suggestions, and I was glad to receive them. I do not know how far I can go eventually in correcting the situation, if correction is feasible, but I shall carefully read in detail the suggestions made and will make the necessary inquiries. She also brought up the subject of newspapers shipped by air. Newspapers are shipped by air, but not through the mail. They are carried as air cargo by the transportation companies. I mean we transfer only first class mail and parcel post by air, but it is possible that the transportation companies carry newspapers as air cargo.
Then there was the question of the supervisory mail carrier mentioned by the hon. member for Hamilton West. This seems to be a question of title, either "supervisory" or "relief". These men perform more difficult duties than the regular letter carrier who is assigned to only one walk. My hon. friend seemed to suggest these supervisory carriers should not be paid for this added responsibility. The positions were advertised and anyone could apply. Only where the senior man did not apply did we appoint a junior man. I am sure my hon. friend would not suggest that we should have delayed the implementation of the 40-hour week until all these positions were filled by senior men.
I do not want to deal with that at any length, because I think every member knows about it. The job had to be done, and whenever it was possible to have a senior man do the job we did not ask for more than that.
In some offices the senior men did not apply for the job, but the job had to be done even if the senior men did not want to do that work. In some instances a supervisory or relief man has to learn five or ten routes, whereas the ordinary man has to learn only one route. It is a more laborious job and in those instances where the senior men did not want the job the junior men had to be appointed.