May 14, 1954

CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. Nicholson:

Before he finishes my point, and we are just about through, I think the case that I discussed would indicate that it is a real handicap for the staff of the Postmaster General to have to go through the procedure that I outlined that prevailed ten years ago, and that outlined by the hon. member for Winnipeg North, which indicates it still prevails. My case briefly was that the inspector made a decision on the spot, and after seventeen letters were written by a very prominent public servant here in Ottawa, the decision

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made by the inspector was finally maintained. In the year 1953 I think the Postmaster General should agree to give the responsible people in the field the right to make the decision, to canvass the Legion and local organizations that have the information rather than to ask Mr. Barrie to travel 70 miles back and forth and burn up all the energy he had to burn up and make so many bad friends.

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LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

The hon. member for Eglinton also talked about two deliveries a day. I have already dealt with this subject. As regards the specific complaints made, I would appreciate it if he would be good enough to give me the covers and I shall have the necessary inquiries made. In this regard, I wish to make the following statement about delay, and again I want to stress the point that the work done in the postal department is done by human beings.

There have been quite a number of complaints during a short while back in regard to delays in mail particularly between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. We are doing all we can to eliminate these delays, and wherever practicable are using planes for the carriage of mail instead of the trains so as to give more time for handling at the post office of destination.

There is no doubt that some of the delays are due to mishandlings and errors on the part of employees. It is not possible entirely to eliminate the human element, especially when they are working at high speed. For example, in Toronto we handle approximately one and a half million items daily between five in the evening and ten o'clock. I repeat, one and a half million items between five in the evening and ten o'clock. These items are handled by over 1,000 men and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to place responsibility in all cases. We have a group of officials especially assigned to study this problem and to make whatever improvements we can.

The period of time during which we must handle this great volume of mail is restricted on one hand by the time of mailing and on the other by the time and departure of planes and trains. Naturally the transportation companies do not run their trains to suit the Post Office Department. They determine the times, generally speaking, in the interests of the travelling public. We are not particularly objecting to this, but it does intensify our problem. The situation would be greatly eased if the business and commercial concerns in Toronto, Montreal and other large points would spread their mailings during the day instead of concentrating everything just

after five o'clock at night. If it is impossible to handle the mails in time to catch the planes, then obviously delays take place.

I might mention particularly the question of mails between Toronto and Ottawa. If we can get it sorted in time to catch the evening plane out of Toronto, then it will arrive in Ottawa in time to be sorted by the letter carriers for delivery the next morning. On the other hand, if on account of the terrific volume and the restricted period available for sorting and handling, we cannot make the plane and have to send the mail by trains it means that the mails cannot be delivered on the first delivery as the train does not arrive in Ottawa in time to permit the mails to be processed through the Ottawa post office and routed by the carriers. There are many cases in which the mails cannot be delivered by carrier until the following day.

We have that kind of situation in Toronto and Ottawa and elsewhere, and I can assure hon. members that we are doing everything we can to improve the service and I believe we are achieving some results. There will, of course, always be delays due to the human element which we are not entirely able to prevent. I can quite understand the annoyance of the patrons if a letter is delayed, even though that may only happen on occasions. The public can help, of course. They sometimes create delays by holding their mail until the peak load period at night. Mailing early and often will undoubtedly assist the Post Office Department in dealing with this problem. We are as much if not more interested than the public in improving the service and we are making every effort to do so.

My hon. friend indicated that the drop letter rate of postage did not apply between Toronto and Willowdale. I must say this is not correct. I would refer him to the statement I made in this house on March 29 which appears at page 3413 of Hansard.

The hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam, as well as the hon. member for Burnaby-Richmond, raised the question of postal services to Burnaby. I understand that what they have in mind is the erection of a public building, and the dividing of Burnaby into postal districts, these districts to be numbered Burnaby 1, 2, 3 and 4. I can assure my hon. friends that I will look into the first question with my colleague, the Minister of Public Works.

As regards the question of delivery, this also will be given consideration but I want to warn my hon. friends that this is not a new procedure. We have endeavoured to introduce a similar arrangement at other points but with indifferent success. Toronto

has been zoned for many years and we have spent a great deal on publicity, though at the present time not more than 20 per cent of the mail bears the zone number in Toronto.

In Burnaby the indication is that it is imperative. One portion of the mail is handled through Vancouver and another portion handled through New Westminster. Unless this designation is shown there are bound to be delays. However, I will look again into this matter though I want my hon. friends to fully understand the implication of their suggested change. There is another point which must not be overlooked. If the change involves an independent postal area apart from Vancouver, then the drop letter rate between Burnaby and Vancouver, and vice versa, will no longer apply.

The hon. member for Royal brought up the question of the service in the rural areas. At the present time I am more in sympathy with my hon. friend from Royal in regard to the frequency of the service in rural areas than in the re-establishment of two deliveries in the residential section of urban centres. In this connection let me point out that our estimate for land mail service includes $1,500,000 for improvements in service, in addition to the $1,500,000 for adjustment in rates of pay.

As regards a public building for Rothesay, as my hon. friend is aware there is an item of $30,000 in this year's estimates.

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PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

Did the minister say that was the hon. member for Royal?

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LIB
PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

That should be the hon. member for Victoria-Carleton.

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LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

I am sorry. I am glad the hon. member has corrected me. The hon. member for Okanagan-Revelstoke brought up the subject of a public building at Vernon. I might say that an item of $25,000 for that project is in the estimates. The hon. member for Brandon-Souris mentioned the problem of the decrease in the number of rural routes in the west, while there is a general increase all over the country. The discontinuance of service on the rural routes does create a problem but it has been noted that in most of these cases the patrons are going to the cities, or using the facilities of other post offices. But the hon. member may rest assured that every case will be examined on its merits and that we are trying to maintain the service at the highest possible level commensurate with our financial obligations.

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PC

Walter Gilbert Dinsdale

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dinsdale:

Could the minister indicate how many routes have been discontinued in 83276-302J

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the prairie provinces over the past two years, and in what places they have been discontinued?

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LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

I am sorry but I have not that information available at the moment because some of these routes have been readjusted. But I will be glad to look into this matter and if I have not the time to tell him before the end of the discussion on the estimates I will give him this information personally.

The hon. member for Kootenay West mentioned mail services and I can assure him that these services will be looked into. As regards the building at Trail, the information I have is that expropriation procedure is under way and final plans have been approved.

As far as the hon. member for Edmonton East is concerned, I am sorry to say that I am not familiar with the situation at Beverly but I will look into this matter.

(Translation):

The hon. member for Chicoutimi (Mr. Gagnon) mentioned the proposed post office at Chicoutimi. It is true that this project is under consideration and that an item has been placed in the departmental estimates for that purpose in order to ensure that it be proceeded with. My hon. friend knows, however, that there has been considerable expansion in his district. Quite recently I received a delegation from Port Alfred, I think, where there is a similar problem. As far as the Chicoutimi project is concerned, I do not remember whether the plan called for a building to accommodate various federal departments or whether it was only to be a postal station. I know that we had to revise this project and hold it back for further study. I will look further into the matter and will be glad to give more detailed information to the hon. member. I must add that the project has not been abandoned but that it is simply under further consideration.

(Text):

The hon. member for Victoria-Carleton- am I right this time?

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PC
LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

The hon. member brought up the question of a building at Plaster Rock and I am pleased to inform him that there is an amount in the estimates this year of $25,000. The site has been approved and so also have the plans. As far as the Glassville services are concerned, I am sorry I have no information available at the moment. But I will be glad to look into the matter.

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The hon. members for New Westminster, Oxford and Comox-Alberni brought up several subjects, one of them being a question of mail service, though I cannot remember the name. However, in all these cases 1 will be glad to look into the matter further. I have no information here and when it is available I will be glad to pass it on to my hon. friends.

Again I must say this that the Post Office Department does not like to be the object of excessive criticism, though we are always very glad to receive constructive criticism. There might be some cases where we are entirely at fault, but there are many cases where those who complain have contributed to a certain extent. We want the co-operation of the public. We ask for that cooperation and I do not lose any opportunity to tell, not only my officials but the employees of the department whom I meet at postal conventions, that we are civil servants and we must give good service.

But this service that is given is subject to human frailty and there is always the possibility of errors; however, we are trying to keep those errors to a minimum. As far as the policy of the department is concerned, may I say that everything cannot be done in one day. I have talked about the Woods-Gordon report. We are actually in the process of implementing the recommendations contained in that report. We are decentralizing. We are setting up what we call area superintendents. We therefore think it is apparent that, when the report is completely implemented the men in the region on the spot will be in a better position, not only to correct errors but to prevent them. We are sure that eventually the service will continue to improve. That is the main objective, not only of the department but of every member of the committee.

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PC

Lewis Elston Cardiff

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cardiff:

Can the minister tell me whether his officials have made any survey yet of the Exeter post office?

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LIB
PC
LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

Yes. It has been referred to the Department of Public Works with our recommendation.

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CCF

Alistair McLeod Stewart

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

Mr. Stewart (Winnipeg North):

The

minister said a few words which I should like to have clarified. My quarrel with the minister is not over the professional post office which I think is doing a good job of work; my quarrel is with the political post office. When the minister rises in his place in the House of Commons and tells us that members of parliament are told about vacancies in sub-post offices and that these mem-

bers of parliament know all about it, may I say that I do not think it is true of opposition members of parliament. I do not want it to be true. Quite frankly, may I say that I want to have nothing at all to do with it. I think the postal officials are far better qualified than am I to decide who should be a subpostmaster or where the locality should be. My hon. friend said that great numbers of letters were sent out. That is quite true. But those letters are decidedly different. There are two types of letters sent to my constituency; and if they are sent to my constituency, I assume they are sent to others. They are form letters sent by the director of operations. The one type is that which is sent to the Canadian Legion in language which is as follows:

Dear Sir:

There is a vacancy at the above-named post office and as the appointment comes under the control of the department, the necessary steps are being taken to appoint a new postmaster.

At the request of the Postmaster General, I am bringing the matter to your notice in case any member of your organization who is a patron of the vacant office should care to submit his application. Anyone desirous of applying for the position should submit his application to the department at the earliest possible moment.

I have no quarrel at all with that sort of form letter which is sent out to responsible officers of the Legion because I think exservicemen should always be given consideration. My quarrel is with the other type of letter which, as I said earlier, apparently is sent to only a select group; and it reads like this:

Dear Sir:

In previous correspondence the department asked for your recommendation of a suitable person for permanent appointment as postmaster . . .

The position I take is this. In Winnipeg the postal officials know much better than does anyone else, whether he is a successful politician or a broken-down politician, where the sub-post office should be and who the sub-postmaster should be. I should be extremely happy to leave this matter entirely to the post office. I have seen them at work before and I have no quarrel at all with them as a professional group. I think they are doing an excellent job. I think what is hurting the post office-and what in the long run hurts any political party-is the animosity which is aroused through this form of patronage. Earlier today I said that those who were appointed through patronage were probably just as good sub-postmasters as were others. I have no quarrel with them; my quarrel is with the system. It is a system which I think is bad and one which I maintain should be eradicated. I should like to know whether the minister can tell me precisely to whom this second type of letter is sent. I refer to the letter which asked for

the recommendation of a suitable person. To whom is this form letter sent?

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LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

I would ask the hon. member to excuse me; I was talking to the messenger.

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CCF

Alistair McLeod Stewart

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

Mr. Stewart (Winnipeg North):

The second letter I read was a form letter sent to certain individuals asking for their recommendation as to the appointment of a sub-postmaster. The question I was asking was this. To whom precisely is this letter sent? My hon. friend will recall that earlier this evening he said that I had written. That is quite true. I have written to the post office on several occasions about the location and the type of man who should be in the sub-post office. The minister has acknowledged my letter. That is also quite true. But this is a form letter sent out by the director of operations. Perhaps the minister knows nothing at all about it, but it is to an individual asking for his recommendation or nomination of the subpostmaster. My contention is that the post office can do a better job there than can be done by the recommendation of an individual. What I want to know is this. To whom is this sort of form letter sent?

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LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

It is sent to members, defeated candidates, the Legion or other people in the field who we think could give us information about proper candidates.

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CCF

Alistair McLeod Stewart

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

Mr. Stewart (Winnipeg North):

May I correct the minister there. I do not think this sort of letter is sent to the Legion. There is a form letter that is sent to the Legion.

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LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote:

My hon. friend has asked me a question and now he is telling me the answer to his question. I think he at least should take my word for it.

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May 14, 1954