May 27, 1955

LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I could not answer offhand.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Could the minister let us have that information before the estimates are finished?

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I am afraid it would probably take me several days to get it. I should be glad to undertake to give it to the hon. gentleman and put it on the record, if he should wish that to be done.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Is this subject being given any further consideration by the department at the present time?

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LIB
CCF

Edward George McCullough

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

Mr. McCullough (Moose Mountain):

Mr. Chairman, I want to express my personal regret that the Postmaster General is in ill health and unable to be here in the House of Commons. I think everyone who got to know him last year will agree with me when I say that he accommodated the house and was in every way a gentleman in this chamber. I regret that any hon. member, in any remarks he has made, has seen fit to indicate any reflection on him.

However, I do not think the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration needs to come to his rescue. I might just say that I think it might well be that the Postmaster General's ill health is partly due to the fact that he had an extremely difficult initiation as Postmaster General. I believe it seemed unfortunate to the house last year that right after the election, when we had the promise of cuts in taxation, the first thing the new Postmaster General had to face was a program by the Post Office Department to increase postage rates in Canada. Of course the result was that when he tried to pilot his estimates through the committee of supply there was a barrage of criticism from those who were opposed to such an increase in the taxation of our people. I think that situation to some extent could have some bearing on the health of our genial friend the Postmaster General.

There are some matters I wish to bring to the attention of the committee. First, I am happy to note that according to the statement of the parliamentary assistant yesterday our post office revenue is again showing a surplus to the extent of 17 per cent, having increased in the past fiscal year to approximately $151 million as compared with $129 million in the previous year. I might state that according to the report of the Postmaster General for the year ended March 31, 1954, there were only three occasions in the last 20 years when our Post Office Department showed a deficit. Those years were 1939, again in 1951 and in 1954, when there was a deficit of $2,474,000.

I think the parliamentary assistant has stated that the revenue return last year has resulted in a surplus to the extent of approximately $7i million. I am glad to hear this. I hope not only will there be economies in the department, but also that the services we have had in the past will be kept up to a high level.

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In this regard I want to extend my congratulations to the people in the Post Office Department far and wide. I come from a rural area where we have rural mail couriers. I know of no people who give finer service to the public and who show greater fidelity to their responsibilities. I think the old saying that the King's mail-now the Queen's mail-must go through is taken to heart by our rural mail couriers throughout the service. Perhaps that is a policy carried out by all those in the employ of the Post Office Department. In saying that I do not mean for one moment to say that everything in this far-flung public department is as good as it should be. I think the department should at all times try to give better service, and at the same time should try to cut any unnecessary expenditures.

There are one or two things I should like to point out. First, I am wondering whether some of the $7J million of surplus is perhaps the result of economies which mean curtailment of the service to our people. I have here the report of the Postmaster General dated March 31, 1954. I might say it is regrettable that while this report was tabled in the house on January 10, 1955, it was only today that I was able to get a copy of it. I was told the reason was that more copies were not in print, and I had to get one from the sessional papers office. That situation is rather regrettable, in view of the fact that it is for the year 1954. I think the fact that copies have not been distributed to the members of the house is an unfortunate circumstance.

This report states that in the last year- that is in 1954-there was a decrease of 57 in the number of post offices in Canada. I should like to know the reason for the closing of those post offices. Was it simply because the revenue return was so low, or was it because they were in neighbourhoods where they were no longer giving service to the people?

I do not agree with the statement by the hon. member for Notre Dame de Grace yesterday, when he was asking the government to discontinue the service or operations of the post office savings bank. Too often, I think, we have coming from that corner of the chamber certain suggestions with regard to economies without any indication of how they may reflect on the service to our people.

Taking the figures from the report of the Postmaster General for 1954, I see that there has been an increase in the use of this facility of the Post Office Department. As an example, for the fiscal year 1945 the balance on deposit, in round figures, was $28 million, but by 1954 it had increased to $39 million.

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Again, we find that in 1945 the number of accounts was 222,250, whereas by 1954 the number had increased to 291,602. I think that fact shows that the people of Canada are making use of this service. I suggest to the parliamentary assistant that he do not take too seriously the criticism of the hon. member for Notre Dame de Grace, but that he see that this service to our people is continued.

I want to bring another matter to the attention of the parliamentary assistant. It has to do with the names of certain post offices. In my own constituency of Moose Mountain, as listed in the report of the Postmaster General for 1952, there is listed the name Fairlight Station and again Kipling Station. Kipling used to be in my constituency. It is now in Qu'Appelle. I think those stations must have been named away back in the days of the early growth of the province. They are now fairly large villages, and since none of the mail going to these post offices is indicated as being for Fairlight Station or Kipling Station I suggest that the next post office directory merely list them as Fairlight and Kipling.

While I am talking about post offices I want to bring to the attention of the parliamentary assistant the need for post office accommodation to carry out the work of the department in Kipling. Last year I brought to the attention of the department and also the Minister of Public Works the fact that the people of Kipling have needed a post office for a long time, and have been promised one ever since 1952, prior to the election. I want to read a few words from page 3968 of Hansard of April 9, 1954. At that time I was inquiring of the Minister of Public Works whether or not something was going to be done about the construction of a post office at Kipling, and he answered me by saying, "You are going to get it."

I suggest to the parliamentary assistant that he talk to the Minister of Public Works and do something about that matter this year. I notice that in the estimates there is again an item of $25,000. I suggest that the parliamentary assistant do his level best to have restored the appropriation of $75,000 which was in the 1952 estimates, and that construction be commenced immediately on that post office.

There is one other matter I wish to raise having to do with post office facilities at Estevan, a growing town right in the centre of my constituency which may well be the hub of a great industrial area. Oil and natural gas are being discovered, and there are the coal fields and many other activities. The customs office is also in the present building,

Mr. McCullough (Moose Mountain).]

and of course it has become completely inadequate for the work that has to be carried on. I would ask the parliamentary assistant to see if he can get a vote in the near future so we can have a building which will be a credit to the department and will accommodate not only the customs department but also the Post Office Department.

I have nothing else to say, other than that I am very happy to have the opportunity to express my appreciation of the work of the employees of the Post Office Department. Wherever I have had occasion to deal with them they have been courteous. They have carried out their work with great fidelity to duty, and I think we can be proud of them.

(Translation) :

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LIB

Lomer Brisson

Liberal

Mr. Brisson:

Mr. Chairman, during this session I have had occasion to ask the parliamentary assistant to the Postmaster General (Mr. Kirk) whether his department was planning to improve the summer and winter mail service east of Baie Comeau.

A month later, answering a question I had put to him, the parliamentary assistant gave me the welcome news that the Post Office Department, with the co-operation of the Clarke Steamship Company, had organized a more frequent service for the district stretching from Baie Comeau to Havre St. Pierre.

In this way, for the past month, the Seven Islands area has been enjoying mail delivery service six days per week. I thank the department for this improvement and feel confident that I am expressing the wish of every one of my constituents in expressing my most sincere thanks to the authorities for granting my request.

The second part of my request had to do with improved winter service. This will hardly be news to anyone, since the chamber of commerce of Seven Islands has made it known to everyone in Canada, especially in the province of Quebec, that the Seven Islands area and the eastern part of my riding was limited, in the case of third and fourth class matter, to a fortnightly delivery by the North Gaspe of the Clarke Steamship Company.

I would therefore draw the hon.

Postmaster General's attention to this anomaly which should be corrected without delay on account of the importance that the Saguenay constituency has acquired in our country. In fact, the population of the town of Seven Islands, which numbered only 1,200 people in 1950, now has 5,000 inhabitants, not including the floating population. Moreover, the department must not forget the importance

of the titanium mines at Havre St. Pierre, and Natashquan, where the extraction of ironsand is to start this summer. To point out the development of this part of my county more accurately, I need only add that several companies are engaged in lumbering operations and that its total population amounts to about 25,000 residents.

Now, I think it is normal for the Post Office Department to allow that section of my county an adequate mail delivery, because this is perhaps its only means of communication with the civilized areas, as there are neither roads nor railways there.

I would therefore ask the minister to do his utmost to grant that population air transport of all classes of mail, as from next winter.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Mr. Chairman, I have a vivid fellow feeling for the hon. member. His county is near Newfoundland, where similar conditions prevail. The department will consider this request without delay.

(Text) :

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SC

Ambrose A. Holowach

Social Credit

Mr. Holowach:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a few words on the first item of the estimates of the Post Office Department in order to bring to the attention of the responsible authorities a matter to which I have referred both in this and the last session of parliament. I wish to be fair. I think all hon. members will agree that the Post Office Department is a remarkable organization. I wish it were possible for me to be a little more complimentary, but unfortunately I cannot be so at this moment. However, I assure the postal authorities that I look forward to the time when I may be able to rise and throw a bouquet in their direction for having responded to the needs of the people of the town of Beverly, Alberta.

We in parliament receive the demands and requests of the people of Canada. It is our responsibility to give careful consideration to them, and on the basis of their merit and propriety we take action in order to meet those demands. In the case of the town of Beverly it seems to me that the requests of the people for consideration in the matter of expanded postal facilities have not been met. The story is long, but briefly it involves a fast growing community of some 4,500 people who at the present time have a little shack for a post office which has some 160 square feet of lobby space.

It is quite obvious that this is inadequate for a community with the rapid growth of Beverly, Alberta. The people there are very displeased and in some quarters quite angry.

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I brought up this matter during the speech from the throne debate last year and nothing happened. I brought it up again on the estimates of the Post Office Department at the last session of parliament, and again nothing happened. To be quite accurate, I did receive a letter from the Postmaster General informing me that the matter would be investigated. It does seem to take some time. In the meanwhile the people of Beverly, Alberta, are waiting patiently.

As I mentioned before, the people of that constituency are displeased. I am sure if one of the responsible officials of the department paid a visit to that community he would determine that my representations have been very mild. As a matter of fact if one of the officials went there I would suggest he go incognito. Perhaps he could wear a pair of those sunglasses that have a guarantee to the effect that even your best friend will not recognize you. I am sure whoever went would come back and make a firm recommendation to the public works department that something be done to alleviate that situation.

I mention in passing that comment has been made, I suppose by unscrupulous people, that the reason the community has not received these necessary facilities is that they voted the way they did. Of course I do not believe there is anything in that. The people insist that they voted right, and they would like to have that post office or extended facilities without having to pay the price of voting wrongly. I feel it is only proper that an investigation be made of the situation and steps taken to correct it. As I mentioned before, the people are patient and so am I, and I trust our patience will be rewarded shortly.

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PC

William McLean Hamilton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilton (Notre Dame de Grace):

Before we conclude discussion of the first item of the estimates, Mr. Chairman, I should like to make one or two further observations, in part adding to what I said yesterday and in part motivated by what seem to me the very unsatisfactory answers given by the Acting Postmaster General and the parliamentary assistant this afternoon.

When I was a youngster I dimly remember playing a game called post office, which seemed to be a happy occasion for those of us who were at a party. Listening to the hon. members who represent the post office here, I rather felt as if I were back in those more and more distant days of my youth, listening to people playing post office. Certain it is that they are people not sure just what they are doing, and who do not have all the facts at their fingertips. It is to be regretted

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that such persons are toying with the largest government department outside of the Department of National Defence.

I would say that yesterday I was quite perturbed to hear a number of hon. members take issue with the post office on the question of second class mail, the delivery of magazines and things of that sort. The hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam, for example, said that the deliveries of a magazine called True Love had suddenly grown in the city of New Westminster from one bag to 12 bags. In the first place, I believe it is the responsibility of the people in that area to decide whether they want True Love or any other magazine.

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CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. Nicholson:

They should not ask the rest of the people to subsidize it, though.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Can you subsidize true love?

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PC

William McLean Hamilton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilton (Notre Dame de Grace):

I am

very glad of the interruption by my socialist friend, because I can tell him that while this particular publication may not be sympathetic to his way of thinking, a great many if not all of these publications serve a very useful and valuable function in our economy and our culture. I am not necessarily suggesting True Love falls into that category, but a number of the others which were mentioned yesterday certainly do. I feel that for us to suggest that the information brought to the people of Canada by such magazines as Time, Life, Reader's Digest, and many others should be made more expensive to obtain through a change in the postal rates, for instance, is open to question.

I turn now to certain of the answers given to us. There is one thing apparent, that if you ask for something nicely the ministers do not give it to you very quickly, but if you lay on the whip in the house once in a while you sometimes get some response. I do want to thank the Acting Postmaster General and his parliamentary assistant for having this afternoon tabled the return for which I had asked some time previously, concerning thefts from the post office. I am interested in seeing that it reached the office of the Postmaster General on May 12. Presumably since that time the report has been under preparation.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I think the hon. gentleman must surely be mistaken. These returns go to the Secretary of State from the Acting Postmaster General.

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PC

William McLean Hamilton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilton (Notre Dame de Grace):

quote the heading, Mr. Chairman: "Secretary of State", and underneath it says, "Referred to the hon. Postmaster General for report;

C. Stein, under-secretary of state." This particular statement is dated May 12.

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LIB

James Ralph Kirk

Liberal

Mr. Kirk (Shelburne-Yarmoulh-Clare):

It

was referred to the department on that date.

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PC

William McLean Hamilton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilton (Notre Dame de Grace):

Yes. That was my statement, that it had been referred to the department on May 12 and it has taken from that time until now to be tabled. I would not expect the Acting Postmaster General, who is the full-time Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to know anything about the Department of the Secretary of State, because he only held that position for a year and a half. It is hardly logical to expect he would find out anything about the department in that time, the type of forms he was signing or which were being signed for him by his officials. However, let us not be led down any garden paths by interruptions of that sort. Let us keep our eye on this particular situation.

In the course of his remarks this afternoon the parliamentary assistant said the return could have been made available almost immediately had it not been for the fact that I asked about court action in connection with these cases, so it was necessary to look into the matter to find out what action had been taken and what results had been obtained. If there is one damning piece of evidence that has come out in this house in respect to the operation of the Post Office Department it is that statement of the parliamentary assistant this afternoon, which shows the way they are handling their business.

Let us look for a moment at the information contained in this return. I knew in a general sort of way, by means of quick addition and certain information in the newspapers, that sizeable thefts were occurring in the post office. I had no idea, however, of the immensity of the thefts or their great numbers or the lack of follow through and the lack of investigation that is made evident by this report. Let me put the figures on the record.

Before I do so, may I say this is a summary that I made very quickly from the report. I hold this return in my hand and note that there are five and a half closely typed sheets, one line to a theft, covering thefts from the department since January, 1953. It was simply astonishing to me when I was given this information this afternoon, or perhaps rather than "astonished" I should say I was horrified. In order to make it as simple as possible for hon. members I have tried to summarize. Here is what I find: In 1953 there were 98 thefts from the post office: in 1954 the number almost doubled

to a total of 172, and in the first four months of 1955 there have been 58 thefts. In other words it is carrying on at a rate just slightly in excess of the 1954 average. There is a steady uptrend in thefts from the post office, with a tremendous increase between 1953 and 1954.

There is also a very definite increase in the large amounts being stolen from the post office. In 1953, while there were 17 thefts of $1,000 or over, there were no thefts of $10,000 or over. In 1954 there were 42 thefts of $1,000 or over and three over $10,000. In the first four months of 1955 there were 20 thefts over $1,000, and already there have been two of over $10,000.

Might I insert here, in parentheses, that the department also hides behind certain omissions from these figures. For example I would refer to one theft on December 16 from Britannia Beach, British Columbia, to which reference has already been made in the house. Opposite that, we find in the list of the amount of losses, the notation "bank money packet" but we know from the press that the amount was $44,500.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

How do you know the press is right?

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PC

William McLean Hamilton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hamilion (Notre Dame de Grace):

As

I remember it, at that point the press were quoting official sources. If my recollection is correct they were quoting post office sources.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

I am told the information was never made public by the Post Office Department.

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May 27, 1955