March 17, 1909

LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Hon. RODOLPHE LEMIEUX (Postmaster General).

I have listened with great attention to the remarks of the hon. mem-

ber for Durham (Mr. Thornton), and even though I do not share his views I must congratulate him on the manner in which they were expressed by him. I am sure the hon. gentleman will be quite an addition to the House and especially to His Majesty's loyal opposition. I have taken note of his suggestions for improvements in our postal system, and will give them attention. As regards the number of post offices in the country districts I may tell the hon. gentleman that since I have been Postmaster General it has been my aim and my pleasure to increase as much as possible the postal facilities by adding to the number of postoffices and thereby reducing the distance between those previously existing. In the olden times when the population of this country was sparser the distances between the post-offices ranged from 10 miles to 20 miles, but of course that system got out of date and in view of our buoyant revenues I decided some years ago that we should reduce the distances between post offices to from 3 miles to 6 miles which is about the present average. As regards better remuneration for Postmasters I would remind the hon. gentleman that under the regime of the Conservative government postmasters were paid $12 a year, and that when Sir William Mulock took office he increased that to $25 a year and when I became Postmaster General three years ago I came to the conclusion that the surplus we had in the department entitled us to increase the remuneration of our rural postmasters so as to give them $35 a year. I also increased the percentage on rental, fuel, and light and to-day, generally speaking, our postmasters derive quite a nice revenue from their offices and there are no complaints. As to rearranging our postal routes I may inform the hon. gentleman that that rearrangement is going on quietly throughout the country. As new settlers go into New Ontario and New Quebec, and the west, we are naturally forced to rearrange the postal facilities and to give to outside settlements the facilities which the travelled routes enjoyed for many years. The inspectors in these new districts have received special instructions in that regard and I can assure the hon. gentleman that the good work will be continued in the future. I now come to the question of rural mail delivery and I hope my remarks will be brief. My hon. friend from Lamb-ton (Mr. Armstrong) referred to my right about face on that question but I can assure him that I made no right about face at all. I acted in perfect consistency with the views expressed by me on previous occasions in this House. I said that in view of our area, of our scattered population, and of our revenue, I could not favor for Canada the same system of rural free de-88

livery which had been adopted in the United States. But at the same time I said I was in favour of the system known in the United States as the star route system, and that I would be glad to be able to adopt it as an experiment in Canada.

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CON

Joseph Elijah Armstrong

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARMSTRONG.

Will the minister say when he first made that statement?

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

I have not 'Hansard' at hand, but I shall later on give my hon. friend the citation. The hon. gentleman will remember that I pointed out that in the United States they have a dense population and a large revenue, which justified free rural mail delivery, but that we in Canada having the same area but less revenue and less population could not so advantageously adopt it. I stated at the same time I would be in favour of the star route system and that is the system which we inaugurated in Canada a few months ago. When in the month of September last I was in Ontario with the Prime Minister, the question of the star route system had been discussed not only by the officers of my department but by the cabinet several months before, and I never dreamed that I would be accused of trying to corrupt the electors of this country, because on the 15th day of September at the opening of the electoral campaign I announced to the people of Canada that we had decided to establish a system of rural mail delivery.

I do not see anything smacking of corruption in that announcement It is a matter of public policy ; and if the government could take credit for the establishment of that policy, I do not know what power would prevent me from announcing the policy and giving due credit to the government for it.

Why, Mr. Speaker, if the announcement I made at Niagara Falls was an act of corruption, I only followed in the path of the hon. leader of the opposition, who two years ago in the Halifax platform stated that if he were supported by the people and became Prime Minister, he would give to the people of this country free rural mail delivery, and recently, at a banquet given by his friends under the roof of this very building, he stated again that if he were placed at the head of affairs of this country, he would give the people of Canada free rural mail delivery. I do not intend to give the people of Canada free rural mail delivery, as they have it in the United States, but I will give to the people of Canada the measure of free rural mail delivery which I established in September last, and which is now working fairly well. I did not say in my speech at Niagara Falls that I would give every farmer a box where collection and delivery of the mails could be made every day. I have the manueript of the speech which I delivered

on that occasion, and which was published verbatim on the 16th September, in the Toronto ' Globe '; and here are the words I used:

As I have often stated in parliament, it is a splendid system which I admire greatly, and which can be introduced step by step in Canada. For some two or three years, acting under my instructions, the officers of the department have been studying the main features of rural delivery as operated in the United States with a view to the possible introduction of a scheme in accordance with our revenue, population, and physical conditions.

Towards that end, the Post Office Department has evolved a scheme of rural delivery and collection from the present system of stage routes whereby the rural population of the country may he able to receive and post all ordinary mail matter at their doors instead of having to drive from two or three miles to the nearest post office for that purpose.

I have, therefore, determined, with the consent of my colleagues to equip all existing mail routes in Canada with rural delivery boxes, under regulations to be published and enforced shortly. At the junction of every concession line with the main road the people will also he given the privilege of having boxes located for the receipt and collection of their mail, as desired.

The department has made all arrangements for the carrying out of this scheme, and will at once proceed to inaugurate it. This system of rural mail delivery can he introduced at a cost which the country can afford to pay. It will evolve and expand gradually with the growth and development of Canada and at a ratio of cost that will not prove burdensome. It is, on the whole, a great postal reform which will be hailed with delight by the farmers of Canada.

That is the declaration I made, and it was not made with a view of corrupting the electorate-far from it. I do not believe the farmers could be induced to vote for the government simply because the government does its duty in placing postal boxes on the road for the collection and delivery of letters. Mr. Speaker, there are two systems of rural mail delivery: there is free rural mail delivery, and there is the star-route system. The free rural mail delivery as differentiated from the star-route system, consists in the delivery and collection of letters, papers, parcels, registered letters and registered parcels. In fact, free rural mail delivery, as they have it in the United States, serving, as my hon. friend has stated, eighteen millions of people, is simply a post office on wheels, equipped with postal facilities, postal notes and money orders. That system is a most expensive system, which we in Canada are not in a position to adopt. The other system, the star-route system, is described in this blue-book, which was distributed to all members of the House a few 'days ago, in these words:

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LIB
CON
LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

It is very easy to learn from the census returns which are the thickly-settled and which the sparsely-settled portions of Canada. I do not need to send my officers to prepare a statement showing these conditions. Any one who is at all conversant with the different sections of Canada knows that this section of Ontario in which my hon. friend (Mr. Armstrong) resides is a thickly-settled section, while many of those in the west are sparsely-settled. I do not mean to be at all demagogic, but I claim that what the thickly-settled portions of Canada receive, the sparsely-settled portions _ should receive also; I do not want to discriminate in this matter; what the people of Ontario and Quebec receive, the people of the west must also receive.

Now, in the United States also they have the star route system. The department inaugurated the policy of delivering mail into and collecting it from boxes along the lines of star routes, and an obligation requiring such service was incorporated in the new contracts as they were made from year to year covering the four contract sections. ~ The service is incidental to the transportation of the mail over star routes, and involves no specific increase in expense. These facilities supply a valuable convenience to rural residents, and are appreciated. The Postmaster General of the United States says in his report:

The contracts for star-route service in all parts of the United States now provide for delivering mail into and collecting it from boxes along the lines of the routes. This feature of the service has proved highly satisfactory to the large number of patrons so served, and is recognized as a valuable public convenience.

Now, our system, which is the star route system, must have regard to the vast area to be served, and also to our population and our revenue. What is our postal revenue as compared with that of the United States? The revenue of our Post Office Department for the year ending March 31,

1908, was $9,483,166.13. There is quite a difference between this and the revenue of the Post Office Department of the United States. And, although we have about the same area as the United States, bear in mind that the population of that country is fourteen times as large as ours, while their postal revenue is twenty-one times as large as ours. The postal revenue of Canada represents $1.50 per capita, while the postal revenue of the United States represents $2.50 per capita of their large population. As I have just stated, the two conditions most essential for rural free mail delivery, as they have it in the United States, England, France, Germany or Belgium, are, first, large revenues and, second, large population and thickly-settled country. My hon. friend praised the United States, and I do not begrudge our American cousins the praise the hon. gentleman gives them. But my hon. friend must remember that in the United States they adopted rural free mail delivery, not when they had a population of seven or eight millions, the population that we shall show at the next census according to the recent prediction-I hope, a sound prediction-of the Minister of Agriculture. My hon. friend must remember that when the United States had a population ;of only seven or eight million, the system of rural free mail delivery existed in Europe. It is not by any means a new thing; it existed in Europe at the beginning of the last century; it had been successfully carried on in England, France and Germany for nearly a hundred years before the United States adopted it. The United States waited until they had reached a population of seventy million and a postal revenue of $80.000.000-a practical acknowledgment and illustration of what I have just said that, in order to give rural free mail delivery there must be a population and there must be revenue. This is an expensive system, though a beneficial one.

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CON

Joseph Elijah Armstrong

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARMSTRONG.

May I ask the Postmaster General a question ? Is it his intention, so far as he is concerned, to establish free rural mail deliveries only when we have a population of twenty millions ?

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

The Post Office Department is giving the country a good service, an up-to-date service, and it intends to follow the development of the country and to expand with the expansion of the country. I would not like to make from my place in parliament any vain promises to the people of Canada. I will act cautiously-I was going to say that I would act conservatively. I have been asked to act cautiously by the farmers of Canada. My hon. friend (Mr. Armstrong) says it is a sham; he has even used a very unparliamentary term and has spoken of ' humbug.' He did not mean it, I am sure; he does Mr. LEMIEUX.

not know what the word means, for he himself has never humbugged anybody. The farmers can speak for themselves. I do not believe there is a better representative body of the farmers in Canada than the Grange, which has its seat of influence in the province of Ontario. Probably there are many grangers in my hon. friend's constituency. Let me quote from an account of the proceedings of the Grange ;

The report of the Resolution Committee covered a number of propositions but it is stated that the clause in the report which drew forth the most animated discussion was the one dealing with rural mail delivery. The clause as drafted contained the following :-

We desire to commend the Dominion government for inaugurating free rural mail delivery. At the same time we would urge the necessity of going cautiously and profiting by the experience of other peoples who ha-e adopted this system.

My hon. friend knows that the Grange is an outcome of the farming community of the United States, and the institution, as we have it in Canada, came to us from that country. The Grange informs the Canadian Postmaster General that it commends his action but urges him to be cautious and to profit by the experience of the country where the Grange itself was established.

We would also urge that regulations be laid down to enable all rural communities to avail themselves of the advantage of free mail delivery.

The ' Weekly Sun,' in which Dr. Goldwin Smith-' A Bystander '-writes, says, with reference to the debate on this resolution :

The general expression of opinion on the part of the members was that, while they appreciated what the Dominion governmenUhas done, it would be a dangerous thing to proceed too rapidly along this line. The general feeling was that the service should be extended only as the revenue derived in return warrants.

There was a decided indisposition to ask for anything that was likely to involve a charge upon the general revenue for the special benefit of farmers. Eventually the first section of the resolution was adopted, and other sections eliminated, thus simply declaring approval of the action of the government in inaugurating free rural delivery along the line of existing mail routes, and at the same time urging the necessity of going cautiously and profiting by the experience of others.

Mr. Speaker, I intend to follow the advice of the grangers, the advice of the farmers of Canada, who understand their own interest, and who would not like to see the Postmaster General rush in where angels fear to tread. But my hon. friend says: What are you going to do with your surplus? My surplus? No, the surplus of Canada, the surplus of the farmers of

2793 MARCH 17, 1909 2794

Canada. Has my hon. friend followed the expansion of the department of late years? Does he not remember that under the regime of his friends there was a huge deficit of $700,000 a year in Tound figures, every year? When Sir Wm. Mulock took office he administered the department in such a way as to wipe out that deficit and to create a surplus. But did he not do anything for the people of Canada with that surplus? While he increased the revenue of the department, he was at the same time able to reduce the rates and thereby to reduce the postal taxation. The inland letter rate has been reduced from three cents to two cents per ounce or a fraction thereof; the letter rate from Canada to the United States was reduced from three cents to two cents per ounce; the letter rate from Canada to Great Britain and to every portion of the British empire was reduced from five cents to two cents per half ounce; and in October last it was made two cents per ounce or fraction thereof; the rate on drop letters in cities has been reduced from two cents to one cent per ounce, a lower rate than exists in any other country of Europe or America; the rate on Canadian newspapers and periodicals sent from publishers in Canada to subscribers in Great Britain and every other part of the empire, was reduced from eight cents per pound to a quarter of one cent per pound; the rate on Canadian newspapers and periodicals sent by the general public in Canada to correspondents in Great Britain and other parts of the empire, was reduced from eight cents per pound to four cents per pound, a reduction of 50 per cent. It is also to he borne in mind that the reduction in the rates on papers sent by publishers in Canada to subscribers in Great Britain tends to the wider dissemination throughout the empire of Canadian newspapers and other publications. So it is easv to see what has been done by the Postmaster General with the surplus in the department since 1897. Now, Mr. Speaker, how have we served the country with our surplus? Let us look at the expansion of the service as shown by this table: EXPANSION OF SERVICE. Number of post offices. 189G 9,103 1908 11,823 Increase, 2,720. Percentage of increase, 30 per cent. Money order and postal note offices. 1896 1,310 1908 9,637 Increase, 2,720. i Percentage of increase, 636 per cent. Post office savings bank. 1896 755 1908 1,084 Increase, 329. Percentage of increase, 43 per cent. Total miles of annual travel of mails. 1896 30,551,683 1908 43,986,149 Increase, 13,434,466. Percentage of increase, 44 per cent. Number of letters carried. 1896 116,028,000 1908 396,011,000 Increase, 279,983,000. Percentage of increase, 241 per cent., Total number of articles carried in mails. 1896 177,178,136 1908 519,452,045 Increase, 342,254,909. Percentage of increase, 190 per cent. Amount of money transmitted by money orders and postal notes. 1896 $13,081,860 1908 '55,284,595 Increase, $42,202,785. Percentage of increase, 323 per cent. Number of depositors in savings banks. 1896 126,442 1908 165,691 Increase, 39,249. Percentage of increase, 31 per cent. Financial results. 1896 (deficit) $ 781,152 1908 (surplus) 1,101,827 Making a financial improvement of $1,882,979. I said a moment ago that in 1896 there was a deficit of $700,000 a year; last year we had the magnificent surplus of over a million dollars. These, Mr. Speaker, are some of the things we have done with the surplus of the Post Office Department. My hon. friend stated a moment ago that the box which was supplied by the Post Office Department for this special service, was a box unknown in the United States. For the information of my hon. friend let me tell him that in the United States they have nearly 300 styles of boxes in use, and it was decided lately to do away with all of them and to adopt the box which Canada has been the first to adopt. In the month of July or August last there was a committee appointed by the United States Congress to examine the latest pattern of postal boxes with which to replace the 300 patterns which they have been using there, and that special committee decided unanimously that the best box to be used in that great country was the one selected by Canada. The box they have adopted, following our example, is one which can be used without the letter carrier being obliged to dismount from his carriage, thereby saving time, and giving better collections and better delivery to the carrier. My hon. friend says the box costs $2. It would be easy for this government to make cheap popularity by saying to the farmer, we will give you that box free of any cost. That would sound so well before a general election.

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CON

Joseph Elijah Armstrong

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARMSTRONG.

Might I ask the Postmaster General a question? In his speeeh at Niagara Falls did he make any definite statement of what it would cost the farmers, or did he say in the first pamphlet that he issued anything with regard to the cost? .

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

The question was not put to me at Niagara Falls. I did not enter into details, I simply stated that it was decided to inaugurate a system of rural mail delivery. I did not say anything about the cost of the box, but every man knows that if he wants a box in front of his house he has to pay for it, just as every man must know that when he goes to the post office to mail_a letter he must buy a stamp. I stated that this box would cost $3. When the box was examined at Ottawa, not only by the post office authorities but by members of the government, the question was asked if the price of $3 would always be the same. Of course if the number of boxes is much larger, as it will become later on when the system expands, evidently the cost will be much less because the manufacturer will be able - to supply a larger quantity at a smaller profit. At that time, however, we took only 6,000 of those boxes at $3 each and we had them examined by an expert, a manufacturer in this city, whose name I cannot just now recall. That expert said that to manufacture the same box in Canada would cost more than the $3.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. S. HUGHES.

As I understand the system, it is only those who happen to reside along the mail route and will pay for the service, who will get tnis delivery ?

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

Yes, and those who reside on the outside concessions have also the privilege of putting their boxes at the cross road.

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CON

George Gordon

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEO. GORDON.

Did this expert say, how much more the boxes would cost if manufactured in Canada ?

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

He said that to manufacture a similar box would cost in Canada more than the $3.

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CON
LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

I have not his report here, but I will be quite willing to lay it on the table. One of the boxes will be exhibited in the Liberal room and another in the Conservative jroom, and my hon. friend will have an opportunity of examining it.

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CON

George Gordon

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEO. GORDON.

Unless the box costs a great deal more in Canada -than in the United Startes, would you not prefer having it made in Canada ?

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

It was said in the press during the elections that Mr. Lemieux.

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LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX.

had betrayed the interests of Canada because forsooth he had not provided for the manufacture of that box in Canada. Well, I was very prudent and cautious, as I was urged to be by the Grangers. When I decided to inaugurate that system, here is the letter I wrote to the Rural Automatic Mail Company:

August It, 1908.

Dear Sir,-Referring to the several interviews we have had with respect to the adoption in Canada of your rural mail delivery box, I beg to say that the Post Office Department views the box with approval, and is desirous of making experiments as to its adaptibility for service in Canada. For this purpose we are prepared to buy from you six thousand (6,000) at the price of $3 per box f.o.b. factory in United States, such box to be delivered to our order on or before the 10th of September prox.

In giving this order it is the intention of the department to distribute the boxes for experimental purposes as widely as possible throughout the Dominion. Our expectation is that they will prove successful, and that they will be largely adopted on the existing mail routes in Canada. If this expectation should prove correct, we should, of course, be ready to order larger quantities of boxes for future use, and in that case, if we are able to give you assurances as to satisfactory quantities, we should require you to establish a factory for the manufacture of the boxes in Canada.

As stated above, we view the box with approval, and fully expect that it will be widely adopted in Canada, but we do not feel free to bind ourselves for the future until after we have made the experiments as proposed.

Yours respectfully,

(Sgd.) RODOLPHE LEMIEUX. Dr. Harriss,

Representative of Rural Automatic Mail Company, New York, N.Y., U.S.A.

So that we have been very careful not to commit ourselves to the adoption of any box. We wanted the best and the latest pattern and one which would serve the people best. Since three months the system has been in vogue, and these were three winter months, the worst part of the year. During these three months we organized forty-three routes; and since I gave that answer to my hon. friend a few days ago, we have organized some eight or ten more, so that we have altogether fifty routes since the 15th of September last. These are serving actually 3,500 people. We have in use 700 boxes on the 43 routes and on the 50 we shall require 750. So as time goes on, and in view of the many petitions which are pouring into the department, I expect that within say two years many thousands of people will be served by that system throughout Canada.

The remuneration which the department has decided to pay to the contractor for the mail service for depositing into and

collecting from the King Edward boxes erected along his route, is as follows:-

$1 per box per annum for a service once a day or more frequently.

75 cents per box per annum for a service less frequently than once a day but more frequently than once a week.

50 cents per box per annum for a weekly service.

The scale of remuneration for this service is uniform throughout the Dominion.

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CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN.

Might I ask if those routes are established in thickly settled parts of Canada?

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March 17, 1909