July 20, 1917


Section agreed to. Bill reported, amendments read the first and second time and concurred in.


CONSIDERED IN COMMITTEE-THIRD READING.


Bill No. 109, for the relief of John Newton Salter.-Mr. Northrup, ,


SUPPLY.


The House in Committee of Supply, Mr. Blain in the Chair. Post Office-outside service-salaries and allowances, $8,447,263.26.


LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

I notice in the newspapers that a body called the Public Service Committee has recommended that a large number of civil servants should be dismissed from office. Perhaps the minister would state whether the Government has given any consideration to that subject, and whether there will be any reduction in the staff of the Post Office Department, and if so, to what extent. I see that the minister is asking for an increase of half a million

dollars on account of salaries, which does not look much like a reduction in the staff;

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

These salaries are for the Outside service.

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LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

I think the recotmmendation of the Public Service Committee referred to the outside service as well as the inside.

/Mr. DOHERTY: I did not understand it to refer to the outside service. I am not in a position to give my hon. friend any information on this subject because I have not prepared myself on it, as I did not think it particularly pertinent to the Post Office Department. I am informed by the Deputy Minister that the recommendation has been called to his attention, and that it will receive his consideration. He will ascertain whether there is occasion for such reduction in the Post Office Department, and whether it is possible to effect the same without detriment to the public service. The increase an the amount asked for this year is made up practically in its entirety of the statutory increases.

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LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

I wish to call the attention of the Acting Postmaster General to a matter which I have on more than one occasion brought to the attention of former Postmaster Generals. I realize that it is not a very easy matter to deal with, but nevertheless justice and fairness demand that it should be dealt with. It must be apparent to every member of this committee that the inauguration of parcel post and rural mail delivery has imposed a great deal of extra work upon the country postmaster. Many post offices have been cut off entirely owing to the establishment of rural routes, and this has necessarily increased the work of the post offices that are left. In many cases the country post office has become the distributing point for rural routes within a radius of 15 or 20 miles. That means a great deal of extra work and longer hours for the country postmaster, for which he is not adequately paid. His remuneration is certainly not in proportion to the extra work that has been thrown upon him by these changed conditions.

There is another point. Many of the men who have submitted tenders as couriers on the rural routes .are not receiving the remuneration they should receive, having regard to the. extra work that the parcel post has thrown upon them. Previous to the establishment of the parcel post, the courier added to his salary by charging 10, 15 or 25 cents for carrying parcels, but now he has

to take all the parcels that come by parcel post as part of his day's work, and he is frequently obliged to use a two-horse rig where formerly a one-horse light rig sufficed. Parcel post has thus put him to extra expense and deprived him of the little revenue :he formerly received for carrying parcels. I think I am right in saying that after parcel post was established the railway companies represented that they should receive remuneration for the extra work that parcel post threw upon them, and I think their claims were satisfied to a certain extent, and quite properly so. Now if the railways can Teceive extra remuneration, /surely the rural mail carriers are entitled to extea pay. I have taken this matter up with two or three Postmaster Generals, and in every case they have agreed that the matter was worthy of serious consideration. But it is not -an easy matter to adjust. They could hardly be paid on a mileage basis, but there ought to be some way of dealing fairly with these men, and at the present time I do feel that they are not being treated fairly in view of the extra work they have to do. I have been told in one or two cases to instruct the parties who claimed that they should receive more money, to keep an account of the number of parcels they carried -and of the number of trips on which they had to use .an extra rig for earring the mail, and that each case would be dealt with on its merits. If the department is prepared to do that, I shall be in a position to tell the couriers of my county to keep an account of the extra rig for carrying the mail, and that each numerated accordingly. Where a country postmaster has given up his office for one reason or another, I am beginning to find a good deal of difficulty in getting any one to take his place. They say there is nothing in it, that they are tied down to certain hours, that there is no such thing as a holiday for them, and that the remuneration is very small

I am sure the people of the rural districts appreciate very much what the Government has done in the way of extending postal facilities, and anything that can be done along that line will be borne out by the best judgment of everybody regardless of party. When the Post Office Estimates have been before the House, some members have spoken of the cost of this department.

I want to state again that if there is any department of the Government which is justified and which will be justified by the people of this country in having a deficit it is the Post Office Department. Its revenue is derived entirely from the people, and in

my judgment it should not have any surplus, and it certainly should not have a surplus so long as. any member of this House can point to places where the people are net being properly served with postal facilities, or where they could be better served than at present. As to this department we should not be very censorious about expenditure. The public chest is pretty well protected in providing rural routes and rural mail service. Competition is so keen in many cases that the men must be performing the service at a loss. In any event, the country is not being robbed in regard to the amount paid for mail service.

We should take into consideration the fact that cities, towns, and centres of population call upon the Government of Canada for the expenditure of money in many ways, such as the improvement of harbours, public works, and so on. These are of course a benefit to the country, but they are especially beneficial to the particular town or city which obtains the grant. The strictly rural sections do not get such grants, and about the only way the Government can really be ' cf service to the people in the country districts is by giving them the very best possible postal facilities. I maintain that in so doing, even if the Post Office Department should show a deficit, this Government or any Government is justified in having that deficit, if they can show that it has been produced by giving the people proper postal facilities-a daily mail service, so far as it is possible to give a daily mail service.

Once more I want to ask the acting Postmaster General (Mr. Doherty) to give his serious consideration to the question of an increase in pay to the men on the rural mutes, because of the increased work those men have to do, which in many cases obliges them to place an extra horse or an extra vehicle upon the route, involving, particularly during the last year, a very great increase in their expenditure.

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHEKTY:

With reference to what the hon. gentleman (Mr. Edwards) has said concerning the remuneration of country postmasters, I quite appreciate that there is a good deal of force in his representations. The subject is not entirely new to me-although moist things connected with the Post Office Department are new to me. Quite recently I have had put before me by the deputy minister representations made by a considerable body of the postmasters looking to an increased remuneration. So far as I was able to go into the matter, it seemed to be quite fair

that if any means could toe found toy which a reasonable increase in their remuneration could toe granted, we should be glad to do it. The question of rural mail routes is, I must confess, quite new to me. Increased work will very naturally call for increased remuneration. I shall take the matter up and shall be glad if I can find a method toy which this work may toe better remunerated.

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LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

I would like to ask the minister if generally the department allows the exercise of patronage in connection with the awarding of contracts for the carrying of the mails. The reason I ask the question is because it has quite recently come to my notice that where tenders were called for carrying the mails, the tenderer who had offered to do the work for the lowest amount and who naturally expected to receive the contract was disappointed. There was political interference and the contract was given to a political friend of the Government, whose figures were higher than those of the other tenderer. It seems to me that should not be so, and in connection with services of this character the department should be left absolutely free to secure the performance of the work at the lowest price, because if there is political interference and the contract is given to a higher tenderer, it necessarily means the paying out of more public money to mail carriers than would otherwise have been the case.

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

I have no knowledge

of any practice prevailing other than that of dealing with tenders upon their merits as they come in. For the .short time I have been in charge of the department, I have observed that that was the method in which they have been dealt with, and such cases as have come under my supervision have been awarded to the lowest tenderer. Of course, one can see there might toe circumstances which would justify the acceptance of a higher tender. I do not know that I can go into the question, however, because the contracts I have had to deal with have all been awarded to the lowest tenderer.

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?

Robert Bickerdike

Mr. BICKERDIKE:

I would like to ask the minister in regard to the dismissal of a man named Dufbreuil. Perhaps this is not the time to bring the matter up, but I would like the information. I have written several letters about it, and I presume it has not been attended to because the Postmaster General has been away so much. Probably the Deputy Postmaster Gen-

eral will remember the case. Dubreuil claims he was dismissed without a hearing. I asked that the man should have a trial and that he should be present at the en-quete. I do not think it is British fair play to deal with charges against a man unless he has an opportunity of being present and hearing them.

I simply bring the matter to the minister's attention so that the deputy minister may know that we should like to have the matter inquired into, and have the man present.

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LIB

George William Kyte

Liberal

Mr. KYTE:

In awarding contracts for the carriage of mails it is sometimes found that, owing to the increased cost of living, plant etc., the lowest tender received is somewhat higher than the former price. The department in such cases does not always enter into a contract with the lowest tenderer, but, after consultation with party friends in the constituency, enter into negotiations with some friend of the Government who is asked if he will not put in a tender, and an intimation, I have no doubt, is given to him of the amount of the lowest tender that has been received, with the statement that the amount is too large and that the department is unwilling to enter into a contract. Then this party friend makes an offer slightly lower than the lowest tender, and the contract is given to him. I asked for correspondence relating to the contract for the carriage of the mails between Grand River and Fourchu. I am unable to understand why I have not yet received that correspondence. If I had it I. might be able to illustrate the point I am endeavouring to make.

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

We have a number of similar returns in preparation, and hope to have them ready almost immediately. I am not familiar enough with the work of the department to say more than I have said to the hon. member for St. John. I was not aware of any other method of dealing with tenders than upon their merits.

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CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN:

I would ask the minister to consider the desirability of making more frequent paymehts to the rural mail couriers. I understand they are paid once - a month, but with the higher cost of living they would greatly appreciate more frequent payment.

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CON

Donald Sutherland

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SUTHERLAND:

May I point out to the minister that in some districts during the winter the rural inail couriers at a good many points have no places in which to keep their horses while awaiting trains, which may be several hours late, the horses

having to stand outdoors during that time. When some of these men entered into contracts several years ago the prices of commodities were not as high as they are to-day. That applies particularly to horse feed, and men who put in very low tenders now find that it is very hard for them to get along. I have in mind one man who was most anxious to get a contract and whose tender was $100 lower than the next lowest tender, $450 for a twenty-mile route. I believe the rule of the department is not to pay in excess of $30 per mile. The repairs to rigs have become a very heavy item as compared with five years ago, and many of these couriers have open rigs, in which the mail is exposed to the feather, and which are quite unsuitable for the purpose. It is not to the credit of the country to have His Majesty's mail being carried about the country in rigs of that kind, and I think it would be advisable for the department to furnish rigs for rural mail couriers. This would remove some of the expense under which they are now placed. Many of them are not renewing their contracts; new tenders are being called for, and they are much in excess of those sent in three or four years ago. I understand that in the United States they furnish rigs to the couriers.

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CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

As to the more frequent payment of rural mail couriers, my information is that the work is done under cop-tract and the times of payment are fixed by the contract. At the same time one realizes that there might be substantial advantages to the contractor from more frequent payments, and if arrangements could be made to obviate the difficulties which I am told exist in getting these accounts in so as to permit of their more frequent payment, I should be glad to consider the possibility of meeting the suggestion.

It looks to me as if it might not be easy for the Post Office Department to undertake to afford accommodation for the horses and rigs of the couriers at railroad stations. I shall enquire as to what can be properly done. This remuneration is a matter of contract, and no doubt the department would find itself open to criticism if it undertook to raise the rates which were to be paid for this work. A change of conditions might justify an increase. As to the suggestion that the department should furnish vehicles for the carriage of mail, whether there would be any advantage to the public by the adaption of a general system of that kind, is a matter which is

worthy of consideration. I suppose if vehicles were furnished for the carriage of the mail, contractors would not expect the same rate of remuneration that would otherwise be paid. I shall be glad to consider the matters referred to and see if the suggestions can be met.

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LIB
LIB

July 20, 1917