Before the item is carried may I say that while I hesitate to impose on the good nature of our friends on the government side of the house at this late hour, I believe that this question of a postal service on Saturday afternoons and statutory holidays is far more important than they realize. Certainly that is true in the cities, and I can speak particularly of Vancouver.
After all, there are thousands of postal employees across Canada who are affected by this new provision. These men are serving Canada, just as we are serving Canada, and I suggest that their position should receive a little more serious consideration than it has to-night. I know hon. members have not meant to consider the matter lightly, but for example there has been talk about Christmas postcards having to be delivered, as though that were the matter of importance.
I believe the issue goes deeper than that. As I understand it the change was made on December 5 of last year, and it was made by order in council or by departmental regulation. I believe, too, that very little warning or notice was given to the postal service. I understand the post offices were given no chance to prepare for the Saturday afternoon and holiday services. In normal times the staff in Vancouver is short, even without the extra work which was added. No previous
provision was made by the department for increasing the staff. In other words, there was no reasonable or common sense arrangement made to increase the staff to a point where it could handle the extra work.
We find that through the order there is to be a full postal service on Saturday afternoons when practically all business offices are closed. In my own office it is a nuisance to have mail delivered on Saturday afternoon, because it is apt to lie around on the floor or be misplaced by the janitor. I am sure the same observation would apply to thousands of offices across Canada.
Then, in addition there is to be a full- not a partial-postal service in post offices. I assume that service will be given on New Year's day, Good Friday, Victoria day, July 1) Labour day, Thanksgiving day, Remembrance day and Christmas day. On almost all these holidays not only offices but also all stores are closed. Surely there is no need for mail delivery on these statutory holidays. I suggest that there has been no great demand from the general public for mail delivery on these holidays. I understand that postal employees have had their Saturday afternoons and other holidays for many years, so why should a change be made at this time? There is no such thing as overtime pay; a man simply works more one week and less the next. It is all rather uncertain; he does not know what days he will have off. I know there has been the greatest confusion in Vancouver as to when the men will have their time off, and I am sure similar confusion must have arisen in other large post offices.
Will this affect the mail collection service? I understand that contracts for the collection of mail are largely on a six-day basis. Are we to have full mail collections on all holidays and on Saturday afternoons? The minister has said that the extra cost of providing this holiday service will be nearly $200,000. The extra staff required is not being obtained through the civil service commission. In Vancouver the same complaint is made that was made in Toronto. I know that many war veterans were unable to obtain the temporary work simply because they were not of the right stripe politically. It is all very confusing for the service. I understand there has been no request from the public generally for this service. There may have been requests from a few business firms, but I believe that is all. In fact, I understand that the public were more or less surprised when this service was inaugurated.
The Postmaster General has mentioned the difficulty when a holiday falls on a Monday.
Surely it would be possible to make special arrangements to handle the mail on these occasions. I suggest that this change is not fair to the postal employees of Canada and that the matter should be given further consideration. It is a step backwards. In British Columbia the weekly half holiday and statutory holidays are provided for by a provincial statute, but here we have dominion civil servants being obliged to work when other employees, with very few exceptions, have the holidays. I think it is unnecessarily disturbing the postal service and I ask the minister to give the matter serious consideration. I believe he would alleviate the condition if he realized how much dissatisfaction has been caused.