February 12, 1937

IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

Without going into the main question of the government's policy in this regard, I should like to ask the Postmaster General if he could not see his way to allow some discretion, say to the district superintendent in dealing with small country post offices. I shall take an extreme case-but it goes all the way from there up-where the mail comes once a week by boat, very often on a Sunday. The post office is open on that Sunday; that is the regular custom in the country. The boat does not come back until the following Sunday. The postmaster or postmistress gets $100 a year-not a month. Along about Thursday she may take a notion to go out and pick berries or see some old friend down the bay; then someone writes in and complains and asks that she be fired because she is not adhering to the rules and keeping the post office open six days a week, although she kept it open on Sunday. In cases like that no good is done by maintaining the strict letter of the law, and I am sure it would not be abused if the minister would allow the district superintendent some discretion in dealing with such cases. These cases exist to my knowledge in little country places where for an afternoon the office could be closed and never be missed by the bulk of the people.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT (Middlesex):

That was the practice in the old days when we had service on these holidays, the practice followed in Quebec and it may be in one or two other places, but I am not aware of it. I know it was asked for in a couple of other places where the postmasters reported that the mail was so heavy that they would have congestion on the day following Christmas if the holiday were observed. In those places it was cleared. It might be interesting to my hon. friend to refer to what took place in the old days when we had service on Christmas day and New Year's day, as well as Saturday afternoons.

Supply-Post Office

That is not very long ago. Gradually we got away from those services, a day or half a day at a time. But in those instances, even in the old days, the district director, or the postmaster, in the large post offices, who exercised the same authority as the district director, was given a certain amount of discretion.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

The minister has not got

my point at all. I was not talking about cities or about statutory holidays, I was asking about a weekly half day closing in small country post offices where you could put the mail in your two pockets, and where it comes in perhaps once a week. I was suggesting that he allow the district superintendent, of whom he talks, to exercise discretion to give permission in those small remote country places, which sometimes keep their offices open on Sunday, to take a half day off on some other day of the week. That could be done, when mail comes in only once or twice a week. That is the situation to which I should like to call his attention.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT (Middlesex):

I assume my hon. friend would take it for granted that if we were doing it in the larger places, we would give the district director power to exercise discretion in the smaller places.

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IND
LIB
LIB

William Michael Ryan

Liberal

Mr. RYAN:

Do I understand the minister to say that the policy will be to give the district superintendents jurisdiction to exercise discretion in cities, as to the delivery of mails on Saturday afternoons and holidays?

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT (Middlesex):

This is only in cities where the bulk of the mail is not so large that it cannot be cleared on the following day. In a city like Toronto or Montreal it will be impossible, with mails like we had this Christmas. No persons would be more in favour of getting the mail out on Christmas day than district directors, who know what it means to allow a congestion on that day. But in the cities such as I have mentioned, and in the instance mentioned by the hon. member, there will be a discretion similar to that exercised in the old days. The district directors will exercise reasonable judgment, so long as they can get the service and get the mail out on the following day.

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LIB

William Michael Ryan

Liberal

Mr. RYAN:

I thank the Postmaster General for that explanation, and would ask that he consider the city of Saint John. I join with some other hon. members in protesting

against the deliveries. I do that not in an idle way but because I have had many protests concerning them. In the summer months Saturday afternoons are half holidays, and many people go to their summer residences. As a result, it is next to impossible on such days for the postmen to deliver mail. The same applies equally in cities of about 60,000 population, such as Saint John. I put the matter seriously, and I am pleased to hear the Postmaster General say that discretion is to be left with the district superintendent. I am satisfied, if the district superintendent is given the opportunity to canvass, and makes a report back to the Postmaster General, he will bring some beneficial information and will help to solve some of the difficulties.

I make these observations to-night because I have been waited upon not only by those engaged in the postal service but also by residents who have brought to my attention what they considered to be more or less of a hardship and an injustice upon employees. I am pleased to hear the Postmaster General give us the assurance that to a certain extent discretion will be given the superintendent,

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CON

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BROOKS:

I should like to ask the Postmaster General a question concerning the attitude of the department in connection with the appointment and dismissal of returned men. Lately we have heard a great deal about the employment of these men. A commission has been appointed to look after the providing of employment for them. My attention has been called to a great many dismissals of returned men recently from the postal service. Also, I have been informed that returned men who were qualified for the work have not been obtaining the preference.

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LIB
CON

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BROOKS:

One instance was called

to my attention recently. It had reference to the town of Woodstock, New Brunswick, a town of over 3,000 people. The vacancy occurred following the death of the former postmaster, and some four or five returned men applied. However, when the appointment was made, it was given to a man sixty-five years of age, a Mr. Creighton from that town, who had been chairman of the Liberal organization for the town of Woodstock. Protest was made by the different returned men's organizations in the town and in the province of New Brunswick.

While discussing the matter, I should like to call attention to certain dismissals. I am not going to mention all of them, because there have been quite a number, but would draw

The late Matthew McKay

the minister's attention particularly to one which occurred last year at Canterbury Station in the county of York, New Brunswick. The postmaster was a returned man. A complaint went to the member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Clark) and he, in turn, wrote the department stating a complaint had come to him that this man had been partisan, and that during the election he had taken an active part. The Postmaster General, or his department, wrote the member explaining the necessary procedure to have investigation and a commission appointed. One of the requisites was that affidavits be forwarded to the department, and that certain persons agree that they would furnish information when the commission was formed. I have a sessional paper before me containing correspondence in connection with the matter. A very weak affidavit, which meant almost nothing, was made. After receiving the affidavit and other information, the department evidently decided there was not sufficient information upon which to base a commission. So, no doubt through his advisers from that section, the hon. member for York-Sunbury decided to try another scheme. He then stated that the people were not satisfied, and that the location was not central. Any person who knows the village of Canterbury Station knows that it is a small one.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT (Middlesex):

I assume the committee does not intend to pass the item.

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CON

At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Monday, February 15, 1937


February 12, 1937