I took the trouble to look up Hansard for these years, and I did not find a single occasion during those five years when he ever suggested anything to the Postmaster General on behalf of the rural mail carriers, or any denunciation by him of the contract system, notwithstanding, as 1 understood from an hon. member this winter, that it was a pre-election promise of the Conservative party that something would be done on behalf of the rural mail carriers if that party were returned to power. I think it was Erastus Wiman who said once that if a man were fooled once it was the other man's fault, but if he were fooled twice it was 'his own fault. I do not think the rural mail carriers are going to be fooled again by election propaganda such as that.
Coming back to the question of rural mail carriers, I have had some experience both in extensions and having routes established, and in some instances where routes were put up for tender. The hon. member for Grey-Bruce said that in many instances the route was under-bidden by someone who knew little or nothing about the cost. That may be so but I have in mind one or two routes in my riding that were put up for tender for good cause, and the lowest bidder in both instances was the man who had held the route for years before. In one instance he held it at, I believe, $94S and bid it in at 1480. In another instance he had held the contract for years at $781, and he bid it in at 8400 and in both cases the next lowest tender was for $700. Those men knew what it cost to run that route. I do not say that they did not take it too cheaply, but if they did, it was their own fault.
I have in mind, as well as the plight of the rural mail carriers who are in many instances underpaid, the condition of the farmers along the route who are served by the carriers and who are also underpaid, by no choice of their own.
I believe if the system were changed and put on a $40 per mile basis, as suggested, that a great many people will never enjoy rural delivery where as under the contract system new routes would be established, and further that many routes now being operated must of necessity be abandoned because the service would not warrant the increased cost of delivery.
I have assisted in having several routes established in my riding. Each time an application was made an inspector was sent in, who went over the route and ascertained the number of patrons per mile. If the number were not up to the required standard he would ask the sponsors of the route to guarantee a price at which the route could be carried on, and if that price were within reason the route was advertised for tender. I have in mind two particular routes, one of which went at $20 a mile and the other at $25. If a price of $40 a mile had been set, neither of these routes would have been established, nor would any of the routes in the thinly settled parts of my riding. Whatever the minister has in mind concerning this matter, I hope he will not set a price so high that it will be prohibitive so far as the more thinly settled portions of my riding and others in the northern part of Ontario are concerned.
Most of these routes are only part-time jobs. I have in mind the route that serves my home. It was operated for some twenty-four years at $800 a year, and is about a twenty-five mile route. The man operating it was a farmer, a building contractor, an agent for builders' supplies and so on, and there were in the village other men, practically on the verge of relief, who wanted a chance to tender on the contract. So, in justice to those who wanted a chance to bid on it, I asked that the route be put up for tender. The contract was let at $600 a year, and it has been operated at that price for two years. On different occasions I have asked the contractor if he was satisfied, and he said he was perfectly satisfied with what he was getting. So I think in connection with many of these routes that were let twenty-four or twenty-five years ago, when wrork was plentiful, there can be no complaint if other people, who find themselves up against it, want a chance to bid. I believe they should be given a chance to tender on the route.
That is all I desire to say at the present time. I think it would be a mistake to change the present system. So far as patronage goes, I do not think the rural mail delivery system will ever be further from patronage than it is at the present time. In each instance the contract goes to the lowest tenderer. It has been stated to-night that this is not so in all instances, but this has happened on every occasion in my riding, and there has been no interference whatever on my part with departmental routine.