July 29, 1942

PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

I did not follow the minister to-day.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

I read a report from the Minister of Justice, under whose jurisdiction the mounted police come, and I am sure the hon. member will agree that the Minister of Justice would not submit a communication of that kind if it were not correct.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

I am merely asking that these police reports be tabled.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

Reports received from the mounted police which are marked "secret" cannot be divulged.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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LIB

Ralph Maybank

Liberal

Mr. MAYBANK:

I want to make just a few remarks which have occurred to me by reason of the comment made by the hon. member for Hastings South (Mr. Stokes) relative to the closing of a post office. In the city of Winnipeg I find a large number of people coming forward from time to time asking that a sub-post office be established in their particular district. It often happens that there is a post office not very far away. True, if a new sub-post office were opened, it would be more convenient for the people in the immediate neighbourhood. I find that a great many people have been coming to me and making representations of the sort I have mentioned, but I will say in truth that there are fewer people coming to me in these days than was the case a few years ago, and that I think is owing to the practice I have adopted in dealing with all such requests.

At first when such requests came to me I thought it was only reasonable to support them, and I did so on several occasions; but after I came to understand"-not fully, because I do not think that I could ever fully understand the intricacies of post office life-somewhat better the problems that beset the Post Office Department I adopted a completely different attitude toward all such requests. I did not understand for a long time that when a new sub-post office is opened there is grave danger of the Post Office Department losing money, 'but after a while I found that a great many people were asking for a subpost office to be opened or to be continued because they counted on making money through commissions upon the sale of stamps. Frequently a man who got a sub-post office would canvass his friends in businesses which bought a great many stamps to purchase then-requirements at his post office and in that way he would make more money. Of course, the Post Office Department did not make any more money because

the sales of stamps which are made at subpost office A are lost at sub-post office B. In other words, the total number of stamps sold remains the same and the king gets no more money by reason of the new sub-post office being opened. In fact, he is likely to lose money, because if the postmaster can bring his sale of stamps up to a certain point-I cannot remember the exact number of stamps they have to sell to get into a higher class- he gets $50 or $75 a month for being in that higher classification, which is enough at any rate to pay the rent of his store. Naturally the man who had a sub-post office would put pressure on his friends in businesses that bought stamps in large volume to give him a part of their patronage. The net result was that the Postmaster General, representing His Majesty, had to pay out $50 or $75 certain of His Majesty's money to these new vendors of stamps.

When I came to realize that situation I adopted a much more wary attitude with respect to recommending applicants for subpost offices, and I am sure that anyone in the Post Office Department, the Postmaster General or anyone else, will bear me out when I say that although I come from one of the chief cities of the dominion, where one would expect a considerable number of post offices, I have refrained, except in a very few instances, from recommending the opening up of post offices. I have made such recommendations only when I was certain that there was a good-sized area to be served.

I make no particular reference to the case at Belleville because naturally I am ignorant of the facts, but I do wish to commend the Postmaster General and his officials generally for the attitude they take with reference to opening up sub-post offices and I commend them particularly for the number of times they have refused rather than granted such applications. I am sure that it must be a very difficult matter with all the number of good persuaders there are bound to be in the House of Commons to say, no, we cannot open a post office there.

I fancy that every art of which a member is capable is used on the post office officials, and on the Postmaster General himself. They want to be accommodating as much as possible, and I know it is not easy to say "no". I know also it is not very often that a person will be commended for saying "no"; in fact I must plead guilty to the charge, if it were made, that I do not very often myself commend a person for giving a negative answer. Or perhaps I do not commend anybody as often as I should. But I thought I would take this opportunity of saying, from

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such experience as I have had in these matters-and for a few years I had a good deal- I think the Post Office Department is following the right course in being, if I may use the expression, as tight as possible regarding the opening of sub-post offices, because to open a sub-post office is to run the danger of losing money. In fact it is more than a danger; it is almost a certainty, and heaven knows this is no time for any officers of His Majesty to be losing money anywhere; we need to be saving money, not losing it.

In closing, I would say that of course my remarks have no reference to the particular problem of Belleville, of which I am entirely ignorant.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

It amuses me to listen to the estimates of the Post Office Department being discussed from the viewpoint of dollars and cents. I always visualize this department as a service to the people and to be measured in terms of service, but evidently a large number of hon. members do not take that view.

What I have in mind in making that observation is the matter of rural post offices. Canada is a nation, and every citizen is entitled to the same service regardless of whether he lives in a city or fifteen miles outside it, so far as the duty of the department to the nation as a whole is concerned. It must give service to the best of its ability, without any regard to the making of one, or two, or three million dollars. The maximum amount of service should be the principle.

I mention this because I have been corresponding with the department for a considerable time with respect to two small post offices, one at Catalone, on Cape Breton island, the other at Marion Bridge. They are about eighteen miles from the city of Sydney, and approximately that distance from a Canadian National railway station, and they receive their mail twice a week. The newspaper which circulates in Sydney is received by them only twice a week. I think that is a reflection on the Post Office Department.

The minister has admitted that financially the department is not doing so badly; it has a surplus of about $4,000,000. But to my mind a person who is farming fifteen or eighteen miles from a city and is denied in many cases even the convenience of electric light is not a citizen of Canada at all. He is living out in a wilderness; he gets his mail twice a week, or maybe once a month during the winter: I do not blame the officials whom I have corresponded with, because they are working for the Canadian government and the government lays down the rules. They

cannot provide a better service, because an inspector who went there found that it would cost $260 a year to maintain the post office. A large number of families live there. It is no fault of theirs that they are living there; they are making their contribution as best they know how, but they are living back a hundred years, and it is a reflection on the government.

I do not think the service of the Post Office Department should be measured in terms of dollars and cents. I trust that, at some time, someone in that department will have sufficient authority to give every citizen of Canada the best service possible consistent with the material and machinery with which they have to work. A man in the country is entitled to what a man in the city has. In the city your mail is delivered to your door. In the two places I speak of they get their mail twice a week and they walk miles for it. I want to bring this matter to the minister's attention. I have corresponded to some extent with the department, but I know they cannot do anything about it unless the rules are changed.

I have another complaint to bring forward similar to the Toronto case which was discussed last night. The minister's statement in the Toronto case was that there is lack of man-power; that it is not possible to get the labour. This answer is given pretty frequently ; whenever an awkward question comes up, we are told there is a shortage of manpower. The mail carriers at Sydney, Nova Scotia, of whom there are seventeen, complain that they have not a spare carrier, and any time a clerk on the inside of the post office is off duty, carriers are placed inside, and as a result another carrier on the walk has to take a double load of mail and deliver it. The same thing applies when a carrier is away sick. In that city there is no shortage of labour; approximately 500 girls have left that area and come into Ontario to work in the factories because there is no employment locally. Many of them are capable of working as clerks inside the post office. The carrier who has a walk has plenty of work without relieving clerks on the inside. Their contention is that there should be a spare carrier; that where there are seventeen walks and only seventeen carriers, one or another is sure to be sick occasionally, and every carrier has to take a double load. I believe this is a pretty general complaint from the post offices in Nova Scotia. There should be an extra carrier and some relieving clerks employed instead of carriers being taken in off the walks. I strongly urge the minister to make a check of

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the Sydney situation. I know most of the boys employed there, and certainly they would not make a kick if there were not a legitimate complaint.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

If the hon. member has no objection I will deal with the latter case first. Usually there are extra carriers in the post offices, and in the case of Sydney that is a matter which should be dealt with by the local postmaster. Colonel Underwood, who is in charge of post offices, has had the matter drawn to his attention and will have inquiries made.

As regards the two places he has mentioned, he says, unless "the rule" has been changed. It is not a question of rule; it is a question of fact in each individual case. Cases are decided on their merits. Perhaps I had better not mention names, but I know of one place in Nova Scotia where they had absolutely no revenue in a year. Well, that office was closed.

There is another one where in the whole year the revenue amounted to $19.25, and the cost was $100 for the postmaster plus the cost of service. That was closed. In another one the revenue was $2.84 and the postmaster had to be paid and the service maintained, and still another one where the revenue was $4. These small offices should be closed. In the two cases mentioned it is a question of fact, and I shall be glad to see that they are inquired into. I can assure the hon. member that they will be treated with fairness, and if a proper case is made out and there is a reasonable number of people to be served they will be given serious consideration.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

I do not know the cases mentioned by the minister, but is not the principle of the postal department based on service? There are some post offices where there are large surpluses. Should not such offices carry a group of citizens where there is not sufficient revenue to keep the office open?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

They do. There are 12,500 post offices, and 5,000 of them do not carry themselves but are carried by the other 7,500. There must be some downward limit.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

May I call the attention of the minister to page 270 of the auditor general's report under (g):

According to the provisions of the Civil Service Act, postmasters of revenue offices, where the revenues exceed $3,000 per annum, are to be appointed by the civil service commission, but in the following cases the postmasters at such offices were employed by the department without the approval of the commission for the periods indicated: Mont Joli, Quebec, December 16, 1936-March 31, 1941; Riviere du Loup,

[Mr. Gillis.l

Quebec, May 18, 1937-March 31, 1941; and Strathmore, Alberta, August 22, 1939-March 31, 1941-

The latter date, of course, is the last which the auditor general covers. Would the minister explain how these conditions arise, where there is apparently a defiance of the civil service commission.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

My officials think it is on account of the fact that there was difficulty in finding suitable postmasters in these cases.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

Did the commission

advertise for postmasters for these various offices?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

They will be filled by the commission if they have not already been filled.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

But some of these periods extend over some years, and I cannot believe that in a constituency such as Temiseouata, for instance, there are not a great many people who are quite eligible to fill the position of postmaster.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

That brings up something which I had better mention now. As the war continues, the situation may become more difficult and many post offices will probably be left with acting postmasters until the conclusion of hostilities, so that returned soldiers will have an opportunity of being placed in these positions. I feel rather strongly about the matter, and I do not think it is fair to fill all these offices with permanent employees while men are on service in the navy, army and air force. Perhaps by next year the hon. member will see a large addition to that list.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
NAT

Harry Rutherford Jackman

National Government

Mr. JACKMAN:

I would point out that no fewer than two of the three antedate the declaration of war.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

I believe the hon. member referred to one that started in 1936.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

Are there not hundreds and thousands of ex-service men in the country who would be eligible? It looks like political bait held out. ,

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
LIB

William Pate Mulock (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. MULOCK:

That is not correct. If the committee wants the positions filled I suppose they can be filled, but I do not see any political bait about the matter. It is the very opposite. I would go farther than that. There are certain temporaries-and I am not referring to the temporaries about whom hon. members were speaking, 90 and 10 per cent. I am talking about taking on increased numbers in permanent positions. As far as possible we should use temporaries where we can. Under the order in council the govern-

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ment cannot take men on who are physically fit and within the service regulations. At the end of the war there will be a substantial number of vacancies available for competition, and returned men will have the preference for these positions.

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink
CCF

Clarence Gillis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. GILLIS:

Is that government policy right now? Are the men who fought in the last war and came back, and who have a preference under the commission, to lie in abeyance until the conclusion of this war?

Topic:   DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
Permalink

July 29, 1942