In normal times the employee who works overtime is given time off to compensate him, but during the Christmas rush, which lasts for almost the whole of December and part of January, we pay for overtime.
At the regular hourly rate, and we give them time off. In the city of Toronto we take on almost 5,000 temporary employees just for the Christmas rush, and almost as many, if not more, in Montreal.
As to the stamps, we ask for tenders for the printing of the stamps. They are printed to-day and have been for some time by the Canadian Bank Note company, and by the way, our stamps are considered by philatelists as the best in the world. In the large post office the custom for many years has been to permit certain people to have the privilege of selling stamps on a commission. They have to employ and pay their own assistants, and they have to buy the stamps for cash. That system is in operation in a great number of the large post offices. In the smaller post offices we sell the stamps ourselves, and that practice has also been followed in some of the large cities where drug stores ano other stores have the privilege of selling stamps on a commission, but this practice is disappearing in the larger cities. In Toronto the department is selling its own stamps Wherever a man is doing his work properly and giving satisfaction to the public we dc not disturb him in his position, but when he dies or ceases to operate his franchise the department takes it over.
Would the minister give me some further information on that, if not now on some future day? Is that system of selling stamps on commission used in the general post office at Vancouver? Who is the contractor and what is the commission paid?
It is now over thirtj years since the rural mail service was set up It has been of great service to the rural people, who appreciate it very much, and I
wish to pay my tr^oute to the rural mail couriers for the splendid work they are doing in good weather and bad the year round, going out in the storms of winter and making their way through snowbanks and over the fields to take the mail to the boxholders. It is over thirty years since that system was established, and I think a resurvey should be made of a good many of the rural routes with a view to giving more contract service to bring this convenience to more rural box-holders. I know of numerous instances where thirty years ago there was only a grass farm but where to-day there are houses and buddings, and yet the farmer has to walk three-quarters of a mile to a mile to get his mail. In western Ontario particularly, which I know better than any other part, a resurvey of the rural mail routes should be made to serve better the rural people in that part of the province.
I was quite interested to hear the hon. member for Mackenzie pay a tribute to the government for the example which the post office is of public enterprise, but of course there never has been anything else but government management of the post office. It is one department where there is absolutely no competition, and I do not think it is a just comparison because, if there were any competition, the post office picture might not look quite so rosy. Again, I do not know that we can be so proud of some of the post offices that we have to go into. I know the method which the minister has described, that some of the offices are what are known as revenue offices and some of the postmasters are revenue postmasters. They supply the best equipment they can and at the same time make a living, which means, of course, that some of the post offices are very dingy, some broken down, needing electric light bulbs so that we can see to write our name on an envelope, and lacking in other respects. I am quite certain that if there were any competition many of these post offices would not do very much business.
Since this is one department of government that is revenue producing, it is only natural that we can expect it to show an annual profit. This is one public enterprise that believes in the profit system, because it is producing a profit eveiy year; $19,000,000, I think the minister said wTas the surplus this year.
I would ask the minister when the country can expect a reduction in the postage rate now that the department has a $19,000,000 profit. Since there is no competition, all the government have to do is to boost the postage
rate and of course they would have a biggpr profit. If they lowered the rate too much they would have a loss. Just how many employees are there in the postal service in Canada, taking in everyone? The government might not have to raise their wages very much to use up that $19,000,000 surplus. There are a good many ways of looking at this matter of public enterprise.
I should like to refer to the mail couriers again. The phrase that they are out in the winter storms has been used by nearly every hon. member who has spoken, and I should also like to pay my tribute to these men. I do not know whether that is what they want to be paid. I think they want to be paid in cash.
them to get Hansard and to read all the tributes we have been paying them. But what they want payment in is cash, not tributes. I am sure that the people of Canada are waiting to hear from the Postmaster-General about a reduction in the postage rate. Did I hear him say something, or was it just imagination?
I must correct a few misapprehensions. The Post Office Department cannot give a statement showing the net profit because like every other department our revenues are deposited in the consolidated revenue fund, and for the money we need we come before the house, as every other department must do, and ask in the estimates for the sum that is required to carry on for the next year. That gives the house an opportunity of checking everything that we are doing.
If we were a company showing a statement, whether we have profits or not, we would have our money in the bank and might not in times like these have to come to the house and ask for a subsidy of $60,000,000 or something like that. We increased the postage during the war by one cent, which has brought to the government about $10,000,000 more in revenue. The department intends to ask for a reduction from the present rate and come back to two cents for drop letters and three cents for the others. Our aim is even higher, but I will not say exactly what it is in case my target is too high. We want as soon as possible to transport all our first-class mail
by plane from one end of Canada to the other so that, as far as the postal department is concerned, the dominion will be only twenty-four or thirty-six hours, or, at the utmost, forty-eight hours large, so to speak. That would be a great thing for the unity of the country. Of course we are waiting on the department administered by my colleague the Minister of Reconstruction to inform us when we shall be able to carry all first-class mail by plane. .
Yes, I do not know if it is the intention of the committee to go through the different estimates, but if hon. members would like to go fast I may say that we are asking this year for over 810,000,000 for air mail services. Of course we are losing money on the operation, because it costs us more than it would if we were sending our mail by some other means, especially when we send it into the far north where planes carry very little except mail. We expect to be able to reduce the rate very soon both on land and in the air. We have 39,208 employees, including rural mail carriers. There are a large number of rural mail carriers and sometimes they work only part of the day, but that is the number of employees we have. There are 1,098 at headquarters in Ottawa and we still have 1,651 who are with the army. As a matter of fact, the number is really eleven hundred and something but when this figure was prepared it was 1,651.