December 8, 1953

PUBLIC SERVICE

ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES

LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Hon. Douglas Abbott (Minister of Finance):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to announce that, following consultation with the civil service commission, the departments mainly concerned and the national joint council, the government has decided that the policy of readjusting the working week of operating staffs in the post office, customs and various other operating branches of the public service to the five-day forty-hour week where that is the prevailing practice in the locality, which had been approved and announced in September, will be put into effect April 1 next.

Working arrangements will have to be extensively revised and additional employees recruited and trained before the change can be put into effect, but it is believed that this can be accomplished by the end of March with the co-operation of all concerned in assisting to meet the objective.

The civil service commission has been asked to make recommendations to the government for the extension of this new work week to operating staffs in those localities and those classes of employment where the five-day forty-hour week is the established pattern in business and industry.

This change in working hours will make it necessary to add substantially to the staff of the post office. These additions, following the improvements authorized by parliament for rural mail carriers and the salary increases which went into effect on December 1, will materially increase the cost of operating the postal service.

Like all other public utilities with fixed rates, the post office has already been facing difficulty in the past year or two in meeting steadily rising costs, including increased railway and other transport rates and increased remuneration for its employees.

It is anticipated that there will be a deficit on operating account in the present fiscal year and it will certainly not be possible without some increase in revenue to keep the

operations of the post office on a self-sustaining basis in the new fiscal year when the five-day week adds further to operating costs.

It is the view of the government that the people of Canada expect the post office to pay for its operations out of postal revenues and not out of taxes.

The government has accordingly decided to recommend the following adjustments in first-class postage rates effective April 1, 1954:

1. A general increase of one cent per ounce over existing rates.

2. The application of the so-called drop letter rate to rural routes as is now done in city and town deliveries.

3. The reduction of the domestic air mail rate from 7 to 5 cents, with rates outside Canada unchanged.

While the government naturally regrets the necessity for any increase in postage rates, the proposed increase is much more modest than almost all other increases in prices, wage rates or service and transport charges which have been made in the past seven or eight years.

When the new rates come into effect all first-class mail will be carried by air if air carriage will speed up delivery. Canada already has the most advanced air mail service of any country in the world and this service will be further improved.

The government believes the Canadian people want good postal service and the Postmaster General is accordingly giving notice today of the proposed resolution to the effect that it is expedient to introduce a bill to make the necessary amendments to the Post Office Act.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. George A. Drew (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, this announcement is the first, I am sure, that most hon. members of the house have heard of this decision. I think that certain observations should be made immediately with regard to a statement such as that which has been presented to the house. With respect to most aspects of government activity where the government enters into the field of business operations, I should think there would be little doubt in the mind of any hon. member that, to whatever extent is possible, such operations should be put on a sound businesslike basis. There are, however, certain considerations

Increase in Postage Rates in connection with mail transportation which it seems to me might well have been given some consideration, even if only by the presentation of a substantive motion in the house, before another advance of this kind was made, and particularly at a time when there is such general complaint about the reduction of postal services and deliveries throughout the country.

Throughout the years the speeding up of business communication, the speeding up of personal communication, the speeding up of human contacts, whether it be by mail, telephone, telegraph or any other means of communication, has in itself been an essential part of the material advancement of society. There are few aspects of our social and business contacts which mean more to our people than the efficient delivery of mail at a cost which is consistent in every way with the general public interest. I would have hoped that before a decision of this kind was made, which creates still further differentials between our own postal costs and those of our neighbours in the United States, we might have had some consideration of the possibility of dealing with this problem in another manner.

One of the interesting things that emerge from the statement now presented by the minister is that the minister obviously does not think that the same principle should apply to the postal service as applies to other public services. Without in any way at the moment arguing the merit or demerit of a proposition that the postal service should carry its cost by the stamps purchased, it is interesting to note that no such argument is made as to radio or with respect to certain other public services which the people of the country want and expect to receive. I grant immediately that in the case of radio there are cultural considerations and also special problems connected with it. I am not sure that there may not also be special considerations that should be borne in mind in connection with the postal services as well.

I think there are in this country many people who have advocated over and over again measures of economy which this government has not been prepared to consider or introduce, and who are not convinced that the first consideration in connection with mail delivery in this country must be that, of necessity, the cost of the stamps pay the full cost. I think the first consideration is the efficiency of the service; the opportunity of those who are serving in the mail service itself to be able to perform their task well; and, on top of that, that in this country of ours there be due consideration to the fact that with mail, as with other services, there

are great areas of the country in which special costs are incurred unless there is to be a disadvantage by virtue alone of living in that area.

Those are all things that present certain special considerations. I simply rise at this moment, Mr. Speaker, without previous knowledge of the fact that this statement was going to be presented, to suggest that this is something that might well be given further consideration. I suggest there ought to be an examination of the whole organization and set-up of the postal service by a committee of this house, so that the hours of work and other details of that kind within the postal service could be examined. We should find out whether those working in the postal service are, in fact, receiving the consideration they should receive for this very valuable service.

There is a question raised by many as to whether the employees are not working excessive hours and under excessive conditions, having regard to the special terms of their employment. I am not making any positive statement in regard to these things, but I do say there are few subjects on which there has been more comment in recent months than the postal service. I would have hoped that before a blanket decision of this kind had been made there would have been an opportunity to examine the postal service, always bearing in mind that the efficiency of that service depends upon the feeling of confidence on the part of postal employees themselves that their services are being fully appreciated and employed to the best advantage.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Mr. Speaker,-

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I take it that the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) will be speaking on behalf of his group.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Yes, only I was not claiming the right to make any statement. The rules do not permit me to do that, but I should like to ask the minister two questions that arise out of his statement. My first question is this. Is it clearly understood that the question of increasing the postage rates will be brought before parliament, and that if parliament does not approve the increases they will not be put into effect?

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

I think I made that clear in my statement. The postal rates can only be increased by amendment to the Post Office Act. A bill to amend the Post Office Act will be in Votes and Proceedings today.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

My second question is this. Can the minister make available in some

appropriate manner a list of the localities in which the five-day week will be put fully into effect?

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

If the hon. member noticed, in my statement I said that the civil service commission has been asked to make recommendations to the government for the extension of this new work week to operating staffs in those localities and those classes of employment where the five-day forty-hour week is the established pattern in business and industry. I think it will be possible very shortly, when we have the recommendations of the civil service commission, to make a public statement along the lines of the one for which the hon. member has asked.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB-PRO

William Gilbert Weir (Parliamentary Assistant to the Prime Minister; Chief Government Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal Progressive

Mr. W. G. Weir (Porlage-Neepawa):

May

I ask the minister-

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. It is the practice

when a minister makes a statement, a gentleman's agreement is entered into whereby one spokesman for each opposition party may comment on the statement. If the hon. member wishes merely to ask a question, I shall allow it even though that is not quite in order.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB-PRO

William Gilbert Weir (Parliamentary Assistant to the Prime Minister; Chief Government Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal Progressive

Mr. Weir:

I wish to ask if consideration

has been given to reducing the hours of employment of those on the penitentiaries staffs?

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

I cannot answer that question offhand, except that I do know it is not the intention at the moment to introduce the forty-hour week into the staffs of the penitentiaries or the D.V.A. hospitals.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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CCF

Joseph William Noseworthy

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

Mr. J. W. Noseworthy (York South):

I

should like to direct one question to the minister. Upon what information does the minister base his statement that the people of Canada expect the post office to pay its way?

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

Well, past performance, Mr. Speaker. I think it has been the generally accepted view that a public utility such as the post office should pay for its services by charges imposed on the people who use the post office and not out of collections from sales tax, the income tax or the tax structure generally. I believe that has been the accepted practice in the past, and I have made the natural assumption that that is what the Canadian people wish done in the future.

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE
Subtopic:   ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES
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EMERGENCY GOLD MINING ASSISTANCE ACT

EXTENSION OF APPLICATION TO 1954

LIB

George Prudham (Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys)

Liberal

Hon. George Prudham (Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys) moved

that the house

Inquiries of the Ministry go into committee at the next sitting to consider the following resolution:

That it is expedient to introduce a measure to extend the application of the Emergency Gold Mining Assistance Act to the year 1954.

He said: His Excellency the Governor

General, having been made acquainted with the subject matter of this resolution, recommends it to the house.

Topic:   EMERGENCY GOLD MINING ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   EXTENSION OF APPLICATION TO 1954
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Motion agreed to.


December 8, 1953