May 27, 1955

PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

On a question of privilege,

Mr. Chairman, may I say this so there will be no misunderstanding in this chamber, especially by the Acting Postmaster General who listened to my speech in French last night. I should like to read a few sentences of what I said-

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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC
LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Order. I have already

heard the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Quebec West, and I think it has been adequately disposed of. I do not think I can hear further elaboration of the same question.

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CCF

Erhart Regier

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

Mr. Regier:

I rise on a question of privilege, Mr. Chairman. Did I understand the minister to say that we are unworthy members of parliament if we And fault with the actions of the deputy minister?

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

No, sir, I said nothing of

the kind.

(Translation) :

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. Power (Quebec South):

Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a word or two on the subject of the future post office in order to set in their true light the facts stated last night by my friend, the hon. member for Quebec West (Mr. Dufresne).

For about two or three years, with other members from my district, I have been doing my best to get the Post Office Department and the customs division to erect in Quebec buildings befitting that city and suitable for the work performed.

Looking around the main railway station in Quebec city, we can see the site mentioned by my friend, where a block of houses burned down two or three years ago. To visitors arriving in Quebec city at the main station, it presents a scene of destruction reminiscent of bomb-gutted cities of Europe.

50433-263J

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About that time the city of Quebec homologated the buildings concerned, i.e., the owners were advised that sooner or later they would have to go and that any improvements they might make in the meantime to the buildings, etc., would not be taken into account in the assessment of the property, because the city of Quebec already had some plans with regard to that site. Because of this homologation, the Canadian government approached the authorities of the city of Quebec in order to ascertain if they were ready to allow the federal government to put up the building.

Negotiations were lengthy and finally, last summer, after I had obtained the Prime Minister's authorization and after the hon. member for Levis (Mr. Bourget) had received confirmation from the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Winters), we met with the authorities of the city of Quebec, including His Worship Wilfrid Hamel, the city engineer and other officials, and we agreed that the government would release certain lots for the broadening of St. Paul street, and would, for its part-

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

Would the hon. member allow me to ask a question? Where are the certain lots he is talking about?

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LIB
PC
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. Power (Quebec South):

Precisely, and that the city, for its part, would close off Marquette street, so that adjoining properties which belong to the federal government, as they are C.N.R. property, would also be included in the expropriated land or in the land which will be taken over by the federal government. The negotiations were friendly, and an agreement was finally reached but, for some reasons-

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

May I ask another question? When those discussions were held between the representatives of the federal government and of the city of Quebec, were the members of the town planning committee, which already had a project on hand, invited too?

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. Power (Quebec South):

My answer will be quite short. The federal government does not have to do business with local committees, not with the town planning committee any more than with the garbage collection committee or the roads committee. Constitution-

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ally speaking, we have to deal with the authorities representing the voters of Quebec city, that is the mayor of Quebec, Mr. Hamel, and the aldermen.

We came to an agreement with the mayor and his engineer. Negotiations were discontinued, probably because of the obstacles set in the way of the agreement by people who support the opinion of my hon. friend. Finally, in January 1955, the Minister of Public Works received the following letter, a copy of which I shall now read:

(Text):

Honourable Robert H. Winters,

Minister of Public Works,

Ottawa.

Honourable Sir:

I acknowledge receipt of your letter of January 18 concerning the land required by the federal government as the site for the extension of the new post office at Quebec city.

After perusal of your letter I am glad that all the persons concerned have now reached an understanding and will maintain the agreement concluded in my office when Mr. Maurice Bourget, member for Levis, the Hon. C. G. Power and Messrs. Drolet and Gardner-

They are officers of the department.

^discussed this matter with me as explained in my letter of December 28, 1954.

(Translation):

Therefore, as far as the federal government is concerned, he had the approval of-

(Text):

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. Power (Quebec South):

Wilfrid Hamel, mayor of Quebec City. In so far as the federal government are concerned, they did business with the constituted authorities of the city of Quebec, not with any committees set up either by the council or anybody else. The city council apparently has approved of the action of the mayor; therefore the federal government has proceeded with the expropriation of the property.

I come to another subject raised by my hon. friend, and rightly, namely the brevity of time given in the notice to evacuate.

(Translation):

In that connection, I received a letter from my electors telling me that they were shocked that such a short notice should have been served. On that score, my hon. friend may be right. However, I would point out to this committee that for the last two or three years these people were subject to be notified at any time to vacate the premises. I then got

in touch with government authorities here, that is with the minister, his parliamentary assistant and the chief architect, after which I sent this answer to the people who had written me:

Brousseau & Frferes I.tee,

320-324 St. Paul street,

Quebec, Que.

Gentlemen:

I acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 9 in which you had enclosed a petition signed by the landlords and tenants of the premises expropriated by the Department of Public Works, for the building of a post office, on Henderson, St. Paul and Ramsay streets.

I must tell you that 1 am urging the Department of Public Works to proceed with the projected works as soon as possible. After conferring with the department officials I find that if the conclusions of your investigations were taken into favourable consideration, . . .

May I say here, by the way, that those gentlemen had been asking to be allowed six months before moving out.

. . . the work on the post office requested by the workers of the city of Quebec, as well as by their representatives, would be delayed for at least a year.

I am informed that the preliminary steps to be taken, such as the transfer of the vacated properties to the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation, the calling of tenders for pulling down those buildings by that corporation, preliminary soundings, etc., that are needed before laying the foundations, the calling for tenders for the erection of the building, required under the federal statutes, may very well take several months. Under those circumstances, it is essential that the premises be vacated as soon as possible.

I am nevertheless asking the department to extend the time-limits mentioned in the notice to vacate received by you for a period of time which, frankly, is bound to be short, and always so as not to delay the carrying out of the project.

Following this letter and my representations to the hon. Minister of Public Works, the latter agreed yesterday to extend the time-limit until the end of June. If the work is to start in October or November in Quebec, it is essential that the lots be vacated by June 30 at the latest.

That is the position. At least, that is how I understand it, and I am explaining it to my hon. friend.

(Text):

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Michener:

I have a more or less minor matter to raise, Mr. Chairman, and I do so with some temerity for fear anything one says might be taken as criticism of the minister responsible for this department or of the government, recalling the asperity with which the acting minister rose a few minutes ago. However, I shall risk that and refer to the problem of the speedy and correct delivery of letters.

Before doing that, I have a word of commendation which I should like to express to

the Postmaster General's department for considering the problem of delivering mail on a business delivery basis on Avenue road north. There has been a change here from a residential to a business district. I believe delivery changes have been promised which will supply the business houses there with mail at a reasonably early hour in the morning instead of at two o'clock in the afternoon, which is perhaps sufficient for residential people but which does not permit the proper handling of correspondence in a business establishment.

One appreciates that there will be mistakes and delays in the delivery of mail at all times. There are a great many instances which come to the attention of members, and perhaps it is appropriate at this time to draw attention to one mistake which appears to have been avoidable. I do so just by way of keeping the minister and his associates on the job to see that deliveries are made as quickly, as well and with as few mistakes as possible.

The instance I have in mind is of a letter which was sent by trans-Atlantic air mail, addressed to 1525 Closse street, apartment 1, Montreal, P.Q., Canada. This letter was returned to the sender in London stamped, "Undelivered for the reason stated; returned to sender". Then there is an indistinct stamp saying "Place of destination required". I always thought Montreal was a place of destination. I would have thought any postal clerk would have regarded Montreal as a place of destination. In any event the letter was returned to the sender, put in an air mail envelope, addressed in the same way and delivered promptly to the party for whom it was intended. That is perhaps an extreme case, but that is an instance where there was no excuse for failure, which anyone recognizes must occur from time to time.

I should like to draw to the attention of the acting minister one or two things I can perhaps state at this time and which he can answer at his leisure, because I appreciate they may involve some research. The questions are as follows: What firm has the contract at present for the printing of Canadian postage stamps? How long has that firm enjoyed the contract? When were tenders last called for the letting of such contracts? Finally, what other Canadian firms are there capable of performing this service?

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Poulioi:

I have just a word to say, Mr. Chairman, about the speech delivered last night by the hon. member for Quebec West. If he puts the deputy postmaster general in the same category as all the great Canadians

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whom he has attacked with such acrimony, he pays him a signal tribute.

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LIB

James Ralph Kirk

Liberal

Mr. Kirk (Shelburne-Yarmoulh-Clare):

I

wonder if it might not make the debate more orderly if I were to take a few moments now to answer some of the queries put forward last night. Perhaps it would save some hon. member from asking the same questions. First may I, on behalf of the Postmaster General, extend thanks to hon. members for their sympathetic and courteous comments regarding his health. May I say also that I, too, look forward most eagerly to his early return.

Many suggestions were made by the various speakers, all of which will be given serious consideration; and where it is found that action can reasonably be taken in the interests of the public service, this will be done. May I take just a few moments to refer briefly to a few of the matters on which I am able to comment at the moment.

The hon. member for Three Rivers referred to the service to suburban areas around the large cities. I am advised it is not always practical to give letter carrier service immediately because many of the necessary conditions may not have been met. In many cases the department has taken care of this problem in the suburban areas by the installation of group boxes, which will provide for the postal needs of these areas until such time as the various requirements for letter carrier delivery have been met.

The hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam suggested that something should be done about the rather rapid turnover of employees in the Post Office Department. Not long after he spoke someone brought to my attention an article appearing in the May issue of the magazine Personnel. This article states that the average turnover for shop trades is 13-8 per cent; for non-professional clerical and administrative staff, 14-4 per cent; and in what is termed as sub-professional staff, 32 per cent. In the Post Office Department, other than retirement, we have an annual turnover of only 4-3 per cent for permanent employees and 15 per cent for temporary employees. Thus I do not feel that the Post Office Department has a very large turnover in comparison with industry and business generally.

The hon. member also made representations on behalf of the postmaster at Port Moody, in connection with the disappearance of $500 of post office funds. All I can say here is that the department must take disciplinary action where a postal official fails to protect public funds.

The hon. member for New Westminster dealt with the question of mail couriers. In

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his particular riding the situation is rather difficult because of the heavy population. The services are, however, advertised and tenders are submitted. Payment is made in accordance with the contract. If any particular contractor has had an unusual development in his area the department of course is always willing to renegotiate. My hon. friend referred to some rural mail couriers who work as much as 16 hours daily. If he will be kind enough to submit the particular case or cases where a man or men are working 16 hours per day I can assure him we shall be only too glad to make inquiries. This would seem to indicate that these particular routes should be divided.

He referred also to letter carriers doing work for which they received no pay, that is doing work as he called it in extra or spare time. In computing the time of the letter carrier the department not only takes into account the time he takes in serving his route, but also the time taken to prepare and handle his mail in the office.

My hon. friend also refers to the handling of certain items by the carriers in New Westminster. In this connection I would point out that carriers are not required to handle any parcel or book which weighs two pounds or more and that, further, their bundles are taken out for them and delivered at points on their route. As a matter of fact there is an average of over four relay boxes per letter carrier route in New Westminster, a rate that is higher than in most other cities in Canada. If any carrier considers that his walk is overly heavy or onerous, or he is unable properly to perform his duty within 40 hours a week, he may always make representations to his postmaster and the matter will be studied.

My hon. friend also referred to the periodical checks of letter carrier routes and indicated that these checks take place in July. I am informed that these checks take place twice yearly, one in the month of March and one in the month of August, so as to get an equitable picture. Again, if any letter carrier feels that his route is too onerous he may appeal to his postmaster and have the case investigated.

There was one reference I could not understand, and that was to letter carriers being "docked" $20 per month for clothing. I am sure my hon. friend would want me to correct him on that point. Uniforms are supplied to the letter carriers, without any cost to them. As a matter of fact, in addition to the uniforms they are given a cash allowance each year to enable them to provide suitable boots.

As I understood the remarks of the hon. member for Vancouver East, there were two points at issue; (1) the receipt of magazines which he did not order, and (2) requests from the agents of the publishers for the payment of an amount relating to these magazines.

In regard to the first point, all my hon. friend, or any person who finds himself in a similar position, has to do is to mark the newspaper or magazine "refused" and hand it back to the post office. The post office will then return it to the publisher; and if after the first notification additional copies are received, these will also be returned and postage collected from the publisher in each individual case.

As regards the correspondence between my hon. friend and the publishers, this is a personal matter. The Post Office Department does not censor any mail and therefore does not know the contents of letters travelling between the senders and the addressees. Of course that being so, it is obvious that no action can be taken by the department unless a complaint is made and the supporting information given. At this time may I thank the hon. member for Nicolet-Yamaska for his comments concerning the decision in the Quebec courts, to the effect that a contract cannot be a unilateral proposition.

In regard to my hon. friend from Kootenay West, the point he raises has been dealt with in my remarks to the hon. member for New Westminster.

In reply to the representations made by my hon. friend from Kootenay East, I would point out that there are two classes of postal clerks, grade 1 and grade 2. Some of the positions in the smaller offices are classified as grade 1, on the ground that the postal knowledge required in these centres is not as involved and complex as in the larger cities. I understand that following a recent convention the employees' association is making representations in this connection, and the matter will be given due consideration when these representations are studied, after having been received.

Then the hon. member for Notre Dame de Grace made reference to the estimate of additional revenue in connection with the 5-cent postage. We estimated at the time that we should break even for the fiscal year 1954-55. I stated yesterday that we have what I called an apparent surplus of approximately $5 million, accounted for mainly by the following:

1. There has been an increase in volume which was not anticipated a year ago.

2. Certain accounts for items supplied in

1954- 55 will not be paid until the fiscal year

1955- 56, and

3. As he intimated, by efficient operation and careful arrangement of the service, the department has been able to effect financial savings.

In regard to the question of annual leave for letter carriers, I would say that the Acting Postmaster General made reference to that matter a few moments ago.

Then reference was made to the savings which could be effected by the discontinuance of the post office savings bank. While the annual cost to the department is estimated at $377,000, this amount could not all be saved if the savings bank was discontinued, because in this amount is a proportion of the salaries of operating employees and a proportion of the cost of buildings and equipment. The actual headquarters cost is in the neighbourhood of $150,000. I think in considering this matter one should give consideration to the following points:

1. There are many Canadian citizens who prefer the post office savings bank to the chartered banks.

2. That by having a post office savings bank we are able to give banking facilities to military camps and certain remote areas.

3. That the savings bank provides the government of Canada with approximately $40 million at a low rate of interest.

With regard to my hon. friend's suggestion in regard to twice-a-day delivery for only five days a week, there are two points which came to my mind. One, it is not possible to give ten deliveries for the same cost as six. Appreciable additional expenditure would therefore be involved. Secondly, I doubt very much whether the public would welcome their mail being held from Friday afternoon until Monday morning and even Tuesday morning, when Monday happens to be a statutory holiday. There is also the possibility, may I say the probability, of congestion in the post office, as well as the inordinate amount of mail which the letter carriers would consequently have to handle on Monday mornings.

My hon. friend referred to his question being changed to an order for a return, and also to the time it has taken to give the information for which he asked. Had his question simply related to the date, the place and the amount of the loss it would have been a very simple question to answer, but he also asked whether court action had been instituted against specific individuals, and what was the result of such action, if any, in each case. This obviously necessitated a check of each file and in some cases the obtaining of information from the district offices as to the action which had taken place.

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The information has been obtained and, as hon. members know, the return was tabled this afternoon.

If my hon. friend is interested in the activities of the department from the standpoint of offences, prosecutions and results, may I refer him to page 5 of the Postmaster General's report for the year ended March 31, 1954, which was tabled early in January of this year.

The hon. member for Selkirk brought up the matter of mail delivery. We appreciate the difficult situation in which the people in the Norway House area find themselves from the standpoint of mail service, particularly during the break-up and freeze-up periods. The matter is being reviewed, and I can assure my hon. friend that it will have careful consideration.

He also made reference to li cent stamps. There is no such thing as a l\ cent stamp, but there is a bulk rate of 1J cents per item in connection with "householder" mail. The postage of these items is paid in bulk on the total number of items. This rate is given when the items are not individually addressed and which are therefore delivered much cheaper than is the case when an individual item must be delivered to a specific individual address. This service is available to all patrons who wish to have it.

The hon. member for Middlesex East showed his interest in the department by referring to the transportation of mail by means of highway post offices. This method of transportation has been adopted in many instances in the United States. It is more suitable to their method of operating, on account of the heavy volume of mails carried. However, the department has been watching this development with interest for some time. As a matter of fact some of our inspectors have travelled on the highway post offices in the United States, and I can assure my hon. friend that when the time arrives that this type of equipment can be used with advantage to the service, and from the standpoint of economy, further consideration will be given to the utilization of this and similar equipment.

May I thank the hon. member for Danforth for his complimentary remarks in regard to the postal service, and at the same time would mention that most of the figures he was quoting related to the fiscal year 1953-54, whereas in my opening comments yesterday I related my figures to the fiscal year 1954-55. I should also like to point out to him that the report for the fiscal year 1953-54 was tabled in January of this year.

I think, Mr. Chairman, I have covered in a general way the comments and suggestions

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made by the various hon. members who have taken part in this discussion.

Any individual cases which I have been unable to touch upon will be given the benefit of detailed study. With regard to the questions of the hon. member for St. Paul's, I wonder whether he would be good enough to send us the two covers to which he referred. I cannot give him full details regarding his question about the contract for postage stamps, but I can tell him that they are printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company; that the Minister of Finance calls for tenders, and that I think the contract is generally for a term of four years. The last tenders were called for some three years ago.

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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

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

Mr. Bryce:

May I ask the parliamentary assistant one question. Is the Post Office Department making representations or recommendations to the Department of Public Works to provide a new post office in Selkirk?

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LIB

James Ralph Kirk

Liberal

Mr. Kirk (Shelburne-Yarmoulh-Clare):

This is one of these specific questions with respect to which in the time between ten o'clock last night and a quarter to four this afternoon I have not yet had an opportunity to study the file.

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May 27, 1955