April 6, 1957

CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

Before the middle of June?

Topic:   INQUIRY AS TO DATES OF PROROGATION AND FORTHCOMING ELECTION
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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Could the Prime Minister not tell us the date?

Topic:   INQUIRY AS TO DATES OF PROROGATION AND FORTHCOMING ELECTION
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent (Quebec East):

There are only two possible dates. One would be June 10, the other would be June 17.

Topic:   INQUIRY AS TO DATES OF PROROGATION AND FORTHCOMING ELECTION
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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Which is it to be?

Topic:   INQUIRY AS TO DATES OF PROROGATION AND FORTHCOMING ELECTION
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. St. Laurent (Quebec East):

I hope it will be June 10, but that will not be possible unless we can arrange for prorogation at the end of next week.

The house in committee of supply, Mr. Robinson (Simcoe East) in the chair.

Topic:   INQUIRY AS TO DATES OF PROROGATION AND FORTHCOMING ELECTION
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POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT


335. Transportation-movement of mail by land, air and water, including administration, and to authorize and provide for the adjustment, as of October 1, 1956, of rural mail delivery contracts in effect on that date or entered into by way of renewal after that date, under the provisions of subsection (2) of section 33 of the Post Office Act, notwithstanding paragraphs (b) and (c) thereof, $51,940,991.


SC

Bert Raymond Leboe

Social Credit

Mr. Leboe:

Mr. Chairman, I have only a few words I would like to say at this time concerning this item, and they have to do with the mail carrier service in the rural areas in the interior of British Columbia. In view of the fact that there was a substantial surplus in the Post Office Department last year I feel there should be a review of the situation that arises in many rural post offices where mail has to be carried from the post office to the railway trains or other distributing points.

I mentioned this to the minister a year or so ago when he was first given the portfolio, and I think he is quite aware of the necessity for doing something to alleviate the situation that exists in some of these rural areas. I do not think it is reasonable that the post office department should show a large surplus every year. A little experimentation along the lines of giving slightly improved service in these rural areas would be well worth while even if the Post Office Department showed a deficit for a year.

The most recent case I have in mind is one which I think is under investigation by

the Post Office Department at this time. I am referring to the situation that obtains at Dunster, in my own riding, and there are others which arise from time to time.

I would hope the Post Office Department would consider doing a little more in the way of increasing the remuneration paid to the people who carry mail, particularly taking into consideration the prevailing wage scale in the area where the work is performed. This is a factor which I fully realize is difficult to overcome in many instances where you have a high wage scale prevailing in one part of the country and a low wage scale prevailing in another. Under these circumstances it is difficult to have a uniform policy that is going to apply across Canada. However, I think a closer look should be given to the matter to see if the service can be improved somewhat at the rural points.

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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate my hon. friend's remarks, and I have had conversations with him previously about the particular situation he has mentioned. We are trying to expand these services. We realize that in these distant areas where travelling may be difficult people are just as anxious to receive their mail as elsewhere, and we plan to expand these services further.

As regards the wages paid to the couriers, I might say that these services are performed under contract, as my hon. friend realizes, so the price paid the courier is the price at which he has tendered. However, in estimating what we consider to be a fair price for a contract we take into consideration the differential in wages in various parts of the country basing our calculations on the figures provided to us periodically by the Department of Labour.

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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

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

Mr. Knight:

Mr. Chairman, I would like once again to draw to the attention of the authorities the question of new post office facilities at Saskatoon. I use the word "authorities" because the Postmaster General will hasten to assure me it is now the business of the Minister of Public Works. Plans for new post office facilities at Saskatoon have already been authorized. I suppose "authorized" is to be preferred to the word "okayed" which was on the tip of my tongue; it is amazing how slang creeps into our language. Anyway, "okayed" is what I mean.

I have a press dispatch which appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix of April 2, which reached me only today. The headline reads, "Postal Business Tops $1,000,000 for First Time", and this of course refers to the city of

Saskatoon. I shall not take the time of the committee to read the entire article, but it says in part:

Postmaster L. H. Duggleby was beaming today as he checked financial records that showed the Saskatoon post office did more than $1,000,000 in business for the fiscal year that ended March 31.

I need not question the minister concerning the new post office, because he has already given me assurances that plans have been approved for the new post office and the site has been purchased, but I think it would be just as well to check on these matters once more. Therefore I might say we are simply waiting for the Minister of Public Works as the head of that department to give the word, as it were.

I have two matters to draw to the attention of the Postmaster General, one of which is that the post office in Saskatoon is now responsible for the mail delivery, at some distance from the centre of the city, to the residents of the town of Sutherland, which was amalgamated last year with the city of Saskatoon. The mail is now delivered from the central office in Saskatoon rather than from the little local post office at Sutherland where the people used to call for their mail. May I say that is a great advantage to the people of Sutherland. They appreciate the action of the post office in this regard, and though I might point out that we thought it was a trifle slow in coming nevertheless the conditions were fulfilled.

However, the point is that the central office has the extra business to handle. If one were to read the statement from the postmaster at Saskatoon to which I have referred one would see that business in every sphere has increased. I am merely seeking to point out that with the growth of our city the need for the new post office facilities is becoming greater and greater. We already have the assurance of the Postmaster General that new facilities will be provided any time as far as he is concerned.

Another matter with which I wish to deal concerns the extra delivery men for Sutherland. There was another statement made by the Saskatoon postmaster which I quoted a month or two ago when I spoke on this question. The local postmaster stated that he did not want to undergo another Christmas rush like the one last year unless he had these added facilities.

One must know that if it involves a new building, these facilities cannot be provided before the next Christmas rush, but they could be provided and ready for the one which would come after that. Owing to the great increase in population-the population is now some 72,000 and is going up-it seems

Supply-Post Office

to me that these facilities should be provided and the post office officials and workers should not be asked to handle that immense amount of business with the facilities with which they are now provided.

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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PC

John Angus MacLean

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacLean:

Mr. Chairman, I wonder if the minister could make some further statement as to what progress is being made as the result of recommendations to the department with regard to a general increase in the remuneration to rural mail couriers. This is something in which many members are especially interested, particularly those who come from rural ridings, because we are all aware that the rural mail couriers work under most difficult conditions in some cases. They perform a vitally important service, and quite often put up with conditions which do not exist as far as many public servants are concerned. They are men who certainly receive and deserve the appreciation of the people they serve and I wonder if the minister could say what formula, if any, has been arrived at in order to increase the remuneration of the rural couriers generally.

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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

Mr. Chairman, I did announce some time ago in the house that on my instructions a survey had been made last fall and that every case was being looked into. My hon. friend may have seen in the estimates that there is provision for such an increase. Each case has been analysed very carefully, and there are now between 200 and 300 to be processed out of a total of over 5,000 cases throughout the country. This is being done at the present time; the adjustments have been determined, and these rural mail couriers will be advised before the end of this month of the adjustment that has been made in their contracts.

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PC

John Angus MacLean

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacLean:

Thank you very much. In that connection I take it that each case is being judged on its merits and that there is no formula.

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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

Each case has been looked into individually. This procedure has to be followed because in some cases the courier had made an application within a month or two before the decision was made. As he could make this application under the law if he could meet the terms of the section of the act, the application had been processed and he had already received that increase. Naturally, therefore, in those circumstances his case had been settled and he would not receive as much as the others whose cases had not been considered for some years. That made it necessary for each case to be looked into individually.

Supply-Post Office

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

Could the minister give some indication as to what percentage of the contracts are being increased; just a rough idea?

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

About 80 per cent of them will be increased.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

Did I understand the minister to say there would be a retroactive adjustment on the payment, or does it date from some particular date?

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

The item in the estimates provided that the increase will be retroactive to October 1, 1956.

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

May I ask the minister whether this is a change in policy on the part of the department?

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

It is a change in policy in this manner, Mr. Chairman. Under the postal act, increases in contracts for rural mail delivery can be dealt with under certain circumstances, one of them being that the contract has to have been in effect for two years, and there must have been a lapse of at least two years before an application can be considered for a new increase in the price of a contract.

The situation which arose was that in a case where, for instance, the contractor had received an increase in his contract say four years ago, after his contract had been running two years. He had made an application which had been examined, and his contract had been increased. When the contract was renewed this constituted a new contract, and he could not ask for a further increase until two years had run on the new contract, so he was still operating on the price determined four years previously and the act, as it exists now, would not permit him to make an application or permit the department to give him an increase on that contract.

By providing an estimate as we have done this year it does, however, give the department the authority to look into every one of these contracts and, regardless of the length of time the contract has been in effect or the time which has elapsed since the last increase, to make an adjustment if it is deemed necessary.

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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April 6, 1957