October 17, 1968



Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, by coincidence my question follows rather naturally the concluding words that the Postmaster General (Mr. Kierans) has used in answering the last question, and I hope he will say more when I have had my

October 17, 1968

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion few minutes. Yesterday during the question period I asked him whether, since there is no reference in Bill No. C-116 to the stopping of mail delivery on Saturdays, he could tell us under what authority he had made this decision.

The Postmaster General replied, quite properly, that this was under the authority of the powers vested in the Postmaster General. I was aware of this, but as the Postmaster General recognized from my supplementary question, I was trying to make the point that when you get to a matter that concerns people as much as this one does, a minister should be very careful about exercising, without reference to parliament, such authority as he may feel he has.

[DOT] (10:30 p.m.)

I have checked, both before and since yesterday, the Post Office Act to try to find under what sections he exercises this authority. I find nothing very specific, although I do find that the Postmaster General shall administer, superintend and manage the Canada Post Office, and that he may do a lot of things. One of the things is, with the consent of the governor in council, to provide for the door to door delivery of mail. I find that he may, as I said, do many other things, one of them, which I suppose he has read a thousand times, being that he may make regulations for the efficient operation of the Canada Post Office. I freely admit that in the absence of any limiting phrases these general rights which are given to the Postmaster General do give him a good deal of latitude.

I suppose it is under this general authority that the previous postmaster general dropped the delivery service in urban areas from twice a day to once a day. Now this Postmaster General proposes to discontinue the Saturday service. By the same token he could go on and cut it down to four, three or one delivery a week. He could have mail delivered in certain cities on Mondays and in other cities on Tuesdays, and so on. I realize that I am stating the ridiculous, but I am doing it to make my point, that even though the Postmaster General can argue that he has the legal authority to make changes of this kind, when a matter is as serious as this one he ought somehow to bring it before parliament.

The Postmaster General keeps telling us that we can discuss this matter when we get to the second reading and further stages of bill No. C-116. I can also anticipate some hon. members raising points of order if we try to do that because there is nothing in bill No.

C-116 about the five day week delivery, or anything of that nature.

However, in the meantime there is some dialogue between parliament and the Postmaster General with respect to questions that have been raised. We have had that dialogue on the floor and he has had it with the 35 good men and true. He has also had it in the correspondence he received from across the country. I am just pleading with him to go on a step further from the position he had reached when he sat down, just before I got up. He admitted that since he announced the decision that there would be a five day week, commencing on February 1, a lot of matters had to be considered and perhaps that decision will be modified. I am interested to learn that he realizes that this creates a problem in rural areas. I suggest this will also create a problem in many urban areas. If the Postmaster General feels that some deliveries have to be cut down to five days, such as deliveries in business areas for example, I suggest that he reconsider the delivery in home areas and the matter of keeping post offices open on Saturdays.

I might remind him that in some countries of the world some post offices are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I do not see the logic of his proposal, bearing in mind that the job of the post office is to provide service.

I suppose it is partly because the Postmaster General has had his quota of strong language from my friend, the hon. member for Cape Breton-East Richmond (Mr. Maclnnis) that I am speaking in these more modest terms, or perhaps it is because of my sore throat which keeps me from getting quite so excited tonight. However, I feel very strongly about the changes that are proposed and about the unilateral way in which this is being done, simply by an announcement to parliament. We did not get many promises during the last election campaign but we did get the promise of involvement; the people were going to be in the government of the country. It is not possible to get them all here. We cannot have 20 million people down here; but 264 of us are here, and I think that we should be consulted by this government more than has been the case. I am not going to cite the other things that have happened already in the course of this session. However, I think on this one the Postmaster General ought to reconsider his position.

Before I sit down, I should say I welcome his statement that he is reviewing the matter.

October 17, 1968

I hope he will be a big enough man to review it all the way if necessary and, if he feels the review leads him to that position, say that the announcement was a mistake and that he will leave the six day service for the people of Canada. The Post Office has a record of service. Let us not spoil it, as some of us think would be the case if this announced decision is put into effect. I am glad to learn the Postmaster General is paying attention to the representations made to him by Liberals and by members of the public generally. I hope he will pay attention also to this representation I make to him again tonight.


Eric William Kierans (Postmaster General)


Hon. Eric W. Kierans (Postmaster General):

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I appreciate the moderate language of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). As he knows, I have a great admiration for him and for his service to the Canadian people, which goes back a long time. I should like to say this, that a five day week does involve a considerable saving in the cost of operation of the post office. It involves also, of course, some disadvantages to some or all sections of the population who expect delivery service. At the same time, I think one can reasonably make a distinction between those who have a real need, let us say, for delivery of their weekly newspaper or Saturay edi-

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion tions of their daily newspaper, and those sections of the population who are not interested in having their mail delivered on Saturday, particularly the business section. We must weigh the advantages against the possible costs. In other words, if one can save $13 million or $8 million by a partial introduction of such a delivery system, is it worth while doing so?

One can always spend whatever one saves when the needs are so many and so pressing in so many different areas, whether they be education or health and welfare. One can always spend money equitably and put it to advantage. The problem, therefore, is how much we will save by a complete cessation of Saturday service; how much will we save by a partial cessation of Saturday service? We have people in the department working on this problem now.

I expect to make a statement on Monday at the second reading stage of the bill. This will give all hon. members an opportunity to debate the soundness of that decision or declaration. As I have said, each member will have an opportunity in the house to interpret the statement, comment on it, applaud it or criticize it.

Motion agreed to and the house adjourned at 10.41 p.m.


Friday, October 18, 1968


October 17, 1968