Hon. SYDNEY FISHER (Minister of Agriculture).
Speaking on behalf of the Postmaster General, we have not a copy of the circular to which the hon. gentleman refers, but I may say that circular was sent
out pursuant to regulations of the Post Office Department dealing with the conduct of postmasters generally. The department issued instructions that postmasters must not distribute matter which was sent to them in hulk, as it interfered materially with the collection of revenue, inasmuch as such mail matter would pass through the mails at cheaper rates than it otherwise would. That of course would not apply to a frank, but at the same time the post office authorities have found it necessary to deal with the postmasters on general principles and to instruct them as to their conduct with regard to all mail matter whether franked or stamped. If discretion were allowed to postmasters as to when they should carry out the departmental instructions, we would have endless difficulty and the postmasters would be constantly contravening their instructions in a way which would very materially interfere with the postal revenue. In this particular case the postmaster seems to have received a parcel of something sent by a member of this House. The post office authorities have no information as to what instructions the postmaster received from the sender of the package. However he was doing what was contrary to his instructions in taking the contents of that parcel and distributing them. Under ordinary circumstances if that parcel had been stamped the revenue received from it would be very much less than if the documents had been sent separately and each stamped. It is therefore evident that in the public interest postmasters s'hould not be allowed to follow the practice complained of. If postmasters could exercise their discretion to do or to refuse to do what they are requested, it might lead to complications in regard to the personality of the postmaster and result in postmasters doing what would entail dismissal or severe reprimand from the postal authorities. The post office considers that a frank is merely a substitute for a stamp, and that franked matter is subject to all the regulations which govern stamped matter sent through the mails. The frank is accepted by the authorities as entitling a letter to go forward, but at the same time it carries with it no privilege which stamped mail matter would not carry. I do not think there is any further information to be given, but if my hon. friend desires further explanation I will be glad to ascertain it from the Post Office Department.
Subtopic: POST OFFICE REGULATIONS.