June 6, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


David Henderson

Conservative (1867-1942)


We are all very glad to hear the statement of the Minister of Agriculture, because we have no desire to put the postmasters of the country in an improper position. I may say that I have been a frequent offender under the rule laid down by the Minister of Agriculture. We receive a great many bulletins, not only those emanating from the Commission on Agriculture and Colonization of the House, but other documents of a character such

as pass through the mails without postage, and I have had no hesitation at any time in putting these up in parcels of from ten to twelve, addressing them to a particular country postmaster, and writing upon them 'parliamentary papers,' and a request to distribute them. I have found the postmasters always willing to hand these out to the farmers, exercising, X presume, a discretion in giving them to such farmers as are likely to make a proper use of them. I do not think that is an improper use of the post office. These bulletins are entitled to go free through the post office, whether sent from Ottawa or from our homes ; and this method of sending simply avoided the necessity of my addressing them separately. I have made it a point to ask the farmers in the section of country to which they were sent, and I have found that the postmasters did, at my request, distribute these bulletins. I know no better way of getting this information into the bands of the people of the country, and I think the Postmaster General is placing undue restriction upon the liberties of members of parliament in making a strict rule of this kind. The question of revenue is not involved at all, because if a member has a right to frank a parcel containing a dozen documents, he has a right to frank each one separately. If he franks each one separately and addresses it to the individual into whose hands he wishes it to go, there is nothing lost to the revenue, and there would be nothing lost to the revenue if he sent ten or a dozen of these to the postmaster and asked him to distribute them. I do not presume that any member of parliament would think of sending out mail matter that was not entitled to free delivery, and ask a postmaster to distribute that. I do not think such a practice has taken place ; I have not heard of it; nor do I think that any member of parliament would jeopardize his position by presuming to do anything of that kind. I think the Postmaster General might reasonably make an exception of parliamentary documents bearing the impress of the King's Printer, which are entitled to go through the post office free of charge. The Minister of Agriculture is certainly mistaken in regard to the loss of revenue. The revenue would not be affected one whit. I fail to see that any wrong would he done to the country, and so long ns the postmaster is willing to do this slight service in accommodating his neighbour by banding around sucb documents as bulletins, I think there is practically no ground for complaint. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture, who is acting for the Postmaster General in his absence, to point this out to the Postmaster General, and ask him not to deprive us of this privilege *which we have enjoyed, legally or illegally. I never thought that I was doing anything wrong when I was using the postal service for a very proper purpose-to promote the Mr. HENDERSON.
work of the Minister of Agriculture. Now he seeks to impose a restriction upon us. I think the farmers of the country will not care to have him stand up in the House and say that their privileges should he interfered with in this way. This is a matter of convenience to members of parliament, who are busy people when they get home. If we get four or five hundred bulletins, and have to sit down and address each one separately, and look up tbe post offices, my impression is that they will be found in tbe waste basket instead of going into the hands of the farmers. If an exception were made in this case, I am satisfied that no loss of revenue would result, and no harm would be done in any way.
Mr. FISHEIi. My bon. friend does not seem to have caught the point I was making. I had no intention of expressing the idea that the mailing of matter by members in that way affected the revenue. What I did point out was that the franking privilege carries with it no privilege that stamped mail matter does not. The frank simply takes the place of the stamp. The regulations and rules of the office have to apply to franked matter just the same as they do to stamped matter. If postmasters are to be allowed to do this work for correspondents, whether members of parliament or not, it will interfere, very materially and seriously, with the collection of revenue in the case of stamped matter. That is tbe view of tbe Post Office Department. If they are to allow a postmaster to do this under certain circumstances and not under other circumstances, tbe authorities contend that it would bring about confusion iu tbe post offices. Postmasters would very often do it when they were not allowed to do it as well as when they were allowed to do it. I am informed by the deputy Postmaster General that there has to be ou the part of the authorities a very constant and close watch, especially over country postmasters, because they are con-stanly being asked to facilitate the use of the post office for the carriage of matter without payment. It is very common for people in a country village to put things into the post office without placing stamps ou them for somebody else who collects his mail at that office. That of course is clearly contrary to the interest of the postal revenue, because all such matter ought to be stamped. That is only one of many ways in which postmasters are tempted not to collect revenue which ought to be collected. Every exception made tends to increase that confusion and tbe chances of loss of revenue. My bon. friend has said that it is a great convenience to members to be able to call on postmasters to do this work for them. I grant that ; I have no doubt of it. At tbe same time, the post office authorities consider that tbe calling on postmasters to do that is a distinct interference with their work as postmasters,

and is detrimental to the public service. If postmasters are asked, they do not like to refuse. They will probably find a great deal of difficulty in refusing their representative in the House ; and yet the doing of. it might seriously interfere with the performance of their duties for which they are paid by the Post Office Department. For that reason the Post Office Department does not consider that it is in the public interest that such a request should be made to the postmaster. My hon. friend speaks about the distribution of literature to the farmers. No doubt it is very desirable that that should be done as widely as possible. At the same time, I do not think that the farmers of the country are asking any special privileges or advantages which other people should not have. If this concession were to be made to members, there is no evidence or knowledge as to the kind of literature that would be sent.
A member can send a bundle to one postmaster and a bundle to another, but unfortunately in the country post offices that opportunity has been taken advantage of for the distribution of circulars and advertisements and things of that kind-I do not mean with the frank but without the frank -in the ordinary course of business. Consequently the post office authorities had to exercise very considerable supervision over the conduct of the post masters in this respect.

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