Hon. Azellus Denis (Postmaster General):
In presenting the estimates for the department for this year, I can surely not be accused of patronage since these estimates have been initiated and prepared by our honourable friends opposite.
Under these circumstances, naturally, you will permit me to be somewhat restricted in my praise, while being fair towards my coworkers by chance.
Since the annual report of the department for the year 1962-63 has not yet been tabled- it is at the printers-I will allow myself to outline the most important points, then to comment on our 1963-64 estimates, and finally, to inform the house of the initiation of reforms and decisions undertaken by the department since the coming into power of the present
government, and in doing this, I will necessarily limit the number outlined in order not to prolong the debate.
The year 1962-63 was to the Post Office Department, a most significant year of re-organization. Following the report of the royal commission on government organization, every effort was made to incorporate those recommendations of the commission which pertained to the department and which were under the department's jurisdiction.
The changes made emphasized, to a great extent, the decentralization of authority and responsibility to the benefit of officers in the field. As a result, many decisions will be made in the field, providing better service to the public, as field officers will be empowered to make many decisions on the spot rather than wait for approval from headquarters. The changeover is also expected to eliminate much correspondence between headquarters and the field. Headquarters, of course, still remain responsible for formulation of policy and headquarters officers will be in a better position to spend more time on this aspect of the work.
The 1962-63 fiscal year shows total receipts amounting to $222,358,848 while our disbursements totalled $218,872,399 leaving a surplus of $3,486,449.
This compares quite favourably with the figures recorded in 1960-61 and 1961-62, which showed deficits in round figures of $4.7 million and $1.2 million respectively. We must, however, take into account salary increases to post office personnel, which amount to $230,000 and which must be charged to the year 1961-62 and credited to the year 1962-63. On the other hand, we must also debit the retroactive part, amounting to $4,887,076, of the recent salary increases paid during the current year, which should be charged to the fiscal year 1962-63. These retroactive increases produce a real deficit of about $1 million for that year, rather than the surplus of about $3.5 million.
Letter carrier service was inaugurated at Summerside, P.E.I., Oromocto, N.B., Thornhill, Ontario, Ste. Rose, Quebec and Hawkes-bury, Ontario. In addition, 207 additional letter carrier walks were placed in operation, bringing to 3,113,765 the number of calls where letter carriers provide door to door mail delivery. The increase in the number of calls is less than in previous years. This is a result of the reduced expenditure program undertaken by the government during the year under review. The 5,640 rural routes now in operation across Canada have brought this service to an all-time high, serving 645,115 householders.
Post office activities in the field of labour relations saw improved procedures in regard to truck drivers who are employed by contractors for major mail transportation services. Clauses have been inserted in the post office contracts with carriers establishing a minimum hourly wage determined by the Department of Labour. Other clauses incorporated in the contracts deal with annual holidays with pay.
During the year the volume of mail handled showed an increase of 3.94 per cent over the figures for 1961-62. It should be noted that, due to increased efficiency and more effective planning, this increased volume of mail was handled by a staff increase of only one half of one per cent.
The increases and improvements in service that I have described-in letter carrier service, in rural route service, in mail volume and in revenue figures-are the result of the normal growth of the postal service in an expanding economy and a growing population. These increases have been accompanied by an increase in the costs of salaries, transportation and equipment, which are also a normal product of an expanding service.
This pattern of normal growth is reflected in the statistical review of the year 1962-63. While these statistics will be presented in detail on the tabling of the Postmaster General's report, I should like to mention just a few of them here. For instance, departmental revenues increased by almost $9 million in 1962-63 over the previous year. Similarly, departmental expenditures increased by about $4 million during the same period. These figures do not, as I mentioned earlier, include back-dated salary increases which result in a net deficit for the year.
So much for the past. The total departmental estimates for 1963-64 are $191,704,000, which represent an increase of $1,113,500 over last year, taking into consideration supple-mentaries for both years. It should be noted that salary and transportation increases, factors over which the department has little control, account for the bulk of this figure, which has only been kept down to this level by savings made in these and other areas of expenditures.
Our increased expenditures will be met to a large extent by increased postal rates and fees which I announced some months ago. With the new rates, we have calculated that the department will about break even over the next three-year period. It should be noted that without the recent increases, the department's anticipated deficit over the next three years would have been nearly $15 million.
I should like to point out that the five separate rate increases recently announced were all for services which were not paying their way. Under the new rates, there will still be a net loss, but it will be much less.
I have indicated that normal additional services, particularly in regard to letter carrier service, had been slowed down by the government's reduced expenditure program.
I am pleased to tell you that part of the additional revenue from the recent rate increase is being used to provide door-to-door mail delivery on a normal basis which will give this type of service to some 20,000 new homes in the immediate future. Already, since the beginning of October more than
10.000 householders have been granted door-to-door letter carrier delivery service and the others will follow as quickly as arrangements can be completed.
I also intend to give a brand new look to Canadian postage stamps and, in the future, Canadians can look for brighter and more interesting stamps as the department produces three and perhaps four colour stamps by a combination of steel engraving and offset lithography as compared to the customary one or two colour designs. Red will be mostly used to make them more attractive.
We plan to begin a series of coloured stamps showing the various provincial floral emblems. We have under way what I think are attractive stamps on the themes of world peace and Canadian unity, and also stamps to commemorate the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences of 1864 which led to confederation. We have decided, for next year, to issue a special Christmas stamp that should be most appropriate.
The department has in its vaults some
58.000 foreign stamps. We wish to display this magnificent collection for the public. This vast collection is now being catalogued and organized and, we hope, will soon be made available for public inspection both at Ottawa and at other points across the country.
Since becoming Postmaster General I have met with great pleasure every group of postal employees who wanted to meet me. In addition, I have met with the executive officers of all the postal associations. I have also done everything I could to back up the work of the department's standing committee on employee relations. As a proof of my interest in the welfare of the employees, I have succeeded in increasing the percentage of the salary increases granted to postmasters of smaller offices during the recent pay revisions.
Another example of my interest in the welfare of the employees was my decision to give the postmasters of smaller offices an
opportunity to compete for promotion in a wider field, and that, at the request of their association.
Topic: POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT