I should like to follow
up what has been said by some hon. members regarding opportunities offered to the Post Office Department to increase its services throughout the dominion. I have particular reference to the post office savings bank. I believe I have brought the savings bank to the attention of the committee at former sessions. Upon looking up the record of a few years back I find that from 1930 to 1937 there has been a gradual decline in the balance to the credit of depositors, and that it was not until last year that an increase was shown. In 1930 the balance stood at $26,086,036.03, and in 1938 it was $22,587,233.09. In the same manner the number of accounts declined until 1937, and then began to increase. In 1930 the number of accounts stood at 82,428, whereas in 1938 it was 84,118.
Until last year the number of post offices with savings bank departments had gradually declined. In 1930 there were 1,343, and in 1938 there were 1,362. The amount of interest paid by the Post Office Department on deposits decreased each year until last, when there was a slight increase. I am glad to note this turn of events. I believe one forward step which to a great extent has been responsible for the increase has been the change whereby a depositor was permitted to withdraw $100 a day. Formerly there was a limit of $50. If an improvement of that kind has brought about an all-round increase in one year, I should think it must certainly be encouraging for the Post Office Department further to increase its services to the public, and it will receive the proper support.
In the last ten or fifteen years there have been taking place in the dominion changes which, in my opinion, offer a great opportunity to the post office to give a service of
which the public in many communities has been deprived. When I make that statement I am thinking of the banks which have pulled out of so many places and left the people without banking facilities. It seems to me that there is an opportunity for the Post Office Department to fill in that which is lacking. From 1920 to 1937 bank branches were closed in each of the provinces to the following extent:
Prince Edward Island 14
Nova Scotia 35
New Brunswick 24
British Columbia 54
In the Yukon there was an increase of one. These figures represent the closing of a total of 1,341 branches of banks between 1920 and 1937. I know that many of those branches may have been closed where there were two or three banks in one place. But there were many places where there was only one bank and, despite that fact, the bankers pulled out. As a result, people have had to drive thirty or forty miles to do their banking business.
I would ask the Postmaster General to consider the possibility of increasing the facilities of the post office savings bank to give accommodation to these people. I have in my hand a resolution passed by the delegates of district No. 12 of the Saskatchewan wheat pool in December last. It reads as follows:
Whereas the residents of rural and small urban communities are now almost entirely deprived of the services of certain functions of commercial banking through the withdrawal of branches of the chartered banks from these communities; and
Whereas the lack of these facilities make it necessary for our elevator department to appoint local payors with many attendant risks and inconveniences; and
Whereas the Post Office Department of Canada now performs certain financial services through their savings and annuity branches; and
Whereas the Bank of Canada Act authorizes the Bank of Canada to render to the people of Canada broad services through the monetary system; and
Whereas the purpose of the post office and the Bank of Canada is fundamentally to serve the people of Canada;
Therefore we, the delegates of district 12, hereby urge our board of directors to enter into negotiations with the proper governmental authorities to make it possible, through legislation or otherwise, for our rural and small urban post offices to render to their communities the services of commercial banking to the extent of deposits and withdrawals on current account, including chequing privileges.
That may be too big a step to [DOT]take at one time, but I suggest it is worthy of consideration.
There is a further suggestion I would make to the Postmaster General. In many instances branch banks have pulled out, leaving buildings with all the necessary facilities. I would suggest that the post office might utilize those buildings, because many of them are standing empty. They have all the necessary conveniences to carry on the work, and could be used to render a real service to the communities they would serve.
I am pleased to learn that an allowance for advertising has been set aside. I have noticed a general lack of knowledge regarding the post office savings bank. Many prominent citizens do not know of the services at their disposal. One may go into a post office and find only one card advertising the services of the savings bank department. At the present time there is no general attempt to pass on information to the general public informing them of the services at their disposal, and I am suggesting that those services should be better advertised. This would be one of the most convenient travelling aids people like ourselves could have. With a post office savings bank account, we could go into a post office anywhere in the dominion to withdraw what money we needed without having to pay exchange or anything else. It would not be necessary to carry round large sums of money.
There are one or two minor matters that I should like to suggest to the Postmaster General. The first is in connection with the passbook which has provision for only twenty entries. In my opinion the passbook should be larger. When the passbook is filled up, the postmaster has no authority to issue a new book. The old book must be sent to Ottawa when a new one is issued with the balance verified. I think the postmaster in a community should have authority to issue a new book, thus eliminating the wait of eight or ten days or two weeks that it takes to get one from Ottawa. Last year the former leader of the opposition appealed to the government to increase the interest rate paid on post office savings to 21 per cent. I think this increase in interest would encourage depositors to deposit their money, and the government would have a means of helping to carry on the finances of the country.
I should like to refer to one other matter which has been mentioned already in this discussion, namely, patronage. I have a letter here that I received from a man who had carried the mails under contract for eighteen years and three months. His contract expired
on December 31 last, but there was no renewal forwarded. The post office authorities told him to carry on because there must be some mistake, but his new contract did not come along. Then on March 31 he received word that his services would no longer be required and that a new man would be on duty the next morning. That is the only intimation he received after a service of eighteen years and three months. These things should not be.
Topic: POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT