Mr. La Salle:
Mr. Chairman, I take this opportunity, now that my turn has come, to say a few words about such an important and controversial bill.
I am convinced that the Postmaster General is not happy to lead such a delicate and difficult attack against Canadian voters, I am perfectly aware that the minister has inherited a very difficult post. I am ready to sympathize with him to a certain extent. I even ask myself if the previous government which ignored the findings of the Montpetit Commission is not responsible for the present minister's increasing difficulties.
I suppose that it is not too late however to ask the minister to show better understanding and I think that, in the name of common sense, we will be able at this stage of the bill to score a few points in the public interest.
I noticed this afternoon that government members were overjoyed by the defeat of the amendment. However I am convinced that all members are not willing to impose such heavy increases on small taxpayers. Of course, the minister is perfectly right on certain points, but I wonder how high increases as those proposed can be generalized.
I have not yet agreed that the Post Office Department must pay its own way at the expense of the quality of services rendered to the people. It has become generally accepted in various administration that one department can show a deficit which can be covered by others or out of the consolidated revenue fund.
I suppose that the Postmaster General (Mr. Kierans) must consider in the first place the services to be rendered to the community before trying to make his department profitable. As he is now bringing in the bill, the present minister is only considering whether his department is economic, and I wonder if he is right. I understand that he is used to handling figures and he is well versed in financial matters, but I would like to assure the minister that the Canadian people do not understand so easily the importance of an increase.
I cannot refrain from defending the situation of weeklies, since we are lucky enough to have in my constituency four weeklies which are quite well organized and render tremendous services to the people. I quite agree with the hon. member who said yesterday that those weeklies are even more useful than television and that if the bill is passed, we shall be deprived of a number of weeklies, which would be unfortunate indeed. On behalf of those weeklies, in my district as well as all over Canada, I tell the minister that I hope he will be sensible enough to change his position and to give particular consideration to this class of mail which is absolutely necessary in all areas so that they can get adequate information.
A little while ago, I asked the minister a question to which I would very much have liked to receive an answer. I asked him if, in view of the information received to the effect that Saturday was the worst day of the week to cancel postal delivery, another day of the week could be considered? I should like the minister to consider this, if he has not already done so. I should think that Wednesday, for instance, in the middle of the week, would be less damageable. I am not saying that it would suit everyone, but somehow I feel that a day in the middle of the week would be more acceptable to everyone. I make this suggestion because I think the members of the opposition should not be content to say no, for the fun of it: they should try to suggest an alternative. I thought of this suggestion, and after discussing it with several people, it seems to me a day in the middle
October 24, 1968
of the week would be less inconvenient than Saturday.
I am pleased to say to the minister that I appreciate the fact that he reversed his decision on rural delivery. It must be remembered that in my riding alone, for instance, out of 36 parishes, 30 do not even have postoffice boxes. Well, it is obvious that from the day this legislation comes into force, 30 municipalities will not be able to get any service on Saturday; it is too bad and it is regrettable. That is why the fact of selecting another day than Saturday would seem more acceptable I think than the measure before us.
[DOT] (10:20 p.m.)
I should also like to say to the minister that as a new member of parliament, and I do not want to miss this opportunity, that I am a little surprised and even disappointed at the carelessness with which all these commitments have been made by the government, or the party, that took office on June 25. They were assuring us they would cut expenses and limit the increase in taxes. Therefore, I am most unhappy to see that after five or six weeks at the most, they have already announced a tremendous increase in postal rates.
The budget has revealed another, and the hon. Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Olson) assures us that the ceiling on the interest rate will disappear. I wonder whether this is the just society we were led to expect. I am sorry, and others in the house with me, to see the government increase taxes that way.
Once more, I appeal to all members of the government party, because I do not think they are happy with such a large increase. The extension of the reimbursement of the deficit over a period of a few years has been refused, on the grounds that, three or four years from now, nothing will have been gained.
I would rather see the increase distributed over two, three, four or five years, which would make it less painful this year. Perhaps, with time, we would arrive at the same increase, but people would know in advance and could accept it more easily.
Again, I take this opportunity to invite all the hon. members to plead with the minister to show greater understanding for the electorate and the whole Canadian people. I have to do that. Naturally, much has been said. Some hon. members have a talent for expressing this sort of thing better than I can, but I think the minister understands me. I also think the hon. members understand me and,
Post Office Act
in my opinion, every one of them should plead for a slightly more humane policy than the one expressed in this bill and a more humane attitude on the part of the minister.
I hope this exhortation will lead the minister to be a little more understanding, and perhaps allow the Canadian people to accept a raise somewhat less steep than the one which the minister is now suggesting. I also hope that some consideration will be given to reducing expenditure in other departments, so that the Post Office Department, which is in the first place a public service, may be more protected than it seems to be at present.
Topic: POST OFFICE ACT
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS AFFECTING RATES, ADMINISTRATION, SAVINGS BANK