THE Government of the Dominion assumed the control of the postal service at the time of Confederation, and since that period the business of the Post Office Department has steadily grown to large proportions. In 1868 there were 3,638 post offices in operation, while in 1909 the number had increased to 12,479. The letters posted in the former year were 18,100,000, but last year the number was 414,301,000. The revenue of the Post Office in 1868 was 808,857 dollars, and the expenditure 785,298 dollars. In 1909 the net revenue was 7,401,623 dollars and the expenditure 6,592,386 dollars. From 1869 down to 1901 there was a series of deficits on the working, but since the last mentioned year there have been successive surpluses, those for 1906, 1907 and 1908 amounting to over a million dollars, while the surplus of revenue over expenditure in 1909 was 809,237 dollars.
As showing the extent to which the facilities for obtaining Money Orders and Postal Notes are used it may be mentioned that the total amount remitted by these means during the year ended 30th June, 1909, was 57,740,622 dollars, an enormous increase over that for the same period in 1899 which was 15,239,486 dollars. The issue of Postal Notes, which are similar in character to Postal Orders, was commenced in 1898 for the purpose of providing the public with a cheap and convenient means of remitting small sums of money.
The number of Post Office Savings Banks is 1,102, and the amount received as deposits in 1909 was 9,415,569 dollars. The balance standing to the credit of depositors on March 31st. 1909, was 45,190,484 dollars.
Canada was admitted to the Postal Union in 1878 when a uniform rate of international postage on letters of five cents per half-ounce was established. As the outcome of a Conference held in London in 1898 on the subject of reduced postal rates within the British Empire, the rate of letter postage between Canada, the United Kingdom and various other portions of the Empire was lowered from 2+d. to one penny her half-ounce. The change which came into operation in December, 1908, resulted in a great increase in the correspondence between Canada and the United Kingdom. It was on the motion of Sir William Mulock, at that time Postmaster General of Canada,that this alteration was decided upon, and it has unquestionably had a far-reaching effect in bringing about a closer connection between the Dominion and the Mother Country.
The letter rate within the borders of Canada was, on January 1st, 1899, reduced from three to two cents (one penny) per ounce.
A new postal arrangement which had the effect of increasing the number of British magazines, newspapers and trade journals posted to Canada was brought about by a convention between the Post Offices of the United Kingdom and Canada, which came into operation on May 1st, 1907. This provided for the reduction of the rate on such periodicals forwarded by direct Canadian mail steamers, from 1/2i-d. per two ounces to a special Canadian magazine rate ” of 1d. per pound or fraction of a pound. Such packets must not weigh over five pounds nor exceed two feet in length nor one foot in width or depth. A newspaper or periodical not exceeding two ounces in weight may still be posted for 1/2i-d.
This change, advantageous as it must inevitably prove, was largely brought about by the attention given to the matter in the Canadian press, and by the introduction into the Canadian Senate in February, 1905, of a resolution by the late Hon. Sir George Drummond, the terms of which were as follows :
” That the attention of the Government be directed to the local, foreign and Imperial postal charges with the view of remedying certain inequalities therein, and the Senate affirms the principle that the conveyance of letters, newspapers, books, periodicals, etc., should be at a lower scale of charges within the Empire than at the time ruling with any foreign country.”
In the course of the debate on the resolution it was pointed out that ” Imperial sentiment, which is the deliberate policy of this country as affirmed, is the strongest and most effective bond of union in the Empire,” and that to delay an alteration in the rate of postage was injurious to an important factor in the spread of Imperial feeling and sympathy. It was further stated that ” the bookstalls of this country are monopolised by American literature and periodicals, and that the appearance of an English or Canadian sample is a rare exception.”
An arrangement between Canada and the United States came into operation on May 8th, 1907, in which the privilege was withdrawn from news dealers of posting newspapers and periodicals published in the United States at a rate of one cent per pound. After the date mentioned the rate on these became one cent per four ounces or fraction of four ounces, to each separate address. By an agreement arrived at a few months later this arrangement was modified to the extent of permitting an interchange between the two countries of daily papers at the postage rate of one cent per pound.
Another improvement in the postal service was the reduction in August, 1908, in the rate on letters posted for local delivery in cities having a free letter carrier delivery from two cents per ounce to one cent. The free letter-carrier service is also being established at additional points as rapidly as possible.
The telegraph systems m Canada are for the most part conducted by chartered companies, viz. : the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, the Great North-Western Telegraph Company, the Western Union Company, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company, the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway, the North American Telegraph Company and the Algoma Central Railway. Of these the first two are the most important. The Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908 had 11,856 miles of line, 1,310 offices and dealt with 2,802,216 messages (exclusive of Press messages). The Great North-Western Company had 11,505 miles of line, 1,228 offices and dealt with 2,910,458 messages. The Western Union had 2,591 miles of line in 1908 and the Grand Trunk Pacific Company in 1909 had 1,122.
The Dominion Government owns and operates only those lines and cables which have been constructed between places where communication is required in the public interest, more particularly for signal, fishery, quarantine and other purposes of a like character. The mileage of land lines is 6,973, of cables 259, the number of offices being 401.