Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Free Mail During the Centennial Period
Members of the House of Commons

This article deals with free mail sent by Members of the House of Commons during the Centennial period.

At the beginning of the Centennial period, letters and other mailable matter addressed to or by any Member of the House of Commons while at Ottawa, during any session of Parliament, or during the ten days immediately preceding or following a session of Parliament could pass free of postage provided these letters and other matter were posted at or addressed to the House of Commons and not to the private residence in Ottawa of the member.

This was amended on July 1,1971. Members of the House of Commons could send mail, free of postage, from any place in Canada and receive mail, free of postage, at any place in Canada, at any time of the year, for the duration of Parliament and ten days following dissolution of Parliament.

In addition, on and after July 1, 1971, members of the House of Commons could send from any post office in Canada free of postage to constituents four mailings of printed "householder" matter, for any fiscal year.

Parliaments during the Centennial period and examples of Free mail

There were three Parliaments during the Centennial period:

1. 27th Parliament : January 18, 1966 - March 23, 1968
2. 28th Parliament : September 9, 1968 - September 1, 1972
3. 29th Parliament : January 4, 1973 - May 4, 1974

1. 27th Parliament : January 18, 1966 - March 23, 1968

This minority parliament under Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson was the first Parliament of the Centennial period.

The first cover shows the elements which are seen on free mail letters from Members of Parliament:

In the lower left corner of the envelope is the name of the member. It is the handstamped signature of Member of Parliament Alvin Hamilton:

The House of Commons dated meter with hour indicia in green ink indicates that this is a Free letter:

Mailed August 23, 1967 at the 11th hour

The reverse of the envelope usually identified the letter as being sent from the House of Commons:

The biography and photograph of Alvin Hamilton, Member of Parliament, can be found at the House of Commons web site:

(The above URL was correct on June 15, 2010)

The author's album page for this cover looks like this:

The second cover is from a Member of Parliament whose initials are stamped in the lower left hand corner:

In this case the MP is only identified by intials:

The member can be identified by going through the House of Commons MP alphabetical list posted on the House of Commons web site:

"J.G.L. MP" is James (Jim) Gordon Lind.

Here is the author's album page for this cover:

2. 28th Parliament : September 9, 1968 - September 1, 1972

Pierre E. Trudeau led the Liberals to a majority government in 1968.

Card autographed by Trudeau during the 1968 campaign

David Weatherhead (Scarborough West)

Wally Nesbitt (Oxford)

Unidentified MP

When several MPs have the same initial, identification of the MP is never a certainty. The address to which the letter is written may assist in the identification, since Members' mail is often addressed to constituents. The initials corresponding to the MP whose riding matches the address on the letter is the most likely MP. The riding list is available from the House of Commons web site. The identity is only suggestive since it is possible that an MP could have written the letter to a non-constituent.

The MP with initials "G.B."could not be identified:

Three Members of Parliament had the intials G.B.:

Gerald Baldwin (Peace River, Alberta)
H. Gordon Barrett (Lincoln, Ontario)
Gustave Bloiun (Manicouagan, Quebec)

The handstamps produced for the next Parliament included the constituency name.

3. 29th Parliament : January 4, 1973 - May 4, 1974

The Canadian federal election of 1972 resulted in a Liberal minority government under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Walter Baker (Grenville-Carleton)

The MP initial handstamp which included the riding name was introduced in the 29th Parliament.

John Diefenbaker (Prince Albert)

Former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker ended his political career as an opposition party MP. His handstamp had been manufactured for an earlier Parliament.