5.1 million Canadian households are going to lose home delivery; no more letter carriers personally delivering your letters, magazines or parcels. Canada will be the only major industrial nation without door to door delivery. It will be another proud legacy of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
Besides the loss of convenience for many of us, for seniors and people with disabilities it will mean a real hardship. They, not the letter carrier, will have to trek through snow, rain and gloom of night to pick up their mail and of course many will not be able to do that. We are fortunate to live in a part of the country with mild winters but in places like Brandon or Whitehorse you will be lucky to find the community mail boxes in the January snowdrifts.
The community mail boxes (CMBs) or as one person fighting the loss of door to door in London called them, self serve boxes, are problematic in the places they already exist. They serve as magnets for traffic, litter and mail thieves. Just what everyone wants to have on their front lawn.
The CMBs are going to be a real problem in older established neighbourhoods; a problem that city councils and residents will have to grapple with. When Canada Post first deployed CMBs in the 80’s they were in new suburban subdivisions and a portion of land was put aside for them. Now in an area like Old Orchard for example, where is a safe place to put them and who is going to want that particular eyesore out their front window?
So another public service is being cut and at the same time the cost is rising dramatically. For postal workers and for the communities they live in, it means the loss of some 8,000 good jobs. Good jobs are hard to come by these days.
So why is this happening? The line from Canada Post management and from the Government is that Canada Post is losing money hand over fist, and while the cuts are painful they are necessary. The only truthful part in that statement is ‘painful’.
Canada Post has made a profit in 18 of the last 20 years. Last year they made $200 million profit. Over that same 20 year period they contributed a billion dollars to general tax revenues in the form of dividends. Corporate managers, whether for TD Bank, IBM, or Canada Post, all speak from the same manual. At the same time they are making generous or even record profits they are laying off hundreds or thousands of workers so they can make even larger profits in the future.
These cuts weren’t necessary. CUPW, representing about 50,000 postal workers, has put forward alternative proposals that ‘grow’ Canada Post’s revenues. One proposal is to reestablish a postal bank. Many Post Offices around the world utilize postal banking and it generates funds that are utilized to maintain universality of postal services. Considering Canada Post has one of the largest retail networks across the country and that it reaches many parts of the country where no bank exists, it could fill a valuable niche. Canada used to have a postal bank as recently as 1968 but the banking lobby was able to get it eliminated by the Liberals.
Of course there are those who argue mail is irrelevant these days, that Canada Post is a sunset industry what with letter mail volumes declining. We are all hooked into the Internet!
Clearly for a sunset industry, it is still remarkably profitable.. However more recently on-line banking with people paying their bills via the internet has led to business mail declining. People who want hard copy of their transactions and bills now have to pay extra for that service. However that applies mainly to large corporate entities that used to mail huge volumes. Many small businesses, charities and other community groups still use letter mail. Of course that same internet has led to a boon in on- line shopping and parcel mail. There are other services Canada Post does or could offer that would fully utilize its infrastructure and brand, and generate revenue.
Also if mail is so passe why were the Tories so quick to order postal workers back to work citing that the mail was an essential service? The minister in introducing Bill C-6, the back to work legislation on June 21, 2011 said “For many Canadians, Canada Post remains a vital part of how we connect with each other, even in this digital age and it is an important part of small and large businesses across Canada.”
So what are the Conservative plans for this ‘vital’ service? So far it is to cut service drastically, increase postage by 38% and close unionized retail outlets. Sounds like a winning formula to me, if your intention is to drive customers away. They did the same thing with passenger rail service before they privatized it and BC Ferries is following the same strategy. The long term plan is to sell off, probably at fire sale prices, the profitable portions of Canada Post to their friends, similar to what happened in the UK recently. Loss of a public post office is why every Canadian, regardless of whether you presently receive door to door delivery, should be upset with these changes.
On Vancouver Island cuts to door to door service are planned in the immediate future for parts of Victoria, Sidney and Campbell River. CUPW and their allies are fighting back from here to Newfoundland. A demonstration with over 200 people was held in Campbell River. Activists have gathered support from over 300 municipalities and many mayors have spoken up. Hamilton changed their bylaws to block the installation of new CMBs. The Union, along with groups representing pensioners and people with disabilities, has launched a court challenge. Both the NDP and the Liberals have stated they would stop the changes and it will certainly be made an election issue in Oct. For more info and to find out how you can get involved, go to www.cupw.ca or talk to your local postie.