Robyn Benson, PSAC

Stamping out public services

Post office box.jpg

The latest assault on a taken-for-granted public service comes from Canada Post. As most people already know, they’re planning to abolish direct mail delivery—and make us pay more for stamps, too, just to rub a little salt in the wounds. The announcement was well-timed, issued a day after the House of Commons had risen for the Christmas recess.

You will have heard a lot of misinformation from the usual suspects, so let’s get that out of the way first:

Claim: Only one-third of Canadians get door-to-door delivery. Fact: This figure excludes apartment-dwellers and those in rural areas receiving mail in post-boxes at the end of their lanes. When these people are added in, the total number of Canadians receiving door-to-door delivery or close equivalent is 63%. The latter are unaffected by the proposed changes, which will nevertheless affect more than five million Canadians, but it’s simply misleading to suggest that door-to-door delivery favours the elite few.

Claim: Community superboxes, which are to replace door-to-door delivery in urban areas, are safe. Fact: They are nothing of the kind. A CBC report has revealed that there were 4,880 incidents of vandalism, arson and theft from these superboxes between 2008 and this year.

Claim: Canada Post isn’t profitable any more. Fact: Canada Post has made profits every year since 1995, with the exception of 2011 when it locked out its employees. The losses posted for 2013 are only for the second and third quarters—expect better news after the Christmas rush.

Claim: Business is dropping. Fact: Don’t take my word for it, but it’s actually busting records:

More than one million parcels delivered in a single day: a hat trick!

Last year, for the first time in its history, Canada Post delivered a million parcels in a single day on two occasions - December 10 and December 17. This year, the million-parcel milestone has already been reached three times - on November 12, November 25 and on Cyber Monday, December 2. Today, Canada Post will again reach that parcel-delivery milestone as it delivers more than a million parcels across the country; additional million-parcel days are expected during the holiday season.

Note the date of this press release: this past Monday.

Now, there are problems at Canada Post, for sure. Start with the bloated senior management ranks: a CEO pulling down a cool half-million a year, now caught in an embarrassing conflict of interest, as it happens, over the new cutback plans. Add to that 12 vice-presidents, 7 senior vice-presidents and 2 “group presidents”—given the season, I’m tempted to add “and a partridge in a pear tree.”

But worse than Canada Post’s top-heavy structure is its lack of innovative imagination. It became a for-profit Crown corporation in 1981, but there was no apparent vision or planning for the future. Time and again, reasonable suggestions have been suggested, based upon what postal services in other countries offer: banking, financial services, retail services, and insurance, for example.

Instead, Canada Post has resisted these ideas, preferring to put the boot to people depending on home delivery—e.g., the elderly, people with disabilities, those not online—while shedding 8,000 or so jobs along the way.

Canada Post claims to have carried out consultations, but they weren’t public—attendance at these sessions was invitation-only, and comments had to be submitted in advance. Perhaps needless to say, these closed meetings supported the new plans. It was a done deal, in other words, with a little “consultation” window-dressing.

If the plans proceed, Canada would have the dubious distinction of being the only G7 country to have eliminated home delivery of mail. Not, from where I sit at least, an achievement to be proud of.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on December 13, 2013 8:30 AM.

Politicization of the Public Service was the previous entry in this blog.

Ebenezer Moore and our hungry kids is the next entry in this blog.

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