Canada Post recently announced controversial changes that will effect home mail delivery and the cost of stamps. Home delivery will be phased out over the next five years for five million Canadian households, and the cost of stamps will be raised from 63 cents to 85 cents by March 31, 2013. These changes are being implemented to combat Canada Post’s financial struggles and to ensure the company’s profitability.
Over the past few years, Canada Post has faced a number of challenges. First, mail delivery has been on the decline due to the rise in digital communication. The 2012 Canada Post Annual Report stated that the amount of mail delivered to each address declined by 23.6% from 2008 to 2012. The CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra, has said that mail delivery has to adapt to the changing needs of Canadians.
According to Canada Post, the company would have lost $1 billion per year by 2020 if the changes were not made. The proposed reforms are now supposed to save the organization between $700 and $900 million per year. Additionally, the reforms will help to lower the $6.5 billion pension deficit that Canada Post is facing.
Still, the proposed changes have been met with significant opposition, and rightfully so. These hasty reforms are proving problematic for many people. One of the basic arguments against the changes has to do with the resulting job losses. According to CTV News, the reforms require Canada Post to cut 6,000 to 8,000 jobs, mainly through attrition.
Even worse, there has been little communication between Canada Post and its employees about how they will be personally affected by the job cuts, said letter carrier Jeanette St. Goddard. “Nobody knows who is losing their job. We just hear it from the newspaper. There is no employee input whatsoever.” She also questioned the claim that cuts will be made predominantly through attrition. “The numbers don’t make sense. If they are cutting up to 8,000 jobs, this would mean that more than half of the letter carriers are of retirement age, which is not the case.”
Other critics believe that the stats that Canada Post has provided to justify the reforms simply do not add up. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has questioned Canada Post’s profitability claims, as figures show that year after year the organization is already making a significant profit.
Additionally, some letter carriers believe that Canada Post’s reported pension deficit is simply another excuse for eliminating door-to-door delivery and hiking up costs. “We would really like a separate nonpartisan audit because we really don’t believe their numbers, and they are talking about cutting the pensions, which is really worrisome to a lot of people,” said St. Goddard.
Canada Post plans to make significant changes to their pension system, which will negatively affect its employees. The company released a restriction letter outlining the changes, and stating that the option of a lump-sum transfer is no longer available. “If I was to get laid off tomorrow, I would have to take a greatly reduced pension,” said St. Goddard.
The negative financial effects will not only apply to current employees. Canada Post reforms will also cause trouble for small business owners. Small businesses, which rely on mailing paper receipts and cheques, will be hurt by the increased cost of postage, as many do not have the means to send and receive payments electronically. Additionally, the weight of catalogues may need to be reduced, and in-house employees may have to start hand delivering important parcels.
Canada Post has also received criticism from seniors and people with disabilities. Both groups frequently have mobility issues, and their independence will be limited if they have to rely on friends and family to receive mail. Another concern for seniors is the elimination of human connection that comes with home mail delivery. As services become increasingly digitalized and social circles become smaller, receiving mail at your doorstep is a valued part of everyday life. In an interview with Global News, Susan Eng, Vice President of the senior’s advocacy group, CARP, argued that many seniors could be denied access to important documents as well as cards and letters from family.
To respond to these concerns, Chopra met with the House of Commons transport committee on Wednesday, December 18 in an emergency meeting. When responding to an MP’s question regarding the effects on the elderly community, Chopra argued that seniors are welcoming the changes. “The seniors are telling me, ‘I want to be healthy. I want to be active in my life’,” he said. “They want to be living fuller lives.” While this may be true of certain seniors, it is an overgeneralization, as other seniors have limited mobility and will have difficulty making the transition.
Hundreds of postal workers and supporters gathered in downtown Ottawa on Sunday, January 26 to protest the reforms. They argued that there are better ways to ensure Canada Post’s survival and that proposed job cuts should be reversed. The group of protesters marched to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office in the hopes of sending a strong message and encouraging further discussion.
Whether Canada Post has reasonable grounds to make changes or not, it is clear that they lack significant support. This has brought many to question why Canada Post failed to consider other alternatives. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Denis Lemelin, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, argued that Canada Post should have tried to expand its revenue base first. “We cannot understand why Canada Post will not follow the example of post offices in the U.K., in France, in Italy, in Switzerland and in many other countries which are currently either beginning a banking service or expanding their existing services,” he said.
Other alternatives could have included reducing delivery to two or three times per week, cutting down on lower traffic post offices, or rehashing higher management positions. While none of these decisions would make everyone happy, there are enough viable options for Canada Post to have reached a more inclusive compromise. The unexpected movement to end the mail delivery era has left many people stranded and disappointed. It is clear that Canada Post should have considered the opposition a little more carefully before making this drastic decision.
Delaney Cummings is currently pursuing her Certificate in Freelance Writing from the University of Toronto. She has a BA (Hons) in Sociology from the University of Western Ontario. Her policy interests include mental health care, education, and foreign policy.