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Privatize Canada Post

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by Graham Lane

Published in the Winnipeg Sun, November 23, 2018

I never thought I would advocate for an end to Canada Post.

My maternal grandfather was the first mail carrier to carry mail by air in western Canada. A letter from the then Postmaster General thanking him on his retirement graces a place in our home. My grandfather lived up to the old adage – through rain or snow, the mail always gets through. A pacifist, he served as a medic in the First World War; an account of the horrors of death in the mud and trenches was never to come from his mouth. (He arrived back from the war in the summer of 1919, nine months after armistice, late enough to miss the Winnipeg General Strike and the unfair firing of Canada Post workers.) Because of him, and despite past labour problems and strikes, I have had a soft spot for mail carriers – till now.

Every week I look forward to receiving The Economist, a weekly U.K, magazine.  For years, I got the print version. But, weekly delivery was ‘always’ late. So late, that often I got two editions on the same day, one being over a week late. From general observation, confirmed by family and friends, you cannot trust Canada Post for timely deliveries. Despite an ongoing rapid falling in mail volumes (down 50% over 10 years) , a letter sent to my address from another Winnipeg address has taken a week or more to be delivered. Letters, bills, magazines, even advertisements, virtually never delivered on time.

Under Harper’s reign, Canada Post was, finally, addressing the problems. Then, the federal plan was to recognize reality and end general household mail for community post boxes. While that plan might not have ended the tardiness of mail delivery, at least the sharp cost increases for stamps was expected to end. But, Justin and his crew of ‘big government’ stalwarts stopped the move to community boxes, leaving a mix of service levels, everywhere, with service lousy while costs and stamp prices continue to climb.

As for the letter carriers and sorters, they have lost the public spirit that once, now long ago, ran through the complement. Now, driven by a militant union, we, the ‘customers’, cover very generous  wages and the cost of ultra-expensive pensions (underfunded by $6 billion). Canada Post is now for the employees and their union executive, no longer the vital national public service it was in my grandfather’s days.

It is time to end Canada Post’s ‘quasi monopoly’ of standard mail delivery and, also, sell its expensive parcel operation (up 25% in 2017) to competitive free enterprise firms. It is time to end allowing a public sector union to use the public as the piggy bank for improving their wages, benefits and security, with no real concern for the public interest. Canada Post has out-lived its value, having long lost the loyalty past service provided.

The Wheat Board was sold off without farmers going broke, Canada National Railway (CNR) was privatized and the trains still run. The privatization of Air Canada has led to more choices and better service. Time for Canada Post (inception 1867, but still no accumulated equity) to follow their lead.

With the federal government owing a trillion dollars, selling the Post Office would bring needed money and competition.

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