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Post office cuts came from consultation: Canada Post

MP Brent Rathgeber says stamp price might hit business, charities

By: Stu Salkeld

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 14, 2013 06:00 am

ON THE JOB – Canada Post says letter carriers won't lose their jobs despite plans to phase out home delivery.
ON THE JOB – Canada Post says letter carriers won't lose their jobs despite plans to phase out home delivery.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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The nation is abuzz with talk of Canada Post's announcement that home delivery will soon be a thing of the past. But is it really going to affect that many people? That depends who you ask.

Canada Post announced Wednesday it would cease all home delivery over the next five years as the Crown corporation is bleeding red ink. It also announced the price of a stamp will increase to 85 cents or $1, depending on how many stamps customers purchase.

Canada Post spokesperson Anick Losier said there has been a huge response to the announcements.

"To boil it down to what it means ... one third of Canadians get home delivery, and that one third will be changed over to community boxes," she said Thursday from her Ottawa office.

"The biggest change for you is the price of stamps is going to go up."

Losier said the rate hike on stamps is projected to have minimal effect on the average Canadian household that seems less and less interested in using stamps. She said the average Canadian family buys two stamps a month.

Some delivery won't be affected; for instance, apartment buildings and seniors' facilities will get mail delivery as normal.

Losier also explained that Canada Post conducted an invitation-only public consultation across the country to gather input on changes to the Crown corporation's business. She said Canada Post felt vindicated by comments from the public, such as seniors who stated they were willing to walk to a public mailbox if it meant no tax increases to subsidize Canada Post.

Also, the public consultation seemed to mesh well with Canada Post's desire to not be a financial burden on taxpayers. The public apparently agreed.

Canada Post's revenue dropped $20 million in the first nine months of 2013 and the corporation itself projected a $1 billion deficit by 2020.

Why the post office is being hit so hard financially is due to several factors, noted Losier, including the increase in electronic mail and busy lifestyles.

"People are very busy and they don't necessarily have time to hit the local post office," she said.

She said other parts of the announcement include "right-sizing" Canada Post's workforce to match workload, streamlining internal operations to save money and negotiating a new contract with unions such as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to bring costs into line with what competitors are paying.

By eliminating door-to-door delivery, does that mean layoffs?

"No, they will not lose their jobs because they have job security," said Losier.

She said Canada Post will continue to have delivery staff, they just won't be delivering mail to homes door to door. How those jobs will be tweaked will be part of the upcoming collective bargaining process.

CUPW was not happy with the Wednesday announcement. Although attempts by the Gazette to get comment from the union were unsuccessful, the union did send out several press releases Wednesday and Thursday.

"We recognize that Canada Post needs to change, but this is not the way," said Denis Lemelin, CUPW national president.

"CUPW has consistently advocated for innovation and service expansion to create a financially-viable and service-oriented postal service for the future. We are sure we are not alone in disagreeing with Canada Post's plan," said Lemelin.

St. Albert member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber said he's torn by the Canada Post announcement, because he sees issues for some groups but understands difficulties faced by the post office.

"We're starting to get some comments from some of our constituents," said Rathgeber Thursday. "The reaction has been mixed. I would say slightly opposed to the announcements."

Rathgeber said he was concerned by the $1 billion figure touted by Canada Post.

"That's a pretty significant taxpayer subsidy for a service that's being used less and less every day," he said.

Rathgeber said social media comments he's read suggest the general public understands why the changes are being made, and he sees the reasons too. The communication landscape is changing toward more electronic means and less paper. In Rathgeber's St. Albert office, he said 98 per cent of the pieces of correspondence are electronic, such as e-mail. Only two per cent are letters. He said he understands how changing behaviour must have affected Canada Post's bottom line.

"That's a reality Canada Post has been contending with for the past 15 years," said Rathgeber, noting something had to be done to improve Canada Post's financial performance. "I think it's inevitable, with the reduced volume of mail."

However, the MP said he does have some concerns.

"I do have some concerns for some demographics," he said, noting seniors and handicapped people may be affected by this announcement. Rathgeber did point out that even nationally, though, it's a relatively small number of people who still get door-to-door delivery, as virtually all new urban neighbourhoods already have community mail boxes.

But the MP said he also feels for businesses and particularly charities who rely on mailouts, as the stamp hike is going to affect them.

Rathgeber also said Canada Post's public consultation came as news to him.

"I didn't know until yesterday that they had any kind of consultation at all," said Rathgeber, and noted opposition MPs on Parliament Hill were also questioning the consultation's content.

"I tend to agree with that because, as with most Canadians, this news was sprung on me yesterday. As a member of Parliament, this one caught me off-guard."


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