Northerners getting a one-two punch from Canada Post, says MP Hughes

ELLIOT LAKE–The federal government has been building up to the point where Canadians will lose home postal delivery, according to Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes.

Ms. Hughes was reacting to the announcement last week that five million households will lose home delivery and as many as 8,000 postal employees will lose their jobs due to declining revenues.

“This is the inevitable outcome of the Conservatives’ decision to force Canada Post out of the lucrative international mail market,” said Ms. Hughes. “They did that in 2010 and that move broke Canada Post. Now we lose the services and jobs.”

Ms. Hughes says this is part of a double-pronged attack on Northern and rural communities who are also dealing with the loss of mail sorting jobs as local processing is now being done out of Toronto.

“It’s just a downward spiral for Canada Post in the North,” said Ms. Hughes. “We just get word of one thing and they whack us with another. What is sad is how this whole scenario was avoidable, but the Conservatives only see public jobs as bad things.”

The move will hit the most vulnerable the hardest. Seniors and the disabled, especially those with mobility issues, will be the most affected by the loss of home delivery.

“A lot of our communities in the North have populations that are more elderly,” said Ms. Hughes. “I already hear about a number of difficulties with super-mailboxes and that will only become more commonplace.”

“Basically what Canada Post is doing is phasing out door-to-door delivery service,” Ms. Hughes told the Recorder. “We can only assume there will be job losses. Not necessarily lay offs, but through attrition.”

“This announcement from Canada Post has come up just before another negotiating session was to take place on a new contract,” said Ms. Hughes. “The Canada Post Corporation is a heritage piece of Canada, part of our life, an important piece of our infrastructure for us. But instead of working with their employees on cost-cutting things, they do this. CUPW had made some proposals that have been used in other areas, to help Canada Post, but obviously they weren’t listened to.”

“Technology has led to changes,” said Ms. Hughes. “There are a lot more people ordering things off the Internet than there has been in the past. But instead of making less in profits, being more viable and changing with the times, Canada Post has decided to make these cuts to reduce services.”

Ms. Hughes pointed out that, as of March 31, there will be an increase in the cost of stamps with first class letter mailing prices increasing to one dollar per individual stamp, or 85 cents a stamp for stamps purchased in books or rolls. Small businesses with postage meters will pay a rate of 75 cents per standard letter. “I know our office has had tons of complaints since Canada Post made their announcements.”

Anick Losier, a spokesperson for Canada Post, told the Recorder the changes will not have much affect on Manitoulin Island. “Rural mailboxes are not part of the plans, we are just talking about foot letter carriers, so areas like Manitoulin will not be affected.”

“We are confident most of the staff reductions will be done through attrition,” said Ms. Losier. As an example of the changes that need to be carried out because of trends, Ms. Losier told the Recorder, “the average Canadian household purchases two stamps a month. People are busy and it’s easier to do things online. We need to adapt to changes and evolve.”

Ms. Losier said that before making its final recommendations last week, “we had visited 46 communities in Canada. “The biggest message we heard from people we visited is that ‘don’t become a burden on our taxes.’ By 2019 we will be self-sustainable,” she said pointing out, “in the last quarter from July to September, we lost $129 million before taxes, and for instance we had 73 million less letters to deliver than the year before.”

“The biggest change the average person will see is the price of stamps is going to change, it will increase,” said Ms. Losier, “but for those who purchase more stamps it will cost less.”

Canada Post announced last week it would be phasing out door to door delivery in favour of community mailboxes as part of a new business model to curtail major the continuation of major financial losses in the past few years. “The new system will allow Canada Post to compete in the fast paced and technology-driven global parcel market, its business plan states. “It will level the playing field for small business and other emerging industries looking to embrace e-commerce and to grow.”

Going to community mailboxes is expected to affect the roughly five million Canadians in mostly urban areas who still get door to door delivery. The changes will be phased in over five years, beginning in late 2014.

The new business model also calls for job cuts. Canada Post says its current labour costs are simply not sustainable. The Crown corporation expects to reduce its unionized workforce by 10 percent over the next 10 years, largely through attrition. It also plans to cut management by 18 percent and reduce pension plan costs.

Ms. Hughes believes the job losses in smaller communities will hurt more than Canada Post is prepared to admit.

“We can’t all live in Toronto or Calgary, but those are the kinds of places that these decisions are being gauged against,” said Ms. Hughes. “It just isn’t fair and Canadians deserve much better, this is like the Grinch stealing Canada Post.”

Tom Sasvari