That, in the opinion of the House, door-to-door mail delivery is a valuable service provided by Canada Post, and that this House express its opposition to Canada becoming the only country in the G7 without such a service.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for .
Instead of mailing out a holiday greeting card to brighten the lives of Canadians in December, the government sent a grim and dismal message. It allowed the CEO of Canada Post to announce a five-point plan to disaster. It is a plan that includes slashing services to over five million Canadians while hiking up prices, cutting jobs, and harming the economy. It is a plan that will hurt not only ordinary Canadians but small businesses and even major corporations as well.
On Friday the National Association of Major Mail Users met in my riding of Trinity—Spadina in Toronto. These are major corporations and businesses such as Canadian Tire. They too rely on Canada Post. They too are calling on the government to set aside this destructive plan.
They will be hit hard by the outrageous 15% increase on bulk mailing, which means higher prices for lower service. Their mailings will no longer go door-to-door to their prime customers in densely populated urban areas. That will directly affect their profits, and it will directly affect the price they must charge consumers to protect their profits. It will make them less competitive. Consumers will be hurt and business will be hurt, but will Canada Post gain? Probably not, because business will resort to other ways to reach their customers, and Canada Post revenues will die. Again, it is a five-point plan to disaster.
Here are the words of Kathleen Rowe, president of the National Association of Major Mail Users:
Transaction Mail is 50 per cent of Canada Post’s revenue, and large volume users are over 80 per cent of that. An accelerated migration forced by conditions imposed by Canada Post means small and medium business will suffer from even greater increases on this as well as the many competitive products of Canada Post. This is a lose-lose scenario.
That is what the National Association of Major Mail Users said: it is a lose-lose. Urban seniors and people with mobility issues said it is a lose-lose. Hundreds and thousands of people have been able to live in dignity in their own homes, but without mail service, they will be vulnerable. Therefore, it is a lose-lose situation for them. They deserve better.
The CEO keeps saying he is looking for robust services for seniors. I think he believes that all seniors are robust people themselves, or at least will become so when they have to hobble out on icy sidewalks in sub-zero weather like today to collect their pension cheques from a community mailbox in some back alley.
I invite him to come to my neighbourhood to see how people would manage. My mother and thousands like her would say it is a lose-lose. That is what Canadian families are saying as they face an increase of over 50% in the price of stamps, as ordinary Canadians are hit with the highest increases in this mockery of a plan. Mail will become an unaffordable luxury. That is a lose-lose situation.
That is what charities and small businesses also say. That is what people living in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and Vancouver are saying from coast to coast in cities where there is no convenient room to start building and securing community mailboxes.
That is what people living in remote regions and rural areas are saying as they see post office hours cut back and a few post offices even closed. These are people who stay connected by mail and who need it for everything from medicine to school supplies to electronics.
That is what police said, who are concerned about protecting the security of community mailboxes and protecting against fraud in urban neighbourhoods. They say it is a lose-lose situation. Also, that is what postal workers said, whose efforts have enabled Canada Post to earn a profit in 16 of the last 17 years. It is a lose-lose situation.
There is only one tiny group of winners in this five-point plan to disaster, and that is the CEO of Canada Post and his 22 vice-presidents. He is earning over $0.5 million and a 33% bonus. Wow, he is the winner. They think they can get away with this travesty because the government is turning a blind eye. However, the and the minister will surely win nothing by following this course. They may use their majority to defeat a motion and allow this disastrous plan to stand, but in the next election they will truly understand the meaning of “lose-lose”. The current government must be held to account. That is the purpose of this motion today.
However, it does not have to be a lose-lose situation. I spoke to the major mail users on Friday, and I noted that there are so many opportunities. If we look at other models around the world—other models in the G7 where every country still provides door-to-door delivery in urban areas while facing the same challenges as Canada Post—we see there is an excellent business case for the return of postal banking, providing services and meeting needs not met by the traditional banking sector. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, one million Canadians do not have banking services. They rely on payday loan companies such as Money Mart to access funds and are paying enormously high interest rates. France's La Banque Postale, New Zealand's Kiwibank and Switzerland's PostFinance all provide banking services and thus increase their profit and revenue. There is no reason why Canada Post cannot consider doing the same. This would mean competitive new banking services for Canadians, giving diversity of choice and reaching people who fall through the cracks. At the same time, it would generate revenue and stability that would boost and strengthen Canada Post and support our postal services.
Why is the government not looking at this? It works in other countries. I do not mean just postal banking, but truly innovative approaches to support e-commerce, not the half-baked plan provided by the CEO of Canada Post. Why would Canada choose failure rather than success? We can strengthen and expand our postal services, rather than slashing them and letting them bleed. Canadians deserve a win-win proposition from this House and from Canada Post, from the current government.
Let us deliver. Let us pass my motion and move forward.
Mr. Speaker, the unending saga of the Conservatives as they continue to lay waste to public services is sadly unfolding before our eyes. This time, it is our postal services that are the target of their ideology.
Let us look a little more closely at the magical and extraordinarily brilliant plan that has been concocted to—as they put it—“save” Canada Post and guarantee its future. First, thousands of good jobs will be eliminated. Second, services to the public and businesses will be cut. Third, costs are going to jump 15%. This is quite a recipe for success.
In the private sector, this would certainly work very well; therefore, there can be no doubt that these measures will ensure the success of our postal services in the future! What is the justification for all these cuts that are affecting our fellow citizens, as well as our SMEs? Canada Post is said to be on the verge of collapse; ruin is just around the corner. If we do nothing, disaster will befall and we will have to cut everything.
The was making alarmist comments yesterday on CBC radio. He went as far as saying that Canada Post is now losing hundreds of millions of dollars, and if nothing was done, the losses would amount to one billion dollars per year. Let us get back to the facts. Canada Post has been profitable for 16 of the last 17 years. That is not bad. During that period, it accumulated $1.7 billion in profits. That is not a disaster; things are not that bad.
In 2012, the Canada Post Group of Companies had profits of $127 million, while the Canada Post sector made $98 million. The only year in the last 17 that showed a loss was 2011. Well, what did the Conservatives do in 2011? They locked out the employees of Canada Post. That, of course, does not help generate revenue. The year 2011 was rather exceptional, because Canada Post was also obliged to make pay equity payments. That is a good thing, because we are in favour of pay equity, but it is not representative. This was a one-time expense.
Yes, mail volume is down, but parcels are up. Yes, there are more online purchases, but that does not mean there is less mail. There are fewer letters, but if a consumer buys a Christmas present for their child online, the package still has to be delivered to their home. That is what Canada Post is there for. There are ways of investing in what works best, that is to say parcels, and also in the online services Canada Post has begun to offer. The idea is that we should be looking for new ways of generating new revenue. We should not dismantle a public service that Canadians value and rely on.
They confront us with the Conference Board of Canada study, but it is based solely on the only year in the past seventeen that showed a loss, namely 2011. In our view, this is not representative, and the billion-dollar loss expected in 2020 is not a sure thing. On the contrary, we would do well to look at Canada Post’s successes over the last 17 years and decide to focus on new kinds of revenue. For example, banking services are a significant part of the solution.
I would like to point out that, by the remotest of chances, the CEO of Canada Post is on the board of directors of the Conference Board of Canada. There is every appearance of a slight conflict of interest. Other studies point to a better future for Canada Post, with no need for drastic cuts. I will come back to that.
We are talking about the possible elimination of 8,000 jobs. That is no small thing. That is 8,000 good jobs that will not be available for our young people who will soon be on the job market. It is a hard blow for our communities. Those 8,000 jobs at $50,000 a year represent a loss for our communities of $400 million in terms of payroll. That will hurt our businesses, our cities and our villages.
With regard to the impact on service, if the Conservatives go through with their plan, 5 million Canadians will no longer enjoy home delivery of their mail. That is huge. According to Canada Post, this is not that serious, because already, two-thirds of Canadians do not receive their mail at home. That depends on how you juggle the numbers. Again, we can set the record straight.
Canada Post now considers that if you live in an apartment block, with a little mailbox in the lobby, you do not have home delivery. That is the case for most of the homes in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, for example. This means that if you are inside your building and you go downstairs to get your mail in the morning, you are not deemed to have home delivery because the mail did not come directly to your door. Canada Post includes you in the group that does not get home delivery, which is rather absurd.
My brother lives in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, by a concession road. His house is some distance back from the road, with of course a mailbox at the side of the road. Again, that is not regarded as home delivery, because the letter carrier does not come to the door.
So you can make numbers say many things. In fact, two thirds of Canadians and of Quebeckers currently receive their mail at home, and these people will be deprived of an important service.
This is going to cause problems for seniors. We live in a northern country. Freezing rain, ice and snow banks are commonplace. It is not true that all seniors will be able to get out every day to get their mail. They will be cut off from this contact. People with reduced mobility are worried. How can we ensure that these people get the essential information and mail that they need?
The Advocacy Center for the Elderly, FADOQ, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities have all voiced their concern about this reform. The reform will also have a negative impact on SMEs, as well as on charities, which hold a mail-out fundraising campaign every December. Their mailing costs will jump by 15%.
Here in Ottawa, the Ottawa Food Bank has expressed its concern. Even the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is wondering how its members will cope.
If Canada Post goes ahead with its plan to dismantle postal services, Canada will be the only G7 country that does not have door-to-door mail delivery. I am sorry, but that is not really something to be proud of.
Canadians like their postal service. They appreciate this public service, this link with the rest of the community. Citizens do not want to scrap 8,000 good jobs for our youth. We do not need to cut services. Right now, seniors are worried. People with disabilities are worried. It is not Deepak Chopra's bad joke about the benefits of taking a walk for exercise that will reassure them.
Canada Post has challenges, but there is no reason to panic. In the last 17 years it has generated profits for 16 years. In that period it has made more than $1.7 billion, which is not too bad.
For the future we need to seek new revenues for Canada Post. Why not look at banking services like a few countries already have, countries like the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, or Brazil?
People know which side NDP members are on. We are on the side of seniors, small businesses, charities and ordinary citizens. Let me guess that Conservatives are on the side of the president and the 22 vice-presidents of Canada Post who are paid more than $10 million per year. We are on the side of postal workers and young people of this country who are looking for a good job.
The Canada Post reform that has been presented will create a serious mess. Canada Post is making things up as it goes along. It is true that the community boxes Canada Post is proposing to set up everywhere work fairly well in new residential neighbourhoods. Why? Because things were planned that way. The community boxes were a result of consideration and planning. In densely populated urban areas, such as Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie, such a thing would be practically impossible.
I have a very simple question for my Conservative friends. Where are they going to put these boxes? They need to come to the corner of Beaubien and Christophe-Colomb and show me where they are going to put these community boxes. That is why the City of Montreal is opposed to the changes proposed by Canada Post and has already passed a resolution in this regard.
What Canada Post needs is new revenues. Sixty-three percent of Canadians agree with that option, which already exists.
Japan Post Bank is the world's largest savings bank, with $2.15 trillion—that is $2,000 billion—in deposits in Japan's postal system. New Zealand set up a postal banking system called Kiwibank, which is the largest New-Zealand-owned bank. Kiwibank generates 70% of the profits from this public service. In Italy, postal banking services generate 67% of Poste Italiane's profits. In Switzerland, PostFinance generates 71% of Swiss postal revenue.
A 2005 Library of Parliament report supported the idea of having Canada Post establish banking services and said that they should exist. Three of Canada Post's former presidents agree.
If the Conservatives want to save this public service and avoid privatization, Canada Post needs new tools and new revenue. Post offices should offer banking services.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to the motion moved by the member for .
I fully appreciate that the postal network is essential to the national economy, businesses and communities that rely on the mail, but it is equally important to the increasing number of retailers across Canada who need a reliable and affordable delivery network to ship their products to the growing ranks of online shoppers.
There is no question that as the postal system evolves, we do need to protect vulnerable individuals, small businesses and rural communities.
Canada Post Corporation operates at arm's length from the government. I remind the House that since 1981 Canada Post has had a mandate to operate on a self-sustaining financial basis. It is responsible for meeting that mandate and managing its own operations, including day-to-day business and financial decisions.
These decisions are growing more difficult because we are shifting to a digital society that sees more of us communicating online. Not only do we send fewer, if any, cards and letters, but bills, statements and payments are also being sent and paid digitally more and more often. Most companies and governments, indeed, are actively encouraging Canadians to switch to electronic alternatives to save money and time, and to increase security.
Polling does confirm that Canadians' habits are changing. Almost half of households say they now send two pieces of mail or less per month, and that is reflected in far less business for Canada Post. In the first nine months of 2013, mail volumes declined by 184 million pieces. That is a 5% decline compared to the same period the previous year.
Not only has the volume of letters dropped, but also the volume of business mail by more than 17% per address in the last four years. Moreover, revenue from direct marketing mail dropped by 2.7% in 2012 because companies, too, are switching to Internet alternatives.
The bottom line is that Canada Post delivered one billion fewer letters in 2012 than it did in 2006. Domestic mail volumes have dropped by almost 25% since 2008, and will continue to decline in the future. The direction of change is clear and irreversible.
However, there is a silver lining. There is an upside to trends for Canada Post. Canadians are shopping online, and that has helped parcel volumes grow by about two million pieces in the first nine months of 2013 compared to a year earlier. As a result, Canada Post's parcel revenue was up $32 million or 11.2% from the third quarter of 2012.
E-commerce is driving demand for delivery of packages from online retailers and distributors to homes and businesses. Many of us can actually attest to that, because I am sure that many members have actually started ordering Christmas and birthday gifts online instead of going into shops.
Delivery of these purchases is one area that Canada Post is keen to capitalize on, and it has a good product to offer. It is a leader in the business-to-consumer parcel delivery market in Canada.
However, these efforts do not make Canada Post self-sufficient. The growth in parcel business is simply not enough. It does not make up for the larger declines in the personal mail and the direct marketing mail volumes.
The corporation is addressing the negative impacts of this information revolution on their business. It has undertaken a major revitalization effort. It is updating its technology, its equipment and networks. This includes installing state-of-the-art optical readers, sorting equipment and restructuring carrier routes.
It has also launched its own digital products to meet Canadians' changing needs and expectations, such as e-post and its vault service. These measures are expected to generate $250 million in savings by 2017. Even with these improvements, Canada Post is losing money, some $129 million before tax in the third quarter of 2013 despite seeing solid growth in parcel delivery at the same time.
Canada Post has operated profitably for 16 consecutive years. That is as recently as 2011. However, a recent report prepared by the Conference Board of Canada projects annual operating deficits of nearly $1 billion by 2020. Parcel volume is forecast to increase by 26% over the same period, but it remains a small share of total mail traffic.
The situation is not sustainable. Not only parliamentarians but all Canadians should be very concerned that the corporation is posting significant losses. Given that the financial well-being of Canada Post operations has direct implications for Canadian taxpayers, it is important that every effort be made to mitigate risks to the public purse.
Canadians expect us to be sound stewards of the government's finances, and they do not want to be on the hook for significant losses that have been forecast based on the current business model. To this end, I want to emphasize that the Conference Board study pointed out that direct household delivery is the most expensive delivery method. It costs twice as much a year as service to community mailboxes, and it is only provided to one-third of Canadian households as we speak.
The status quo is not an option, and that is why Canada Post has no choice but to find more effective ways to provide its mandatory services while reducing its costs. It has consulted with Canadians. It has explored all of its options, and it has developed a five-point action plan to secure its future. What its plan is intended to do is align the corporation's services with the choices Canadians are making, and it will put it back on track to achieve financial viability over the long term. One of the most cost-effective ways to do this is by increasing the use of community mailboxes.
As members may be aware, and as I have already said, two-thirds of the population already receives mail and parcels through community mailboxes, grouped boxes, lobby mailboxes, or curbside rural mailboxes. An entire generation has grown up knowing only this form of delivery, and quite frankly, it offers numerous advantages to Canadians. For example, individually locked mail and small packet compartments, as well as larger locked compartments, are available for the secure delivery of parcels.That really is useful for people who work outside the home during the day and cannot be home to receive deliveries. People can also let mail accumulate while away on vacation knowing that it is safely stored in their private box. Mail is locked at all times, and it is secure until the customer receives it.
Under Canada Post's five-point plan, the remaining one-third of Canadian households, which is about five million people, that still receive their mail at the door will be gradually converted to community mailbox delivery over the next five years.
While this motion focuses on community mailboxes, it is important to understand that this is just one of the ways Canada Post is taking action to improve its financial performance. To give an example, the corporation is introducing a new tiered pricing structure for letter mail that will better reflect the cost of serving customers this way. Those who buy stamps in booklets or in coils will pay 85¢ per stamp, with discounts for customers who use the mail most, something that will be welcomed by small businesses.
In addition to this change, it will strengthen its retail network by opening more franchise postal outlets and stores across Canada. These businesses are conveniently located in communities, and oftentimes they are in shopping centres. That adds benefits: longer hours and better parking. As well, they enable busy Canadians to do their shopping in one place.
To further increase its competitiveness, Canada Post is also making changes to its internal operations to increase the efficient flow of parcels and mail through the network to its customers. To give an example, it is adopting faster computerized sorting equipment and is consolidating its operations by processing mail and parcels in a central location. It is also providing more delivery employees with fuel-efficient vehicles so that the same employees can deliver both mail and parcels.
These improvements will result in not only cost savings to the corporation but in more reliable delivery to Canadians, along with better parcel tracking capabilities.
Greater use of technology to keep pace with the digital revolution will mean that fewer workers are needed, and that is the fifth part of Canada Post's plan. It will reduce its workforce through attrition, and it will work with labour groups to address the sustainability of its pension plan.
As the House knows, the corporation's labour costs are much higher than its competitors'. A leaner, more flexible, competitive workforce will enable Canada Post to respond quickly to the changing marketplace. Reducing costs will benefit its customers, too, as lower costs will allow the corporation to maintain a high level of service at reasonable prices. Collectively, these measures will help Canada Post satisfy the fast-changing needs of Canadians while fulfilling its mandate to remain financially self-sufficient so that it avoids becoming a burden on taxpayers.
Canada Post, as has been noted already in this debate, is not alone in reinventing itself in the face of challenges posed by the information age. The business models of mail services in countries all over the world are being challenged by the reality that people are using traditional mail on a less frequent basis, other than to send and receive parcels.
Different countries have adopted different approaches. For example, the United Kingdom has privatized Royal Mail. Denmark and Sweden decided to merge their postal services. The Netherlands opted for massive layoffs of postal workers in favour of part-time contractors. Both Italy and Australia have diversified their financial services, their logistics, and telecommunications. The key is that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for a complex issue.
What Canada Post has come up with is a made-in-Canada approach to declining mail volumes. It says that it will enable it to remain self-sufficient and sustainable over the long-term. Canada Post's actions are in line with the global transformation of postal services that are changing to meet modern-day demands. The strategies laid out in its five-point action plan will help to ensure that the corporation is on solid financial footing and that it truly reflects Canadians' choices and their needs.
The Government of Canada supports Canada Post in its efforts to fulfill its mandate of operating on a self-sustaining financial basis in order to protect taxpayers. We recognize that it must modernize its business and better align its postal services with the choices of Canadians in today's digital age.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be here to debate this important opposition day motion brought by the NDP, and I commend the NDP for bringing it. It is a very timely issue at the doors in our communities across the country. All of us as MPs are hearing about these proposed changes. All of us are getting feedback, and all of us are getting pressure from different parts of Canadian society with respect to the five-point plan put forward by, I would argue, not simply Canada Post but by the Government of Canada and the minister whom we have just heard speak. In fact, my thesis, the common thread that will weave itself through these remarks over the next 20-odd minutes, is that this report and effort brought forward by the Conservatives is simply not good enough.
I am privileged because Canada Post is headquartered in my riding. I have many neighbours and constituents who work with Canada Post. They may be managers. They may be financial officers. They might be postal workers. There are good people working with Canada Post, and I salute the good people with Canada Post, whether they are on one side or the other of, in my mind, a seemingly artificial divide between management and labour. There are good people in management, there are good people on the floor sorting mail, there are folks who are delivering mail now at night-time. There are a lot of good people with the corporation, and I salute and commend them for their years of service in helping to build the tradition of Canada Post.
However, having looked at this plan extensively, having heard from witnesses at committee, having heard from hundreds of Canadians across the country, and my colleagues here in the Liberal caucus today are nodding in agreement because they are getting the same feedback, this five-point plan is simply not good enough. It does not, in my mind, meet the abilities of Canada Post. It does not meet the creative possibilities for our crown corporation at all.
When the minister stands up and talks about other jurisdictions having to make difficult choices, she is only partly right. It is true that other jurisdictions like Canada Post are facing challenges, with respect to the sustainability of service, with respect to electronic communication, and with respect to a transition in their core business areas. However, when I hear the minister speak and highlight, for example, the changes going on now in Britain, I am hard-pressed not to believe that, in fact, the government's ultimate intention is to drive Canada Post into privatization. That is where the Conservatives would like to go. It is what they did with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. It is what the tried to do in Ontario with Ontario Power Generation's transmission lines before he created the 407 private highway. It is what they do.
They take cherished Canadian public services like the postal service, they take the corporation involved in delivering that cherished public service, and they begin to run it down. They begin to talk negatively about it. They begin to talk about its being too expensive. They talk about it as being, in the case of Atomic Energy, a sinkhole costing all kinds of money. They run down the asset and then they turn around say, “We really would like to see this asset privatized”. It is part of the conditioning that the Conservatives use as a tactic with respect to Canadian citizens, instead of spending better energy and good energy in trying to improve a plan on a go-forward basis to keep postal services for Canadians who deserve them.
I have always believed that government has an obligation to get the big things right, and postal service is one of the big things that Canadians count on.
Going back to testimony that was heard at committee before Christmas, we remind Canadians that of course these changes were sprung on them the day after the House rose, just before the Christmas card delivery rush.
This plan was foisted on unsuspecting Canadians, on unsuspecting municipal governments, provinces, businesses, trade organizations, et cetera. We heard from these different actors in Canadian society when we convened the transportation committee to ask the president and CEO of Canada Post and other witnesses to give us their views because there had been no meaningful debate. What testimony confirmed is that Canada Post and the government under the Conservatives appear to be stuck in a time warp. It is the 1960s all over again: management versus labour, and labour versus management, and never the two shall meet.
We confirmed that the union heads never had a series of meetings with senior management at Canada Post. We confirmed that the minister would not meet with senior labour representatives. We confirmed that the minister—the fifth, by the way, in seven years—refused to bring management and labour together at one table to ask how we can find a better plan, a better approach going forward, for Canadians who count on Canada Post services.
It is an ill-thought-out plan. What we saw was Canada Post management retaining the good services of the Conference Board of Canada. Again, I am privileged to have the Conference Board of Canada headquartered in my riding. It is a good think tank. It does solid econometric analysis. So we had on the one hand management retaining the Conference Board of Canada and on the other we had labour retaining the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Each group decided to put up its blue-chip panellist research outfit, claiming that it had one answer and the other had the other answer. It was a clash of the research institutions.
Meanwhile, Canadians get a five-point plan sprung on them by surprise, and frankly, they do not care who has retained whom for their analysis or for their substantiation of the changes they want to bring to bear on Canada Post services. Canadians do not really care about that. They care about the net effects of what is being proposed by Canada Post, and these net effects are very serious.
Before I turn to those net effects, I want to pick up on something the minister said earlier. This is a common refrain from the Conservatives, and it goes like this. They are not responsible for Canada Post's plan. They are not responsible for VIA Rail. They are not responsible for Atomic Energy of Canada. They are not responsible for the Port Authorities. No, says the , they are all independent. They are all arm's-length, and they are all independent.
It reminds me of the magnificent moment years ago in the provincial legislature in Ontario. At least six of the frontline cabinet ministers here under the Conservative government were trained at the heels of Premier Michael Harris. Mr. Harris came to the floor and said that they were not the government. They came to fix the government, said the then-premier of a majority government.
It is a ruse. It is an attempt to distance oneself from responsibility, as the fifth minister in seven years with responsibility for Canada Post, by trying to label, to publicly disavow and disown, the crown corporation. That is very unfortunate because it leaves Canadians in the lurch. They do not want to see their government disown its responsibility for this crown corporation.
On the contrary, Canadians believe that it is the responsibility of the government and the Minister of Transport to ensure that Canada Post's plan makes sense for ordinary people. Clearly the plan presented by Canada Post will not help ordinary Canadians.
That is why we in the Liberal Party have decided to do three things.
First, we have submitted a number of access to information requests to get more information with respect to the government's correspondence. That is working. It is working hand in glove with the corporation because it is not Canada Post's plan; it is the 's and the Government of Canada's plan.
Second, we are submitting a number of order paper questions to get more information on what is really going on for Canadians.
Third, yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with our Parliamentary Budget Officer. On behalf of my colleagues and our caucus, I asked that the Parliamentary Budget Officer perform a major investigation into the financial claims being made by the government that this will amount to savings or better fiscal probity for the corporation. We will get to the bottom of that by asking an independent body like the PBO, with the backstopping of Library of Parliament research, to find out whether the numbers being used by the Conference Board of Canada, for example, hold up to independent scrutiny. I am not casting aspersions on the good character or good faith of the Conference Board. However, I think it is incumbent on all parliamentarians to ask that an independent group examine these numbers.
Why do I conclude that it is the government's plan? When the plan was delivered we would have thought the government and the minister responsible for the corporation would have said “Thank you so much for the plan. We'll take it under advisement. We will examine it. We'll come back to you after performing our own analysis and we'll respond.” That is not what happened. Moments after the plan was released a statement was issued pronto presto which said that they support the plan 100%.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine how a single Conservative MP on that side of the House could look a constituent in the eye and say that this plan cannot be improved, that all of the creative possibilities were exhausted by 21 senior managers, labour representatives and the entire team at Canada Post. I cannot believe that any MP on the Conservative caucus who is hearing from constituents is able to assure them without a doubt that every single option was explored. They cannot because the , through the , is exerting pressure on the board at Canada Post to achieve the elimination of deficit numbers by 2015 so they can go forward and offer goodies to the Canadian people for an election campaign. Let us be honest.
Let us be honest. That is what the Conservatives are doing. That is why the Conservative members are so slow to ask important questions to improve the plan proposed by Canada Post. The Conservatives did not raise any questions. They do not have the right to raise questions. However, I am sure that they are listening to what their constituents are saying in their ridings.
Let us talk about some of the effects. Let us start with our seniors.
Everybody in this room and every Canadian knows that as a population we are aging. More and more of us are becoming older, more senior. We all believe, and say collectively to our seniors, that it is better for our seniors to stay in their residences. We facilitate choices to help seniors stay in their homes for as long as they can, to live independently with dignity and safety. We are now sending a message to our seniors that the mail service they require and depend on for their pension cheques, telephone bills and newspaper subscriptions will not be delivered to their door any more. Rather, they are expected to go to an outside location to pick up their mail. It is -27°C with the wind chill in the city of Ottawa. It is about -25°C to -30°C across the entire country, except for parts of the west. Do we really expect seniors to go outside?
I know that the president and CEO of Canada Post made remarks about fitness. Tongue-in-cheek, I said to him that this is some sort of postal ParticipACTION program but it is not serious. With ice and slush, winter, it is not serious for Canadians who are seniors living in their homes.
Let us talk about disabilities and Canadians with disabilities. We have a growing percentage of Canadians with disabilities, as this is also connected to an aging society.
In 2012, approximately 3.8 million people, or nearly 14% of Canadians aged 15 and older, reported being limited in their daily activities because of a disability. These results come from the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability.
Almost 14% of Canadians 15 years old and older reported being limited in their daily activities because of a disability. That is almost 14% today, and it is growing.
Leaving aside the unfortunate connection between poverty and disability in Canadian society, which is another issue, another debate, why are we saying to our Canadians with disabilities that they are not going to get mail delivery and that whatever mail they are depending upon they are going to have to pay more for sending and/or receiving?
I do not think this has been thought through, at all, in terms of the practical ramifications for Canadians with disabilities. That testimony was elicited from Bob Brown, who came to committee and told us that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities had not been consulted.
Similarly, again looking at effects, let us turn to our small businesses. The Conservatives love to say that small businesses are the engine of the Canadian economy. In fact we all agree, on all sides of the House, that is the case. Three out of four jobs are created by businesses with 50 employees or less. We know that to be the case.
However, when the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business came to committee to testify about these changes, he said they were blindsided. They were never consulted by Canada Post. They were never consulted by Transport Canada. The largest single trade association, representing tens of thousands of small businesses, was never asked what the effects would be for business if we raised prices for stamps, eliminated door-to-door postal service five days a week, et cetera. Not a single question was raised. No dialogue was ever had with this group.
The Conservatives cannot deny it. They know it. Very unfortunately, this is going to wreak havoc on our small businesses.
More and more Canadians are doing the right thing. More and more young people today are not asking the question of who is going to hire them. On the contrary, they are asking who they are going to hire. As a result, particularly by women, we are seeing more and more start-up businesses and more and more small businesses in people's homes. With these changes, the consultants, the IT experts, all those folks who are running small businesses, are going to be hit and hit hard.
Last, turning to our municipalities, the costs to municipalities, the maintenance of these community mailboxes, the location of these boxes and the potential expropriation of land was not thought through.
In a letter from Mike Bradley, Mayor of the City of Sarnia, he stated:
There has been no consideration or thought given that this will create a significant tax increase at the local level across this country from coast to coast and, while municipalities may look to other alternatives, there is also legal limitations through legislation....
This was not thought through. All of these effects on our seniors, on Canadians with disabilities, on our municipalities and small businesses is now wreaking havoc.
In conclusion, Canada Post can do better. This needs to put labour and management together at one table and use our creative possibilities and our thinking to come up with a better plan so we are not the only OECD country in the world to eliminate door-to-door services, and effectively, under the guise of improvement, move toward the privatization of our postal system.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from .
We are here to debate an issue that has gripped Canadians over the last number of weeks. We New Democrats are here to propose an alternative way forward to the Conservatives' destructive agenda when it comes to Canada Post.
A few short weeks ago, the Conservative government supported Canada Post's announcement in taking an axe to our long-treasured postal service and making Canada the only G7 country to eliminate home delivery of mail.
Today, I am proud of the NDP motion we have put forward. It is clear that we are on the side of Canadians from coast to coast to coast who want to uphold our postal service. However, besides our putting forward an alternative vision, the motion is a test for the Conservatives, to see if they are on the side of the majority of Canadians. It is a test for Conservative members of Parliament who represent urban centres where citizens depend on home delivery. It is a test for Conservative members of Parliament who represent rural areas, to see if they will stand up for their rural communities and oppose cuts to rural post offices. Canadians are watching this debate today. They will be watching closely how members of the Conservative government vote on the motion.
What is clear from today's debate and what we have seen from the Conservative government over the last number of weeks is the ultimate hypocrisy of this situation. We have heard some comments today about Canada Post's reasoning when it comes to the announcement. What we have also heard is that in facing a financial challenge, Canada Post has not done what certainly anyone running a business or even in government would do when facing a crisis, which is to come together and try to find a solution.
We have heard from organization after organization, whether it is the Union of Postal Workers, representatives of municipalities, people from the disabilities community or seniors organizations, that none of them were consulted by Canada Post to try to find ways forward to make our postal service viable.
This seems illogical to me. One knows that when one faces a situation like that, one tries to find a solution. It happens in our communities all the time. The government engages in these kinds of challenges. One brings people together; but that is not what Canada Post did. One also looks at alternatives, ways to create revenue that build on a long-term plan for this service; and Canada Post did not do that either.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives did its homework. It looked beyond Canada's borders—something the government has trouble doing—at models of postal banking that support people's banking needs, as well as their postal needs, and it looked at ways other countries do it, countries we look to for our source of other advice and ideas: New Zealand, Italy, countries we look to for good ideas on a regular basis. Yet Canada Post did not and has not looked at alternatives that could help make this service not just viable but continue to be prosperous.
It is not by accident that so many Canadians consider this to be a manufactured crisis in many ways, one that is extremely hypocritical and one where it is easy to ask this question. Is Canada Post's ultimate goal to privatize, and is the government's ultimate goal to support the privatization of Canada Post?
As the member of Parliament for , I have heard from many constituents over the last number of weeks. I have received hundreds of letters. Many people have signed our petition. People have walked into our office or have called me at home to talk to me about their concerns. Some of our communities do enjoy home delivery, and I will explain why it is so essential that it continue.
Flin Flon, one of those communities, was founded in 1927. It was built on the Canadian Shield. It is a community that has many seniors who have decided to stay in northern Manitoba close to their families because of mobility issues. It has infrastructure that is challenged in terms of the needs of the 21st century and the growth of the community. It is a community where people cannot imagine where community post boxes could possibly go. A couple of years ago, Flin Flon got an award for having the busiest post office in its region and the population it serves. Yet, instead of supporting a community like Flin Flon and the people who need the postal service, not only do we have this announcement of eliminating home delivery, but Flin Flon has also been told that it might lose its storefront. To add insult to injury, Flin Flon was also told that the storefront was going to be moved to a business address that does not exist in a building that sits empty and that is owned by a landlord who has never even heard from Canada Post. So members will forgive me, as the member of Parliament for this community, when I wonder, along with so many other people in Flin Flon, what kind of logic drives Canada Post's agenda on the macro and micro levels, because it certainly does not seem to be evident.
Thompson, a community established in 1956, also has infrastructure challenges. For the majority of this community, we cannot envision where any new postal developments could take place. Like many communities in the north, it suffers from extreme cold. Yesterday morning when I left my house it was -47C with the wind chill. That cold does not stop Rhonda, Jenn, Wendy, Jerilyn or Tara from doing their jobs day in and day out. However, that cold would mean that people, not just seniors or people with disabilities or those with young families, would no longer be able to just take a stroll down to the community post box and get their mail, or even just hop in a car, albeit it often will not work at -47C. I accept the fact that many people have not the faintest clue what -47C in northern Manitoba with howling wind might feel like. It is just not a reality.
However, instead of listening to the people from these communities, Canada Post has rammed through an agenda that not only does not serve the interests of our people but also makes their lives difficult, this for a service they have paid for.
This announcement also will have a disproportionate impact on Canadian women. According to the CCPA, we know that 95% of the employees who work at Canada Post are women. This draws attention to the fact that the decimation of Canada Post will affect them disproportionately. In northern and rural regions like the ones I represent, the Canada Post jobs that women have are some of the best jobs they can have in our communities. They are secure jobs with pensions and benefits, supporting families and communities. We also know that cuts to the public sector always hurt women and exacerbate their social and economic inequality. It bears pointing out that the gender gap in Canada is alive and well. Women earn 72 cents for every dollar earned by men in this country, a statistic that has barely changed in 40 years. All of this conspires to damage women's equality and the overall social fabric of this country. Job cuts and privatization in the public sector hit women of colour, women with disabilities, women from immigrant backgrounds and aboriginal women the hardest. These women are often the last hired and the first to be let go, as we know from the public sector employees' union.
The Conservatives have broken their promise to protect Canadian communities, whether northern, rural or urban. Canadians will be watching how they vote today.
In conclusion, let us bring this debate back to where it counts, to our communities and the understanding that Canada Post belongs to Canadians. It belongs to my generation that depends on this service, to my parents who helped build this service and to our grandparents and people before us who helped create the Canada Post we have today. It is an integral part of our community. Postal workers connect us. They keep an eye on us. They ensure that we have the information, the goods and services we need.
This is a test where Canadians will found out where Conservatives stand: on their side or on the side of the CEOs and those who want to privatize our most essential services. Canadians deserve better. They deserve having our Canada Post protected.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this motion.
Yesterday, the said that the government had no intention of debating the issue of Canada Post.
This is something of great concern to Quebeckers and Canadians. Since it is easy to forget what is at the heart of the debate, I would like to read the motion that we are discussing today, which was moved by the hon. member for .
That, in the opinion of the House, door-to-door mail delivery is a valuable service provided by Canada Post, and that this House express its opposition to Canada becoming the only country in the G7 without such a service.
That is what we are debating today, regardless of how the government is trying to spin the decision made by Canada Post Corporation.
It is somewhat ironic, given that in June of 2001, the House sat for days on end debating a government bill forcing postal workers who had been locked out by Canada Post back to work.
It is ironic because the government argued, and did so for days, that home mail delivery was an essential service for the Canadian economy.
Today, two and a half years later, we find ourselves in a situation where the government is washing its hands of the whole thing and arguing that the modernization and future of Canada Post hinge on this necessary move.
Members have been arguing since this morning that the opposite is true. Moreover, they have made a case that Canada Post’s decision is not only irrational and irresponsible, but it also flies in the face of the sound business practices that Canada Post should display to Canadians.
Let me remind hon. members that this decision spells the gradual end of home mail delivery and signals an increase in postal rates. The cost of a stamp is slated to increase anywhere from 35% to 55%. The goal is also to eliminate between 6,000 and 8,000 jobs, supposedly through attrition.
However, when we look at the business decisions and the strategy advocated by Canada Post, clearly the cuts will not come through attrition, but rather through the elimination of positions that, as my colleague from pointed out, are well paid. These are good jobs that come with benefits, something the government seems to want to distance itself from, not only in the public sector but in the private sector as well. The government seems to be taking an approach that adversely affects the economic security of Canadians.
We have also seen the Conservatives borrow freely from the New Democrats’ consumer protection program. We saw this in the Speech from the Throne.
The Conservative government now has an opportunity to defend consumers directly. It talks about the taxpayers. These same taxpayers who are responsible for Canada Post, a crown corporation, are also users of postal services. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is washing its hands of this whole affair, when it has an opportunity to show its commitment to consumers.
What we have here is a government that is chicken. It has others do its dirty work. Canada Post and VIA Rail are just two examples of crown corporations that have taken drastic steps to slash services to which Canadians are entitled.
The government is washing its hands of this affair by maintaining that they are crown corporations and that it does not wish to interfere with their business decisions. I wish to remind the government that while they are crown corporations, the government is a 100% shareholder in these corporations. If a majority shareholder in the private sector were to show the same degree of nonchalance as the Conservative government is showing toward Canada Post, not only would it quickly find itself with a worthless portfolio, it would be singled out by the public and the business community as totally irresponsible.
We are not asking the federal government to manage all of Canada Post’s decisions, but to argue that the government bears no responsibility even though it is the majority shareholder—not just a majority shareholder but the sole shareholder—in Canada Post defies logic, in my opinion. What I find interesting is that Canada Post announced its plans the day after the House wrapped up its work in Ottawa.
We were not able to debate this in the House. This decision has been extremely unpopular, which is clear from public opinion and what people who are concerned about the end of home delivery are saying. The government says that this was Canada Post's decision and that it knew nothing about it. That is false; the government knew.
On this point, I can quote Jean Lapierre, who was a member in this House. Today he is a political columnist, but he was the minister of transport from 2004 to 2006, so he was the minister responsible for Canada Post Corporation. The day after the Conservative government's decision, he was asked about it. He thinks that decision was irresponsible, because it was made without any real consultation, and that it was a Conservative decision intended to kill Canada Post.
He was also asked if the government likely knew about the decision. He said yes, and for two reasons. The first reason is that the government pays for Canada Post during times of deficit, although there have not been too many of them. However, there is one right now, and the government has to make up the shortfall, given that Canada Post is a crown corporation. The second reason is that Canada Post would not make this kind of decision. I quote Mr. Lapierre:
Canada Post would definitely not make such a drastic decision without consulting the government, because the government will have the unenviable task of defending that decision.
Once again, Mr. Lapierre is a political columnist, but he was the minister responsible for Canada Post Corporation from 2004 to 2006.
The government had to know about this decision. Now it is not surprising to learn why the government was in such a hurry to end the parliamentary session, since it knew that this decision was going to be announced and it wanted to hide over the holidays to avoid having to talk about the decision.
Furthermore, the next day, apart from a press release from the , no one was available to comment publicly on this unpopular and irresponsible decision by Canada Post Corporation, no one from the government or any of the 22 or 23 presidents and vice-presidents of Canada Post Corporation.
The government says it supports Canada Post's decision based on a Conference Board of Canada study published in April 2011. This has been mentioned a few times here in the House, and it bears repeating. That study, which seemed to show that Canada Post Corporation was headed towards deficits as high as $1 billion in 2020, was based on hypotheses that proved to be erroneous or inaccurate.
According to one of them, Canada Post supposedly had a deficit of $250 million in 2012, whereas in reality, Canada Post made a profit of $97 million that year. The only two years in which Canada Post had a deficit were 2011, because of the labour dispute imposed by Canada Post, namely the lockout, and 2013.
We have to modernize Canada Post, because we are living in different times. We do not deny the fact that the volume of mail has decreased, and the trend is to email and other ways of distributing mail. We are aware of that on this side of the House. The fact is that a good company that wants to take up the challenges of the future has to be able to take steps to modernize.
However, between the status quo and the hammer blow of eliminating home delivery as suggested by Canada Post, there are numerous possibilities. They include studying the possibility of providing banking services, without necessarily establishing big banks that would compete with the big six. We could also reduce the frequency of home delivery, a much less drastic measure. Instead of delivering five days a week, Canada Post could deliver every two or three days. However, these possibilities have not been explored by Canada Post.
I maintain that this decision is completely irresponsible. The government is trying to hide behind the facile excuse that it is a crown corporation, whereas the government is completely and absolutely responsible for ensuring that Canada Post Corporation complies with the mandate given to it by Canadians and continues to provide proper service.
Ultimately, it is Canadians as the consumers of services who will have to bear these radical increases in rates, which have not been explained to them, together with solutions such as the termination of home delivery, about which there was no comprehensive consultation.
I therefore implore the government to look closely at the wording of the motion, support home delivery of mail and make sure Canada can have a postal service worthy of an industrialized country that is a member of the G7, but do so in a responsible way to ensure that Canada Post Corporation can survive into the future.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the motion calling on the House to oppose Canada Post's plan to realign mail delivery and the pricing of its postal services.
The fundamental issue in this debate is the threat to Canada Post's long-term financial viability, the serious risks this situation poses for taxpayers moving forward, and the urgent need for immediate action.
Let us review the facts. Canada Post, as an arm's-length crown corporation, is responsible for its operations, including business and financial decisions. Since 1981 it has operated under a mandate to provide postal services on a self-sustaining financial basis, and until recently it had succeeded in coping with the impact of falling mail volumes through incremental efficiencies and price increases. Then in 2011, for the first time in 16 years, it lost money and fell into a deficit. These losses were primarily due to rapidly declining letter mail volumes.
Letter mail is the fundamental problem at play here, and this downward trend is irreversible. Fewer Canadians are using the mail system, visiting post offices, or buying stamps. According to Canada Post, a typical Canadian household buys only one to two dozen stamps per year. Mail volumes have dropped almost 25% per address since 2008, and they continue to fall with no end in sight. This has sharply cut Canada Post revenues, and it is neither a fad nor a short-term problem.
People are choosing instant communication through text and email over mailing paper, with even banking and bill payments moving to the Internet. Major mailers in Canada, including governments, are making concerted efforts to reduce their use of postal services in order to cut costs to taxpayers and consumers. Ad mail faces intense pressure from online advertising as well as email and mobile options. As Canadians go online for their information, demand for print publications is also declining. Publishers are moving toward digital versions for tablets and phones.
The one area of growth is parcel delivery, where e-commerce is driving demand for delivery of packages from online retailers and distributors to homes and businesses. However, parcels make up a small percentage of total mail traffic.
Canada Post's 2012 annual report indicated that domestic mail volumes have dropped by 23.6% since 2008 and will continue to decline over the next five years. That means that the corporation's financial picture is not going to improve unless effective action is taken, and taken now. Its draft 2014-2018 corporate plan projects a loss of $437 million in 2014, growing to nearly $700 million by 2023. In short, the corporation's current business model no longer works. It cannot earn sufficient revenues to offset its costs. Without changes, the future viability of the postal service is, at best, uncertain. We should remember that Canada Post cannot long sustain losses like these without being forced to take even more drastic measures.
The move to electronic communication is a fact of 21st century life all around the world, not just in Canada. Those suggesting that Canada follow the direction taken by other countries may want to look more closely at their choices, which include the privatization of Royal Mail in the United Kingdom, the merger of the Danish and Swedish postal services, and massive postal workforce layoffs of up to 40% in countries around the world.
Canada Post has done what it could to generate savings through its 2008 postal transformation initiative. This includes installing state-of-the-art optical readers and sorting equipment and restructuring carrier routes. The result has been a projected savings of about $250 million through to 2017.
Yet despite these improvements, the savings to date are not enough to ensure Canada Post's long-term financial health. Clearly, the corporation cannot avoid taking action to cut costs and raise revenues, action that reflects Canadians' changing habits and preferences.
There will, undoubtedly, be a residual level of demand for mail services, but it is impossible to determine what that level will be. No single change would prevent significant and growing losses on postal operations, but coordinated steps that align service standards with Canadians' choices should enable Canada Post to return to financial stability.
This is the direction Canada Post announced it would take on December 11, 2013. Canada Post's five-point action plan proposes steps to meet Canadians' need for postal service while reducing costs substantially. Let us look at the proposal that gets the most attention: community mailboxes. The corporation proposes to move the one-third of Canadian households that still receive door-to-door delivery to these community mailboxes. Door-to-door delivery is easily the most expensive delivery method, with an annual cost more than twice as high as that for community mailboxes. The purpose of this change, according to Canada Post, is to save money by cutting a high-cost service that most Canadians already do not now receive.
Two-thirds of Canadians already receive their mail through community mailboxes, apartment lock boxes, at post offices in their communities or through end-of-laneway mailboxes. Community mailboxes provide secure mail storage and a convenient place to receive parcels and packets. The corporation has committed to working with people with mobility issues to meet their needs. Canada Post already works co-operatively with municipalities and provinces to find safe, non-obtrusive locations for community mailboxes.
The potential impact of this change on Canada Post's bottom line would be significant. It is expected to reduce the projected 2020 operating deficit by $576 million. That is more than half the projected deficit. Community mailboxes also offer some advantages to Canada Post and its customers. With all deliveries done by motorized carriers, Canada Post could offer marketers opportunities to deliver direct mail items and samples that are too large for a postal carrier to carry; and the installation of community boxes for all residential addresses would support universal access to secure parcel delivery boxes. Any loss of convenience in letter delivery would be offset by increased convenience in parcel delivery. This is, according to Canada Post, a significant benefit given the rise in online shopping and parcel delivery.
Another target of criticism in the plan is the increase in the price of postage. The truth is that Canadians thus far have not been paying the full cost of delivering a letter. The announced increase would bring stamp prices more in line with the full cost of actual delivery. Currently, the price of a Canadian stamp is among the lowest of all developed countries, so there is still good value in sending mail.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, two-thirds of Canadians send two or fewer pieces of regular mail per month, and three-quarters of those surveyed no longer pay their bills by mail. As for businesses, some will be more affected than others. Canada Post says it will introduce a new tiered pricing structure for letter mail that will provide stamp discounts to consumers and businesses. This plan is a practical response to a clear and pressing problem that threatens the financial viability of this important service. It would help to ensure that Canada Post is on a solid financial footing and better reflects Canadians' current choices.
With fewer people buying stamps and mailing letters, we cannot afford to maintain a nationwide industrial system created to handle the large mail volumes of the last century. Clearly, not all Canadians are ready to forgo paper mail, so the answer is not to get out of the letter mail business entirely. Nor is privatization a real option; the same pressures would affect the private mail service as affect Canada Post currently.
There is no guarantee that a privatized mail service would be able to guarantee door-to-door mail delivery at a cost Canadians would pay. For example, the U.K. government had to assume huge pension obligations and other long-term debt before it could begin privatizing the Royal Mail.
Some have suggested finding other sources of revenue to offset letter mail losses; these include parcel delivery services and banking.
Let us take parcels first. The suggestion is that parcel revenues, which are growing as a result of online shopping, could offset the decline in mail revenues. While the parcel market is growing, it is far from the point where it could compensate for the decline in letter mail. The Conference Board of Canada has projected a 26% increase in parcel volume by 2020. However, this would remain small as a share of total mail traffic. We should remember that Canada Post does not have a legislated monopoly on parcel mail, as well. This lucrative market is open to competition.
Then there is banking. It is true that postal services and banking were once combined in Canada. Canada had postal banking from 1868 until 1967, when it was closed down due to a general lack of usage. However, Canada is already well-served by a strong banking industry. If any industry is being transformed by the Internet faster than communications, though, it is banking. With banking services moving online and bank branches consolidating and offering fewer walk-in services, why would we want to offer banking services in post offices?
Therefore, we are back to better controlling costs in a way that better aligns the business model and delivery network around choices that Canadians are making today. As the mail stream continues to change to less mail and more parcels, Canada Post will need to continue transforming its operations.
It is important to acknowledge that reducing labour costs, including the sustainability of Canada Post's pension plan, is a necessary element of Canada Post's plan. Labour is a significant component of Canada Post's rising costs. It is about 70% of its costs. It is obvious that any plan to return the corporation to financial health would have to reduce labour costs.
Canada Post estimates that its plan would result in a reduction of between 6,000 and 8,000 positions by 2019, to be achieved largely through attrition, as Canada Post expects that nearly 15,000 employees will retire or leave the company over the next five years.
Finally, we need to assure rural Canadians that Canada Post's action plan would not affect mail delivery in rural Canada. Any changes under the plan would continue to honour the service levels set out in the Canadian Postal Service Charter and the moratorium on closure of rural post offices.
Canada Post's management has put forward a plan it believes would return the corporation to financial self-sustainability by 2019. What is needed now is not second-guessing but action. It is important that this plan be implemented as quickly as possible to achieve the necessary cost savings and avoid other more drastic measures that would require significant taxpayer assistance. That is why the government supports Canada Post in its efforts to fulfill its mandate of operating on a self-sustaining financial basis. We understand its purpose, which is to protect taxpayers while modernizing its business and aligning postal services with Canadians' choices.
We look forward to seeing the rollout of Canada Post's plan and the transition to a more efficient postal service equipped to meet Canadians' needs now and in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.
I rise today in support of the motion by the hon. member for , which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, door-to-door mail delivery is a valuable service provided by Canada Post, and that this House express its opposition to Canada becoming the only country in the G7 without such a service.
It should be the opinion of the House that door-to-door delivery of regular mail is a valuable service provided by Canada Post. It is the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the constituents of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador. How do I know that? I know that because I asked them. What a novel idea: to ask Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Canadians, what they think. That is not what happened with these proposed changes to Canada Post.
The crown corporation carried out consultations by invitation only with comments submitted beforehand. In other words, it was not a public process. A public process involves the public, but the public, by and large, was forgotten and ignored. However, there was consultation with the Conservative government.
The proposed changes at Canada Post were announced on December 11, the day after the House of Commons closed the fall session. Is it a coincidence that Canada Post announced the elimination of home delivery, the termination of 6,000 to 8,000 jobs, raised the price of a stamp up to $1, and cut the hours of rural post offices the day after the House closed? There was no discussion, no debate, no questions, and no answers. Do I believe in coincidence? I do not with the Conservative government. Sidestepping democracy is the Conservative government's modus operandi. Not only was the public not widely consulted but the people's representatives here in the House were not consulted either.
Beyond that, the minister responsible for Canada Post released one written statement in support of the cuts and then refused to answer any questions, period. Could it be that the minister is taking the time to write us all a letter about the changes to Canada Post? It is not likely, given the price of a stamp.
After the proposed changes to Canada Post were handed down, the chief executive officer said seniors were happy enough to lose home delivery because it will give them an opportunity to exercise, an opportunity to get fit. The CEO has obviously never had to climb the summit of a snowbank in front of a super mailbox and use a blowtorch to unfreeze the keyhole to get the mail, which is how one senior put it to me.
Not one senior or disabled individual I consulted in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl mentioned exercise as a plus to the cancellation of home delivery. Not one. They brought up questions like how they will get their mail in the snow and the ice and the sleet and the slush and the horizontal rain when a gale is blowing.
A public meeting organized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers was held in mid-January in my riding. I am going to read some of the comments that I took down from that meeting. For example, “Home delivery is our right. Do not put me in danger by forcing me to a super mailbox. And as for seniors needing our exercise; yes we do, and we are going to get it in the next election”.
That means they are not going to be voting Conservative, in case it was not obvious.
Another quote was, “What should happen is they should scrap the Senate and save our post office.”
That is an interesting idea.
A further one was, “Unless I become superwoman and learn how to fly, I won't be receiving any mail between December and April”.
That quote is from a disabled woman in St. John's, a member of the Council of Canadians With Disabilities.
Here is a quote from Ralph Morris, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Sector Pensioners' Association: “For seniors, direct deposit of cheques should mean at the post office located at their front door”.
Then there was a quote from a young person: “My generation isn't expecting less. We're going to demand more”.
Those quotes are from the public meeting, and a lively public meeting it was.
Let me read an example of some of the mail that my office has received:
I live in St. John's in a 50-plus condominium. Like several people here, I have a mobility problem. This curtails my walking any distance. If it is very windy, or in the winter there is snow ice, I am unable to walk anywhere. I do not have a car, and there are several people in the condominium here who no longer drive. With the new plans for mail to be no longer delivered to one's home, I wonder how I will obtain my mail.
That is a good question.
Another comment I received was actually a question:
Would you please ask Canada Post if they are going to deliver my mail during the winter, as I am unable to go and get it. The CEO has no idea what I want or need unless he asks me, and that was not done.
I have gone out of my way to use as many quotes in this speech as possible. I have done that because there was such limited consultation, and the Conservatives need to be delivered a message.
This past Saturday, I organized a petition blitz in Mount Pearl. Dozens of volunteers spent two and a half hours knocking on doors, asking people to sign the petition. The petition calls on the Government of Canada to reverse the cuts to services recently announced by Canada Post and to look instead for ways to modernize operations. At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour blitz, we had gathered more than 1,400 signatures. The response was absolutely overwhelming. People do not want to lose their home delivery. Not a single one of the 1,400 people thanked Canada Post for the opportunity to get more exercise, not one.
The municipal councils of St. John's, Mount Pearl and Petty Harbour, all within my riding, also agreed to carry the petition in their municipal offices. This is a quote from the mayor of St. John's, Dennis O'Keefe, who is also vehemently against the cuts:
The elimination of home delivery and the exorbitant increase in postal rates will impact severely on all residents of St. John's and, in particular, on seniors and those with disabilities. Canada Post and the Conservative government need to recommit to their responsibility of government to provide a public service.
Those are key words, “public service”. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in general, those who live in urban areas, and Canadians across the country do not want to lose home delivery service, a treasured service that they have enjoyed for decades, while at the same time, paying more for postage.
The management plan of Canada Post seems to be to eliminate services, raising prices and cut jobs. That is no way to modernize operations of Canada Post. That is no way to manage Canada Post. There seems to be a problem at the very top. The appointed Deepak Chopra months before the lockout in 2011, with a salary of half a million dollars a year and a 33% bonus. Five months after the CEO was appointed, Canada Post cut drug coverage and other benefits to all employees, including those on sick leave and those on disability, and then it cut back on services to the public. Canada Post made a profit of $1.7 billion in 16 of the last 17 years. The one year it did not make a profit was the year that Canada Post locked out its employees.
There is a crisis within Canada Post. It is an invented crisis. It is a crisis of management. Is change inevitable? Yes, it is. The number of letters may be down; that is undeniable with social media and with the Internet, but the number of packages is up.
Are there other opportunities for Canada Post, postal banking, for example? Yes, there are. Were Canadians consulted? No, they were not.
New Democrats want to protect home delivery, improve services, attract new customers and raise revenues for Canada Post. That is what we want.
However, announcing changes with little or no input from Canadians, announcing changes the day after the House of Commons closes, telling seniors to swallow the changes and get more exercise is not the Canadian way.
No, it is not the Canadian way; that is the Conservative way, and it is on the way out.
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, this is not the first time we have seen this government make decisions that are completely out of touch with the everyday reality of Canadians. However, I must admit that it had been a while since I had seen a decision as ridiculous as Canada Post's, one that the government supports, to eliminate home delivery, reduce services and increase rates. As some of my colleagues said, cutting services, chasing away clients and jacking up prices is no way to save a company.
This decision will have an adverse effect on a number of people, primarily seniors. Much has been said about that. It is not for nothing that organizations such as FADOQ, in Quebec, have expressed their serious concerns on the subject. Over the holidays, I talked to a number of seniors who were also very worried about this situation.
This is also going to affect people with reduced mobility, and small- and medium-sized businesses that use postal services a lot and that, let us not forget, are often the drivers of our economy. This will affect the workers. Some 6,000 to 8,000 good jobs will be cut. In fact, this affects everyone.
As I said earlier, during the break I spent a lot of time travelling around my wonderful, vibrant riding, Laurier—Sainte-Marie. It was incredible. People would chase me down in the street to tell me that this was an absolutely crazy idea, that it made no sense. People were indignant; as Canadians, they were offended. Many people were outraged that their country would no longer be able to offer such a basic public service. They were right. Canada will become the only G7 country without door-to-door mail delivery.
People are right about something else too. The government keeps raising the spectre of the deficit and taxpayers being forced to pay for all that. The truth is that for 16 of the past 17 years, Canada Post has made a profit. It made money every year but one. In 2011, the corporation ran a deficit. That just happens to be the same year that, thanks to this government, there was a lock-out. Over the other 16 years, the corporation made $1.7 billion.
I understand and I agree that things will not necessarily always be that way. The market is changing. More and more people—but not all—use the Internet and other means of communication. We have to find smart ways to adapt to that change, not just shut everything down.
Canada Post has several options. The first, which a lot of people have mentioned, is to offer financial services. Many countries have done this successfully, and their postal services offer financial services. That option deserves a closer look. It would help Canada Post, and it would also help people, which is not something we hear about often.
In the southern part of my riding there is no bank, no credit union, no nearby financial service. People often have to turn to private services, and, of course, that costs them money. Usually it is the most vulnerable who have to rely on those services. Having access to financial services would help them. These are people who do not typically get direct deposit; they get their pension cheques and so on in the mail. They would like to keep their mail carrier.
I walked the streets in my riding and spoke to many people, and what I discovered is that they want no part of this so-called reform or five-point plan, and with good reason.
The members opposite maintain that Canadians were consulted. However, since people were invited and comments had to be submitted in advance, I do not see that as consultations. It is high time to hold genuine consultations.
The government maintains that Canadians were consulted and that this decision is in line with their wishes. However, if it really believed this, it would have made this announcement with great fanfare on a Monday morning. Instead, the decision was quietly announced the day after the House adjourned. The government thought that the decision would cause barely a ripple. That was not to be, because the public disagrees with the decision, and it will continue to voice its opposition loudly and clearly.
We have come to realize that this is an arrogant decision, one that is out of touch with reality and disregards the needs and wishes of the public. The CEO of Canada Post best illustrated this fact when he said that seniors would be happy to have the opportunity to get more exercise. Enough said.
My constituents are wondering where these community mailboxes will be located. That is why I say this decision is out of touch with reality. Laurier—Sainte-Marie is a large riding, but covers a rather small area of 3 km by 3 km. There are 72,000 addresses in the riding. It is densely populated and there is not a lot of room. Where will these mailboxes be placed? On the sidewalks? If so, then there will be no room for wheelchairs.
Furthermore, because Laurier—Sainte-Marie is densely populated, several community mailboxes will be needed on each street corner. Not only will persons confined to a wheelchair not be able to get to the mailbox, they will not even be able to get around. How interesting.
For example, the street next to mine has 111 addresses, not to mention two residential buildings. If one large community mailbox is needed for about 36 addresses, according to what I have heard, three mailboxes would need to be placed on this street corner. Furthermore, it would be the same scenario on the next street corner.
Then what are they going to do? Are they going to put them in the street? I did not think I would have to say it, but when I see how out of touch with reality this government and the CEO of Canada Post are, I feel obliged to point out that it snows in Montreal. Yes, it snows in winter. When it snows, they take cars off the streets in order to remove the snow. What are they going to do with these mailboxes? Are they movable boxes? Are they going to hang them in the air? I do not really know. This shows how out of touch with reality they are.
Are they going to put them in the green spaces? We know how respectful of the environment the members on the other side of the House are. I am sorry, but we will never let them touch our green spaces. They also tell us they might install them in businesses, but my grocery store, my butcher shop and my convenience store do not have space for that. They are small places. Then they tell us they could install them in pharmacies, but a quick calculation tells me it would take 7,000 of those individual mailboxes in my pharmacy to serve the area that pharmacy serves. I repeat that there are 72,000 addresses in Laurier—Sainte-Marie, which is a very small area.
In closing, I would like to invite Mr. Chopra and the , publicly, here in the House, to come to Laurier—Sainte-Marie to meet our seniors and explain how this will be good for them, since it will help them get some exercise, particularly in winter, when it is -30°C. I invite them to come and meet with people who have reduced mobility, local merchants, everyone, and tell us where they are going to put their mailboxes.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I rise today to speak to the motion calling on the House to oppose Canada Post's plans to realign its business model with the changing needs of Canadians. Canada Post is required by law to manage its business in a way that is financially self-sustaining. This mandate is at risk because the business model that Canada Post has relied upon to generate revenues and provide service to its customers is no longer viable.
Canadians are increasingly replacing traditional letter mail with electronic communications and commerce. For obvious reasons, we have to keep up with the times. This trend should not be viewed as a temporary or reversible problem for the corporation. We can fully expect Canadians to continue expanding their use of technology, consequently lowering their reliance on traditional letter mail services in the years ahead.
While changes must be made to the business model in order to contain costs and leverage new opportunities, Canada Post must also continue to provide quality postal services to all Canadians, rural and urban, individuals and businesses, as set out in the law and the Canadian Postal Service Charter.
This is not the first time the corporation has taken action to control costs and respond to the opportunities and challenges posed by new technology. For example, several years ago Canada Post launched a modernization initiative called “postal transformation”, which included streamlining mail processing and improving network delivery models. This initiative has been underway for a few years, and it is estimated by the corporation that these actions will help in reducing operational costs by more than $250 million each year by 2017. However, moving forward these measures will not be enough.
As the nature of the business continues to change at a rapid pace to less mail and more parcels, it is clear to everybody that Canada Post must now take additional action to modernize its business and align postal services with the choices that Canadians are making. Without action, the current business model would lead to a financial dead end, and taxpayers could be stuck with the bill.
Let us be clear. The current business model would not ensure Canada Post's long-term viability.
In December 2013, Canada Post announced a significant initiative that would form the basis of a new postal system positioned to better serve Canadians and meet their changing needs. A five-point action plan was guided by the following principles: that the status quo was not an option in the face of the steep decline in mail volumes; that the corporation would not rely on taxpayers to fund it; that financial success would be balanced with public policy obligations, for example, the importance in continuing to serve rural and northern communities; and, finally, that it would not be forgotten that small businesses still rely on mail as their primary mode of commerce.
The plan could be implemented without any changes to the Canadian Postal Service Charter. With these important considerations in mind, I would now like to highlight the five key elements of the plan. The first initiative of the five-point plan will see the conversion of door-to-door household mail delivery in urban centres to community mailboxes over the next five years. The first neighbourhoods to be converted will be announced by Canada Post as implementation plans are finalized. Door-to-door delivery is by far the most expensive delivery method, with an annual cost that is more than twice as high as for community mailboxes.
This change would provide the most significant savings to Canada Post. It would also eliminate the current two-tiered service level, as roughly two-thirds of Canadian households, 10 million people, already receive their mail and parcels through community mailboxes, grouped or lobby mailboxes or curbside rural mailboxes. I know that some customers are disappointed by the loss of door-to-door service, but community mailboxes also have significant advantages for Canada Post customers. Better convenience, privacy and security are clear benefits.
While the number of letters, bills and statements received in the mail is declining, digital communication has enabled Canadians to securely buy and request more sensitive and higher-value items online. These include government-issued cards, health products, as well as retail products. It is important that these items be delivered to a place that is locked, secure and convenient.
Busy Canadians are also shopping more frequently online, but they are often not home when parcels are delivered to the door. Often parcels destined for residential addresses will not get delivered because there is no one home during the day to accept the delivery. Notes are left, and after a few attempts residential customers often have to travel a distance away from their home to retrieve their parcels from a local post office.
Community mailboxes offer individually locked mail compartments. This will give residents peace of mind when they are away from home, as mail will no longer be accumulating at the front door or left in a mailbox unattended.
Canada Post is committed to working with municipalities to identify appropriate sites for the community mailboxes based on factors such as safety, accessibility and proximity to addresses they serve. In addition, Canada Post has experience working with Canadians for whom mail retrieval is difficult due to permanent mobility issues. They have committed to continue to make sure that every effort is made to address these kinds of accessibility requirements.
For the vast majority of Canadians who do not receive door-to-door service currently, this change is a logical extension of the kind of postal service they have been using for 20 to 30 years, particularly in light of the fact that the costs of door-to-door service are extremely high. Indeed, this change is similar to many other kinds of home delivery services that have changed over the years. The phasing out of home milk delivery many years ago is a comparable example that springs to mind.
The second initiative identified in Canada Post's action plan is an increase to stamp prices that will be launched in March 2014. With rapidly declining volumes of letter mail, Canada Post has decided to introduce a new pricing structure for letters mailed within Canada. The revised differential pricing structure and commercial incentive rates will better reflect the cost of serving various customer segments and benefit those who use the most. For example, new discounts will be launched for consumers and small business owners who buy stamps in booklets and coils. The price of a stamp in this case will be 85¢. Small and medium-sized businesses that use postage metres will pay a new discounted postal commercial rate of 75¢. The minority of consumers who purchase stamps one at a time will pay $1 per stamp.
For most customers, this tiered pricing approach will represent a discount of between 15% and 30% off the single stamp price. Prices for parcels and for addressed and unaddressed advertising mail are not affected by this increase. This tiered pricing model or “use more, pay less” approach recognizes the value of high-volume customers and the lower cost of serving them.
There is no doubt that this initiative will represent an additional cost to Canadians. Based on Canada Post's estimates, the average consumer purchases between 13 and 25 stamps per year. However, we should consider that with the irreversible shift to digital communication, mail volumes will continue to decline at a steep rate. At the same time, the number of addresses being served by Canada Post continues to climb each year, by approximately 845,000 since 2007.
Less mail delivered to more addresses with no complementary change in price or services is not a sustainable business model. Canada's size, geography and low population density contribute to what Canada Post says is one of the highest cost structure for postal services among industrialized countries across the globe. Bringing the price of stamps more in line with the actual cost of delivering mail across the country is a key component of the Canada Post strategy.
The third initiative focuses on Canada Post's expansive retail network. With close to 6,400 postal outlets, it is bigger than Tim Hortons and McDonalds combined.
As more and more Canadians are adopting online shopping, they are looking for improved e-parcel services, including more convenient locations and times for parcel pickup and returns, especially in rural and northern communities that remain highly dependent on this service.
Canada Post is putting in motion an initiative that will optimize its retail network, including leveraging greater use of franchise post offices. Franchise offices are stores within stores.
I am getting direction from the Speaker. With that, I will wrap up, and I would be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on this motion with respect to Canada Post.
In December 2013, Canada Post announced its five-point action plan to return the corporation to financial self-sustainability by 2019.
The need to transform postal administrations is not unique to Canada. Mail volumes are declining globally, according to the Universal Postal Union, the United Nations body that sets the rules for international mail exchanges, and particularly so in developed economies. This is happening as a result of the growth of electronic communications, such as email and smart phones, including texting and the rise of e-communications.
The vast majority of bills were paid by mail 10 years ago. Now bill payment has moved online and some companies are even charging a supplementary fee to continue bill delivery by mail.
Personal letters are also on the way out, with letter writing become something of the past. Gone are the days when mail was delivered many times per day, as it was in the United Kingdom, for example. Cars have since replaced horses, computers have since replaced mechanical calculators, and email and texting are steadily replacing what many Canadians refer to as snail mail.
Greeting card companies are also experiencing a similar downturn in business as electronic birthday cards are becoming more popular. In the United States, where roughly 40% of the entire world's mail is delivered, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has estimated that total mail volume could fall by 60% by 2020 compared to peak 2006 levels. In a study undertaken by that organization in 2012, it also found that the United States Postal Service had excess processing capacity. This was despite the fact that the U.S. Postal Service has made significant cuts to its sorting plants and operations since 2006. The same study predicts that the U.S. Postal Service will reach $21 billion in net losses by 2016.
In the United Kingdom, until recently the Royal Mail operated at a loss. That was as a result of declining mail volumes and the deregulation of its postal market in 2006. This deregulation opened the door to foreign-based mail companies, which began to compete in the most lucrative, low-cost, urban business mail sector. These companies offered cheaper rates than the Royal Mail, thereby putting additional pressures on the Royal Mail's revenues.
In much of northern Europe, such as in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, where Internet penetration has exceeded 90%, the percent of mail volume decline has hit double digits.
What is the rest of the world doing about declining postal business?
Each country has a unique postal environment, including geography, population density, and climate. Not surprisingly, given national and, to some extent, political differences, each country is pursuing its own approach to the downturn in mail volumes.
In the United States, a bill was introduced in Congress in July 2013. If passed, the postal reform act of 2013 would authorize the United States Postal Service to end door-to-door mail delivery and implement a five-day a week delivery schedule.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, about 30 million Americans, or less than 10% of the population, get their mail directly to their front door at a yearly cost to the postal service of about $353 per household. In comparison, delivery to cluster mailboxes, which are similar to Canada Post's community mailboxes, costs about $160 per address per year. Since few Americans spend more than a fraction of the delivery cost per year on stamps, the goal is to cut the cost of delivery as much as possible, particularly since the U.S. Postal Service has a mandate to break even, something it has not achieved in years.
If passed, the postal reform act of 2013 would also remove the current no lay-off clause from future postal worker collective agreements.
Given that the legislation has not yet passed, the U.S. Postal Service is taking steps within its power to reduce costs. The U.S. Postal Service has now converted more than 6,000 of its post offices to reduced hour operations, which it hopes will save $500 million a year.
In the United Kingdom, the government has decided to privatize the Royal Mail. In 2011, the U.K. government passed the Postal Services Act that set the stage for the privatization of the Royal Mail, albeit the latter will still be required to continue fulfilling the universal postal service. Recognizing that the privatization could not be successfully carried out as long as the company was running at a loss, the United Kingdom increased postage stamp rates in 2012. To increase revenues, rates were increased by 30% for first class mail and 36% for second class mail. This translates into a cost of over a dollar at current exchange rates for first class mail.
The U.K. government also assumed the assets of the Royal Mail's pension regime, representing 28 billion pounds Sterling, or approximately $45 billion Canadian dollars. It also assumed the pension regime liabilities amounting to 8.4 billion pounds, or around $14 billion more than the asset amount. This allowed the Royal Mail to make profits in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, the post offices were spun off into a separate limited company that received almost $2 billion in subsidies from the government.
Canada Post's five-point action plan avoids the heavy subsidies that governments of other countries such as the United Kingdom have provided their postal systems.
Deutsche Post was also privatized, but Germany took a very different approach than Great Britain. The German government gave Deutsche Post the freedom to expand its business while continuing to operate in a protected German postal market. This market protection occurred before Deutsche Post went public in 2000 and for some years thereafter. In 1998, Deutsche Post began acquiring DHL and has since consolidated its leadership in the logistics and freight business through subsequent acquisitions of other companies. The protection afforded to an expanding Deutsche Post led it to becoming the world's largest courier company.
In fact, mail delivery makes up less than 20% of Deutsche Post's DHL business. Recognizing the advent of electronic communications, Deutsche Post was one of the pioneers of hybrid mail. Mail can be sent electronically through email and then delivered in physical form. The reverse scenario is also possible, where physical mail is scanned, sent electronically and then printed off using a handy Deutsche Post printing device. Legal documents are often mailed using this approach.
Other postal services have also diversified their business lines to offset shrinking mail revenues. Australia Post, for example, has diversified its services by selling licenses to post offices, which also sell electronics, travel items, books, phones, et cetera. This diversification has occurred in response to the declining mail revenues. Last year, Australia Post lost a record $187 million Australian dollars on its traditional mail business. Australia Post just conducted a survey to determine whether customers would prefer to have their mail delivered three times a week or pay an annual $30 fee for daily delivery.
Canada is a vast country. In fact, it is the largest of the G7 countries. Although it may only be 100 square kilometres bigger than the United States, it is almost 40 times the size of the United Kingdom. From a population density perspective, the United States has over 10 times the population density of Canada and Japan has over 100 times the population density of Canada, yet Canada's postal service is able to move Canadian mail at competitive prices over vast distances in our country, which at times experiences difficult weather. Other countries do not face these same challenges.
Rather than having Canada Post expand its business activities into areas for which it is not well suited, a more important question that Canada Post has considered is what sort of postal services do Canadians need? Canada Post has responded to the challenge of declining mail volumes. The result is Canada Post's five-point action plan announced in December 2013.
This plan is within the parameters of the Canadian postal service charter announced by the government in 2009. While it is easy to criticize Canada Post for taking steps to ensure the survival of Canada's postal system while meeting the needs of Canada's postal consumers, the alternative is the threat of a failing postal service provider, or a postal service that is no longer economically viable and operates with huge debts that ultimately will have to be borne by Canadian taxpayers.
While it is true that mail volumes are in decline, it is also true that mail will be around for some time. Canada depends on Canada Post to deliver the mail and this government expects Canada Post to continue to provide this service for years to come while ensuring sound fiscal management.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be sharing my time today with the member for .
I am delighted to rise in the House today to speak about our NDP opposition day motion condemning Canada Post for its plans to privatize more post offices, hike postage rates to unaffordable levels and make our country the first in the world to eliminate door-to-door delivery. Unfortunately, I only have 10 minutes to participate in this debate, so I know I am going to run out of time before I will be able to make every point that needs to be made here today.
However, let me be crystal clear right from the start. I firmly believe that door-to-door mail delivery is a valuable service provided by Canada Post, and I am fundamentally opposed to Canada becoming the only country in the G7 without such a service.
It is ironic that the last time we debated matters related to Canada Post in the House was in June 2011, when the Conservatives had locked out members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and then brought in legislation to order them back to work. At that time the government argued that the services provided by the men and women of CUPW were absolutely essential to the Canadian economy, and it used that argument as its main justification for the urgent need to pass back-to-work legislation.
Now, just a mere two years later, those very same postal workers are now expendable. Laying off 6,000 to 8,000 postal workers suddenly does not matter. That is nonsense. It is as important to support Canada's mail delivery system now as it was then. For me, the memories of that last debate are bittersweet. It was the last time that our former leader, the hon. Jack Layton, made a speech in the House. As all of us who were in the House that day will remember, Jack was not well that day, but this issue was so important to him.
I remember him speaking of Gary, the postal worker who delivered the mail to his home in Toronto. He spoke of the very special relationship that Gary had developed with Jack's mother-in-law and the mother of the MP for , who at the time was 85-years old. Like so many seniors, she depended on Gary to keep her connected to the rest of the world, and it was a relationship she valued and cherished. Jack then went on to speak about one of the fundamental values of all New Democrats, the right to free collective bargaining. Here is what he said:
It is important for us to understand that the benefits provided by collective agreements go beyond a mere contract. The added benefits negotiated by workers over the years have helped to raise the standards for all Canadians. Unionized workers fought for rights that we now take for granted: a decent wage to raise a family—the salaries of unionized workers have a positive upward effect on the salaries of non-unionized workers—plus occupational safety and health standards, the 40-hour work week, weekends, protection against harassment, vacations, workplace pension plans, and the list goes on.
Hand in hand with progressive parties like the New Democratic Party, collective bargaining has been one of those engines for progress for working people. I see this as a legacy to build upon, not something to be torn down.
Then Jack ended his speech with the words, “That is all I can say at the moment”. As we all know now, it was literally all he was able to say. His body was failing his indomitable spirit.
However, the rest of us picked up where our leader left off. It was an incredible few days. For the newly elected members of our caucus, it was their first time to give a speech in the House. It was the first time they had sat around the clock, and yet there were no complaints. Even when they were not able to attend events to celebrate the national holiday of Quebec, they stood up in the House for what they believed in. They joined in the struggle for decent jobs for the members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and for future generations of workers.
In many ways, that fight forged our solidarity as Canada's strong, progressive opposition. It is that opposition that is bringing the fight to protect Canada's postal service to the floor of the House again today. We have been brought to this point by an unbelievably cynical move by Canada Post in December of last year. It was the day after the House rose that Canada Post announced its major cuts to our postal service in the hopes that MPs would not be around to mount a campaign. To boot, the minister responsible for Canada Post, after offering a written statement in support of the cuts, then refused to answer any questions. However we did take notice, and we know what has been happening. In fact, the changes started some time ago.
Since January 2012, dozens of Canada Post offices have been closed or given closure notices. Rural services have been particularly hard hit by the changes so far. Now Canada Post has announced it will be eliminating home delivery services in urban areas, pursuing privatization of postal outlets, drastically increasing postage rates up to $1 a stamp and laying off 6,000 to 8,000 workers. This is a movie we have seen before from the Conservatives.
Under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the Conservatives closed more than 1,500 post offices across the country. However two wrongs do not make a right. Let us be clear: these cuts are detrimental not just for Canadians who will no longer be getting home delivery services, but the announced price hikes will hurt businesses and charities that rely on mail service for their daily operations. Perhaps that is why Canada Post did its level best not to let Canadians know what it was planning.
It is inconceivable to me that such major cuts are being pursued without proper public consultation. The public owns Canada Post. It has a right to input.
Let us look at the so-called business case that we are expected to buy into.
As I mentioned earlier, Canada Post workers were locked out in 2011, shutting down operations of Canada Post and resulting in its first deficit in over 15 years. However, Canada Post made more than $1.7 billion profit over 16 of the last 17 years. The one year of deficits is now being used by the Conservatives as a justification for these draconian cuts.
What the Conservatives are not talking about is that the appointed a new CEO just months before the 2011 lockout of Canada Post employees, with a salary of $0.5 million and a 33% bonus. That CEO has 22 vice-presidents. That same president then cut the drug coverage and other benefits of all employees, including those on sick leave and disability. It is a disgrace.
Let us look at what should have happened.
Any changes should be premised on the underlying principle that having a reliable and accessible mail delivery service is vital to Canadians. Canada Post has provided critical and essential services for over a century and Canadians depend on their local postal services. So for me, it is essential that we protect home delivery and improve services to attract new customers and raise new revenues for Canada Post.
Canada Post can modernize its services without going down the road to privatization, but that requires consulting and engaging with Canadians in a meaningful way to find ways to expand postal services instead of gutting them.
Canada Post should be exploring new ways to find revenue to maintain existing services, like through expanded e-commerce or financial services, which have proven to be successful around the world.
A responsible government would consider a range of solutions to renew our postal services and to attract new customers. That expansive approach would be welcomed by Canadians from all walks of life who are expressing their outrage through rallies, petitions, motions passed by municipal councils and letters to the editor about the proposed cuts at Canada Post and the Conservatives' endorsement of those cuts.
I know my time is running short, but let me just conclude by giving voice to the concerns of Canadians here on the floor of the House. That is what we are sent here to do. We are sent here to represent Canadians, not to represent Canada Post.
Seniors and persons with disabilities were the first to express outrage because they know these changes threaten accessibility to their mail, especially in the winter and in the rain.
Low-income Canadians, charities and small and independent businesses were next, frightened by the disproportionate impact that the price hike on stamps will have on them.
For law enforcement officials, security at community mailboxes was a concern because they are keenly aware of reported incidents of mail and identity theft at those community mailboxes.
Municipal councillors are upset because no consideration has been given to the urban planning impact of these changes.
Of course, postal workers are concerned about jobs and working conditions.
All of these concerns are real. All of these concerns are legitimate, and they should have been considered before Canada Post moved forward with these drastic cuts.
As I said earlier, the public owns Canada Post and it has a right to be heard.