Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Tom Lukiwski. I am the chair of the government operations and estimates committee. One of the things that I routinely insist upon is that we start our meetings on time and that we adjourn on time, so even though some of our members are not here yet, I think we'll begin.
Gentlemen, as you are probably aware, the minister responsible for Canada Post has asked this committee to engage in a series of consultations with Canadians from coast to coast to coast on how Canadians view the future of Canada Post. The task force, which was also established by the minister, has come back with their report on the financial viability and the future of Canada Post from that perspective. This perspective is more how Canadians view Canada Post and what they expect from Canada Post in terms of services. This is our first meeting as we go across Canada.
I welcome both of you here today. My understanding is that you have been in consultation with our clerk, and you are prepared to open with five-minute statements. Following that, we will engage in a series of questions and answers with all members of the committee, and we have approximately one hour for our consultation.
On my list, Mr. Tremblay-Pepin, I have you first, and if you would care to deliver your opening statement, then we will go directly to Mr. Ricoul.
I want to thank all the committee members for having me here today.
I spent my weekend reading the task force's report with considerable interest. I will focus on that document, and not on my previous work on Canada Post, because what we are interested in are the proposals it contains.
First, I want to point out what is interesting in the report and the in-depth work that has been done on the Canada Post question. It informs us researchers about Canada Post and contains many proposals and much information on public opinion that I find very interesting.
I will be making my opening remarks under three headings. The first is the convergence issue, which I feel is somewhat absent from the report and on which I would like to comment. Second is the funding of Canada Post, on which I will also make a few comments. Lastly, there is the pension plan.
Starting with convergence, a number of very interesting points have been made on the topic. I am pleased the task force looked at Canada Post's viability and not immediately at its privatization. This is something of a change from my specialty. I have mainly published pieces in which I say that Canada Post should not be privatized. Consequently, I will not be giving my usual spiel since we are not discussing that issue today.
The report outlines certain possibilities such as making Canada Post a community service centre or replacing Service Canada to some extent. It also addresses the possibility of postal banking. The report raises the possibility of an agreement with Caisses Desjardins or with other credit unions elsewhere in Canada.
Services to seniors are also mentioned several times in the report, which dances around the topic but never examines in concrete terms what that might mean. There is also the parcel issue, of course.
I invite you, as legislators, to consider the convergence question. Is it possible to rethink the role of Canada Post today as that of a community service centre? Canada's population is aging. In many rural communities, banks and credit unions are closing, and that inconveniences many fellow citizens. Could we create a space where a number of minor services that people need to a lesser degree, but need nevertheless, could be provided together?
It is strange that these issues are raised in the report but that it does not consider the possibility of funding Canada Post if it were to take on certain responsibilities from the government, such as those of Service Canada. If that were the case, would funding not be granted to Canada Post if its employees began to provide services that are currently delivered by Service Canada? Would that not balance Canada Post's accounts?
If Canada Post began providing home delivery of prescription medication for seniors, would there not be a way to provide funding for that purpose from the provincial health departments? The report states that this has been done in other countries. I remind you that the provincial departments already fund not-for-profit organizations that perform similar services.
Are there no responsibilities that could be assigned to Canada Post? The corporation's employees provide public services and are in contact with the population every day. We know perfectly well they are not public servants because Canada Post is a crown corporation. Why not take advantage of that fact to provide more services rather than think in terms of cuts? This is something we could think about. If it offered services to banks and credit unions, they would obviously be prepared to pay for them. It is possible to consider a financial restructuring for Canada Post, a topic that I believe was quickly removed from the discussion.
I will close with a word about the corporation's pension plan, an issue that is currently being addressed in an odd way. Let us be clear. If Canada Post closed its doors tomorrow morning, we would want it to be able to repay in full all monies from its pension plan. If this committee and Parliament ultimately decided to keep Canada Post alive, why then require that it cut financial resources for an eventuality that will not occur?
It seems to me that Parliament must be able make its decisions and to do what it must to maintain the services that are provided to Canadians.
Mr. Tremblay-Pepin's presentation was very good. I am sorry but I must admit I am not as well-prepared as he is. I have not even read the report because I did not receive it. I did not know why I was here until two or three minutes ago, but I am beginning to understand. I will not be using Mr. Tremblay-Pepin's extensive vocabulary, and I do not know how to address you because this is the first time I have been involved in a parliamentary committee. I am nevertheless very pleased to be here.
I represent the e-commerce or digital economy component of Quebec and Canada. I would like to talk to you solely about that component.
I believe Canada Post plays an essential and extremely important role in this area. The digital world is in perpetual motion. Everything is constantly moving more quickly. We talk about accelerating acceleration in our world. When players like Amazon invent delivery in one hour or less, that creates expectations in citizens and consumers.
So people have expectations of Canada Post because the corporation delivers most small parcels. Large parcels are delivered by Purolator, which belongs to Canada Post. The corporation therefore has no choice but to play that role and to provide a service equivalent, or virtually equivalent, to that of Amazon or other such companies. However, I will not go so far as to say that Canada Post should acquire drones because I do not believe in them.
I very briefly took note a little earlier of the recommendations that were made. Community mailboxes were mentioned. That has triggered a debate in Montreal, in particular, with Mayor Coderre. That debate is more amusing than anything else because I think community mailboxes are extremely important.
The reason is simple. People do not want certain parcels to be left at their door. They would like to have them immediately, but sometimes they are not at home. It would be excellent if there were community mailboxes down the street. However, they would have to be equipped with compartments big enough for parcels. That is one of my recommendations. Since I know about the digital world, I think it would be a good idea for this to be connected to our cell phones so that we could be notified by text message that we have received a parcel and that it was delivered to the community mailbox at a specific time of day.
I think alternate day delivery is fine for letter mail but would pose major problems for parcels. In my view, alternate day parcel delivery is shooting oneself in the foot. It should not be recommended. When people order parcels online, they want them right now. It is impossible for certain businesses to deliver parcels in an hour while others deliver them every other day. I think that makes no sense, and we should especially not go in that direction.
As regards e-commerce, I think the synergies with Purolator are already excellent. The markets are clearly separated. Purolator handles heavy parcels and commerce between businesses, whereas Canada Post deals with light parcels and the business-to-consumer segment.
Now I will talk about advertising sales in the retail sector. I imagine we are talking about advertising on Canada Post's trucks and mailboxes. I think that is already being done. For the past four years, I have been a judge for the Canada Post e-commerce innovation awards competition. I have been a judge for four years, but the competition has been going on for five. Many awards go to Canadian businesses, particularly for free parcel shipping. Every year, the awards range between $50,000 and $100,000, which is enormous for a business.
There is also advertising on Canada Post trucks. I think one of the recommendations has already been implemented, at least as a result of the competition. Canada Post provides visibility on its trucks and mailboxes.
The idea of "last-mile" delivery is extremely interesting. I am in favour of Canada Post moving forward with that because when the UPSs and FedExes of the world deliver a parcel to a home but no one is there, that person must travel five kilometers to pick it up.
I will conclude by saying that we are talking about the digital shift right now, and Canada Post Corporation must embrace it. It is making that transition to the digital world—and doing it very well— but now it must do it internally and establish a culture of innovation and a digital culture.
Thank you both for being here.
You said you hadn't read the report but you have read the recommendations of the report, which is quite interesting.
In terms of Canada Post, you talked about the task force. The task force was mandated to create a discussion paper. Our job as a committee is to go out and get input. If they had made any recommendations—they could make suggestions—then it would really defeat the purpose. So just to put it on the record, that was their job. Their job was not to tell us what to do. Their job was to advise us: here is what we have seen; Canada Post is not sustainable in its current format. And if it's not sustainable in its current format....
You have made a few suggestions. I think those suggestions are good to explore, because you've given us some ideas. You talked about the hub of services. You must have thought it through. Explain to me in very short terms how you would expect somebody to pay for those services. Are you saying that it should operate like a Service Canada concept, so that the immigration minister, let's say, or the minister responsible for border security, or whichever minister, could probably have their services, such as the passport service probably, provided by Canada Post, the current hubs? Is that what you're suggesting?
I am glad you raised that question. I must say at the outset that this is not one of my research areas. However, I have read around the question in other cases. I will give you my thoughts, but they are thoughts that I am sure you will be able to improve upon.
I think seniors are an interesting question because we have an aging population and because we are in a situation where access to resources for the care of seniors is increasingly difficult to achieve. Several provinces are having problems in this area.
Consider prescription medication, for example. We know it is dangerous for seniors to go and pick up prescription medication at pharmacies, especially in winter. They have to go themselves because they have a prescription. Could there be a system whereby the Canada Post service centre could receive prescription medication and forward it to the individuals concerned the next day instead of having the pharmacy send it through its own delivery system or even by mail? Could that centre not become a community venue where the pharmacy would deliver medication so that people could receive it the next day? The service would be provided quickly and simply, and people would be pleased with it. Provincial departments could decide whether to offer the service to the public and participate in its funding, which moreover they are already doing with not-for-profit organizations.
There you have a way to find other funding sources. That is why I was talking earlier about a section on funding. There are a number of good ideas about how other public or private organizations can take part in the funding of Canada Post, but they are never considered. It seems to me this is an idea that should be explored.
Mr. Ricoul, I really enjoyed a couple of your suggestions, especially the one about the box with the phone link. I don't think we had thought about that before.
I really don't have much for questions. Ms. Ratansi brought up the issue about the taxes, and I think it's an important one. We heard from the committee that the task force did quite extensive polling, and what came back very loud and clear was that people do not wish to pay more, which is understandable.
On the pension thing, you brought up an interesting point. One issue is that if we allow Canada Post to continue a pension holiday and we do not do the same for FedEx, UPS, and other companies competing for them, how do you reconcile that unfair competition you'd be giving Purolator but not the other companies? We require other crown corporations to fulfill the pension rule, so do you suggest that if we give it to Canada Post, we should extend it to everyone else as well? You're obviously very learned on it; I'd like to hear your opinion on that.
That is why I emphasized and said that Canada Post should adopt a culture of innovation or a digital culture. One of the projects we are currently working on—I do not know where it stands—is in association with Canada Post and the Government of Quebec. We are creating, in a free zone, a distribution centre for all online orders. It is this kind of innovation that would set Canada Post apart in the public's mind and ensure its survival in the face of the Ubers of this world.
Every disruptive technology causes seismic change in our society. Seismic change is initially very broad in scope. It subsequently declines but takes an extremely strong turn toward the social and the individual. If Canada Post does not reinvent itself or strive for public popularity, at some point an Uber will appear and hurt it very badly. Canada Post needs to innovate extensively. That is why I go back to the importance of delivery every day, at a minimum, if not twice a day.
I do not know whether you are familiar with Relais Colis in France. Relais Colis is an enormous business today. Its operating principle is that, when you order online, you can decide to have your item delivered through it. The beauty of this arrangement is that Relais Colis takes the parcel to a store, to a merchant near you. The company was created because France's postal authority was always on strike and could no longer guarantee parcel delivery. People became fed up with that and made it known, and a company called Relais Colis was born.
If Canada Post delivers parcels every other day, that will not work in the e-business world. It is incompatible. There will be a rebellion, and the rebellion will result in the creation of a delivery Uber or a Relais Colis. Parcel delivery is growing at Canada Post. After discussing the matter with René Desmarais, I think that is where Canada Post's potential growth lies, but it will decline if Relais Colis establishes itself here.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Gentlemen, I appreciate your comments and thank you for sharing your ideas with us.
Mr. Tremblay-Pepin, I especially appreciated the fact that you could clarify the pension issue, which moreover was in the news this summer. You have helped us understand that, if Canada Post were to shut down, the pension plan would be in a deficit position. Thank you for explaining that to us. It will help the committee make better decisions.
Let us talk about economic issues. I know you have read the entire task force report. I put the question to the task force representatives we met in Ottawa last week. I wanted to know why they had included the 2011 year in the average in their report. I would like to hear your view on that. I thought that was unfair because 2011 was an atypical year. There was a lock-out and a pay equity settlement.
I would like to hear what you have to say as a researcher and economist. Do you think it is fair to have used the 2011 year?
I was surprised too. It is quite common to average the last five years, but, yes, you are right to say this is an exceptional situation. It is different from all previous years in that respect. I would remind you that Canada Post has been profitable in virtually every year of its existence, except in recent years.
That definitely creates a strange impression, but it is interesting to include it in the average because it takes into account exceptional situations. They are not claiming that everything is fine, that there are no problems. I quite agree with the committee that it is important that Canada Post make changes to its structure and to the way it delivers its services. I find what Mr. Ricoul is proposing very interesting. The corporation must adapt in order to become a major player in the parcel sector.
Are we talking about community mailboxes? We have seen that it is difficult to implement that in the major cities.
In France, for example, there is space in the metro stations where people can go and pick up parcels. They get notifications on their phones. This is a very promising possibility that Canada Post could develop if it entered into agreements with metro representatives.
I mention metro stations because we are in Montreal, but this could be done in a host of other urban spaces that people frequently pass through. They would be able to pick up a parcel coming back from the office in the evening and take it home. The parcel would thus not be waiting on their doorstep.
In addition, people would no longer have to go to the post office during business hours to pick up their parcels, and so on. It is entirely possible to develop new options, but you have to be aware—and these are indeed figures that we must deal with—that there are more and more addresses but fewer and fewer letters. I think your task force stated that very clearly.
Now, what do we do? This is not a death sentence. This will not destroy Canada Post. In any case, as you can see, it is still profitable for the moment. The question is the form in which it is maintained and what purpose it serves.
Canada Post is basically a large conventional business. Consequently, it may not be easy to make it evolve. It must engage in a digital strategy exercise. It must digitize its current strategy, which constitutes its DNA, as well as its direction, vision, mission, and so on. By proceeding with that digitization, you will see where its weaknesses lie, what aspects Canada Post must address on a priority basis in order to become an innovative business.
It has no choice but to become such a business, for two reasons: first, it must improve its financial performance and regain market control, and, second, it has to achieve public popularity. Canada Post is a government-owned corporation. It has to be popular and offer service to the public.
Look at how our world is evolving today. All of us, without exception, are going digital. Stores are closing because people buy online. That is their first impulse. Canada Post must be part of that movement. However, the only way to do that is to take a step back and look at the eight dimensions of a business: governance, talent, technology, finance, and so on. The task is to determine, for each of those dimensions, whether you should digitize it and how mature the business is.
Do we have a high degree of digital maturity, in which case that is perfect and we can capitalize on that fact, or are we in a weak position? In the latter case, we must then become more digitally mature.
As it engages in this exercise, Canada Post will acquire what I earlier called an innovation culture or digital culture. Then it will no longer have to fear the arrival of the Ubers of this world, drones, and so on. It will be able to get ahead of them. I jokingly said that the connected mailbox was a good thing. Canada Post already sends text messages when parcels are received and delivered. However, a connected mailbox is even more glamorous. That may not seem like much, but I think it has to move toward that. Canada Post needs to do that.
Thanks to both witnesses for being here today. This is an extremely interesting subject that we have been talking about for several years now. The transformation of Canada Post has drawn a lot of suggestions and reactions.
I would like to get Mr. Tremblay-Pepin's opinion. It is often said that this is a state-owned business, and thus a business that provides a standard national service. The public takes that service for granted.
Does that service have to remain profitable in future, or should the business be subsidized as a public service? Regardless of the direction it takes, whether or not it is digital, do you think we necessarily have to make a choice between the two options or can we combine them?
In areas where there are community mailboxes, letter carriers nevertheless come very close to people's homes. What you are asking me is whether community mailboxes are a good option. I would say that depends on the circumstances.
In the suburbs, where, in any case, everyone has a car and there is space for a community mailbox, they can work very well. In a large city such as Montreal, there are considerations of space, traffic, and access, for example. Someone nevertheless approaches your house, particularly in the case of a special request. The case of parcels is a good example of this because community mailboxes are indeed not all built to accommodate parcels, a fact that poses a number of problems. It is possible for a letter carrier go to a person's home because, in any case, he is in the area. It seems to me this is something that might be a good idea to exploit, from a public service standpoint. We should not view this as simply having a postal organization, but rather look at it from the standpoint of the government and legislators. We have to ask ourselves what we are doing with our asset and how to maximize its cost-effectiveness and profitability.
My question concerns consumer services.
I live in a rural area. The people in my region often tell me the problem is that the post office is open only from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. People need services. They work and they drop their children off at the day care centre at 7:30 in the morning and get home at 5:30 in the evening. In fact, they are able go to the post office only on the days when they are sick.
Canada Post has lost a certain amount of trust, and consumers are trying other ways to receive their mail. They are turning to the private sector. This is often said, but we are not the ones who decide. It would probably be easier to have post offices open from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. from time to time in order to have that contact with consumers. In that way, post offices could provide more services. The consumers who might need those services are not those 55 years of age and over, but rather those who are 30 to 55 years old and who keep the economy running. So even if we added other services and offices, they would not be able to get there.
What do you think about that?
I entirely agree with you.
A moratorium has been issued to keep post offices open in the rural regions, which is a good idea. The services and business hours of those offices have been gradually reduced because they were not cost-effective. They are now staffed by a single person from 9:00a.m. to 5:00 p.m., which are normal business hours, so they will cost less. This is the logic of declining services.
If services are cut, people will think that, since they are not getting services at that location, they will not go there any more. What will that lead to? Further service cuts. This is a vicious circle that leads to the end of Canada Post.
I am going to make a proposal that will have the opposite effect.
People in the rural regions complain all the time that the caisse populaire is going to close; that is what you constantly read in the newspapers. If the post offices provided new services, and if business hours were extended, people would get into the habit of going there. You could make the connection with the caisse populaire for many seniors who want personal service. Could a post office be turned into a rallying point? There could still be a single employee, but that employee would be given better hours, as you suggested. Post offices would be open longer, and people would have access to more services and would be more inclined to go there.
The report refers to major infrastructure costs. There are offices at many locations in Canada. Perhaps it would be a good idea to maximize those costs by providing more services at those offices. We must not abandon those offices or let in the competition.
I come from Causapscal. What will the competition offer in the way of a post office in Causapscal? It will offer nothing; it will simply shut it down.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to the witnesses for being here.
Like Mr. Gourde, I have a lot of questions about the
pace of change that Canada Post needs to go through.
Monsieur Ricoul and Monsieur Tremblay-Pepin, I wonder if you could elaborate on the pace of change within the marketplace, particularly as it relates to rural Canadians accessing the digital marketplace and services online. Most rural communities don't have very good Internet access. Is that a way Canada Post could help?
In addition, what types of services could rural businesses receive from Canada Post to allow them to better access markets themselves through their distribution channels? That may be a little bit like Canada Post being an Amazon for business-to-business services. Maybe you could comment on that for us.
We have five witnesses before us, representing four organizations.
Gentlemen, I know you've been briefed in advance, but we would ask that you keep your opening statements to five minutes or less, if possible. We have only an hour for this portion of our consultations this morning, so if you can keep it to five minutes that will give us approximately 40 minutes for Qs and As.
Colleagues on the committee, because of that I think we'll go with the same procedure we had for our first batch of intervenors, where everyone will have an opportunity for one question and answer portion.
Monsieur Perez, from the City of Montreal, I have you first on my list for your five-minute opening statement, please.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, committee members, for welcoming me here this morning.
My name is Lionel Perez. I am an elected city councillor and a member of the executive committee of the City of Montreal, and I am responsible for governmental relations. I am here to represent the city on behalf of Denis Coderre.
First of all, we hail the Government of Canada's initiative in conducting an independent review of Canada Post and hearing what its partners have to say on the corporation's future. The city believes this kind of consultation should have been conducted before every major change made by Canada Post. This process is essential to ensuring that Canadians obtain high-quality postal services consistent with their living environment and to actually meeting their needs.
Since our presentation is very short, please note that you will find more information on the City of Montreal's issues and demands in the brief we are submitting today. Appended to that brief you will also find the full brief that I submitted on behalf of the city to the task force charged with examining Canada Post in Gatineau on June 16 last.
The objective of our testimony before the commission is to highlight the critical issues that are specific to large cities such as Montreal, and to reiterate the importance of home delivery, particularly in highly dense urban areas.
The first point is the total lack of any serious prior consultation or any real collaboration that we've encountered with Canada Post. Prior to and following the Canada Post announcement in December of 2013 about their five-point action plan, Canada Post had repeatedly acted unilaterally without any real consultation with cities.
Accordingly, the city conducted its own public consultation in 2015, where Canada Post was invited and was present, and the conclusions were overwhelming: 95% of all the briefs that were submitted were opposed to the measures in the five-point plan.
In winter 2015, as a result of the lack of consultation on the many problems associated with the measures taken by Canada Post, the city joined the lawsuit brought by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Montreal is of the view that, in its proceedings, the parliamentary committee must consider the will of the public and of Canada Post's customers.
To illustrate one of my points, here is a true example of something that happened in Montreal with Canada Post. In the borough of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, in the spring of 2016, while there was supposedly this moratorium, Canada Post attempted to install a community box on a portion of 2nd Avenue. For several weeks, with the lack of adequate home delivery service, citizens had to pick up their mail more than five kilometres from their home. Hours of service were limited, and this distance of travel created much frustration to the city.
This is just one example that is indicative of the cavalier attitude of Canada Post that Montreal has had to deal with.
The second issue we would like to highlight is the numerous difficulties in attempting to install community boxes in highly dense urban areas in many parts of Montreal. Montreal has a population of more than 1.8 million, and 50% of the population lives in greater urban areas. This is a trend that will continue to increase for the next 25 to 40 years, when 70% of the Canadian population will live in urban areas.
In addition to that, we also have an aging population—more than 300,000 persons, 16% of the population of Montreal. In addition to that, there are persons with disabilities aged 15 years of age and over. According to Quebec's survey on activity limitations, there are 594,000 such individuals in the Montreal area.
Collectively, these most vulnerable are directly affected by the reform of postal service. They need accessible service and home delivery.
We know that the presence of community mailboxes is sometimes impossible due to lack of space, or is likely to have a significant impact on the traffic, on the parking, or even on the sense of safety of our citizens.
The situation of le Sud-Ouest in 2015 was widely circulated in the media. A series of community boxes—we're talking about a wall of community boxes—was installed, and without any prior consultation. Immediately there were problems with graffiti, with maintenance, and with universal accessibility.
We call upon the members of the commission to be vigilant and to ensure that the mistakes of the not-too-distant past are not repeated. It should also be noted that the working group itself reported the importance of carrying out more in-depth studies, further analysis, and consultation in order to determine the viability of proposals specifically.
I will refer you to our five recommendations in our memo. I'd like to highlight one of the elements, the fact that there is a necessity for Canada Post to work in strict collaboration with municipalities to respect our urban regulations and to ensure that essential services are afforded to citizens.
To conclude, the independent review of Canada Post Corporation is a unique opportunity to turn the tide and correct the problems caused by the lack of consultation and implementation of Canada Post's five-point plan. The work of the committee must produce tangible results.
It is essential that the municipalities be recognized as near governments and essential partners that must be consulted in advance of any intervention that may have an impact on their territory. The City of Montreal wishes to work together with the members of this committee to promote the implementation of these recommendations.
Thank you for your attention.
I want to thank the committee for allowing us to express the opinion of the citizens of Laval.
I am accompanied by Martin Gratton, who works in the urban development department and who negotiated with Canada Post as part of this new program.
We have been faced with an unacceptable unilateral decision by Canada Post to abandon home mail delivery. I note in passing that some 600 jobs have been lost in Laval.
Furthermore, from the moment the administrative decision to abandon home mail delivery was implemented, municipal councillors and the administration of the City of Laval encountered a failure to listen and cooperate on the part of Canada Post, even though the municipal council passed a resolution in October 2014 expressing our willingness to cooperate with the corporation based on informed, reciprocal exchanges. That resolution remained a dead letter and the exchange has remained a one-way affair.
In view of the general outcry from our citizens, we had virtually no choice but to turn to the courts. A negotiated solution would have allowed us to consider friendlier arrangements that would have both met Canada Post's cost-effectiveness objectives and helped to provide the delivery services that all Canadian citizens are entitled to expect.
In addition to that aspect, it would also have helped to avoid safety problems and to reduce the anxiety actually experienced by our elderly and disabled citizens residing in the old neighbourhoods of Laval. Canada Post's decision resulted in an anarchic installation of mailboxes, and location selection absolutely failed to reflect certain existing urban realities. We would have liked the corporation to be more conciliatory, more humane in the way it achieves its objectives.
What do we want, in addition to a radical change in philosophy and approach to its clientele?
To put it plainly, we want a return to home delivery in the old, more densely populated neighbourhoods of Laval. We believe this service should be maintained because it more directly concerns seniors and persons with reduced mobility. We therefore ask that all community mailboxes be removed from those old neighbourhoods.
In the newer neighbourhoods, we want Canada Post to conduct a systematic review of each of the mailbox installations in close cooperation with our officials to ensure they meet safety and traffic flow criteria. In cases where a situation poses a problem, those boxes should be reinstalled elsewhere with the consent of the city's services. Canada Post must also restore the venues where the mailboxes thus moved were located.
Fourth, for all new developments in Laval, future installations of community mailboxes will have to be validated by means of a clear and rigorous process in which our municipal services are consulted to ensure that the mailboxes are consistent with the municipal regulatory framework. We want Canada Post to address this matter as a good, environmentally concerned citizen by including paper recycling boxes in these mailbox installations.
Many of our fellow citizens in new neighbourhoods are adjusting very well to the mailboxes. The configuration of these new installations obviously assists in that respect. That is not the case in the old, more densely populated neighbourhoods, and that fact must be taken into account.
In closing, I repeat that we entirely understand that postal service must meet cost-effectiveness and efficiency criteria.
Mr. Chair and ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening to us. We are prepared to answer your questions.
My name is Sylvain Lapointe, and I am a member of the national executive committee of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. I was also chief negotiator in the last bargaining round that has just been completed. We are now preparing to go and see our members in order to ratify the two collective agreements, for the urban unit and the rural unit.
I would like to take a closer look at various topics but will limit myself to the question of Canada Post's finances. I believe there are important things that you should know about in connection with what was negotiated in the last bargaining round.
Canada Post offers various product lines, the three main ones of which are: Lettermail, parcels and Admail, which is unaddressed mail.
To be clear, letter mail volumes are declining at a steady rate of 4% to 5%. We do not know whether they will stabilize—they probably will—but we know they will not increase.
With regard to growth, that therefore leaves the main sectors: parcels, admail, and other services, including financial and banking services.
I will focus on parcels and admail since they were the focus of major discussions during the last bargaining round. It is unfortunate that the review committee did not have these data in hand before submitting the report to you. The report would probably have been much more optimistic than it currently is.
We have two main demands with respect to parcels. The first is that we address parcels and plan measures for delivering them in the mornings, in the evenings, and on weekends. Our second demand concerns admail—its weight and dimensions—so that we can increase market share.
In the case of parcels, Canada Post wanted to be able to use a temporary part-time workforce to deliver on weekends, in the evenings, and in the mornings. The union said yes. The union said that, if Canada Post wanted growth, it would be there and part of that effort. It should be noted that the parcels Canada Post currently delivers contain two-thirds of the products ordered online across the country. The measure we negotiated will enable it to grow more.
As for admail, this is a market in which Canada Post holds a very small share. Our demand was that the corporation go after larger and heavier mailings in addition to reviewing the compensation method for that type of mailing. We accepted this second growth model for Canada Post.
We are satisfied that these changes will enable Canada Post to enjoy significant growth in parcels and admail.
Unfortunately, the task force report is based on Canada Post's data and on a study by the Conference Board of Canada that was commissioned and paid for, we would note, by Canada Post. The important thing is to compare the data that were reported at the time concerning Canada Post's future with its actual financial position.
In 2014, Canada Post anticipated an operating loss of $256 million. In fact, it made a profit of $299 million. The corporation made an error of more than $550 million, which is not a small amount. It was a major error. However, the Conference Board and Canada Post data were incorrectly used as a basis for making cuts to postal services and the decision to install the community mailboxes. No reason was given to justify moving in that direction. Growth is the key for Canada Post.
This year, the task force anticipates an operating loss of $63 million. The reality is that it will probably be an even more profitable year for Canada Post. The first two quarters of the year were the best since 2010, when Canada Post began publishing its quarterly reports.
On behalf of the men and women who work at Canada Post, we ask that you carefully examine the statistics on the budget estimates and consider the corporation's actual financial position. Bear in mind one thing: service cuts do not result in revenue, do not create jobs, and do not keep decent jobs in Canada, that is to say jobs for the middle class. However, new services can afford you that opportunity.
Good morning. Thank you for inviting us to take part in the proceedings of your parliamentary committee.
Allow me to return to a point I heard made today. It was noted that only 32% of the population receive their mail at home. That figure does not include people who live in apartment buildings. People who receive their mail at the end of their driveway are considered as not receiving home delivery. I personally live in a 14-apartment building and feel I receive my mail at home because I only have to go down to the building entrance to get it.
I am a Canada Post retiree and assisted in the preparation of the brief that was submitted by the Montreal local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. I did not print it because I took it for granted that all committee members have access to all information submitted to the subcommittee. However, if you do not have access to it, I will be pleased to send it to you.
The consultation process to date has left me confused. No one had access to all the briefs submitted, unlike in the 2008 process, in which we had access to all filed documents. The City of Montreal conducted a public consultation and we had access to the filed documents. I think it is important that the public be able to read all documents, and I hope committee members had access to them.
I also deplore the fact that the banking services study commissioned by Canada Post has yet to be made public, with the exception of some 100 out of 800 pages, all the rest of which have been redacted.
One also gets the impression that the document that was made public last week was virtually written by Canada Post. If Canada Post had written a report, it would be virtually the same.
The union had discussions with the committee, but, as may be seen from page 39, a number of meetings were held with Canada Post. It is therefore clear that it is Canada Post's vision that has been put forward. In addition, the survey questions are directed. The disaster scenario is presented and people are urged to find solutions in a context of service cuts.
In 2005, the Library of Parliament published a study from which the following paragraph is taken:
|According to two consultants, today’s postal administrations can either sink, while continuing to complain about declining mail volumes and electronic alternatives in this world of rapid technological change, or swim, by harnessing new technology, forming new business partnerships, and adopting new ways of doing business to create new products and services that will help them boost their performance and their earnings. From this perspective, the financial services option would seem to be the logical way to ensure the Canadian postal system’s viability.
In 2005, the Parliament of Canada was already discussing banking services for the future. This is 2016, and we are still headed in that direction. The Americans are also considering the possibility.
The report also states that the public may want these services but that very few people are considering using them. If services are offered at a lower cost, more people will likely be interested in them. ATM charges and banking fees in Canada are among the highest in the world. There is room for a lower-cost market that would help the postal service ensure its continued existence.
One million people in Canada do not have a bank account. It is false to say that everything is going well at Canada Post; its charges are astronomical.
Last week and this week too, several caisses populaires in the region closed their doors. The populations of those regions will therefore have nowhere to go to access banking services.
Several thousands of jobs have already been lost at Canada Post. If no new services are offered and cuts are made to existing services, we will lose between 6,000 and 10,000 jobs.
In addition, certain individuals are proposing alternate day delivery, that is to say delivery on every other day. Canada Post has invested approximately $2 billion to enable letter carriers to deliver letter mail, parcels, and all special products. If they are delivered only every other day, it will jeopardize that investment. Delivery service for parcels and all special admail products, such as priority post, cannot work in a delivery system spread over several days. Furthermore, if letter mail is delivered on alternate days, the number of doors will be reduced. This will not necessarily improve cost-effectiveness since, given the volume of mail for delivery, Canada Post will have to make deliveries virtually everywhere every other day.
During the election campaign, and even in its mandate letter, the government asked that people in the middle class be considered and allowed to hold decent jobs. There was also the idea of getting closer to the public. I believe postal service is a major issue in this regard.
What we honestly want you to do is consider all possible options. It is important that Canadians have a financially self-sufficient postal service. Past experience confirms that it has been just that. Lastly, by providing new services, we will ensure the continued existence of our postal service.
We've always indicated as Montreal that we're ready to discuss and we're ready to look at the different options. This is something that we had suggested.
In July 2014 the mayor of Montreal met with the CEO of Canada Post. I was with him, and there was a clear commitment to continue with consultations. We said we were ready to discuss. It doesn't mean that it's a blank cheque. Obviously we have to respect our regulations, we have to respect our jurisdiction. We understand that Canada Post also has a very clear mandate. To the extent that we can in fact have an agreement on how to proceed, then everybody will be the wiser and the happier. The question is, when there is that conflict and when there is that disagreement, then what?
I find some of the proposals by the working group very interesting in terms of governance and in terms of a public regulator to oversee some of those aspects. That's something that for us, in a certain sense, is a disavowal as to how Canada Post has in fact acted in the past, and it's to really set the matter straight.
Mr. Lapointe, thank you for your very interesting presentation.
The facts suggest that there has been a lack of communication, that service to the public is important, and that the municipalities must be recognized. I believe it is really important to take all that into consideration.
You focused mainly on the financial aspect of Canada Post. That is of great interest to me, and we see it in the task force's report. Earlier you noted that the union had agreed to morning and evening delivery during the latest negotiations, following which you came to an agreement.
I would like to hear more of your explanation of the new delivery measures and their economic impact, if you have quantified it. How will increased revenue help you, taking service of the public into consideration?
One of the major objectives put forward by Canada Post was to beat the competition. Delivery would therefore be spread over six days, potentially over seven, but using a part-time workforce since there was not yet enough work.
That is why the corporation considered the possibility of starting off with a temporary structure in order to earn revenue during weekends. We know that people are mainly at home on weekends, on Sundays, at least more often than during the week. We were therefore asked to build that structure, but also to include evening delivery. We know that same day delivery is good for contractors and that morning delivery of food products—which some countries do around the world—is as well. We agreed to open up the market and to go after a share of it. That is what we offered Canada Post.
Currently, if we compare operations over the first six months of the current year with those of the first six months of last year, there has been an 11% increase in parcel deliveries. That market will explode in the coming years. As you know, more and more people buy on the Internet.
We believe that this new structure will be extremely profitable for Canada Post, in addition to its admail service. We know that Canada Post has a very small market share in that sector. Newspapers and magazines make up a major share. However, the dimensions and weights that we negotiated will enable Canada Post to increase its share of that extremely lucrative market. We therefore expect these changes to be beneficial. The 2016 year will be profitable, and once these measures have been put in place, we know 2017 will be extremely profitable too.
Thank you for your question.
Our position is clear on that subject. Home delivery service must be maintained, for various reasons. First, there is the urban reality of the city of Montreal, particularly in its central neighbourhoods where the population is very dense, there is a lack of public space, and it is really impossible to find locations. There are also universal access issues. There really is a limit on access to a number of community mailboxes. That is clear, in particular, from the challenges raised by snow removal in winter. This is all part of a whole in this area. We believe that the way Canada Post has reacted—not in the distant past, but more recently, in 2015 and 2016—clearly reveals the problems and issues surrounding the possibility of imposing this kind of delivery, which is not feasible in Montreal.
I will close by saying it a good idea that the Government of Canada wants to proceed with consultation on universal access next year. I believe that is part of an issue that must be considered.
Thank you all for being here. I don't even know where to begin, because you've given us so much information.
For the record, the reason we are here is that during the election, we heard overwhelmingly that Canada Post had not consulted, and that is where the biggest problem comes in. They say they consulted; who they consulted, I don't know. When they came before us, and the task force came before us....
The first thing about change management, if they want to bring any change, is to consult the stakeholders. Therefore, if they come up with a solution, Mr. Perez, like you say, of putting community mailboxes in a very densely populated area, we are here to ensure that this type of mistake doesn't happen.
My question is going to be for everyone: financial stability or sustainability of Canada Post? They claim they are not going to be sustainable.
Mr. Lapointe, you have said they changed to a different accounting system. I am an accountant, so I'll tell you there's an international system that everybody has to follow, because then there is the right way to project your statements. If that change had taken place, and you claimed that there is $400 million they had not shown—again, you talked about the report of the Conference Board—how did Ernst & Young miss it when it was doing its review, because the task force relied on Ernst & Young? If you could answer that question, I'll go to the next.
Well, that was one of our suggestions.
The first thing that must be determined is whether mail delivery is an essential service for a society. If the answer is yes, then we must accept responsibility for it.
Furthermore, if Canada Post makes a decision that has economic consequences for another level of government, such as the municipalities, that must obviously be part of the equation. The same citizens will ultimately pay for the service. They will merely be paying in another way, in the form of municipal taxes, higher postal rates, or a subsidy.
Obviously, our mandate was not to go that far in our thinking. We took it for granted that this is an essential service, particularly for seniors who may have difficulties. We agree that mailboxes may be installed in new neighbourhoods, but, in established areas, you have to think of service to the public and adapt to its needs, while meeting traffic and safety criteria.
To add to that, yes, it is a service where it has to maintain financial sustainability, but it also has certain obligations of levels of service. This is in the Canada Post act. I'll refer to paragraph 5(2)(b), which clearly indicates that it has to offer a certain level of service according to the area, whether it's rural or a city.
It has a monopoly. We can't give it a monopoly and expect it not to have the ability to give a certain level of service. Otherwise, what we should be talking about is the privatization of Canada Post. If we want to reduce it to a cookie-cutter fashion and make sure it's ultra-profitable, then that's a whole different consultation and discussion that we should have.
The other thing I would point out is that how we determine financial viability will depend on numerous factors. You're an accountant; you understand that anybody can play with numbers. I'll give you an example. Let's look at the economies of scale they have in an urban area, and let's look at their cost and profit in an urban area. That will be interesting to look at, whether that can justify home delivery in an urban area. Could we look at, as Mr. Demers mentioned, the indirect cost? Why should cities be paying for the maintenance, graffiti removal, and snow removal for community mailboxes?
I will point out that there's a fundamental difference in terms of the numbers between the working group and the Conference Board report regarding alternate-day services. We think it is a solution. I know they talk about $74 million. The Conference Board was talking about $350 million a year by 2020. These are the types of things we should be looking at.
Yes, there has to be an evolution. Yes, there has to be a change. But within a certain framework it can be done and should be done.
I will be speaking to you, Mr. Lapointe.
I was pleased to hear you discuss the possibility of extending business hours, even on Saturdays, so you could make direct contact with consumers.
People my age who work leave home at 7:00 a.m. and return at 6:00 p.m. I live in a rural area and the post office's business hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Unless we are at home on sick leave once or twice a year, we do not have a lot of opportunity to go to the post office and do our business. Canada Post has missed a lot of opportunities to provide services. People have opted for other services.
You said that extending business hours would help sharply increase Canada Post's profitability. Can you give us a percentage?
Earlier I talked about parcel delivery on weekends, mornings, and evenings.
With regard to business hours, it is important to note that, in 2003, the union allowed Canada Post to use part-time staff at postal outlets, precisely in order to extend business hours into evenings and weekends. Canada Post decided not to offer that option.
Canada Post operates the other way around. It sells franchises and then employs the strangulation principle. It opens franchises and sends its commercial clientele to them, as a result of which traffic at the corporate postal outlet declines. It justifies cutting business hours by saying that those franchises have extended hours. In the end, it closes post offices. That is the approach it has used for the past 25 or 30 years, but it has done so increasingly in recent years.
CUPW is extremely open. There is a pilot project at Richmond Hill, in the Toronto area, where a post office is open evenings and weekends. Our union is very much in favour of this kind of Canada Post business. We are ready to work evenings and weekends, that is to say seven days a week.
I want to thank all the witnesses for their quite direct testimony.
I have just heard things that have not come to our ears in Ottawa. I just learned that there is a flagrant lack of cooperation between the governance of Canada Post, the municipalities, and the unions. I have also heard that there may be a lack of respect between Canada Post and the municipalities, as well as disinformation and budget estimates that are somewhat too conservative.
In the opinion of each of the groups here, has there been a loss of trust of Canada Post management in...? If we find a new vision and a path forward, do you have confidence that the current management of Canada Post is the appropriate group to execute on this new vision? Or do we need to change leadership at Canada Post? Is the relationship too far broken that we need new presidents and 22 new vice-presidents?
Perhaps we can start in the order we went in from the beginning.
My next question really goes to the corporate structure and the future services that might be offered. When I look at the corporate structure of Canada Post, I see Purolator offering competing parcel service with what we look at as being the sweetest plum, the most profitable area of the business. I look at SCI Group, which provides logistic services. Again, it's largely owned by Canada Post, but it seems that the logistic service of Canada Post competes with one of its own subsidiaries. And Innovapost, which provides IT services to a Canada Post group of companies, is 2% privately owned.
I've been hearing this from union members in my province. Is there something strange in this relationship where the more profitable lines of business of Canada Post seem to be competing with private entities that it also owns, and how does that play out in the union relationship?
This is a standard request, gentlemen. If you were here for our first intervention, you will know that we made the same request of our previous witnesses.
I assume by your nods that we have some acquiescence that if we have further questions you will entertain them, and should you have any further submissions that you wish to bring to the attention of the committee, please direct them to our clerk. We'd love to hear from you.
Let me say again, on behalf of the committee, as I think each one of my colleagues has done before me, thank you so much for being here, and thank you for your candour and directness. This is very much appreciated. It is what we need.
We will suspend for a couple of moments and wait for our next witnesses to come to the table.
Thank you to all.
Dear members of Parliament, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, I thank you for your gracious welcome and for the opportunity for women with disabilities to be consulted about the important role the postal service plays in their lives.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the Kahnawake Mohawk first nations peoples on whose traditional lands we gather today.
I would also like to take a moment to reflect on the one in five people with disabilities who will be affected by the decisions taken with respect to postal service and ask decision-makers to remember to reflect also on the fact that decisions taken here will affect the 3,775,910 Canadians, and in particular the 2,076,890 Canadian women, who are living with disabilities in this country.
Women with disabilities across Canada are very concerned about the intention of Canada Post to stop home mail delivery service, to install community mailboxes, to reduce home mail delivery, and how they allocate home mailboxes. Women with disabilities are at greater risk for violence because they are women and because they are disabled. Ending mail delivery service places at risk all Canadians with disabilities who rely on home delivery service as part of their personal safety plan.
The risks posed to women with disabilities come from two directions: one, because we're women; and the other, posed by our disability. Difficulty reaching the boxes, uneven or icy terrain, inability to hear someone coming if you are deaf or hard of hearing, and inability to read the box because of vision or disability all place us at risk because we're forced to travel a path to a box in the community. Such routines make a point of risk to us of further abuse.
Women who have more severe disabilities are, then, also placed at even greater risk if they're forced to allow others to collect their mail. One woman actually had a trustee. She couldn't get her own mail because of the severity of her disabilities, and that was the only reason she had a trustee. Resorting to caregivers or family members is, on the surface, what should be the logical solution and a problem seemingly minor. Someone will get it for you. It is anything but minor when you're a senior or a woman with a disability and you're being stolen from by your caregivers or financially abused as a senior. There is no expectation of privacy when other folks can get your mail.
One woman living in an area with a community mailbox had tenants who did not conduct themselves well. While she was away from home, her mail was tampered with for months. Economic challenges can create risky situations, as people try to improve their situations by sharing housing. The inability to have observation and control of the box, through residential delivery, again increases the risk to women with disabilities.
Women with disabilities are also at risk for stalkers or abusers. Women with mental illnesses such as agoraphobia, paranoia, or post-traumatic stress disorder may also find it impossible to get to the box. Women with episodic disabilities may also experience fatigue or additional pain. If they're injured, they may become continuously disabled. Women with hidden disabilities, such as depression, heart disease, or COPD may look well but be unable to manage the trek to the box each day.
Loss of postal delivery service removes an important link in the chain of safety. Postal workers who deliver the mail would notice when people were unusually absent or were injured, or they would see somebody had fallen. Fine public servants will no longer be on their routes to see these things.
The introduction of accommodation now becomes a huge problem for both women with disabilities and the postal service. Do we put a big handicapped sign on the door? Who approves it? The Canadian Medical Association wisely indicated it would not.
The payment for these types of reports can also become an economic barrier. The amount of paperwork, complexity of paperwork, and their frequency have caused some patients to lose their doctors, in an era where it's already very hard to find a doctor. Municipalities do not want the boxes on their boulevards, nor do they want the maintenance. One woman has been told that Canada Post would actually place the box by her home unless the neighbours complained.
It's unbelievable that Canada has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, yet we can observe rights being trampled on in the following ways.
For example, the convention states, under “General Observations” in article 4, that:
||1. States Parties...ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability. To this end, States Parties undertake:
|| d. To refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the present Convention and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the present Convention;
In article 6, women and girls are at greater risk for poverty and violence.
In the body of the presentation, when you receive it, there will be other articles in there. We took some time in our presentation to think about the purpose of the crown corporation, and we want to emphasize that we don't think this crown corporation should be privatized.
We also talk about two pieces, one from Canada Post Corporation and one from CUPW. The one we thought was interesting from Canada Post Corporation was the encouraging of entrepreneurial consultation, which we thought might be helpful to women with disabilities, because it might be a solution that helps supplement income. The one from CUPW has to do with postal banking, which we think, in conjunction with social economies, might be helpful to women with disabilities.
Thank you, honourable members, for inviting us, and for the opportunity to present before you on the topic of Canada Post.
Seniors Action Quebec is a non-profit provincial organization working in partnership on behalf of English-speaking Quebec seniors. There are one million English-speaking individuals living in Quebec. Of these, just a little under 300,000 are 55 years of age and over. They represent 25.4% of Quebec's minority language group.
The greatest concentration of seniors is located in the Montreal and the Montérégie region: a combined total of 196 seniors aged 55-plus. The English-speaking communities of the Estrie and Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine region have the largest proportion of seniors, at 37% and 36.5% respectively, indicating that one in three English-speaking persons is in a rural community in Quebec.
Over the past 10 years, there have been many focus groups and conferences to find out the needs and priorities of seniors. Recently, we concluded a one-year Canadian Heritage project titled “Building Community Capacity—From Evidence to Action”. The goal was to identify and establish priorities among critical needs and issues affecting seniors' quality of life. We had five partner organizations covering the Outaouais, the total Gaspésie, the North Shore, Sept-Îles, Baie-Comeau, and Quebec City. The aim of the project was to consult with seniors in the regions, asking them to identify priorities for their communities. We successfully carried out 17 focus groups throughout Quebec.
During these focus groups, seniors expressed concerns regarding access to their mail delivery. Concerns that came out were: difficulty in accessing the community boxes; weather conditions limiting the ability to leave home; insufficient removal of snow and ice at the boxes; and inability due to illness, post-surgery recovery, or limited mobility, and cardiovascular or other respiratory conditions.
We request that the government not permit any new cuts to mail delivery, especially in the rural and remote regions of the country. Lack of transportation to the boxes, especially in small communities where boxes are located in the centre of town, requires the individuals to drive to pick up their mail. Without access to vehicles, they will rely on family and neighbours.
English-speaking seniors are more vulnerable, as their adult children have left their hometown or, in many cases, the province, leaving their parents to rely on friends as their support network.
In the case of seniors affected by the early onset of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, they may not be able to make a request for service at home. The implications are that their bills remain unpaid and important appointments are missed, etc.
What has the government done and what will it do to address these similar needs?
In the past when mail was delivered to your home, it provided a means of knowing the habits of an individual, as Canada Post employees and the recipient generally developed a good relationship. If something was abnormal, the Canada Post employee could flag the issue. Without this hands-on service, seniors have expressed the concern that there is a level of security missing.
We understand that the current government has halted the replacement of home delivery with communal boxes. We applaud this decision.
It is our understanding that the government has a mechanism for individuals who require mail delivery directly to their home due to illness or mobility issues. We feel that this is extremely helpful and encourage the government to implement the necessary publicity to ensure individuals are aware of the existence of this service and the process.
Hopefully, in regard to receiving this service, you have taken into account the fact that not all seniors have access to a computer or have poor Internet connections—some have dial-up—and therefore we hope the process to request this service is fast, simple, and user-friendly, with perhaps simply a phone call. We urge the government to ensure adequate resources to handle the demand for this service, with a recognition of the needs in our culturally diverse communities.
If these items are taken into account, it will go a long way to alleviate several of the concerns expressed by seniors and those who fall into these specific circumstances. We are encouraged by the government's process of consultation to address this issue.
On behalf of the Confédération des organismes des personnes handicapées, I want to thank you for welcoming me here today. At the outset, I would like to express my support for the remarks by the two individuals who spoke before me. In the community of persons with limitations, there are of course many seniors and women. I will not repeat what they said because we are entirely in agreement.
I am going to speak to you about a special situation in Quebec. There is some talk about requiring a medical certificate for a person to obtain home delivery service. I do not know whether people are experiencing the same problem in the other provinces, but here in Quebec not everyone has a family physician, and if by chance we have one, it is often difficult to get an appointment, and patients have to pay for the certificate. These are obstacles for the people we represent. Need we remind you of that fact? The community of persons whom we represent does not distinguish itself by its great wealth, quite the contrary.
Furthermore, it appears that Canada Post would be the one to decide, based on the medical certificate submitted to it, whether the person in question is disabled enough to receive mail at home. We are quite surprised to learn that Canada Post has specialized resources to assess persons with disabilities, and, as you will understand, we doubt the value of the assessment that will be conducted. Technically speaking, if I have a physician, have managed to make an appointment, and obtained a medical certificate, Canada Post may still not accept that certificate. We consider this unacceptable.
How do people get to this community mailbox and how can they find their box? This is a major issue for the people we represent. We live in a country that has snow and ice in winter. How can people reach the location of their community mailbox through ice, snow, and inclement weather? When you have to use adapted transportation, it must absolutely be reserved well in advance. In some instances, one must also wait an hour or an hour and a half for the return trip, where adapted transportation service is available. These situations may occur in -30, -40 or -25 degree weather. What can persons with disabilities do to be independent and feel safe when they go to pick up their mail? If they have no assistance on site, how will they find their mailbox? How will blind people find the big mailbox and then their own individual mailbox if there is also a lot of snow or ice on the ground?
I also emphasize how important it is not to put persons with disabilities in situations where they are vulnerable or to make them too dependent on family and friends. We are increasingly urged to seek the assistance of close relatives, family, friends, and neighbours. At some point, it becomes very difficult to remain independent and to protect one's privacy. Mail is personal and we do not necessarily want a neighbour or family member to be aware of the mail we receive. Blind people, to expand on that example, have technological aids with which to read their mail but not to go and pick it up. They must constantly request assistance, and that runs counter to the principle of personal independence.
We are told that Canada Post has financial problems. We wonder why the main recommendation is to cut services. Canada Post could, and even should, find other services to fund itself. The postal organizations of other countries provide other services that contribute to their funding. Why would Canada Post not to the same? In the event Canada Post is unable to find new funding sources, should it not then consider other measures? Is it really essential to deliver the mail five or six times a week, or would it not be possible to plan other measures at locations that do not have the critical mass?
In short, we cannot accept a measure that would require persons living with functional limitations to obtain a medical certificate in order to have their mail delivered at home subject to an evaluation by Canada Post of the certificate thus obtained.
For these reasons, we think Canada Post should maintain its services, adapt them, and find other sources of funding.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for the opportunity today.
I want to thank all the committee members.
I'll keep my statement brief and in two sections overall. What is Frank + Oak, and why are we here, and why do we care?
Frank + Oak is an innovative retail brand founded here in Canada about four years ago. We now employ over 250 people. We started entirely online; in other words, we ship a tremendous number of packages via Canada Post every single day.
We were ranked number one in Deloitte's Fast 50 as the fastest-growing company in Canada last year. We care very much about the future of this industry and how we can become a beacon of success in this overall industry. Our goal is to combine technology, design, and innovation to become, I would say, the future of retail. The reason we're here is that we are a very large client of Canada Post. We ship a very large number of packages in both the U.S. and Canada. We also leverage a lot of the innovations developed by Canada Post, such as address verification, which allows our customers to have the right addresses input in their statements, and also the Delivered Tonight service, which means that customers can buy today and it will be delivered in their mail the same day here in Montreal and other areas.
Our goal is to be a very large retailer and to disrupt retail in general. As we know, commerce is evolving very quickly and is becoming ever more competitive. When we look at situations where Canada Post might offer fewer options for their customers, less innovation, and also restrict the overall level of service, this is a great concern for a company that requires a strong local partner such as Canada Post.
We do want the carrier to be leading, to continue to innovate, and there is a lot of competition in this space. Locally, other private carriers are very fierce in their offers to gain our business. Our goal is to be an online disrupter and very large company. We require Canada Post to be at the forefront and to offer more services in this ever more competitive space, which is commerce.
Thank you very much.
I want to thank the witnesses for being here today.
I am very pleased to meet you. It is important to hear what you have to say. My questions will concern persons with reduced mobility, persons with physical disabilities.
You noted certain problems. I would have liked you to expand on the safety aspect. What makes you feel unsafe—no pun intended—about losing home delivery?
We also talked about reducing weekly mail service to two or three days. Do you consider that an acceptable solution? How do you perceive that possibility?
I will ask my third question right away. I would like you two discuss in greater detail your experience with requesting personal service in specific cases. What process did you go through?
I would like a brief answer to each question because I want to hear from all of you.
Basically, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities thought that was a suitable compromise, and DisAbled Women’s Network Canada agrees with this compromise to have the mail delivery decreased to being on maybe Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
I was exploring one of the proposed options in the CUPW submission, in which they were talking about increasing evening and weekend delivery. I also think that might be a good alternative when we have so much unemployment, to reverse the lens and think about that as an alternative as well. Thinking about some of those outside-of-the-box possibilities would be another alternative.
I look at the amount of youth unemployment and the amount of different kinds of unemployment, and I look at the fact that small communities have less employment, and I challenge some of our legislators to think that those might be solutions in smaller communities, to stimulate the economy by providing services to people with disabilities. Our needs don't change. No matter what the energy industry is doing, we have the same needs, no matter what the economy does.
Thank you very much for your presentations. You are remarkably well spoken. I appreciate it. I have just a couple of quick questions.
Mr. Ayoub, we've discussed Canada Post doing a once-a-week delivery for the disabled. Last week when we spoke to Canada Post, it said, “We do have the system set up.” It acknowledged that it needs to do a much better job of advertising it, because I was not aware until about a week ago that it does this.
If it gets it right and gets it working properly, is this a solution for those who have the community mailboxes? My understanding is that it delivers every day to the box and then once a week it will take it to the home. If it does a proper job consulting and makes it easy to access for the disabled, will this work, in your opinion?
Thank you for your presentations, which I appreciated. I myself have received an enormous number of complaints from both seniors and persons with reduced mobility in my region, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. I really do understand what you explained to us this morning. I myself have heard of people who take taxis to pick up their mail because they are unable to travel otherwise. There have been a number of complaints about snow removal and safety. You spoke about the fear of being followed, for example.
My question concerns delivery. You have just learned that some people might get service once a week, but that would require a letter from a doctor and would apply only to persons with a previously recognized disability. However, we should not forget seniors. In my constituency, there are people 85 and 90 years of age who still live at home and who are independent, but, as a result of the winters we have in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, black ice presents a danger. Consequently, it may be difficult for them to go and pick up their mail.
The task force that submitted the report noted that its members consider themselves as seniors in good condition who are able to go and pick up their mail. Personally, I am still concerned about our aging population.
Do you believe that Canada Post should adapt and not limit this service to persons with reduced mobility—which is very important—but offer it as well to our seniors and that it should adopt a more open position? I would like to hear what you all have to say on the subject, Mr. Defour, Ms. Pelletier, and Mr. Lavigne.
I would like to add that I don't think once a week is sufficient, and timing of cheques is very important.
Fortunately a lot of people do the direct deposit, but we still have people 80-plus who are very hesitant to do online banking and very concerned about direct deposit, so we have them to worry about.
But equally important is this. Not only is it mail, but this also applies to online shipping. In the community mailboxes there is a section where parcels can be put and you can go to pick them up. If that parcel is too big to fit in there, there is a slip put in your mailbox. You have to go to a satellite post office to get it, so you're going even further. It's an additional burden, an additional cost, and an inconvenience.
We have to stop and think. You know, it's nice to have dialogue, and to try to find solutions, and let's make it simple; we're going to pacify the seniors and the handicapped and the mentally challenged, and we're going to keep Canada Post pacified. But the demographics are changing. They're going to increase and their needs are going to increase, so we'd better all sit back and take a look, when we're analyzing and putting proposals forward, and keep that in mind. In the next seven to ten years, half of our population will be seniors. If we want them falling and breaking hips on black ice, and tripping and whatnot, or if we want violence increasing and limited job opportunities, we're going down the right road. But if we want to prevent some of these costs to society, then we have to implement something that will be very worthwhile and that will have a better impact for a longer period of time.
Thank you all for coming here today. I have a couple of different sets of questions, so hopefully we can be quick in our answers.
One of the mandates of government policy creation that comes out of the good work of the ministry of the Status of Women is that we should be engaged in gender-based analysis plus, which not only looks at the differences between men and women, but also age categories, levels of physical ability, and other identifiable factors within our community. I'm glad you're all able to come here today to help us and to speak with us about this.
Do any of your groups have any particular data related to assaults, or harm, or accidents occurring, and the differences between urban areas where we have door-to-door delivery still, versus the 75% of areas in the country where people have to go to the community mailboxes? Do any of your groups have any hard data on that? Have you collected it?
Thank you very much for your answers. It's important for me to ask those questions and get those answers into the record.
This operates as a good segue to you, Mr. Ratnani. We've heard different things today from what we heard in Ottawa. When we look at our task force report, it really looks at a contraction of the services offered by Canada Post, yet today we've heard a number of people talk about expansions of the service, new ways to deliver the service, weekend deliveries, nighttime deliveries, and the failure to do that might actually lead to other competition arising.
My question for you, Mr. Ratnani, is twofold. Is there a business opportunity for Canada Post to expand its package delivery service to thereby take advantage of this transformation in the marketplace? If that opportunity exists, should we maybe have a regulator in place instead that would allow private companies to have to deliver to particular service levels, meet particular area requirements, so that if they want to participate in this market they must also go to rural Canada? How would that affect your business? I think it would be a good proxy for how it would affect future business in Canada.
I would say on the first question, regarding service levels, there is no doubt that there is a massive opportunity to do that. With the Delivered Tonight service, we actually deliver on the weekends, and it delights our customers. When customers are delighted, they will buy more and therefore give more money to a Canadian company.
I think there is an interesting opportunity. You have other carriers that are trying to innovate. No one has been able to do the service level that Canada Post is doing. I actually think we should do more of it. I like the suggestion that one of my colleagues had, that we could offer employment opportunities for people over the weekends or at night. I think this is very interesting. I think Canada Post already charges extra for this sort of service, but there is a way to optimize all that so that it makes sense for businesses today and tomorrow.
With regard to your second question, I think it's an interesting point. The question is, do we want the market for post to be regulated or not? I think that's a question for you fine folks. For example, as I said earlier, UPS and FedEx will give packages to Canada Post to be shipped in rural Canada and will charge extra for it. What are the right conditions for that? If I compare it to the U.S., there are extra fees to ship packages with, let's say, FedEx or UPS in Hawaii or Puerto Rico, or all those places, whereas with USPS, they have different tariffs. I think there is a way to optimize the entire shipping grid for everyone.
I also think that people with reduced mobility, regardless of their age—we talked about older persons, but people can be 30 years old and have real mobility problems—should have access to their mail. Unfortunately, there is no home delivery in my constituency, except in the rural areas. However, for a person with reduced mobility who finds himself 200 metres from his house, and 50-tonne mastodons are passing by 1.3 metres from the public thoroughfare, I can tell you that is no safer than getting to a mailbox.
I was pleased to learn this morning that Canada Post was offering a service to those individuals. I am going to check and see whether we are entitled to the same services in my constituency in view of the fact that we do not have home delivery.
On the other hand, Mr. Lavigne mentioned other possibilities. I believe Canada Post will be expanding the service, but if it is offered more than once a week, the corporation will charge higher rates. Perhaps the mail could be delivered every day in exchange for a sum of money. I do not know whether that is the direction that will be taken.
Mr. Lavigne, you mentioned other ways of helping these people, rather than increasing rates. Other solutions must be found. You did not finish what you started to say earlier. I would like you to say more about that, please.
Pharmacists already provide drug delivery service in rural areas. In my constituency, at least, that service is very well covered by the pharmacies. When you go to the doctor, for example, the pharmacy takes over. Some grocery stores offered delivery service, but that practice has virtually been abandoned.
I think that will be a major challenge. Thank you for your testimony. It is really important that we be able to emphasize, in our report, how important it is for Canada Post to take into consideration what people in your situation experience. The corporation will have to take the time to reflect.
Approximately 95% of the population of Canada are, to varying degrees, capable of going to pick up their mail. There will always be the remaining five per cent. Within the next 20 years, the demographic situation will leave us no choice. It may have changed by 2050, but we will undoubtedly not be here to see. Postal service must be provided to the public for at least the next 30 years. In conclusion, I want to thank you. Your testimony this morning will be very useful for the future.
Thank you to all for being here. You have changed the conversation, actually.
Madam Pelletier changed the conversation from a purely financial prospect to a social prospect. Nobody looks at the flip side of the coin. I thank you all for being here.
I used to be the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I appreciate your insight into the disability, into the violence; people don't realize it. You made us realize that the postal worker is really a social service person. He or she is there, communicating. There's isolation within the senior population, with the disabled population. That's what the corporation forgot to look at.
We had people from the labour union saying that for 14 years it was working perfectly. Suddenly, a change in management came about and that management decided, maybe, that it would take this route to privatize it, and we don't even know what their thought process was. I'm so glad you're all here, doing this.
I'm so glad, Mr. Ratnani, for your insight. The Canada Post workers tell us they believe in the corporation, but the corporation management doesn't believe in it. How do we match the two?
We're thankful that we were able to get you guys here. We're thankful that we stopped the five-point plan right in its centre, because it is not looking at the other population needs.
I have a specific question. I think the comment by Mr. Lavigne was that Canada Post told us that they will do accommodations, accommodation for people with disabilities, accommodation for people who are seniors, etc. But you tell me it's difficult for you to get an accommodation letter. How is Canada Post going to notify seniors unless they are living in a senior building? How do they notify people with disabilities? Do you have any idea? Could you give us your thinking on that?
First, should the committee have any further questions for you, would you entertain those questions? Would we be allowed to phone you?
A voice: Mr. Chair—
The Chair: Please, sir.
Second, witnesses, should you have any additional information that you wish to provide to the committee, please direct that to our clerk.
Last, I would point out that there is a website that will be operational later this afternoon with an online questionnaire and a survey that all Canadians would be able to access. It is a closed-question survey, but it gives an opportunity for everyone to provide their additional commentary. We are looking to get as many of those surveys and questionnaires completed as possible from coast to coast to coast.
A voice: [Inaudible--Editor], sir. Why will you not take a simple vote with your committee now and add two minutes—
The Chair: We haven't got the time, sir. We are scheduled to be in Blainville—
A voice: [Inaudible--Editor]
The Chair: You are out of order, sir. Please.
We are adjourned.