I call the meeting to order.
Ladies, gentlemen and colleagues, I think we'll get started if we can. Welcome to our presenters and welcome to those of you who may be in the audience observing how these meetings work.
Let me start off by giving a few comments. As you undoubtedly are aware, the minister responsible for Canada Post, the Honourable Judy Foote, has engaged in a very aggressive, I believe, consultation process discussing and trying to determine the future of Canada Post.
The first phase of the consultation process was to establish a task force whose mandate was to determine or examine, at least to the best of their ability, the financial viability and sustainability of Canada Post. The task force has completed their work. They have submitted their report. We've had a chance to take a look at it, and this committee has had a chance to talk with the task force members.
Phase two is what we're in right now. We are in the midst of a cross-country tour, speaking with individuals, organizations, municipalities, and communities and asking them for their views on Canada Post and what they believe Canada Post should be doing to ensure its long-term viability. We're asking for suggestions and recommendations. That's why we're here tonight.
I'm going to ask all of you to keep your comments to five minutes or less. Following those opening comments, we will have a series of questions from all of our committee members. At the end of that time, all of your comments and questions, suggestions, recommendations will help us form part of our report, which will be tabled in Parliament no later than the end of this year.
After that brief introduction, I think we'll start now. Mr. White, I have you first on my list representing the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce. If you could make some opening comments in five minutes or less, sir, the floor is yours.
The Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce represents the business community as the voice of the private sector here in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. We have a wide variation in the types of businesses and in the size of businesses in our community. Some of the businesses that we have are very technologically advanced, and I might say even further advanced than Canada Post is, but some of our businesses are not. Some of the businesses are run by very young individuals, while some of them are an older demographic as well.
My only reason for making that statement is that I understand that technology is evolving and so is the post office with it. I believe that's good commerce for the entire country, but there is a concern over the pace at which some of the technology is evolving not to put at a disadvantage some of the older business communities that might not be as comfortable with it or as familiar with it as one would hope they would be. Eventually, in time, I'm sure they will be, but I and my membership are concerned about the pace of transition that will be taking place over time.
That is just the opener for me. I don't think there's much more I can say at this point in time. I'd be happy to take your questions later in the program.
Thank you. Good evening. My name is Kristen, obviously.
First off, I would like to say thank you to the committee for allowing me to speak regarding the future of Canada Post.
I'm not an expert and I'm not a CEO, but I am a postal worker and, more specifically, I'm a rural carrier, an RSMC. I do the job and I know the effects locally.
As a postal worker, a concerned citizen, and an owner of this tried and trusted public service, I'll say it's vital that we be given space to voice our concerns, and until this moment, we've been given very little opportunity to do so, so we appreciate the fact that we're being chosen to speak.
I want you all to know that I'm a proud postal worker and very proud of the job I do. Any postal workers I know feel exactly the same way. Having said that, I would like to make it perfectly clear that I'm not proud of the fact that our employer continuously forces us and the public to fight tooth and nail to do our jobs the best we can to provide the service that the Canadian public both deserves and is accustomed to.
Manufacturing crisis after crisis, which are unproven at all ends, and scaring the public has done what? To me it looks like self-sabotage. Canada Post continuously underestimates its performance. In every single year since 2009, its financial performance has been vastly superior to its projected losses. Look at 2014. They predicted a financial loss of $256 million, which included the impact of a price increase. The reality of 2014 was a $299 million profit. That's a difference of $555 million.
Part of this problem, I believe, is their attempt to show a decline in services that is just not there. Locally, in Antigonish, where I'm from, we had a thriving main street post office. There was ample parking and it was conveniently located in the downtown core.
Canada Post franchised out to the Shoppers Drug Mart that was next door and used some of the same parking lot. When this franchise opened, I knew what would happen. It would be the same thing that has been happening in offices all over Canada. It would not be long before we were moved, moved to a less convenient place further in distance from the downtown core and in a less visible location. It was just over one year later that they moved us to the Antigonish Mall, on the outskirts, far from downtown.
They decided to send customers to our retail outlet, in this case Shoppers Drug Mart, to pick up cards or parcels, again taking customers away from our office and giving that business to a franchise.
When you're not as accessible to the public and not in the line of sight daily, it affects the number of customers who will frequent your building. The numbers split between the corporate and retail outlet. Our corporate number is falling, which gave them further fodder for further cuts in this office, even though the numbers are not a true indicator of customer usage.
This brings me to another equally important issue: our rural offices. Our rural offices are covered by a moratorium that was announced by the Liberal government in 1994. The actual number of offices that were covered was 4,000, but we're down to 3,598 because the other 350-plus offices were shut down. The question is, why? I see rural offices thriving. I see them being a necessity in the communities that they belong to. I see postmasters' hours being cut and those workers being forced out of decent jobs, and in a lot of these communities, those decent jobs are few and far between.
I see vital hours, the 4:00 to 5:00 and before 10 a.m., being cut. They're the same hours the majority of the working public would use to access these offices. I see a huge lack of relief for these workers, and they have to close offices for lunch breaks because of it.
Creating a service that is not accessible is a great way to show a misrepresented decline and use. CUPW has offered many alternatives to the cuts and the raising of prices. Postal banking is one of them. Through my own research, I found that out of the roughly 136 communities in Nova Scotia, 103 of those communities do not have a bank, and it's desperately needed in these small communities, first nations reservations, etc.
Through diversification of the products we offer now, such as prepaid credit cards, and with broadband Internet, etc., and using infrastructure that is already existing, I can't understand why Canada Post has no ability to think outside the box that they've been living in for the last however many years.
The amount of money that Canada Post has spent on postal transformation and on the community mailbox conversion project could have been used as a test flight for some of these products and services, but instead they've spent it on projects that fail. They've spent it on projects that further alienate their customers and the workforce.
Canadians need this public service in one way or another, as do small businesses, seniors, online shoppers, and companies wishing to advertise.
We all deserve the best public service that can be offered. Speaking as one of the postal workers providing that service, I intend to continue delivering that service for a long time to come, even if I have to fight to do so.
Thank you for this opportunity.
My name is Gordon MacDonald, and I want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the standing committee to speak about our public post office.
Canada Post is a public service, one of the few public services we now have left in Canada, and Canada Post is a very profitable corporation, having had profits in 20 of the last 22 years.
I've worked for Canada Post for 31 years, and I've never seen such an outright attack of its own business as I have seen in the last four and a half years.
Here in Cape Breton we no longer prepare and sort our mail for the island. Canada Post now ships it to Halifax to be sorted and machined. Where it always took a one-day turnaround for local delivery, it now takes three to four days to get the same mail back to our customers locally.
We lost two and a half well-paying jobs here in small-town Cape Breton so that Canada Post could justify paying over $2 billion for letter-sorting machines when they knew Lettermail was falling off. It seems nobody wants to address this poor management.
Let's talk about Lettermail. Lettermail is mail like our power bills, cable bills, birthday cards, etc. CUPW is very aware that this specific revenue has been decreasing. I must stress that this is the only product that we have seen a decrease in, and our parcel sector is making Canada Post busier than it has ever been, with profits we have never seen before. Normally, we were a seasonal profit-driven corporation, but with revenue profits now coming in the second and third quarters, this is a great sign that Canada Post is on stable ground.
Canada Post is trying to eliminate our letter carrier delivery and have everyone go to community mailboxes down the street to get their mail. When I first started 31 years ago, security of the mail was paramount, and we were instructed at all costs to protect the mail. Today, in 2016, I've never seen such a disregard for the security of our mail. A community mailbox is made of aluminum door panels, and any would-be thief could pop those open with a screwdriver.
I can tell you for certain that our mail and the products you and I ship through Canada Post are of great value. People still mail rings, heirlooms, family pictures, art, important documents, and human remains, and the list goes on. If you can imagine it, Canada Post delivers it. Having door-to-door mail delivery is the only way to protect what we ship through Canada Post. It must also be noted that Canada Post handles not just Canadian mail but mail from all over the world, a world that believes we still protect its mail, which really isn't true today.
CUPW has been talking about expanding our services for decades, and management of Canada Post seems to want the exact opposite. Canada Post is set up to be able to deliver so much more to Canadians as a public service, but it seems only to want to destroy what is the only service in our country that can deliver to the last mile. We should be proud, but it's very difficult to be proud of this poorly run public service.
Can you imagine getting ready for your job in the morning, knowing your day consists of 25-plus kilometres of walking, carrying up to 35 pounds of mail on your back, having more than 1,000 customers to deliver to, and getting to do this every day? You also might not get home until 8 p.m. and miss your family mealtimes or your children's homework. Canada Post may force you out on overtime as well. If you can't physically get your work done, because it's impossible, you're now open to disciplinary procedures to add to your already miserable existence at Canada Post as their employee.
Canada Post in small-town Canada is the cornerstone of these places. People still gather at small community post offices to mingle, get the daily information, pick up their mail, and do their own mailing business. However, our new Canada Post will be in the drugstore or pharmacy where you go to pick up your mail products, as we see with the many postal outlets Canada Post is opening across the country. I go to a pharmacy for my medications, not a post office, and the same should be said for our mail.
We now have mail, usually parcels, that comes back to post offices because it can't be delivered for one reason or another, and customers cannot pick that mail up at the post office. They need to wait until a postal clerk scans it from the post office to the postal outlet, and then a truck comes and picks up the mail that is at the post office and takes it over to the postal outlet across the street, where now the customers can come pick it up. It makes no business sense whatsoever.
Thanks for listening.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for coming here tonight.
As you know, this time last year we were in the midst of an election campaign. One of the promises made by our party during the campaign was that we would put a moratorium in place on the installation of community mailboxes and examine, through a consultation process—this process—what the future of Canada Post should look like: have it self-sustaining, provide it as a service, or in some other fashion continue its nation-building exercise that we've all come to know and to expect.
As part of this process, the task force prepared a report. The task force focused primarily on the financial aspects of Canada Post. As we review it, we're faced with some pretty stark realities—10 years out, we're looking at $700 million in annual losses at Canada Post. We have to find some way to address these.
My first question is to Mr. White.
Would the business community in the Cape Breton area be open to the idea of subsidizing Canada Post on an annual basis if the various types of transformations being proposed don't generate enough revenue to cover the cost of operations and to fund venture plans?
I think they're a little different, the CBC and the post office.
In the business community, it's all about survival. In order to be a survivor, you have to be a competitor. If I'm subsidizing a service that my competitor is getting cheaper somewhere else, then I'm at a disadvantage.
Right from the start line on that one, I would say the answer is likely that we would resist a subsidy. We would really make a wide effort to seek alternatives to get the job done for us, whether that be a courier system that is less expensive than Canada Post, when you add the subsidy.... I think those other alternatives are yet to come out of the woods, if you put the price up or increase the cost of using this service beyond what is competitively reasonable.
Not only are we competing with business in this country, but we're also competing globally. That would definitely be a big concern, I believe, of our business community.
I thank you for welcoming us to your beautiful region. This is the first time I've been to Cape Breton and I find the scenery wonderful. I'd like to come back here with my family.
Our committee is doing a cross-Canada tour. Over the past few days, we have been to several cities. Today we are here, and I would like to hear something different. My remarks are addressed to the union representatives in particular.
From one meeting to the next, we are given the same information, more or less, and the same messages. You are well briefed; the message is being conveyed, we have heard it.
Mr. MacDonald, you have worked for Canada Post for 31 years. Madam, you have also been with the corporation for a long time. In your opinion, what is the future of Canada Post in this region? You know the area well and you know the ropes. As we would say in Quebec, you know the poutine.
Perhaps Canada Post did not consult you. From what I see, there has not been any communication. If you had been consulted, what would you have said about the future of Canada Post?
Obviously, the Canada Post Corporation is not what it was 30 years ago. Email, for instance, did not exist 30 years ago, and the postal banking service that used to exist is no longer in use today. We have to consider all of the services. Today, the government is being asked to make a decision that will determine the future of Canada Post. I'd like to hear your point of view.
Stray from the beaten path. What is your future with Canada Post? You are going to retire in the next few years. What do you want to leave your children? What is the future of a letter carrier or postmaster here in Cape Breton?
Then my question is this: Canada Post right now enjoys a monopoly on the 500-gram letter delivery, but what if that were to end and perhaps there were more alternatives created out there?
For example, this committee has heard from Stéphane Ricoul about Relais Colis in France, a French company that was basically created to do that kind of business side of things, something that their postal service wasn't providing. The postal service there is privatized, so it's just an add-on to the service right now, but it's more business-oriented—B2B, or business to business, so to speak.
If that monopoly that Canada Post enjoys were ended, leaving Canada Post as it is but just ending the monopoly to allow for business people in places such as Cape Breton and region to perhaps develop other means of transmitting letters or very small documents like that, would that be something that businesses locally would be interested in?
Perhaps it was that the management was given directions. They are public servants and they were given directions.
Now we are being given different directions, and there is no privatization. There is a Canada Post charter, which says it has to be sustainable, and there is no privatization, no matter what anybody on the other side says. If we are to look at the complete picture.... We are here to get ideas, and you've given us ideas. I know that postal banking has succeeded in different parts of the world, in different iterations—i.e., it started off as a postal bank and then was privatized, or vice versa.
How do we move forward now? You've told us that they wasted $2 billion on restructuring routes, that $210 million has been spent on CMBs, and that a crisis has been created to create a void. You are saying there is a void. If you create a crisis, then you have a void.
Let's leave that aside and say we are moving forward. Would you work with management, if it is given a different direction?
Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Ladies and gentlemen, that will bring this session to an end.
I want to make one comment, though, to both Mr. MacDonald and Ms. MacEachern. I've been struck over the last few weeks, as we've been conducting these consultations across Canada, that every CUPW presenter who has come to us has been a very long-term employee. I have a brother-in-law who is a letter carrier in Regina. He's been employed by Canada Post for well over 25 years. To me, it really speaks to the loyalty the workers have to the corporation, regardless of the disputes you may have from time to time or on an ongoing basis.
What I would ask you to do, if you could, is talk to your national president, Mr. Palecek. I'd be curious to know the average length of time your employees have served. What is the length of service? I would suspect that it's probably longer than at most corporations in Canada.
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, we're back.
Welcome, gentlemen. I suspect you were here for a good portion of the last session, so you probably know how this works, but just to reiterate very quickly, I'll ask each of you to make a short five-minute opening statement. Following that, we will have a series of questions from our committee members. At the end of that session, we will be asking you, should you have additional information to present to our committee members, to please get that directly to our clerk.
I have Mr. Cormier first on my speakers list.
Mr. Cormier, the floor is yours for five minutes.
Good evening, everyone. It's a pleasure for me to be present this evening to address the committee regarding Canada Post door-to-door service.
I'm a councillor for District 11 in Cape Breton Regional Municipality. My district includes the former town of New Waterford and surrounding areas of Lingan, New Victoria, Scotchtown, and River Ryan.
On March 18, 2014, CBRM council is on record, through a motion of council, as supporting the maintenance of door-to-door service in Canada. I supported this motion at the time and have become more hardened in my support since that time.
As some of you may be aware, there's a municipal election happening in CBRM. I'm busy knocking on doors, and I can't help but notice the high number of senior citizens and residents with disabilities. I'm going to be repetitive in my presentation, realizing that you will have heard the very same arguments many times during your deliberations. These scenarios would probably be the same whether they take place in Burnaby, B.C., Etobicoke, Ontario, St. John's, Newfoundland, or New Waterford, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Removing door-to-door delivery will pose a great hardship to the residents of my district. The distance to the proposed community mailboxes will be particularly burdensome to our aging demographic, who are struggling as it is to remain in their own homes. Residents with mobility issues will become more dependent on others to get their mail, and often that support is not available to them. Our harsh winters make footing dangerous, and problems with lighting and snow removal will create further hardship for our residents. Over the past four years, I've received numerous calls for snow removal and lighting around existing community mailboxes in the suburban areas of our district.
As most of you would be aware, the unemployment rate in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is in the high teens, well above the national average. It's a very disturbing issue, to say the least. Losing well-paying postal jobs will only increase those numbers.
Our door-to-door letter carriers do a fantastic job in all kinds of trying weather. They're also a great safeguard or security blanket to many of our residents who are living alone and who rarely have regular visitors. Cape Bretoners care for one another, none more so than our letter carriers.
In closing, I want to thank you for listening to me and taking the time to go across the country getting feedback from Canadians of all walks of life. Door-to-door delivery is part of the fabric that makes Canada the country that it is. Please don't alter this wonderful and necessary service. Our citizens are counting on you.
Good evening. I'm here in my capacity as president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, but I also serve as mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, so I want to welcome all members of the standing committee and staff and those who have come to present to this deliberation. On behalf of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, I want to thank the standing committee for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today on important issues concerning Canada Post.
I would note that all 50 municipalities within the province of Nova Scotia are members of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. In Nova Scotia, municipalities recognize the importance of maintaining a strong national postal service in both our urban and our rural communities. At the same time, given the decline in mail delivery, we recognize the status quo is no longer an option. That said, the UNSM favours an alternate-day delivery approach as a cost-saving measure, rather than continuing with the expansion of the community mailbox system.
The UNSM supports the view that rural postal service is an integral part of Canada's mail service. To this end, in 2012 the organization passed a resolution requesting that Canada Post halt the the further erosion of rural mail delivery. Similar to the position of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the UNSM is encouraging the federal government to continue to enforce the moratorium on rural post office closures and to maintain service standards for both postal delivery and post office accessibility.
Here in Nova Scotia we're hearing from seniors who have to drive 20 kilometres one way to pick up their mail at a community mailbox. This location is simply too far from houses and businesses. A number of safety issues associated with the location of the community mailboxes have also come to our attention. These include poor lighting conditions, lack of snow clearing and litter pickup, and lack of space for a vehicle to pull over to the side of the road for entry and exit purposes.
In some cases, Canada Post ignored municipal rights of way when locating the community mailboxes, even after municipalities consulted with the corporation.
Maintenance concerns have also been raised, in particular the freezing of mailboxes in either a closed position, where mail is difficult to access, or in an open position where mail is exposed to potential theft.
While Canada Post has indicated its commitment to meaningful consultation with municipalities, the consultation among various municipalities in Nova Scotia is inconsistent. Because not all municipalities are the same, different levels and types of consultation may be required. For example, land use planning practices may be more stringent in some municipalities when compared to others.
Where community mailboxes are already in place, or if new ones are created, the cost to maintain them should be borne by Canada Post, or alternatively, Canada Post should adequately compensate municipalities to provide that service.
Consultation does not imply a meeting in which Canada Post hears municipal concerns but does not take the appropriate steps to respond. Municipalities are the order of government closest to the people. We are in constant touch with the residents in our communities. It is in Canada Post's best interest to properly consult with us so that we can outline relevant municipal bylaws and policies and residents' concerns.
I did want to inform the standing committee that Canada Post is providing a new service to municipalities in Nova Scotia, an e-billing project with the Property Valuation Services Corporation. UNSM congratulates the organization on its commitment to providing good value and support for this project.
To reiterate, municipalities in Nova Scotia consider mail delivery an essential service in our urban and rural communities. Given Canada Post's declining revenues, the UNSM supports switching to an alternate-day delivery model rather than the creation of more community mailboxes.
Again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today, and I reiterate the welcome to this beautiful island.
I would like to add to that.
When you look at what governments do, you see that we're here to facilitate and provide public service. Getting the people to and from places is what we do in transportation, and governments have to be there to invest in that process to move things. If it's a highway, then we have investments we make for the public good. When it comes to the mail service, is it in the public good? The question needs to be reversed sometimes. Is this in the public good? Is it in the interest of the national fabric of our country and the citizens of this country to be connected? In such a vast country as Canada, the economics are always going to be challenging, especially in rural areas and in places like aging provinces, such as the Atlantic provinces.
This is not only an issue of Cape Breton; it's also a dilemma outside of urban cores. The question becomes whether it is in the public good to provide a national postal service in the same way as it is in the public good to provide a national transportation network. You don't stop the highway system in Saskatchewan because the cost per mile there doesn't provide a greater return for the trucking industy. You're going through Saskatchewan because it's connecting provinces, people, and economies. I look at the public good being served, and if it is the priority of governments, then the question for debate for parliamentarians should be about how much the public good is valued and about the gap that we have to close.
With regard to inconsistency, an urban-intense area like Halifax has much more direct connectivity and daily contact compared with other areas of the province, where municipalities felt they were not as connected. The one thing that municipal governments do have, which is no different from the structure of this consultation, is very defined, consistent public participation processes.
Using municipal units for public feedback to parliamentary committees or to the corporation allows for a respectful forum and exchange of information and objectivity in presenting that information. I believe municipalities definitely desire to be engaged and be constructive and to add value. Again the challenge is knowing that it's going to have an effect.
As an example, as mayors, every time there is a reduction of service or a closure of a post office, we receive the obligatory notification from Canada Post. I would circulate that to my colleagues. In some cases, we brought it to the council chamber and then went through the process of writing back with some objections, but it really is a pro forma process: we know we're going to receive it and we know that nothing is really going to happen. It's just going through the process for notification. That has been consistent over a long period of time.
Again, if there is a desire to have an established public participation process through municipalities, they would welcome that opportunity to provide objective, fact-based, and hopefully reliable information in a constructive manner.
I find that interesting.
In Hamilton, where I'm from, Canada Post went on the public record and said it was consulting with people across Canada when they were bringing in the CMBs. I know that on the exact day that they consulted me, it wasn't a consultation; it was information about what it was doing in my riding when I was a city councillor. That's the consultation we had.
The rest of it was just getting letters to my residents, asking them to fill them out. I mailed mine in that day, and Canada Post came to my office and told me what it was going to do. That was the consultation. It was more of a dictatorship. I will just leave it at that.
You picked up on people with mobility issues. According to the task force report, several associations representing people with reduced mobility do not believe that a person should have to provide proof of eligibility to continue their home mail delivery. Do you feel that persons with a mobility impairment seeking to maintain home delivery of mail service should be required to provide proof of eligibility? If so, and if there's a cost, who should pick up that cost?
Look, because we're in the municipal process, we're knocking on doors. Whether we like it not, there are more walkers coming to doors. There's more “Hang on a minute, let me get to the door.” There are more people trying to find ways....
We're trying to find ways. We're investing in a Handi-Trans service. We're working with our public transit buses. We're trying to buy new buses by working with federal-provincial programs so that we can connect people better for their services so they can go out and do these things. We're working with private taxi companies for accessible vans to allow people to be more connected.
There's a cost to that, but there's a public benefit because of it. When you look at the real crux to this issue, it's what the Government of Canada's view is of postal delivery. What value does it have to Canadians? If it has value, then what is the cost to maintain a consistent and valuable service that has merit in meeting its objectives?
In a country like Canada, in a province like Nova Scotia, this is going to be a challenge. If you ask people to validate what their issues are and bring in a doctor's note, I can tell you right now that you're going to be adding more bureaucrats to the process. You're not going to save a single dollar. The cost of an application is going to be far outweighed by the cost of the public administration process.
My next question leads into that.
Canada Post has made the decision, and now we're going through the details of whether to continue with door-to-door service. If it doesn't continue and it goes to community mailboxes, Canada Post has a service that they provide. They charge you on the stamp, and they go through all their financial liabilities.
However, this is now putting some onus on the municipalities. Canada Post is now putting their mailboxes on the road allowance, which is not adequate for people with mobility devices. There could be a shortage of parking in that area, and parking spots may need to be taken away because people have to have access to the mailboxes. There's the cost for the no-stopping signs or the no-parking signs. There are the problems with the sidewalks, garbage, graffiti, lighting.
Who should be picking up that extra cost, which wasn't in the original plan, but now Canada Post has changed that plan?
Gentlemen, thank you for having us in your beautiful area. I already feel a connection with you, because I was a municipal councillor for ten years, and a mayor for six years in the Montreal region. I am now the federal member for that region.
I have also lost home mail delivery. My city was one of the five first cities in Canada to lose door-to-door delivery. In my region, 30% to 40% of residences already had community mailboxes. The others still had home delivery.
There is an election here. You are going door to door. This is a very good opportunity to meet with electors.
We hear a lot from people who are unhappy with change. Earlier, Mr. Clarke, you said that the status quo did not seem to be possible, despite the wish to maintain the service. No one gets up in the morning thinking that they will be losing a service, especially not the municipalities, because we know that everything lands on their doorstep eventually. I understand that if door-to-door service or post offices are lost, the municipality receives the calls, the mayor receives the calls, and councillors are put in the hot seat.
Mr. Clarke, let's take you as an example. You have a mailbox. How many times a week do you go to your mailbox?
I receive my mail in a community mailbox and I go there once a week. I might even go once every two weeks if I'm not expecting anything in particular, aside from a few bills that are not delivered electronically.
We have seen a large drop in the volume of paper letters being delivered. We hear that we have to evolve and find solutions.
We hear about the silent majority. Is there a silent majority? In my neck of the woods, in my region, when people lost the service, they were not happy. Now that the service has been lost, I'm hearing something different. People tell me that after all, it is not such a big change. I am setting aside seniors and mobility-impaired persons, as for them the situation is different. They have a need and we must meet it, perhaps in a different way.
Do you think that the silent majority would accept new, different, door-to-door delivery services?
Thank you, gentlemen, for coming in. I hope you hit lots of doors. I knocked on probably about 14,000 or 16,000 doors last election, so I know how it goes. I used up a perfectly good pair of shoes as well.
Mr. Clarke, about the 20-year moratorium on the closure or franchising of rural post offices, what's happened over the past 20 years? I go into this subject because according to reports that we've just seen on the financial situation of Canada Post, over the next few years, until 2026, there will be a shortfall of $700 million. We have two options. It's either find new lines of services that Canada Post could get into—my preference is at minimal cost with the most uplift in revenue—or find a means of saving money somewhere.
We've repeatedly heard loud and clear in different communities that rural post offices are important to the local community. I understand that, but some local communities that are now considered rural include Brampton, Saskatoon, and Halifax. I think it would shock most people in a small community that Halifax or Brampton is considered rural.
Would your union of municipalities think it would be a good idea to move to a franchising model for some of these corporate post offices, and then take these cost savings and put them into maintaining rural post offices? Right now there are about 3,600, some of them in true rural communities, not in these areas that have grown to become urban.
Each level of government has a general area of specialty and an understanding of where things can be done. As an example, the regional municipality here is now just in its 21st year; it was eight former municipal units that were forced together into one body, and there are three operation divisions. As an example, for snow clearing, two of those divisions have public works employees doing it. The one we're in right now has contracting companies doing it. Contracting service is actually not efficient, and we're looking at public provision of the service, so sometimes public employees provide greater value for money. We've actually contracted out in Sydney because that's the way it was, and the service levels are down compared to the other areas. You can see in a snowstorm that the east and north divisions have better service delivery just from the effectiveness of government being able to do something better. Therefore, I think we have to talk about whether government is in the business of providing a postal service or whether it is no longer a public service.
I fully agree with other lines of business, if you can find revenue streams. We all know that Canada Post is very efficient and very good at moving parcels effectively. We all know mail volume is down for the traditional letter coming in the mail. I mean, I don't race to my mailbox to look for a letter, but I do go to it for goods and transactions that are about living your life.
I guess the question really is at the federal level. The discussion among your colleagues needs to be about what postal service is. Is it more effectively done at one level or another? Here, as I say, we have to weigh out what public servants do better, and in the case of public works, they actually do baseline delivery better than the contracting community. When it comes to other projects, the contracting community is very effective at doing some of the work that we can't do in-house.
I just don't want to speculate on the federal jurisdictions.