Ladies and gentlemen, we'll get going now. First, I'd like to welcome all of our panellists.
I have a couple of brief words of introduction to make before we start the proceedings. As I'm sure all of you gentlemen are aware, the minister responsible for Canada Post, the hon. , has initiated a very extensive consultation process on the future of Canada Post.
Phase one of that consultation process was to appoint a task force whose mandate was to examine the financial viability and sustainability of Canada Post. The task force has completed its work and submitted its report, and we have had an opportunity to speak with task force members.
Phase two of the consultation process is a cross-Canada tour during which we speak with individuals, organizations, and municipalities, both large and small, both rural and urban, both remote and on first nations to get an idea from individuals across Canada of their views regarding the future of Canada Post and, more importantly, to try to get their recommendations on the future of Canada Post. That's why we are here today.
The procedure we will follow in the meeting this morning is very simple. We're going to ask all of you to open with a very brief opening statement of no more than five minutes. If you care to look up the odd time during your presentation, when it gets to the four minute mark, I will give you a one-more-minute signal. We'll try to see if we can get you completed on time.
If you are not able to complete your five-minute statement, don't worry. Our experience has been that the question and answer period is when the information is transferred. I'm sure that all of the information that you wish to give to our committee members will be taken care of during the Qs & As.
With that brief introduction, we'll start. I have a list.
Monsieur Cusson, we have you first on the list, sir. You have five minutes. The floor is yours.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, on behalf of the Union des municipalités du Québec, I want to thank you for hearing us today.
We have filed our brief in both official languages. It seems long, but that is because we have attached the resolutions of our member municipalities.
In this consultation, the UMQ will, first, suggest measures to respect the fundamental jurisdiction of municipalities on issues of land use and urban planning. Second, the UMQ will propose diversification of Canada Post services to energize regional economies and in so doing promote land occupancy in those territories.
Under subsection 19(1) of the Canada Post Corporation Act, the corporation may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, make regulations for the efficient operation of its business.
No statutory prescription requires the CPC, in exercising its functions, to comply with municipal jurisdiction over matters of land use or urban planning. Nonetheless, in the opinion of the UMQ, the CPC has significant responsibilities towards residents as well as municipalities.
Land use is a fundamental component of the powers of municipalities. The Quebec Land Use Planning and Development Act is based on several key principles: that land use is a political responsibility, that powers over land use are shared among the various stakeholders, and that land use necessarily requires consultation over decisions and actions by those stakeholders.
In fact, because they are in charge of land use within their respective territories, municipalities have major responsibilities, including oversight for the protection and welfare of their residents. For example, through their development plans, municipalities influence the social cohesion and harmonious development within their territories by ensuring consistency between options for intervention on sectoral issues, by defining policies for intervention on site development and infrastructure, and by coordinating the policies and investments of municipal departments.
The municipal sector in Quebec is highly diversified. Every municipality or region has its own quite specific needs and challenges, and members of municipal governments are in the best position to act on these issues, since local officeholders know their areas and residents intimately.
We are concerned that bringing in a "one-size-fits-all" plan, without regard for local realities, and without consulting the municipal sector or the public, could well jeopardize any restructuring plan put forward by the CPC.
In order to establish constructive cooperation with municipalities, the UMQ desires and in-depth reform of the Canada Post Corporation Act. Its purpose would be to require the CPC by law, on one hand, to consult municipalities and residents as a matter of course, and, on the other, to respect the jurisdiction of municipalities over land use planning and development. In this way, in their planned restructuring, the CPC would have all the necessary means to generate a win/win relationship with a minimum of social, environmental, and economic impact.
These provisions, based on principles of transparency, commitment, and public interest, would target CPC undertakings that generate major impact for communities.
A similar requirement presently exists in subsection 43(3) of the Telecommunications Act, which stipulates that "No Canadian carrier or distribution undertaking shall construct a transmission line on, over, under or along a highway or other public place without the consent of the municipality or other public authority having jurisdiction over the highway or other public place."
The UMQ board of directors recently adopted a resolution to the effect that the Government of Canada should amend parts of the Radiocommunication Act respecting placement of telecommunications towers.
In fact, our recommendation is that the corporation be required by law to consult municipalities and residents respecting regulations prescribing the conditions under which items may be transmitted by post and providing for the closure of post offices and the termination of letter carrier routes, and that it also be required by law to comply with the jurisdiction of municipalities over land use planning. The idea is to reach formal agreements respecting conditions for the placement of equipment where it comes to governing the design, placement, and use of any prescribed receptacle or device. That is our main recommendation.
We also have another recommendation in which we request that Canada Post study the possibility of diversifying its services in view of the fact that it has more points of service than any other local service. That would help to maintain a strong regional economy.
I will close by simply saying that, for us, the postal service is an important and indispensable service for the entire population. By establishing a strong partnership with our communities, we will be able to preserve a connection with Canada Post and strengthen this proud tradition.
We hope that, by establishing a strong partnership, we can work together to preserve a relationship with Canada Post and continue to be proud of it.
Thank you very much.
Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Hervé Esch, and I am director general of the municipality of Ristigouche-Sud-Est. My testimony will focus more on observations of what I have seen in the field.
Ristigouche-Sud-Est is a small municipality of 165 inhabitants. As we have no post office, we rely on one that is located 15 kilometers away. There is another office situated seven kilometers away.
Canada Post is an essential public service for a small municipality such as ours. Our citizens are very much attached to it. I think it would be a good idea, as part of the reorganization of Canada Post, to expand the services offered by post offices that could become, for example, service points or relay points for Service Canada, which is the most widely represented service throughout Canada and across our territory.
The options under study include several that I think should be considered more closely. For example, there is the conversion of community mailboxes. The populations of remote villages are often aging populations, and we try to make their lives as comfortable as possible by enabling them to live at home as long as possible. Although there is an interest in community mailboxes, some people also need to retain home delivery service. All the points raised may be interesting ways to expand the potential range of post office services and help sustain operations and minimize costs.
In conclusion, I would say that Service Canada is an essential service that must be maintained.
I want to thank you for inviting the Conference Board to appear before you today. I represent the institution as its vice-president for public policy.
The Conference Board is the largest independent research organization in Canada by number of employees and revenue. We are non-partisan, and we conduct fact-based analysis. We are largely known for our economic analyses.
I am here in connection with a study that the Conference Board prepared in 2013. I have examined that study once again in detail and a large part of what we did in 2013 is still relevant today. I also presented it to the task force earlier this year. The work the task force has done is, on the whole, consistent with what we did in 2013.
I will answer your questions in a few minutes, but I would simply like to say that the reason we undertook the study is that, after 16 years of budget surpluses, Canada Post felt it was under financial pressure and had to rectify the situation. The pressure is still there. Structural elements are in place, and there is a broader context. What is difficult with Canada Post, where the major questions and business models are starting to be shaken up by innovation, is to determine how to adapt and to assess the impact of the various measures possible. That would enable Canada Post to be profitable over the long term, while providing the services that Canadians expect.
Our job has been to put the various possible solutions into perspective. As part of the work done by the task force, particularly by Ernst & Young, an exercise similar to the one the Conference Board undertook in 2013 was conducted to measure the financial impact of community mailboxes, the conversion of Canada Post offices to franchises, and so on. We therefore have a series of six scenarios that involve, for example, the issue of salaries and alternate date mail delivery. In short, we are putting the potential impact of these various measures into perspective. It is an effort and an empirical and objective contribution to putting the potential of the various solutions that may be considered into perspective.
Progress and changes have been made in the past three years. I noticed that the dominant trends were already in place in the e-commerce field and in the decline in transactional mail. The Canada Post pension plan, which weighs quite heavily on the corporation's operations, is also adding pressure. These trends have accelerated in some areas, such as parcels, for example. That is the positive side of all this. In fact, there has been growth in that business sector, which has expanded more quickly than anticipated.
Internationally, we can observe trends and innovation, but we have not touched on them in our work. If there is still time and it is still possible, I would encourage the task force to explore avenues that are not necessarily those that we our observing and currently considering. There are all kinds of avenues in innovation.
The Conference Board is working on the issue of self-driving vehicles, for example. There is an ongoing debate in Canada on mail delivery using self-driving technologies on sidewalks, but these are things I have not heard talked about. There are also Canada Post's electronic services. In certain countries such as Finland, we are seeing many innovations in electronic services that are being combined with home mail delivery. These are options that I do not think have been discussed, and their potential should also be assessed.
I will stop there for the moment.
I'm going to make my remarks in English, but I'm very willing to answer any questions in French.
I actually presented before the task force committee. I was very disappointed with the task force report on Canada Post, because I thought it concentrated too much on how to cut services and save money and not enough on how to expand services by Canada Post. The main role of Canada Post is to provide public services to Canadians, and that remains a valid one.
In other countries, they provide far more federal, provincial, and municipal services through the post office. My daughter who lives in the U.K. just got her passport through the post office in the U.K. and had her digital imprints taken at the post office. Other countries have broadband and mobile services, including the U.K., France, and Italy. The U.K. has broadband and land-line services. The most important one is postal banking and providing financial services. I don't think the report did justice to looking at that.
First, the report did not examine countries very similar to Canada, like the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland, all of which have postal banking. In all of those countries, postal banking is very profitable and provides a huge chunk of the revenues of the postal system in those countries. All of those countries have a concentrated banking system just like ours. Each one of those countries has several of the major banks, as I've outlined in my remarks, which you should get a copy of. Of the 50 largest banks, Canada has some, Switzerland has some, the U.K has some, etc., but they still have success of postal banking there.
The number of banks have shrunk dramatically. The report looked at the last five years, where it's gone up slightly, but if we look at it from now back to 1990, there has been a 20% drop in bank branches in Canada. We've lost a huge number of bank branches. It went down from 7,964 to 6,348 in 2015. For credit unions, it's even more disastrous with a decline of about 26% since 2002. There's been a major decline in the number of branches.
I did a study that looked at the availability of banks in communities that have a post office, and 45% of the rural communities in Canada, which have a post office, do not have a bank or a credit union branch. So when they say that the banks are doing a great job, no, the banks are retreating to the big cities, and the higher-end business. That's their job as for-profit institutions. There is a real possibility there for the post office to offer financial services.
I think the study done by the task force showed that 7% of all Canadians would open an account right away, and that 22% would probably open an account. This is a huge number. Even if just 7% of people opened an account in a postal bank, that would be a huge number of people. It would be one of the top banks in Canada, just like that, overnight. There is a big interest in it. Six hundred municipalities have supported postal banking, which is a lot, including Toronto and Victoria, big cities, as well as many smaller communities, including many in Quebec.
I'll come back to some of these points afterwards, but I would like to say that there is a real possibility for postal banking. I think it would be great if the task force looked at how to do that.
I just want to make one last point before I go to my conclusions, which is that there are only about 56 banks or credit unions on reserves out of 615 reserves, and we just updated that. There's a real possibility of offering postal banking on reserves.
I think it would be great if the post office interviewed people from France, the U.K., Switzerland, and Italy, by Skype to save money, on postal banking and other services. It would be great if the committee could get the study that Canada Post did, which recommended postal banking, but was never released. If you could get that released, that would also be tremendous.
I'll stop there.
Mr. Cusson, thank you for being here with us today. I am always very happy to return to Quebec City, where I spent my early years.
Without further ado, I am going to use the seven minutes allotted to me to ask you some questions. I ask you to give me relatively short answers.
Mr. Cusson, you represent the Union des municipalités du Quebec. You are asking in particular that Quebec municipalities take part in the decision-making process on the introduction of and any changes to services that Canada Post may offer the population.
This new UMQ resolution comes in response to a decision that Canada Post made without consulting you. That is what I understand from having experienced the same thing. If you had been consulted, might the solutions and changes made have been appreciably the same, with some minor variations? The consultation might have helped explain the reasons for certain developments.
Mr. Thériault, I must interrupt you because I want to ask Mr. Anderson a question.
Mr. Anderson, you talked about the postal banking service. We hear a lot about new revenue sources, and that is positive. We should expand our horizons, and that is one option to consider.
However, I am concerned about the cost-effectiveness of the postal banking service when the banks have abandoned that service in the regions because it was not profitable enough. What will make that service profitable for Canada Post when it was not profitable for the banks?
I do not know whether the banks' salaries and social benefits are comparable to those of Canada Post, since I have not analyzed them, but I find it hard to understand how we will be able to avoid subsidizing this service in the regions when the banks abandoned it because it was unprofitable.
I am an MP from western Canada. So I am going to practise my French today.
Thanks to all the witnesses for their contributions to our work.
Mr. Esch, my question concerns the Canadian postal service protocol and the moratorium on rural post office closings.
The committee has learned that several rural regions have their post offices in community centres. I understand that. However, there are still rural post offices in Saskatoon, Brampton, and Halifax. As a result of a moratorium, Canada Post may not close post offices in those cities in order to reorganize its service.
What do you think of a suggestion that the committee might make, that post offices should be closed in regions that have become urban—Canada has urbanized in the past 20 years—to fund postal service in the rural regions?
With your permission, Mr. Anderson, I will correct one of the statistics you cited.
According to testimony we have heard, 60% of respondents feel it is a bad idea to provide banking services in post offices, whereas 38% think the potential in that area is good. Of that 38%, 7% said they might use banking services in post offices, and only 2.7% of respondents indicated they intended to use those services if they were offered. Consequently, the percentage of interested respondents is much less than 7%. Furthermore, to provide banking services in its post offices, Canada Post will have to make enormous structural and IT investments. A bank is much more than buildings and employees.
Do you think 60% of Canadians are opposed to the idea that Canada Post should take this kind of financial risk to maintain its financial sustainability?
I want to thank the witnesses for their presentations. They are very much appreciated.
Mr. Anderson, I will use the seven minutes allotted to me to ask you some questions.
I agree with you that the report is incomplete and contains false information. I would like to hear what you have to say about the report that has been submitted.
What is your opinion, based on the research you have done, on what should be in a report and what should not, and by that I mean what Canada Post management considers as nonsense. In addition, tell me about the impact of postal banking services and post office closings in rural areas. What direction should we take on that subject? I would like you to clarify further what you said in your presentation.
I conducted a study on post office closings in rural areas. It is available in English and French and I hope it has been distributed to you. I also conducted surveys of the mayors of municipalities where there were post offices, but where they had been closed for more than 20 years. It appears those closings have caused enormous problems in the rural regions.
Canada, like Australia, is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. Increasing numbers of people live in and around major cities, and services in the rural regions have been cancelled. I find that ridiculous. The post office is a key service. Several mayors wrote to me, in particular the mayor of Boulter, Ontario, and told me that the fact they no longer had a post office was a disaster, partly as a result of the large number of seniors, who are more numerous in the real regions.
Post offices are still being closed in rural areas, in all kinds of ways, even though it is not theoretically permitted. A lot of excuses are being used to continue closing them, but it is a public service. I think they should be kept open.
What Canada Post could do is not as complicated as that. I think we must take into consideration what is being done by countries of roughly the same size as ours. I am thinking here of France, the UK, Italy, and even Switzerland. Those countries have decided to offer other services. We have to start with financial services. All those countries offer them, each in accordance with its own model. In other words, there are various methods.
A Conservative government could find a way to provide financial services that would be different from that of the Liberal or an NDP government. The important point is that all these financial services are profitable. In Canada, major companies such as Loblaw's, Canadian Tire, Rogers, and Walmart, have all invested in banking. They have not spent enormous amounts of money to do so, but they now offer services that are profitable.
The post office could choose the services it wants to provide. Some services could be offered by the post office, through its own bank, and others could be offered jointly with existing credit unions and banks. Loblaw's, for example, has its own credit card service, while some bank accounts belong to CIBC.
We could use those kinds of models. I think various possibilities are available to Canada Post. With respect to payday loans, it would be possible to offer products in the post offices that could replace those of Money Mart, for example, which charges rates of 600%. Far less expensive services could be offered. They may not be very profitable, but it is not necessary to make as much money as Money Mart. After all, we are talking about a service here. It merely has to be profitable, and it will be. To get a payday loan, applicants must have a job and a source of revenue. Otherwise they cannot get that kind of loan.
It would be profitable and interest rates would be the same as those paid by Canadians on their credit card balances. The rate would not be 600%. I think this is an enormous opportunity. In France, for example, postal banks have established ties with the municipalities and grant them loans. They have focused on that and on social economy institutions, including cooperatives.
In Canada, we can choose the services and the part of the industry we want to focus on. All that is profitable, in my view. I have stated some figures, but I think that more than 100% of profits in France and Italy come from financial services.
That means that other services have lost money. Financial services have therefore made it possible to continue delivering the mail. They have done by earning revenue from financial services.
Gentlemen, thank you all for being here. I appreciate the time that you've taken out of your busy days and schedules to be here.
One other point I would offer to you, should you have additional information that you think would be of benefit to this committee, please submit it directly to our clerk. We'll make sure that we examine it and that it will form part of our final report. I encourage you, should you have that additional information, do that within the next couple of weeks because it is during that time frame that we'll start to draft our report.
Thank you once again. They were great presentations.
We will suspend for a few moments to await our next panel.
Ladies and gentlemen and committee members, could we have everyone back at the table, if possible?
Welcome to our panellists who are with us this morning.
Many of you may have been in the room for the first session. I'm not sure if all of you were. To give you a couple of quick opening comments, we will start with this consultation, which will be a question and answer process with all of our committee members. First, however, I will ask each of you to give a brief opening statement of five minutes or less. That will allow all committee members an opportunity to go a little more in-depth with some of your issues.
We're looking for recommendations, suggestions, and observations about the future of Canada Post.
We're very happy to have all of you here this morning. I have first on my list as panellists, Madame Gagnon and Monsieur Godbout.
I believe you'll be splitting your time. If you can do that, please the floor is yours for five minutes.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I will introduce our association.
Our association is dedicated to seniors rights advocacy and has been operating in Quebec for more than 35 years. We represent people from all categories. We do a lot of advocacy work on behalf of vulnerable seniors, since ours is the only association exclusively engaged in seniors rights advocacy.
The purpose of our vision of aging, which is positive, is to maintain seniors' power to act. The purpose of our demands is to provide assistance to seniors, particularly those who live in situations of poverty and isolation.
We did not appreciate the decision Canada Post made in 2013 to put an end to home mail delivery in urban areas in order to save money. That measure has had a major impact on seniors, particularly those who are vulnerable. Some seniors are unable to go and pick up their mail outdoors and are consequently very happy to have it delivered to their homes. If home mail delivery were abolished, they would be the first victims. Some less mobile seniors would have to call on others to help them. Cases of abuse could arise in certain situations.
I am going to speak briefly about Quebec. Quebec society is aging very quickly and that fact must be taken into account. Persons 65 years of age and over, who form 17.6% of the population today, will represent approximately 26% in 2031. The age pyramid is incredible. And yet life expectancy is increasing, and the number of people living alone is rising as well. That is a very important fact. Public pension plans are inadequate. Did you know that nearly half of Quebecers 65 and over receive the guaranteed income supplement?
They are really not rich. Our first observation is that local services have suffered cuts. This is incredible. Local services have been reduced, tariffed or cut. Home services are underfunded and bank windows are being closed. If home mail delivery service is abolished, that will have an enormous impact on the remote regions. What will happen? Some places will become devitalized areas.
Seniors are vulnerable to bad weather. If they have to go pick up their mail from mailboxes in cold, icy weather, they may fall. Can it then be said that this population is being provided with adequate public service? I am not sure. This also puts additional pressure on family caregivers, who are already under enough pressure as it is.
With respect to digital literacy, only 32% of seniors 65 and over use the Internet. This means that the remainder do not use it and that it is not a functioning technology in their case.
Our first recommendation is that Canada Post take into account the needs of an aging population by restoring and maintaining home delivery service. The goal is to help seniors stay at home as long as possible and thus to improve their quality of life.
We do not understand why the federal government establishes so many programs to help break down seniors' isolation. It invests several millions of dollars here and there, particularly for home support. However, mail is a home service that helps overcome isolation. It is in addition to other services. A degree of consistency in the government's measures is therefore necessary.
We are witnessing an increasingly pronounced exclusion of seniors and a loss of the social role of letter carriers. This may seem curious, but for isolated people who see no one, it is important to see their letter carrier arrive at their door. Perhaps letter carriers could even be asked to take on another social role.
We are talking about requiring proof of a medical disorder for citizens who are suffering from such a disorder to be able to continue receiving their mail at home.
Good morning, my name is Olivier Collomb d'Eyrames, and I work at the Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées de la région 03, which covers the Capitale-Nationale, Quebec City, Charlevoix, and Portneuf. I am accompanied by Simon April, from the Comité d'action des personnes vivant des situations de handicap. That committee, which is a member of our organization, represents persons suffering from motor difficulties.
I am happy to have arrived in time to hear the end of the previous presentation. We also wonder about the consistency of government measures. Our questions will be along the same lines as those of the AQDR.
The federal government has launched an extensive consultation on a potential Canadian accessibility bill. That is interesting. What has just been said gives us an idea of the impact Canada Post may have on maintaining the vitality of the communities or cutting other services. This is a central issue in our thinking.
Allow me to cite a specific example: adapted transport service. In many cases, this service is limited to an area and is not provided outside it. If services are abolished because Canada Post withdraws from a community, people will become even more dependent on their family caregivers or will have to pay a fortune in order to travel.
As sustainable development is another major issue for the current federal government, I would note that much less pollution is generated when a service is concentrated in one location and people can travel there because it is located nearby. In our view, it is slightly more economical for people to carpool in order to distribute mail rather than have everyone individually go and pick it up. I do not think you need a PhD to understand that.
We are now dealing with a federal government that wants to take measures to facilitate access to services for persons with disabilities. In Quebec, we sometimes find it hard to see what the federal government is trying to do, given the way jurisdictions are distributed. However, the federal government can really do something about Canada Post. This time, it cannot invoke provincial jurisdictions and hold more discussions. There appears to be an instrument that can be used.
We feel that the solutions proposed by the Union des municipalités du Québec are very interesting. It so happens that I come from France and that the post office there is a postal bank, a service provider, and a local connection. These are aspects that Judith mentioned earlier. As for the letter carrier's role, we could even think of it as including the delivery of medication and forms. These are possibilities that should be explored.
We have also considered at length what was broadcast in the media three years ago concerning Canada Post's wish to cancel home mail delivery service. However, community mailboxes had already been installed in several regions, particularly in many developing neighbourhoods. We wonder about the approach that should be taken to accessing that service. It must be as simple as possible. It should be noted that, in many cases in Quebec, a physician has to be paid to draft a few lines that constitute a medical certificate. If the person is fortunate and the physician completes the certificate correctly the first time without having to do it over, the cost will be $50 or $75.
People are already being asked to complete forms, particularly for disability tax credits and CNIB cards for blind persons. Proof of eligibility for adapted transportation may also be requested. It is possible to refrain from always asking those people to complete forms. Less regulation is one of the good ideas that the previous government proposed. It would be a good idea to retain it.
Now I am going to submit a few brief points to you on the fly.
It is time to verify what is happening with the delivery of documents written in braille. Thanks to an exemption, documents written in braille are delivered free of charge. However, we have heard that, when a hand-written document is found in a large pile of documents written in braille, it results in a significant loss of time because everything has to be checked.
There is also the problem of sidewalks cluttered with mailboxes. The fact that the mailboxes are installed nearby makes life easier, but, if they clutter the sidewalks, people in wheelchairs are unable to circulate, which is unconscionable. Canada Post should issue a policy stating that, if the free space measures less than 1.75 metres, the sidewalk must be cleared. Otherwise that prevents people from circulating.
I believe I have covered all the questions I wanted to raise.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to make an initial comment.
I am not sure we have to limit exceptional measures to people who have a medical certificate. Some individuals do not necessarily have a disability that entitles them to special permission.
Consider seniors. When there is black ice and it is slippery out, seniors have as much trouble going to pick up their mail from their mailboxes as persons with disabilities. We must not limit ourselves to the idea of a medical certificate. It is initial caution that must be exercised.
We have not done a detailed study of all the options proposed in the brief. However, we can imagine a few of them. For example, if I can rely on what was said, someone mentioned earlier that Canada Post was anticipating an accumulated operating loss of approximately $700 million over the next 10 years.
At same time, if I remember correctly, the same document stated that alternate day delivery would save $75 million a year. We already have a solution. I am not saying we need a single solution, but this shows that there are ways to do something. This is not the only one, and we should be careful.
We are not proposing that it be this way everywhere. However, there are ways to take action. It is important that seniors receive the home delivery services of a letter every other day rather than have none at all. We have to take a look at the major difference between the two options.
There are also opportunities to consider. For example, I live in a building where there are a number of apartments. Two years ago, Canada Post offered to provide us with parcel boxes. The idea was that the letter carrier who delivered letters could also deliver small parcels and even fairly large parcels. People could thus receive parcels at the same time as letters. However, that was not done. We had to call to request the parcel box, but we never received it. I assume that would be much more efficient.
The letter carrier currently deliver letters, and someone else comes and delivers parcels two or three hours later. These are not large parcels, but rather small parcels. However, this could be done in a single operation. So savings can be made in this area.
A little earlier we talked about cities such as Halifax that have an urban area that is different from the rural areas. We did not look at the details of the solutions to be considered.
In conclusion, I would like to add to what Ms. Gagnon said on this point. The recently focused on the need for home care. However, you cannot simultaneously encourage home care and reduce services.
Thanks for joining us today, and thank you very much for your volunteer work and advocacy on behalf of seniors and the disabled.
Mr. Collomb d'Eyrames, what a fantastic idea you had about the specifications for filling out the forms for Canada Post for weekly home delivery, rather than having them fill out the form and getting a doctor's note, providing what they currently have, whether it's for handicapped parking access or something like that. It's a wonderful solution. That's the big reason why we come out: to hear these ideas. Thank you very much. I was very pleased to get that. I'm going to steal your idea later on.
One of the things we've heard about—and I'll ask this of all of you—is that we've is that there will be anywhere from $750 million to potentially $1.2 billion in losses a year if things don't change with Canada Post, or it does not continue to become more self-sufficient. That, of course, is money that's taken out of other services, such as home care and medicare.
Do you believe that's the way to go? That money has to come from somewhere, and eventually it comes from cuts to services, whether for the elderly or the disabled. I know it's a difficult question. That's not a solution. Do you think we need to find other ways to find this money?
I am going to answer your first question on the rural regions.
That is a timely question. Over the past two days, we have had a meeting in Rivière-du-Loup with people from across Quebec. Some of them, who came from a rural region, told us that the closing of a post office in a region had an incredibly terrible impact. It is one more factor that is sapping the vitality of the rural regions.
It is easy to sap the vitality of the rural regions. The post office represents something important for those regions. Mail delivery is a public service. Some caisses populaires have closed in certain locations. Seniors are angry about that. They even wonder whether they will be able to stay in their region if authorities are starting to cancel all their services. That is a major question mark in their minds.
As I told you during my presentation, many older people are reluctant to use the Internet. Do not try to encourage them to do so. They do not want to use it, and they know other people who do not want to use it either. We are trying to change things in that regard. There are a lot of knowledge improvement programs, but people are reluctant to use the Internet. There will be a large percentage of those people who will not want to use the Internet.
I have another comment on that subject.
In the brief, we say that 32% of seniors use the Internet and that 44% of that number conduct transactions to pay their bills. This does not represent a large percentage of seniors who pay their bills that way. That 32% represents approximately 15% or 16% of people 65 and over who use the Internet to conduct their transactions.
Consequently, we should have no illusions or think this might be the magic solution, particularly since we know the Internet is not necessarily accessible in seniors residences, where residents are housed in rooms rather than apartments. The Internet involves significant costs even for people who live in an apartment that is not in a residence. To use the Internet or to conduct transactions, you need an Internet connection, a computer, and often a printer to print statements. You also have to update software. That can easily amount to $50 or $60 a month.
It was said that 45% of Quebecers receive old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, which means those individuals earn less than $17,000. It is impossible for them to pay costs of $60 or $70 a month just to receive their bills. You should not think that the Internet will be the universal solution. We must determine how seniors can obtain service without necessarily having to connect.
We should look at the tax form, for example, because persons with disabilities are not the only ones who can claim the tax credit for severe impairment. We believe that a senior who is afraid of falling tires more quickly. Some people belong to our group on this matter.
We are not looking at your programs or criteria either. You make them and you undoubtedly have very good reasons, particularly financial ones, not to change your criteria too much. In our opinion, however, it serves no purpose to request further proof from individuals whose significant limitations are already recognized.
However, we are very sensitive to what the Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées is proposing to find ways to assist seniors in obtaining proof of medical condition. Once again, there is sustainable development, prevention, the walkability audit, and the seniors fall prevention program. On both sides, it is as though we were in fact telling these people to fall and break a hip in order to get a note from their doctor. We have no solutions for individuals who are in grey areas.
On the other hand, what we know from experience and from the branches, based on what our oldest supporters tell us—since we also have supporters who are 80 years old—is that the association has always considered the federal government more broadly accepting on the disability question because it has a different sensibility, one that comes in part from Ontario, which recognized certain limitations long before Quebec, particularly in the area of learning disorders. The federal government has always had a much more generous vision of disabilities and functional limitations than Quebec.
In our view, all existing certification mechanisms must be automatically applied. We also have to find solutions for seniors. A doctor should be able to certify that a person 70 years old is at risk if he or she falls. This is a concern that must be taken into account. It risks costing Canada Post a lot of money because people have been living without service for a long time. Now that they know they can complete a form, they will complete it in order to obtain the service, and so much the better.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to all the witnesses for being here with us today. My first question is for Ms. Gagnon.
In your presentation, you discussed the letter carrier's social role. I would like to know what that role represents for seniors.
I am sitting on the committee once again as a replacement. I have met representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers who suggested that letter carriers could be asked to verify whether seniors are at home, whether they are able to answer the door, whether they are alive, conscious, and so on. The role of the letter carrier could be expanded in that way.
I would like to know your opinion on the subject. How could we expand the role of letter carriers relative to what they currently do?
For people who are isolated, the arrival of the letter carrier who brings the mail to their door may be a source of hope and a human presence. Without being a local social worker, a letter carrier may observe things incidentally, notice an abnormal situation in the home, and report it.
There are programs designed to help support seniors and break down their isolation. Letter carriers could also be asked to take on the duty of monitoring and reporting conditions they consider abnormal in places where they deliver the mail.
Something can be done in this area since letter carriers interact with people in a way by providing them with a local service. Why not use that local relationship to have them play another role?
In our organization, we often hear about watchdog programs for seniors, in which people go to seniors' homes to see that they are all right. Letter carriers could just as easily perform that function, together with other resources, when they deliver the mail. Letter carriers are an important local resource. They would be a major asset in all services provided to seniors.
Something should definitely be added to the letter carrier's function, whether it be observing what goes on, reporting things as necessary, or keeping an eye open. There may be important minor points to add to break down the isolation of vulnerable seniors and to improve the service provided to them.
Let us go back to your question.
You mentioned a meeting with union representatives. One of the potential solutions considered was to change the Canada Post employee pension plan from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. We do not consider that a promising long-term solution.
The d'Amours report stated the following:
||For a number of years, the trend has been to offer newly hired workers pension plans where they alone assume the risks. Many defined benefit plans have been converted into defined contribution plans, or a defined contribution component has been added for future service. This trend is regrettable from an intergenerational standpoint.
||Newly hired workers do not receive the same level of financial security as co-workers who have been with the business longer.
||New workers are barred from membership in a quality pension plan...
The report notes further on that it is much better to restructure or reform the defined benefit plan—even if it means adjusting benefits—than to change plans.
|| Far from abandoning these plans, we should act counter to prevailing trends and work to ensure their sustainability and viability.
I did not write that. It was the members of the expert committee who prepared the d'Amours report, well-known people from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, who wrote it. Alban d'Amours is a former president of the Mouvement des caisses Desjardins. All of them are specialists.
The solution may not be the best, given the structure of our corporation. The corporation partly owes its strength to defined benefit plans, even if it means they must be restructured.
I cited an example on the subject.
There was a time when Canada Post held a competition called Golden Shovels. People were encouraged to maintain the path to their home to prevent letter carriers from falling and injuring themselves. They want to avoid falling as much as seniors want to go and pick up their mail.
That is one example. Once again we see how, by taking care to protect its employees from injury, Canada Post wants people to remove snow from their sidewalks and provide clear access to mailboxes. This is also an aspect of this social connection because Canada Post employees work on city streets.
In addition, in a neighbourhood such as Limoilou, they can warn people that they will stop delivering mail because stairways are dangerous. That may be another form of pressure put on owners. In some instances, when seniors who live on the second floor request it, no one wants to listen to them. This is a good example of the social connection and an aspect of inclusion.
Thanks to the witnesses for coming to meet with us today. I will continue asking my questions in French.
I am an MP from western Canada and would therefore ask that you indulge me a little and allow me the time to ask my questions.
The committee's purpose is to help Canada Post find a way to reduce its losses, which are anticipated to be $700 million by 2026, according to the financial reports that have been submitted to us.
There are two ways of doing it: either we ration service or we find new profitable services that Canada Post can offer. Today I hear you are seeking a lot of public services for seniors and persons with disabilities.
I put a question to people from another province during another committee meeting. When you consider public services, whether it be municipal, provincial, or federal services, where does postal service for seniors and persons with disabilities stand in this regard? For example, is public health more important? We know that all these services are funded by the same taxpayers, who pay for it all. We must know what is more important and what is less important. We will allocate less money for less important aspects.
Mr. Godbout and Ms. Gagnon, you may begin.
As I previously told you, the UMQ's presentation was very interesting. To learn more about that, we import files from the Internet and information on the situation in other countries. However, it is very difficult to import a model. You should take seriously the UMQ's recommendation to examine the situation more closely.
Consider the example of France and the history of France's postal service. In some respects, it could compare with the Desjardins model in Quebec. It would be rash to import the French model here on the pretext that profits are being made in France. In fact, we have no idea how it is working there.
Switzerland is another good example. It has 7 million inhabitants, as in Quebec. Switzerland has a smaller area than Quebec. So sometimes you need to be careful when you import models. The idea of looking into the matter is an important one.
I very much like what you are saying, that we must not find out from a newspaper that a committee is studying the subject and has been doing so for three years. You have to communicate directly with the AQDR and examine the services, consult the groups, and conduct the survey that the UMQ is proposing. We feel this idea is very interesting and believe that, if you want to do it quickly, including issues of accessibility for persons with disabilities, taking into account the act, sustainable development, and so on, it will help you develop a vision of the subject. The idea is not to consider merely the financial aspects, but also quality of life. That also has a financial value. I am thinking in particular of greenhouse gas reductions. We believe this committee should promptly carry out its work with a view to studying what people have to say and what they think about the issue here in Canada.