Friday April 25, 2014

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Inevitable changes

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Canada Post's decision to cease door-to-door mail delivery for urban residents is unfortunate, but it was ultimately unavoidable.

It's a culmination of the shift in how Canadians have received their mail over the last 20 years. At one time, you counted on Canada Post to send letters and cards to family and friends, to ship your business information and packages, and to deliver your bill payments.

Then e-mail came along. Other advances in technology diminished mail circulation. Many services that used to be provided by the post office can now be tackled through our computers.

Canada Post's circulation numbers have declined in the last 20 years. The greatest decrease has occurred in the last five years.

Community mail boxes have also been growing in prominence in urban subdivisions. They're part of most new neighbourhoods. Most urban mail now arrives at a community mailbox, instead of a household mailbox.

Canada Post hasn't adapted well, either. It takes about the same amount of time to send a letter from Estevan to elsewhere in Canada as it did 20 years ago. In the face of a rapidly changing world, Canada Post remained relatively stagnant.

When a company loses more than $100 million in a fiscal quarter, changes have to be made. When that entity is a government Crown corporation, dramatic changes have to happen, regardless of how vital or essential the service is.

Taxpayers deserve better than mounting losses and soaring red ink.

Canada Post could have gutted its workforce through immediate layoffs, but it didn't. It would have offered the most immediate relief, but that was an unrealistic option. It couldn't just ramrod salary reductions for unionized employees.

Or Canada Post could have jacked up the cost of postage stamps. Oh wait, it did that. (One of the worst decisions that a corporation can typically make is to increase the cost of service right at the same time that it reduces service).

If you didn't know better, you'd swear that the rising postage rates was part of an evil master plan by Canada Post to further reduce mail circulation.

There will always be a need for a post office and for mail service of some form. Technology can't meet every need of every person. There will be those who don't embrace technology who will still need to send and receive mail.

Canada Post will also have to consider how to deliver mail to the elderly and disabled. There are some who can't reach a community mailbox, especially during the winter months.

Perhaps the saddest part of this inevitable reduction is the demise of the letter carrier. These people were often fixtures in the neighbourhood. They were consistent and reliable. They not only provided a vital service each day, but they did it with a smile and a cheerful disposition.

Community mail boxes can't replace the value of the letter carrier.

These changes should make the Crown corporation more financially viable. That's great news. It's necessary. But that doesn't necessarily mean we'll have a better Canada Post.

 


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