QJPolitics: The future of a declining system

Receiving a letter — that isn’t a bill, advertisement or free credit card — is an exhilarating feeling. It’s not old fashioned and it’s much more personal than firing off an email. Yet there’s one better feeling that exists in this world: When you send a letter and it arrives on time.

Traditional mail is far from out of date. There are still so many items that are more useful in a non-electronic format. Hence why businesses such as Purolator, UPS and FedEx do so well (I mean FedEx even ships pandas). So the competition remains fierce.

Canada Post, in particular, has found it difficult to remain a competent business in its role a Canada’s national mail carrier. The last few years have seen Canada Post haemorrhage millions of taxpayer dollars and there’s doubt the business can remain consistently in the black. With the recent privatization of Royal Mail, Great Britain’s postal system, many suggest this should be the future for Canada Post.

While a recent CBC article by Donald Pittis attributes a loss of $100 million over three months to new equipment and the fact that Canada Post must deliver a 20th century service to 21st century demands, I can’t help but scoff. Canada Post fails to offer even the quality of a 20th century mail service. Older generations can attest to the declining speed and reliability of the service.

Theoretically, when you book a train, bus or airplane ticket and it says you’ll arrive around 3 p.m., you imagine you’ll arrive around that time. This same standard doesn’t apply to Canada Post. It’s supposedly acceptable when the express two-day delivery takes as long as five days.

Recently on a street in Hamilton, Ont., mail service didn’t arrive at homes for ten days because construction prevented postal workers from moving the mail to its final destination. However, the residents of the street were still able to navigate safely to work and school each day. They were eventually notified by a postal worker who had himself managed to navigate the construction safely. These days it’s likely the rain, snow or sleet will stop the mail — despite the old saying.

Yet, the economic challenges for Canada Post still remain. Costs of running the service continue to balloon. Transportation, labour and the costs of new technology have increased expenses significantly. To be fair, Canada Post in past decades worked hard to deliver balanced budgets. 2012 was the first time in sixteen years that Canada Post lost money. But while trying to save money, it seems that the quality of the service has declined.

This is where the British postal scenario looks attractive. As Pittis explained, selling Canada Post for a quick influx of cash could help reinvent and modernize Canada’s national carrier. Without relying on the government, it would become more productive as it would be responsible to its shareholders. Its sale would reduce government spending to the joyous cheers of the current Conservative government who are trying to reduce the country’s debt.

Canada Post has its final chance to make itself relevant in a century dominated by electronic communications. The Crown corporation knows the challenge ahead and needs to consider if modernization is possible under the current public structure. If it finds that transformation is impossible as a public enterprise, than we must take a lesson from mother England and sell.

Dear Canada Post,

Do what you need to do. Just get my letter delivered on time.

Christopher Radojewski

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