OTTAWA—Canada Post faces an ongoing challenge due to the shift toward digital delivery, and strategies to deal with that change could be heading in the direction of privatization.
That’s the fear of the union representing postal workers, but it’s a change some think-tanks consider overdue.
Privatization is a route that many national postal agencies have already successfully taken, and may be something the current government favours. That view seems more plausible given recent revelations that an alternative option to have Canada Post expand its business activities into postal banking was rejected.
Blacklock’s Reporter, an online Parliament-focused news outlet, uncovered in heavily redacted files that Canada Post executives considered postal banking a viable option.
“This would be a win-win strategy,” reads Banking: A Proven Diversification Strategy, one of the reports obtained by Blacklock’s through access to information laws.
News that Canada Post executives had studied and were aware of the potential benefits of offering financial services has given the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) ammunition in their battle against the current strategy favoured by Canada Post’s CEO Deepak Chopra.
The union wrote to Chopra and called on him to release the complete report.
“We were shocked to discover that Canada Post Corporation conducted a secret four-year study on postal banking, which seems to indicate that adding financial services would financially benefit the corporation,” Gayle Bossenberry, VP of CUPW, wrote last week.
“We believe and we hope you agree that, as a public institution, Canada Post has an obligation to be transparent and accountable,” Bossenberry added.
According to Blacklock’s, Canada Post executives went as far as drafting a vision for Canada Post to offer financial services.
But with the Conservatives focused on shrinking government’s role in the national economy, expanding Canada Post’s business activities was likely a non-starter. Many of the business-minded think-tanks that favour the Conservative approach to economic development are calling for the Crown corporation to be privatized.
In a December editorial, the Globe and Mail even used Canada Post’s current strategy to deal with declining revenues as grounds for the Crown corporation to be privatized.
That strategy includes cutting home delivery and raising postal rates 35 percent. The union claims those moves could lead to a downward spiral for Canada Post.
Supporters of the strategy, including Chopra and the Conference Board of Canada, a think-tank whose board he also sits on, believe Canada Post needs to make significant changes to adjust to declining letter mail. With parcel delivery expected to continue rising, the Crown corporation may be able to adapt if it can trim costs through efficiencies and increase revenues.
But the fact that the government and Canada Post never publicly discussed the option of postal banking is raising questions about what other options have been ignored.
After Blacklock’s published its report last week, the New Democrats raised it during question period.
Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt avoided answering whether cabinet had reviewed the diversification plans.
“The reality is that Canadians are choosing more and more not to send mail by the traditional methods, because we are in a digital era and email, of course, it’s the way in which people are doing business today,” she said.
“Canada Post has come up with a plan to combat what they are facing in terms of the erosion of letter mail, and has put its five-point plan forward. We support it.”
NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice called on Raitt to release the report.
“That report was never made public. What is worse, the Crown corporation and its 23 executives—who are paid $10 million—have even denied ever having done this research.”