Mail could use a royal stamp of approval

Retired editor Malcolm Baxter suggests an alternative to Canada Post ending home mail delivery

Welcome to the new Canada Post.

That’s the upbeat message at the end of the corporation’s recently announced Five Point Action Plan. But I am certain that a segment of our society is not going to welcome one of the main planks of that plan – getting rid of home mail delivery. As in people who have mobility problems.

Now Canada Post might argue that they can drive to their community post box and pick up their mail. But the reality is that many of these people, seniors in particular, either cannot afford a car or are unable/not allowed to drive for medical reasons.

Never fear, says Canada Post, those community mailboxes will be “close to home”. So how close is close? Canada Post offers assurances that it will abide by the charter under which it operates and make sure they are within 2.5 kilometres (about 1.5 miles) for 78 per cent of its customers.

So a senior on a walker has to trundle their way as much as one and a half miles to pick up their mail and one and a half miles back. With no guarantee when they set out there will even be any mail there. Further in the event they are not part of that 78 per cent.

They could always take the Handy-DART but I am not sure whether running people back and forth to the mailbox falls within its mandate and if it does, from what I know of the system here in Terrace it would be hard pressed to handle the spike in demand.

And even if it can, the walker-bound senior is possibly going to have to pay a minimum of $4 – $2 there and $2 back – for the privilege of picking up their mail. Absurd, and insulting.

Now it is entirely possible that Canada Post could provide statistics showing how few people in Terrace would be adversely affected by this change.

Fine. So if it is so few, why can’t it create a registry, just as Terrace’s HandyDART does, of those with mobility problems and provide them with home delivery? Its vehicles are going to be running around town every day filling community mail boxes so what’s it hurt to make a detour or two?

Heck, just piggy back on the HandyDART registry if it’s worried about the cost of setting up its own.

Ah, the cost word – that’s the justification for the planned demise of home mail delivery and rocketing charges for stamps.

Canada Post reports that it lost $109 million (pre-tax) in the quarter ending September 28 and says those losses won’t go away unless it follows its plan.

It says the big problem is the evil internet. “Steady growth in mail volumes quickly turned to dramatic declines as people shifted to digital alternatives to mail. Canada was no different than the rest of the world,” it says.

So let’s take a look at the rest of the world, or at least one country. Britain privatized the Royal Mail last year. So how is it doing?

Well, its half-year figures to September 29 this year showed a profit of $233 pounds sterling – that’s just shy of $400 million.

Now I fully recognize that the Royal Mail doesn’t have to cover the vast area Canada Post does so its costs will be lower per address. But it also has about double the addresses to deliver to so on that side its costs would be higher.

Bottom line is that there is a rather startling contrast between the financial performance of the two entities.

Obviously, being a wicked private company, the Royal Mail must be charging an arm and a leg for their services.

Not really. True the cost of first class stamps is $1.04, but you can get second class, three-day delivery – which I would happily accept – for 85 cents, the same as the price proposed by Canada Post for its regular mail (it does not offer a cheaper version as far as I can see).

Well then they must have gutted delivery service. Nope. Their charter specifies that basic postal service must be delivery to “any address (not a community mail box) throughout the United Kingdom SIX times a week.”

And in case you might think they must be oppressing the workers, Royal Mail and the union just signed a contract that provides for an  increase of 9.06 per cent over three years. And employees have shares in the company so benefit from its financial performance.

Maybe we should ask Royal Mail Group to take over our postal system.

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