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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Don't cry for Canada Post

I find it hard to sympathize with the current trials of Canada Post, and the arguments put forward to preserve it in its current form baffle me. I live in a rural community of 1500 people in Eastern Ontario, and I've been living with the mail system that is soon to be imposed on urban Canada for 25 years; life goes on and the sun still rises in the morning.

My mail is delivered to a community post office in the centre of the village where I live. Every weekday I walk the two blocks from my house, in snow or rain or heat or gloom of night, to pick up the half pound of advertising flyers that is stuffed in my mailbox. As far as I know, there has never been home mail delivery in my community, and yet we manage to maintain the trappings of civilization. When I hear critics of the government complain that "the elderly and disabled" will be visited with unimaginable hardships by the loss of daily home delivery, I wonder how the elderly and disabled in my town have managed for so long - they must be made of sterner stuff.

The truth is that Canada Post has outlived its usefulness. Most people don't rely on the mail for important documents like bills and personal communications, and its main functions could be better performed by the private sector. People in urban areas who are shocked by the impending changes should realize that rural Canadians have been subject to that service for decades. The real question is why have city dwellers had such luxurious service for so long?

Canada Post's service is nothing to brag about. Here's a personal anecdote (one of many I could relate) to illustrate why I won't lament the passing of the Post Office. My partner, who lives in a major city, does not drive a car or have a driver's licence. The nearest post office is run out of the local Shopper's Drug Mart, a visit to which requires a lengthy bus trip involving a transfer and two buses. When Canada Post delivers a parcel to his home while he's at work and not there to receive it, he has to go to Shopper's to pick it up. The first time he did this, they asked him for his driver's licence as a form of ID. When he said he didn't have one, they looked at him in amazement and then said they would take a passport. He didn't have a valid passport either (lots of Canadians don't). They eventually let him have his parcel after showing his Health Card and various other cards confirming his identity and address, but they suggested that he get a Government of Ontario photo ID card, which is available for people in his situation without driver's licences. He did so, which involved a trip to a Service Ontario branch and a four week wait.

A year later, he went to the same Canada Post branch after moving to a new house to have his mail forwarded to the new address. He presented his Government of Ontario ID card when asked for ID but was told that Canada Post didn't recognize it as a valid form of ID for mail forwarding. He needed a driver's licence or passport. Infuriated after being told to get the Ontario ID card by the very same office that then told him that they wouldn't recognize it for certain transactions, he went home to get his passport (which he fortunately had renewed recently) and returned after another long bus trip. This time he dealt with a different employee, and as a test presented his Ontario ID, which was accepted without question. Two round-trip bus voyages and many hours later, he had completed this routine two-minute transaction.

Meanwhile, UPS will deliver parcels to a location of your choosing and release them with a simple signature. I think the proposed Canada Post reforms don't go far enough - the Post Office should be privatized immediately.

5 comments:

Anne in swON said...

Like you, Eric, I live in a small town where mail must be retrieved from a central post office and have done so for the past 18 years. Unfortunately I would have to walk much farther than two blocks, but with decreased mobility I find it necessary to drive there and back. I'm sure there are many others who must do the same because the traffic circling the block around the building by those of us who must wait for a parking spot is often quite heavy. There is no local bus service in these small communities so one does what one must. Urban dwellers will need to discover how the majority of us have learned to suck it up and deal with it.

Tripper523 said...

I too live the village scenario, and have retrieved our mail from the local post-office for over 50 years. It's always astounded me how so many others in our greater regional town have had theirs hand-delivered and have never known any different. Sometimes I go for nothing, walking or driving, but the curiosity is always there to see what's "come in". I'm now content to pay a visit maybe every other day, and often combine the mission with outgoing mail to post. I know the personnel within the postal facility do great professional and courteous work, and I hate to see any lost jobs within the Corporation, but there is certainly room for constraints. Abrupt and exorbitant increases in postage fees should not be the only measure taken. The Canadian public should be treated more responsibly, and perhaps it is time to take a serious look at privatization.

Anonymous said...

Time to lay Canada Post to rest. privatization is the key to saving billions of tax payers money. asrautd

ChuckT said...

Privatization would kill small business. I depend on Canada Post to ship to my customers. Most of my packages weigh between 50g and 500g, so domestic shipping can be as low as $1.34 for O/S lettermail (this will go up in March 2014). This same package can cost as little as $2.52 to ship to the States or $5.80 to ship to Europe. If I were to depend on FedEx or UPS to ship this same 50g package I would have to charge my customers over $12 to ship to someone in my own city. Shipping to Europe would start at $87.00.

Anonymous said...

We live in a rural farming area in Alberta. Our drive to the local post box is about a mile, some neighbours are 3 miles or more. The R.R.system works fine and we pick up our mail twice a week. There have been many impromptu get togethers planned with neighbours meeting to pick up the mail "on the corner". Rather than the isolated practice of home delivery,the post box corner is a social occasion.
Parcels are different story as we have the pleasure of driving not to the nearest town with a post office, but to south end of Calgary. No one is quite sure how this came about. Not even Canada Post people in town. There seems to be an east/west dividing line rather than a distance from PO calculation. FP Ranch