Canada Post’s mandate must be to serve customers

By on March 19, 2014

In recent weeks Canada Post has opened a retail outlet at the Pharmasave store across the street from the post office in Osoyoos.

Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko isn’t happy about this and on Saturday at a meeting of NDP faithful, he called this “despicable.”

In our MP’s view, there is an agenda here being driven by the federal Conservative government and Canada Post.

The intention, he believes, is to cause the volume of mail handled by the post office to go down, eventually giving Canada Post a pretext to close the post office.

In his view, this will have a negative economic impact on Osoyoos because unionized postal workers, who receive good benefits, spend their money at local businesses.

Non-unionized staff in private businesses don’t put the same money into the local economy, in the MP’s view.

Canada Post issued a generic canned statement rather than respond to the specifics of Atamanenko’s argument.

They say the retail outlet at Pharmasave is open an extra hour on weekdays and is also open on Saturdays when the post office is closed. This makes it more convenient for the changing shopping habits of Canadians and their busy lives.

They say they are “not looking to close any postal outlets,” but this sounds like a non-denial denial.

Canada Post has shown in numerous communities elsewhere that it sees closing post offices as a good business move.

Atamanenko may well be right that there is a hidden agenda to close the post office down the road. And he is also right that decently paid workers put more money into the local economy.

We question, however, whether it is Canada Post’s role to generate good employment. Rather, their primary mandate should be to deliver mail and provide the best service to customers.

These days, with the growth of email and electronic billing, volumes of lettermail have plummeted.

At the same time, with the rise of online shopping, shipment of parcels is rising. For busy families, it is often difficult to get to the post office during regular hours. Customers often receive a delivery notice, but can’t get to the post office until it has closed.

The NDP has always been beholden to the unions, and the unions have been the biggest obstacle every time Canada Post has tried to modernize.

In the 1970s, they fought the introduction of postal codes, which cut down on manual sorters. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the country endured crippling postal strikes, largely attacking the pace of modernization. More recently the union has fought innovations such as community mailboxes and retail outlets.

Canada Post must be more forthcoming about its plans and it must treat its workers fairly.

Ultimately, however, its mandate is to serve postal customers.

In changing times, as the nature of postal service evolves, this means exploring innovative ways to achieve this.

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