Committee’s study of Canada Post

November 07, 2016

When most people think about the job of an MP, they probably think about people standing up in Parliament giving speeches. In fact, there is much more to it than that. All parliamentarians serve on a variety of committees charged with shaping policies that have a very real, direct effect of Canadians day to day lives. An important example of this is a recent cross-country tour I participated in aimed at hearing Canadians views about the future of Canada Post.

This came about as part of my duties as chair of OGGO. You might think OGGO is a sea monster that lives at the bottom of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and I suppose you wouldn’t be far wrong. In fact, the acronym somehow or other stands for the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, a committee charged with reviewing the operations of a broad range of front-line government services like Canada Post.

OGGO is an all-party committee so our cross-country tour involved squishing about a dozen Liberals, Conservatives and NDP MPs and their staff into cramped buses and tiny prop planes. Many people, when they watch Question Period, have the impression that MPs from different parties dislike each other personally. Nothing could be further from the truth (in most cases anyway) and the close quarters of our travel arrangements provided a great environment for inter-party collegiality and constructive discussion.

Our first week on the road was a whirlwind. We started in Montreal and blazed through Blainville, Toronto, Windsor, Kitchener, Thunder Bay and Dryden.

After the first week, some general themes emerged that prevailed through most of our consultations. First and foremost, no one wants to lose Canada Post but no one wants to pay more to save it.

Unions, not surprisingly, don't think that there is a financial crisis within the corporation, citing financial reports from Canada Post itself. However, the Task Force, appointed to examine the financial viability of Canada Post, tell a different story. Their analysis shows a looming financial crisis – ironically, citing the same financial reports as those used by the unions. Since they are both using the same data, obviously someone is either wearing dark glasses or rose-coloured ones.

On the issue of community mailboxes, most municipalities are against the installation of community mailboxes in older, more established neighborhoods. Virtually every municipality that has appeared before us has criticized Canada Post for a lack of meaningful consultations on this issue.

Another idea that has been floated to improve the financial viability of Canada Postal is that of postal banking which is exactly what it sounds like.  Many smaller rural communities are too small to have a local bank but do have a post office. Under a postal banking system, the post office could offer basic (but secure) deposit and chequing services. Many seniors may recall that Canada Post once offered this service and it is still offered by the postal services in many other countries around the world. We found there has been quite a bit of support, particularly from the postal unions.

Finally, seniors and organizations representing Canadians with disabilities, want door to door service maintained for their constituents.

The tour carried on for another two weeks. It was a rewarding experience to hear from so many Canadians on these issues but it was an exhausting experience. It was a bit like the movie Groundhog Day. Each day was the same routine--wake up in a hotel, pack your bags, attend meetings all day, travel to the airport, fly to the next location, check into a new hotel, unpack. Repeat for three weeks.

The locations we visited, in order, were--- Montreal Quebec, Blainville Quebec, Toronto ON., Windsor ON., Kitchener ON., Dryden ON., Corner Brook NL., Saint John NL., Halifax NS., Sydney NS. , Charlottetown PEI., Bathurst NB. , Québec City QC., Levi QC., Surrey BC., Edmonton AB., Yellowknife NWT., Moose Jaw SK., Regina SK., Winnipeg MB., Ojibway First Nation MB.

We succeeded in visiting every province plus the North-West Territories in just three weeks.

Now we start the task of writing a report on our findings, which I will table in Parliament later this fall. Canada Post is a major and valued institution that has played an important role in the evolution of our country. Yet, in the era of email, the corporation faces monumental challenges. It is appropriate that Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast be included in the discussion about its future. The other committee members and I were proud to do our part to contribute to this historic conversation.