Canada Post: essential until it's not

The end of door-to-door mail delivery service in urban neighbourhoods across the country grabbed the headlines Thursday after Canada Post announced a five-point action plan to "financial sustainability."

Let’s set aside the irony of Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, in charge of the crown corporation, praising the planned major service cuts. 

She’s the same minister, in her capacity as Labour Minister, who talked up the essential nature of the mail service when she brought in back-to-work legislation to end a lockout.

"The work stoppage at Canada Post is expected to have an immeasurable impact on our economy, resulting in losses of about $9 million to $31 million per week. Every day that means more jobs at risk, more productivity lost, more challenges for businesses, and more uncertainty for consumers," Raitt said back in 2011.

Now, Raitt is praising Canada Post "modernization" plan. (Her cabinet colleague, Peter Van Loan, went off-script when he attacked critics of Canada Post's planned service cuts, likening it to when the rich in Toronto's tony Rosedale neighbourhood complained when city garbage collectors stopped walking up driveways to grab people's trash cans.)

What you won’t hear her talk about openly is the privatization of postal services. But that could be the next step for an embattled organization that’s alienating its customers with service cuts and price hikes. That's often the playbook toward privatization.

The Conservatives already have plenty of cover for publicly getting behind that agenda. A report from the C.D. Howe Institute released a few months ago called for the contracting-out of routes and outsourcing services to the private sector.

And conservative-minded commentators seized on the moment Thursday by pressing for the privatization of Canada Post. Drawing inspiration from the pending sale of the Royal Mail in Britain and citing the privatization of post offices throughout Europe, the Canadian headlines say it all: 

Canada Post’s monopoly has got to goThe penny should dropEnd Canada Post’s mail monopolyPrivatize Canada Post; and Stamp Out Canada Post.

FedEx and UPS must be smiling.

Photo: Batara. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.