Musings —12.14.2013 06:57 PM—
The Evil Empire.
Yes, that’s what we called it. Back before the dawn of time, you see, I was chief of staff to a federal cabinet minister. The minister had multiple responsibilities. In private sector terms, he ran the biggest corporation in Canada.
Among his responsibilities was Canada Post. Or, as my colleagues called it, The Evil Empire.
All of the departments, agencies and Crown corporations overseen by the minister had their own unique problems. But none so much as Canada Post.
One day, and not long after we had won election, I went to see the “CEO” of the “corporation.” He received me in his office, which was the size of Prince Edward Island and had a grand view of Parliament Hill and the Gatineau Hills and beyond.
He offered me tickets to one of the corporate boxes that Canada Post maintained across the country. I demurred.
He confirmed, in a roundabout way, that Canada Post gave its upper management golf club memberships, health club memberships and even offered them exclusive use of an executive car wash, downstairs.
He told me I should have driven over, so I could have had my car washed! Ha ha.
I told the “CEO” that I was before him, respectfully, to address two issues. One, their penchant for spending millions on advertising. Two, the fact Canada Post no longer flew the Maple Leaf flag at post offices in the province of Quebec.
“We do not understand why you spend so much on advertising,” I said. “You’re a monopoly. Why do you need to advertise? It is a waste of taxpayers’ money, sir.”
There ensued a bushel of bafflegab about competitive position, branding, blah blah blah. Conversation turned to the absence of Canadian flags at Quebec post offices. Here, the “CEO” of the “corporation” was more direct.
“The prime minister made a commitment during the election to start flying the flag again,” I said. “He would like you to do so, please.”
The “CEO” said doing so “may inflame passions” in Quebec. He actually said that — “inflame passions.”
“Sir, we have a mandate from the Canadian people, including in Quebec,” I said. “The prime minister wants this policy reversed.”
The “CEO” refused.
Eventually, he relented, and Canada did not break up as a result. But my long-ago discussion with the “CEO” of the “corporation” was illustrative last week.
At the time of year when Canadians rely on the postal service the most, Canada Post announced it was dramatically hiking the price of a single stamp, from 63 cents to 85 cents. Oh, and it was eliminating home mail delivery for millions of Canadians.
The reason? Pensions, apparently. The Globe and Mail revealed that Canada Post’s car-washing management had provided gold-plated pensions for mailpersons at the bargaining table. And now it can’t afford to pay. Solution? Eliminate the mailperson.
With the House of Commons having been abruptly shut down early, finding a rationale for this insanity proved elusive.
The minister responsible issued a terse statement, but gave no interviews. Ditto the prime minister. Some hardy Conservatives, however, offered up a few talking points in support of their ritual mass political suicide. These are listed below.
One, two-thirds of Canadians don’t get home delivery anymore. Why should that last one-third? We think everyone deserves to pay more and get less!
Two, the postal service can’t afford to provide postal services anymore. And those many years where we were reporting that we were doing well? Er, never mind. Now we’re doing poorly.
Three, no one will care, no one will notice. And your disabled, 90-year-old grandma, who can barely get to the front door, let alone a “community mailbox” several blocks away? Well, she needs the exercise.
If the Harper folks had sent me a letter, I would have sent one back.
This is what I would’ve said: “Don’t trust the Evil Empire.”
And, P.S. “You’ve just lost the next election.”