12.14.2013 06:57 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: your election loss is in the mail

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.”

43 Comments

  1. walt says:

    Except that my disabled grandma has been in the two-thirds that don’t have door-to-door for the last 15 years. Can you go by and pick it up for her, Warren, because if you’re only worried about the one third of grandmas that are losing service, then obviously some grandmas are more equal than others.

    • james Smith says:

      Right, like it’s a race to the bottom eh? Put the Kool-aid down, and relax with the prepackaged talking points already

      About the inference that we “privileged 1/3 households” have it so good, there are many different service levels that come from the Post Office

      1- Many rural folks get mail delivered on Rural Routes (not effected)
      2- Many rural folks (I used to be one in Alberta) get their mail delivered to a rural post office (that the last Tory PM, – remember him?- tried to close)
      3 – Millions of people live in Apartments and get their mail delivered to their lobby aka – their front door.
      4- I drove by a so called SUPER BOX tonight in Burlington, one of the few places the snow plough had made it by & the snow covered the last few rows of these things inaccessible
      5 – Move to my former home in Rural Alberta, and spend a winter having to get out of the car, when it’s 40 below, and item 4 is in effect
      6- I operate my small business mostly from my home – I rely on the post for many items
      7- The Privatized parcel delivery the EVIL EMPIRE implemented years ago works this way: Slow down, check to see if it “Looks Like” anyone’s home, run up, don’t ring & leave a “Could not Deliver card” Drive away like the wind before I can get downstairs!
      I’ve watched them do it to parcels I’ve been waiting for dozens of times, complaints go nowhere.

      My Mailman’s on the other hand is great, his name is Harry, my last one’s named Lisa, they live in my town, you can bet that the one who voted Tory last time won’t be doing that next time.

      • Windsurfer says:

        I agree about the ‘talking points brigade.’

        This is the greatest targeted Site on the Internet for Con-Trolls. Ignore.

        I’m really upset about this Canada Post fiasco – as a small entrepreneur, I use thousands worth of their services every year.

        • Steve T says:

          So, when you don’t have a rebuttal to something, the solution is to state that everything is a “talking point”?

          Oh, wait, in your mind that’s probably a “talking point, too…

          • Nope, when your spokesperson stands on his or her hind feet and recites a selection of facile, poorly reasoned talking points, which are then repeated ad nauseaum, there is nothing to refute. When I read these talking points repeated by trolls far and wide, it does not make them reasonable and worthy of debate. It is pretty infantile to reason that since not everybody gets home delivery, then none shall. I scoff at such idiocy, and will not diginify it with a rebuttal.

          • Windsurfer says:

            I don’t mind.

            Any government which is for the people by the people would consider viable multiple and varied restructuring alternatives rather than ‘slash and burn.’ For instance, could they not have followed the British Post example, set up an IPO launch, got the CDN public behind the change, sold shares, pay down the pension deficit, go to 3 days a week home delivery + a multitude of other options to keep thousands of Canadians working?

            Rhetorical question but a direct question nonetheless.

            Answer: no, we are Reform Libertarians – we don’t do creative things like that.

            We slash, burn and blame someone else.

            So, talk away………. however Steve, your reputation precedes you.

          • james Smith says:

            Respectfully, I think I made 7 points to rebut the lines that Walt noted. Lines that seem suspiciously similar, (almost verbatim) what’s been floated by BOTH The Evil Empire AND the Government. If this is a merry coincidence and not a talking point, so be it; but it sure smells like a talking point.

  2. pc says:

    As much I’d love to see it happen, your last point doesn’t follow. If anything, the elimination of door-door delivery only impacts those of us who still receive it, ie: urbanites. The suburbanites and rural voters a) already pick up their mail from the post office or from “superboxes” and b) already vote CPC. Those of us who will lose this service tend to vote for other parties anyway.

    If anything, complaining about the loss will turn it into a wedge, reaffirming to suburban and rural voters that the “latte drinkers” and “urban elites” are spoiled. It’s resentment politics 101.

    I sincerely hope I’m wrong in this analysis, but my cynicism has yet to fail me.

  3. Ian Howard says:

    I would write you a letter to disagree but I don’t have too.

  4. Sharon says:

    Rural voters (of which I are/am one) do not all get their mail from the post office or community mailboxes.

    We have old fashioned, side of the road, provided by ourselves, on a post we install ourselves, mailbox. And we don’t all vote CPC.

    And we don’t all have servants/kids to pick up our mail.

    Canada Post’s 33% figure to the media is very misleading. Doesn’t include deliveries to apartment lobbies as door to door delivery. When that figure is included, door to door deliveries are in the 58% range. Page 25 of their last annual report:

    http://www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/assets/pdf/aboutus/annualreport/2012_AR_complete_en.pdf

    • Attack! says:

      Yes, I first worked that out the hard way here* on Thursday:

      There’s actually a total of 3.6M residences in apt. blocks in Canada – 27% of all our 13.3M private households; most of whom get their mail either within their building, in its lobby, or very close to it, up front, or by its parking lot.

      …before finding that chart you’re referring to in the annual report, as others have; e.g., here’s a screen shot of it :

      http://www.rcinet.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2013/12/CanadaPostServices2012b.jpg **

      So when we add up the 1/3rd who get it delivered to their own door with the 1/4 who get it at or near their collective outside door and the 5% who get it at the end of their rural driveway, it’s:

      63% who DO get it at or near the door or driveway — and who DON’T get it at a superbox or facility possibly many blocks or even kilometers away. (Plus some of the latter aren’t for residents, at all: they’re actually post office boxes for businesses & sales or want ads who don’t want people showing up at their door.)

      I.e., it’s really the very opposite balance from the ‘1/3rd are spoiled’ the right-wing papers were only too happy to pick up on.

      ** from http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2013/12/12/canada-posts-sales-pitch-tailored-to-justify-cuts/ which isn’t loading now, for some reason; but it is in the Google cache

      * http://warrenkinsella.com/2013/12/breaking-the-harper-government-has-just-lost-the-next-election/#comment-171531

      • Sharon says:

        Thank you. I happily stand corrected.

        Canada Post, and some of the media, have us convinced that 1/3 of the population will no longer get home deliveries. In urban areas.

        Thus, using a logical hula hoop, I could say that 1/3 of the population lives in urban areas and 2/3rds don’t.

        Makes sense, eh?

        • Attack! says:

          Not really – a lot of that 25% of Cndn private household addresses that in apartment blocks ARE in urban areas, too – I’d wager it’s be about 50% of addresses altogether in urban areas (2/3rds of whom they’re about to inconvenience mightily).

  5. Warren, There are many, many, many empirically valid reasons why Canadians should not vote Harper’s Conservatives in 2015. Sorry, but the phasing out of home mail delivery isn’t one of them. Next to his muzzling of scientists, his carte blanche advocacy for the oil patch, his Libertarian gutting of the social safety net and his Republican Party foreign policy, home mail delivery is a non-issue.

    • lol, but in Politics, some things make up peoples minds about who to vote for, and Warren is simply observing that there are hundreds of thousands of people for whom scientist muzzling, omnibus bills, and senate scandals do not matter nearly so much as trying to pick up their mail in 40 below weather. They will all want the budget balanced on somebody elses back.

      • !o! says:

        Millions.

        millions of people.

        depressingly…

      • Well, bluegreenblogger, I hate to admit it, but you’ve got me. You’re right. The “more strategic” issues I listed appeal to the people who follow politics with Warren, but for a lot of others, not so much…….There is a parallel here with the Rob Ford disaster. The facts that he is grossly unfit, overweight, drunk or stoned matter more to many than his destructive policies, to say nothing of his lies about those policies. Perception trumps fact every time….sad, but you’re right. So maybe Warren, you are on to something….mea culpa

  6. david ray says:

    To Justin and Tom on splitting the vote.

    “have fun storming the castle.”

    • doris says:

      Well said, until the honchos of the libs and dips decide to avoid vote splitting by creating an electoral coalition don’t even talk to me about Harpo losing the next election ain’t gonna happen.

  7. Garry Proctor says:

    Perhaps all this cutting and slashing is being done now in desperation to achieve a small surplus come October 2015 because that is the political priority. Also look to the CBC getting gored badly with another big reduction to their $1.1 Billion annual subsidy.

    If that doesn’t do the trick, the Cons will just download on to the provinces and cut transfer payments; a tried and true solution.

    Harper’s last leg come October 2015 will be a balanced to slight surplus budget and proclaiming “We Did It!”; followed up by “Do You Really Want to Change Horses Now?”!

  8. Joe says:

    I have had the opportunity to have all three levels of service, Post Office, Super Box and Home Delivery. My least favourite has to be the Home Delivery. A change in deliverer has almost always increased the volume of misdirected mail. When we had one new deliverer we met most of our neighbours because returning the mail to the post office seemed pointless. At least we neighbours could read the address and find the house associated with it.

  9. PeggyW says:

    The Harper Government is so desperate to come up with a balanced budget and/or surplus before the next election that they don’t care what has to be thrown on the trash heap to get there; Canada Post, social services, the environment, veterans, etc.

  10. tiem says:

    As a grandma with mobility problems , I’ve become invisible in Canada.
    I’m not on the famed Con voter list Simms (?); more likely on their enemies list.
    Con government and supporters see the cost of everything but the value? meh
    The greatest value of snail mail to me is keeping in touch with family and friends of all ages everywhere.
    I mail to dozens of folk in NZ, Denmark, Belgium, BC, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, etc.
    One of the joys of this month is receiving newsy mail at my door from them all.

    When Canadians become ‘too cool’ to care about marginalized citizens, Stephen Harper really has made a Canada I don’t recognize.

    • Ottawa Civil Servant says:

      I think the Conservative’s need to change their names. It is the Liberals who want everything to stay exactly as it was in 1976. They are the ones who want everyone sitting around, singing Caaaaaa-Naaaaaa-Daaa, reminiscing about Expo67 and Margaret’s latest daliance.

      For the love of God, people, there has been no new home delivery in Canada’s cities, and likely reductions in the rural areas, since 1988. 25 years!

      No. New idea. Conservatives stay Conservatives; Liberals become the Inertia Party. Afterall, you are actually refusing to accept that snailmail is nearing extinction, even while Netflix has killed every video store on the planet. Well, except for RiXXX Adult Fine Cinema Outlet.

      Last points: Keeping CP home delivery is environmentally wrong, fiscally wrong, subsidizes laziness, divides cities along entitled/unentitled lines, ignores decades of technological advancements, and scavanges resources from other government priorities.

  11. Reality.Bites says:

    I don’t like it, and goodness knows I despise the Harper government, but…

    1. if someone is able to buy their groceries, go to the bank, go to the mailbox to mail responses to that mail they’re receiving, then they are able to go to a community mailbox to get their mail a couple of times a week (and there’s little point in going more often than that these days)
    2. if someone is unable to perform these tasks, they’ve already found workarounds – perhaps a friend, relative or neighbour.

    The argument really only holds up if getting the mail is the only thing that requires people to leave their homes on a regular basis

    • Robin says:

      One of the issues that has been raised is the inaccessibility of super mailbox locations due to snow. However, with the savings from cancelling door-to-door delivery, Canada Post may be able to build plexi-glass framed shelters for the super mail box locations, similar to a large bus shelter, so that snow doesn’t block access. There are also small private companies that do snow removal for private homes and small businesses that might be contracted to remove snow around super mailbox shelters to improve access.

      Is it possible that traceable Express Post envelopes and packages could remain a door-to-door service since the cost is higher than a regular size envelope? If so, there is also the option for a special delivery service to the homes of elderly people and people with mobility challenges, possibly three times a week. Then, only regular mail and bulk mail would go to the super mailbox locations.

      • I used to manufacture components for bus shelters. I can tell you that there is no way the savings will pay for shelters. Consider it for a minute. Locations need to be scouted. Site specific engineering completed. A foundation (cement pad) needs to be excavated formed, poured and finished. The $20,000 in components have to be delivered and assembled. Multiply by 100,000 locations. Bye-Bye savings.

        • Robin says:

          That’s one approach. However, there can be a more cost effective approach to mass produce and set up sheltered super mailboxes. $250,000,000 per year for four years based on half of your estimate for components. With the right engineering, bulk purchasing of components, mass production, and delivery with minimal assembly, no foundation, only a customized cement pad, therefore no “site specific engineering”… it can be done. And, once installed, HELLO SAVINGS! It’s a long term investment. Just saying that there are options. I liked the idea of issuing an IPO and making Canada Post a publicly held company open to expanding its services and competing in the market place. If it can be operated on a break even or profit basis, let’s sell shares and make it work financially. However, there needs to be consideration for elderly and people with mobility challenges.

  12. Steve T says:

    Many people have said it already, but once again…. this is not nearly the issue you believe it is.

    As folks know from my previous posts, I am not some “Con-bot” troll, or whatever steretotype that seems get trotted out when there is disagreement on this website.

    The biggest problem with trying to make this an election issue is the fact the majority of people have lived without it for years. You can argue whether it is two-thirds, or 60%, or 71.1921067%, but the bottom line is that most Canadians don’t get home delivery. Ergo, most Canadians won’t care about this change.

    In addition, as much as the Opposition will try to showcase Grandma, and the disabled, and little Timmy who cries every night, etc.. etc…, the reality is that (a) many of them live in new houses that don’t get home delivery anyway, and (b) for the truly disabled, which are likely a very small fraction of home delivery citizens, there are solutions that can be crafted to quickly eliminate this issue.

    It’s also a bit patronizing to stereotype every elderly person as being feeble and needy. The opposition better be careful how they play this.

    Now, on the matter of the stamp price increase, this might have some resonance. However, lettermail isn’t where Canada Post makes money anyway. The key reason for this entire situation is the drastic decline in lettermail. So, how much will people care that the 5 letters they send each year will cost 30 cents more?

    Sorry, but while there are lots of things to criticize this government (and Canada Post) about, this ain’t one of them.

    • Attack! says:

      Bull. It’s not “argu[ing] whether it is two-thirds, or 60%, or 71.1921067%” who don’t —

      it’s arguing whether it is two-thirds, or 42%, or 37%, or even less.

      Again, arguably the additional 25% who get it to “centralized points” within or very near to their collective building lobby DO get it delivered to their home – not to some no-man’s land blocks away or at a post office or Shopper’s Drug Mart. And the 5% w. rural mailboxes get it delivered to the edge of their homes. It’s splitting hairs to pretend that’s not individual home delivery.

      Plus, there are are ADDRESSES we’re talking about here re: those 15.3M total mail recipients, not people, nor people’s residences.

      There’s only 13.6M private households in Canada. Plus some collective dwellings like nursing homes & prisons. So the remaining 1.5M or so addresses are for businesses & post boxes of those running various types of classified ads (who make up some portion of that 12% in delivery facilities).

      If we take the businesses & PO boxes not for indiv. residents out of it, it’s easily at least 2/3rds of residential addresses getting at or near home delivery,

      so any argument premised on it being high time the privileged 1/3rd join the 2/3rds who are not is:

      fundamentally misinformed &/or dishonest.

    • You are being dis-ingenious. Nobody without service is going to cast a ballot simply to deprive the hated ‘others’ their door delivery. They will vote for other reasons. It is the large number of people who are going to lose their service for whom this can motivate their ballot choice. A lot of shut-ins out there, many of whom will struggle to the polls for the first time in years to express their disapproval. Please note that elderly Canadians are shifting their support to another Trudeau already. If you think that the CPC can win without the support of seniors, you are dreaming in technicolour. And this is another kick in the pants for seniors.

  13. Paul says:

    Not sure on the issue and an election and off topic a bit ….but Warren as you saw with the fancy office, advertising budgets, ticket offerings etc why can we not seem to get any control over these orgs – at both levels of govt – why does hydro advertise other than safety issues, why do we pay these crown corp types so much money and why do executive suites grow so big and financial controls so, well, non existent like at OPG – doesnt seem to matter what government is in power – these places seem to operate without any legitimate oversight – this thing about paying abscene wages, perks, pensions in order to compete with private sector may apply in a few circumstances but not everywhere that it seems to be trundled out …

    Then buyouts are huge and they tell us that what precedence dictates – then there are usually big legal fees anyway – why are their any legal fees if we always just cave anyway?

    Then the rot at the top flows down through entire org….scandalous yes , fixable – why not – politically it would be popular? Thoughts

    • Robin says:

      Paul, you should see the exorbitant compensation and benefit packages in the corporate world and private sector who often get bailed out by the taxpayer when they mismanage yet still receive millions in stock options, severance, etc. At least Crown Corporations serve the public interest and are accountable to the public rather than the alter to quarterly reports, share value, and single bottom lines. We need accountability in the private sector too. The perks at Canada Post pale in comparison, however, sadly, in order to attract and keep good senior executives, the Crown Corporations must compete with obscene corporate compensation packages.

  14. e.a.f. says:

    nations provide services to the citizens. One of the very earliest services was a postal service. Not everyone has a computer. Not everyone does on line banking nor wants to. Eliminating 500 to 800 positions isn’t going to help with any deficeit Canada Post is running. as you mentioned there are a few other things they could do to save money.

    It is funny Canada Post is blaming worker pensions on their deficient. it wasn’t as if these workers started last year. Some of them started in the 1960s. they worked for 35 or more years and decided to retire and collect their pensions. During this time, health care being what it is, people started to live longer, hence there was problem. The Government never expected people to live this long and didn’t plan for it. they didn’t do anything with the pension contributions workers made. All governments up to recent years simply put federal government workers pension contributions into general revenue, thinking they could cover the cost of pensions later. Well later is now and its time to cough up the money. The federal government had a great cash cow with the federal government workers’ pensions. They could use it and it was less expensive than issuing bonds or general borrowing. It was lent out to provinces at 3% interest when it could have been in any bank getting a whole lot more, like 10% more. But no, the cash was there, it rolled in every week from every worker’s paycheque. Don’t blame workers’ pensions on the deficiet at Canada Post. Blame it on every federal administration which didn’t plan for the day all those workers would come and collect their pensions. If the money had sijmply been put in a bank account the government would not be in this position today or Canada Post.

  15. Meow Mix says:

    Here’s a good idea for a Liberal attack ad…. Justin marching alongside a postman on his delivery route and declaring:

    “I’m with all you men, and nothing will stop us, neither wind nor rain nor snow nor Harper, and together we will deliver the mail to that lil’ ol’ lady in North York!”

    Oh, Warren… that’s gotta be election fever gold… gold I tell you!!!

  16. Windsurfer says:

    Interesting news just received. Sign the petition if you are so inclined. I believe it was SumOfUs.

    ••
    Now we know why the cuts to Canada Post just announced are so surprising and dramatic. The Crown Corporation’s CEO is on the board of the think-tank that suggested we cut door-to-door mail deliveries, eliminate thousands of our mailmen, but keep all of the senior management at Canada Post.

    There is something fishy here. You can’t hire and take advice from a think-tank and call it “independent” when you sit on the think-tank’s board — especially if you are cutting thousands of jobs, yet keeping the executive team intact. Before Canada Post makes such dramatic steps to eliminate thousands of mailmen and dramatically cut services for Canadians, the Crown Corporation needs to come clean. Demand that Canada Post stop its cost cutting plans and call for an investigation on this possible conflict of interest.

    Canada Post: Stop the elimination of jobs, continue hand deliveries, and conduct a full investigation into the CEO’s conflict of interest.

    On Wednesday, Canada Post let us know that it’s ending door-to-door residential mail delivery in urban areas, and eliminating thousands of mailmen from its workforce by 2015. The sheer scale of the plan is shocking. But the next day, National Post reported that CEO Deepak Chopra is on the board of the ‘independent’ think-tank that Canada Post continually referenced when explaining why the Crown Corporation is making such dramatic changes.

    Canada Post says there is no conflict with its own policies, and nothing wrong with this situation. If there’s truly nothing wrong with this situation according to its policies, then Canada Post’s policies are broken. You can’t accept the recommendations of a think-tank that says it will eliminate thousands unionized jobs, while keeping many executive positions, when the CEO sits on the board of the same think-tank. We need to a proper independent investigation on this possible conflict of interest within Canada Post.

    Sign the petition now to demand Canada Post stops its job slashing and investigates the CEO’s conflict of interest.

    Thanks for all that you do,

    Angus and the rest of us.

    **********
    More Information:

    Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra is a board member of the think-tank that urged mail changes. National Post, Dec. 12 2013.

  17. !o! says:

    A little late, but came across this: http://the-mound-of-sound.blogspot.ca/2013/12/introducing-harper-box.html

    I like that he calls them harper boxes. It’s got a great ring to it.

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