Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Canada Post and the memory hole

The announcement last week that Canada Post was to take itself out of the mail delivery business got me floating down memory lane just bit.

When we moved out here to Falling Downs the Post Office was just doing a review of rural mailbox safety. There had been a mailbox out in front of this place since the invention of the postage stamp, with never a hint that the mailbox might be unsafe. As a society, we are of course more safety conscious than we used to be, so I was not surprised when the safety review concluded that our mailbox had to go.

We've been picking up our mail from Mrs. Wallace at the Kemble PO ever since, so losing home delivery doesn't mean anything around here.

It means a lot to a lot of folks though, which is why the parliamentary transport committee had that emergency meeting today. Canada Post boss Deepak Chopra was called to explain the Canada Post decision to eliminate home mail delivery and double the price of a stamp.

Hilarity ensued.

In reply to concerns that seniors and shut-ins depend on home delivery, Chopra revealed that he has been besieged by seniors and shut-ins clamouring for the opportunity to get more exercise and fresh air by taking their walker or mobility scooter a couple of blocks to a community mail drop.

Isn't that great!

We're eliminating home delivery to give seniors a chance to get more fresh air and exercise!

As I recall, that's hardly the first time Canada Post indulged in egregious Orwell-think.

Must have been back in the 70's or 80's when Canada Post closed the main Guelph post office. The reason? According to the sign posted at the front door, it was to serve the public better! Yes, the public in Guelph would be better served by having their mail channelled to Kitchener fifteen miles away to be sorted.

So a Guelphite sending a letter across town, or to someone on the next block, was better served by having their mail sent to Kitchener for sorting, and then sent back to Guelph for delivery.

Even before that, I remember when Canada Post spent hundreds of millions making sure that French-speaking Canadians could find the nearest post office no matter where they were in the country. It sticks in my memory because I used to make frequent trips to the Suzuki dealer in Bridgeport, which was hard by the Bridgeport Post Office, and also conveniently nearby a well-known strip joint.

You could pick up a few bike parts, a stamp, and enjoy an afternoon of adult entertainment all in one go!

It must have taken a month to change the signage on that post office from "Canada Post" to "Canada Post/ Poste Canada."

At least now the non-English speaking residents of Bridgeport could find the post office. That's "inclusivity", ain't it?

Number of uni-lingual French-speakers in Bridgeport Ontario in 1969? None! And if there were any, I'm guessing those who were not entirely brain-dead might have, entirely on their own, figured out that Canada Post was in fact the same post office as Poste Canada.

The demise of home delivery also calls other serpents out of the memory hole. In that long ago era before e-mail, long distance love affairs used to rely on the postal service to keep connected. Ah, the sweet sorrow of running out to the mailbox every day to see if the beloved has favoured you with a few words!

I remember being hit hard by a bad case of first love. I'd made a trip to the old country and met a girl, Gudrun. Oh ya, that was the real thing!

How I looked forward to the next letter! It always took weeks longer than I thought it should have. But when it finally arrived!... oh the sweet bliss!

That all ended rather painfully with the letter that informed me that her loyalties were henceforth with the drummer of the local Christian rock band.

To this day I harbour a profound skepticism about Christian rock.

But it was Canada Post that facilitated that love, that longing, that long distance relationship, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for the folks who deliver a letter right to your door.

According to the linked article, Dan Kelly, CEO of the Federation of Independent Businesses, claims that the Post Office has run itself onto the rocks by paying 40% higher wages than his members. That's a massive 40% premium over minimum wage in other words. Canada Post must be wound down because it has dug such a deep hole by paying its workers a living wage.

I think what Dan is really getting at is that there's a lot of room for downsizing at Canada Post. Privatize the whole damned operation. Turn those living wage jobs into minimum wage jobs. That's how the rest of the working class lives; what's so special about postal workers?

Not only that, but Canada Post owns a lot of triple A real estate in the downtown core of many cities. Obviously, the highest and best use for all that prime real estate would be office towers and condos. If the Harper gang were to turn all that juicy downtown real estate over to the private sector, they might be able to avoid a tax increase for a year or two!

Meanwhile, whatever skeleton operations a government postal service might retain could be sourced out of private-sector industrial parks on the edge of town.

That's a win-win and win again!

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