If the intention of the postal workers at Sunday's demonstration on Parliament Hill was to try and get Canadians to sympathize with them, they're living in their own little world. The vast majority of Canadians struggle to understand why their tax dollars should continue to go to bailout this slowly-dying industry (and the high-paying jobs and generous pension plans that go with it).
These protesters and their apologists would like to have us believe that this is all the Prime-Minister's fault, that apparently the advent of new technologies, making snail-mail increasingly unnecessary, is all Harper's fault. They made that all too clear with their age-old chants and custom-made attire denouncing the Prime Minister and the Conservatives. Of course, having a government in power that is proudly tough on public sector unions adds more flame to the fire that is constantly simmering on their end.
During his fiery speech to protesters, National Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, loudly criticized the government and shouted profanities, calling the government "bastards" who are responsible for cutting services, while, according to Aylward, Canadians want more services. Although they may want us to believe that receiving mail at your doorstep is a human right, it isn't. Getting your mail at your local post office or walking down your street to get your mail is already the reality for two-thirds of Canadians. And looking at the bigger picture, it really isn't all that big of a deal, especially when many Canadians don't even remember the last time they purchased a stamp.
The demonstrators were also quick to voice their concern for the elderly, and how they are fighting on their behalf. Cleverly using the day's frigid temperatures to make their point about how "the poor, fragile elderly" will have to walk that long way down their bloc to retrieve their post. Sure, using the elderly is a clever ploy to pull at the heartstrings of the television audience. But since this is already being done by two-thirds of Canadians, a portion of which consists of "the poor, fragile elderly," their alarmist claims just do not cut it.
Canada Post in its current form is unsustainable, and, unfortunately, in order to re-structure its operations, the crown corporation has decided to take some drastic actions that have angered many. Ending door-to-door delivery and slashing up to 8000 jobs is regrettable. But when a corporation is no longer earning profits, or even breaking even, the responsible thing to do is to re-evaluate its operations. In the private sector, it would not have even gotten this bad before action was taken. One need only look at Canada Post's 2013 Third Quarter Financial Report (as the Annual Report still hasn't been finalized) to realize how badly in shape the corporation is.
It reads, "Canada Post's current business model does not allow it to achieve sufficient profitability to support its operations, contributing to this cash shortfall. This cash shortfall is expected to increase rapidly throughout the remainder of fiscal 2014. To address this expected shortfall, Canada Post is evaluating its options with the Government of Canada, its sole shareholder, as some measures may require express shareholder approval."
What this means in plain English is that Canadians just are not buying enough stamps to keep Canada Post afloat, and, as its only shareholder, the government of Canada has to look at its options and make some tough decisions. Luckily for them, the union bosses' arch-nemeses are in power, so they are all too happy to put the blame on the governing Conservatives. Notwithstanding the fourth quarter of 2012, every quarter since the fourth quarter of 2011 has resulted in a net loss for Canada Post, totalling $426 million-not chump change in the least.
Canada Post or the government should not be immune from criticism.
Why has it even come to this point at which there are huge quarterly losses, at which the corporation has no choice but to cut its workforce to save money? The problem of declining mail volumes was not a problem that was going to miraculously turn around. The corporation should have foreseen this and perhaps re-evaluated its business model to earn revenue elsewhere. Instead of solely distributing and delivering mail, they could expand their traditional role, entering into a new fore. Another alternative could be to privatize the delivery aspect of Canada Post and to contract out, much in the same way Mayor Ford has done with garbage collection in Toronto.
Ultimately, if it's a fight the postal workers and their union bosses want to have with the Conservative government, it's a fight the Conservatives should be all too pleased to participate in. Standing firm against over-privileged, public-sector employees is exactly what excites their base, allowing the Tories to easily illustrate the point that they are fighting for the taxpayer.
This article was originally published in the Prince Arthur Herald
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