Collectors can only help post office get back in the black

When I sat down to pore over Canada Post’s annual report, I was hoping for some great revelation. OK, I was just searching for something new to share with my readers.

Sadly though, what I read was exactly what I expected to read: Canada Post is losing money because of falling mail volumes, but there is a five-point plan to solve the problem. This plan simply means a few Canadians who have been enjoying the luxury of home mail delivery will have the new luxury of having their mail sent to a not-too-far-away community box where it will be safely stored if we are too busy to pick it up, rather than having it clutter our doorstep.

The really good news is that the presence of special boxes designed to accommodate parcels will inspire us to buy more online, knowing that our purchases will be stored in these new wonder boxes.

Oh, and if we don’t buy into this, the taxpayers will have to dig into their pockets to pay for the loss.

Well, I have lived in towns where there was home delivery, and I have lived in towns where my mail was delivered to a box. Even when the box is close by, it isn’t the same.

What we are getting here is a reduction in the level of service, pure and simple, and there is no way to sugar-coat that fact.

What is open for debate is if the five-point plan is the best option for Canada.

For more than a year Canada Post has been sending a very consistent message: the Crown corporation needs to reinvent itself or drown in a sea of red tape.

I believe that reinvention is needed. The drop in regular letter-mail is undeniable. Anyone over the age of 30 knows they are getting a fraction of the mail they did a decade ago.

I am a bit suspicious that the chosen course of action is really little more than an accelerated version of what the corporation has been doing for the past few years.

In recent years we have seen more regular post offices closing, more revenue post offices, less local mail sorting and more centralized operations. Home delivery exists only in neighbourhoods where it is already established, and staffing levels have been a chronic source of arguments with its organized work force.

Not all postal authorities have adopted the solutions selected by Canada Post. Some have tried adding services, while others have opened up home delivery to competition.

All of this has an impact on future postal historians, who will have to sleuth out the combinations of return addresses and cancels to figure out the route mail follows. The other impact is that Canada Post, determined to restore its financial health, has cranked up the presses and expanded its stamp program.

A few years ago, it was almost impossible to even find a mention of postage stamps in the corporation’s annual report.

This year the report proudly announces “we generated revenue of over $60 million and growth of 5.5 per cent over 2012 in the philatelic area by expanding our philatelic program and associated product lines and increased the reach of our products by launching targeted marketing campaigns to support the stamp program and hosting local philatelic awareness events in our retail outlets.”

That’s a lot of stamps, covers, and corner blocks, but with total revenue at $7.6 billion, it amounts to less than one per cent of the corporation’s revenue. Sounds like there’s going to be a few more stamps.

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