Survival a priority, but what’s left to sell?

A thousand years ago, or so it seems now, I was an eager young journalism student, enthusiastically soaking up as much knowledge as I could. One of those lessons was that most people talk to journalists because they have a reason. Either they want to see their name or words appear in print or broadcast, or they have a message they are trying to convey. Company officials send the corporate message, labour official send the union message, police have a message, and social groups have their own aims and objectives.

I know, it usually looks like I just sit down and write, but in reality there is a lot more to this business than just words on paper. Take, for instance, Canada Post. Few of their reports are just a cold statement of fact; there is almost always an interpretation. Over the time I have been with Canadian Stamp News, Canada Post has become increasingly concerned with retaining viability. That makes sense; survival is always a high priority. A few years ago the message was “we need to update our infrastructure,” then it became “the lettermail monopoly isn’t worth the universal service obligation,” now it is “our market is shrinking and we need to reinvent.”

Clearly, Canada Post wants to ensure that they come as close to possible that it has carte blanche in the arena of public opinion. That’s why the first quarter report is about how turning a profit was presented as bad news. The corporation, in making the announcement, invested more time and words in talking about declining mail volumes and future bad times. It seems that every communication coming out of Ottawa is sending the same message: “The corporation is going to continue to lose more and more money unless drastic changes are made.” Canada Post did make a profit in the first quarter of this year, but it did so with the sale of a major asset, while at the same time facing the cost of building a new facility.

Like a once-great family now selling off family treasures to keep the wolf from the door, Canada Post will soon run out of real estate to unload. There are other post offices being closed, and a few million more to be made during the process, but I doubt that even this will be enough for Canada Post to end the year in the black, and before long there won’t be much left to sell. It would seem that the only options remain reductions in service, reductions in home delivery, more souvenir and collectible products, and increased rates.

There do remain other options. Unions have been pushing the idea of adding new services, such as insurance and even a form of banking. Obviously, their goal is to keep post offices open, and union members employed, while moving away from the core business of mail and adopting a more European approach. I’m not so sure, but the idea at least deserves some consideration.

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