Canada Post faces changes with its new political masters

I love politics, and I love stamps, so the recent change of government naturally got me thinking about the future of Canada Post.

The thought process isn’t really much of a leap, most Canadians still think of Canada Post as a government department rather than as a semi-autonomous Crown corporation. Prior to the days when it was run by a “president and CEO,” the head of postal service was the Postmaster General, consisting of an elected member of parliament appointed by the prime minister.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a master of exercising control at all levels. I am sure that little of importance happened at the postal service without at least tacit approval from the infamous prime minister’s office.

So it came as no surprise to me that just days after the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that a moratorium on eliminating home delivery would be announced. The new government seems to be determined to undo as much of the previous government’s work as possible.

So what does all that mean for the future of Canada Post?

The truth is we don’t really know yet.

The message we have been hearing from the corporation for several years is that the old arrangement was broken. That arrangement was sort of a swap which gave Canada Post a monopoly on home delivery of lettermail but also placed it under the Universal Service Obligation to provide home delivery at a reasonable cost to all Canadians.

The official line has been that declining mail volumes were going to lead to huge amounts of red ink, which could only be avoided by taking apart home delivery and a process of postal transformation that would see Canada Post consolidating sorting operations into a relatively small number of facilities while “converting” post offices from Canada Post facilities into revenue post offices run by other businesses.

The process has moved along further than most Canadians realize, with sorting taking place in fewer locations today than at any time in modern history.

That message was delivered first by Moya Greene, and then by Deepak Chopra. While it may not have been official government policy, it was certainly approved by the Harper regime.

Will it continue? We just don’t know.

But we do know a few things.

The old government, which was focused on pinching pennies and micro-managing, is gone. The new government has put a temporary stop on the transformation process.

Deepak Chopra signed a new contract just before the election, so he will probably be around for a few years, and he will have to come to terms with his new political masters.

There are new contracts coming up in 2016. Last year, the Harper government gave themselves a mandatory seat at the bargaining table for all Crown corporations and a virtual veto on any agreements. Not exactly what most reasonable people would consider negotiating in good faith.

If the new government allows Canada Post to have free and open negotiations with its workers it means they will have an open mind towards the future of the corporation.

If nothing changes then all we have is a delay in the process.

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