Canada Post—Elimination of Home Delivery

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Twenty-two mayors from across the country are in Ottawa as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meets to discuss issues facing Canada’s biggest cities. Among them is none other than Canada’s gift to late night television, Rob Ford.

The mayor of Canada’s largest city is always vocal with his opinions, and he is now weighing in on Canada Post’s decision to cut door-to-door mail delivery services. He says this: “I really believe we’ve got to keep the door-to-door mail.” He was quoted by Canadian Press and he added that the service is something “he will fight for” and that he will talk to the federal government about preserving it.

Mayor Ford even proposed that changes — and this makes sense — be grandfathered or grandmothered, suggesting that existing delivery routes be maintained while new developments receive community mailboxes.

Mr. Leader, isn’t that reasonable?

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator Munson, as I recall, you asked me a similar question just before Christmas, on the very day I received your electronic Christmas card, which clearly proved that the postal service management model that works is that of the digital age, and that the current model is increasingly out of touch with reality.

As you know, in this day and age, Canadians like yourself are choosing to communicate by means other than the mail. Because of plummeting demand, postal traffic has decreased by nearly 25 per cent since 2008 and continues to drop. In 2006, Canada Post delivered one billion letters more than in 2012. These are rather astounding figures that show the dramatic drop in the use of postal services.

Since 1981, Canada Post’s mandate has required it to be financially self-sufficient. We are very concerned about the fact that the corporation has posted considerable losses. As an independent corporation, Canada Post is responsible for its own activities, including operational and financial decisions.

[English]

Senator Munson: Mr. Leader, I’m a new-age kind of guy. There are others who would have difficulty doing what you have proposed in terms of emailing Christmas cards, and so on. I’m hoping that before you and I both leave here some day you’ll actually answer the question directly.

I’m asking you a question on behalf of Mayor Ford. Perhaps you can answer him. You don’t have to answer me, but answer Mayor Ford, who was here in Ottawa wanting to have his postal service maintained, and said he would like to see it grandfathered in.

You were a mayor just like Mr. Ford — I think it was of Saint- Eustache — and a politician. You were close to the people and their needs, just like Mayor Ford is, and you are a Conservative just like Mayor Ford. Mayor Ford claims to be a man of the people, their mayor, and he is a Conservative. Could you answer the question directly? I’m curious about this: Why do you disagree on this important issue? How can you say no to a fellow Conservative?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Senator Munson, I do not personally know Mayor Ford — I do know many other mayors and I was a mayor, but I do not know about that. I was the mayor of Saint-Eustache and, oddly enough, when I was elected mayor, I lived on a street where there were community mail boxes, which I greatly appreciated. One year later, I moved a few streets away and discovered that I had door-to-door mail delivery.

I can tell you that I found it rather strange that in the same city, one area received home delivery, while another area just a few streets over received their mail in community mailboxes.

That said, despite the change or the means used to deliver the mail, I did not feel better served because I had home delivery. In any case, as I explained, that is my personal experience, but these days, many Canadians are choosing modern digital methods of communication. I am pleased to hear a Liberal senator say he is a new-age king of guy, but the fact remains that you are not the only one, and many of us are using email services, which has an operational impact on Canada Post, an arm’s length corporation that is responsible for its own activities and operational and financial decisions. This was a Canada Post decision. Over the next few months, it will begin unveiling its plan to implement community mailboxes.

Two cities in my Senate division will be among the first to receive community mailboxes and where the changes will take place.

This was an independent decision by Canada Post.

[English]

Senator Munson: Thank you for your response, but the other part of this issue, Your Honour and Mr. Leader, is that there are those who will not be able to, or can’t, adapt to the new digital age. In fact, there are still people who are writing cursive these days, who send mail. In the United States of America, if you were to take away the mail delivery, I think there would be a revolution.

Closer to home, my particular area here in the suburb of Kanata will be among the first communities to be a test case. You can say it’s arm’s-length, but it’s the government’s sense of direction. The community will lose door-to-door mail delivery. This fall 7,600 homes and 300 businesses in the Ottawa suburb will become the first in the city to be affected by the cuts.

Seniors are, of course, among those who will be hardest hit by the changes. Ken Miller is the owner of the Golden Age Concierge, a local business that provides delivery services for seniors. He told the Ottawa Citizen that his clientele is growing, as they will soon be inconvenienced by the cuts. Mr. Miller added that he knows of a number of seniors who are concerned about the new community mailbox and where it will be located.

Mr. Leader, Canadians with limited mobility, especially seniors and those with a physical disability, must have access to their mail. What is your government going to do? You say arm’s- length, but you can talk to these folks. A little common sense wouldn’t hurt. What is your government going to do to ensure that these services will be maintained, as Mayor Ford said, grandfathered into the region they’re in? I think we need a full answer to that question.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Senator Munson, as I said, I already answered your question in mid-December. I would remind you of the following figures: at present, only a third of Canadians receive their mail at home; two-thirds already use community mailboxes.

Your question needs to take into account the fact that two- thirds of Canadians already receive their mail in community mailboxes, and this includes people with reduced mobility, seniors and businesses. There is no discrimination and there will be no greater impact on any one party. I repeat, two-thirds of Canadians already receive their mail in community mailboxes.

As I explained, Canada Post is an independent corporation and this is a business decision that only it can make. Canada Post has to implement the new approach over the next few years and come up with its own plan to rollout the community mailboxes.