Canada Post Elimination of Home Delivery

Hon. Jim Munson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Happy New Year.

My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Late last year, after we left here, Canada Post told seniors and those with physical disabilities to head for a community mailbox if they want their mail. Today we learned that the Crown corporation is set to announce which communities will be the first to lose door-to-door delivery in the coming weeks. Now time is running out, Mr. Leader. Will your government not intervene to stop these inhumane and drastic cuts before it is too late?

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Thank you, senator. On that subject, I would like to thank you for the Christmas e-card you sent me the very day you asked that question about Canada Post services. As you know, Canadians 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.

Since 1981, Canada Post’s mandate has required it to be financially self-sufficient. We are obviously very concerned about the fact that the corporation has posted considerable losses. As an independent Crown corporation, Canada Post is responsible for its own activities, including operational and financial decisions. The plan that Canada Post announced in December will allow it to secure its financial footing while aligning postal services with the choices of Canadians. The measures announced by Canada Post are consistent with the global trend for postal services, which are undergoing massive changes in response to new demands and modern means of communication.

By using the services you use every day, you yourself are a witness to that modernization.

[English]

Senator Munson: You’re welcome, in the sense that I sent you electronic mail. Did you like it? I hope you liked it. It showed me playing hockey on the Rideau Canal. It was very personal. I’m really glad you liked it and the way I delivered it. But some of our most vulnerable citizens, seniors in particular, do rely on postal deliveries for important cheques from the government, including payments from the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security.

Susan Eng, Vice-President of Advocacy for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, insists that Canada Post isn’t doing enough to accommodate Canadians with mobility issues. She wonders, “What about the people who can’t get out there to pick up their mail?”

Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, echoed those concerns, noting that:

This will seriously disadvantage people with disabilities. Couple that with access issues and climate issues, it will further isolate people, making them dependent upon family and friends to pick up their mail.

What exactly is being done to ensure that seniors and those with disabilities will be accommodated, Mr. Leader? Can you assure us that all Canadians will continue to have access to their postal delivery? Have you really thought about these groups?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: In your question, you stated that you want all Canadians to receive the same service. I’m sorry, but a huge number of Canadians do not get home delivery of their mail. That has various impacts on people in various situations, but it is not true that all Canadians get their mail delivered to their door. Plenty of Canadians use community mailboxes like the ones that Canada Post is planning to set up. As I said, Canada Post is an independent corporation and makes its own decisions about its activities. It is solely responsible for operational and financial decisions.

[English]

Senator Munson: I have a second supplementary. Surely you must have your own views. You didn’t answer my question when it came to those with disabilities and seniors; you just didn’t answer that question specifically.

Public outcry has grown steadily since the elimination of this door-to-door delivery was announced in December. There was a demonstration on the Hill on Sunday. There were hundreds of postal workers, an estimated 2,500 people who gathered to protest the cuts. After the rally, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson voiced his anger with the changes. He said, “I find it frustrating and hypocritical that MPs and senators will be keeping,” — we will be keeping — “their (mailing) privileges while at the same time Canada Post cuts back door-to-door delivery in all parts of the city.”

He’s right. Those are the facts, Mr. Leader. MPs spent more than $660,000 on postage and courier services last year and we enjoy door-to-door mail delivery, as senators, to our offices on Parliament Hill.

I am just thinking about that. Why don’t we have a great big, monster community box down by the Centennial Flame so that we can walk down there and pick it up? How can your government —

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.

Senator Munson: Oh, I touched a nerve! Oh, dear; I’m sorry.

I was just thinking about that, a great big community MPs’ and senators’ mailbox down by the Centennial Flame. When it’s -30 degrees out, we can all go down and pick up our mail. How about that? Wouldn’t that be fun?

An Hon. Senator: I don’t get mail.

Senator Munson: You don’t get mail? Are you sure you don’t get mail?

With that in mind, how can your government justify allowing Canada Post to cut these services for ordinary Canadians when we continue to have the special privileges that we do have, Mr. Leader?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Senator Munson, we are talking about our personal experiences. Until 2001, I lived in a neighbourhood where I had to go and get my mail from a community mailbox. I moved a few streets away, and because I am now a few streets further away in a neighbourhood that is a little older, I get my mail delivered to my door. Perhaps I shouldn’t have moved; we all have our own personal experiences. However, because of technological changes, Canada Post Corporation must make operational and administrative decisions. It is an arms-length agency that makes its own decisions. It is expected to deliver financial results that are satisfactory for a Crown corporation.

[English]

Senator Munson: It’s not about you and your postal service, with all due respect, Mr. Leader. Can I just get your own point of view on Canada Post? Those at Canada Post are appointed by the government. No, you haven’t answered the question.

What would you say to the tens and hundreds of thousands of senior citizens in this country who will now be forced to try to get their mail and particularly those with physical disabilities? What is your message?

I recognize the debate over cutting costs, cuts and that sort of thing, and perhaps there is a better way to do it, but what are you saying, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to the hundreds of thousands of senior citizens and those with disabilities who now will have a very difficult time getting the mail that they deserve?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: I don’t understand your question. You talked about our personal situations, so I replied by explaining mine, and you don’t like my answer. Nevertheless, that is the situation. However, what do you say to people with disabilities and seniors with reduced mobility who, for decades now, have not been receiving door-to-door delivery? What is the difference?

Canada Post Corporation makes its own decisions independently. Some people receive their mail at home, while others do not and have to get it from a community mailbox. As an arms-length Crown corporation, Canada Post has decided to standardize its distribution process, with a long transition period. That was the decision that it made, taking its own operations and the financial impact into account.