By Scott Domenie, member of Solidarity Halifax and of Nova Scotia ACORN. Originally published in The Chronicle Herald.
Last December, Canada Post announced it would cut door-to-door mail delivery and drastically increase the price of postage in 2014. All of this, we were told, was necessary in light of declining letter-mail volume and a creeping $1-billion deficit.
While Canada Post may be facing financial difficulties, it’s difficult to see how this plan makes any sense. Indeed, I have a hard time thinking of any business that was able to successfully deal with a financial shortfall by raising prices and cutting services.
This says nothing of the impact that these cuts will have on our most vulnerable citizens. Seniors and people with disabilities will only be harmed by a loss of door-to-door mail delivery. While it may be easy to cry, “use the Internet,” this advice is of little use to the nearly one-quarter of us who cannot afford Internet access or have difficulties using computers.
Despite what we’re hearing from the Conservative government and Canada Post, there are alternatives to service cuts and price hikes. Postal banking is a solution that has been successfully implemented in many countries, including France, New Zealand and Japan. Essentially, postal banking means that the post office offers financial services similar to commercial banks. In fact, Canada Post already offers a very limited number of financial services, such as money orders.
A Canada Post bank would operate with a mandate to serve the public interest rather than to simply make money for already wealthy bank executives. It would be owned by Canadians, and could offer a low-cost alternative to high-interest payday loans. Anti-poverty organizations such as ACORN Canada have identified extremely high interest rates on payday loans as a form of exploitation of low-income Canadians.
Postal service was established in Canada because it was recognized that we all benefit from having universally accessible, reliable and publicly owned mail delivery. Over the past decades, however, we’ve lost sight of that value and instead have come to regard public services such as Canada Post as burdens rather than assets. Changing this attitude may take time, but we can start by standing up against these cuts and demanding that our government (or any future one) ensure that Canada Post remains an effective service for all.
Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.