Federal government asked Canadians about radical changes to mail delivery

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Weeks after being named the minister in charge of Canada Post, Filomena Tassi polled Canadians to see how they felt about making some radical changes at the Crown corporation.

Those changes include shutting down rural post offices, ending all home delivery in favour of community mailboxes, and cutting back mail delivery to three times a week.

The poll was put in the field in mid-December, six weeks after Tassi was named minister for Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and three weeks after the Crown corporation said it lost $264 million on revenue of $5.4 billion in its third quarter, the most recent quarter for which financial results are available.

It was clear from the content of the poll questions that Tassi’s office was keen to explore ways to cut costs and reduce losses.

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But the very fact that Tassi was even asking those questions has angered the union representing 61,000 postal workers.

“We’re really concerned and disappointed the government is actually taking a poll right now about reducing postal services when the public is actually asking them to have more services, not less,” said Jan Simpson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

“Postal workers have been working throughout the entire pandemic and for them to have this poll currently is very insulting to us.”

Simpson said CUPW was not informed or consulted about the poll and, coincidentally, it was doing its own poll in December asking Canadians about Canada Post.

“They want us to expand services,” Simpson said.

A spokesperson for Canada Post itself said it neither initiated the polling nor participated in it and directed questions about the poll to the government.

The questions that Tassi’s office had asked about Canada Post were part of the weekly polling program done by the Privy Council Office, the department that supports the work of the prime minister.

The PCO poll includes some standard questions each week, such as asking Canadians what their most important issue is and whether they think the government is on the right track. But government departments often include their own questions in the PCO weekly poll and that’s what PSPC did for the week ending Dec. 12.

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The PCO polling data was obtained by Global News using the federal Access to Information law.

In the poll, respondents were given a menu of five options and were asked if they supported or opposed “making the following changes to reduce costs”:

  • close rural post offices
  • move remaining door-to-door home deliveries to community mailboxes
  • reduce the frequency of mail delivery from every day to three times a week
  • increase the cost of stamps
  • use more automation to replace Canada Post workers

The poll found strong opposition to the idea of closing rural post offices while a plurality opposed replacing workers with machines.

But a majority did support cutting back mail delivery to three times a week, and a plurality supported ending home delivery in favour of community mailboxes as well as raising the price of stamps.

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“[The Liberals] ran a campaign in 2015 to restore door-to-door mail delivery from the cuts by the Conservative government and here they are exploring ways to cut services to Canadians,” said Gord Johns, the New Democrat MP for the B.C. riding of Courtenay—Alberni and his party’s critic for public services and procurement.

“Canada Post clearly demonstrated how important of a role they play to Canadians. They help Canadians stay home and lower the spread. They should be treated as heroes. Instead, the government is looking at ways to cut services to Canadians when they should be looking at ways to better support Canada Post.”

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Tassi was not available for an interview but her communications director, James Fitz-Morris, confirmed that it was her office — not the Crown corporation itself — that asked that a series of questions about Canada Post be inserted into the PCO’s weekly polling program. Fitz-Morris cautioned against reading anything into the set of questions submitted.

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“The questions asked do not constitute an indication of future direction or policies,” Fitz-Morris said in an email statement.

“To better inform discussions and future work concerning this crucial Crown Corporation, our office requested public opinion research on basic questions to gain a better understanding of Canadians’ views of and relationship with Canada Post.”

Respondents were also asked, “Do you believe the Government of Canada should continue to provide financial support to Canada Post or should Canada Post be restructured in a way to break even?”

The live-agent telephone poll of 1,000 Canadians found 39 per cent chose “ending financial support” and 50 per cent chose “restructure.”

And yet, the government of Canada has not provided any financial support to the Crown corporation for decades. As the Crown corporation notes in its financial statements, “the operations of the Canada Post Group of Companies are funded by the revenue generated by the sale of its products and services, not taxpayer dollars.”

That point was also made by Simpson, the CUPW president.

“I want to be very clear: Canada Post is self-funded and it’s not funded by taxpayers’ dollars,” she said. “I don’t know why the government is trying to mislead the Canadian public like this.”

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Canada Post has not yet posted its full financial results for 2021 but it did post a loss of $570 million on revenue of $9.3 billion in 2020. But from 2016 to 2019, the Crown corporation finished each year in the black, including in 2017 when it posted a profit of $231 million.

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