OTTAWA - A House of Commons committee is recommending Canada Post come up with a plan to reinstate door-to-door delivery in parts of the country that lost the service in the last year and maintain a freeze on the installation of community mailboxes.
The report from the Liberal-dominated committee released Tuesday also says there is no need to reduce the number of days a week that mail is delivered, suggesting reduced service standards could accelerate the decline the corporation has seen in the number of letters handled.
The committee says that based on its hearings, Canadians are open to mail being delivered fewer than five days a week, but that "does not fit the business models of either Canada Post or its paying customers."
Instead, the committee recommends increases in postal rates, muses about expanding Canada Post's mandate to provide cellular services or broadband Internet, including email services or "the basis for a Canadian social network," and suggests the corporation partner with e-commerce companies to increase revenues.
The president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) said thousands of homes would still not have door-to-door delivery under the committee's recommendation because many addresses were moved over to community mailboxes in 2014 and early 2015. Mike Palecek said the union won't be satisfied until every address that had door-to-door delivery gets the service back.
In a statement, Canada Post said it will study the recommendations in the report as it looks for major changes to keep itself viable. The statement also points to another issue that appears in the report, namely the "difficulty in finding common ground" on the issues facing Canada Post.
There was also political dissent among committee members on how precisely the agency should change.
Conservatives on the committee said the recommendations do nothing to address Canada Post's serious financial shortfalls. Conservative public services critic Alupa Clarke said the majority report makes recommendations that are "either value statements, repetitious, or existing Canada Post practices" and avoids any discussion about the cost to Canada Post and taxpayers.
The NDP's dissenting report criticized both the Liberals and Conservatives for closing the door on exploring postal banking services, an idea recommended by the postal union. It was also critical of the recommendation to return door-to-door delivery only to those homes that lost the service after Aug. 3, 2015.
The corporation began reducing door-to-door delivery last year, arguing that it could save up to $450 million annually by moving five million more addresses to community mailboxes. The committee said Canada Post provided "weak" financial information to support the estimate.
The committee notes that 830,000 addresses have been moved to community mailboxes to date, resulting in an annual saving of $80 million.
The union representing postal workers made the community mailbox issue a campaign issue and kept it in the public spotlight over the summer when Canada Post and CUPW stared down the threat of a work disruption amid questions about the future of the mail service.
A consultant's report provided to the federal task force struck to review Canada Post operations, which the committee quoted in its report, predicted that Canada Post wouldn't viable in the long-term without sweeping changes. The Ernst & Young report forecast annual losses of at least $700 million by 2026.
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