Canada Post makes parcels a priority service

The Canadian Press
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Focusing on turning a profit

At the Canada Post facility on the outskirts of Toronto, employees are hurriedly processing thousands of parcels to keep pace with shipments that arrive every few minutes.

Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra is seen before appearing as a witness at an emergency session of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in Ottawa Wednesday. — Photo by The Canadian Press

t’s the Christmas season, easily the busiest time of year at the post office, but activity at the Gateway parcels hub in Mississauga, Ont. is especially lively this year.

With a week to go before Christmas Day, Canada Post said it has already broken volume records more times in 2013 than ever before, surpassing the delivery of one million parcels per day a total of five times since mid-November.

On Monday, the company touched an all-time high of 1.25 million parcels shipped in a day.

Whether it’s a care package mailed by mom or an order from an online retailer, most of those parcels come through this facility, or smaller ones, across the country.

The postal service says these boxes and bubble envelopes are its future and will continue to be a priority as the company tries to rescue its struggling operations over the next five years.

Last week, Canada Post announced dramatic changes to how it operates, with plans that include phasing out the age-old tradition of door-to-door delivery. Without postal carriers travelling by foot, the company says it will save a significant amount of money.

Canada Post will also raise stamp prices by more than 35 per cent to 85 cents when purchased in a booklet. The price hike is even higher if you’re buying a single stamp, which will cost $1 beginning in March.

The announcements were met with plenty of criticism from those concerned that service cuts will hit seniors and the disabled especially hard. Others questioned whether raising prices while lowering perceived quality will wind up in a consumer backlash.

Canada Post chief executive Deepak Chopra addressed some of those concerns on Wednesday at a meeting of the House of Commons transport committee in Ottawa focused on the future of crown corporation’s business.

“If the mail is changing its shape and size, don’t we think the mailbox should change its shape and size too?” Chopra asked.

“So what we’re trying to do is adapt (to) the changing needs of Canadians.”

Chopra struck a positive tone during his nearly one-hour appearance at the committee, but said difficult choices had to be made.

“We believe Canada Post will remain a relevant, meaningful participant in the lives of Canadians,” he said.

This is where the parcel business comes in, from Canada Post’s perspective.

Leaders at the company have said parcels will help drive revenues because the price of shipping usually has a better profit margin. And while fewer people send letters, more of them are ordering products online.

“Computers have taken the place of a lot of the physical product that has gone through,” said Randy Carroll, plant director at Canada Post’s Toronto hub.

“We recognize the fact that (to) stay ahead, we need to start growing the parcel business.”

Each day Carroll walks the floor of the Gateway facility, a 1.1-million square foot building that operates around the clock and processes  an average of 43,000 parcels per hour.

He watches as a steady flow of trucks loaded with parcels back into loading docks where, like clockwork, forklifts raise pallets off the vehicles. Some of the packages are loaded directly onto conveyor belts for sorting, while others are set aside. It’s a strategic process that, to an outsider, looks like organized pandemonium.

A key part of his job is troubleshooting — preventing backlogs from slowing the sorting process.

Black Friday, for instance, is a wildly popular day for online retailers who slash their prices and ship quantities that pale only in comparison to Boxing Day. If a truckload of laptops arrive unannounced because of a massive web sale, then Canada Post must be ready to react.

To prevent those surprises, Carroll said often makes a quick call to his contacts at Best Buy or Amazon, in case he needs to call in staff reinforcements.

Organizations: Canada Post, House of Commons, Best Buy

Geographic location: Mississauga, Ottawa, Toronto

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Recent comments

  • larry wiseman
    December 31, 2013 - 13:16

    All i ever get are damm notices to go to the post office to pick up my small parcels that could have been placed in my mail box. I should beable to charge CP for my costs to go there.

  • Randy
    December 30, 2013 - 22:30

    Good luck "growing the parcel business" when all they ever do is drop off notices and make me drive and do their work for them. I hope CP goes away and their union employees all lose their cushy jobs.

  • Mark
    December 21, 2013 - 19:20

    At least Canada Post will hold the parcel at the nearest post office if I'm not home. Most other delivery services cost as much or more, and leave the parcel in a "secure location" ... like my front step.

    • david
      December 26, 2013 - 15:05

      Oh, they have no trouble holding onto the package for you. In fact, in some cases they hold onto it and tell you to come pick it up without ever bothering to try delivering it at all.

  • Claudette
    December 20, 2013 - 10:07

    I received a Notice yesterday saying my package was available for pick up after 5:00 p.m. (which apparently via the tracking system has been in St. John's since December 10th). Went to the outlet, waited in line, no package there. Told to check back tomorrow. Yes great service!

  • Grizzle
    December 20, 2013 - 08:21

    I paid Expresspost to send a parcel to Labrador from St. John's. The maroons sent it to New Brunswick first and then back to St. John's, now its stuck "due to circumstances beyond their control" and will not get there on time. Idiots!!!!!!!

  • Travis Young
    December 19, 2013 - 17:55

    Maybe they can hurry up and deliver the parcel that I posted on Dec 4th and been sitting in Mississauga Ont for 13 days luck I sent it Xpress post. maybe mine was the 1.26 million parcel and never got out.

  • Nicole
    December 19, 2013 - 12:11

    So if mail is no longer delivered door-to-door, would the parcels be sent to community boxes? Or would they still be delivered to the door? Some parcels can be quite large...

  • david
    December 19, 2013 - 10:27

    For anyone interested in some insightful commentary and stunning facts about Canada Post, Google Andrew Coyne's article in the Nat'l. Post, Dec. 11.13....mindblowing stuff. You would never have imagined.

  • david
    December 19, 2013 - 09:32

    BTW...there are blatantly obvious parallels between Canada Post and Newfoundland: The imposition of ever-increasing minimum wages despite no market-related factors for it. The over-pricing of costs for businesses that simply cannot absorb them. Complete suspension of market realities by government so it can pander to a few votes and make their own lives easier in the short term. And all along, people cheer on the "raises" as Newfoundland prices itself even further away from any viable future.

    • Jeff
      December 19, 2013 - 10:27

      Then there's the poor work ethic. Take, for instance, pious windbags who spend all day scanning the web and whining about everything, including poor work ethics instead of actually doing a lick of work.

    • david
      December 19, 2013 - 12:14

      You mad bro?

    • david
      December 19, 2013 - 13:04

      You mad bro?

  • david
    December 19, 2013 - 09:15

    Canada Post's employees priced it out of business....which is what any labour force would do if given ultimate say. Instead of having an internal cost structure that is proportional to the value of the service provided, CP unions dictated the price of a stamp.. Despite the market for mail service evolving and changing, Canada Post's labour cost has been allowed to rise completely irresponsibly, strike after strike, year after year. The lunatics run the asylum ----- and it is the unions who seem most stunned that the asylum is in such poor shape....fools.

    • Ron Decline
      December 19, 2013 - 09:31

      When was the last strike, David? BTW the unions don't dictate the price of a stamp any more than the price of feul. But then again, blaming the unions is the trademark of a simple mind.

    • david
      December 19, 2013 - 10:08

      There are five steps in the grieving process......you're still on number 1. (BTW...I don't mean the 'union grievance' kind.....just in case that's your only familiarity with the word.)

  • Ken Collis
    December 19, 2013 - 09:02

    Canada Post is a service as well as a business. My parcel, sent from Quebec and ordered via Amazon, ordered Dec. 14th, has tracking info telling me of delivery Jan 1. Are they delivering it by bicycle? Is the post office opening Jan. 1 just for me?

    • Tim D
      December 19, 2013 - 15:28

      Ken, when you ordered from Amazon, did you check when the item would be shipped? Many items don't ship for for a week or two. In that case, blame falls on the seller, not Canada Post.