I’ll admit it: I’ve always loved mail. A small highlight of my day has always been getting home, opening the mailbox and seeing what’s come my way. Cards, the occasional letter, sometimes even a cheque or two.
Sure, sometimes it’s just bills. Other times, the deep disappointment of a fat bundle of what turns out to be, once inside the house, flyers for a pizza business we don’t use, listings of used cars we won’t buy — in other words, instant recycling. Out of the mailbox, into the recycling box.
But still, every time I park the car, there’s that little thrill of the mail that’s waiting. And when I’ve been on leave, working on books, I’ve even found myself listening for the particular thunk of the lid slapping down.
I know everyone doesn’t feel the same. When I was growing up, my parents owned a slightly berserk tiny dog that used to fly into a rage when the mail carrier opened the outside door and pushed the mail through the slot. She’d bark herself into a frenzy and then tear whatever came through the slot into shreds. It was not the perfect delivery system.
But me? I love the mail lottery.
And I suppose it will still be the case with a supermailbox somewhere in the neighbourhood, even with the downgrading of the service.
Canada Post, though, should be paying attention to the response to its joint effort of raising rates and dropping door-to-door delivery.
Two things spring to mind, one courtesy of St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe.
He pointed out last week, quite rightly, that you can’t take everything a government does and simply consider it to be a business.
Some things are services and have to be viewed through that lens; viewing them on a cash-basis only leads to things like the federal government’s misguided destruction of professional libraries, ranging from Fisheries and Oceans to Natural Resources and on down.
The quest for the dollar in that case becomes something perilously close to book-burning, although with our federal government, it’s dumpsters that are carrying materials away.
You can make a bit of the same argument about Canada Post: somewhere along the line, the national mail service became confused with a national mail business.
But the second point is much larger; the response, particularly to the price increase, has current customers talking about finding other options.
Businesses are talking about full-out email billing, and it’s only a matter of time before municipalities move to full-scale electronic transfers for municipal taxes.
After all, the provincial government has already gone that way
for vehicle registration, and even offered discounts at first to entice customers to the electronic method.
The discussion isn’t about how much the new mail is going to cost, it’s about using existing systems to get even further away from the mail — and a price increase of more than 30 per cent is certainly the kind of nudge that gets traction.
When you look at Canada Post’s decisions in this case, the only thing you can believe is that they have looked at the business model of being a mail service, and have decided it can’t work so their plan is simply to kill it.
Cut as many employees as is practical, limit mail to items that have to be delivered by post, put the price through the roof and offer essentially expensive boutique service for those items instead of running a full-scale post office.
In that model, huge volumes of mail would actually be a problem, not a benefit.
Canada Post management is not interested in saving the mail service — it wants to be in a different, much smaller business entirely.
Downgrade service and at the same time, increase price?
It’s not even a recipe for managing decline. It’s a recipe for speeding it up.
And Canada Post knows it.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.