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Why Canada Post is relevant to me…and to you.

Your job just might depend on it.

With all the strike talk ebbing and flowing from Canada Post over the past few weeks, it’s easy to forget about the ongoing task force looking into the future of the Crown corporation.

Like the air we breathe, a lot of us take Canada Post for granted. But about 800,000 people work in Canada Post or associated businesses (NAMMU stats for 2016) as graphic designers, writers, publishers, printers, bindery workers, technologist, data analysts, e-commerce marketers, etc.  And, they depend upon a healthy and reliable postal system for their livelihood.

With that in mind, I wrote to the Canada Post Review Task Force last week, speaking directly to its mandate. And today I’m sharing a slightly edited version of that letter with you.

TASK FORCE QUESTION:  How can Canada Post’s efficiency be improved within its framework of self-sustainability?

Simply put, Canada Post can remain a self-sustaining entity by allowing it the freedom to reduce delivery costs by implementing community mail boxes and other operational cost-saving steps.  

That’s the simple answer. But like any large organization, a simple bromide will not cure this patient.

Beyond cost savings, Canada Post must also adjust to the changing landscape of mail and parcels.

The post office in Canada is not experiencing anything different than any other postal delivery service operating in a world where email communications have superseded the need to drop a letter to Auntie Fran in the local mailbox.

I’m the owner of a business that makes its money from producing and distributing physical marketing and publishing material through the mail, and have been for most of my adult life.

I’ve carefully followed the postal sector media (yes, there is a postal sector media) as it told the story of large postal services adjusting to lower volumes of mail as parcel post increased. And what has become evident is a tale of two systems —  an unregulated parcel market competing against the highly regulated mail market.  

When I travel I see how other jurisdictions have successfully implemented variations on community mailboxes. If I am not mistaken, about 2/3 of Canadians already get delivery at their apartment mailbox, superbox in new home developments, or rural mail boxes in general stores. And yet, there is hysteria whenever any politician suggests completing a switch that was started more than 30 years ago. Instead we see a minority of citizens demanding that  Canada Post march up their drive, up their steps, only to deliver fewer and fewer pieces of mail each day — even as more parcels flood the same delivery system only to be sent back to the depot because nobody is home to sign for them.

To be blunt, this cannot continue without a negative effect on the finances of Canada Post.

More than 20% of Canadian mail is used to promote businesses and charities, hospitals, disease causes, real estate, pizza, auto, etc. That’s 20% of the more than 9 billion pieces of mail that pass through the system annually. These promotions create jobs when people buy stuff — maybe at places you or your family work. If your company does some sort of advertising, it just could take the form of a flyer, direct mail card or letter. Your job depends on it working.

People buy and donate when mail is used as a marketing channel — it’s got a special power that digital marketing cannot replicate. It’s been tried, but as a rule, low-cost digital marketing produces poor results. You get what you pay for. Without mail, many not-for-profits and other businesses would not have a sustainable marketing channel.  

They need the mail! You need the mail!

This promotional part of the business is the least regulated and so the competition, such as newspapers and local flyer delivery services, are aggressively competing with Canada Post for marketing material delivery. This is usually done by low-paid adult workers or kids delivering newspapers. That would be tough competition for any union shop, let alone a giant, heavily regulated corporation.  

But these alternatives aren’t Canada Post. They aren’t as reliable, don’t have the reach into rural communities, and cannot compete with the frequency and consistency of service offered. These are but a few of the reasons our clients prefer Canada Post to all other methods.

Allowing Canada Post to find competitive solutions to address the low-paid competition they are facing, while living up to their required mandate to deliver to all points in Canada, requires changes in process, home service and in the regulatory environment in which it operates.

There are dramatic changes in the profile of mail these days. Sticking with the strategies we’ve had for Canada Post for the past 30 to 40 years will not result in the same outcomes.

That’s my 2 cents

And by the way, you can respond too at the Canada Post Task Force website.

This week’s question is “What do you consider to be the most valuable attribute of a Canada Post office? And that of a franchise (e.g. a postal outlet in a drug store)?”.

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