Lisa Raitt defends Canada Post plan, says it must be 'self-sufficient'
Published Sunday, December 15, 2013 10:00AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 15, 2013 11:28AM EST
Canada Post has "a responsibility to be self-sufficient," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says, and its plan to end urban door-to-door mail delivery and bring in other changes is meant to stanch the bleeding of its bottom line.
Last Wednesday, Canada Post announced a new five-point plan that includes moving to community mailboxes in urban centres, increasing the price of stamps and cutting up to 8,000 jobs in an effort to return the Crown corporation to financial stability by 2019.
Four of the five initiatives are expected to save between $700 million and $900 million annually for Canada Post, which reported a loss of $129 million in the last quarter alone.
Raitt, the minister responsible for the file, told CTV's Question Period in an interview that aired Sunday that the plan will help Canada Post deal with plummeting letter volume levels and increasing operating costs.
"We know that they're losing a significant amount of money and we also know that they have a responsibility to be self-sufficient," Raitt told Question Period. "So they came forward with this Canada Post 2.0 plan and they went through it in great detail with officials."
When asked why the changes were announced a day after Parliament rose for its Christmas break, Raitt said she learned on Monday evening that Canada Post would unveil its plan on Wednesday.
"I was very surprised when the House rose on Tuesday," Raitt said.
"I fully anticipated answering questions in question period on Wednesday, but that's not the way it happened. But I'm happy to provide my statement and of course I'm happy to talk to you today."
Raitt released a written statement on Wednesday to say she supports the changes, which she said are necessary to "protect taxpayers."
Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton said Thursday that Canada Post consulted Canadians in 46 communities on possible changes to its business model, and it learned consumers are not using mail service as they once did.
However, the Liberals and the NDP both criticized the changes, saying they fail to take into account the needs of the elderly and disabled, and those who do not have cars who find their community mailboxes are not within walking distance of their homes.
And some economists have said the changes fail to address the real problems Canada Post is facing, and say postal service should be privatized to lower costs and improve service.
"It may be delivered differently, stamp prices may decline as a result, there may be quality improvements, there may be innovations, we may be getting mail on time more often," Fraser Institute economist Charles Lamman told CTV's Power Play on Thursday.
"This is the evidence that's been found across the globe, really, when postal services were deregulated."
When asked why Canada Post didn't look at other models, such as converting urban post offices to postal franchises, Raitt told Question Period that "I think they are looking at franchises as well, too."
"There are all kinds of things that Canada Post should be discussing with the community as to what their business plan changes are, and I expect and anticipate that over the coming days they'll continue to talk about it more," she said.
But she said Canada Post is far behind on following the example of other jurisdictions, particularly in Europe, that have ended postal-service monopolies and opened the industry up to private competition.
"When you take a look at the models around the world certainly in the U.K., they're far ahead of us for the simple fact that they actually split out the two responsibilities" (to deliver the mail and run post offices), Raitt said.
"We're not that far along in terms of the spectrum so what it made sense was for Canada Post to look at the things they could change and the things that made sense to them."