The cheque’s in the mail

If you’ve read the news in the past week, you may have heard that Canada Post is in crisis. On Jan. 16, the Crown corporation announced that it's selling off its IT and logistics departments to private companies. The move is financially motivated – Canada Post reported a loss of over half a billion dollars in 2022.

A Jan. 23 CBC News article by Marina von Stackelberg quotes business experts calling the move an “essential first step.” Carleton University business professor Ian Lee says that, to survive, Canada Post’s future “is in reinventing themselves as a partner of e-commerce companies and trying to get back that business that they gave up, and lost competitively, to the Amazons of the world.”

There’s one huge problem with this logic: Canada Post’s job isn’t to make money. The notion that it should be a money-making endeavour is a relic of the 1980s neoliberal destruction of the Thatcher, Reagan and Trudeau/Mulroney era that continues to poison public services in Canada.

Canada Post’s job is to deliver the mail. That’s a public service. We pay taxes, and we get the mail delivered to us. It’s a fair tradeoff. We also pay taxes to have the roads paved, and we don’t expect the streets to pay us back.

But these old conservative notions of profit before the public persist in attitudes toward Canada Post. And if you get the mail, that should concern you. It’s not a given that it will always be around. Neoliberal capitalists will gleefully strip it, sell it for parts and privatize Canadian mail if given the chance.

That’s not just rhetoric. It’s happened before. Canadian provinces used to have robust public telephone infrastructure. But those have all since been privatized and sold off. That public service has disappeared, and Canadians now pay some of the highest cellphone rates in the world.

If we don’t change our attitudes about this and keep expecting Canada Post to be Amazon, we could also end up paying more for mail, too.

Published in Volume 78, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 25, 2024)

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