Politics

Should your mail be delivered daily? Canada Post wants Ottawa to rethink its mandate

Canada Post wants the federal government to consider changing the legislation that requires it to deliver letter mail daily— a mandate the Crown corporation says no longer reflects modern realities and is causing it to lose money. 

“If you have a community mailbox, a lot of people check it once or twice a week,” said Jon Hamilton, vice-president of communications at Canada Post.

“We need to work with government to ensure the regulatory framework aligns with today’s needs.”

The postal charter, which dictates how frequently Canada Post delivers mail, hasn’t undergone any significant changes since it was created in 2009, Hamilton said.

“That was back when Netflix was delivering DVDs through the mail. The world has changed a lot,” Hamilton said.

Canada Post’s annual report, released last Friday, showed the struggling Crown corporation lost $748 million last year before tax — and a whopping $3 billion over the last six years. The company blames its plight on the continued decline in mail revenue and warns of even larger and unsustainable losses if its operating model doesn’t undergo major changes.

Unlike some other Crown corporations, Canada Post isn’t funded by taxpayers. It needs to sustain itself through profits.

But unlike its private competitors, Canada Post is also required to deliver mail to all Canadians, everywhere, five days a week — even if it loses money doing it.

“Today, if you’re sending a letter from St. John’s to Vancouver, it has to get there within three days,” Hamilton said. “In order to do that, we’ve got to put it on an airplane and fly it out … That may not be required anymore.”

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Minister not clear on what Ottawa will do

The federal minister of public services and procurement would not commit to changing Canada Post’s mandate for delivery, but also did not rule it out.

“Whatever we need to support Canada Post in supporting Canadians, it will be envisaged, as we need Canada Post in the future,” Jean-Yves Duclos said when asked Tuesday.

“We know the habits of Canadians are changing … the role of Canada Post is not going to change, given that it’s there to serve all Canadians wherever they live.”

WATCH: Canada Post looking at ending daily letter mail delivery

Canada Post considering ending daily letter mail delivery, says minister

Public Services Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the government will support Canada Post but the mail carrier will be needed in the future to serve all Canadians. He would not commit to giving the Crown corporation more funding.

Duclos didn’t say if Ottawa will bail the company out. Canada Post says it will run out of the cash it needs to operate by early next year.

“It’s going to require work and progress in the matter of several years,” Duclos said.

“We first need to see what options they’re going to present, what options they’re going to recommend, what options they are going to develop with their workers.”

Canada Post considering weekend delivery to compete

While letter mail has tanked, online shopping has boomed. But Canada Post has struggled to compete with new, privately owned parcel companies that hire gig workers who are cheaper and deliver on evenings and weekends.

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“We were doing a number of things to be able to better compete, but we didn’t expect our market share to drop that quickly and for the competitors to take that much of the volume,” Hamilton said.

He said Canada Post’s management is having “honest conversations” with the company’s union about beginning to offer weekend parcel delivery — a service that currently is only offered during the winter holidays and on overtime pay.

Canada Post employee Shelly Paul delivers the mail in snowy Water Valley, Alta., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. Snowfall with total amounts of 10 to 20 cm are expected in south western Alberta.
A Canada Post employee delivers mail in snowy Alberta. The company’s union, CUPW, says the company’s finances can be saved by reinstating full door-to-door delivery. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), which represents 60,000 of the company’s employees, has been in contract negotiations with Canada Post since November.

Jan Simpson, national president of CUPW, told CBC News the union is still deciding whether it would support an expansion of delivery hours.

“We need to bargain language … [so] we’re able to negotiate a safe way for workers to deliver the mail [and] get home at a reasonable time, because health and safety must be a priority,” Simpson said. 

“Those gig companies … have a very high rate of injuries, low wages. It’s important for us to raise everybody up, not put them down.”

Union says solution is more services

The union opposes any decrease in the frequency of letter mail delivery, Simpson said. Instead, CUPW wants Canada Post to reinstate all door-to-door delivery service.

“For us to deliver the mail to the door of every customer across this country … that’s the way Canada Post will get back, I feel, a lot of their profit which they’re claiming to have lost through different ways,” she said.

In 2014, as a cost-saving measure under the previous Conservative government, Canada Post began replacing door-to-door delivery with community mailboxes. After being elected in 2015, the current Liberal government suspended those conversions. Ottawa eventually scrapped the plan altogether.

According to Canada Post’s annual report, letter mail has been declining since 2006, when the company delivered 5.5 billion pieces of mail. In 2023, it delivered just 2.2 billion letters. That number is expected to keep dropping.

On Monday, the company increased the price of a stamp to 99 cents.

Simpson said the union believes Canada Post’s finances can also be saved by expanding its services beyond mail — having mail carriers provide check-ins for seniors, for example, or providing banking services at post offices.

But Hamilton said that, to survive, Canada Post needs to focus on its key purpose and its advantage over the competition: its ability to reach every address in Canada.

“We need to really focus on our core business, and our core business is delivering things,” he said. “We’re really good at that.”

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