Privatization not the best solution for Canada Post

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DAVID CONDON/Guest Columnist

So the Fraser Institute thinks privatization is the solution to the strike at Canada Post. This comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Fraser Institute. It might be easier for them to say what they don’t want privatized since they believe that the private sector delivers everything more efficiently, including health care and education.

Certainly they are in the minority in their thinking. Specifically on the issue of Canada Post, the Canada Post Corporation Strategic Review, conducted in 2008 found that “there appears to be little to no public support for the privatization or deregulation of Canada Post at this time, and considerable if not unanimous support for the maintenance of a quality, affordable universal service for all Canadians and communities.”

A 1996 Angus Reid poll found that 64 per cent of those surveyed believed Canada Post should be a government department or a Crown corporation that makes a profit. Less than one-third (31 per cent) believed the corporation should become a private sector company. A 2009 Harris Decima poll found that 60 per cent of respondents were opposed to the idea of selling off Crown assets to keep the deficit down, while 30 per cent were in favour of such a move.

Only 30 per cent supported privatization of Canada Post. The only people calling for privatization are groups like the Fraser Institute and current and past CEOs at Canada Post that come from the private sector and are driven by a “profit first” mentality. They quote a publication by Professor Douglas Adie written in 1990. Yes, 1990! A lot has changed in 21 years, Fraser Institute.

Adie is a disciple of economist Milton Friedman, whose policies have been a disaster for working people worldwide where adopted (see Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine). Canada Post has been profitable for the past 16 years so Adie’s analysis would seem to be discredited. Over that time it has paid dividends and income tax to the government of about $1.2 billion. If privatized, the government (and by extension, taxpayers) will receive a one-time payment and that’s it.

Really, that’s what privatization is about. It’s not about efficiency; it’s simply a transfer of a valued public asset into private hands for profit. The service will not improve for every resident of Canada, if at all, when the bottom line is profit instead of service. High-volume, high-profit mail corridors would be favoured over equal service for all citizens regardless of where they live. Where a profit cannot be generated the service would disappear altogether, e.g. small communities and rural areas. This is where the exclusive privilege on lettermail comes in. It assures Canada Post the revenues it requires to provide the service mandated in the Canada Post Corporation Act.

The other study quoted is from Professor Edward Iacobucci who claims that everything would be better at CPC if it was not for Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). Aside from the fact he is insulting the 45,000 members of CUPW (“…the presence of the CUPW, make it difficult to improve efficiency and productivity.”), the ones whose hard work has generated the profits paid to the government, he ignores the breakthroughs that CUPW made through collective bargaining, such as paid maternity leave.

Lastly, the three countries he names as having price drops due to privatization, Austria ($0.88), Netherlands ($0.65) and Germany ($0.78) all have higher stamp prices than Canada. Privatization will not solve the problems at Canada Post.

Providing affordable service to Canadians while providing stable, safe and decent paying jobs in our communities will.

—David Condon is president of the Medicine Hat and District Labour Council. This column was originally published in the Medicine Hat News and presented by postal workers for publication in the Ponoka News.

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