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William Watson: If not even the Canada Post review uses Canada Post…

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Thanks to my wife for pointing out the following rather glaring does-not-compute in our local MP’s latest pro-Liberal newsletter, delivered to us free by Canada Post. Or not free, since nothing is free. But paid for not by him but by our tax dollars.

That shot about it being pro-Liberal is not partisan, by the way. Our previous MP was from the NDP and her newsletter was always very pro-NDP. And when we had a Conservative MP his newsletter—delivered to us with our own tax dollars—was very sympathetic to whatever the Conservatives were doing. Needless to say, though we have famously strict campaign spending laws this very thoughtful subsidy to incumbents doesn’t count.

Anomalies in our political spending laws are not the point here, however. The point is that the MP, Marc Garneau, devotes the first page of his newsletter to telling us about the independent review of Canada Post that the government is now starting up. In the now-customary 21st century way, we’re all invited to participate, even if (I’m betting) our comments will be processed and analyzed by machines, not humans. Here’s how we can do it, quoting the newsletter:

Share general comments by:

• Web: canada.ca/canadapostreview

• E-mail: TPSGC.ExamendeSPC-CPCReview.PWGSC@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca

• Twitter or Instagram using the #CPReview2016 hashtag

• On Facebook: /Canada-Post-Review-5214375647044406/

• Fax: 1-844-836-8138

• Mail: Canada Post Review CP 2200 Matane, QC

OK. So the review does actually finally suggest people can mail in their general comments (it’s not clear where their specific comments should go). But mail is the final option. Five other perfectly efficient ones are offered before it.

Mail’s charms are undeniable. That I should scrawl a message on a sheet of paper and put it in a red box a couple of blocks from my house, whence it will be taken to the very person I want to communicate with, albeit less quickly, more expensively and with greater chance of mishap than was the case in this technique’s heyday, is a kind of miracle. But the five other media are also miraculous—even the fax, which is now well past its prime. I had to submit a piece of documentation to Quebec’s health-care system the other day and the only options available were fax and letter. “Fax!” I said to the nice lady on the other end of the line. “Nobody uses fax anymore.” We agreed emailed scans would be much easier. Other industries have moved on: Lately, I’ve been depositing cheques from my kitchen table, by taking pictures of them on my iPad. But health care, still awaiting glasnost and perestroika, remains rooted in the 1980s.

If fax is on its way out, however, post may already be gone. A 20-year-old member of my family who will otherwise remain unidentified recently had to ask his parents which corner of the envelope the stamp goes on.

The purpose of the Canada Post review, Mr. Garneau tells us, is “to ensure Canadians receive quality postal service at a reasonable price.” My general comment to the review would be: “Why? Canadians should pick and choose among the several communications media now available to them and if, on the basis of open competition, Canada Post survives, well, good for it.”

I certainly wouldn’t look around for “other opportunities” for Canada Post to develop new business lines, as the review’s terms of reference mandate.

If a fully privatized Canada Post, should one survive, wants to try to persuade the capital markets it can make money in some new lines of business, fine. More power to it. If not, well, it was nice while it lasted (except for all the interrupted service due to strikes and lockouts).

Now, has anyone got a stamp?

Didn’t think so.

 

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