By Charlie Gillis - Monday, March 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
Even radical reform might not save the post office now
As if Canada Post didn’t have enough problems. In the thick of a $2-billion modernization—with the Internet swallowing an ever-greater share of its lunch—came word that counterfeit stamps have been costing the 156-year-old institution an estimated $10 million in revenue each year. The new self-sticking stamps turn out to be a lot easier to fake than the kind you lick, postal officials acknowledged. “Our job is to detect and dismantle the network,” a spokeswoman said, “to really go for the big organizations.” But to anyone outside the postal world, enforcement problems raised by the story took a back seat to socio-cultural questions: who’s still sending letters these days—and so many that they need to forge stamps?
You don’t have to be a futurist to know snail mail is on the decline. Since 2006, the amount of domestic letter mail delivered annually by Canada Post has fallen by more than one billion pieces, a 20 per cent slide that has cast one of the country’s cornerstone institutions into existential crisis. Its once lucrative “direct marketing” business—junk mail—has fallen off by nearly 15 per cent, while its share of the parcel business has flatlined in the face of competition from private courier companies, many of which had partnered with online retailers. (Canada Post’s own parcel service recovered a bit last year; more on that later.)
The reasons are plain enough: like everyone else in the developed world, Canadians have been shifting their lives online, paying bills over the web, emailing loved ones rather than tossing a card into the post. Until recently, this shift was occurring at an orderly pace. In the early 2000s, volumes were holding steady and Canada Post was able to compensate for any losses by raising postage rates and cutting costs. The company remained profitable until 2011, when a 25-day labour disruption, combined with a court decision on pay equity, resulted in its first-ever loss.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 12:26 PM - 0 Comments
Further to this, CBC reported last week that the government will close eight Veterans Affairs offices. Christie Blatchford has reported that military reserve budgets are being slashed. The Canadian Forces recruiting centre in Windsor has closed. And Canada Post is considering service cuts.
Meanwhile, there are new concerns being raised about the end of the Police Officer Recruitment Fund—see previously, The Demise of the Police Officer Recruitment Fund. Vic Toews defends the fund as a “one-time investment.”
In Vancouver, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was quietly closed last week, apparently to the surprise of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. Global News wonders if the closure has something to do with selling the land the station is located on.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 3:01 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada Post is denying a media report that it’s considering cutting its…
OTTAWA – Canada Post is denying a media report that it’s considering cutting its delivery schedule from the current five days a week.
The Crown corporation says it continues to look at ways to save money as the mail delivery business declines.
It’s been talking with union officials about closing some postal outlets and cutting the number of sorting stations.
But a spokeswoman says reducing the number of days the mail is delivered is not on the table.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 5:04 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Canada Post issues a new stamp today in honour of Swedish diplomat…
TORONTO – Canada Post issues a new stamp today in honour of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.
He is credited with saving at least 20,000 Jews in Budapest during the Second World War by giving them Swedish travel documents, or moving them to safe houses.
Wallenberg was also instrumental in dissuading German officers from massacring the 70,000 inhabitants of Budapest’s ghetto.
Today, Jan. 17, marks the day in 1945 when Wallenberg disappeared in Hungary while in Soviet custody.
It’s believed he died in captivity, although the time and circumstances of his death remain shrouded in mystery.
In recognition of his efforts, the federal government made Wallenberg Canada’s first honorary citizen in 1985, and designated Jan. 17 as Raoul Wallenberg Day.
The new stamp, designed by Glenda Rissman of q30design, features Wallenberg’s 1944 passport photo and a number of elements related to his efforts in Budapest.
By Peter Shawn Taylor - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 12:30 PM - 0 Comments
The War of 1812 is Canada’s only fully inclusive, federalism-friendly conflict
War is hell, of course. But the War of 1812 also happens to be perfect. At least from Ottawa’s perspective.
Consider the federal government’s recent video promoting the war’s bicentennial. “Two hundred years ago the United States invaded our territory,” intones the narrator as red-coated soldiers march and shoot in formation. “We stood side by side and won the fight for Canada.” This short, stirring clip, playing in movie theatres and in frequent rotation on television, makes a virtue of Canadian patriotism and military success and brings focus to bear on four heroes from the conflict: Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock, native leader Tecumseh, Ontario settler Laura Secord and Lt.-Col. Charles de Salaberry of Quebec.
The one-minute film is not without its critics, however. Carleton university professor Andrew Cohen objects to its “jumped-up jingoism” and militaristic focus. The real legacy of the War of 1812, Cohen wrote in the Ottawa Citizen, is that Canada and the U.S. “developed a tolerance for each other.” And tolerance, of course, is the great Canadian virtue.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
Police have confirmed that the foot and hand were mailed from Montreal. The Gazette reports that police believe the body parts in Ottawa are linked to a torso in Montreal. The Citizen reports an arrest could be made in a matter of hours.
Conservative staff are understandably traumatized.
By Brian Bethune - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 9:12 AM - 0 Comments
For his 25th anniversary, Canada Post dedicates a stamp series to the iconic turtle
Franklin the Turtle, who famously could “zip zippers and button buttons, count by twos and tie his shoes,” can also make stamps come alive. Author Paulette Bourgeois’s kid-lit icon is the single most successful franchise in the history of Canadian publishing: 65 million copies of Franklin’s young-child-friendly adventures have been sold in 24 languages in 38 countries; he starred in his own TV series (with theme music by Bruce Cockburn) and even adorned a 1995 Maclean’s cover. And he’s turning 25 this year. To mark the event, on May 11 Canada Post issued its first-ever stamp series celebrating a character from an illustrated Canadian children’s book, depicting Franklin under both of the names he goes by here. He’s Benjamin in Quebec—not to mention Morten in Denmark, Patrik in Sweden and Konrad in Finland. “I read the children Benjamin, and my husband reads them Franklin,” notes Canada Post spokeswoman (and “huge fan”) Anick Losier.
But if Franklin is no ordinary turtle, neither is his moment of philatelic glory of the everyday humdrum kind. The Franklin series is also attached to the launch of Canada Post’s new “augmented reality” app for Apple and Android devices called Stamps Alive. Users can download the app for free and then scan an image on the stamp (or on the stamped package). For the Franklin stamps, the image is a maze. Once scanned, the maze comes to life and Franklin can walk through it, following the user’s finger, to the mailbox to drop in a letter. Small children will love the app, and because “every stamp tells a story, may want to discover the wonderful world of stamps,” says Losier. And perhaps grow up to be future Canada Post customers.
By Patricia Treble - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 7:32 PM - 0 Comments
That Canada Post would create a stamp to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee was a foregone conclusion. But what kind of stamp would it be?
The omens weren’t good. Their last jubilee offering, back in 2002 for the golden anniversary, was a graphic mess that featured a stolid formal portrait of the Queen placed awkwardly in front of a faded orange and tan Maple Leaf background. Goodness knows what the Queen thought when she signed off on that (she has to approve all stamps bearing her likeness). Continue…
By Gustavo Vieira - Monday, January 16, 2012 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Canada Post considers suspending door-to-door delivery to 400 residents of St. John’s, Nﬂd.
In the name of safety, postal workers have refused to deliver the mail for some dubious reasons over the years—a growling cat in Winnipeg, a house in Montreal that didn’t have a railing for three porch steps. But in the constant bickering that goes on between the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Canada Post, it isn’t only the posties who seem to be using the issue of worker safety to their advantage. As usual, though, it’s the customer who suffers.
In the latest spat, Old Man Winter is being blamed for the possible suspension of delivery to parts of St. John’s, Nﬂd. Over the past few weeks, Canada Post has sent out notices to 400 residents in the Newfoundland and Labrador capital informing them that door-to-door delivery could be replaced by temporary community mailboxes during the winter months. That’s because the city’s snowy sidewalks force mail carriers onto roadways, subjecting them to dangerous slips and falls. The postal workers’ union, however, says that’s not the case; CUPW worries that, once installed, the community mailboxes are likely to become permanent, reducing work for its members.
St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe agrees, calling the move ridiculous and unnecessary. The problem has nothing to do with snow removal, he says, noting recent city spending on snowplows, staff and supplies for clearing snowy sidewalks. Instead, he says the threat to halt service is about the Crown corporation trying to eliminate door-to-door delivery. St. John’s residents, meanwhile, are left to wonder whether Newfoundland winters, global warming notwithstanding, have become harder, or if those who deliver newspapers and pizza—no matter what the weather—have suddenly grown hardier.
By Michael Friscolanti - Monday, December 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
From Sarah Palin’s presidential bid to dire visions of the apocalypse–everything that didn’t turn out in 2011
After losing ground ever so slowly in the previous three elections, the federal Liberals were slaughtered this time around, relegated to just 34 seats. The once-unbeatable party of Wilfrid Laurier, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien is on the brink of political irrelevance, and some long-time Liberals are not convinced that their fortunes can recover. As one senior official said: “It’s do something or die.”
Despite album sales topping 50 million, Nickelback could be the most despised band in the history of musical instruments. Critics have long panned the Canadian rockers as dull, predictable and formulaic, but the venom reached a new level this year when the group was chosen to perform the halftime show at the annual Thanksgiving football game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The announcement triggered such rage that 52,000 people signed a petition, demanding a replacement.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 21, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 57 Comments
The differences between the new opposition and the new majority government are in stark relief on labour
In the midst of June’s 47-hour filibuster over back-to-work legislation for Canada Post, New Democrat MP Wayne Marston was moved to recall the events of 1946, when “workers and veterans fought side by side in the streets” of Hamilton for better working conditions, thus launching the modern labour movement and paving the way for what would become the NDP. When it was her turn to speak, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner apparently felt compelled to respond. “Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to many nostalgic comments across the way about the old labour movement and the unions back in 1946. I am wondering if the members opposite recognize that we are in 2011 and that we have just come through a great recession that has damaged so many countries and from which we are just recovering,” she said. “When will they realize that we are not in the old socialist days of the good old union? We are in 2011.”
Here the differences between the new Opposition and the new majority government seemed in stark relief. But that filibuster may have only been the beginning. Months later, the issue of organized labour is a source of conﬂict—or the potential thereof—on numerous fronts.
Last month, for instance, after party strategist Brian Topp—an official with ACTRA, the union that represents 22,000 members of the performing arts—confirmed his bid for the NDP leadership, Conservatives deemed him a “union boss” with “deep union ties.” “How,” they asked, “could Brian Topp speak on behalf of all Canadians when he is so tied to big union special interests?” Conservative MPs have compelled committee hearings into union sponsorships of events at the NDP convention in Vancouver this past spring, while Conservative backbencher Russ Hiebert, who won the draw to table the first private member’s bill, is proposing legislation that would require unions to release public financial statements. And last week, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt both moved to refer a dispute between Air Canada and the company’s flight attendants to the Canada Industrial Relations Board—thus blocking a potential strike—and mused vaguely of perhaps amending the Canadian Labour Code.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 3:09 PM - 8 Comments
Union says legislation violated Charter rights
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says it will launch a legal challenge to the federal government’s decision to use back-to-work legislation to end the recent labour dispute at Canada Post. According to CUPW, the legislation violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to belong to a union and to collective bargaining. The case will notably focus on the federal government’s imposition of a 1.57 per cent wage increase, which was lower than the corporation’s offer of 1.9 per cent.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 1:04 PM - 0 Comments
Simon de Jong, the former NDP MP who passed away last month, is remembered.
As Heritage critic he once railed against Canada Post for issuing a stamp to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Disneyland. “We are losing our identity,” he argued. “We as a country are promoting a foreign, privately owned institution, a privately owned theme park, and we are promoting it on our stamps.” Among his most satisfying moments as an MP, he said, was getting Parliament to send a message of condolence to Yoko Ono when John Lennon was assassinated in 1980 and delivering a speech on disarmament to the United Nations in 1982…
After he left Parliament he moved to California, spent time in Brazil, then returned to live in British Columbia. Shortly before he died, he was asked what he would do if he was in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s shoes. “It’s a bit facetious, but take LSD,” he said. “See some bigger pictures.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 8 Comments
A sense of solidarity unites the NDP caucus
After Jack Layton had departed Parliament Hill for the final time last week, his flag-draped casket loaded into a waiting hearse and driven away as a large crowd applauded, those NDP MPs who had gathered to see him off fanned out to greet and thank the well-wishers and mourners. “What I kept on saying to people over and over again,” says Libby Davies, one of Layton’s two deputy leaders, “without even thinking, it was just instinct, was, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to keep working.’ ”
While they mourned their leader, New Democrats could hardly ignore the many questions left in his absence: about their viability, direction and meaning as a party without the man who seemed to define them. But if, in the wake of Layton’s passing, there was a certain fear for the future of the NDP—raised by any number of pundits who now deem the party doomed—New Democrats themselves claim only resolve.
“There isn’t any fear of the future in the caucus—from the new members through the experienced ones,” says Joe Comartin, the veteran MP from Windsor. “And in fact, I’ll say there is some resentment to the pundits and commentators who are tending to write us off. I think there’s a bit of a level of resentment because of that determination, because Jack wouldn’t let us not carry on. So we’re going to carry on.”
By Kate Lunau - Friday, August 26, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
A new app is saving people thousands of minutes spent on hold
Everybody knows what it’s like to dial a company’s customer service line and get stuck on hold, waiting for a human representative to come on while tinny music plays through the phone. For those who can’t face another interminable wait, there’s some good news: an app can now do the waiting for you.
FastCustomer (available for iPhones and Android phones) offers a list of over 2,500 companies, including customer service lines for Amazon, WestJet, and Canada Post. Those who’ve downloaded the app select which company they’d like to contact; FastCustomer then puts in an automated call, contacting the user when a real-life representative becomes available. This app, which claims it’s already saved people from spending over 280,000 minutes on hold, “keeps me from being subjected to creative versions of Lady Gaga songs in muzak format,” one enthusiastic user wrote on the FastCustomer blog. For some, that’s priceless, even if the app is now available for free.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 7:26 AM - 54 Comments
Today’s front page of the National Post features an amusing column by William Watson about an “access problem” that Canada Post has very suddenly discovered at the Montreal domicile he has occupied for two decades. Watson’s entryway has a few wide, shallow steps with no railing. It’s a situation that would not challenge an infant above the age of twenty months, and no particular carrier has filed a complaint, but a safety officer doing a “preventative” check of Watson’s premises has decided that he must either renovate or cease receiving his mail at home.
One is mindful, reading of Watson’s experience, that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is still bitter about being sent back to work by statute with a poorer-than-expected wage deal. His tale sounds like the outcome of a work-to-rule effort, and that is certainly what one would anticipate after a
strikelockout that had been ended by fiat. Canada Post’s customers want to put a Conservative government in Ottawa?—Very well! Let’s see how they like the results! How happy for CUPW, really, that one of the suckers to whom it’s applying random abuse turns out to be a loathsome, venomous right-wing pundit of the sort that’s forever agitating for privatizations and competitiveness and the rest of the gore-grimed apparatus of capitalism. Continue…
By Michael Friscolanti - Monday, August 15, 2011 at 9:44 AM - 1 Comment
If a mail carrier slips on your property, you might have to pay—if Ottawa has its way
Next to soldiers, few on the federal payroll suffer more wounds at work than mail carriers. According to the latest stats, nearly 2,300 Canada Post employees trip and fall on the job every year, twisting ankles and breaking legs and triggering millions of dollars’ worth of compensation claims. On Valentine’s Day 2007, Beverly Collins joined that long list of casualties, slipping on a snow-covered walkway and shattering her wrist. “I knew there was something seriously wrong,” she later testified. “You could see the bone sticking out of my hand.”
Collins applied for, and received, undisclosed beneﬁts under the Government Employees Compensation Act. Later that summer, a federal bureaucrat mailed a letter to the owners of that icy Ottawa property—demanding reimbursement. “I’ve been doing this for 11 years, and I’d never seen any case like this,” says Jaye Hooper, the owners’ lawyer. “My clients were a little taken aback.”
For most Canadians, the reaction would be something closer to “going postal.” Yet as surprising as it may sound, the federal government quietly targets thousands of homeowners a year in an attempt to recoup the hefty costs of mailman mishaps. “From a public policy perspective, it is a balancing act,” says John Norton, an insurance lawyer in London, Ont. “Certainly it does appear like the big, bad government is going after this little homeowner. But if the homeowners did do something wrong—and it was a significant injury that cost the government a lot of money—taxpayers might expect the government to go after the at-fault party because if they don’t, it’s taxpayers who foot the bill.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 12:58 PM - 40 Comments
Workers add extra hour to shifts in order to fix 40 million letter backlog
Canada Post is still trying to get some 40 million pieces of mail that were held up by a labour dispute out the door. The company has offered overtime shifts to its employees in order to clear the backlog. Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier told reporters on Wednesday that 70 per cent of letter carriers have agreed to add an extra hour to their shifts. The labour dispute—roving strikes that morphed into a full-blow lockout—lasted 12 days before back-to-work legislation forced union members to return to their job.
By Paul Wells - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 2 Comments
Paul Wells on how the fate of first class letter delivery was binding up the House
It didn’t take long for this new Parliament’s odd character to assert itself. The NDP launched a filibuster to stall back-to-work legislation aimed at Canada Post employees. One NDP MP after another got up to hurl thunderbolts at the government and chew up time. Under Hansard’s rules, the clock accompanying the House of Commons’s workday stopped. The fourth Thursday in June lasted until Saturday night. The Prime Minister played host at a late-night hospitality suite for his MPs. The little dog laughed to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon.
Let’s unpack all of this and see what we can learn from it. As soon as Jack Layton dropped his stalling tactics the NDP lost, which means postal-union employees lost too. Stephen Harper’s government legislated a smaller pay increase than Canada Post had proposed in its final offer. Jean Chrétien took his pound of flesh in precisely the same way when he legislated posties back to work, at a discount, in 1997.
So the NDP learned it’s unable to shout back the tide. In a way this reinforces Ottawa’s latest conventional wisdom. Layton, it is fashionable to say, has less influence with 103 MPs against a majority government than he used to have with 37. He can’t force an election. He can’t block legislation. What good is he?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 10:43 AM - 67 Comments
Before and during last week’s filibuster, it seems there was nearly a deal.
Last Friday, talks involving a federal mediator appear to have brought Canada Post and the union close to a settlement. The union wanted final offer selection replaced by mediation-arbitration which attempts to find middle ground in contract disputes.
Comartin and Godin met with Raitt. There was agreement that if the company and the union could agree on this, the back-to-work legislation would be withdrawn. By Friday evening, both Canada Post and the union had a tentative settlement that outlined agreement on some key issues such as wage rate, according to a source. Other outstanding issues would be sent to arbitration.
But after midnight came word that Raitt’s office had apparently turned down the deal, a source said. As the filibuster continued in the Commons, Harper crossed the aisle to speak with NDP Leader Jack Layton. During their conversation, Layton questioned whether there had been “political interference.” Harper denied it.
Postal workers are now preparing to challenge the back-to-work legislation in court.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 1:01 PM - 18 Comments
CUPW representative says mail delivery will resume in the meantime
After meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday, the union representing Canada Post workers decided to take legal action against the back-to-work bill. CUPW Montreal representative Alain Duguay argues the legislation would force them to resume their jobs at even lower wages than the ones offered in Canada Post’s previous offer. The union may also file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, arguing that the bill’s revised pension plans are discriminatory because new employees are refused the same benefits as older ones. Duguay says the workers will not break the law, and mail delivery will resume while the union fights the bill.
By Randy Kim - Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 4:56 PM - 10 Comments
When I left, there were more than 250 MPs sitting in the chamber. C-6 had just passed second reading, so most of the MPs – with some absences, including a big chunk of Liberals – voted, and then stuck around for the next stage of debate. That was early evening on a Saturday in June, and there they were. Throughout much of the filibuster, each party sent a skeleton crew to monitor events. But after second reading, when MPs debated each clause of the bill in the Committee of the Whole (which comprises every MP), they all stuck around in case they needed to vote on any of them. So there they sat, as a group, debating every line of the legislation in front of them.
And people watched. When I was in the gallery on the south side of the Commons, it was at least two-thirds full – and even fuller, at times. While there were a few pro-union folks in the crowd, there were also families, complete with at least one crying baby, sitting there, watching intently. And there were no doubt other people like me, who’d made the short walk from their downtown dwellings to watch some history in the making.
By macleans.ca - Monday, June 27, 2011 at 11:45 AM - 0 Comments
Backlog of letters expected to cause slight delay in mail delivery
Canada Post says the country’s mail will start moving again on Tuesday after the federal government legislated locked out workers back on the job over the weekend. The agency will unseal its red mailboxes on Monday, with mail sorters reporting for duty the same day. Mail delivery will be back to normal on Tuesday, though Canada Post says a backlog could mean delays in the processing of letters and parcels.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 27, 2011 at 11:44 AM - 0 Comments
Glen McGregor tallies the word counts from last week’s all-hours debate.
Charlie Angus proved himself the Filibuster Filler. He spoke more than 11,000 words, more than any other MP. To put that in context, Angus spoke for 41 times the length of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address … Angus’s words in the House were also, cumulatively, seven times longer than Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech on the Washington Mall.
The official transcript of the 68-hour day is now here.