Senator Mercer: Ministers, thank you both for being here.
Before I get to my question, I want to comment on your mention of Scott Decksheimer’s comment about direct mail. It’s a very important part. This time of year it doesn’t matter which charity it is, the largest majority of the money that comes from direct mail comes between now and the end of December. Having been a fundraiser for 40 years, having been the international deputy chairman of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, I know the data and that is a fundamental concern for a lot of people.
That wasn’t my question. My question to Minister Qualtrough is this: Canada Post, like many other post offices around the world, as I mentioned in my comments to the chamber earlier, was at the abyss. The technology changed, the increased use of email as opposed to what we’ve commonly referred to as snail mail and they were starting to lose money after many years of being a profit centre for the government. Now we have this major labour dispute.
What are the plans for the future to help secure the sustainability of Canada Post? While those people who live in urban centres say they can perhaps live without them, those of us who live in rural areas — I live in a small village in Nova Scotia — can’t live without them. That’s a major source of our communications. And we are also concerned about the fact that those people who are servicing us in rural Nova Scotia are not being paid at the same level as those people 40 kilometres away in the city of Halifax.
What are your plans to fix that? I would suggest that this labour dispute that we’re involved in now has probably hurt that process because of the lack of cooperation and trust between management and labour.
Hon. Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility: Thank you, senator, and through you, Madam Chair, Canada Post really is at a crossroad in terms of its evolution as an organization that needs to be viable. Two major committee studies happened in the first two years of our government; one through a task force and one through a committee of the House of Commons.
We heard two things very clearly.
The first was how valuable and appreciative Canadians are of Canada Post. I think we would all, certainly us as politicians would like the kind of approval ratings that Canada Post has.
Second, Canadians are wary of subsidizing Canada Post. When we put forth our new vision, we made as a priority both that we focus on innovative service provision that recognizes Canada Post’s main bread and butter is no longer mail but, rather, it’s parcels. Recognizing we need to have innovative solutions that can be competitive with the private sector companies with whom Canada Post competes because — and I’m sure you’ll hear later from Canada Post officials that the profit — when it’s profitable — is in the parcels. It’s not in mail anymore. But we need to do mail service. We need to keep up with the changing dynamics of postal service provision.
With respect to ensuring postal workers are paid equitably and fairly, I can assure you those discussions are ongoing, that we are absolutely committed to ensuring — certainly with the recent pay equity decision that Canada Post is already in the process of implementing that dynamic is already changing, having significant impacts on rural postal carriers.
We’re doing our utmost to ensure everyone has a work environment which is safe and within which they can flourish.
In terms of longer-term viability of the corporation, in some ways the discussions within this particular collective bargaining process, which are both financial and operational in nature, will set a course for this corporation.
If the terms of this agreement send the organization down a certain operational path, it will be very challenging for the operation to be viable. If the terms of this agreement send it down another path, there is a viable economically sustainable future for the corporation.
In some ways we’re at a bit of a turning point for the corporation. We have to be very mindful that the good jobs this corporation provides need to be there three to five years from now as well.
Senator Mercer: My final comment, as you go forward with your plans, is to partially quote the Prime Minister. I hope everyone remembers this. This is 2018. And treating rural Canadians differently than urban Canadians is a no go. If you want to appeal to the middle class and those aspiring to be in the middle class, you’d better pay attention to that.
Ms. Qualtrough: Wholeheartedly.