My Rant du Jour is about someone else’s Eureka Moment. A phantom that quite suddenly, and without warning, came back to life .
I am referring to Canada Post, for the benefit of American readers, the Post Office , that despite rumors to the contrary, still does exist in Canada, albeit barely.
The downfall of this once proud and venerable institution, that was once upon a time called “The Royal Mail” was benign neglect and political irresponsibility, How else to describe how an outright monopoly can go so badly wrong by totally ignoring the thundering waves of innovation, while rewarding its workers with a pay scale that most of us can only dream of.
In 1885 the first Canadian transcontinental railway was completed by the Canadian Pacific Railway, an incredible feat, at a then staggering cost. One of the most important tasks assigned to the new juggernaut was the carrying and sorting of Mail (The Royal Mail).
Believe it or not, shortly thereafter it became possible for Canadians to send mail from coast to coast in less than seven days for approximately 5 cents a letter. Compare this to today when even first class mail, whatever that may mean, takes at least as long (not counting weekends and holidays) and costs over ten times as much.
The answer provided by Canada Mail to the innovation of e-mail and the likes of FedEx and UPS, was less service at greater cost. And so the rot set in, with a downward spiral that saw staggering loses and an almost fatal discontinuance of rural service to a nation spread out over five time zones. All of this during a period when mail was the sole basis of formal legal notice.
Then, when all appeared lost, Canada Post discovered Amazon or maybe it was the other way around?.
I found this out by accident in a discussion with a very charming French Canadian contract mail currier who delivers to the rows of boxes in the rural village where I live. We met over our mutual love of dogs, and we have lots of dogs in the village, most of whom I know better than their owners.
One fine day I saw my friend delivering a parcel to a neighbor. Since we have not seen rural delivery for as long as I can remember, I was naturally curious to know what was up.
She told me her sorry tale of how the contract carriers were now called on to deliver parcels, from Amazon and others, the same day, before or after taking care of delivery of letters and junk, in my case, a rural route of many miles (sorry kilometers). She tells me it takes her five hours for which she only gets paid for four hours. Now here’s the catch. The carriers will get paid one dollar for each parcel delivered AFTER the elapse of one year. Yes that’s correct after waiting a year. In the meantime they have to fork out for gas and maintenance of a four-wheel drive vehicle on a daily basis.
In a clear case of the sublime to the ridiculous, I now see Canada Post has turned its first profit in a very long time. I wonder if they have accounted for what they owe to their hard-working underpaid rural carriers and their interest free loan? I also cannot help but wonder how employees of other delivery services would respond to a similar request by their employer?
Fat chance you might say. To which I would answer that’s what you get when you have monopoly pricing power. I am sure Canada Post will be quick with an answer, but somehow it does ring right when independent contractors have to subsidize a Crown Corporation. If money is so tight why don’t the union employees make the boss a loan?
Great Britain has now made the Royal Mail a Public Corporation. Maybe its time to do the same thing in Canada or maybe even the good old USA.