Postal Workers Respond to Coyne

Today’s National Post features a stinging reply from Deborah Bourque to Andrew Coyne’s critique of Canada’s postal monopoly. I have no expertise on comparative international postal systems, but the facts outlined by Bourque seem to do serious damage to Coyne’s argument. At this point, the debate appears to pit hard evidence regarding Canada Post’s low cost against anecdotes regarding its allegedly poor service. I suspect that such anecdotes abound in most countries, but do not know for sure.

Adding to the mix of anecdotes, my personal experiences with Canada Post have been excellent and I always use it. When people send me things by private courier, I get notes or phone messages indicating that the delivery could not be made even though the desk at the front of my building is staffed throughout business hours.

UPS and other private couriers allege that Canada Post uses its mail service to subsidize its courier service. If Canada Post is able to deliver mail at lower prices than prevail in other countries, subsidize its courier service and still turn a profit, it must be a fairly efficient operation.

Delivering the mail

National Post
Saturday, May 26, 2007


Re: Ignorance is Canada Post’s bliss, Andrew Coyne, May 23.

Andrew Coyne’s column is merely a “one size fits all” analysis backed up with fuzzy reasoning. He argues that since Holland’s postal service has substantially liberalized, so should Canada Post. News flash: Holland’s land mass fits into Canada 240 times and is one of the flattest countries on the planet.

Could it be the Canada Post Act gave people a post office suited to the demands of a large country with a low population density?

Before jumping on the deregulation bandwagon, consider Sweden, which has had a competitive mail service since the 1990s. Private companies deliver mail, mostly in the urban areas, allowing large businesses in urban areas to enjoy lower postage fees. However, postage fees for small business and individual citizens have gone up dramatically, in rural areas and urban areas.

The foreign postal services Mr. Coyne is so fond of all have one thing in common: their postage fees are higher than those of Canada Post, despite these countries’ smaller sizes and higher population densities. The only exception is New Zealand Post, where regulatory restrictions prevented postal rate increases. But it’s easier for New Zealand Post to keep fees low; it happens to own the country’s largest bank.

Despite not owning a bank, Canada Post offers the second-lowest basic postage fees in the G8, has turned a profit for 12 straight years and paid an $80- million dividend to the government last year alone.

Ignorance is indeed bliss.

Deborah Bourque, national president, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ottawa.

© National Post 2007

One comment

  • How is this a stinging rebuttal? It does nothing to attack the underlying problem of monopoly.

    The bottom line here is that postal workers in Canada fear the breakup of their monopoly for purely self-interested reasons. It has nothing to do with the economics of it.

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