Transatlantic Echo Chamber

The big news for Canadians from the OECD’s Going for Growth 2010 report was that we should privatize Canada Post. An article in the current issue of Maclean’s (pages 26 and 27), which does not (yet) seem to be available online, sheds some interesting light on that recommendation:

[Yvan Guillemette was] working for the C. D. Howe Institute, the prominent business-oriented think tank in Toronto, back in 2007, when it released a report called “Rerouting the Mail: Why Canada Post is Due for Reform.” And it was that report’s call for selling off the postal service that Guillemette imported unaltered into the OECD’s competitiveness blueprint for Canada.

“Here at the OECD,” he told Maclean’s, “we haven’t done a study of the postal sector or Canada Post.” Still, by having the OECD echo from Paris the case that impressed him back in Toronto, Guillemette at least revived the perspective of critics who see tackling mail delivery as a pressing economic challenge . . .

With national output well below potential, high unemployment, high carbon emissions and a soaring currency, it is beyond me why anyone would consider privatizing the post office to be “a pressing economic challenge.” However, Guillemette is obviously entitled to his opinions.

The broader issue is how the OECD formulates policy. If it has not studied Canada’s postal system, on what basis does it recommend privatizing Canada Post? Is the OECD so ideologically committed to privatization that it is happy to recommend selling any given public enterprise regardless of specific circumstances?

Since long before Guillemette went to work for the OECD, its recommendations have more or less been a repetition of the C. D. Howe Institute’s agenda: corporate tax cuts, deregulation, reducing Employment Insurance benefits, and eliminating (unidentified) inter-provincial trade barriers. 

But whereas the C. D. Howe Institute is funded by corporate Canada, the OECD is funded by the Canadian government and other member governments to provide supposedly neutral policy advice.


  • That report was so loaded up with right of center political economic agendas I was amazed to see the OECD stamp on it.

    I was simply amazed. I do think somebody in our parliamentary system should be reviewing our funding to the OECD. How about the Americans? I would have thought such right wing crap would not be tolerated by Obama and his crew.

    I guess the OECD has a bit of a problem with the fact that George W. is no longer running the universe!

    Phrack that report was upsetting.

    I hope CUPW and some of the other unions will step up and have a go with them.

  • CUPW’s media response to the OECD’s “Going For Growth” report follows:

    The OECD says our post office should be privatized and deregulated because “the Netherlands in particular has had considerable success in ending a government monopoly.” Really?

    The last time we checked, the Netherlands’ post office (TNT) posted a 58 per cent decrease in profits in 2010, laid off 15 per cent of their workforce and charged 19 per cent more than Canada for standard stamps in a country which is larger than Vancouver Island but smaller than Nova Scotia.

    Forget the smoke and mirrors brought to you by an OECD 2009 recommendation that somehow became today’s news. Canada Post is a public sector success story with one of the cheapest stamps in the G8. Not bad for a country this size.

    DENIS LEMELIN, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ottawa

  • Britain’s been hit by it already:

    One wonders if Britain’s a test-case.

    “I would have thought such right wing crap would not be tolerated by Obama and his crew.”

    What makes you think this? Obama and Co. are pro-Wall Street (which is pro-privatization all the way).

  • I would have thought such right wing crap would not be tolerated by Obama and his crew.

    Another possible explanation is that the “Country Notes” are significantly less extreme for the U.S. than for Canada. Most of the OECD’s priorities for the U.S. do have a free-market bent: “school choice,” reducing farm subsidies, and shifting personal taxes from income to consumption.

    However, the OECD also advocates American healthcare reform and more prudential financial regulation. Notably, it does not call for privatizing the U.S. Postal Service (a government monopoly like Canada Post) or for cutting American corporate tax rates (which are substantially above Canadian rates).

    Apparently, only Canada deserves the full dose of free-market shock therapy.

  • I should have read the American report- as I see it has become (or always has been?) merely a pandering organization.

    I love how they can make recommendations without much knowledge over Canada Post and its operations- however one could undoubtedly make the same claim about Harper and his crew.

  • Wow, that’s bizarre. Thanks for posting this Erin — it’s strange they’d release a report without doing any research.

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