British Columbia

Cheques with your stamps? Unions call for postal banking in rural communities

It's time to bring banking back to post offices in rural communities, according to the unions representing Canadian postal workers.

Union says idea has worked elsewhere, bank lobbyists say 99% of Canadians have bank accounts already

Canada's postal union want the postal service to get into banking after an almost-50-year hiatus. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Postal unions are pushing Canada Post to bring back postal banking, which hasn't existed in Canada for nearly 50 years.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has argued postal banking would provide financial services to Canadian communities with a post office but without a bank and also cut out predatory payday lenders in those communities.

In B.C., the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association, which represents postal workers who work in rural post offices, is asking for rural municipalities to throw their support behind the idea.

"It certainly would be a win-win for communities. It would be a win for our members and it would be really, really good for [Canada Post]," CPAA president Brenda McAuley told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

"Postal banking has been successful in many countries. To give you an example, the U.K., France and Switzerland, ... It's all contributing to the revenue of the post office system.

"The solutions can certainly be tailored to fit the needs of people within their own communities who are currently under-serviced by banks."

Enough access already?

A lobby group representing Canada's big banks is opposed to idea of postal banking, saying 99 percent of Canadians already have a bank account with a financial institution, and should postal banking fail taxpayers would have to cover the losses.

But McAuley says despite the wide use of online banking and the existence of bank-owned ATMs in many communities, postal banking is still worth pursuing.

She says 61 percent of B.C. communities do not have "immediate" access to a bank, and across Canada there are 1,200 communities with a post office but no bank or credit union.

"I talk to folks that are 60 years old who've never had a bank account," she said. "Some of the folks are cashing their cheques at the neighbourhood stores, grocery stores, and some of them have to pay a fee to cash their cheques, and then they have to pay a fee to pay their bills."

Canada Post is currently being reviewed by a federal panel, and Public Services Minister Judy Foote has not ruled out the idea of restarting postal banking. McAuley says she expects the review will wrap up in June.

On Monday evening, Dawson Creek voted to support the idea.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Cheques with your stamps? Union asks rural B.C. towns to support postal banking


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