Bring back postal banking, northern food mail program, union tells Canada Post

As chartered banks abandon small communities around the country, some say it's time for Canada Post to step up and take on the role.

Canada Post's primary goal is to be the country's No. 1 parcel-delivery service

Deepak Chopra, president and CEO of Canada Post Corporation, speaks to a crowd Thursday in Yellowknife. (Melinda Trochu/CBC)

As chartered banks abandon small communities around the country, some say it's time for Canada Post to step up and take on the role.

"It's an issue for the communities here in the North," Linda Lefrancois, president of the Yellowknife local for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, who attended Canada Post's annual public meeting this week in the N.W.T. capital.

"In Yellowknife, yes, we have the banks but [with a] Canada Post bank there would be a very large network because every city in Canada and [many] rural communities have a post office."

Indeed, the postal banking network could be huge — about 6,200 offices.

Canada was served by postal banks for about a century before the system was dissolved in 1968.

CUPW representative Lynda Lefrancois says a postal bank could offer a large network for Canadians to access. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

​The federal government is currently conducting an independent review of Canada Post "to ensure Canadians receive quality postal services at a reasonable price."

Postal banking is part of that review, said corporation spokesman Jon Hamilton.

"When that report comes out, we will see what's in it and what they recommend and then we'll start building that plan going forward," he said.

The report is expected by the end of the year.

"We'll go from there and see what we can provide" Hamilton said.

More than postal banking, however, Canada Post's primary goal is to solidify its position as the country's No. 1 parcel-delivery service. And it's getting support for that in the northern market, Hamilton said.

"We are now providing consumers that live in places like Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Iqaluit with access to goods and services that they couldn't get before," he said.

"When you come up north, there is a line-up at the post office because they are using the service. It's a vital part of the communities so we understand that."

But more needs to be done. During Thursday's public meeting, attended by more than 50 people, Canada Post representatives repeated many times that the company has to be self-sustainable in a competitive market.

Planes fly full to the communities but need also to be full when they leave, so Canada Post has decided to work with northern retailers and train them in e-commerce.

"So they can set up a business in Yellowknife, in Iqaluit, in Whitehorse or in the most remote communities and then use Canada Post to ship their product to the people in Toronto or Vancouver that may want it," Hamilton said.

The first training is happening next month in Whitehorse.

CUPW has also asked the corporation to reinstate the food mail program, which used to bring healthy food to northern communities, but Hamilton said that's not Canada Post's decision.

"We're not in that anymore because the government of the day decided to go in a different direction rather than ask Canada Post to deliver the food to some of the northern remote communities," he said.

"So that's obviously up to them in term of the decisions as to what they want Canada Post's role to be."

With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi