Letters disappearing, more radical changes needed at Canada Post, prof says

Although Canada Post's move to end home delivery has angered many customers, even more drastic changes are needed for the Crown corporation to thrive, Carleton business professor Ian Lee says.

Business professor Ian Lee says even oldest Canadians are switching to email

Canada Post's door-to-door residential delivery is being replaced by community mailboxes, but Carleton professor Ian Lee believes the Crown corporation needs more radical changes. (CBC)

Although Canada Post's move to end home delivery has angered many customers, even more drastic changes are needed for the Crown corporation to thrive in the years ahead, Carleton business professor Ian Lee says.

In a paper recently published by the MacDonald-Laurier Institute titled Is the Cheque in the Mail? Lee says the changes Canada Post has embarked upon don't go far enough.

In 2013, the government announced the phasing out of door-to-door service for the 32 per cent of customers who still receive it. Instead, home customers will get their letter from community mailboxes.

The Liberals and NDP have said they'll reverse that decision if they form government, but Lee says the change should stay.

In fact, Canada Post should go further, cutting residential home delivery to three days a week from five days a week.

It's just a realistic approach to changing customer choices, he said. Letter mail volumes have dropped 30 per cent over five years and that trend is expected to continue. 

"I'm predicting by 2025, there won't be any more letters," he said. "It's vanishing before our eyes as substitutes emerge," 

Instead of letters, Canadians both young and old are embracing e-mail, text messaging, electronic banking and online credit card payments, he said.

"I'm saying we have to transform the post office from a letter-carrying organization that goes out five days a week to 15-plus million addresses into a e-commerce-supporting, parcel post carrier company," he said, adding that parcels is the only product line which is growing at Canada Post.

"Fundamentally, it's us, we Canadians, who are doing this to Canada Post," said Lee, who insists that he's not trying to kill Canada Post, just make it financially sustainable.

Although concerns have been raised about the employees laid off due to the changes, much can be accomplished through attrition, he said, noting that 15,000 Canada Post employees are due to retire in the next five years.

Another step to help Canada Post remain profitable would be to transform the remaining 3,400 post offices into franchises, like the kind found in Shoppers Drug Marts, he said. 

Some people may feel bad about the end of Christmas cards and letters from relatives, but society is changing quickly, and Canada Post needs to change along with it, he said.


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