Does the post office have a future?

 The shrinking influence of Canada Post and its unions will be lamented by few. Photo Credit: iStock.

Canada Post is once again losing money, prompting the Department of Public Works to commission a survey of Canadians on issues such as the elimination of door-to-door delivery and the closure of some post offices. Since 2017, the post office has lost $2.2 billion and its finances are currently in dire straits. Technology has been both a curse and a boon to postal services. As electronic communication replaced much old-style snail mail, use of the post office for its traditional purposes has sharply declined. The creation of software that permitted documents to be signed online dealt a further blow to paper-based transactions. 

However, the massive growth in online shopping created a brand-new demand for the delivery of packages, which has grown significantly in recent years. As this service has evolved, partnerships between private delivery services and Canada Post have developed where Canada Post is used by the private companies to complete the last stage in the delivery process to households. 

Overall, there can be no doubt that the role of a traditional postal service is shrinking. The survey conducted by Public Works was interesting as it provided the perspective of Canadians toward postal services. The survey found a majority of business users of postal services – fully 74 per cent – were in favour of replacing Canada Post offices with franchises. Despite the opposition of the postal unions to franchises, they have been a very successful component of the evolution of Canada Post, have provided superior service to customers and show no sign of stopping their growth. 

On the issue of ending door-to-door home delivery and replacing it with community mailboxes, 66 per cent of survey respondents were in favour. Much of Canada is already served by community mailboxes and has no problem with them. The survey also asked about reducing mail delivery to every other business day, and it was supported by a slim majority of 51 per cent. As technology continues to replace conventional mail delivery, this proportion can be expected to increase. 

Understandably, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is defensive about the continued need for Canada Post. Unfortunately for them, technological trends will continue to erode the demand for many of the services the post office has provided over the years. Technology will also continue to replace people as jobs become even more automated with artificial intelligence (AI). 

One important issue is the role of postal services in rural areas where other options are less available. Rural needs are different that those in urban areas, and postal outlets in those areas – whether post offices or franchises – will continue to be important not only for mail-related services but also for the delivery of other government services to rural communities. 

From a political perspective, the Trudeau government promised to restore door-to-door mail delivery to those areas using community mailboxes prior to their becoming government in 2015. Like so many Liberal promises, this one was never accomplished. In fact, it seems that no effort whatsoever was made to achieve it on the part of the Liberals. Since then, postal issues have only come back on the radar as Canada Post continues to lose money and needs attention to deal with its financial problems. 

Long gone are the days when CUPW was one of the most militant unions in Canada and a threatened strike by postal workers struck fear into the hearts of businesses and governments. An extended postal strike had a big impact on the economy back in the day. This was especially true for small- and medium-sized businesses, which could not afford the pricey couriers that were used as postal replacements by large corporations. Now that technology has greatly diminished the importance of the post office, the unions involved have become much more subdued and their members are many fewer as technology has eliminated many postal jobs.  

Small businesses and others with an understanding of history will not be shedding any tears for postal workers who had no qualms about holding businesses hostage so many times in the past. Postal strikes often put the future prospects of many small firms at risk and greatly endangered the jobs of their employees. The shrinking influence of Canada Post and its unions will be lamented by few.

Your donations help us continue to deliver the news and commentary you want to read. Please consider donating today.

Donate Today


  • Politics

  • Sports

  • Business