Postal workers can’t bank on support from local politicians

Plan to ask Canada Post to expand into banking and insurance fails to win backing from regional district

Efforts to persuade Canada Post to consider offering financial services were returned to sender by local politicians.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is in the midst of a campaign to drum up support for the Crown corporation to expand into business lines like banking and insurance in order to shore up its balance sheet.

That request was delivered Thursday to a committee of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, which promptly dispatched a request to adopt motions in support of the plan.

“I don’t think we should generally comment on things that don’t have a direct effect on us as a region,” said Wes Hopkin, an RDOS director and Penticton city councillor.

“Changes to postal service affect the way we communicate with our constituents and that sort of thing, but in terms of starting to tell Canada Post how to run their business, it’s something I feel less comfortable with.”

The director for rural Hedley, however, suggested the board should support any initiative that might help save rural postal outlets from being closed.

“We all know the post offices are often the lifeblood of communities,” said Angelique Wood.

“In my community, which is largely elderly, it’s still a very important place for gathering, for information exchange, and every time you lose a service like that it fragments another piece of our society,” she said.

Wood was the lone voice in support of the union’s suggested motion, which failed. The board did, however, support a second request from CUPW that asked the RDOS to make a motion insisting the  federal government ensure next year’s review of the Canada Post charter include avenues for public input.

The charter is reviewed automatically every five years, but the union fears the federal government will use the 2014 check-up to slash services.

“Cutting might help Canada Post with its money problems in the short-term but it is not a good long-term strategy and it certainly won’t improve the future of postal service in our country,” union president Denis Lemelin wrote in a letter to the RDOS.

Canada Post on Thursday reported a loss of $129 million in the third quarter of this year — better than a $161-million hit for the same period a year prior — due to a continuing decline in the volume of mail it handles.

The CUPW push to offer financial services is based on a proposal produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which outlined similar arrangements in other countries.

It highlighted Kiwibank in New Zealand, which was created in 2002 and now has about 800,000 customers. The bank is a subsidiary of the state-owned postal service and reported a profit of C$84 million last year.