In comedy, they say, timing is everything. Get it wrong, and you end up with a comedian’s worst nightmare... silence.
So too, in government, timing can be everything. The biggest difference is that in government, sometimes silence is exactly what you are hoping for.
Just look at Canada Post. To the shock and surprise of most Canadians, they announced an end of home delivery, a 50 per cent price increase, and the loss of up to 8,000 good jobs. When did they tell us? In mid-December, just hours after the House of Commons had closed for six weeks and as Canadians were turning their attention to the holidays.
Not only were they trying to avoid scrutiny, Canadians were not being told the whole story. That’s a shame because we all deserve to be a part of the process.
Canadians are pragmatic people. If there is really a problem at Canada Post, we’ll look at it. If these really are the best solutions, we’ll probably agree to them. Unfortunately, we have been robbed of that opportunity. It’s been deliberately taken from us by a consultation process that did not effectively engage Canadians, and by a campaign of half-truths designed to stifle debate and convince us that we have no other choice.
For example, it’s been widely reported that only one-third of Canadians currently have home delivery, suggesting that since most people have to leave home to get the mail, everyone should. That figure does not include people who get their mail in their apartment building or at the end of their driveway. In fact, a large majority of Canadians do get their mail at home.
We are told this is necessary because Canada Post will lose $1 billion per year by 2020. This claim is being repeated without question, but it should be questioned. Canada Post has recorded profits in 17 of the past 18 years, this past holiday season they shattered records for parcel delivery, and there are alternative sources of revenue used by other postal administrations that seem to have been ignored.
Concerns about the huge price increase are being raised by small businesses and non-profits which rely heavily on letter mail. The government doesn’t seem to be listening. Concerns about accessibility are being raised by some seniors and people living with disabilities. The government doesn’t seem to be listening to them either.
In fact, the contempt shown to concerned citizens by Canada Post and Conservative Government leadership in the aftermath of the announcement was stunning. First, the Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan dismissed people who complained about losing home delivery as spoiled rich people. Not to be outdone, the CEO for Canada Post said seniors were happy to walk to a community box for their mail because they need the exercise.
Speaking of Canada Post’s CEO Deepak Chopra, questions have also been raised about his role in these changes. Canadians have learned that Mr. Chopra sits on the board of the same organization that was paid by Canada Post to project the 2020 estimates, and that recommended the changes which Canada Post eventually adopted. Canadians were also surprised to learn that along with an annual salary of roughly $500,000, Mr. Chopra was recently awarded a performance bonus of 33 per cent.
Clearly, the process used to arrive at these decisions was a failure. Canadians should be properly consulted, all options should be explored, and people who step forward with concerns should be treated with respect. When that doesn’t happen, the government can hope for silence all they want, but I doubt very much they will get it.
Robert Chisholm, MP
Dartmouth – Cole Harbour