Two Canada Post employees are disappointed they haven’t been granted an audience with their local Member of Parliament to express concerns over proposed changes to the Crown corporation.
East Kildonan resident Tim Kerr, who has worked for Canada Post for 24 years, and Transcona resident Glenn Bennett, who has worked there for 18 years, are hoping to meet with MP Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona) to find out his stance on cost-cutting moves proposed for the corporation last month.
When Canada Post unveiled a five-point plan on Dec. 11, one of the major proposals is to gradually phase out door-to-door delivery in favour of a system of centralized community mailboxes, while another is to eliminate approximately 8,000 positions. Canada Post said it expects the plan to help save $700 million to $900 million annually at a time the company says it is facing unprofitability.
Kerr said he called the office around noon on Jan. 10 hoping to book an appointment before Toet returned to Ottawa on Jan. 27. He said the assistant who answered his call asked the reason for the call, confirmed he was a constituent, and after a brief time away, told him Toet was unable to meet with him. A meeting with another member of Toet’s team was offered instead, Kerr said.
"I said ‘I’d like to speak to my elected representative,’" Kerr said. "I said I’d try to accommodate and make myself flexible, and I still got the same response — he’s busy.
"I am a Canadian. I am a resident. I am a taxpayer. I live in the constituency. I thought I’d have a right to say something, and it seems like I’m not getting it."
Kerr noted this was the first time he had attempted to schedule a meeting with an elected representative. Bennett, meanwhile, said the one time he requested an appointment with an elected representative, MLA Daryl Reid (Transcona) was accommodating.
Bennett, 47, insisted he would only like a few minutes of Toet’s time.
"This concerns me as a worker. I’m in his riding. I want to know what his stance is. I want to know what the Conservative government’s stance is on this, and I can’t get an answer," he said.
In a phone interview on Jan. 16, Toet said he’d be more than willing to meet with the pair, but was unable to fit in a meeting with them before returning to Ottawa. He added he’s slated to meet with a local Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) representative in February about the issue.
"I’m always open to meet with people, it always has been the way I’ve operated and will continue to operate," Toet said, noting he has been taking some personal time since Jan. 10. "I’m available in the riding a fair amount, and I meet with people on a regular basis, but it has to work into a schedule. I’m not sitting in my office 24-7, so obviously, we have to schedule these things at a time that works before for me and the constituent."
Toet added he distributed a flyer within the constituency in June encouraging constituents to contact Canada Post with input. He said the flyer encouraged constituents to copy him on the reply, and he estimated he received 50 responses.
"I thought my constituents should be aware Canada Post was looking at these changes, so I let all my constituents know about it," he said. "There was an opportunity for interaction."
Toet said Kerr and Bennett both have a special interest in the changes — "this is a bit of a political manoeuvre on their part, they’re both trying to play a bit of a power game", he said — but reiterated he would hear their side of the story.
Toet said changes need to be made at Canada Post, citing an April 2013 Conference Board of Canada study warning Canada Post is forecasted to lose $1 billion annually by 2020.
"Nobody’s ever excited about change, especially when we’re used to having something delivered in a certain way," he said.
Some critics have questioned the study, as Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra sits on the Conference Board of Canada.
Kerr, 51, who lives with his elderly parents to help care for them, feels the move to community mailboxes is a negative one for seniors.
"We don’t live in Florida," he noted, adding he fears elderly people would risk injury, especially in the winter.
Kerr also perceives some irony that service cuts are being proposed two years after Canada Post workers were legislated back to work by the federal government, a move used against workers who are deemed essential, during the strike and lockout in 2011.
Kerr and Bennett spent a total of four hours on two Saturdays earlier this month collecting signatures on a petition at The Forks, gathering approximately 1,400 signatures. As well, the duo will be part of a CUPW rally at the Manitoba Legislature on Jan. 25.