Evidence of meeting #9 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was business.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Deepak Chopra  President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post
  • David Stewart-Patterson  Vice-President, Public Policy, Conference Board of Canada
  • Denis Lemelin  National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
  • John Anderson  Research Associate, National Office, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Robert Campbell  President and Vice-Chancellor, Mount Allison University, As an Individual
  • Bob Brown  Member, Transportation Committee, Council of Canadians with Disabilities
  • Roy Hanes  Member, Social Policy Committee, Council of Canadians with Disabilities
  • Benjamin Dachis  Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute
  • Daniel Kelly  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

1:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

Canada Post is an arm's-length corporation. I report to the board of directors. Management prepares plans every year, and any changes to the plans we discuss with the board of directors. The board of directors approves the plans and those are submitted for approval as part of the normal Treasury Board process wherein corporate plans are approved.

That is the process we have followed ever since the corporatization—

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

As a result, if that's the pattern, then this five-point plan would have been submitted to the Minister of Transport and cabinet and to the government before it was released last week.

1:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

I can't comment on the government's decision-making process—

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

But was it submitted to them?

1:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

The process of corporate planning is an iterative process. Our officials work with the Department of Transport officials throughout the process, and then once we submit the plan they do their analysis and they will ask us for additional information—

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

It is submitted by Canada Post. This five-point plan is submitted to whom in the federal government?

1:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

The Department of Transport officials are the ones—

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Right, so have you been working hand-in-glove with the department in an iterative way for some time as you came to ground on this five-point plan?

1:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

As part of our normal process, we work on several topics with the departmental officials, with Finance and Treasury Board. That's our normal process.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

I ask because most Canadians were struck, Mr. Chopra, by the extent to which the government's reaction to your plan was without question. There was not a single doubt raised by the government. There was not a single question asked about whether it was improvable. There was no question raised about mid-course directions going forward, which led most Canadians to conclude that it wasn't actually your plan, but Mr. Harper's plan, the government's plan.

Let's just hold that in abeyance for a second because there hasn't been a word uttered by the minister or the government since the plan was released to say, “Well, we like this contribution but we want to hear an awful lot more”.

1:25 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

If I may, Mr. McGuinty, when we shared with Canadians the options laid out in the Conference Board report back in April 2013, every single aspect of them was covered by the media and publicly debated in 46 community meetings. I personally hosted several in many, many communities, and nothing that has been presented in the five-point plan is a surprise to the many Canadians who have been participating in the process, who have been reading the newspapers and looking at the media.

It is not just unique to Canada; much of the postal world is struggling with similar challenges.

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

There's no doubt about it, Mr. Chopra.

1:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

There is no surprise in the options that we were considering.

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

I'm sure, but I would take exception. I think it's wishful thinking to suggest that Canadians aren't reacting to your five-point plan proposal. I think it's actually resonating very strongly.

Let me just pick up on a theme that I know you are aware of, which is the question of Canada's aging population and, for that matter, the increase in disability throughout Canadian society.

In my own riding of Ottawa South approximately 10% of my population faces one form of disability or another. That number is growing very quickly. We know that the number of Canadian seniors increased by almost 15% between 2006 and 2011 and that there are now just under five million. I know you know they are going to be profoundly affected by these changes. I just want to give you an opportunity to also react to the fact that there are now 4.5 million Canadians with disabilities, and that number is increasing rapidly, as I mentioned.

Why did the Conference Board not take this more fully into account in suggesting that door-to-door mail be eliminated completely?

1:30 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, Canada Post

Deepak Chopra

As far as the difficult choices we have put forward go, I totally understand that there are going to be areas where we are going to have to be more thoughtful and more careful in our deployment and implementation. These are difficult choices. We have a corporation that is facing an inflection point with the technology that's wiping out the very foundation it was built on. Between 1969 and 1975 mail volumes grew by a billion mail pieces. Between 2007 and 2012 mail volumes declined. There was an epic rise and an epic fall.

Canadians are saying, “We understand you have to make tough choices, but be mindful when you implement them that you provide the type of flexibility you have been able to provide to two-thirds of Canadians over three decades of dealing with seniors”.

I have one other comment, Mr. McGuinty. When I hosted those sessions, the seniors told me they wanted to be healthy and active in their life. I attended a City of Brampton session a couple of years ago totally unrelated to this topic, at which the city planning department was hosting a community consultation on how to get Canadians walking. The citizens and the seniors I spoke to want to be active. They want to be living fuller lives. So there is indeed a requirement for us to be mindful of the disability and mobility challenges to seniors, and we have robust processes in place, and we will accommodate as we learn about new challenges, just as we have done, but these were difficult choices.