House of Commons Hansard #265 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was financial.

Topics

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

Reform

Cliff Breitkreuz Yellowhead, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should immediately take the required measures to privatize all operations and services of the Canada Post Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for seconding the motion.

My speech will be about 10 minutes long to allow my colleagues to also speak to private members' motion 312. I preface my remarks by stating that Canadians need and deserve an efficient postal service.

The Reform Party supports placing the ownership and control of corporations in the sector that can perform their function most cost effectively, with greatest accountability to owners and the least likelihood of incurring public debt. We believe there is overwhelming evidence that this would be the private sector in the vast majority of cases.

As far as Canada Post Corporation is concerned, the Reform Party supports free competition for the post office. There should be no restrictions on private competition in the delivery of mail, which brings me to my private members' motion. It calls for the government to take measures to privatize the operations and services of the Canada Post Corporation.

There are at least two essential considerations. First, is there any reason at all to involve government in mail delivery? Should it be completely privatized or totally deregulated? Second, if there is reason for government involvement in mail services, is the current system the best and the right way to do it?

As far as the first consideration is concerned, if our goal is simply to maximize efficiency, there is no role for government operations or subsidies here or anywhere else. If people who live in remote places find that mail is hard to send or hard to get, that is a consequence of their home being somewhere remote. If they do not like it, they should move closer to a city or area where mail service is better. Of course, I am not advocating that option.

It is normally argued that the purpose of a national mail service is to contribute to national unity by allowing everyone from sea to sea to sea to send and receive letters at a reasonable price. If this is true, there has to be some sort of government role.

The bulk of the mail is between businesses and their customers, in and around large towns and cities where deliveries can be made cheaply because the volume is so high. In a truly private world, the more remote you are the more your mail will cost. It is true that people in remote places generally are among the less wealthy and less able to afford high postal rates.

Most people, except possibly a few federal cabinet ministers, understand that free citizens do things better, cheaper and more nicely than government. Therefore we should assume that government should not become involved in any particular area and put the burden of proof on those who say it should stay involved and to explain why.

In the case of mail delivery the reason for involving government is to make sure that all Canadians from coast to coast to coast have access to mail in the interests of the national community and national unity. It is not because people think the government would do a good job of delivering the mail, even by the normal standards of bureaucracy.

However, people who think the government should ensure that everyone can get and send mail cheaply should still not want a postal monopoly. The right way to manage the mail would be to promise that anyone, anywhere can mail a letter for a certain rate, say 45 cents. The entire field of delivery would then be thrown wide open and deregulated totally, except that the government would pay for but contract out the job of making mail deliveries at 45 cents per letter to places like Inuvik, that private carriers just could not and would not service cheaply.

This would be paid for out of general revenues. Since the goal of promoting national unity is one that benefits all Canadians equally, it makes sense to ask them all to pay for it. The argument will be

made that the government would lose money on this even if it is compared with the present system. What the present system does is penalize all users of mail and all potential mail delivery servers quite heavily. It allows every Canadian to get mail, but imposes the cost disproportionately on one group and in the process damages to the Canadian economy. I suggest the damage to the Canadian economy at the hands of Canada Post is not small.

CPC is a perennial money loser, having lost money in three of the last five years, ending its most recent fiscal year with a $68.8 million loss. That amount is only a fraction of the cost to the Canadian economy by the mail monopoly. Slow delivery, private opportunities denied and lost, excessive charges for mail in big towns and cities that could be delivered for less than 45 cents and burdensome bureaucracies are some of the inefficiencies.

The real cost of Canada Post is higher than its on-book losses. Here are a few losses to consider; the $68.8 million loss which I just mentioned for 1993-94. It was $22 million higher than the company executives predicted just a year before. Some prediction and, I suppose, some executives. The books also showed a $270 million deficit even though last year CPC showed a profit in its first class mail delivery; a $282 million entry attributed to internal restructuring of some kind. That is more than five times higher than the previous year's entry. No explanation was given for what type of restructuring.

Here is another interesting phenomenon: 41.7 per cent of CPC'S volume of delivered mail is in the form of unaddressed advertising, or as Canadians so affectionately refer to it, junk mail. Here is the kicker. Junk mail generates only 5.2 per cent of CPC's total revenues, which means that nearly half of CPC's volume produces a paltry 5.2 per cent of its revenues.

To the viewers watching, I hope they are sitting down for this. It is illegal for private mail carriers to charge less than $1.29 a piece for the delivery of first class mail, which is nearly three times as high as the already exorbitant price of 45 cents a stamp charged by CPC. It is a monopoly and it is still losing money.

The government is planning to review the operations of CPC. That is really what our country needs, and the people are just dying for it, another study by this do nothing government. CPC should be privatized using the contracting out model of reform on the least subsidy basis; that is, ask for bids to deliver the mail, charge customers 45 cents and take the bid from the company that delivers to remote places as efficiently as possible. The extra cost would be taken out of general revenues as I stated earlier.

One thing is certain. CPC is pricing itself out of the business of delivering mail, especially with more and more businesses turning

to faxes and E-mail. CPC is a top down, inefficient monopoly that has no place in the emerging global economy. I urge the government to take action to allow private carriers the opportunity to be involved in mail delivery. Not only would it help to fix our ailing economy, but the Canadian people would be much better served.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

John Murphy Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the motion before the House states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should immediately take the required measures to privatize all operations and services of the Canada Post Corporation.

I cannot support this motion. To support it is to support an end to universal access. My riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants is primarily a rural riding, a riding where people recognize the important role of the post office in strengthening the economic and social infrastructure of our communities.

Much like myself, the hon. member for Yellowhead lives in and represents a predominantly rural riding, an area where a private corporation might not choose to provide a service. Does the hon. member realize that if this motion were adopted, the postal services in his riding and in rural ridings across Canada could be seriously affected or become non-existent?

As government we believe in the importance of providing easy access for all Canadians regardless of where they live. I cannot understand why the member for Yellowhead would introduce a motion that could deny postal services to his own constituents.

Canada Post is improving services to Canadians. In the past five years Canada Post Corporation has increased by nearly 30 per cent the number of locations where stamps, postal products and postal services can be purchased. The crown corporation has a network of over 2,500 franchise outlets across the country. When we walk into our local drug store or convenience store, chances are we can purchase postal products at one of these outlets. These outlets attract customers to these locations which means increased commerce. It is good for business and good business helps our economy.

By building on these partnerships with local businesses, Canada Post is expanding the accessibility of postal services without incurring large expenditures. This is part of Canada Post's drive to ensure convenient access to postal services for Canadians.

I also point out to the hon. member that independent surveys done by Decima and Anderson Strategic Research show that customer satisfaction with these outlets is well over 90 per cent.

Canada Post's diversity is evident and it is demonstrated in how it operates throughout the country. Take for example Atlantic

Canada. In Atlantic Canada, Canada Post is a 200-year old federal institution which has helped to build and maintain the region. Atlantic Canada is predominantly rural and has the largest number of small post offices in the country. Among them is Canada Post's first post office which is located in Halifax. Throughout the region there are approximately 2,300 locations to buy postal products.

The post office is not just a place to buy stamps. It is a place to interact with other people, to establish the links which make a community and build a country. I live across the street from the post office in Canning, Nova Scotia and I see the traffic. I hear the conversations. I see the relationships which are made. I see the transactions people make. I talk to those people. It is the hub of our community.

For millions of Canadians the post office has been connection point and an important part of our culture. Hon. members will remember that in February 1994 there was talk of further closures of rural and small town post offices. During that debate I talked and met with postal officials and many concerned citizens in my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants and the message was clear: "Do not close down the post offices". I brought that message back to Ottawa.

On February 17, 1994 in the House I urged the government to demonstrate its commitment to rural Canadians to ensure that these post offices remained open. The minister listened to these concerns and to the concerns expressed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast. As we know, he placed a moratorium on closures and conversions of rural and small town post offices. In announcing the moratorium the minister said: "As long as this government is in power, no rural or small town post office will be closed".

I remind the hon. member that in his riding the towns of Whitecourt, Grande Cache, Hinton, Edson and Jasper are all covered by the Liberal moratorium on post office closures.

If Canada Post were to be privatized, would the private company keep all of these small post offices open? Even courier companies are closing down shop in small towns. If these companies close down, who is left? Who will deliver the parcels to rural areas once the hon. member has privatized Canada Post? That is why Canada Post is a necessary national institution.

The hon. member must take into account that 20 per cent of Alberta and 23 per cent of Canada is rural. With privatization there is a real danger that rural Canadians will be forgotten.

People in the town of Evansburg in the hon. member's riding held a meeting and asked the government not to close down their postal outlet. The government is listening. Canada Post under this government will not abandon rural Canadians.

While the motion talks of privatization, I wonder what kind of service Canadians living in the northern regions would receive under this scenario. In all likelihood the answer is nil.

Canada Post has had a profound impact on the north. Since its formation in 1989 the northern services division has been responsible for maintenance and improvements to postal operations in northern Canada.

Ongoing training programs have allowed northern services to work toward the gradual turnover of operations and management to indigenous residents of the area. The area administered includes Yukon, Northwest Territories, communities in northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and all of Labrador. This division represents 72 per cent of Canada's land mass and a diverse population of 221,000 people.

The geographic location, the climate conditions, the low population density and the remoteness of population centres create operational challenges and some difficulties in mail delivery and communication with residents. To overcome these difficulties, the corporation has adopted its network policies and procedures to meet the specific needs of the north.

It is clearly evident that Canada Post helps to promote and maintain this region of our vast country. Canada Post must remain a crown corporation because there is a need to provide consistent services to Canadians while being fiscally responsible. This means servicing all areas of the country, even those which are less profitable, and serving them well.

That is why the Canada Post Corporation was established as a crown corporation on October 16, 1981 out of what was then a government department. I remind all members of the House that the Canada Post Corporation Act was supported by all three parties in the House of Commons. It was welcomed by organized labour, business and consumer groups.

The Canada Post Corporation was established as a crown corporation to provide purpose and direction and to bring business values to the operation of postal services in Canada. Why should this government now take a successful corporation and privatize it? I believe that over the years Canada Post has made progress. However, I also believe we still have a lot of work to do.

I am pleased to see that our government is conducting a mandate review of Canada Post. It has been 15 years since the corporation was established and 10 years since the Marchment report, the last major review of Canada Post's mandate. It is therefore necessary to examine the current situation against the original intent. It provides a valuable opportunity to revisit corporate direction.

Canada Post is a national institution and we are proud of it. Canada Post has achieved many accomplishments. Canada Post is a viable crown corporation and it provides an essential public service.

I cannot support the motion before the House because I believe it would bring an end to universal access to postal services. This in turn would negatively affect the very communities I have been elected to serve.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Paul Marchand Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to this private member's motion this morning.

As we know, the role of Canada Post will be reviewed by a committee recently set up by the minister; my remarks are therefore subject to this committee's proceedings and subsequent report.

If I understand correctly, today's motion calls for privatizing Canada Post. In principle, since this is a private member's motion, I will speak first on my own behalf and not on behalf of the Bloc. Of course, I myself am not opposed in principle to privatizing government controlled businesses. In principle, one should not be against this. Even the present federal government cannot come out against any kind of privatization, since it has just privatized CN. It is easy to see that this privatization may eliminate some rural services and that this is not necessarily a good thing for people across Canada.

But they may have done the right thing by privatizing CN, especially because of the competition with CP. As for Canada Post, it is indeed a monopoly, which raises questions on the risks of privatizing such a large monopoly.

We already know about the numerous problems with Canada Post. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has exposed many cases of waste and inefficiency, accusing Canada Post of misusing its money and running considerable deficits from one year to the next because of this. There have also been complaints from private firms, including courier service and mail advertising companies, which deliver information packages from door to door.

I have reviewed this matter quite thoroughly, since industry representatives have complained to me personally that Canada Post unfairly competes with private sector companies. This is something of an outrage because, if I understand correctly, Canada Post can make a profit from its monopoly in first class mail delivery by charging 48 cents for every stamp. If we look only at the revenue from stamp sales and first class mail delivery, Canada Post makes a profit, but uses it to compete with businesses such as home delivery, courier service and mail advertising firms.

This is unfair and I am totally opposed to this kind of competition from the government, whether we are dealing with the postal service or the engineering sector. Canada Post comes under the responsibility of the public works minister, and we will soon have an opportunity, perhaps even this afternoon, to debate Bill C-52, which testifies once again to the government's tendency to compete unfairly with the private sector.

For a government that wants to encourage private enterprise and put in place legislation to promote job creation, this is totally unacceptable. In the case of Canada Post, this is blatant. It is inevitable. Last year, Canada Post's deficit was approximately $70 million, if I am not mistaken, and, before that, I think it was $280 million. But these deficits can be attributed, to some extent, to the fact that Canada Post is spending money it makes as a monopoly to compete with the private sector for courier services and direct mail advertising.

Canada Post's services are not competitive. It is in fact digging in the public purse, because, as a crown corporation, Canada Post belongs to all of us. It belongs to all Canadians and uses its revenues from mail delivery to compete with the private sector. It is obviously unacceptable and, at the very least, Canada Post's should be reviewed to ensure that, if Canada Post maintains its monopoly on first class mail delivery, it should not compete with the private sector, at least not any more.

That is for sure.

But I am not sure how effective it would be to privatize Canada Post and limit, say, its role to first class mail delivery. I wonder because, as I said earlier, Canada Post only turns a profit on first class mail delivery. So, why do that if the service is there and is adequate, or at least cost effective, although there may still be room for improvement within the organization. As I said earlier, according to labour, postal workers, inside staff and others, service delivery could be improved, but there does not seem to be any net benefit in privatizing Canada Post.

But again, it all depends on how Canada Post's mandate review will be conducted. Perhaps, over the next few months, moving away from a monopoly, service delivery could be broadened, in the sense that several private companies could provide the service.

However, there are many instances where, when we try too hard to liberalize certain sectors, ordinary people end up footing the bill. For example, the government's decision to end Bell Canada's monopoly resulted in a significant increase in the costs of telephone services. The same thing also happened in the transport sector and in several other ones.

Sometimes, the liberalization process is taken too far and is detrimental to public interest. Since consumers have to pay more, we must ask ourselves this question: If we privatize Canada Post so that a number of companies can offer services currently provided exclusively by the corporation, does it mean that, instead of paying 48 cents for the delivery of a first class letter, consumers

will have to shell out 75 cents? If this is the case, I do not see how such a change would be beneficial. It would create an excess in the other way.

So far, the government has not used adequate judgment to restrict the mandate of Canada Post and ensure that the corporation does not compete unfairly with private businesses in the delivery of mailings, or even as regards courier services. This an abuse of power and an aberration. It is unacceptable. It may even be immoral. However, it would be just as bad to go to the other extreme, liberalize all the services provided by Canada Post, and trigger a substantial cost increase in the delivery of a first class letter for ordinary Canadians. That could be an excess of another kind.

As a matter of principle, we cannot oppose the privatization of crown corporations. The government has already shown that it was open to privatization. However, a balance must be sought regarding the mandate of Canada Post. Hopefully, once that mandate is reviewed by the minister's committee, balanced recommendations can be made and take into account the interests of all Canadians.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, the motion now before the House proposing the privatization of the post office can be based on myth only, and we on this side of the House prefer to deal with the facts.

The mover of the motion presumes that Canada Post is an inefficient, money losing organization and a drain on the Canadian taxpayer. In fact, Canada Post has achieved a considerable turnaround in its operations and finances. It is self-sufficient and since 1988 no longer receives appropriations from government.

The mover of the motion presumes that Canada Post is an inefficient organization that did not adapt to the realities of the marketplace. Wrong again. In fact, Canada Post has been improving continuously since becoming a crown corporation, with efficiency gains in all aspects of its operations.

It is most important to note the current mandate review, which the minister responsible for Canada Post announced on November 6 of this year. It has been ten years since the last major review of Canada Post. This review will give Canadians a chance to express their concerns about the corporation.

The review committee will also be analysing the current competitive environment of the corporation. The communications market has changed dramatically since the Marchment report, and it is time to review the effects on the corporation.

The mandate review will also review the functions that Canada Post currently carries out and those that should be provided in the future. In this regard, I want to deal with the allegations of cross-subsidization, which we have heard from couriers and others and most recently from the hon. member for Quebec East.

Let me emphasize that Canada Post Corporation competes fairly. It does not subsidize its services. These allegations have been reviewed by both the Bureau of Competition Policy and the National Transportation Agency. The Bureau of Competition Policy examined concerns with regard to cross-subsidization of Canada Post ad mail services with profits from letter mail and alleged predatory pricing. The bureau cleared Canada Post of the allegations in 1994.

The year before that, in 1993, along with the National Transportation Agency the bureau also reviewed the corporation's acquisition of 75 per cent of Purolator courier and the issues of unfair competition and cross-subsidization as they would relate to that purchase. The bureau found: "No grounds to believe that cross-subsidization would occur post-merger".

The hon. member putting forward the motion is not aware of the many other changes taking place at Canada Post. Canada Post knows technological innovation. In a world economy driven by ever changing business partnerships and alliances, technological innovation and convergence, there remains the crucial need for a reliable, efficient, dedicated postal administration.

Canadians want a faster, more reliable, and lower cost postal administration. Throughout its history Canada has always been quick to embrace these demands. Canada Post has worked hard to meet its mandate to provide service to every Canadian.

Between 1992 and 1994, pieces of mail processed per hour increased by 64 per cent. Delivery points per hour increased by 30 per cent. All this was accomplished with a workforce that was reduced by 24 per cent. These are the facts, something the Reform Party does not seem to be acquainted with.

Since incorporation there have been many innovations Canada Post can be very proud of, such as the national control centre, which allows end to end monitoring of performance. The first system for tracking and tracing also has been developed. This system accurately pinpoints the progress of your mail. The corporation has also developed a new technology for hybrid services, which can electronically send your document, print it, and have it mailed. This is available to all Canadians.

Would a private corporation offer this accessible service to all-I underline all-Canadians? This is something the opposition has not considered.

Good service means accessibility to retail services. In the mid-1980s Canada Post decided to experiment with franchising of postal outlets. This partnership with the private sector has resulted in an increased network of outlets where Canada Post products and services are available.

The Canada Post retail network currently consists of nearly 8,000 full service outlets, 4,150 corporate outlets, and more than 3,400 private sector outlets, supplemented by 11,000 stamp shops and agencies. Hours of access to postal products has increased substantially, while the cost of operations has been reduced. These outlets had a combined earned retail revenue in 1994-95 of $1.8 billion.

The franchising of retail postal services provides key solutions to four critical problems that were faced by Canada Post: how to obtain necessary capital; how to restructure and expand the retail customer service network; how to move quickly to a customer focused workforce; and how to reduce the high cost of a corporate retail network.

The franchising of postal service brought benefits to not only Canada Post but, more important, to Canadians, rural and urban. Franchising has nearly doubled the size of the postal network, offering consumers over 3,000 additional service centres across Canada. Canada Post's franchising and retail postal service has been a success. It is evident that Canada Post is constantly improving and adapting. Why should that be changed?

Canada has entered a new electronic era. Should Canada Post be involved in this electronic era? In the government's upcoming mandate review one of the terms of reference is whether CPC should be free to react to advances in technological alternatives to mail. If so, what would be the implications for the users, namely the government, the public and CPC competitors? This should make the opposition happy. We look forward to hearing the results.

The future contribution of postal administration in the new electronic environment will be contingent on the answers to some very basic questions. What is and will be the role for a postal administration as a public service? Is there a role for a postal administration as an electronics intermediary and as a provider of security services in electronic messaging? Can letter mail be delivered still faster and more cheaply? How much commercial freedom should a postal administration have?

The volume of physical mail in Canada is still marginally increasing from year to year. However, it will significantly decrease as electronic messaging takes hold. Over time, the labour intensive infrastructure required to process physical mail will be transformed to handle more electronic messaging. The transformation from hard copy to electronic will take time, however, more than most people predict, and for good reason. There is a multi-million dollar investment in the interlink physical mail infrastructures of Canada Post and its customers, and it will take an enormous investment to go completely electronic.

The immediate future is a bridge the corporation calls hybrid, which allows messages to be submitted to CPC electronically, travel electronically to the closest point of delivery, then be printed and delivered in hard copy. It is in this area that CPC's new electronic services are concentrated. It is the belief of many that a hybrid environment will be with us for a very long time.

Canada Post's concentration on hybrid services is allowing it to greatly increase its efficiency. Expansion of these services is vital to its customers, not only to contain or reduce costs but to allow the transaction of business effectively in a global marketplace using electronic data interchange, EDI, and hybrid data interchange, HDI. This obvious change in the face of technology has allowed Canada Post to remain competitive. Canada Post is doing much more than perhaps the hon. member is aware.

Business and governments need to share information with their clients in the form of documents or reports. Maintaining physical copies of documents and distributing them is costly, environmentally damaging and does not add value to the economy. Working further to reduce costs and speed up delivery, CPC has developed a service that stores documents and delivers them through a 1-800 telephone line. The documents can be delivered by fax, E-mail or regular mail. This service reduces business costs, speeds delivery of information and avoids environmental impacts of printing and storing an abundance of physical documents.

Canada Post presently has a physical directory of all addresses in Canada which it must maintain to deliver mail, including postal codes for efficient mail sortation. It is extending this directory to include electronic addresses and other information which Canadian businesses and governments can access for effective communication in the medium of the receiver's choice.

This will take the form of hard copy, telephone, fax, computer, E-mail, telex and even interactive television in the future. The directory will reduce the cost of doing business, improve the speed of messaging and enable a sender to reach the receiver regardless of technological-

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt but the member's time has expired.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak today on Motion No. 312 tabled by the member for Yellowhead which states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should immediately take the required measures to privatize all operations and services of the Canada Post Corporation.

The finance minister stated in the last budget speech: "Our view is straightforward. If the government doesn't need to run something it shouldn't and in the future it won't".

Motion No. 312 allows the government the opportunity to make good on this straightforward point of view. When it comes right down to analysing where the government should be involved, Canada Post does not rank as a priority.

This is an organization that in the view of Professor Robert Campbell of Trent University has been "given a considerable amount of space in which to function like a private commercial operation and has acted very much like a private sector corporation". Canada Post has therefore illustrated that it is capable of providing its existing services as a private sector corporation.

Traditionally the main argument against the privatization of Canada Post is that people see it as the communications link for rural areas. This claim is now false. If Canada Post is so committed to rural service, why has it either closed or amalgamated 1,700 of its rural post offices? The simple answer to the question is that Canada Post is behaving like a private corporation. If it were privatized and industry as a whole were permitted more market freedom, people in rural areas would have greater access to more and more delivery companies. Many companies would jump at the opportunity to provide full postal services in rural areas.

Another weak argument offered against privatization is that Canada Post does not receive any federal money for its operations. This claim has an element of truth in it. Every year Canada Post aims to balance its books and it has been successful in three of the last five years in doing so. However the two years that losses were recorded added up to just under $400 million in losses and these losses were absorbed by the taxpayers.

I find the idea of privatizing Canada Post a compelling one. Canadians should no longer be asked to bear the burden of subsidizing an organization that could operate just as effectively or more efficiently if it were in the private sector. Best of all, if this were the case, taxpayers would not be shouldering the costs when Canada Post records financial losses. These financial losses continue despite the fact that Canada Post has invested enormously in becoming more efficient and more diverse.

I was surprised when I learned that Canada Post owns 75 per cent of the courier company Purolator. I was even more surprised when I read repeated claims by competitors in the courier industry about Canada Post. The competitors claim that Canada Post is using revenue generated from ordinary mail to subsidize its courier company. It is claimed that this allows Purolator Courier to offer rates that are lower than private sector rates and gives the Canada Post-Purolator team an unfair advantage.

The president of the Canadian Courier Association recently claimed: "There is not a courier in the world who would offer that kind of service at that price. Who is paying for that cost? You are if you bought a stamp".

Canada Post's competitors claim that if Canada Post is to have an unfair advantage then its entire financial record should be made public. This would mean that Canada Post should present not only its budgetary figures but also how much money is being transferred to Purolator? I find the request to be entirely reasonable. If taxpayers are subsidizing Purolator they have a right to know the exact nature of the financial arrangement these two companies share.

Canada Post is an enigma, especially to the corporate world. On one hand it operates as a crown corporation with a mandate to provide universal postal service to all Canadians. On the other hand it operates as a ruthless competitor expanding into the courier industry while possessing a legislative monopoly on first class mail. In other words Canada Post enjoys all the benefits and security of a crown corporation with government protection and government backing while it conducts itself as though it were a private sector organization.

Canada Post should no longer enjoy this advantage. It should have it one way or the other. A spokesman for the United Parcel Service, UPS, recently said: "We are not seeking the abolishment of the post office. Our goal is that the playing field should be levelled".

Another area that competitors claim is not on a level playing field is the business of delivering unaddressed mail, advertising flyers or junk mail. When Canada Post created its so-called ad mail program to distribute third class mail, it knocked many small distributors right out of the industry. The ones that are left face an unfair advantage.

By Canada Post's own estimates, the number of delivered flyers jumped from 1.8 billion pieces in 1987 to 4.4 billion in 1994. This represents an increase of 144 per cent. This would not be all bad except Canada Post only reported a 63 per cent increase in revenue from this service.

Ottawa Citizen columnist Peter Hadekel recently commented: ``Canada's Post's own numbers show that its cost per thousand flyers delivered fell 33 per cent, a clear indication it has been cutting prices to build volume''. Once again Canada Post is using this diversity within the protection of a crown corporation to create a monopoly in another area. Taxpayers have the right to know how the financial structure of Canada Post works and how it is using this advantage unfairly.

Despite the closure of over 1,000 rural area post offices Canada Post is the largest franchise chain in Canada. It is the 28th largest corporation in the nation. It has the potential to grow even stronger. Canada Post would have no problem finding investors and would, if privatized, be able to provide the same service it does now, and perhaps more efficiently in the competition of the open market.

In many ways Canada Post already operates as a private organization. It rented a $200,000 private sky box in Toronto's SkyDome. It may be an acceptable practice in the corporate world, but during a time when the government is trying to reduce expenditures and debt it is absolutely unreasonable for a crown corporation. I do not feel comfortable telling the people of my riding of Cariboo-Chilcotin that we must make sacrifices to reduce the debt while Canada Post executives have this kind of government guaranteed luxury at all Blue Jay games.

If privatized Canada Post would do fine on its own and Canadians would still enjoy good postal service by whoever provides it.

Next August Parliament will see the results of a major review that has recently been ordered. It is my hope that it will not be just a cosmetic review to appease the concerns of Canada Post competitors. The editor of the St. Albert Gazette near Edmonton recently stated: ``Are they going to be able to dig into Canada Post's affairs or will they be stonewalled like everyone else before them? Canada Post likes to keep business to itself''.

The time has come for Parliament to recognize that Canada Post can do well as a private corporation and that it needs a more level playing field in the postal industry for the benefit of all Canadians. As I have said, Canada Post likes to keep business to itself. As a private corporation Canada Post can still freely keep to itself but only if it can beat the competition.

I ask members to support the motion and to realize this is a start in the most logical direction.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know we are in trouble when we see Liberals defending Canada Post. In the few minutes remaining I should like to deal with the mandate of Canada Post. Its mandate should be to deliver letters efficiently and cost effectively. That is the bottom line. Why it is in the courier business is a bit of a conundrum because it is using the postal rates to justify and undercut private courier businesses.

I must commend the government for its timely and upcoming review of Canada Post. However once we have the review I would then hold the government accountable to looking into the review and making some major changes such as changes in access to information.

Crown corporations are presently exempt from access to information requests. As such Canada Post is exempt. We cannot get an access to information request from Canada Post because it is exempt, as are other crown corporations. This is basically wrong. How are Canadians supposed to find out and figure out what is wrong with their crown corporations including Canada Post when they cannot get the basic information?

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

An hon. member

It is taxpayers' money.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Comox—Alberni, BC

"It is taxpayers' money", as my colleague says. Why can we not see the records?

I support my colleague's move to privatize Canada Post. I look forward to the review to see which direction the country will go with its postal system and hold the government accountable for listening to what Canadians say.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are a few minutes remaining in the debate. If the proposer of the motion, the hon member for Yellowhead, wishes to summarize he is allowed to do so under our standing orders.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Cliff Breitkreuz Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for supporting the motion. I urge the government to look carefully at it and in its review come forward with some of its suggestions and recommendations.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall we call it twelve o'clock?

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Post Corporation
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1), the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-108, an act to amend the National Housing Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.