Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity, brief though it will be, to enter into the debate on the future of postal services in Canada. That is really what is going on here. The government is clearly not about serving Canadians. It is about making profits for itself. That is what Canada Post has been doing for the past 10 or 11 years and longer. It has been making profits that the government has not invested back into Canada Post in ways that would have created the conditions to allow Canada Post to expand its services, not retract them. It might have been able to put back home delivery in places that do not have it now, which are very few, and only those homes that have been built since 1980 or 1988, whenever it was that the Mulroney government, another Conservative government, began the slide away from a post office that delivered to people's homes.
York South—Weston, my riding, is home to a greater percentage of persons with disabilities and seniors than most of the rest of Toronto, and that is because the housing is cheap. However, 99% of my riding is presently served by door-to-door delivery. We are saying to 99% of my constituents, and I would imagine to 99% of the constituents of many Conservatives in urban ridings, that they should just go whistle. They will not have door-to-door delivery in a few more years when Canada Post stops it.
Canada Post is going to have to come up with a whole lot of cash to be able to buy the land required to put super mailboxes in dense urban areas. It will probably require billions of dollars to put in 106,000 super mailboxes across Canada, most of them in dense urban areas which do not have the space.
The parliamentary secretary talked about not knowing how much it is going to cost for Canada Post to expand into other services. He does not even know how much it is going to cost for Canada Post to do what it has said it is going to do.
What the Mulroney government introduced in 1980 was only to be for new developments. That was the promise made at that time. Thus, people could in fact make decisions about where to live based on where door-to-door delivery existed. People did and have made those decisions. Now Canada Post has decided that promise is gone and it is not going to bother with it anymore.
Canada Post, and the government here today, has misled the public on just how much of its business it is actually changing. It suggests it is only one-third of Canadians. It is 99% of the people in my riding. It is 99% of the people in most urban centres who now receive door-to-door delivery, and except for those in apartment buildings who already have door-to-door delivery, the rest will now lose it. In fact, it will be better to be in an apartment building than a house in terms of door-to-door delivery.
These super mailboxes are a scourge of many urban municipalities. In the last five years, CBC found and counted 4,800 incidents of theft and other vandalism at these super mailboxes. They are out in the open, unprotected. The mailbox at people's front doors is protected by the homeowner. The super mailboxes are a scourge of litter and are not maintained.
For seniors, disabled persons, or even an able-bodied Canadian trying to get to a super mailbox in the winter, it can be challenging. Canada Post does not maintain the area around them; they rely on the municipality to do that. Municipalities believe it is Canada Post's responsibility, so nobody does it.
The fundamental issue that nobody seems to be talking about is what the Minister of Finance is doing to protect his plan to balance his budget by the next election. That is what is really going on here.
The Minister of Finance, quietly, at about the same time that Canada Post made the announcement that they were getting out of the door-to-door service, told Canada Post that he was going to give them papal dispensation on their pension plan deficit, that it was not going to have to pay back $1 billion a year for the next two years. Who is going to have to pay it back if Canada Post does not have the money, which it will not? It will be the treasury. The Minister of Finance will have to come up with $2 billion over the next couple of years. “Oops, there goes my balanced budget”. The government is not going to let that happen. The government will give it more time to pay it off, and they will not have to pay it off in the next couple of years.
These deficits are strange and created only by the fact that we have very low interest rates right now. Most corporations and pension plans in Canada are facing these same structural deficits. However, only Canada Post is being offered a $2 billion gift over the next couple of years by not having to pay it back. The CEOs of many other corporations in Canada would love to have that papal dispensation apply to them. They would love to have the ability to walk away for a couple of years from their deficits. However, it is Canada Post.
There is a strategic reason for it. It is because it will interfere with the finance minister's plan to balance the books. Nobody from that side in any authority is talking to the press or to us about what was really going on in the secret backroom negotiations between Canada Post and the federal government. However, something must have taken place to cause that to happen on almost the same day as the announcement. Canadians are not stupid. They believe there were discussions between the government and Canada Post long before the announcements were made, and I would suspect those discussions included the Canada Post pension plan deficit.
This is not an ongoing deficit; it is a wind-up deficit. If Canada Post were to go bankrupt tomorrow and stop operating, then it would have to come up with money to fund its pension plan. It would have to come out of the treasury. That is the way it works. Canada Post is not likely to go belly up tomorrow. On an ongoing basis, its pension plan is actually in really good shape, but on a wind-up basis, there is a deficit.
I, too, will be holding town hall meetings for the citizens of my riding, 99% of whom will lose their door-to-door delivery very shortly, to give their feedback to the government. I will be collecting names on petitions from individuals who show up on Friday night at the senior centre in Weston, or Saturday morning at the York Civic Centre, to talk with us and the NDP critic, the member for Trinity—Spadina, about what they think of the government's plan to eliminate door-to-door delivery, particularly in the dense urban area of Toronto.