Madam Speaker, the motion before the House calls for the creation of a special committee to conduct hearings and propose a plan for a postal banking system.
On January 24, 2018, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement announced our government's new service-first vision focused on the renewal of Canada Post. Let me briefly talk about this renewal and the new service-first vision.
Our government is committed to the renewal of Canada Post to make sure that it remains relevant and viable over the long term and that it continues to provide good, middle-class jobs and valued services to Canadians. This renewal is based on a new service-focused vision, in which Canada Post provides high-quality services at a reasonable price to Canadians, no matter where they live. That vision has been reinforced by the decision to terminate the program to convert door-to-door delivery to community mailboxes. As members know, that program was temporarily suspended in October 2015.
Our government also responded to the many concerns faced by seniors and others with mobility challenges vis-à-vis community mailboxes. Canada Post will develop an enhanced accessible delivery program that will ultimately result in improved services for tens of thousands of Canadians.
We have also asked Canada Post to set up a national advisory panel that would include experts and advocates for seniors and people with disabilities as well as Canadians with lived experience, who would provide guidance on improving the existing program.
I also want to reiterate what my colleague said about the importance of new leadership being central to implementing this new vision and renewing this iconic Canadian institution. We know that significant changes are needed to ensure that Canada Post is relevant and financial sustainable over the long run. That is why Canada Post needs to embrace innovation, experiment with pilot projects, adopt best practices, and more fully address market trends, new technologies, and shifts in the needs and expectations of Canadians.
It is about creating a new culture, a new mindset, that encourages greater collaboration and co-operation between Canada Post's management and unions. We know that our chances of success are improved when Canada Post and affected communities, unions, employees, and other stakeholders are engaged in renewal. Collaboration is needed at all levels. It is about a new way of thinking. It is about exploring opportunities to partner across the federal government with other jurisdictions and communities to leverage, for instance, the unique retail network of Canada Post.
This brings me to the issue of postal banking. This motion calls for public hearings on postal banking. Public consultations and engagement with stakeholders were an essential part of the comprehensive, evidence-based review of Canada Post undertaken by the government. As part of this review, postal banking was thoroughly analyzed by the independent task force that was established and by the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The independent task force met with unions, municipalities, postal experts, and other stakeholders. It carefully considered postal banking in its review and its discussion paper entitled, “Canada Post in the digital age”. We even reviewed the status of postal banking globally.
The independent task force conducted extensive public opinion research in order to get, “a statistically representative view of Canadians and businesses from which conclusions could be drawn”.
To support its fact finding and evidence gathering, the task force also retained the services of experts in areas such as financial analysis and international postal services. For instance, Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm, was contracted to identify and assess potential business opportunities, such as postal banking.
The executive summary of the discussion paper prepared by the task force states:
On the issue of postal banking, a comprehensive examination of the proposal was undertaken by third-party experts and informed by the views of Canadians who corresponded or submitted their opinions online, as well as by the presentations of other stakeholders, notably postal unions, that were engaged during the review process.
As I mentioned, the task force conducted public opinion research on postal banking. It found that most Canadians do not feel that postal banking would be a good fit for Canada Post, nor are they likely to use such a service. The task force concluded:
While full-scale postal banking is unlikely to succeed within the Canadian context, a partnership model with banks or credit unions could be considered in corporate post offices in select under-served remote communities...provided financial institutions have an interest in this initiative.
As the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, I can emphasize that we also heard significant representation from experts and stakeholders on postal banking. For example, in reference to the research conducted by his firm, Mr. Bruce Spear of Oliver Wyman stated:
By and large, what we found with regard to postal banking was that it required too many capabilities that were non-core to Canada Post and would require a significant amount of risk in terms of getting into the lending side of the business.
The chair of the task force, Madame Françoise Bertrand, also appeared before the committee on September 20, 2016. At her appearance she discussed postal banking. She said that postal banking would be costly to operate because of such considerations as IT and security.
The feedback of these and other experts and stakeholders was reflected in the report and recommendations of the standing committee.
Moreover, I would be remiss if I did not mention the work of individual parliamentarians who hosted town hall meetings with their constituents and provided feedback to the government as part of our review of Canada Post.
Overall, we had broad and inclusive dialogue on Canada Post. The government listened to what we heard and carefully considered the findings and recommendations.
I was one of the MPs who read the 900-page report of the experts and was able to put that into the report that we finally prepared. Therefore, I would ask my colleague who spoke earlier, do we need another committee, another round of public hearings, another study on postal banking when a thorough review has already been done?
I believe there is another way, a more practical and realistic path.
I cannot overstate the importance of new leadership in implementing our new service-focused vision for Canada Post. We want to move forward with the long-term renewal of Canada Post.
Canada Post has one of the largest retail networks in Canada, and in some communities, particularly in rural Canada, it is the only federal presence. There are opportunities to leverage that network to help the federal government and other jurisdictions provide improved access to services, especially in rural and remote areas.
Both the task force and the committee highlighted the potential benefits of innovative partnerships, which could potentially include financial service partnerships if a community identifies such a need. We did communicate that to the municipalities.
Our government's new vision for Canada Post is partly based on the development of a stronger and more constructive relationship between the corporation, its workers, and the communities in which it operates. This vision will be pursued by the new leadership at Canada Post, but it will take time.
It is fair to say that all of us want Canada Post to succeed, so let us focus on supporting the new leadership, encouraging more innovation and collaboration, and bringing about positive change.