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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Symptom of a much larger malaise.

Has the internet made Canada's postal service obsolete? I don't think so.
The postal service is still the most universal, accessible, affordable, and
democratic distance-communication system we have in this country. However --
like public schools, public parks, and public health care -- it is not
essential to our most affluent citizens, and they're the ones who shape
public opinion through their newspapers, radio/television stations and, most
important, their political influence.
Not everyone has internet access. More than 3 million Canadian households
are without a home internet connection. Not included in that number are all
the men and women across Canada who are incarcerated in federal prisons and
provincial jails. They don't have internet access either. Their only
alternative to keeping in touch with their families through the mail is to
make expensive "collect" telephone calls.
One particularly positive prison program depends on the services of postal
workers. This program is known by its acronym, ChIRP, which stands for
Children of Inmates Reading Program. A volunteer records a parent reading a
carefully-selected book to his/her child. The book and CD recording are then
mailed to the child, who might live anywhere in Canada. Receiving such a
personal gift from the absent parent not only reassures the child that the
parent still cares, but also promotes a love of books and reading.
Mail service is also important to computer owners who refuse to do their
banking and bill-paying online.  Who can blame them, when government and
corporate computer systems being penetrated by hackers, and we're always
being warned about the hazards of identity theft.
Not everything can be done online. Hard copies of financial and legal
documents continue to be essential; and not everything works best online.
Studies have shown that reading from a screen typically takes 25 per cent
longer than reading from a printed page. Little wonder most people still
prefer the ease and portability of paper magazines -- delivered to
subscribers through the mail. Braille and recorded materials are delivered
free to the visually-impaired. Then there are all those items people order
online that have to be delivered in person.
The Fraser Institute -- a think tank supported by tobacco and oil companies,
among other free-market interests -- says Canada Post should be privatized.
Why?  Because there's money to be made, and that money could be going into
private coffers. But first, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers should be
neutralized, workers' wages and benefits reduced, and unprofitable
operations (rural and remote delivery) eliminated. As for working
conditions, the more intense the physical demands on the workers, the less
likely they are to stick around long enough to get pay increases and a
decent pension. Use 'em, abuse 'em, and lose 'em.
Canada Post's current lock out of its employees is merely one battle in a
larger war being waged against working people by the wealthiest business
magnates, whose overriding objective is to maximize their own profits.
Increasingly, Canada's wealth is being controlled by an elite few.
According to Toronto research agency Investor Economics, the richest 3.8 per
cent of Canadian households controlled 66.6 per cent of all financial wealth
(not counting real estate) by 2009, up from 60.6 per cent in 2005, just
before Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government came to power. Looking
ahead, the agency predicts the portion of financial wealth controlled by
this richest group of Canadians is headed for 70 per cent by 2018. (Les
Whittington, The Toronto Star, May 27, 2011).
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz deplores this growing
inequality, which he sees as dangerously destabilizing.
"The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant
the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don't need to
rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal
security -- they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process,
they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they
may once have had. They also worry about strong government -- one that could
use its power to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest
it for the common good." (Vanity Fair, May 2011)
Stiglitz warns that the kinds of uprisings seen recently in Egypt, Tunisia,
Syria Yemen, and Libya could be precipitated closer to home as the
middle-class standard of living is steadily eroded and citizens feel
increasingly excluded from policy decisions affecting their lives.
The current labour strife at Canada Post (and Air Canada) is a symptom of a
much larger malaise.


  1. well written brother/sister