Did you know that the Conservative minority government is smuggling certain controversial measures into its upcoming federal Budget Bill C-9? While all eyes are on the Rahim Jaffer/Helena Guergis scandal, some other shady business is getting overlooked.
Items that might prove unpopular, exposed to the light of public scrutiny, are being packaged and sold as part of a Budget that is quickly working its way through Parliament. The Conservatives are counting on the opposition's reluctance to have an election to get their Budget approved. But it is essential that the package is opened and its contents handled with care.
Among those contents: opening up Canada Post's exclusive privilege to handle letters to international mail corporations. This is the Conservatives' third annual attempt to deregulate international letters. Part 15 of Bill C-9 is the same legislation as Bill C-44, which died with the prorogation of the government last December. Prior to C-44, there was C-14, which died when the 2008 election was called.
Repeatedly trotting out this legislation is not surprising given the current government's ideological position. The Conservatives favour the wholesale deregulation and privatization of public services, regardless of what the public wants (according to a 2008 Ipsos-Reid poll, 69 per cent oppose postal deregulation).
The exclusive privilege that Canada Post holds on letter mail provides the necessary funds to allow it to provide universal public postal service. We live in the second-largest country in the world and should be proud of our postal system, operating in difficult terrain and across a huge landmass, to deliver affordable postal services to all of us, regardless of where we live.
With a gradual erosion of Canada Post's exclusive privilege, rural dwellers are likely to see huge rate hikes, more post office closures and more services cut. The corporate business bottom line does not serve the same goal as universal public services and we know it. That's why the Conservatives, who rely on rural voters, don't dare fully deregulate. Instead, they will starve Canada Post of badly needed revenue and then propose ‘market solutions' to the crisis they have created.
The passage of C-9 would also signal to the corporate sector that the door is open for further deregulation. Part 15 of Bill C-9 is a tool to chip away at public postal service. It would legalize the currently illegal operations of businesses known as "remailers" that are handling letters bound for foreign destinations. Despite several court judgments against them, these illicit mailers are still in business, siphoning millions in revenue from Canada Post. Why are we allowing this to happen? Why are the Conservatives dodging democratic debate by sneaking deregulation into the budget bill? This increasingly underhanded government must be held accountable.
As we have demanded transparency in the Guergis/Jaffer affair, so too we must demand transparency in the budget bill. Part 15 of the C-9 package needs to be taken out and evaluated on its own merits, through a proper public consultation and debate.
Denis Lemelin is the National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
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