Amid fears that job cuts and service changes spell imminent privatization of Canada Post, the postal workers' union is renewing calls for the Crown corporation to consider revenue-generating alternatives.
Instead of reducing service and cutting workers, the union renewed calls
at a recent meeting in Ottawa for the post office to diversify its offerings, and learn from the many countries across the globe where post offices do more than manage mail and package delivery.
In countries like France, New Zealand and the U.K., postal offices serve as widely-distributed sites where citizens can access banking services, an approach that experts say generates cash flow for the post office, improved banking service to "under-banked" communities, and provide much-needed competition for commercial banks.
In Canada, over 1,700 bank branches and hundreds of credit union branches have closed over the last two decades, and of the 615 First Nations reserves across the country, only 54 are served by a local bank or credit union. An estimated three to eight per cent of adult Canadians have no personal bank account.
Researcher John Anderson published a Oct. 2013 paper
arguing in favour of Canada returning to its earlier policy of delivering some financial services through the post office. Canada had postal banking for 100 years after it was created in one of the country's first laws in 1868, Anderson pointed out. The service stopped in 1968.
Anderson suggested that a return to postal banking would not only invigorate Canada Post's cash flow and address concerns about the sustainability of a post office in the digital age, but would also create more accessible banking opportunities for underserved communities and individuals at a modest cost, given the post office's existing infrastructure across the country.
He said that a Canadian postal banking system might serve non-governmental bodies, as the French system does, or provide targeted services to First Nations communities and individuals, as New Zealand's system does.
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