Privatize rural postal services, suggests Reform party plan

OTTAWA – A Reform party government would get the government out of the post office, although not necessarily out of paying for mail delivery to rural and remote areas, a spokesperson said last week.

“As far as Canada Post Corporation is concerned, the Reform party supports free competition for the post office,” Alberta MP Cliff Breitkreuz told the Commons.

“There should be no restrictions on private competition in the delivery of mail.”

Liberal MPs accused Reform of being willing to sacrifice rural postal service in pursuit of their ideology.

“(He) should take into account that 20 percent of Alberta and 23 percent of Canada is rural,” said rural Nova Scotia MP John Murphy. “With privatization, there is a real danger that rural Canadians will be forgotten.”

Reform MPs rejected the charge.

During a one-hour debate on his proposal last week, Breitkreuz said rural and remote mail customers still could be serviced if the government set a maximum charge for a letter and subsidized private carriers for the difference between the charge and their actual costs.

If the maximum letter rate was set at 45 cents, for example, the government would pay out of general revenues the difference between 45 cents and the actual private cost of delivering to northern or remote rural areas.

Rural B.C. Reform MP Philip Mayfield said everyone would be better off and private courier services would not have unfair competition from a crown corporation.

“I find the idea of privatizing Canada Post a compelling one,” he said.

“Canadians should no longer be asked to bear the burden of subsidizing an organization that could operate just as effectively or more efficiently in the private sector.”

Liberal members jumped all over the idea.

They said private companies would not service remote, high-cost areas, the federal subsidy would be susceptible to cuts, the post office does not unfairly compete with the private sector and Canada Post no longer receives public subsidies.

And unlike the days when Opposition Liberals regularly hammered then-Tory-minister-responsible Harvie Andre for substituting private “postal outlets” for rural post offices, government Liberals now have discovered the merits of private outlets.

“The franchising of postal service brought benefits to not only Canada Post but more important, to Canadians rural and urban,” said Winnipeg Liberal John Harvard. “Franchising has nearly doubled the size of the postal network, offering consumers over 3,000 additional service centres across Canada.”

It has been, he said, a success and there is no need to sell off the post office.

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