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It's money that matters

The following editorial was published in the Guelph Mercury, November 13, 2006.

The world is ruled by money.

That might seem a little trite, but the point has been reinforced rather clearly over the past several weeks. Between Canada Post giving up on rural mail delivery by declaring the practice unsafe, and the Harper government breaking an election promise by cracking down on Income Trusts, what else is an average person to think?

Both are examples of decisions driven by financial goals. And when it comes to money, someone always gets hurt.

You can almost understand that Harper had to do something. How would it look on the federal balance sheet if suddenly telecom giants and even banks, for heaven’s sake, were able to avoid the corporate tax hits that put money into government coffers? If you happen to be the ruling party, that’s clearly not an outcome you want going down on your watch.

The problem is, before Harper became the ruling party, he swore not to do it. Investors and institutions made decisions based on that.

None of that matters now. Elected to a minority, the self-proclaimed "New Government of Canada" changed its mind. The value of who-knows how many companies went through the floor overnight. And who owns that value? Well, the unit holders, of course. Seniors on pensions. Single surviving spouses. More than these are affected. But these are the ones least able to bounce back.

Through its actions, government is protecting its revenue stream. But it has done more than just protect against further erosion. It is repatriating future income from many other trusts, which is likely to increase tax revenue as trusts are reclaimed over the next four or five years. All at the expense of Canada’s proverbial widows and orphans. Thank you very much.

In the same week, rural Canadians took a second hit on a different front, this time from a crown corporation. Canada Post has announced it will suspend rural mail delivery in a growing number of areas due to “safety concerns” on behalf of its unionized drivers.

In a rare example of all political parties singing from the same songsheet, all of Ottawa has come out unequivocally opposed to the march by Canada Post toward rural super mailboxes. From Michael Chong to county council to the local citizenry, opposition stands united, yet Canada Post drives on. And just when it’s least convenient, we hear that the wheels of parliament turn slowly. With no direct power over Canada Post, barring new legislation, any change to the current decision is likely to take a while. And you can bet your income trust units that anyone who loses their rural mail delivery services in the meantime is not likely to get them back if and when parliament gains control over its runaway child.

This is where we come to the nature of corporations. Corporations, even if they are agencies of the crown, are charged with one thing and one thing only. Make money. It’s just one thing. How hard can it be?

Making money is both a corporate mantra and a mandate, and that’s just what Canada Post is doing. Beginning with a handful of rural routes, it is gradually fanning out. And not just in Wellington County, but right across Canada—all with virtually no outside consultation.

Canada Post blames it on safety. Don’t kid yourself—that’s just smoke and mirrors. They say it has to do with union concerns and liability, which never seemed to be much of an issue in the good old days when drivers were independent. OK, so it’s collective bargaining we’re really talking about then. The heart of the matter has to do with cutting costs by cutting services, an area where the interests of Canada Post seem well in line with those of the union: reaching a financial solution that works for both. It’s a sign of the times that the consumer pays more and gets less.

In reality, it seems that the areas where services are being withdrawn has more to do with having an “RR” designation, regardless of whether the route may now be situated in a built up area with a 50-kilometre speed limit and city sidewalks. This, I give you, is the situation for Cathy McVean of Gordon Street in Fergus. Compare that to a decision to put a super mailbox on County Road 29, where the speed limit is 80 kph. Define for me the safety concern. Where is the argument for corporate responsibility in that?

Turning to the environment, we have up 'til now had one car delivering mail to, say, 100 homes. Now, 100 cars will be picking up mail at one mailbox. Multiply this by about 250 delivery dates per year. That’s almost 25,000 car trips people aren’t taking now. Now multiply that by the dozens—perhaps hundreds or even thousands of routes this could eventually affect Canada-wide. Then factor in the impact of the greenhouse gases. Oh wait, the Conservatives have abandoned that too.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that anything, anywhere, is being done for reasons other than the money. And when money is in play, someone is going to pay.

It brings to mind a third money-driven story that surfaced in the same week. A research report now estimates that because of worldwide commercial fishing practices, there will be no wild fish left in the seas by the year 2048. The oceans will effectively be dead. I’m guessing most of us reading this paper won’t be around to see that. But someone will.

Maybe a website would help. We could call it I looked it up. The domain name is for sale.

©Garrett Klassen is president of Crunch! Communications in Elora, Ontario, Canada.

(As of March, 2010, is still for sale.)


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