UNDER MISCELLANEOUS: Postal reports are vague

Sentinel columnist Allan Hewitson continues to weigh in on Canada Post cuts.

Talk of different days, different times.

This, I’m sure will not be the last time this will come up, but I am still a bit ticked off by the vagueness of reports of upcoming Canada Post changes. And I’m not convinced they extensively consulted with Canadians across the country.

As for the timing of the announcements, well, come on, the day after Parliament recessed for the “holidays.”

As a matter of fact I was sufficiently vexed about the way it was announced and the content that I sat down and sent a stern e-mail to CEO Deepak Chopra. Joke! I didn’t, but I should have.

I certainly understand that Canada Post cannot likely absorb losses of a billion dollars a year for very long. That’s what they are suggesting will happen by 2020 if the business drop-off losses are sustained.

It is not, however, that the issue is coming up for the first time and that Canada is the first country to run into challenges with its mail service. The Royal Mail in the U.K. traces its history back to 1516, when Henry VIII established a “Master of the Posts”, a position that was renamed “Postmaster General” in 1710. Henry, it appears had some spare time to deal with troubles outside of his many wives and his hassles with the Catholic Church over said wives. Henry’s divorce procedures appear to have rankled in Rome presumably providing a heads up (heads down) to the Pope that there was something wrong in England.

Canada, although it wasn’t Canada then, wasn’t all that far behind in postal services. The first known letter was actually sent from St. John’s, Nfld., to Henry VIII in 1527, although it was another 250 years before official mail services began in Canada in 1777, operated by the British Government.

In 1867 the newly formed Dominion of Canada government initiated the Canadian Postal Service, based on the British post office system.

Over the past decade the Royal Mail plc has semi-privatized numerous services, but is still owned by HM Government. It is profitable, so the Canadian Crown corporation that was once known as Royal Mail Canada, I hope, has taken a very good look at what keeps the Royal Mail working, home delivering and profitable.

Truthfully, that well-known motto – ‘neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’ actually appears on a New York post office, but came from a translation of an ancient Greek work of Herodotus, describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers circa 500 B.C. So it appears written communications go back a long way, certainly much earlier than the Pony Express.

So, no need to remind me that Canada is a much bigger country, with a smaller population, but if they could get mail delivered in these great Persian campaigns in ages past, you have to wonder a bit about little side issues like e-mail and community postal boxes, more than 20 centuries later. That’s not to make light of the many frustrations Canadians face as an uncertain future appears to be ahead for Canada Post.

But I wanted to get some perspective about how long this has been going on.

Then of course there’s the future. Remember Kevin Costner, who found that a dead postman’s uniform and a sack of old mail helped him get around in post-apocalyptic north western U.S. in the sci-fi movie, “The Postman,” set, very ironically, in 2013. Oops, maybe not the future after all.

This column is destined for publication on Christmas Day so hopefully, for subscribers to the Northern Sentinel, a delivery person (there seems to be a shortage of delivery boys these days) will drop this newspaper in your mailbox on Christmas Eve so I want to express my west wishes to all my readers (I used the old joke, “both my readers” in 2002) for a very enjoyable family Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year in 2014.