Can Our Postal Network Help Lead Canada’s Green Transition?
By: Bianca Mugyenyi
“We face too many crises in this country to address them one at a time. What’s powerful about Delivering Community Power is how it takes on economic, environmental and social issues at the same time. Our post offices can become centres of community care and economic development, while bringing emissions down— this is the kind of leap we need in Canada.”
“Delivering Community Power” is a proposal to turn Canada Post into an engine for a justice-based transition to a post-carbon economy, with energy retrofits and solar-powered rooftops wherever feasible, and a made-in-Canada fleet of electric delivery vans.
But “greening” existing operations is only the first step in modernizing the postal service. Delivering Community Power imagines an expanded role for Canada Post in delivering locally-produced food, and further strengthening community fabric by checking in on elders and people with disabilities, delivering medications and more.
The greatest ecological gains, however, will come from turning the biggest retail network in the country – there are more post offices than Tim Hortons – into centres of green innovation. Canada Post’s vast marketing structure should be employed to provide information to customers about how to green their homes. Post offices can also promote local and climate-friendly businesses. They should be a venue to sign people up for community-owned wind and solar projects. Canada Post’s extensive infrastructure could also be used to expand services like free rapid-charging stations for electric vehicles.
In addition, the post office could help finance part of the country’s green shift. Delivering Community Power calls for postal banking, which is an important source of revenue for post offices around the world. A two-year-old internal review by Canada Post management found that restoring postal banking in Canada (it was scrapped in 1968), would be “a win-win” for the corporation. It would generate significant revenue for the public company and provide underserved and over-charged Canadians with accessible banking services, particularly access to credit. Postal banking could offer affordable loans to boost local economic development in unbanked rural and indigenous communities. It could also prioritize financing for renewable energy development and other green initiatives.
Right-wing economists and ideologues may dismiss Delivering Community Power, but the proposal draws on best practices from around the world: post offices deliver food directly from farmers in Australia, postal vehicles have gone electric in Norway, and dozens of countries around the world operate successful postal banking services.
Delivering Community Power is supported by a coalition of more than 50 organizations including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Labour Congress, ACORN Canada, Friends of Public Services and the Leap Manifesto, and the list is growing every day (your organization can sign on here).
Over the summer, the supporters of the Delivering Community Power campaign have provided over 6000 submissions to the Public Review of the postal network, and filled local newspapers with letters to the editor in support a greener Canada post with community and banking services.
Canada Post could be a leader in our country’s leap away from fossil fuels, while strengthening rural economies, redistributing power from corporate Canada and maintaining good public sector jobs. Canada’s postal service belongs to all of us, and the government’s public review is a powerful opportunity to put forward a hopeful, positive vision to address our country’s most pressing climate and economic challenges.