Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 14, 2013
It’s a new country we live in, and I’m not sure some of us here in little old Canada will like it.
The latest on the happenings in Harperland prove that the country everyone once viewed as the friendly neighbour who would keep an eye on the house while you were away is not so much like that anymore.
We are by all accounts a much more cynical nation than we were a decade ago, and some of the optimism in institutions that made us feel truly Canadian are whittling away to mere shells of what they once were.
It is a sign of the times and shows organizations — even Crown corporations — no matter how sacred, will evolve or disappear.
The latest of those to hit the revamp wheel was Canada Post. This past week the corporation announced changes to mail service in urban centres, namely the delivery of it.
Posties are the latest group to follow the carousel of cuts in the new reality of governing.
The nation’s mail joins the likes of the CBC, the Canadian Wheat Board, the rail industry, Veterans Affairs, the national park service and foreign relations, all of which have seen dramatic changes in recent times, all of which signal a troubling paradigm shift for the once-shiny national glow that was Canada.
The Harper government has changed the rules of the game, and we as Canadians are the pieces that continue to be forced into moves most don’t want to make.
The rationale behind the Canada Post move is a very similar script for Canadians — a Crown corporation seen as hemorrhaging money that’s better off whittled down or privatized as opposed to seeking solutions outside mere cuts. A Crown corporation left to starve out while bureaucrats shuffle for their place in line signing cheques on new, shifted spending habits.
In the Canada Post example, it is a tried and tested method used to choke elements of the company out, and by proxy shave away at the unions this government sees as too strong for their own good.
No one would argue a shuffling of priorities within Canada Post is understandable, and even to a certain extent healthy for the industry. Much like other institutions, businesses changing up operations can provide for new opportunity, but the timing and end result of this cut could not have been worse for employees, Canada Post or even government itself.
Employees, much like their political counterparts, are heading into the holiday season. Many of those Canada Post employees now know they may be out of a job as the cuts come over the next few months or years.
These are not faceless positions far off at a factory or industry overseas. The staff, and the people they serve, are our friends and neighbours, and these changes — however deemed as necessary — affect lives locally. The change comes while many in government will play politics with people’s livelihood.
It is a queasy feeling to say the very least. Having been at our local television station (a Brandon institution) when it closed, I know all too well the feeling of bureaucrats and lobby groups playing politics with people’s lives, and like the Canada Post announcement, this is a sad sign of how far we have come. It is also a new reality of life in a country of election-year-surplus politics, and shiny promises geared to making friends during campaigns while actively angling to change the core of the country’s existence outside of them.
As much as some reading these musings will be riled enough to shoot me off an email or two — and coincidentally enough probably not a letter — I will leave you with this point. Canada Post’s decision is just a microcosm of a bigger shift at play here.
Cuts to many of these services further erode what once was and push hard against the psyche of our country. Canada has always been a mosaic of business, opportunity and nation-building, with each being able to reflect that while remaining healthy as well.
There is a need for business operating outside the realm of government, but there is also an argument that Crown corporations are needed as well. It is undoubtedly an efficiency game, but some pieces, like those mentioned above, just make sense to keep us Canadian.
It is a slippery slope for this country and may end up being the case for this government as well. Too many entities that were once proud pieces of our national fabric appear to be shrivelling away and this nation is less as a result of it.
It may feel a bit utopian to think that change wouldn’t come for a country that had so many of those little bits that made us seem unique. But this feels like another move toward having little old Canada taste as American as apple pie, leaving many of us to reminisce about a time that this nation’s identity meant something more than just dollars and cents.
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