SooToday.com received a copy of a letter sent to City Council from Mark Barsanti, president of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, in response to recent announcements by Canada Post.
On January 6, I was sworn in as President of the Chamber of Commerce for the 2014-2015 term.
In my remarks, I suggested to the community that we need to set a strategic direction that is consistent with the values and vision that formed the foundation for the Sault to become the industrial power house that it was in the 20th century.
It was the vision and entrepreneurialism of Francis Clergue that set the stage for Sault Ste Marie to become a major industrial force in the development of Canada.
Clergue came to this area in the late 1800’s to capitalize on a failed power plant project.
From that decision, Clergue built an industrial empire, parts of which still survive today and over the last 125 years created billions of dollars of wealth in the form of wages, pensions, capital investment and tax revenue.
I challenged the community to strike a strategic direction to become the best place in Canada to do business.
This is a forward looking goal that would require some hard choices in order to be achieved.
On Monday night, council is being asked to consider a motion that will call on the Federal Government to stop the planned changes at Canada Post which include the move to community mail boxes and the increases to postage rates.
The councillors putting this motion forward no doubt have their hearts in the right place.
They are good people with genuine concerns for their constituents.
Seniors and those with mobility issues will be negatively impacted by this decision.
Jobs could be lost.
They were quoted in the press as stating their belief that the decision made by Canada Post was not well thought out.
To become the best city in Canada to do business, we need to set a tone that is supportive of business decisions and we need to develop a reputation for being a community that knows how to capitalize on change.
Canada Post undertook extensive consultation on this issue.
It completed months of dialogue with Canadians.
It employs 100’s of experts in the area of freight cost management.
It consulted with major postal services such the US Postal Service and the Royal Mail - both of which are facing similar crises.
It will be using attrition wherever possible to reduce the impact of job losses and it is growing another, more profitable part of its business.
They are working on programs to assist the elderly and the disabled.
More than 2/3 of Canadians no longer have home delivery.
Canada Post’s business is changing.
They are becoming a package freight carrier more so than a message carrier.
Other media have taken over the realm of message traffic.
Canada Post needs to build and invest in the package freight business because that is what their customers are demanding.
As a country, we decided in 1981 that the postal service should not be a government department or part of the social programming.
We decided it needed to be its own business entity.
The business climate has changed.
When that happens a business has to react. The change resulting from that reaction may be difficult but it’s necessary.
In the interests of full disclosure, my business includes a Canada Post Outlet.
We anticipate that the increase in postal rates will negatively impact our sale of those products but we do believe that we can find ways to reduce those impacts.
Is it possible that this issue can become the impetus for major benefits for our city?
Just as a bankrupt power plant brought Clergue to the Sault and ignited the economy of the city, could this change in the Canada Post service model bring about benefits for our community?
To begin to be a city that is seen as the best place in Canada to do business, I would encourage an amendment to the motion that will be before council that includes the following:
The City of Sault Ste. Marie is aware of and concerned with the challenges facing Canada Post;
The City of Sault Ste. Marie encourages Canada Post to create pilot programs in the city of Sault Ste. Marie to test various methods designed to reduce the impact of the loss of home delivery on the elderly and disabled; and the City of Sault Ste. Marie will work with Canada Post in that regard for the benefit of the whole country;
The City of Sault Ste. Marie supports Canada Post in its efforts to grow its package freight business;
That the City of Sault Ste. Marie encourages, the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation and the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce to engage Canada Post in a dialogue to explore how Sault Ste. Marie can help Canada Post succeed in growing the package freight business by:
- Leveraging our position in the approximate geographic centre of the country;
- Leveraging our access to the United States
- Leveraging the relatively low traffic volumes on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge
- Leveraging our relatively low traffic volumes at the Sault Ste. Marie International Airport;
- Leveraging the Canada Border Service (Customs) infrastructure in Sault Ste. Marie;
- Leveraging the fact that Sault Ste. Marie is home to Eazy Express which is one of the largest Canada Post package delivery businesses in the country with more than 300 employees; and
- Accessing a ready, willing and under-utilized pool of talented workers.
We need to ask ourselves whether or not we want to spend our time fighting for the status quo in a world that is changing at an ever increasing rate.
Or do we want to create the conditions that will allow entrepreneurs to benefit from the opportunities that exist in changes, challenges and crises so that we can provide opportunity and prosperity for our residents.
Mark Barsanti, President
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce
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