Is Canada Post still relevant? If you listen to all the big city opinion columnists the answer is no. They claim that with the increased use of email for personal and business communication that the day to day mail delivery is out of date and obsolete. Tell that to rural Canadians who still depend on the post.
Maybe when you live in the big city the post office seems like an out-dated institution, but when it comes to living in rural communities the post office is not only the link to the outside world for many, but it is also a centre for community communication. The post office is where community notices are posted. It is where you run into your neighbours and most importantly, it is an affordable way for rural Canadians to not only receive, but send packages.
The blinding lights of the big city have hidden the fact that once vital services like Greyhound do not exist for some of us smaller communities. Critics of the postal service seem to think that just because they know how to feel comfortable using email and other technologies that everyone does. In rural Canada, high-speed internet is a luxury not a given, and in some of our more remote areas (never mind the internet) telephone lines do not even connect homes to the outside world. It must be hard for someone who has always known and taken for granted the “luxuries” of city life to understand that once you leave suburbia some of us still use “antiquated” systems like the postal service.
Is the strike right or wrong? It’s not my place to say. Is the negativity towards the services of the postal system justified? Not a chance.
As technology makes our lives easier and faster, it also creates a gap between those who use it regularly and those who do not. In some instances, it is by choice, but in other cases it is because the technology that is so readily available in larger centres takes longer to reach rural areas. For those who live in the world where high-speed internet is available in every coffee shop, and where new fibre optic networks connect your home to the world, it may be hard to understand what it is like to depend on older systems like the post office. Some would argue that there are courier services available and they would be right, but are you going to use a courier for a package that only costs you a few dollars or for a letter or birthday present for a relative?
If nothing else, the labour dispute between Canada Post and the Union has shown that there is a real gap between urban and rural life, one that is not only technological, but institutional. With less services and options available in rural Canada, we depend more heavily on the ones we have, so while the urban opinion columnists call for an end of Canada Post I am reminded of the same battle that has been raging in this country since the beginning of urban versus rural, and like always, just because something is good for the cities doesn’t make it good for the rest of Canada.