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Canada Post Corporation.

January 5, 2001.

In case you have not heard, Canada Post has raised postal rates for the second consecutive year. This year's increase is one cent (from $0.46 to $0.47) for domestic letter movements, five cents (from $0.55 to $0.60) for letters to our southern neighbours in the United States, and a whopping ten-cent increase (from $0.95 to $1.05) for international mail. This is an extension of the increases last January, when the rates were $0.45, $0.52 and $0.90 respectively. Therefore, over a period of just over one year, our domestic rates have risen four percent, rates to the USA have risen 15 percent, and rates to all other countries have increased 17 percent.

I have a feeling that Canada Post is trying to compete with e-mail (assuming that most of us e-mail friends and relatives within our country) thus the lowest increases on, what one can suppose, is the highest volume. However, to raise rates to international destinations by an average of 16 percent seems a little extreme. A similar increase for a wage earner making $12 per hour would mean an increase to almost $14 per hour. Not bad!


Canada Post Corporation
By John MacDonald (john@factscanada.ca)

Canada Post Corporation (CPC) was created as a Crown corporation on October 16, 1981, as the successor to the Post Office Department. Its incorporation reflected an agreement, which had evolved over almost twenty years and was approved by three successive federal governments, about the need for a new direction for the provision of postal services in Canada. Canadians had powerfully complained about the service and reliability of the Post Office Department, particularly after a series of strikes in the sixties and seventies. Postal unions argued that their collective bargaining rights were limited as long as they were government employees and required to negotiate with government agencies and departments rather than postal management. The government itself was concerned about the lack of financial and managerial accountability and the resulting growth in the operating deficit of the Post Office Department, which in 1980-81 was almost $500 million.

The CPC, under the Canada Post Corporation Act, has a broad mandate to operate a postal service for the transmission of messages, information, funds and goods, and to provide other related services. The provision of "universal" letter service, or service to all Canadians anywhere in Canada at affordable, uniform rates, is central to this mandate. Outside of its letter service, CPC competes directly with other suppliers and has the same flexibility enjoyed by private sector enterprises to move in and out of markets and services. These competitive activities of CPC reflect the history of postal services in Canada and elsewhere.

Canadian postal administrations have been providing parcel services since 1859, unaddressed advertising and printed matter distribution services since 1903, expedited delivery of documents since 1914, hybrid hard-copy electronic services since 1972, and courier services since 1979. In 1990 the CPC formed Canada Post Systems Management Ltd. (CPSML) to market Canada Post systems and technology worldwide. Since its creation, CPSML has had 80 successful projects in 38 countries.

CPC and its affiliate Purolator Courier Ltd. collect, process and deliver over 9 billion pieces of mail and parcels each year. In doing so, they serve 30 million Canadians and over 900 000 businesses and public institutions. Each working day, CPC and its affiliate deliver an average of 37 million pieces of mail, processed through 22 major plants and many other facilities, to over 12.7 million addresses in Canada, and forward mail to virtually every country in the world.

Together with its affiliated companies, Canada Post ranks in the top 35 among Canadian businesses in terms of revenue, and is the fifth largest employer in Canada, with 63 000 full- and part-time employees. Canada Post offers customers a network of approximately 20 000 retail points of access. Nearly 80 percent of these locations are operated by private businesses, a relationship that dates back to the formation of Canada's postal system.

Postal History

Early commerce required a means of exchanging information as well as goods and services. The growth of empires required a speedy and reliable system for issuing orders and receiving and responding to reports. Using a system of relay posts, ancient Egypt was able to send messages quickly over long distances. The Romans, with fast horses and good roads, were able to assure next-day delivery up to 280 kilometres away by post. The next great improvement came with the development of steam vehicles in the nineteenth century -- the railways carried mail over 800 kilometres in a day. In the twentieth century, aircraft carried mail thousands of kilometres a day, and with electronic facsimile transmittal by satellite, mail can now be sent around the world in only a few hours.

The modern postal system began in England with the introduction of the adhesive postage stamp by Rowland Hill in 1837. Hill also devised the uniform postage rate schedules based on weight, rather than size, and made the prepayment of postage both possible and practical. The British government adopted Hill's system in May 1840 and its use quickly spread worldwide.

When the French arrived in North America in the sixteenth century, messages were carried among the native people by swift and trusted messengers. The French adopted the practice of using canoes between settlements along the St. Lawrence River. In 1735 a road was opened between Quebec and Montreal and a special messenger was appointed to carry official dispatches. He also carried other messages for a fee. At intervals along the route, "Post Houses" with a "Maitre de poste" were set up to receive messages and fees and to provide conveyance to the next post.

In 1753 Benjamin Franklin was appointed deputy postmaster general for the British colonies. In 1755 Franklin organized the first regular monthly mail packet service between Falmouth, England, and New York, USA, and opened the first official post office in Canada in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to link Halifax with the Atlantic colonies and the packet service to England. A post office for local and outgoing mail had been started by Benjamin Leigh in Halifax in April, 1754.

After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Franklin established a post office in Quebec City with subsidiaries in Montreal and Trois-Rivieres. A Scottish immigrant, Hugh Finlay, became postmaster. A monthly courier service by way of Lake Champlain connected Montreal with New York and the Atlantic packet service. In 1774 Franklin was dismissed because of his sympathy with the American revolutionary cause, and Finlay became deputy postmaster general for the northern colonies. By 1775 the mails were being seriously disrupted by the revolutionaries and, because of the threat to the couriers lives, Finlay stopped the inland service. Peace returned in 1783, and on July 7, 1784, Hugh Finlay became the deputy postmaster general for Canada. The revolution brought a major immigration of loyalists to Canada and a demand for improved postal services. Early in 1784 Finlay hired a courier, Pierre Durand, to pioneer a Canadian route to Halifax from Quebec City through 1000 kilometres of forest. The round trip with the mail took fifteen weeks.

By 1851 there were deputy general postmasters in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada, but the British government still administered the postal system. The provincial deputies were convinced that they could operate the system more efficiently and petitioned Queen Victoria for a transfer of authority. The queen's approval was dispatched on February 22, 1851, and became effective April 5, 1851. From then until Confederation, the provinces co-operated in providing the mail service required, with W.H. Griffin, secretary in charge, reporting to the Honourable James Morris, postmaster general of the Province of Canada. The new, decentralized, co-operative arrangement lived up to the expectation of its advocates. Rates were reduced and volumes doubled in the first year of provincial co-operation.

By 1850 sail had largely given way to steam as a reliable way to move the mail over Canada's major water routes. During the navigation season mail steamers regularly carried mail from Kingston to Montreal, and from Montreal to Quebec. In 1852 these services were put on an interconnecting schedule and extended to the head of Lake Ontario to speed up the mail from Canada West. By 1865 there were mail steam boats on the Upper Lakes connecting Parry Sound, Collingwood, Sault Ste. Marie and Fort William with the US Postal Service. A weekly steamer service also brought mail from Quebec to the Gaspe and the ports around the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In 1860 the postal department decided to establish its own Atlantic service from Montreal to Liverpool, England. The year 1861 was disastrous. The ship the "Canadian" struck ice and foundered off Newfoundland on June 4, and the "North Briton" went down on the Perroquet Rocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on November 5. New rules made the service safer, more reliable and less costly, and by 1890 Canada had scheduled ocean mail services to Britain and Europe from Montreal and Halifax, to the West Indies from St. John, and to China and Japan from Vancouver. A direct line to Australia, working through Honolulu, Hawaii, and Fiji was established in 1893.

The post office was one of the first federal government departments formed after Confederation, and took over the postal service on April 1, 1868. As the Canadian Pacific Railway stretched across the prairies in the 1880s, a railway post office, called "End of the Line", moved with it, bringing banking, money-order and mail-order facilities to the settlers. On June 28, 1886, another railway mail car left Montreal and arrived in Port Moody, BC, on July 4. It began a national mail service which was the envy of the world for 80 years.

Free letter-carrier delivery service was introduced in Montreal on October 1, 1874. Free rural mail delivery began between Hamilton and Ancaster, Ontario, on October 10, 1908. Captain Brian Peck flew the first official Canadian air mail from Montreal to Toronto on June 24, 1918. Two weeks later, Katherine Stinson became Canada's first woman air mail pilot when she flew 259 authorized letters from Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta. Prepaid, stamped air mail was flown between Haileybury, Ontario, and Rouyn, Quebec, September 21, 1924, reducing mail time between these remote northern mining towns from weeks to a few hours.

On October 4, 1927, the first contract air mail service commenced between Lac Du Bonnett, Bissett and Wadhope in Manitoba. The post office also began an experimental air service to meet the ocean liners at Rimouski, Quebec, and fly the mail to Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa. This service continued until 1939. In January 1929, famed bush pilot Punch Dickins, with engineer L. Parmenter, F. Lundy of Western Canada Airways and post office inspector T.J. Reilly, flew mail to Fort McMurray, Alberta, and Fort Resolution and Aklavik in the Northwest Territories. In December 1929 air mail between Fort McMurray and Aklavik linked the Northwest Territories with the postal system and established a postal service 480 kilometres within the Arctic Circle. An air mail contract helped finance Trans-Canada Airlines (which became Air Canada in 1965) in 1937. On March 1, 1939, a daily air mail service between Montreal and Vancouver began. It was extended to the Maritimes in January 1940. On July 1, 1948, Canada became the first country in the world to introduce domestic "all-up" service. First class mail was carried by air at regular postage rates.

Technological Change

In the nineteenth century steamboats and trains made it possible to carry more mail quicker over long distances, at the same time sorting it en route, thus eliminating some of the dead time and post office handling. Mechanization of the postal transportation system brought a tremendous improvement in speed and reliability. In the twenties the introduction of conveyor belts, elevators and gravity feed systems greatly reduced the time and labour required to move mail within the post offices.

An Alberta mailman, J.A. Lapierre, built a snow machine to deliver mail between St. Paul and St. Lina, Alberta, in the winter of 1923. He replaced the front wheels of a Model T Ford with skis. The front wheels were then connected in tandem with the rear wheels and a double-length set of chains went on over each pair of wheels. The enclosed cab used heat from the radiator, and the machine looked not unlike an early snowmobile. It worked so well it was used as a taxi to dances and meetings when the roads were otherwise impassable.

The introduction of the all-up air mail service, the improvement in paved roads and trucking services, and a railway strike in 1950 brought about the rapid decline of the railway mail service and shifted its "sortation" load back into the post offices. Air mail also increased the public's expectations of the postal service. People now anticipated delivery at the speed of the airplane.

Distribution systems became more complicated as the nation grew and became urbanized and as the composition of the mail changed. Then, in the mid-sixties, the annual examinations on distribution skills and rules and regulations were dropped, and the speed and efficiency of the manual memory sortation declined. To meet this problem the simplified alphabetic sortation, used at Christmas, was extended. It required less training, but more people, overtaxing crowded facilities and equipment. The obvious need was to mechanise the sortation process itself.

The Post Office Department first sought to simplify and streamline existing work methods and make the best of existing facilities through work simplification, measurement and standardization. This led to mechanizing the steps of the sortation process. A British-designed mechanical segregating, facing and cancelling machine called "Sefacan" was introduced in Winnipeg, and a sortation machine from Holland, called the "Transorma", was installed in Peterborough in the fifties. The early machines were noisy and inefficient.

The Post Office Department then commissioned Dr. Maurice Levy, an electronics scientist, to design and supervise the building of a new, electronic, computer controlled, automatic mail sortation system for Canada. A hand-made model sorter was tested at postal headquarters in Ottawa in 1953. It worked, and a prototype coding and sortation machine, capable of processing all of the mail then generated by the City of Ottawa, was built by Canadian manufacturers and assembled in the Langevin Building, at Ottawa, in 1956. It could process mail at a rate of 30 000 letters per hour, with a missort factor of less than one letter in 10 000.

Visitors from around the world who attended the Universal Postal Union Congress in 1957 were impressed, but a change of government brought about the closing of Dr. Levy's laboratory. Further development was contracted to Canadair, in Montreal, which was unable to complete the work, and eventually the equipment was sold for scrap. In 1970 Canada Post chose a proven Belgian coding system and letter sorting machine, and Japanese-designed, high-speed culler-facer-canceller and optical character reader equipment. Canada now has the most mechanized and "potentially efficient" postal system in the world.

Postal System

The postal system is a network of postal facilities serving people in all parts of Canada, of transportation services linking post offices, and thousands of people dedicated to transmitting mail. It is a service used for personal, social and commercial purposes. Co-operation between postal systems transcends political differences and makes it possible to exchange mail almost anywhere in the world. About 8 billion pieces of mail are handled by Canada's more than 8500 postal facilities each year.

Post Offices

The Gateway postal plant near the international airport in Mississauga, Ontario, covers ten hectares under one roof, and is one of 30 mechanized postal plants in Canada. In addition to these large, mechanized sortation plants, there are about 400 staff post offices in urban communities large enough to warrant a letter-carrier service, and about 2000 semi-staff post offices in smaller communities. Nearly 3500 revenue post offices serve villages and rural areas; traditionally, their postmasters and assistants are paid from postal revenues. Seasonal post offices are set up to accommodate people during the busy vacation season in certain areas.

Postal stations are an extension of the main post office and provide the basic services. Sub-post offices are found in stores and businesses for the convenience of the public. In these, the owner of the business acts as the postmaster and provides a postal clerk as necessary. In rural areas of a certain density a rural delivery service is provided. In some cases group mail boxes may be set up at convenient points where customers can pick up their mail. Lock boxes are also provided in urban locations. Mail may be sent to a specific address or by general delivery to a post office to be picked up by the addressee.

The Postal Process

When a person deposits a letter in a mail box, the box is cleared at a scheduled time and the letter is taken by truck to the main post office where parcels, large envelopes and metered mail are separated and the rest is sent to be cancelled. Mail addressed to the community in which it was posted is sorted by street names into letter-carrier routes or sent to postal stations for the letter carriers, who sort it by street and house number for delivery. The letter carrier takes about 16 kilograms at a time in his bag. The rest is taken by truck to relay boxes at convenient places along the letter-carrier's route. Large parcels are delivered by drivers. Mail addressed to places outside the community is sorted, packaged and sent to the country, city or distribution centre for that address. There it is sorted again and put into boxes to be picked up, and turned over to the letter-carriers or rural mail couriers for delivery to the addressee.

Starting in Ottawa in 1972, the post office installed equipment to mechanize the sortation process. The system is based on a six-character postal code which forms the end of the last line of every address. This postal code is made up of alpha-numeric characters, arranged in the order FSA LDU. (Please refer to the "Canadian Postal Code system explained" article in FactsCanada.ca issue 2000-07 at this link for more information on the FSA and LDU.). The first group, FSA (Forward Sortation Area), represents a geographic area; the second group, LDU (Local Delivery Unit), is a local code that may identify a street, an apartment building or a group of rural post offices.

Mail brought into a letter processing plant (LPP) is unloaded, dropped onto a conveyor and taken to a bag shake-out machine. There it is shaken out and taken by a conveyor to a culling station where oversize, undersize and unacceptable articles are removed to be sorted manually. The mail then goes to a culler-facer-canceller (CFC) where it is culled again if it does not meet machine standards of size and thickness. The machine then faces up the remainder and the stamp is located by a photoelectric cell that triggers its cancellation. Letters are then stacked in coded trays and sent to a temporary storing system from which a computer dispatches them to the next step according to a scheduling program.

The next step may be an optical character reader (OCR), which locates and reads typed or printed codes and applies a coloured bar code that actuates a letter sorting machine (LSM). As many as 20 000 letters an hour can be sorted into the LSM's destination bins. Addresses that cannot be identified by the OCR are rejected and sent to the group desk suite (GDS) where the code is read by an operator who keys the coloured-bar code onto the letter by hand. Uncoded or indecipherable coded letters are rejected at the GDS and sent to manual sorters. Both the OCR and the GDS take care of the primary sortation of the mail and add the bar codes for the final sortation by the LSM.

Mail that does not meet the standards, or does not bear the code legibly printed, has to be separated out of the main flow. Large envelopes or magazines, called flats, are sent to flat sorting machines (FSM) for processing. Small parcels and small objects, such as hotel keys, also have their own sorting system. An operator indicates their postal code to a computer, which directs them to a mechanism that sorts them according to their destination. Standard mail, parcels, large envelopes and manually sorted mail come together in a consolidation area where mail for a particular destination is assembled and packaged for transport by conveyor or fork lift to the dispatching dock. Local mail goes out to the postal stations by shuttle trucks for delivery. Forward mail goes by truck to other post offices or to the air mail facility (AMF) for shipment to other cities or countries.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU)

The Universal Postal Union is an international organization, facilitating the exchange of mail between nations. It is a forum in which countries can discuss and work out problems that interfere with the free flow of mail among themselves. It originated in Berne, Switzerland, in 1874, and Canada became a member in 1878. The Universal Postal Union is a specialized agency of the United Nations, made up of 189 member countries, each of which represents a single postal territory. Freedom of transit for postal items is guaranteed throughout the union's territories. Canada is also a member and plays an active role in the Postal Union of the Americas and Spain (PUAS).



On Sunday I profile Sir John A. Macdonald, tell you about Onion Lake, and tell you a bit about everyday things from 100 years ago.


We have loads of good stuff planned for this year. One change, taking effect today, is that all of the links pertinent to each newsletter will be archived on their own page on the Web site. This will make it easier for us to keep them current, as well as telling you where I get all of this information from. Believe it or not, some of it isn't stored in my brain! Look for the links at this link.



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