Archive for July, 2007

Canada to Adopt Portable Postal Codes

July 1, 2007

On Friday, March 30, 2007 the Globe and Mail reported that the Government of Canada in collaboration with Canada Post plans to launch a national “Portable Postal Code” program. Under the Go Postal Program, Globe and Mail reporter Wendy Seabrook reported that Canadians will be able to keep their current postal codes no matter where in Canada they move, whether it is across the country or across town. On March 17, 2007, Prime Minister, Stephen Harper announced that the CRTC ruled that mobile phone customers would soon be able to keep their telephone numbers with them when they changed carriers. That made it possible for a person to retain a familiar number even when switching, say from Bell to Telus or Rogers and even from traditional phone service to cell phone service. At the time of the announcement by the Prime Minister, no one anticipated the cascading effect this would have. Now the concept has spilled over onto another branch of the federal government. The Globe and Mail’s Wendy Seabrook reports on the latest expansion of portability. If you were sitting far in the back of the packed Federal Conference Centre room in downtown Ottawa you may have missed the smile that broke across the faces of the 15 Canada Post employees on the rostrum. But smiles they were indeed — as the afternoon’s surprise announcement was read at the end of the usual daily briefing to reporters by the Assistant Postmaster General Lester Crandall.

“I’m pleased to announce a new feature of our on-going “Go Postal” campaign,” said Crandall. “It’s yet another step to modernize the Canadian postal system and satisfy our customers.
“Every year thousands of Canadians are on the go: People who must relocate for work or other reasons. Those people may have been quite attached to their original homes or an adopted town or city of residence. For them this innovative measure will serve as an umbilical cord to the place they love best.

“So it is with great pride and pleasure I tell you that starting next month, the national Portable Postal Codes program will commence in Ontario. Every month after that it will expand to include another Province and Territory until everyone in Canada can take their postal code with them wherever they chose. With it, Canadian citizens will be able to keep their present postal codes wherever they chose to live, across the country or across town.”

Crandall said that while the plan would at first take some getting used to, the kinks could easily be worked out. He’s expected to meet with representatives of the nation’s mail carriers union next week to work on details.

While the portable postal codes code bid is subject to approval by the Privy Council’s Oversight Committee, it is expected to face no opposition in the Senate’s Select Committee on Communications Technologies which has a majority of conservative members. However, NDP Senator Phil Spigel of Burns Lake British Columbia is likely to be very much against any measure that brings change to the Canada Post or any other government service.

“This is like Kinko’s expanding its reproductive services to include gynecology,” said Senator Phil Spigel of Burns Lake. He spoke with the Globe by satellite phone from Portugal, where he is on a fact-finding mission with the singer and Juno Nominee, Nelly Furtado.

“Call me old-fashioned, but our Canadian postal codes were meant to stay put,” he said. “They serve a clear, unambiguous purpose: They tell the postal worker on his or her route where you live. When I return to Ottawa at the end of March — to postal code K1A 0A4, to be exact — I’m certain I’ll be thinking long and hard of maybe voting against it unless I hear some pretty darn good reasons for any change to something that works. If it works why change it?”

But many people feel otherwise, especially considering the labour move in Alberta. A modern, mobile society — they argue — can no longer afford to remain grounded in locale-specific postal codes. Proponents of portability say a postal code is a badge of honor, an emblem symbolizing a citizen’s place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape.

Richard Henoffer, of Pembroke Ontario is a stockbroker and he whole heartedly supports the new portable postal code program. “I was born and raised in Pembroke, Ontario.,” Henoffer said. “I use to spend my winters ice-fishing with friends on the Ottawa River. But my company moved me to Toronto, which was hard enough. But then the post office said I had to change my postal code. I couldn’t be K1S 3Y1 anymore. And that really hurt. It was like I was out on the Ottawa River fishing you know, and suddenly like the ice wasn’t here.”

The stationary system of Canadian Postal codes has been in place for decades now, and in that time those letters and numbers evolved from just a series of digits to a status symbol — like an expensive watch or a handsome hairpiece.

For years critics of the Canadian postal system insisted that opposition to mobility of postal codes was a ploy by Canada Post to further exert control over people’s lives. Rex Murphy heads Citizens for Retention of All Postal Services. You can visit their web site at: Citizens for Retention of All Postal Services

“They just didn’t get it,” said Murphy. “They didn’t understand that people work hard to get an R3C 4L8 postal code — moving shouldn’t disconnect them from that part of their lives. Postal Codes are no different than names. You wouldn’t want the government to tell you that you had to change your name when you moved to Winnipeg, would you? So why should you be shamed by being stripped of the postal code you may have grown up with when you move? I applaud this new plan.”

The new vanity portable postal code feature is only the latest addition to the Go Postal program, which began last April 1. Canada Post officials report that Go Postal has already been a success, with millions of tax payer dollars of new revenue coming from the introduction of pop-up ads on postage stamps. Canada Post is hoping to issue the first portable postal codes on April 1, 2007. But first the Senate House subcommittee must override an anticipated veto. If that passes, the full Senate will have to take up the three riders attached to the bill by the postal subcommittee. If that fails, then only a 4-5 measure in both houses can pass. Only time will tell where this all stands.