Over the next few months, our Conservative federal government is conducting a review that will determine the future of universal, public postal service in our country. This review is pretty much a secret review, and it could be bad news for good people.

The governmentâe(TM)s review will look at three very basic and important questions: What postal services should people receive? Who should provide them? And should Canada Post continue to have an exclusive privilege to handle addressed letters, or should the letter market be open to competition?

Anyone who thinks that a little competition never hurt anyone might want to take a closer look at how our postal system actually works. Canada Post has an exclusive privilege to handle letters so that it is able to generate enough money to provide affordable postal service to everyone, no matter where they live.

While the exclusive privilege isnâe(TM)t often discussed, most people seem to like what it does. In fact, 91 per cent of respondents to an Angus Reid poll said universal postal service at a uniform rate is one of the really great things about Canada Post.

Unfortunately, our popular and egalitarian one-price-goes-anywhere service could disappear. If the government decides to eliminate our post officeâe(TM)s exclusive privilege as a result of its review, Canada Post would almost certainly face a downward spiral. Private sector competitors would focus on profitable areas and services, leaving unprofitable parts to our public post office. With fewer profits, Canada Post would find it increasingly difficult âe” and eventually impossible – to provide uniform and affordable service, especially in rural and remote parts of the county.

Even though the Conservative governmentâe(TM)s review could change the very nature of our postal system, the Tories are not planning on holding public hearings or doing much to publicize their examination of Canada Post. They have issued a media release asking for submissions by September 2, 2008. Their advisory panel is contacting âeoemajor stakeholders.âe

The fact that the government is not holding public hearings and is proceeding at a breakneck pace with its review suggests that it is not really interested in hearing from the real owners and stakeholders of our post office âe” the public.

It is also disturbing that the chair of the review has written a book, entitled The Politics of Postal Transformation, that recommends that the federal government eliminate the exclusive privilege. Aside from the obvious, it is disturbing because the few countries that have fully removed their post officeâe(TM)s exclusive privilege or monopoly on letters have suffered. They now have fewer jobs, less service and higher postal rates for people and small businesses.

As is, our basic postage rate currently ranks as one of the lowest in the industrial world. Letter mail is secure, cheap, on time 96.1 per cent of the time and delivered to everyone at a single price. In a recent national poll, Canada Post surpassed the CBC and the Supreme Court as the most trusted federal institution in Canada.

This is not to say that our post office is perfect. But it is worth noting that it will be difficult for Canada Post to improve service if the government eliminates the mechanism that funds public postal service âe” the exclusive privilege.

If you like your secure, trusted, affordable and universal postal service and think the federal government is trying to fix something that isnâe(TM)t broken, contact the Canada Post Strategic Review at 330 Sparks Street Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N5, and speak your mind by September 2, 2008.

You might want to express concerns about post office closures. Last time the Conservatives were in office, they closed about 1,500 rural post offices before being stopped by public outrage and an election defeat. Donâe(TM)t forget to mention that a speedy review without public hearings is hardly a democratic way to decide the fate of our publicly owned post office.