Farewell to Canada Post’s Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra, President and CEO of Canada Post, has announced he is stepping down in March 2018.[1][2] His enduring legacy of Canada Post is that he helped it survive during a tumultuous period. His voice was seldom heard and his picture rarely showed on the company walls, but his shadow was everywhere.

His leadership ends an interesting chapter in this company’s history and creates uncertainty for the future.

Mr. Chopra inherited a financial and political mess when he came to the helm and forced to deal with big problems with limited funds. He entered into a company where the Postal Transformation had failed, and debt was significantly mounting. If Canada Post was a publicly traded company, it would have gone into bankruptcy before his presidency. Due to Government intervention with loans, extensions of credit, and granting temporary relief from paying the mounting pension monies owing, this crisis was averted but not solved.

He also had to deal with the Government who meddled with Canada Post’s affairs that made little or no business sense.

This crisis was his mandate to rectify.

He had no choice but to make hard decisions that would alienate the public, employees, and even the Government.

Mr. Chopra lacked the charisma and communication skills of his predecessor and created a very hierarchical top-down environment – the very system which the previous President and CEO, Moya Greene unsuccessfully tried to deconstruct. His vision for the future was very well planned and mapped out but he lacked the skills to sell or articulate them with the public or employees.

He hardly had a public persona and was very restrictive on any pertinent information about Canada Post. No substantive information could be gleaned from his speeches at luncheons, meetings, or Parliament (hardly anything can be found on him speaking publicly on anything). Employees found out new information pertaining to their jobs through the media such as CBC faster than through internal channels.

This website, canadasmodernpost.wordpress.com, had to go into hibernation throughout Chopra’s reign due to lack of any substantial information being published other than official Canada Post documents.

If the past could be repeated, Canada Post would have greatly benefitted with his business acumen in 2008 when Moya Greene was president and CEO. He would have avoided the many failed business decisions made at this critical juncture. Moya Greene would have been a perfect candidate to follow-up on him with her talents in selling and communicating ideas.

What does the future hold with Canada Post? It is interesting that he resigned during a yet to be publicly released report on Canada Post – the process and formulation leading up to the report had always maintained that Canada Post should revert back to door-to-door delivery. The report was due to be released last spring but has been repeatedly delayed. There has been no official explanation for the delay or a new date of public publication set. Chopra’s resignation signals that the Liberal Government has not backed his five-year plan that had Community Mail Boxes as its core cost savings measure.

The Liberal Government is now stuck with the difficult question of how to find Canada Post an extra $1 billion in yearly profits to repay the pension deficit. The temporary cessation of repayments is to run-out in 2018.[3] The $500 million in annual savings with the CMB conversion was a partial solution to this.

One of the solutions the Government is contemplating is to change the pension formula.[4] The Government has so far stated that this would only happen if employees approve this in a new contract. With the CUPW contract expiring January 31, 2018, this was likely going to be part of the new contract offering by Canada Post.[5][6] The majority of employees would overwhelmingly reject such a proposition. It would inevitably lead to a long strike which would then permanently impact Canada Post’s position as the number one parcel company in Canada. The subsidiary result would also negatively affect Canada Post’s bottom line for years to come.

Chopra was caught between the Government and employees once again on this one. This was probably one fight he wasn’t ready to take on.

[1] http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/deepak-chopra-announces-he-ll-leave-canada-post-in-the-spring-of-2018-1.3545456
[2]The CUPW response to his departure: http://www.cupw.ca/en/deepak-chopra%E2%80%99s-departure-opportunity-new-direction-canada-post#.WZNLUERi41A.facebook
[3]https://www.cpcpension.com/db/db_news_funding_relief_mar2014-e.asp
[4]A previous version of this article read: “change the Canada Post Pension Plan from a Registered Pension Plan to a Target Benefit Plan.” This was inaccurate. The DBP is proposed to be converted to a life annuity for each member and once that is settled, a new Target Benefit Plan will be the designated pension plan from that day forward.
[5]https://www.osler.com/en/about-us/press-room/2016/commons-report-suggests-shared-risk-as-possible-op
[6]http://www.moneysense.ca/save/retirement/pensions/defined-benefit-pension-plans-due-change/
[7]See the many other articles on canadasmodernpost.wordpress.com for more detailed information on the financial outlook of Canada Post.

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