In Greater Victoria, a letter mailed to your neighbour across the street will journey through the Lower Mainland and back starting this September.
Canada Post is shutting down processing of local letters at its Glandford Avenue plant starting Sept. 16. All mail currently split between mailboxes as "on Vancouver Island" and "off Vancouver Island" will merge into one for a trip across the water.
Victoria's Canada Post plant will continue to process parcels and other mail that can't be sorted automatically.
"I think (delivery) will be slower," said Janet Barney, president of the United Postal Workers of Canada local 850 and a letter carrier in Langford. "Canada Post says standards will be maintained, but it is being slowly eroded.
"Letters (in Victoria) used to be process that night and on the street the next day. That is gone."
Barney said 10 positions in the automated sorting section will be eliminated, but those employees have job security and can bid on vacant positions elsewhere in the city. "Victoria is losing 10 well-paid, stable jobs. The community is effected. Those jobs are going to Vancouver."
Canada Post disputes the union numbers, and says five positions in Victoria will be lost through attrition. The corporation insists delivery service levels won't change – the standard for local to local mail service remains two days.
Anick Losier, spokeswoman for Canada Post in Ottawa, said the reality is that most mail in Victoria is sorted in Vancouver already – mail deposited in any mailbox before 5 p.m. is shipped to the Mainland, and any mail after 5 p.m. is shipped to the Glandford plant.
A network of Canada Post trucks travel between Vancouver Island and Vancouver multiple times each day, Losier said.
"We are using the existing network. There is space on the trucks," she said. "The equipment in Vancouver processes 40,000 letters per hour. The process is faster than the Victoria facility." The Glandford plant at the winter holiday peak processes 100,000 letters per day, Losier said, and about half that in the summer.
"Victoria will continue to process parcels and direct marketing mail. Those are two lines of business we are trying to grow," she said.
The centralization and restructuring of mail delivery is the continuation of Canada Post trying to stem revenue losses due to people mailing far fewer letters – a billion less between 2006 and 2012. A business model that relies on earning half its revenue from delivering letters "isn't sustainable," Losier said.
"What we are trying to do is maximize our equipment and maximize our people's time. ... Consumers expect us to make responsible decisions."
Barney argued that Canada Post is "making millions" and isn't a burden on taxpayers, especially from the growth in parcel delivery generated from online shopping.
In its 2013 first quarter report, the corporation noted the parcel business isn't yet large enough to offset losses in letter mail. That said, it posted profits over the last two fiscal quarters after losses through most of 2011-12.
Canada Post points out that it would have lost a total of $127 million had it not sold its property on Georgia Street in Vancouver (that plant is still operating until a new facility is opened in 2014 at the Vancouver airport), and renegotiated benefits and salaries with the UPWC.
"An influx of parcels by six or seven per cent is not enough to compensate for the loss of letters," Losier said.
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison doubts Canada Post can maintain its service levels in Victoria, calling the shift to Vancouver "a short sighted decision." The community is losing jobs and the reputation of Canada Post is eroding further, he said.
"Canada Post says the same level of service will be maintained. You have to laugh out loud," Garrison said. "To think the service will be the same is ludicrous."