Canada Post vows to work with local government on community mailboxes

Canada Post has a message for Saanich council and residents concerned about community mailboxes: consultation is coming.

Canada Post has a message for Saanich council and residents concerned about community mailboxes: consultation is coming.

Jon Hamilton, general manager of communications for Canada Post, says a report that passed unanimously by Saanich council this week doesn’t take into consideration the last decades of the mail corporation’s operations.

“Every council has to look out for the community they represent, and we completely understand that. But we have long-running and good working relationships with municipalities across the country,” Hamilton said.

“We understand that as councils look to the future they have some questions they didn’t have before. We need to sit down and answer those questions, we need to work on solutions, and we need to engage the local community.”

On Monday, council supported a report from Coun. Judy Brownoff that raised concerns about the financial and social implications of phasing out home delivery of mail.

“Are the challenges that will come from these community mailboxes more than saving Canada Post a few dollars on operations?” Brownoff posed.

She wants to know who will foot the bill to ensure mailbox locations are accessible on foot, well-lit and maintained. She fears Saanich will have to shoulder that burden.

Hamilton says, however, that the discussion is premature.

“We feel the best way to address that is to work with community as we go through the conversion process, to understand what the unique challenges are in a particular community,” he said. “We’re not looking to put costs onto municipalities. The boxes are our responsibility, but we’ll work with communities to understand what their specific concerns are and what makes the most sense for them.”

Canada Post expects to begin phasing out home delivery by the end of 2014.

Within a few months, Hamilton says Canada Post will announce the first communities in Canada that will be impacted and move into a consultation process with individual municipalities and residents. What the consultation looks like has yet to be determined.

“We understand that even if people aren’t immediately impacted, they’ll be following the process very closely,” he said. “We want to do this right. We think it’s more important to do this right than to do this fast.”

Brownoff says in an ideal world, Canada Post would continue home delivery as it stands today, and turn its attention to standards on new subdivisions.

She points to the fact that Saanich has essentially no more room to build out, so as more condos and apartments are built, opportunities will naturally arise to minimize the number of individual home deliveries.

“You can’t cut off one arm of your business to help another part. Canada Post needs to focus its business model on other opportunities,” Brownoff said.

Chief among Brownoff’s recommendations was giving councils across Canada a unified voice by creating a working group within the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Canada Post estimates 6,000 to 8,000 jobs will be eliminated by implementing nationwide community mailboxes.

The corporation says rising costs and falling mail volumes have rendered the traditional delivery operations no longer sustainable.