Politicians criticize Canada Post consultation

Saanich councillor says her worries about moving to community mailboxes aren't lessened by the mail carrier's guiding principles

The principles that will guide Canada Post through its transition away from home delivery aren’t putting one worried Saanich councillor’s mind at ease.

Judy Brownoff, who last month brought forward a motion to council outlining her concerns about converting to community mailboxes, says she sees the Crown Corporation’s guidelines as “doublespeak.”

Her concerns surround ensuring Canada Post makes the community mailboxes safe and accessible, and who will pay for that to happen. She now says the proposed consultation process isn’t sitting well with her, too.

“They have to talk to communities. They can’t be talking at a high level,” Brownoff said. “What they need to be doing is meeting in jurisdictions and holding public meetings.”

Last week Canada Post released its guiding principles, which stated the conversations about specific community needs will happen with “community leaders and municipal planning officials.”

“The postal service will take the necessary time to understand their unique needs and find solutions that work for these neighbourhoods,” reads a release from Canada Post. The organization said it will also collect feedback through mail and online surveys.

“That’s not good enough,” Brownoff said.

She fears the organization will institute a Canada-wide, one-size-fits-all formula, with minor variations, and won’t take into consideration the age and mobility demographics or topography of individual neighbourhoods.

Brownoff points to another principle that says “alternative approaches” will be offered to Canadians “with significant mobility challenges, who lack viable alternatives and upon whom delivery to a community mailbox would impose an unacceptable hardship.”

“We don’t know what significant mobility challenges are,” she said, referencing a 2006 statistic from the Public Health Agency of Canada that indicates 43 per cent of Canadians over 65 have a disability that limits their everyday activities. “I don’t want (Canada Post) to think that alternative approaches should be seniors will get a family member to drive them to a mailbox to pick up their mail.”

Jon Hamilton, general manager of communications for Canada Post, has stressed that Canada Post has long-standing relationships with municipalities across the country, having been installing community mailboxes for decades.

He said the organization will “work with community as we go through the conversion process, to understand what the unique challenges are in a particular community.

“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.”

Members of Parliament discussed the issue in the House of Commons last week, too.

Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May said, “The question of losing postal service and what is happening to Canada Post came up everywhere,” on a recent trip to her constituency. “People are desperately concerned that they are going to lose the ability to get their mail at home.”

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison called Canada Post home delivery an “essential service.”

“We definitely do not have a crisis at Canada Post, and we definitely should not be standing here today considering the elimination of one of our essential services. We owe it to seniors, to people with disabilities and to the struggling small business community to continue this essential service,” he said.

Canada Post estimates 6,000 to 8,000 positions will be eliminated by implementing nationwide community mailboxes, rolled out over the next five years. The company says rising costs and falling mail volumes have rendered the traditional operations no longer sustainable.

The first municipalities to see door-to-door delivery phased out will be announced in the coming weeks. Canada Post aims to have those communities served by community mailboxes in the latter half of 2014.

– with files from Black Press

editor@saanichnews.com