Over 25,000 homes in Oakville will no longer get mail delivered to the door and the cost of sending a letter is about to skyrocket.
Oakville residents in the L6H, L6J, L6K, L6L, and L6M postal code areas will see mail delivery switched to community mail boxes this fall.
The transition is part of a nation-wide move by Canada Post that will include the elimination of up to 8000 jobs.
Deep service cuts
Deepak Chopra, the company’s CEO, is coming under fire for slashing services and driving up prices rather than turning to alternative sources of revenue to solve his company’s financial woes.
To help pay for the new community mail boxes, the Crown corporation will increase stamp prices on March 31. The new price will be $1.00 for a single stamp and $0.85 for stamps bought in a booklet. The current price is $0.63.
The decisions are a double blow to seniors and the physically disabled. By next winter they will be forced to brave icy sidewalks and cold weather just to get their mail, and sending Christmas cards to grandkids is going to be a lot more expensive.
Customers and staff at the Canada Post retail outlet on Lakeshore Rd. in Oakville had mixed feelings about the announcement.
“Who is going to clear the snow away so people can get to the boxes?” inquired Dominic who’s elderly mother still lives in her home.
Canada Post hires contractors to ensure accessibility but the work is not always done in a timely manner.
The company “hasn’t been effective at clearing snow away from the community mailboxes,” said Terry Langley, first vice-president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Local 548.
“People are complaining they can’t get to the mail because the snow ploughs have buried the boxes or made them inaccessible,” he said.
Security of the mail is another issue to consider.
“I think it will provide more security,” says Olga who works at the store and has had a community mailbox for several years. She says identity theft is a problem in Oakville and the community mailbox is more secure than a regular box at the house which is accessible to anyone.
B.C. residents might not agree with Olga. A CBC report indicates widespread tampering with community mailboxes including theft, arson and vandalism.
Canada Post officials suggest people check their mail every day. Olga says she collects the mail twice a week from the box which is a short walk from her house.
The community mailboxes “are not secure, not safe and not a viable alternative,” Langley said.
Seniors might struggle
The changes will be difficult “for the elderly and disabled,” Olga said. Kelly and Dominic also agreed that the group most likely to suffer from the changes will be seniors and people with physical disabilities.
Dominic says he is a “creature of habit” and likes the idea of just opening the door to get the mail, but acknowledges that the exercise he will get from walking to retrieve the mail might also be beneficial.
Dogs will no longer have to worry about pepper spray but some people will miss the personal contact with the the mail carrier.
“The letter carrier has always been a part of the community,” said Kelly who laments the general move to a more impersonal society.
During the day, when many people are away from their homes, the mail carriers act as an informal neighbourhood watch program. One carrier in Port Credit “stopped a domestic assault,” Olga said.
Olga, Dominic and Kelly requested that we print only their first names.
The delivery cuts for Oakville’s 25,300 homes is by far the largest number for a single community. The next closest is a combination of two Montreal suburbs, Repentigny and Charlemagne, where 15,100 homes will lose door-to-door mail service.
Oakville is a federal “Conservative power base,” Langley said. The government might be using the town as a test to see what the political impact will be.
Ignoring alternative revenue sources
Amid falling revenues the Crown corporation feels it must reduce costs to stop the financial bleeding. Critics of the the plan argue the company should be looking at alternative revenue sources to offset the reduction in letter mail. Postal banking is a service offered in several other developed countries.
Blacklock’s Reporter, a paper that follows political stories in Ottawa, reported on Feb. 10 that Canada Post spent four years analyzing the possibility of offering banking services and concluded the venture would be profitable. Through an Freedom of Information request, Blacklock’s obtained the Canada Post report which states banking services provide significant profits for the postal operations in the U.K., France, and Switzerland.
Moving towards privatization?
The government “should be exploring postal banking,” Langley said.
Canada Post’s decision to ignore alternative revenue sources might be a signal that the Crown corporation intends to privatize mail delivery.
“The evidence points to a move to privatization,” Langley said.