Canada Post suspends planned conversion to community mailboxes
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, October 26, 2015 1:30PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 26, 2015 8:50PM EDT
Canada Post is temporarily shelving its plan to convert door-to-door mail delivery to community mailboxes in the wake of a campaign pledge by prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau to reverse cuts to the agency.
In statement released on Monday, the Crown Corporation says that "all conversions" planned for November and December 2015, and those scheduled to follow in 2016, will be placed "on hold."
"We will work collaboratively with the Government of Canada to determine the best path forward given the ongoing challenges faced by the Canadian postal system," said the statement.
Up to this point, the proposed conversion included about 460,000 addresses across the country.
Canada Post says that customers affected by the shift will receive a letter in the next weeks updating them about their mail delivery.
It added that neighbourhoods where the conversion process is already complete will be served by their community mailbox.
"We remain focused on maintaining reliable postal service to all Canadians without disruption," said the statement.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers told The Canadian Press that it was pleased by the announcement.
Union spokesperson Alain Robitaille told CTV Montreal, now that a freeze has been implemented, there can be a conversation about the future of mail delivery in Canada.
"For sure, we've got to change the postal services," he said. "But we must protect door-to-door delivery for the customers."
While Trudeau promised during the election to undo cuts to the Crown Corporation made under the Conservative government, the incoming Liberals have yet to give any formal indication they want Canada Post to scrap the five-year conversion plan.
Community mailboxes have been a source of controversy since it was announced home-mail delivery would be phased out two years ago.
The move made Canada the first G7 country to drop all door-to-door delivery.
The conversion has prompted a range of protests: a failed legal challenge from the City of Hamilton; Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre drilling into a concrete base for the mailboxes with a jackhammer; and a Hamilton man sitting in a lawn chair to prevent an installation near his residence.
The City of Montreal also joined lawsuit against Canada Post launched by advocates for seniors, people with disabilities and postal employees.
After Monday's announcement, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters that he is ready to "reconsider" the case but is worried about the Crown Corporation's commitment.
"We have to be vigilant with Canada Post because you never know; they say one thing, and the next day who knows what happens," he said.
For many, the dispute boils down to the potential challenges facing Canadians with mobility issues.
Eighty-nine-year-old Anna Hawksworth’s Laval, Que., neighbourhood is one of the eight communities in the province now served by a community mailbox.
"It is gone, it will never come back," said Hawksworth.
Because she has difficulty walking, she says going to fetch her mail is "too hard" and was "disappointed" by the conversion.
"I really would like to have it delivered the way it used to be: open my door, look in my mailbox and get my mail," said Hawksworth.
"We should have it at home and not in a mailbox."
Coderre echoed Hawksworth's concerns about the community mailboxes.
"If you lived 50 years in the same area, you have some mobility problems and you have some health problems. Are we going to say, 'Walk in -20C or find another way?'" he said.
"No. It is a public service, it is owned by Canadians, and we have to do what we have to do."
He added that technology will likely change the future of mail delivery in Canada, but in the meantime there needs to be a consultation to discuss options for the near future.
"In five years, maybe we won't receive any mail, but during that time, we need to work together, we need to find a better way," said Coderre.
However, maintaining door-to-door likely won't come cheap.
A study by the Conference Board of Canada in 2013, estimated that Canada Post could save $576 million a year by eliminating the service.
With files from CTV Montreal's Tarah Schwartz and The Canadian Press