Island councils distressed with Canada Post service reductions

GORE BAY—Gore Bay and Tehkummah council representatives have expressed their concern and dismay about Canada Post cutbacks in services and hours and why the corporation didn’t communicate these changes to them more thoroughly before they were implemented.

“Our general government committee agreed we will request that council send a letter to Canada Post calling for them to provide the numbers and materials they are using to close our local post office on Saturdays,” stated Ron Lane, mayor of the town of Gore Bay, in an interview with the Recorder late last week. “The committee also agreed that we will send Canada Post a letter requesting they delay the decision for this summer and provide the information we have requested and so that we can then talk to them on this decision.”

“My personal opinion is that closing the office even two or three hours changes the level of service, and closing Saturdays certainly does,” said Mayor Lane. “And Canada Post has made all these decisions without consulting us; they didn’t ask us for our input and opinion.”

Mayor Lane said that if the post office wasn’t closed on Saturdays, from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving, “it would help out, especially people who can only use the post office services on Saturday or are people with cottages, or even as simple as people wanting to buy stamps, but we have had no direct dialogue.”

“Another issue I have is that all the mail from Manitoulin Island is now sent to Toronto and then sent back,” said Mr. Lane. “So even if you post a letter from Gore Bay to another mail box in Gore Bay it takes five days for the letter to be received. What kind of service is that? So when we as a municipality send out tax bills they are first sent to Toronto and it takes five days for it to get to a taxpayer. This is an issue for us.”

In Tehkummah, a town hall meeting last Saturday with representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Local 612 (Sudbury), was attended by well over 20 members of the public to discuss the potential of the local post office closing with the post-mistress having recently retired, and similar concerns with services as Gore Bay and the Island community as a whole have expressed.

Paul Bowerman, a Tehkummah councillor, told the meeting, “on January 8, 2013 we received notice from Canada Post about a reduction in hours. We have been communicating back and forth with council relaying its opposition to a reduction of services and personnel in our post office. Canada Post never came and sat and talked to us. We (council) passed motions supporting our post offices, but no one came here to talk to us or give us a heads up of what needs to be done to preserve what we have here.”

Dave Merrick, president of CUPW Local 612, along with Phil Marsh and Charlene Bradley and Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes, were in attendance at the meeting.

Mr. Merrick explained “we’re here to talk about the Tehkummah post office, to talk about its future. Last month I saw an ad looking for a Tehkummah postmaster and decided to investigate this. I thought that if the position wasn’t filled the post office would close.”

“We know there has been an interview for a new postmaster in Tehkummah,” said Mr. Merrick. “We hope that they do actually fill the position. We don’t want to get rid of the post office here. That’s how you get rid of communities.”

Mr. Merrick said in December, 2013, Canada Post unveiled a five point action plan which included eliminating all door to door mail delivery (except for rural mailboxes) and converting this to community mailboxes. As well there was a postage rate increase, elimination of post offices, and a reduction in hours of service.

“We’re hoping for input from the public today,” said Mr. Merrick. “As a union, one thing we would like to see returned is for Canada Post to get back into banking services. It’s been done before and was successful,” he said noting the last one closed in 1967.

“We agree there has been a decline in the amount of mail being delivered, but there is still a need for these services,” said Mr. Merrick. “They are providing less service and increased prices for stamps. Why do that when they should be trying to promote people using the post office?”

Mr. Merrick said Canada Post has been self-sufficient since it became a Crown corporation and have only lost money in two years since.”

“We want to hear what the general public wants—most want services,” said Mr. Merrick.

“I want to thank you for inviting me to this meeting,” said Ms. Hughes. “We’ve been raising the issues of cuts in service at Canada Post in Parliament. If they are saying not enough people are using the service, why raise the cost of stamps and deter people from using the post office?”

“They are already moving all mail to Toronto,” said Ms. Hughes. “If anyone is not getting their mail on time, we need to know. And they say they are not making money, but we question that. In their last report they didn’t include the Christmas rush.”

“They are a profitable corporation,” stated Ms. Hughes. “All you have to do is see what the CEO of Canada Post makes in salary every year.”

It was further pointed out that Canada Post got a 22 percent increase in salary and a 30 percent bonus on top of their wage.

“The foremost issue here is services,” said Ms. Hughes. “It is about services and jobs.”

Mr. Merrick noted, “Canada Post said they visited 46 communities to talk about their plans. But try to find one community that will say they were contacted.”