New Canada Post changes will have little effect on rural areas

MANITOULIN—The recent announcement of major changes to the way Canada Post will deliver its mail will have little bearing on Manitoulin Island residents, but the cost of first class mailing will be noticed.

Last Wednesday, Canada post announced its five-point action plan, which seeks to “return the system to financial sustainability by 2019 and ensure the continued role of enabling trade and commerce.”

Part one of the plan is the introduction of community mailboxes and the elimination of the ‘mailman’ as we know it, ridding themselves of the door-to-door service in urban areas. Currently, Canada Post states, one-third of Canadians receive their mail at the door, but within the next five years these residents will see a conversion to ‘community mailboxes.’ These mailboxes will offer locked mail and small packet compartments, as well as locked compartments for receiving parcels.

Anick Losier, a Canada Post media spokesperson, told The Expositor in an interview last week that “we are strictly talking about by foot letter carriers,” stating that rural route delivery, rural mailboxes, as well as rural post offices will remain status quo.

Effective March 31, Canadians will also see a spike in the cost of ordering first class (letter) mailing with prices rising to $1 per individual stamp, or 85 cents a stamp for stamps purchased in books or rolls. Those small businesses with postage meters will pay a rate of 75 cents per standard letter.

“The average Canadian household will purchase two stamps per month,” Ms. Losier explained. “Don’t get me wrong, none of these were easy decisions to make,” she added.

Part three of the plan will see Canada Post strengthen its retail network by opening more franchise postal outlets in stores across Canada. “The company will partner with local retail businesses that are conveniently located in the communities they serve and offer added benefits, such as better parking and longer hours,” a press release from Canada Post states. “This will allow busy Canadians to do more shopping in one place. Canada Post will also continue to align its corporate post offices to customer traffic patterns.”

Step four, streamlining operations, will see technology-driven changes to Canada Post’s internal operations to “make for a more efficient flow of parcels and mail through the network and to the customers.” This will include providing delivery employees with fuel-efficient vehicles, the release states.

Lastly, Canada Post addresses the cost of labour. “Canada Post is changing its business model and, as such, will require fewer employees to serve the future needs of Canadians,” the release continues. “With its current labour costs, Canada post has a much higher cost structure than its competitors in the private sector. This is simply not sustainable. The company will continue to bring the cost of labour in line with its competitors through attrition and collective bargaining over time.” Canada Post expects to reduce its workforce by between 6,000 and 8,000, mainly through attrition, by 2019.

“We have seen declining lettermail and we needed to do something about it,” Ms. Losier said in response to the plan. “We did consultations and Canadians made it quite clear—Canadians shouldn’t have to subsidize Canada Post.”

She added that Canada post signed a rural moratorium, which they will continue to honour, making sure that rural areas of Canada will receive the best possible service from the federal organization.

Small businesses were also worried, she said, “and we heard them loud and clear.”

“This is the inevitable outcome of the Conservatives’ decision to force Canada Post out of the lucrative international mail market,” said Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Hughes in a press release. “They did that in 2010, and that move broke Canada Post. Now we lose the services and jobs.”

Ms. Hughes said this is part of a double pronged attack on Northern and rural communities who are also dealing with the loss of mail sorting jobs as local processing is now being done out of Toronto.

“It’s just a downward spiral for Canada Post in the North,” said Ms. Hughes. “We just get word of one thing and they whack us with another. What is sad is how this whole scenario was avoidable, but the Conservatives only see public jobs as bad things.”

“The move will hit the most vulnerable the hardest,” she added. Seniors and the disabled, especially those with mobility issues, will be the most affected by the loss of home delivery.

“A lot of our communities in the North have populations that are more elderly,” she continued. “I already hear about a number of difficulties with super-mailboxes and that will only become more commonplace.”

Ms. Hughes believes the job losses in smaller communities will hurt more than Canada Post is prepared to admit.

“We can’t all live in Toronto or Calgary, but those are the kinds of places that these decisions are being gauged against,” she added. “It just isn’t fair and Canadians deserve much better.”

“We’re trying to remain sustainable and not become a burden on Canadians,” Ms. Losier told The Expositor. “It’s a new chapter. We’ve been here for 200 plus years and all kinds of evolutions; this is just another part of that evolution.”