Oak Bay councillor Michelle Kirby is worried.
Canada Post’s recent proposal to implement a system using community mailboxes in place of door-to-door delivery in a municipality where approximately half the residents are over the age of 50, gives Kirby cause for concern.
“Immediately I think of the number of seniors. We have an aging population and Oak Bay is ahead of the curve with an aging demographic,” she said. “(Door-to-door delivery) serves more than one purpose. A person stops by the house everyday checking in on you. You also don’t have to leave the house and get mail if you have accessibility issues, that is an added challenge they don’t need.”
The Crown corporation will begin phasing out home delivery by the end of 2014 in an effort to address rising costs and declining mail volumes. It plans to move into a consultation process with the first affected municipalities later this year, said Jon Hamilton, Canada Post general communications manager.
“We understand that even if people aren’t immediately impacted, they’ll be following the process very closely,” he said.
In addition to a reduction in services, Kirby feels the financial burden of maintaining the community mailboxes will eventually fall onto the shoulders of the respective municipalities.
“I really hope this doesn’t mean more downloading onto municipalities because we will have to maintain infrastructure on those sites,” she said. “We are struggling with an infrastructure deficit across the country… If this means more downloading onto us that is very frustrating.”
Kirby said if the changes were to come without an appropriate proportional increase in the percentage of the local tax dollars going to Oak Bay, it could prove a burden for many communities across the country.
“It is a reduction of services to Canadians we are seeing across the board from our federal government,” Kirby said. “They try to sell it to you on cost savings to taxpayers but there is a reason we pay taxes, it is for services. It seems we are getting less and less for our tax dollars and we are not paying any less tax.”
Stamp prices are on their way up as well. Regular letter mail up to 30 grams is currently sitting at 63 cents and will rise more than 58 per cent to $1 on March 31. Stamps purchased in bulk or in coils will be 85 cents per stamp, a jump of 35 per cent.
A town hall focused on the proposed postal service changes hosted by Victoria Member of Parliament Murray Rankin drew more than 100 people, speakers included Rob Fleming and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin who met with residents. Rankin said the questions were flowing.
“We had a huge turnout of people and there was a universal expression of concern,” he said. “We need a certain standard of sidewalks and lighting, where are you going to put this in a traditional residential area? … Is it going to take away municipal land? Is it going to be devaluing houses? Will there be litter? Will there be theft like there has been in Metchosin and Surrey?”
Those questions remain unanswered. Rankin said he contacted Canada Post, giving them more than a month’s notice, inviting them to the meeting to constructively contribute to the dialogue and answer questions, but said they chose not to attend.
“A lot of folks have enjoyed home delivery for generations, this change is one that has caught people by surprise,” he said. The way that it was done with no consultation in Victoria, using the Internet and focus groups doesn’t work if you are disabled or computer illiterate. The way they went about it was unacceptable.”
Similar meetings are taking place across the country and Rankin said there hasn’t been a single positive comment made to him about the proposed postal service changes in all the phone calls, letters and emails he has received thus far – and that any potential financial benefit from slashing between 6,000 to 8,000 jobs over five years would be offset by the severely reduced service.
“Believe it or not, Canada would be the only G20 country without home delivery of any kind,” he said. “Isn’t that shocking to you? The USA has six days, we would have zero days. … Our counterparts all appear to have home delivery, we would be the only one that doesn’t. That tells me something.”