The planning and installation of community mailboxes in Nelson over the next year will follow six steps, according to Canada Post’s Jon Hamilton.
1. Reach out to the mayor, talk to post office employees, and inform the media.
Canada Post has already done the latter two. As for the first, neither mayor Deb Kozak nor city manager Kevin Cormack was available for comment this week. However, Nelson council wrote to the government in 2014 objecting to the phasing out of home delivery.
2. Send a notification letter to residents along with a survey asking for their opinions on the location and grouping of mailboxes, as well as their concerns about things like lighting, safety, and convenience.
Hamilton says residents with the postal code V1L will receive the letter in the next couple of weeks.
“Most people think we walk in with the plans all ready,” says Hamilton. “But we start with the survey and get feedback from that.”
Residents can choose to fill out the survey online at canadapost.ca once you’ve received the initial letter.
3. Meet with municipal planning department to come up with potential locations.
Nelson planner Megan Squires says she has had no discussions with Canada Post yet.
4. Create preliminary site maps and send them out to residents, requesting comments.
5. Meet with residents in the immediate neighbourhood of the proposed mailboxes.
This could lead to a re-evaluation of the site. In some parts of Canada, residents have found that the boxes, although on public land, blocked their view or otherwise altered their property in ways they didn’t like.
6. Send out a community mailbox user guide to all residents.
Phasing out home delivery
Canada Post will install the new mailboxes for about 3,600 addresses throughout Nelson. The change is part of a plan introduced two years ago to phase out home delivery across the country.
About 100,000 households were converted in 2014, and the 2015 count will reach 900,000, according to a Canada Post report. The conversion of a total of 15.7 million addresses is planned for completion by 2019.
Much of the national public concern about the new system has been about access for the elderly and disabled. Hamilton says Canada Post has designed some options, including allowing the customer to decide the height of their specific mailbox, equipping it with a sliding tray rather than a door, providing a key-turning aid for people with dexterity issues, redirecting a customer’s mail to a post office or a designated trusted person, or delivering mail to a customer’s door once per week.
Canada Post says it will hire local contractors to clear snow around the boxes.
Staff numbers cut in half?
In a story in Wednesday’s Star, Brenda Muscoby-Yanke, president of the Nelson branch of the postal workers’ union, said community mailboxes will result in Nelson’s postal workforce being cut in half. Canada Post maintains job losses across the country due to the new boxes will happen mostly by attrition as people retire.
Muscoby-Yanke says that will not apply to Nelson because the average age of its letter carriers is relatively low, and no one will be retiring soon.
Hamilton said he couldn’t comment on the Nelson situation specifically, but when Canada Post initially introduced this concept to local workforces they gave them a range of possible per cent reductions in the workforce, and the postal union, says Hamilton, always uses “worst case examples. They do this in every community.”
Hamilton wasn’t willing to tell the Star the range the corporation proposed to Nelson staff.
Increased greenhouse gas emissions?
Muscoby-Yanke also said the changes would increase greenhouse gas emissions because of increased vehicle use to deliver mail to boxes and because people would drive to pick up their mail.
Hamilton calls this “far-fetched.”
He said letter carriers often take taxis to their walk, and most customers walk to their community mailbox. He said one daily vehicle trip to the community mailbox by a Canada Post employee will replace multiple current trips around town for parcels and pickups.
“You see several of our trucks doing different things all day,” he said. “We will be consolidating all of this.”
Community mailboxes are a single part of a larger Canada Post re-organization that includes increased postage rates and the addition of more franchised postal outlets.
The introduction of community mailboxes has been accompanied by an increase in stamp prices and a reduction in staff, and an increase in franchise postal outlets in malls and stores.
Where the candidates stand on community mailboxes
The Star asked the four federal Kootenay Columbia candidates for their position on Canada Post eliminating door-to-door delivery.
Bill Green, Green Party: “Many people rely on home mail delivery. It is an important part of the fabric of our society. I can understand how moving to community mailboxes might save money. If keeping home delivery results in increased postal rates, that is acceptable.”
Don Johnston, Liberal: “We would impose a moratorium on the decision to end door-to-door delivery until we review Canada Post’s business plan. We don’t see the evidence this is necessary, so we would halt the process and review it.”
David Wilks, Conservative: No response.
Wayne Stetski, NDP: “We would continue with home delivery service. The post office is turning a profit, so the government’s argument that it needs to save money is not valid. The government should be looking into ways to make the post office even more profitable. For example, in some countries the post office offers banking services.”