Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko is sounding the alarm over reductions to mail service in his riding, but Canada Post insists the changes will have limited impact on customers.
Atamanenko wrote to Lisa Raitt, the minister responsible, in late March expressing “grave concerns” about cuts to local post offices, including the elimination of Saturday service in several rural communities.
“These changes threaten jobs, limit access to the post office for my constituents and reduce Canada Post staff morale,” he wrote, citing several examples.
Canada Post eliminated Saturday service in Crescent Valley last November as a cost-saving measure. Balfour and Slocan Park will follow suit on May 5.
All three postal outlets are in stores that do business on Saturdays, but the company says there isn’t enough traffic to justify keeping them open.
However, Atamanenko says it’s a major inconvenience for those who can’t access them during regular business hours Monday to Friday. He forwarded several emails from concerned residents, one of whom wrote: “In no way do these hours of operation meet the useful needs of the people of Balfour and area.”
Atamanenko further pointed to reduced hours at the Trail and Castlegar post offices, which now open at 9 a.m. instead of 8:30, and a proposal to downsize Rossland’s post office and adopt a “smaller retail model” at the expense of 1.5 retail positions.
“I strongly urge you to re-examine the plans of Canada Post to downsize postal outlets, downgrade services and eliminate well-paid union jobs,” Atamanenko told Raitt. “My constituents are not interested in being sold something that they neither want nor need.”
However, while Canada Post spokesman Eugene Knapik confirmed some of the changes, he said no decision has been reached for Rossland. He also said there would be no adjustment in hours to South Slocan although he wasn’t sure about Christina Lake, both of which were named in Atamanenko’s letter.
“We are reviewing our retail networks across the country to find ways to operate more efficiently,” he said. “Our business is changing and people are using Canada Post differently.”
Knapik said letter mail delivery has been dropping “fairly drastically” with about one billion fewer pieces sent last year than in 2006. He said there is no specific directive to close post offices on Saturdays and they have consulted with the association that represents postmasters before making the changes.
“We do that in part because the postmasters have perhaps the clearest ideas of where the traffic patterns are. They see it first hand,” he said. “In terms of how hours are set up, it depends on the community. We are looking for specific suggestions.”
He said typically post offices with Saturday service are open six days a week, and in some cases those that are now closed Saturdays have extended their hours on other days of the week. In Crescent Valley, closing time on Fridays was extended from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Slocan Park and Balfour will also close one hour later on Fridays.
In December, Canada Post announced a five-point plan that it says will better serve customers while preserving the corporation’s viability, including phasing out door-to-door delivery in favour of community mailboxes over five years, raising the price of stamps, and opening more postal franchise outlets. No direct job losses are expected, although in some cases positions may be reduced by attrition.
But Atamanenko said the moves don’t make sense: “It defies logic that the best way to complete in the marketplace is to reduce hours of business, withdraw services from communities and go into direct competition with oneself.”