About 80 people gathered in front of city hall on Monday for a rally against Canada Post’s phasing out of door to door mail delivery.
Speakers included NDP candidate Wayne Stetski and NDP MP Peter Julian, who both spoke very briefly and left the spotlight to local speakers including long-time seniors’ advocate Joan Reichardt.
“We already know that one of the biggest challenges seniors face when living on their own is taking the garbage out,” Reichardt told the crowd. “And you don’t have to take the garbage out every day. [Switching to community mailboxes] is another encroachment on the ability of seniors to remain independent. They have that knowledge that the mail is going to come, there will be something in there, maybe there will be a letter from one of my grandkids. Maybe there will be a cheque, who knows?
Joan Reichardt (Peter Schramm photo)
“What people don’t seem to understand is there is only one way to avoid becoming a senior, one way to avoid getting old, and that is to die young,” she continued.
Reichardt said door-to-door mail service is a basic support for seniors and to take it away is “callous and heartless.”
“For seniors who have some mobility challenges, and in Nelson in the winter that is most of us, getting to one of these fancy mailboxes will be a challenge,” she told the rally.
“And on the other side of that coin it is the letter carrier who is often the first one to realize that someone is in distress because they see those newspapers and letters and realize the person inside that dwelling is in difficulty. That is an irreplaceable service Canada Post is providing and it doesn’t cost anything. It is a bonus.”
Mayor Deb Kozak. (Bill Metcalfe photo)
Nelson mayor Deb Kozak spoke, reiterating many of Reichardt’s points, and referred to the mayor of Montreal’s response to a community mailbox.
“I was reading the paper today and was glad we had not had a cement pad poured yet,” she said, “because I did not have any work boots on today. The mayor of Montreal took a jackhammer to one of the cement pads, and that made a strong statement.”
Kozak talked about the questionnaire Nelson households received recently from Canada Post, asking about preferred locations for the mailboxes.
“I have spoken to a couple of people who said the survey made them angry,” Kozak said, “because it did not give any space for comment. It was multiple choice and it only asked where you would want the mailbox placed. I would encourage you to take it out of the garbage, out of the recycling, and fill it out, and include your comments with it in a separate letter with it.”
She told the crowd Canada Post has promised extensive consultation with city planning departments, “but what I am hearing from other mayors in bigger cities is that that consultation did not seem to happen there and it concerns me greatly.
“So we are working with city staff on a couple of bylaws even though we know local government is lowest on the totem pole, but we will ensure city council is on top of things and keeps you informed.”
Asked later by the Star to elaborate, Kozak said the bylaws would specify that Canada Post is responsible for maintenance, snow clearing, and garbage clean-up.
Although Canada Post has already stated it is responsible for these things, Kozak says the city wants to make sure those jobs don’t get downloaded to the city over time.
She also said a bylaw would state that Canada Post would consult in detail with the city about the location of boxes, which the company has already agreed to do, but this would be added insurance, Kozak said.
City councillor Janice Morrison, who also spoke, said that as vice-president of the Health Sciences Association of BC (the union that represents various health care workers) she stands in solidarity with the postal workers’ union.
About Canada Post’s survey form, Morrison said: “Do not throw it out, fill it out. We sent a letter from our house with some adjustments on that form. When they ask, ‘Do you want a big box or a little box,’ we added, ‘I want my box.’”
Wayne Stetski and Peter Julian (Peter Schramm photo)
Kootenay Columbia NDP candidate Wayne Stetski accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of “attacking fundamental Canadian values like a healthy environment, peacekeeping, universal healthcare, the CBC, and Canada Post.
“Anything that has ‘Canada’ in its title, Harper doesn’t like. I just don’t understand that,” Stetski said.
NDP MP Peter Julian told the crowd community mailboxes are “like candy stores for thieves. Over the course of a year the estimates range up to 50,000 break-ins. That is valuable personal info that is being exposed to thieves and robbers.”
Brenda Muscoby-Yanke of the local postal workers’ union and Cindy McCallum Miller of the West Kootenay Labour Council also spoke at the rally.
Brenda Muscoby-Yanke addresses the crowd (Bill Metcalfe photo)