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Canada Post cuts home mail delivery

One of my favorite images in North American society is that of the mailman.  For those who don't know, he or she is the person that, through wind, rain, hail, sleet and snow, will get that letter or parcel from grandma's house to yours.

In Canada, this week we learned that this will no longer be the case...Canada Post, the para-public agency that manages Canada's mail, announced that it would start phasing out urban door-to-door mail delivery over the next five years (the announcement, ironically, was made the day after Parliament closed for the Christmas break...).  The Conservative government, those bastions of frugal rule, quickly supported the arms-length body.  Opposition parties, and particularly the mayor of MontrĂ©al, Denis Coderre (who, for those who care, is a good friend), quickly criticised the move.

Instead jaunty fellows dropping parcels in your box, Canada Post will now install "super boxes" in neighbourhoods.  Super boxes are huge rectangular metal structures, with compartments for mail.  They're rather ugly, and take up a huge amount of space.  You'll have to walk down the block to get your mail.

Canada Post has defended its decision based on economics - traditional mail doesn't make money any more.  And yes, CP has had an ongoing deficit for years, and has been projected to continue to lose money.

Critics have mentioned problems of space and the superbox.  In many parts of major cities today, there is just no space for these types of installations.  In old Montreal or Quebec, there is just no room, and what's worse, the boxes are less than eye pleasing, and will not add to the beauty of urban life.

Critics are also worried about the effects of eliminating door-to-door mail for the physically and mentally handicapped, and for seniors.  Interviews with individuals with MS, individuals who are blind, people in wheelchairs and seniors who just can't get around well any more are popping up on Canadian news channels, worried about access to their mail.

Now, for myself, I don't see this as a one off decision by Canada Post.  Since the arrival of the Conservatives in 2006, I've spoken out repeatedly about cuts to rural postal service, the closure of post offices in small towns, and the rationalisation of delivery.

You see, the mail is not just the mail.  It is also a public service.  Rural residents depend on the mail because of the large distances that characterise Canada.  The local post office is integral to the community as a place to meet, talk, and share information.  When out on the campaign trail (in a riding that what close to 5000 km2), when arriving in a village, the first person I would talk to was the post office manager.  They knew everything about the community, and could talk your ear off about local anecdotes....

In cities the delivery of mail facilitates a sense of community - the mailman is the only person that every resident knows.  The postman can act as a first responder - I've heard many stories about how, worried about mail building up in the box, postmen intervening in appartements and homes to see if all was well with the residents, and sometimes saving lives.

Progress in communications technologies brought on by the internet has brought about many beneficial changes.  But progress is also hurting our national postal services.  These services are essential to our communities in rural areas and our way of life in urban settings.  Canada Post and the Conservative government need to rethink their decision to cut home mail delivery.



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