Canada Post’s move to stamp out urban home delivery while increasing prices has delivered frustration to Brandon residents.
The Crown corporation announced this week it will phase out home delivery over the next five years, drawing ire from some elderly and disabled Brandonites.
Brandon Civic Centre board member June Pedlow is concerned about elderly people — still heavily relying on the postal service to pay bills — who still live in their homes and may have to trek several blocks to pick up their mail at a community mailbox.
“It will cause inconvenience for seniors who are not in a complex that has the mail delivered,” Pedlow said.
Apartment buildings will still receive mail to lobby boxes.
While Pedlow lives in a condo-type building for retirees, she said many of Brandon’s elderly decide to hang on to their homes because they can’t afford to live in retirement homes. Even if they do have the money, space is limited in the city’s facilities.
“It’s amazing the number of people still living in their houses,” Pedlow said, “because there’s no places to go.”
But not everyone is crying foul. Others say the massive changes at Canada Post don’t come as a surprise after years of the corporation hemorrhaging money.
“I’m not rattled at all,” said Jack Gullett, 81, “It had to come to that.”
Gullett — who has about four inches of junk mail in his recycling each week — still lives at home and doesn’t mind travelling to pick up his letters.
“You gotta get out to mail your letters, so you can just pick up your mail at the same time,” he said.
For disabled people with serious mobility issues, it’s another story.
Walter Gibbons, who has been blind all his life, said once the door-to-door delivery ends, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
“I’d have to get a friend to pick it up or something like that and that’s an inconvenience for them, why should they do that?” he said.
As Canada Post phases out home delivery, Gibbons said the corporation will have to come with a plan for people with mobility issues such as his.
“They’re going to have to help people who can’t reach the mail themselves,” he said, “and there are some that can’t.”
Gord Fischer, a director with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, estimated as many as 10 of the roughly 35 letter carrier jobs in Brandon will be eliminated once the change hits the Wheat City.
As workers walk on eggshells, the Crown corporation is also expected to take a hard look at pensions when it enters negotiations with the union in late 2015.
Fischer said the sweeping changes came as a “shock” to the union.
“(Canada Post) gave us no warning it was coming,” he said.
Fischer also raised concerns about the security of community mailboxes, noting many can be opened with just a screw driver. While community boxes are more secure than doorstep boxes, many tend to let their mail pile up before picking it up as a result of the inconvenience.
Along with a decrease in service comes a massive increase in price. The cost of a stamp for a standard-sized first-class letter will increase to 85 cents from 63 cents, if bought in a pack. Individual stamps will cost $1.
Not surprisingly, the stamp hike has got a thumbs down from local businesses who have no other choice but to deal with Canada Post.
Tara Fowles of Samson Engineering Inc. said the firm receives about 12 pieces of mail per day and the vast majority of cheques both to and from the project management firm are sent through Canada Post.
“What are the other options,” Fowles said. “It just means our operating costs go up, which is the cost of doing business.
“I’d be a lot louder if the service depreciated.”
Following a report released last summer by the Conference Board of Canada — which said Canada Post was on track to lose $1 billion per year by 2020 — it was announced all local-to-local mailboxes in Westman communities were removed, leaving only forward mailboxes as the Crown corporation looks to centralize its mail delivery system.
As part of those changes announced in the summer, mail that was previously picked up locally and sorted in Brandon will now be picked up and transported to Winnipeg, where Canada Post has a large automated sorter. The change will likely mean that local letter mail dropped in Brandon will take two days to deliver rather than one.
After that announcement, Nate Andrews, then-president of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, said dropping door-to-door service wouldn’t be a problem.
“There’s always going to be a problem with people with disabilities, or have trouble walking, and they’re going to have to address those challenges,” he said in the summer, adding the chamber opposes the subsidization of a Crown corporation that’s losing money, and welcomes necessary cuts.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 13, 2013