Canada Post to reveal first communities to lose home delivery

·National Affairs Contributor
Super mailboxes hit by thieves, says Langley councillor (CBC)

Well, it looks as if the end of home mail delivery for the privileged one-third of Canadians who still have it is really happening, despite public protests and concerns about theft.

Canada Post will announce in mid-February the first communities that will transition from door-to-door mail delivery to community super mailboxes plunked into older neighbourhoods, CBC News reports.

But the Crown corporation is easing into the controversial program that was announced last month, initially avoiding built-up urban areas where it might be tough to find locations that are suitable and within easy walking distance for exercise-craving seniors.

“We're going to start more in the areas where you already find community mailboxes nearby, where it will be easier to move forward and then work through the challenges as we go,” Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton told CBC News.

The boxes, the first of which are to be in place by the end of this year, will be a different design from existing community boxes put in new housing developments over the last 30 years.

[ Related: Hundreds rally in Ottawa against proposed Canada Post changes ]

“They’ll be more suited not just to the type of neighbourhood, but the type of mail people get,” Hamilton said.

“People still get a lot of magazines in the mail, they still get a lot of small packets and parcels — our boxes were not designed for that but that’s the future.”

What's not clear is whether the new super mailboxes will be more secure than the current models, which are vulnerable to break-ins.

Steve Ferguson, a councillor in the suburban-Vancouver Township of Langley, said community boxes in his community have been hit at least 10 times in the last 18 months. He worries the new boxes will still be magnets for thieves.

Ferguson wants Canada Post to work with police and municipal authorities to design the new boxes.

"We have to have a product at the end of the day that works and should be safe for people using the mail," Ferguson told CBC News.

Canada Post doesn't disclose tallies of community mailbox thefts but a CBC News investigation last month reported the corporation recorded 4,800 incidents, from vandalism and arson to mail theft, involving B.C. community mailboxes between 2008 and 2013.

Canada Post has responded by promising reinforced mailboxes in high-risk areas.

[ Related: How Canada Post’s changes will affect you ]

The end of home delivery over the next five years was the most controversial part of Canada Post's plans to stave off hundreds of millions of dollars in projected losses as it copes with a steady decline in first-class mail volumes and competition for parcel delivery with private carriers.

Postage rates are also set to jump dramatically, with the price of a first-class letter stamp rising to $1 from 63 cents beginning March 1, though if you buy stamps by the pack they'll be just 85 cents.

Canada Post also plans to eliminate between 6,000 and 8,000 positions over the next five years, most of them through voluntary departures and retirement.

The government has defended the drastic changes as the best way for the corporation to survive in the information-technology age, but critics have condemned them. They argue a one-dollar stamp will reduce letter traffic even further and the end of home delivery will be a hardship for the disabled and elderly.

The debate reached the height of absurdity when Canada Post chief executive Deepak Chopra told a parliamentary committee many seniors welcome the daily trudge to community mailboxes as a way of getting exercise.

“The seniors are telling me, ‘I want to be healthy. I want to be active in my life,’” Chopra said. “They want to be living fuller lives.”

The comments produced predictable explosion of outrage and scorn.

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