Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Started Enjoying Our New Community Mail Box Last Week

I know as a progressive I am supposed to oppose the transition to community mailboxes (CMBs) for all urban and suburban residents but logic prevents me from doing so. Indeed this only seems to have become an issue when it was announced that downtown urban areas would join suburban areas in the use of CMBs.

Our New Community Mailbox

Perhaps I see this differently because I live in a community (Bridlewood in Kanata/Ottawa) where 90% of households have always had community mailboxes (CMBs). It was a year or two after we moved here in 1979 that all new households had CMBs so we were somewhat of an anomaly having door to door delivery and I always thought that didn't make sense. There was no difference in neighbourhoods other than the dates our houses were built.

As Canada Post states:

Ten million Canadian households – or about two thirds of all households in Canada – already receive their mail at a centralized point away from their front door, such as at a community mailbox, a mail panel in an apartment building or condominium, a rural post office, or a curbside rural mailbox. Of these ten million households, four million receive their mail at a community mailbox. Over the next five years, the conversion to community mailboxes will impact about five million Canadian households – or about one third of all households in Canada – that still receive door-to-door delivery.

I do not recall any great protests when CMBs were introduced in the suburbs and all of the problems we hear about regarding CMBs do not seem to exist. There are senior citizens living in these neighbourhood with CMBs, and houses with wheelchair ramps and the residents choose to live here despite the CMBs and seem to be able to cope.

I find it somewhat insulting to suggest that senior citizens cannot walk a block or two to a CMB. I am just approaching Old Age Pension age and I do over 5 km hikes in the forest with a woman in her mid 80s. We are perfectly capable of walking to our mailboxes.

As for people with mobility issues, mail delivery is the least of their problems compared to grocery shopping, doctors appointments, etc. Much more comprehensive solutions and services are required for them, rather than making postal service inefficient for everyone.

Those that live in neighbourhoods already served by CMBs have already found solutions. And while Canada Post has also offered help in such cases, I expect most people would forego the bureaucratic process required by Canada Post and simply ask a neighbour to pick up their mail.

The fact is there are real issues regarding postal service. With the Internet and email people are simply not using the postal service the way they did before. There is considerably more junk mail being delivered than first class mail although there is a potential for more parcel deliveries.

Having letter carriers walking the street bypassing most houses or simply delivering junk mail is simply not efficient. There have been suggestions of reducing deliveries to three days a week but when we are receiving something important we want it as soon as possible. The alternative of using CMBs has already been proven to work for about 30 years.

The other new factor is the increase in online shopping and the resultant increase in parcel deliveries, Prior to being transitioned to a CMB parcel deliveries either meant the parcel was left on our front step as an invitation to theft or we had to go to a postal outlet the next day to pick it up. Now small and medium size parcels are left in a locked CMB compartment and we only have to make a trip to pick up very large parcels. And all mail is now in a locked compartment rather than an unlocked mailbox on our house like the vast majority of people in our neighbourhood.

However Canada Post could certainly have been more forthcoming and transparent in how they went about this. I recall the announcement a few years previous that all mail carriers would be using vehicles for their deliveries. That did not make sense unless they knew what was coming. They obviously did but did not want to tell anyone their plans. That is when they should have started letting the public and their workers know the direction they were moving.

Jobs are important but inefficiency is not a sustainable way of maintaining jobs in the long term. However, rather than the wishy-washy Canada Post response of we don't expect any individuals to lose their jobs they should have provided a job guarantee for all existing letter carriers. Attrition, retirement and increased parcel deliveries should easily allow that.

They should also make a firm commitment that all new parcel delivery services will be provided by unionized Canada Post employees under the terms of their collective agreements.

Our New Community Mailbox Seen From End of Our Driveway

But there is something worth fighting over, and I wish there was a bigger battle over this with more public support, and that is the privatization of retail postal services and the transfer of the responsibility for our mail from decently paid full time unionized employees hired and vetted by Canada Post to part time minimum wage retail clerks. That is a battle I can get behind.