I remember as a child walking with my mom down to the local post office to get the mail. We lived in small town Alberta, and the post office was just a block or so away. We had the chance to visit along the way. Inside were the rows of boxes, and the little store that sold stamps. When my mom opened up the mailbox I would peek through into the room behind where the mail was sorted.
That was years ago. Now I live in the city of Sudbury. Mail is delivered door to door, but not, I know, for much longer unless people speak out enough against the cut-backs our federal government is doing. They have announced that there will be higher prices for stamps and no more door to door service. Instead we’ll have “community mailboxes” where we will go to pick up our mail. In some ways it will be like returning to the walks to the post office I had as a child, but in many ways, it will be different.
Community mailboxes won’t be heated buildings like the post office I remember walking to. We have long winters and last winter I couldn’t help noticing the snow built up in piles around the community mailboxes in other neighbourhoods. How will people with walkers or wheelchairs navigate through the snow? My parents checked the mail daily because they had a business that brought in a lot of mail, but how frequently, I wonder, will most people check their mail? Changes in the delivery will affect some people more than others. Those with internet will probably find it easier than those without internet, since bills can be sent to them online. Those without bank accounts will probably find it harder than those with bank accounts. There are Canadians without bank accounts, Canadians who receive their pay cheques in the mail, rather than through autodeposits. It sounds like the type of change that will affect those more vulnerable and more disadvantaged than those who are less vulnerable or disadvantaged.
My real reason for supporting the Canadian Postal workers in their fight to keep door to door delivery is not just for the convenience. It is because I see this as one more step towards doing away with the postal service altogether. Canada Post has been profitable 17 out of the past 19 years. (2011 had strikes, a lock-out and pay equity settlement, so it wasn’t profitable, but that’s unusual.) The profitable urban areas that currently get door to door delivery help subsidize the nonprofitable rural areas. If the government cuts away bit by bit from Canada Post, when will it discover it doesn’t have enough left to subsidize the rural areas? They are talking about increasing prices and decreasing service. That isn’t exactly the way to keep a business operating, and while I don’t think it is just a business, the government is insisting on treating it like a business they hope to run into the ground.
I’m also concerned about the job losses. We need good jobs, and letter carriers are union jobs. They are good ones. I want to know my mail is carried by people paid decent wages, not wonder about what type of contract labor would be sorting a privatized mail service.
I went with my husband and kids to a local “Walk with your letter carrier” event. There were about 70 people there, and I am writing a report on it for our local grassroots media coop. After that, I’m planning to do a letter to the editor and mail a couple of snailmail letters to politicians about this. I hope you’ll send some off too. Lisa Raitt is the Minister of Transportation and so Canada post falls under her jurisdiction. The Canadian Union for Postal Workers has a sample letter and a window poster you can print out.