Mailbox consultation needed, mayors say

Sarah Petrescu, Times Colonist

   A Greater Victoria MP and two mayors are calling out Canada Post for what they say is inadequate consultation on a plan to convert thousands of households from home delivery to community mailboxes next year.

   "No one has come to us to say anything about how many boxes, what size or where," said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. "The vision we have at this point is large, unsightly mailboxes that will be a blight on our community. ... We don't have a lot of room for these things."

   Jensen added there is also no municipal budget for cleanup or traffic concerns related to any new mailboxes.

   In late October, Canada Post sent notices to about 20,000 homes in the region that their home delivery would end by next year and they'd be assigned a community mail box. Included was a survey for residents to voice concerns and preferences for the location and type of mailbox.

   The Crown corporation has already transitioned about 100,000 addresses to community mailboxes in the first phase of the changeover this fall. It plans to convert all delivery across the country within the next five years to save taxpayers an estimated $400 million to $500 million a year.

   Victoria MP Murray Rankin said he's been trying since July to share his concerns with Canada Post about the changeover's impact on safety, cost and accessibility for municipalities and residents.

   "I wrote to the CEO with my concerns, tried to reach out and heard nothing," said Rankin, whose Vic West home is included in the initial changeover. "I think the consultation process has been absolutely deplorable."

   Canada Post said it contacted Rankin's office in October. However, Rankin's staff said they did not receive a response to the MP's concerns but rather an information brochure sent to all MPs. Rankin said he hopes to halt the community mailbox plan or at the very least stall it for better consultation.

   "This represents an enormous change in the lives of seniors and those with disabilities," he said, noting the Canadian Medical Association opposed Canada Post's plan to have its members "write notes" for patients medically unable to get mail outside their home. "That's not their job. They weren't consulted. It's totally irresponsible."

   Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin met with Canada Post last week, at the corporation's request, and said he wasn't impressed.

   "There's no consultation. They just come in and tell you what they're doing. ... I told them it was very short-sighted," Fortin said.

   Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton said the process in Greater Victoria is still in the early stages and that municipalities will be consulted throughout. "It won't be a discussion about whether door delivery is continued. That's been decided. We can't afford it," he said. "Now, it's a decision about where boxes will be located and how."

   He said the process Canada Post has set up will first survey residents by mail, online and inperson, then incorporate the survey results into aa draft plan that will be brought to the municipalities.

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