The mayor of St. John's is accusing Canada Post of wanting to eliminate door-to-door delivery by "using the pretext" of temporary safety concerns.
"This is not about sidewalks, and it's not about snowclearing," O'Keefe told CBC News. "This is about Canada Post deciding that they want to downgrade the service."
Canada Post is blaming unsafe sidewalks for a plan that could see mail service stop to some homes in the city. Those affected would instead be served by temporary community mailboxes.
O'Keefe calls the proposal "totally ridiculous and absolutely unnecessary," and says city council will not co-operate with the federal agency's plans.
"Canada Post needs to take its head out of the snowbank," O'Keefe said.
But Canada Post communications manager Denise Corra told CBC News Wednesday that O'Keefe was inaccurate.
"He couldn't be more wrong about our approach to service," she said in an interview.
"It's not about cost-cutting. There are no savings here. In fact, this is an investment in health and safety. We're putting up new community mailboxes that we may or may not use."
Corra insisted that Canada Post was taking the action following risk assessment work it did to protect its letter carriers.
Union opposes plan
But the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said its members in St. John's never asked for the change.
Chief shop steward Craig Dyer said Canada Post appears to be more concerned about saving money than safety.
"CUPW has always been against community mailboxes," Dyer said in an interview.
"Right now, Canada Post is generating huge surpluses — they should be mandated for more door-to-door delivery, providing more jobs in our community instead of dropping it off in community mailboxes."
Corra said it's not safe for letter carriers to work on sidewalks that are buried under mounds of snow.
"When the sidewalk snow buildup becomes too dangerous for our letter carriers to pass by, or if they can't get over the snow, they are moving into the street, and they are walking in the street with some very fast-moving vehicles," Corra noted.
The change applies to about 400 homes in high-traffic areas, including New Cove Road, Portugal Cove Road and Topsail Road.
"We simply can't put our employees at risk in this fashion," Corra said.