Canada Post's service changes announced Wednesday will negatively affect P.E.I. seniors and people with disabilities, say advocates.

Canada Post says it will cut 6,000 to 8,000 jobs by eliminating door-to-door mail delivery in urban areas over the next five years. The move to community mailboxes is necessary because fewer people are using the mail service, the Crown corporation says.

The changes will be difficult for some Islanders, particularly seniors, said Chris Clay, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in Charlottetown.

"For senior citizens that would have to go out everyday, instead of just reaching out and getting their mail from their mailbox, they would have to go down the street, a couple blocks even, to pick up that mail now," said Clay.

"On a day like today where it was 20 below, that's a bit of an inconvenience if you don't have a car or if you are elderly."

Sister Norma Gallant, president of the PEI Senior Citizens' Federation, said the changes could also pose safety issues for her members.

"When I saw this news, I figured, 'oh my gosh, the poor seniors.' Some of them with limited mobility, some of them in the winter time, even if they have good mobility, with ice and snow having to leave their home to go to a central place. Although it's not very far, it's still a problem for them," said Gallant.

Security hazard

Gallant said seniors might also worry about being attacked while getting their mail at community mailboxes, particularly at times when pension cheques are commonly known to arrive.

The community boxes are also a security hazard and a hassle for many people with mobility problems, said Tony Dolan, P.E.I. spokesman for the Canadian Paraplegic Association.

Mail is necessary, but community mailboxes don't work for everyone, said Dolan.

"I live in a community in Stratford and I use a community mailbox. When I say I use it, it's not me that uses it, it's either my wife, or if my wife happens to be away sometimes, it will be one of my neighbours," said Dolan.

"I have to say, 'Can you please pick up my mail?' And that's unacceptable. That's not fair to my neighbours. That's not fair to my wife that she always has to pick up the mail."

Canada Post also announced that, starting March 31, the cost of stamps will increase. A standard-size first-class letter will cost 85 cents if bought in bulk, up from 63 cents. Individual stamps will cost a dollar.

Gallant said the increase will also hurt her members, many of whom still rely heavily on the mail, rather than other forms of communication such as the internet.

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