Edmonton customers mourn loss of door-to-door mail delivery

Neighbourhoods in Edmonton that still receive daily mail to their doorstop will be converted to community boxes within five years as part of a national strategy unveiled by Canada Post today.

Canada Post also hiking stamp prices and laying off thousands in coming years

Mill Woods resident Charmayne Khan gets her mail Wednesday morning. Door-to-door delivery in Edmonton will be phased out within the next five years. (James Hees/CBC News)

Mail carriers and their clients looked at the end of door-to-door mail delivery with nostalgia and regret Wednesday after learning Canada Post is ending the service over the next five years.

Neighbourhoods in Edmonton that still receive daily mail to their doorstop will be converted to community boxes as part of a national strategy unveiled by Canada Post today.

The Crown corporation also plans to hike the price of stamps and eliminate thousands of jobs in an effort to reduce losses.

Steve Cowtan has been with Canada Post for 11 years. (James Hees/CBC News)

Mail carrier Steve Cowtan, who has worked with Canada Post for 11 years, isn't worried about being laid off,  but is resigned to the fact that his job will change over the next few years.

He worries what residents will lose when there is no longer door-to-door mail delivery.

"We sort of get absorbed into the community and we become part of it," he said while completing his route in Mill Woods Wednesday morning.  "And that's something that I think will be a sad thing for Canadians to lose is that extra person in the community that is sort of the watchful eye that goes to every house every single day."

Loss of personal touch, homeowner says

Some of the homeowners on route were surprised to hear the news.

"It's a huge difference from what we've grown up with for the past, what is it, 80 or 100 years," said Jo Jo Yorke.

Yorke said he understands things have to change given how much e-mail is now a part of daily lives, but he's concerned how seniors or people with mobility issues will adapt to having to use community boxes.

Resident Charmayne Khan sees it as another move towards a more impersonal society.

"We're separating people from people," she said. "You see people texting and they're sitting side by side each other. What is that?  Taking away a mailman ... it's still separating people from people."

Edmonton mayor Don Iveson said he needs time to go through all the changes, but his first reaction? He isn't thrilled with the loss of home delivery.

"I'm personally going to not enjoy having to go to a community box, because right now I get the door to door and so maybe I took that for granted up until now."

Iveson is also worried about the price increase.  He wants to explore whether the city will continue to be required to mail out property tax notices or if that can be converted to online distribution.

Monica Lomeland, 71, was volunteering at the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton when she heard about Canada Post's changes.

She's not impressed.

"It's going to be horrible," Lomeland said. "It means you have to put your coat on, your boots, gloves and half the time the mail's not there. And what is there is a pile of rubbish."

University of Alberta media communications professor Marco Adria believes the crown corporation will be able to handle the criticism it will get with the end of doorstep mail delivery.

"Canada Post started a number of years ago with this strategy of setting up the community mailboxes," he said. 

"It's been relatively successful. People don't really mind going down the block to get their mail...and now what we have is a balance of quite a few people [who] don't have the door-to-door service and so the reaction against it is going to be significant but it's going to be manageable."

Posties surprised by changes

The Edmonton local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said there was no indication these changes were coming.

"We got a phone call at 20 to eight this morning," said Local 73 president Bev Ray.

There are 2,200 Canada post workers in Edmonton and the immediate surrounding area with about 600 of them working as letter carriers. 

"Canada Post, and the decisions they've been making with respect to providing public postal service to Canadians, has certainly been diminishing," Ray said on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

She also challenges the corporation's claim that it struggles with competing with the private sector due to labour costs.

The last round of collective bargaining the starting wage for a letter carrier was reduced to $19 an hour and "if you look at the private sector such as Purolator...they're starting at that or higher," Ray said.

Ray also points out that the move towards community mail boxes across Canada is ironic since in national consultations in September Canada Post was concerned about mail theft from the boxes.
Most Canadians use community boxes

Nationally, two thirds of Canadians already get their daily mail from community boxes or delivery secure boxes in apartment buildings or condominium complexes.

The first communities that will be switched to the new community boxes will be announced in the second half of 2014.

The price of an individual stamp will go up on March 31, 2014 to one dollar or 85 cents each if bought in a pack.  The current price is 63 cents per stamp.

In a news release, Canada Post claims these and other initiatives "will form the foundation of a new postal system designed to serve busy Canadians and meet their changing needs for postal services."

According to the release, some of the big reasons for the changes include "the increasing use of digital communication and the historic decline of letter-mail volumes."

Canada Post believes continued significant financial losses would jeopardize its self-sufficiency and become a burden to taxpayers.

A history of mail in Canada

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