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Canada Post would win a super mailbox court challenge: expert

Canada Post would make short work of the city's new super mailbox bylaw if it ever went to court, says an expert in municipal law.

Federal law typically trumps municipal bylaws: legal expert

Canada Post says it doesn't need the city to approve the locations of its future super mailboxes on the Mountain. City legal staff disagree. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Canada Post would make short work of the city's bylaw trying to regulate where it puts new super mailboxes if it ever gets to court, says a municipal law expert.

The city passed a law on Wednesday to dictate where Canada Post can put community mailboxes on municipal property as the corporation phases out urban door-to-door mail delivery in Hamilton. The Crown corporation says it doesn't have to follow those rules.

And Canada Post is basically right about that, said John Mascarin, an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Federal law typically trumps municipal bylaws, he said. And as long as super mailboxes are required to deliver the mail, the city would lose.

It appears pretty obvious to me that what they're doing is attempting to frustrate Canada Post's efforts.- John Mascarin, municipal law expert

"What is the city trying to do here?" said Mascarin, who practises at the Toronto law firm Aird and Berlis.

"It appears pretty obvious to me that what they're doing is attempting to frustrate Canada Post's efforts to put in these community mailboxes."

Super mailboxes have been an issue since last June, when Canada Post started a process to phase out door-to-door delivery for 117,000 Hamilton homes over the next five years. It's starting on the Mountain, where it will phase out delivery for 36,000 homes this year. The corporation began installing the mailboxes this week.
John Mascarin, a municipal law expert, says Canada Post would probably win any court challenges over the city of Hamilton's super mailbox law. (CBC)

The federal Canada Post Corporation Act gives Canada Post the power to do whatever is necessary to deliver the mail, said Mascarin.

In court, Canada Post would easily argue that community mailboxes are required to achieve that, he said. The municipality would have to show that the mailboxes harm road allowances, which is less likely.

Canada Post's case would be even stronger given how vocal councillors have been about phasing out door-to-door mail delivery, Mascarin said. Councillors have not only passed motions against the plan, but written to the federal government. 

It's a strong move for the city to take that step forward, and I feel pretty positive it will have an effect.- Terry Langley, acting president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 548

That makes it easier for Canada Post to prove that the bylaw intends "to frustrate the purpose of the Canada Post corporation, which is essentially to facilitate mail delivery throughout Canada," Mascarin said.

City staff is already acting on the two-day-old bylaw. Enforcement officers are looking into about six complaints about the mailboxes on the Mountain, said spokesperson Mike Kirkopoulos. There are no enforcement orders.

"Our first step is to investigate, then issue an order," he said.

The local 548 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers supports the bylaw, said acting president Terry Langley.

"It's a strong move for the city to take that step forward, and I feel pretty positive it will have an effect."

Langley estimates as many as 60 jobs will be eliminated by the Mountain plan. City-wide, the super mailbox implementation could mean more than 300 job cuts. 

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