Update: see previous post – October 18, 2015 The NDP to Reverse Canada Post’s Elimination of Door-to-Door Delivery
Canada Post head Deepak Chopra says it would have been impossible to stop the phase-out of door-to-door mail immediately after the Liberals won the election.
Canada Post couldn’t have paused its phase-out of home mail delivery earlier than it did without disrupting service, according to the corporation’s CEO.
Speaking for the first time since Canada Post announced Monday it was suspending the process of replacing door-to-door service with community mailboxes, CEO Deepak Chopra defended the agency’s decision to wait until a week after the federal election to institute the freeze.
The timing was significant because the Liberal victory on Oct. 19 signaled a change in postal policy was on the way. Canada Post began eliminating home delivery under the outgoing Conservative government, but Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to “save” door-to-door service.
“This is a 10-month process in any community when we introduce (community mailboxes),” Chopra said Thursday at the opening of a new post office in Richmond Hill.
“A project of this magnitude cannot be measured in hours or one week or one day. It’s, as I mentioned, a long planning cycle with equipment and restructuring and employee impact. So we have to do it in a way that is respectful to making sure that the service remains. That’s job one.”
But Mike Palecek, the national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, rejected Chopra’s contention that stopping sooner would have been impossible.
“That’s a ridiculous assertion. It would have taken a phone call to tell people, ‘just keep delivering as normal.’ Instead they wanted to rush through the cuts,” Palecek said.
“It was a disingenuous move and Mr. Chopra is being disingenuous if he says that it would have been too complicated to maintain services.”
According to the union, Canada Post moved nearly 300,000 addresses, including many in Aurora, Ont., to community mailboxes on Monday, mere hours before it halted the program.
What will happen to the community mailbox initiative now is not known. Although during the election the Liberals criticized the Conservative party for the elimination of home delivery, it’s not clear whether the incoming government would actually restore door-to-door service to those who have lost it.
In its campaign platform, the party promised to “save home mail delivery” and perform a review of Canada Post “to make sure that it provides high-quality service at a reasonable price to Canadians, no matter where they live.” But beyond that the document offered few specifics.
Asked for clarification, party spokesperson Cameron Ahmad wrote in an email: “We are committed to implementing our platform and the details outlined within it, including those focusing on Canada Post.
“Our immediate priority remains a smooth transition and forming government, and announcing a new cabinet to Canadians on Nov. 4.”
The postal service announced in December 2013 that it would end home delivery, a measure that the corporation estimated would save $500 million annually when fully implemented. The change came as Canadians’ reliance on letter mail is plummeting and correspondence moves online — Canada Post said it delivered 1.4 billion fewer pieces of mail in 2014 than it did in 2006.
When the conversion to community mailboxes began, only 32 per cent of households, mostly in urban centres, got mail delivered to their door. The other two-thirds used community or rural mailboxes, postal boxes, or boxes in the lobbies of their apartment buildings.
Although Chopra has backed ending home delivery as a policy that will save money and help modernize the post office, on Thursday he said Canada Post decided to suspend the community mailbox program until it could reach some agreement with the Liberal government about “policies that make sense.”
Chopra, who in August received a five-year extension of his contract that will take him to 2021, wouldn’t say whether he would defend the phase-out in talks with his new political masters. He said the corporation is looking to “come up with the next steps so that we are in alignment with (the government).”
Walid Hejazi, professor of international competitiveness at the Rotman School of Management, said that if home delivery is going to stay, the government will have to find a way to rationalize rescuing an expensive, increasingly unpopular service that is enjoyed by only a minority of the population.
“You have to be absolutely clear that there’s inequities,” he said, “that the people that get door-to-door are being subsidized by people that do not.”