Ever since Canada Post Corporation announced its plans to eliminate door to door mail delivery to five million households over the next five years, postal customers and letter carriers have been campaigning hard to stop the implementation of community mailboxes (CMBs). In Ontario alone CMB conversion has already been implemented in Oakville, Kanata and Petawawa. This year Canada Post plans to convert additional communities, including London, Milton, Whitby and St. Thomas.
In London, Canada Post estimates that it will convert 85,000 addresses to CMBs despite strong resistance from community members and CUPW local 566 members. The Londoners For Door to Door campaign has been ramping up its activity with weekly door-to-door canvassing, bus ads and plans for town hall meetings in the postal codes directly affected by the Canada Post pilot project in London.
Campaigners have been lobbying London City Council to set up a public consultation process that would look something like one that recently made recommendations to Montreal City Council in a 44-page report published earlier this year. Montreal unanimously voted in favour of the recommendations of its public commission. These are among the adopted resolutions:
- That the city consider all possible remedies to stop the implementation of community mail boxes;
- That the city refuse the implementation of the Five Points Plan of Canada Post and urges the Crown corporation to maintain home delivery in urban areas;
- That the City file a motion to intervene in federal court in connection with the appeal launched by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers;
By comparison London City Council seems to have taken their cue from the Canada Post plan. Among their resolutions:
- That Canada Post needs to work with communities to ensure that the locations of community mailboxes meet the community needs;
- That Canada Post is responsible for the upkeep of their infrastructure or compensate municipalities for this work;
Londoners For Door To Door began with disappointment and outrage over a survey that was sent by Canada Post to affected households.
“My feelings about (the survey) aren’t fit for publication,” said David Heap, one of the key organizers for Londoners4door2door. “As someone who works with survey methodology I can tell you that I read it and marked it up. It’s a mess. It’s not a real survey, it’s a manipulative letter that doesn’t give you any choices.”
After receiving the survey Heap began to write letters.
“I wrote my councilor, I wrote the CUPW local, and it sort of took off from there,” said Heap, who believes that “Canadians should be able to decide what kind of postal service they want and not be told by a corporation.”
Since the start of campaigning, all manner of community members, activists and organizations have come on board. Every Saturday activists and postal workers gather at the CUPW local 566 office to get ready to canvas. The Council of Canadians London Chapter and the London District Labour Council have come on board in a meaningful way.
Community members and activists canvas door-to-door in partnership with CUPW workers who, prior to campaigning felt that “they’d had the shit kicked out of them by their employers,” said Heap.
The campaign has also been tabling at the London Public Library, so community members who want to help but aren’t able to go door-to-door can participate. It has also been visiting legions halls. “You want to see people who are pissed off? talk to the vets and the pensioners,” said Heap.
CUPW workers are beginning to feel optimistic. Heap spoke of one letter carrier who said the campaign “is the first ray of hope we’ve seen since the announcement.”
The shift to CMBs is not just about cuts to public services; it’s also about job loss. The cuts will cost up to 8,000 public sector jobs.
“What the Harper government is doing is privatization by stealth,” said London District Labour Council president Patti Dalton. “People are in a total uproar across the entire country.”
According to Dalton municipalities are a significant source of resistance to Canada Post’s plan. To date, more than 510 municipal councils have passed resolutions against Canada Post’s service cuts and London campaigners expect more to follow suit.
“I find it interesting that, given the progressive sweep during our last municipal election, that the new [London] council isn’t taking a more militant stance,” said Dalton. “I think we’re still in the process of educating them and lobbying them.”
The labour council president has some sympathy for the new councilors, however. “A significant number of them are young. That’s not an excuse but it will take time for them to land on their feet,” she said.
Canada Post, on the other hand, has created a mythology that speaks to the need for cuts to door to door mail delivery. Despite having posted healthy profits each year since 2000 (except 2011 when they locked out workers) and $194 million in 2014 alone, Canada Post is claiming that the cuts are necessary so as not to become a burden on taxpayers. Since Canada Post is clearly profitable, it looks very much like the most prominent rationale for the service cuts — the $400 million loss they forecast in 2013 — was, at best, grossly exaggerated.
One thing is certain, however. People are resisting cuts to door to door delivery, and London For Door To Door campaigners are confident that it is entirely possible that door to door mail delivery can be saved, especially during an election year.
Meg Borthwick is a freelance writer and moderator for rabble’s discussion forum, babble.