A handful of Montreal-area mayors are going ahead with plans to join a legal challenge against Canada Post’s decision to phase out door-to-door mail delivery, a move they argue is unconstitutional.
Peter Trent, the mayor of Westmount, said the Quebec mayors hope to turn the change to postal services into a federal election issue.
“Another strategy that I’ve suggested is that we ask the opposition leaders of the NDP and the Liberals to take a position that, if elected, they will stop this in its tracks, and have the kind of consultation (Canada Post) never had,” Trent told the Toronto Star.
Canada Post announced, at the end of 2013, that it would phase out door-to-door mail delivery across the country, and put in community mailboxes instead.
By the end of 2014, 100,000 addresses had been converted to the mailboxes in about 11 communities. Another 900,000 are expected to make the switch by the end of this year.
Last fall, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers launched a lawsuit against the Crown corporation alleging that the plan was unconstitutional.
The Quebec mayors, which include Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, and the mayors of Laval and Longueuil, the major cities north and south of the island, have alleged that Canada Post has been unreceptive to working with them to find alternative solutions.
“We are not pleased to have to take legal measures, but given Canada Post’s intransigence, this is the only remaining option,” Coderre said in a statement released May 14.
According to Canada Post spokesperson John Hamilton, working with municipalities is “a huge part” of the process, and the service is currently working with 90 communities across the country.
The move to community mailboxes is necessary, he added, to keep Canada Post cost-efficient amid a dwindling volume of mail.
“We’re confident that our plan will withstand any and all legal challenge, but our focus really is on ensuring that we make this change in a thoughtful, consultative manner,” Hamilton told the Star.
He said the conversion to shared mailboxes in densely-populated neighbourhoods in places such as Toronto and Montreal will be implemented in 2018 or 2019.
“There will be people who will not be supportive, but our commitment right from the get-go is to work with municipalities, work with the people going through the change.”
Another dispute over the changes, this one between Canada Post and the city of Hamilton, is about to be heard in court.
The city wants Canada Post to respect a municipal bylaw requiring the service to secure a $200-permit per mailbox, while Canada Post says it can install mailboxes anywhere on municipal property under the federal Canada Post Act.
Back in Montreal, Trent, who heads the Association of Suburban Municipalities, said he questioned how Canada Post would successfully install mailboxes in urban areas.
He added that a reduction of home deliveries, two or three days per week, for example, would save more money than completely suspending the service.
“We’re upset by the arrogance of Canada Post deciding behind closed doors that this is what’s going to have to happen . . . and also the disingenuousness of our current government saying, ‘Oh, it’s a Crown corporation, there’s nothing we can do,’ ” Trent said.
“I think we’ve got this critical mass; the metropolitan community of Montreal represents nearly four million people. It’s kind of hard to ignore.”
— with a file from The Canadian Press