Everyone says we don’t get mail any more. Maybe we get bills or junk mail. We don’t send or receive letters. One stamp to send a card costs $1. The only thing we use mail for is online shopping, and even then, most of our packages are couriered.
Yet there’s been an uproar this Fall because Canada Post has started implementing a change it announced last October: the end of delivering mail to individual houses.
Most people in Canada have never had mail delivered to their door. If you live in a rural area, you may have a mailbox at the side of the road, accessed by a mail carrier in a vehicle. More likely, you and your neighbours have a clump of mail boxes, placed together, that you visit on your way home from work. Suburban folks like me use a superbox: there are three sets of them on my street. Anyone in an apartment or a condo has a group of mail slots in the lobby. Some people choose to rent a post office box. And everybody else gets door-to-door delivery. Apparently that was 32% of the population last year.
So now the holdouts are being forced to leave their homes and pick up their mail at a superbox! They are being installed at breakneck speed all across Canada. I can understand that if you are home all day and you looked forward to the mail carrier’s visit, it is the end of an era. But I am taken aback by the indignation and anger people are feeling. The key argument seems to be that mail carriers check on people who are frail-elderly or have disabilities and give them some human contact. This argument hinges on the assumptions that (a.) these people get mail regularly; (b.) they actually come to the door to speak to the mail carrier; (c.) the mail carriers have some sort of obligation to provide door-to-door social services and (d.) that these people are well enough to live in their own homes but have no other contact with human beings, so the mail carrier’s visit makes a difference. I trust you can tell from my tone that I am skeptical. What person with mobility issues has ever chosen a residence based on whether it gets mail delivery to its door? I doubt it is a big factor given how little mail everyone gets. And what relative of an independent person with mobility issues has ever said, “I won’t worry about mom/grandma because at least if anything happens, the mail man will take action!”
The underlying issue is that Canada Post is a Crown Corporation – it is not a government department, but has an arms-length relationship with the government. It is expected to pay for its services from its own income, rather than through tax dollars. It recently became profitable again after several years of losses. So the real issue is that it needs to cut its labour force and introduce efficiencies in order to stay profitable. It is planning not to replace 15,000 employees who will retire by 2020.
Well, Canada prides itself on its national public services such as health care. Most of us are not too keen on having them either for-profit (like Canada Post) or privatized (like Air Canada). We love our CBC (broadcasting) and our Via Rail (train service). We sure as heck don’t want Atomic Energy, the Royal Canadian Mint, or the Bank of Canada to be privatized!
So for most people, the end of household mail delivery means one of two things: a shift toward privatization, and a symbol of the transition away from personal services. For the latter, people who don’t like ATMs, self-service gasoline, self-checkouts at the grocery store or library, baggage check-ins, or telephone menu trees, can now grumble about one more point of contact that’s been taken away, and its impact on jobs and, er, the state of civilization.
Now ask if anyone wants their taxes raised or to pay more for these services – of course not! They just want everything to stay the same: the same cost, the same jobs, and the same level of service. If only the world worked that way!
So I would say: ask the 68% of Canadians who have never received mail through their front doors what they think of the changes. I think you would get a collective big shrug! From my point of view, why support two tiers of service: those with community boxes and the elite with (expensive) home delivery?
I was pleased to find there are some accommodations for people who have difficulty reaching a superbox or difficulty leaving their homes. It is on page 7 of Canada Post’s report. You probably also know that Canada direct-deposits all benefits “cheques” directly to the recipients’ bank accounts.
Some questions for you!
- How do you get your mail?
- If you are in Canada, do the changes impact you or your loved ones negatively?
- What do you think of self-service at banks, stores, libraries, gas stations, and other public places?