Earlier this week, North Island–Powell River NDP candidate Rachel Blaney invited those affected by Canada Post’s decision to end home delivery to her campaign office to discuss their concerns.
Campbell River is one of the first communities being phased out under Canada Post’s new system of replacing home delivery with community mailboxes, and the issue has been a contentious one ever since the announcement.
Blaney was joined by house leader of the official opposition Peter Julian (MP New Westminster–Burnaby) who was on hand as part of his tour of Vancouver Island to spread the NDP platform and lend support to various ridings’ candidates where he could.
“We spent some time talking to people who are being directly affected by these cuts – whether because they’re not getting their mail delivered or because they’re losing their job,” Blaney said after the forum.
She says the cuts made by Canada Post are too deep and are negatively affecting the public while the company continues to show profit.
“Canada Post is making $200-million in profit while over five million households are losing their service. No other business would ever raise prices and cut service and expect people to be okay with that,” Blaney says.
And she thinks people should be considering these issues when deciding who to vote for in October.
The two recurring themes that come up in conversation with the public while Blaney canvasses her riding, she says, are jobs and the environment.
“And this falls under jobs,” she says. “These are good paying jobs that are going to be gone from within the community, which means less money is flowing around… that’s something I’m hearing even from small business owners. They’re upset, not only that they won’t be getting their mail, but because the loss of these jobs will mean less money is circulating within the community.”
Blaney says an NDP government, if elected, will reverse the cuts to Canada Post’s service levels and restore door-to-door delivery.
Local Green Party of Canada candidate Brenda Sayers says she was also, “deeply disappointed,” when she heard of the cuts being made to Canada Post and is concerned that the elderly and disabled of our society will be losing a “vital service for them.”
“Our commitment is to not only reverse the cuts to Canada Post, but to also diversify the services they offer to make them more sustainable,” Sayers says, noting that many European postal services have started successfully diversifying into insurance, banking and other sectors to be profitable.
Sayers also feels the cuts continue what seems like the Conservative government’s commitment to increasing the seclusion of remote communities who depend on services like Canada Post and the CBC – which has also been seeing deep cuts – to remain connected.
Laura Smith, North Island–Powell River candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, disagrees.
“Canada Post has an obligation to Canadians to balance their books and not being a burden on the taxpayers,” Smith says, adding the fact that Canada Post delivered 1.4-billion fewer letters in 2014 than they did in 2006 shows that Canadians are communicating differently these days, and it’s up to the company to adapt to that new reality.
“I think (the move to community mailboxes is) a reasonable response to the changing way that people communicate,” Smith says. “The NDP plan is going to cost half a billion dollars. Where is that money going to come from? It’s going to come from you and me.”
She says if the options are either spending $500-million or walking across the street to get her mail, she’ll take the latter.
Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff says his party agrees with the NDP and Greens that the cuts seem unnecessary, but the Liberals can’t commit to rolling them back until they have the information they need to make that decision.
“We keep getting different numbers from different people,” Schwarzhoff says in regards to Canada Post’s expenses and revenues. He says their platform is that they would just like to take a breath and have a good hard look at things before making any concrete decisions on the matter.
“I would like to see the cuts rolled back, personally, but we can’t commit to that as a party until we get the actual numbers. What we’re calling for is a moratorium on the cuts so we can examine the business case. We just want to say, ‘Stop right where you are and let’s have a look at this.’”
Blaney says that the NDP’s commitment to restoring Canada Post’s previous levels of service is another example of how her party listens to public concern.
“More than anything,” Blaney says, “people are just wanting to see more from their government. They feel like they’re being ignored, and they’re frustrated.”
Schwarzhoff agrees that there needs to be much more accountability in government and public consultation before major decisions like this are made.
To those who say it would be wasteful to reinstate previous service levels after spending the money on the rollout of the new community mailboxes, Blaney says that’s not the issue.
“What’s wasteful is losing these good paying jobs from within our community,” she says. “What’s wasteful is taking away services for Canadians who rely on them.”
QUESTIONS?…If you have a question you would like the candidates to address at the upcoming All Candidates Meeting, submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A selection of the questions will be put before the candidates at the forum on Thursday Oct. 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tidemark Theatre and is sponsored by the Campbell River Mirror, the Tidemark Theatre and the Chamber of Commerce.