By Eric Bourque
Yarmouth County residents concerned about losing their mailboxes are urged to contact their member of Parliament about the issue and make sure their feelings are known.
That was the message delivered to those attending a community meeting Wednesday night at the Lake Vaughn fire hall.
The meeting was organized out of concern many residents have about Canada Post’s rural mailbox safety review.
Canada Post says the review is about safety, but critics say it’s about saving money.
Residents worry the review will mean – as it has for some already – that they will lose their mailboxes and have to pick up their mail at a community mailbox, which could be a fair distance away, even by car.
Some attending Wednesday’s session wondered whether the community mailboxes (CMBs) are safer than the rural ones anyway, given, for example, the number of vehicles converging at CMB sites to get their mail.
Jeff Cook, vice-president of the Yarmouth local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting as a mail driver and union representative) said he knows of places were CMBs have been placed right across the road from locations that had been deemed unsafe for a rural mailbox.
“It’s not a safety issue,” he said. He – and many others – say the review is an effort by Canada Post to save money, although Canada Post has denied this, saying the review is about ensuring the safety of its drivers.
Particular concern was expressed at Wednesday’s meeting about the impact on senior citizens and others who perhaps have trouble getting around and who may not even have access to a vehicle.
Various factors are taken into consideration when assessing whether a rural mailbox is deemed safe, including traffic volume, distance from an intersection or stop sign, speed limit, whether the mailbox is on a hill or curve etc.
Raynardton resident Allan Winters, who organized Wednesday’s public session, opened the meeting by saying a Canada Post vehicle had been seen recently in the local area, apparently looking at mailboxes, although Winters also read from a letter from a Canada Post official who described what’s being done now as “preliminary work” and that the actual review is planned for next year.
“The goal of the safety review is to keep rural mailboxes on delivery,” Tinna Bonner, a Canada Post communications person from Halifax, wrote in her letter. “If a rural mailbox fails our safety criteria, we will first look at options to make it pass, for instance make adjustments/move the mailbox or cluster it next to a passed mailbox. Only when it is not possible to make the mailbox meet our safety criteria will there be a change in delivery mode to e.g. a community mailbox.”
No one representing Canada Post attended Wednesday’s meeting. Cook and Mike Scott, president of the Yarmouth CUPW local, were there as union representatives. They were not involved in organizing the meeting.
Residents attending the session were urged to ask questions if someone representing the mailbox safety review team comes to their door. The more questions they ask about what they can do to keep their mailbox, the better their chances of keeping it, residents were told.
Scott asked those on hand to contact their MP if they are concerned about the future of their mail delivery.
“Be dogged about it,” Scott said.
Winters, who said he hoped the meeting would help get the word out about the mailbox issue and generate some momentum, ended the session with some simple words of encouragement for residents.
“Don’t give up,” he said.