“I couldn’t live with a postal carrier getting killed because we made some sort of political edict.”
– federal transport minister john baird
Most of the country’s 800,000 rural mail boxes will remain in their traditional spot at the end of the lane-way, according to Rob Merrifield, the minister of state for transport. But a study shows about 12 per cent have to be moved to safer locations.
Last September, the government told Canada Post it had to maintain rural mail delivery to all mail boxes that were in place before 2005, except when a location is shown to be unsafe, he told the Commons transport committee recently.
Using criteria developed by Labour Canada, Canada Post has determined that some are unsafe for the delivery people because it involves stopping on busy highways, he told Toronto Conservative MP Lois Brown.
“Those are the ones where some people will get a little upset because they may have to travel a little bit farther, maybe to a community box that is half a mile away, or maybe a few hundred yards away, depending on where you’re at in the rural area,” Merrifield said.
“Our objective is to make sure that every safe mail box is retained, and we hold Canada Post to that,” he explained. Canada Post is complying with the policy and it spent between $250 million and $300 million analyzing the safety of rural mail boxes.
Canada Post deliverers have been involved in 120 auto accidents since 2005 and three of them died. “There’s no one in Canada who gets their mail in the
rural communities – and I live in a rural area as well – who would want to put their letter carrier at risk. This is something that we are working very aggressively at,” he said.
“Actually, only six per cent of the population of Canada gets their mail via rural delivery, and 88 per cent of those are not going to change, so we’re talking a very small number. But people habitually get their mail in a certain way and they don’t like to get it changed in any way, so we understand that.”
“CARS ZOOMING BY”
Transport Minister John Baird, who’s responsible for federal corporations such as the post office, said he thought Canada Post’s proposal to refuse service to some rural mail boxes was crazy, until he drove around on a rural mail route. “There are some areas of
the country where, with the topography, these are not small, rural roads any more. They’re now major thoroughfares and have cars zooming by, so I said that we could just put the mail box 100 feet off the road so they can maintain delivery.”
He urged MPs to take Canada Post up on its offer to show them what delivering rural mail was like. “Forget the legal consequences and the moral consequences, I couldn’t live with a postal carrier getting killed because we made some sort of political edict that at all cost this had to be maintained.”
“There are some areas of the country where more of these have to be moved and assessed than in other areas, so some of the ones have a significant number of them that need to be moved,” Merrifield added, noting Canada Post has done a good job explaining its decisions for moving unsafe mail boxes.
Jeff Watson, Conservative MP for the Ontario riding of Essex, said he was concerned that rural mail deliverers were driving against the flow of the traffic to reach some mail boxes.
While having a second person in the car would help, right-hand drive vehicles might be a better solution, he said.
Merrifield said that idea was under consideration by Canada Post.