Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night … will keep us from venturing out to pick up our own mail.
The mail carrier is a dying breed in Canada, and will, within the next five years, become extinct.
Canada Post announced Wednesday it will phase out urban home delivery over the next five years. It’s the last nail in the coffin, considering the service has long since disappeared from rural areas.
In fact, only about a third of Canadian households still receive mail at home.
There’s little mystery how things came to this. Electronic communication has all but eliminated paper in envelopes. Even bills, notices and flyers are increasingly delivered online.
“In 2006, we delivered roughly five billion pieces of domestic Lettermail. That number has dropped to roughly four billion pieces, and about 30 per cent of that decline was in 2012 alone,” Canada Post announced in its 2012 annual report. “In 2012, we delivered roughly 255 million fewer pieces of domestic Lettermail than we did in 2011.”
As well, while the mail volume has plummeted, the number of new residences has climbed steadily over the years. More customers getting less mail is no longer economical.
Canada Post’s pension liability — like that of many public institutions — is also staggering: about $6 billion at last count.
The Crown corporation says about 6,000 to 8,000 positions will be eliminated over the five-year period, mainly through attrition. And postage rates will rise.
Postal workers say they were blindsided by the announcement.
Local union president Mike McDonald said the union was not consulted, and called the decision “a slap in the face.”
But it’s hard to imagine how they didn’t see it coming.
The corporation has warned about a pending crunch for years and spent this summer touring the country to garner public input. (Apparently, the public wanted a hike in postage rates and no more carriers darkening their doors.)
Like others, McDonald warned the move may be a prelude to privatizing the service. That may not be a bad thing. In September, Britain took measures to privatize the Royal Mail. At the very least, there’d be less temptation to bail them out with public money.
Nonetheless, the effect on some of the more vulnerable people in Canadian communities will be hard to ignore.
As well as lacking mobility, many seniors have been slow to adapt to handling their affairs online. For them, the transition will prove to be a challenge. And rising postal rates will have a big impact on small businesses that rely on snail mail.
Moreover, the mailman at the door is one of the few vestiges left of a world where services were provided at the door by real people, in the flesh.
Please, please, Mr. Postman? There’s an app for that now.