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Originally published December 11, 2013 at 5:36 PM | Page modified December 11, 2013 at 8:46 PM

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Home delivery of mail to end in Canada, rates to rise

So-called community mailboxes would replace home delivery in a move that quickly drew widespread criticism as the postal service in Canada tries to cope with declining mail volume and high wage and pension costs.


The New York Times

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WATERLOO, Ontario — Canada’s postal service said Wednesday that it would cease home delivery over the next five years and substantially increase postal rates.

Although Canada would become the first Group of 7 country to end all residential mail delivery in cities and older suburbs, Canada Post shares many problems with postal services in the United States and elsewhere, including rapidly declining mail volumes and high wage and pension costs.

Along with the service cuts, the government-owned service said it would eliminate 8,000 jobs, mostly through attrition.

“A leaner workforce will create a more flexible and competitive Canada Post,” the post office announced in the summary of a five-point plan. “Canada Post has a mandate to fund its operations with revenues from the sale of its products and services, rather than become a burden on taxpayers.”

In place of home delivery, Canadians who live in cities would have to pick up their mail and parcels at so-called community mailboxes, which would be established in neighborhoods across the nation.

Apartment-dwellers would continue to pick up their mail in their buildings.

While the service argued that the communal boxes had “advantages for busy Canadians,” the announcement was swiftly and widely criticized by opposition politicians and labor leaders, who noted that the price of a stamp bought in a booklet would increase, to 85 cents from 63 cents, Canadian.

Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader, criticized the post office for taking such a major step without any advance notice or discussion with customers.

The leader of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Denis Lemelin, called the cutbacks and the rise in postage rates “shortsighted and foolish.”

Dwayne Winseck, a communications professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said the end of postal delivery was a pivotal moment in Canadian history.

“The whole notion of a universal correspondence service is a pretty important one,” he said. “It’s quite a comedown for a national postal system.”

While online shopping has increased the number of parcels Canada Post handles, that has been more than offset by the loss of delivering letters, cards, bills and other kinds of mail that now arrive over the Internet.

Overall, the number of pieces of mail handled by Canada Post dropped by 23.6 percent from 2008 to 2012.

A report released this year by The Conference Board of Canada, an economic research group hired by the postal service, predicted that Canada Post, which turned a small profit last year, would lose $1 billion a year by 2020 without major changes in operations. More immediately, Canada Post faces a $6.5 billion pension-fund shortfall.

The postal system was founded in 1753 by Benjamin Franklin when both Canada and the 13 colonies were under British rule.

The service has long offered five-day-a-week delivery, and since the mid-1980s, all new residential developments have been served with the communal or, as they were originally called, super mailboxes.

Jon Hamilton, a Canada Post spokesman, said that delivery would continue to most business addresses and that Canada Post would continue to deliver parcels from commercial customers, like the Canadian branch of Amazon, to doorsteps. He said that the post office began discussions with magazine publishers Wednesday.

One major obstacle, however, looms.

Canada Post must find spaces in often-congested urban centers to squeeze in communal boxes for about 5 million households.



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