Ontario Conservative MP Michael Chong minced no words about rural delivery performance when he faced Canada Post president Moya Greene.
Greene was mauled by MPs whose voters are angry over a decrease in rural mailbox deliveries because employees complained that pulling to the side of the road to put mail in boxes is dangerous.
Chong told her during a March 26 Parliament Hill appearance that the Canada Post performance in rural areas is an embarrassment.
“We expect universality and we expect rural mail to be delivered, but if you break that sacred trust then frankly I’m not sure why we have a monopoly,” he said.
“I’ve been hearing this for months and frankly, I am one of those parliamentarians that is losing confidence in the ability of Canada Post to deliver what is an essential public service to hundreds of thousands of rural Canadians.”
Other MPs piled on.
“Most of us, particularly rural members from all sides, their constituents have lost confidence in Canada Post in their rural community,” said Ontario Conservative David Tilson.
From New Brunswick, Conservative MP Mike Allen credited Canada Post with uniting his area.
“I must say that last year when you cut off rural service in my riding, you galvanized a community like I’ve never seen one galvanized before,” said the northeastern New Brunswick MP. “In the public information sessions, we had people swinging from the chandeliers.”
Greene said the MPs were out of line.
“In my opinion, this is a very unfair attack on the great work that the company does,” she said. “We deliver the mail in all kinds of weather, all times of the year, in all kinds of geography, 14 million boxes every day in this country, 96.3 percent on-time delivery.”
She said it is a safety issue for employees. The past two years have seen 34 accidents involving rural postal employees delivering the mail and two fatalities during the past year.
Deborah Bourque, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, told MPs that while concerned about safety issues, the union supports the government directive that Canada Post restore and maintain as much rural postal delivery service as possible.
“While we have some concerns about implementation, we applaud the basic thrust of this directive,” she said.
However, Bourque noted Canada Post has estimated that fully complying with the government directive could cost $500 million: “That’s a lot of money even for a profitable corporation like Canada Post.”
Chong told her that Canada Post is not complying because it is replacing mailboxes with centralized group mailboxes that force people to drive for their mail.
“In my riding, as in dozens of other ridings, rural mail delivery is being discontinued and replaced with super mailboxes, which does not constitute a continuation of that rural mail delivery.”
“We’re working really hard with Canada Post and the objective of assessing those 843,000 rural mailboxes is not, in our view, to move that delivery to group mailboxes,” she said. “Our objective is to maintain door-to-door or lot delivery in rural communities. Rural Canadians expect that service and it is one of the few federal presences in rural communities.”