Canada Post's big push to install community mailboxes into urban settings took a concrete step Thursday when it identified Fort McMurray, Oakville, Ont., and parts of Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Halifax as the first locations to be converted this fall.
The 11 communities are the first affected by Canada Post's nation-wide drive to phase-out door-to-door home delivery within five years.
The first phase, scheduled to be in force by the fall of 2014, will affect 96,600 homes and 3,480 businesses in the following locations:
* east-end Calgary, 10,200 homes and 250 businesses, south of 17th Ave (T2B area code) and by the airport(T3J area code)
* Fort McMurray, 8,100 homes and 350 businesses in the T9H, T9J, T9K area codes.
* Winnipeg, 12,400 homes and 200 businesses in north-end neighbourhoods in the R2P, R2V area codes.
* Oakville, Ont., 25, 300 homes and 1,100 businesses in the L6H, L6J, L6K, L6L, L6M area codes.
* Ottawa, 7,600 homes and 300 businesses in the K2K, K2L, K2M area codes of Kanata.
* The adjoining Montreal suburbs of Rosemère, Lorraine and Bois-des-Filion, 8,500 homes and 140 businesses in the J7A, J6Z area codes.
* The adjoining Montreal suburbs of Repentigny and Charlemagne, 15,100 homes and 590 businesses in the J5Y, J6A, J5Z area codes.
* Halifax, 9,400 homes and 550 businesses in Bedford (B4A and B4B), Lower Sackville (B4C), Middle and Upper Sackville (B4E) and Beaver Bank (B4G).
The 11 communities are mostly located next to areas that are already using community mailboxes. Canada Post has not explained so far how it will be able to squeeze enough super mailboxes in the already cluttered streets of densely populated areas. In the Trinity-Spadina downtown district in Toronto, for example, there is a population density of 10 thousand people per square kilometre.
In Oakville, one of the biggest area where the shift will take place this fall, Mayor Rob Burton was skeptical that Canada Post would be able to convert 26,400 addresses by the fall.
He estimated 500 new community mailboxes would need to be installed. "So between now and apparently October, when they say they are going to have all of this done, they're going to locate, consult, build and serve 500 new community mailboxes ... Do you believe that the federal government is capable of such efficiency?"
About 60 per cent of Oakville residents already receive their mail in community boxes, Mr. Burton noted, adding that he wondered if his town was picked because its federal ridings are held by Conservative MPs.
The Canada Post has received mixed reactions in Oakville but Mr. Burton sounded resigned to the change.
"It's the federal government and Ottawa is not a government that particularly listens to anybody," Mr. Burton said. "I figure, we have to shrug and let them do it. I mean, there's not a lot of choice is there?"
In the Halifax Regional Municipality, where several neighbourhoods are losing their door-to-door mail delivery, the list of affected areas was met with resignation.
"I think it's an unfortunate sign of the times but this has been a decision made by Canada Post," said Councillor Tim Outhit, who represents the district of Bedford-Wentworth, which is losing some service. "I think seniors and folks that have mobility issues and whatnot are going to be upset. I certainly don't like doing anything to provide any additional challenges to small business. I think we should be supporting small business and not making things more difficult for them."
Fellow Councillor Steve Craig, who sits on the HRM's accessibility advisory committee, echoed concerns for people with disabilities, saying Canada Post should ensure that locations are chosen with care and that regular maintenance, especially in winter, is undertaken.
"Whatever is necessary for them to make it accessible for those in need is paramount," said Mr. Craig, who represents the district of Lower Sackville.
However, Mr. Craig noted that several neighbourhoods in the area have long had super mailboxes and that residents have grown used to picking up their mail on the way home from work or during after-dinner walks.
"I certainly understand Canada Post's position and why they're doing it. I understand that, because we do have a number of community boxes in Lower Sackville now, it can work."