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Court case finds flaws in Canada Post’s plan to end home delivery for urban addresses

A Canada Post letter carrier puts mail in Canada Post super boxes.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Poor street lighting. Sidewalk and safety issues. Concerns for trees and people's privacy. Damaged cables and sprinkler systems.

These are some of the issues that have emerged as Canada Post prepares to set up thousands of new community mailboxes in Hamilton, the city alleges in its court dispute against the mail service.

The Ontario Superior Court is on Tuesday hearing arguments over the legality of a Hamilton municipal bylaw forcing Canada Post to seek permits before it can install new super-mailboxes.

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In making its case that there is a need to regulate how Canada Post is setting up its community mailboxes, the city of Hamilton has produced in court a detailed account of the technical challenges in implementing the federal Crown corporation's plan.

While community mailboxes (CMBs) are already common in rural and suburban settings across the country, ending door-to-door service in older, denser city districts will be a challenge, Canada Post has acknowledged.

According to the court factum filed by the city's lawyers, Hamilton, with half a million residents, has already been notified about 1,000 locations for the new mailboxes. The city estimates it will ultimately have to accommodate 4,000 locations.

Municipal officials need to be consulted, the city argued, to make sure there are sidewalks, with ramps for people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers, proper snow clearing, and waste bins to collect junk-mail litter.

"The pressures are particularly great in mature, highly developed neighbourhoods," the document said.

Reviewing all the locations would require 8,000 staff hours, the city court factum said.

The factum noted for example that, in just two days this month, city staff saw 15 CMB installations that had problems:

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– 12 had no street lighting;

– Six had no ready wheelchair access and one had no sidewalks;

– Five were in locations that posed traffic and pedestrian safety concerns;

– Five created privacy concerns, being installed directly in front of a window of someone's house;

– Four were too close to trees.

In some instances, telecommunications cables, gas lines and private sprinkler systems were damaged during community-mailbox installations, the city alleged.

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In one case, a resident got a permit from the city to build a new driveway because the existing one wasn't safe. Unfortunately for him, Canada Post had picked the same spot to install a new community mailbox, leaving the man with a hole in the ground where his new driveway would have been positioned.

Canada Post had to agree to relocate its mailbox. In its court filing, the city of Hamilton noted that all driveway permits are immediately available from municipal records.

Compelling Canada Post to seek a permit would prevent such incidents from reoccurring, the city argued.

It noted that the city of Oakville, nearby, entered into an agreement where Canada Post paid a $50 fee for each of the 664 new community-mailbox installations.

Hamilton is charging Canada Post $200 for each mailbox permit, saying that the sum is needed to recoup all its administrative costs. "Canada Post's plan appears, at least in part, to base its profitability on undercompensating the city for its costs," says the factum.

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