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Politics Task force to determine future of Canada Post home delivery

Canada Post letter carrier Debbie Gibson puts mail in a new Canada Post super box in Calgary, Alberta, October 20, 2014. Residents of London, Ont., upset with the end of door-to-door delivery, have started planting small flower beds on the concrete pads that will eventually house the mailboxes.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

The federal opposition parties are accusing the Liberal government of backing away from its promise to restore home mail delivery by leaving the specifics of that move to a panel tasked with reviewing the Crown corporation.

Public Services Minister Judy Foote launched a formal review of Canada Post Thursday, which will determine, among other matters, whether the postal service should follow through with its plan to eliminate door-to-door mail delivery. Although Ms. Foote said the government will maintain home delivery, she deferred a decision about what exactly that will look like to the task force leading the review.

"Home delivery, yes. Home delivery in what format in terms of time is another question," Ms. Foote said during a press conference in Ottawa. "I don't think we specified in terms of home delivery being seven days a week or five days a week. We need to hear from Canadians what it is they need and Canadians are responsible and I think they will understand that it has to be at a reasonable cost."

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Both main opposition parties say the Liberal government is avoiding its election promise to restore home delivery. In their platform, the Liberals pledged to stop the previous Conservative government's plan to end door-to-door mail delivery.

NDP public services and procurement critic Erin Weir said the government's review is a "way of changing the channel" to dodge its promise.

"The Prime Minister was very clear on the campaign trail that he was going to restore home mail delivery and I think to most Canadians that would mean to re-establish the existing service," Mr. Weir said. "The government has to figure out the logistics of doing that and rather than trying to figure out the logistics, today they're turning away from the promise altogether."

Even the Conservatives, who were responsible for the plan to end home mail delivery and install community mailboxes instead, are criticizing the Liberals for backing away from their promise. For public services and procurement critic Steven Blaney, who says the party still wants to see home delivery phased out, it's a question of principle for the Liberals.

"They are setting the framework to break their promises," Mr. Blaney said. "This is breaking the trust between the people and the Liberal government."

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is hoping the task force in charge of the review will listen to Canadians.

"This government has said that they are going to listen to the public and we're quite confident that the public will make their voices clear, as they have, that they don't want cuts to home mail delivery," union president Mike Palecek said.

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Advocates, including the postal workers' union and seniors groups, have publicly denounced the previous Conservative government's plan to end door-to-door mail delivery.

Canada Post says it installed only 20 per cent of the community mailboxes as replacements for home delivery from the time of the Conservative announcement axing the service until the end of October, 2015, when it halted its plans to end home delivery following the election. The fate of those community mailboxes will be decided during the review process, Ms. Foote's office said.

A four-member independent task force will head up the Canada Post review, which will also consider new profit generators for the postal service to ensure it is self-sustaining.

The postal unions have been pressuring the Liberal government to bring back banking at more than 6,500 post offices as a way for Canada Post to make money as fewer Canadians send letters. Canada Post offered full banking services decades ago, but closed its Post Office Savings Bank in 1968.

The review will be completed in two phases. First, a four-person task force will prepare a paper on viable options, costs and associated implications for Canada Post services, to be completed by the end of the summer.

In the second phase, a parliamentary committee will consider the paper as it consults Canadians on the matter. The committee is expected to submit its recommendations to the government by the end of 2016. Ms. Foote said the government will make a decision on the recommendations by April, 2017, at the latest.

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Throughout the entire process, Canadians are encouraged to submit their views on Canada Post online, by e-mail or on social media, using the hashtag #CPReview2016.

The entire review will cost $2-million, to be paid by Public Services and Procurement Canada, according to Ms. Foote.

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