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Port Hardy mayor and council advocate for bigger post office, more workers

The Canada Post building in Port Hardy. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

Port Hardy’s mayor and council are standing up for all the residents who are frustrated with Canada Post’s services.

Back in June of 2022, council wrote a letter to the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, stating that, “The District of Port Hardy mayor and council have received complaints and concerns from the residents and businesses of Port Hardy following a recent postal service system update that has negatively impacted its customers. An internal system update has led to an inability for Canada Post staff to search street addresses to identify an individual box number to make the delivery happen. In turn, it has had many implications for residents and businesses alike.”

“In remote communities, we are serviced by PO boxes,” the district explained in its letter to Tassi. “However, some companies will not send parcels to PO boxes, leaving the customer applying a street address only… Due to this inability to ship to a street address, parcels are being sent back to their originating location. This is a costly and poor use of resources that are already impacted by pandemic staff shortages and delays.

“Further, local businesses have been directly affected by delays in their ability to receive supplies. Prolonged shipping times following the system changes have compounded existing supply chain delays, creating additional, unnecessary hardship for businesses and their customers.

“We request a review of the Canada Post’s recent system update and ask that this matter be resolved promptly to ensure that there are no further impacts on employees, carriers, receivers and suppliers.”

Minister Tassi’s office responded two months later with a letter that stated, “I understand from Canada Post that there are no plans to change its delivery operations in the District of Port Hardy and surrounding areas, and that representatives of the corporation have been engaging within the community on this matter.”

Fast forward to July 24, 2023, mayor and council still hadn’t seen any changes happening so they wrote another letter, this time to Canada Post’s customer service department, with the same complaints from before about PO boxes, but also requesting a bigger Canada Post building for the district.

“The current post office building in Port Hardy is unable to accommodate the escalating volume of parcels generated by the surge in online shopping,” stated mayor and council in their letter. “This lack of space necessitates the use of one or more shipping containers to hold the increasing number of packages, leaving them exposed to the elements. Consequently, during the winter, parcels risk freezing, while in the summer, they are subjected to extreme heat. This situation not only compromises the condition of the parcels but also leads to delays in delivery, as the limited space hampers efficient sorting upon arrival.

“To address this issue responsibly, we strongly advocate for a larger post office, either through expansion or relocation, to meet the growing demands of our community and ensure the safe and timely delivery of parcels.”

Canada Post’s Doug Matsumoto, General Manager, Operations Pacific, responded with a lengthy three-page letter, basically telling council thanks for writing in, and that “keeping rural communities, like Port Hardy, connected is a top priority for us, and your correspondence is meaningful feedback toward that end. Please be assured we will always consider such communities when making operational changes and meeting the evolving postal needs of all Canadians.”

With the somewhat contentious back and forth letter writing campaign now seemingly over, council decided to request a face to face meeting with Canada Post so they could air their grievances in real time.

The Committee of The Whole meeting ended up being scheduled for 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 23, with Canada Post representatives Angela Liu and Benjamin Berman attending the meeting virtually.

“Mayor, councillors, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to speak in front of you today and answer any of your questions,” stated Berman, noting they were more than willing to address any concerns that were raised.

Mayor Pat Corbett-Labatt said council wasn’t happy with the response they had received from Matsumoto, stating it was “very concerning.”

She continued on from there, explaining again that the PO box issue is still causing problems for residents.

Liu said she understands why this is a problem, and that they are currently “looking into civically addressing your area, because we know that this is an ongoing concern.”

Berman said the issue is that Canada Post’s system doesn’t know everyone’s civic address and that “a civic addressing project would absolutely alleviate that.”

He explained the project would link civic addresses to a community mailbox in Canada Post’s system.

“We understand through your communications of the past year plus that this is something the community definitely needs.”

He added the project will eventually happen one day, but for now there’s currently no ETA for it as there’s a long wait list, primarily due to resource constraints.

“Communities coast to coast in Canada are clamouring for this, there’s a long queue, and we have a finite personnel that are able to work on this, so I can’t tell you how long it’ll be, but we know it needs to be put in as soon as possible, because this has been quite the inconvenience for Port Hardy.”

Corbett-Labatt also spoke about how the post office building in town isn’t big enough anymore due to the surge in online shopping, and they are under staffed with only being allowed to have five official employees.

“We are very happy with our postal workers,” stated Corbett-Labatt. “They are working as best they can, I do want to make it absolutely clear that we’re not unhappy with the workers, that being said, there’s only four full-time workers and one part-time worker up here. The one part-time worker works full time, although she’s considered a part timer.”

She noted that the casual workers don’t get regular hours, so when someone gets sick, often the casual workers can’t come in because they have been forced to pick up other work to make ends meet.

“Port Hardy is a distributor not just for Port Hardy mail, but for 12 other locations outside of Port Hardy,” added Corbett-Labatt. “It’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of mail coming into our little building… The building is too small, it needs to be a bigger building… and more staff would be ideal.”

“I want to acknowledge that I definitely hear your concerns,” said Liu.

Berman added that everything discussed today will be put into a report that will be sent to Canada Post representatives.

“We’ll be sure to update this council,” he confirmed. “Not to shuck responsibility, but I’m just the messenger.”

Tyson Whitney

About the Author: Tyson Whitney

I have been working in the community newspaper business for nearly a decade, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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