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Canadians protest loss of door-to-door mail delivery

File photo of the Vancouver skyline in British Columbia, Canada
File photo of the Vancouver skyline in British Columbia, Canada

Mail carriers and the elderly have come out strongly against the phasing out of door-to-door mail delivery in Canada since it was announced in December, holding protests and -- suitably -- writing letters.

The union representing Canada Post workers said the Crown corporation should have looked at diversifying its services in order to boost revenues, instead of making cuts.

The elderly and Canadians living with disabilities or mobility issues, meanwhile, say they will be disproportionately affected by the change, and have received backing from opposition parties.

"It was irresponsible of the government and Canada Post to cut door-to-door mail delivery," said opposition New Democratic Party MP Hoang Mai.

Canada Post announced the move in response to falling volumes and mounting financial losses.

Canadians will instead have to collect their mail from community mailboxes that are to be set up in neighborhoods nationwide over the coming years.

At the same time, Canada Post announced a doubling of the price of sending letters and major cuts to its workforce through attrition.

Canada Post delivers close to 10 billion letters and parcels each year to more than 15.3 million addresses across the country.

In its last annual report, it noted a 23.6 percent drop in letter mail from 2008 as Canadians increasingly turned to email and paying household bills online.

"Everyone agrees that there's a problem," said Jean Roy, a professor at business school HEC Montreal.

But he said Canada Post should have looked at offering banking and other services, which would have been particularly welcomed in underserved rural areas.

- 'I'm actually angry' -

Yannick Scott, a spokesman for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, echoed the plea, pointing to examples of novel postal fixes in France, Italy, Japan and New Zealand.

Indeed, Canada Post had looked at offering email and paying bills electronically in the 1990s, for example, but these failed to gain traction with customers.

Meanwhile it closed many small-town post offices.

Scott suggested the latest move is a precursor to Canada Post being privatized by the Conservative government. After losing hundreds of millions of dollars last year, the Crown corporation is now expected to return to financial self-sustainability by 2019.

Outside parliament on a cold afternoon in January, a 74-year-old retiree summarized during a protest her age group's discontent over the service pull back: "I'm not happy, I'm actually angry."

And she vowed to make it an election issue in 2015.

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