House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was museums.

Topics

The House resumed from June 9, consideration of the motion

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to remind hon. members of the content of the motion. I feel it is appropriate to debate this motion this morning. The motion is as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities should use his power to direct Canada Post to maintain traditional rural mail delivery and protect public safety when rural constituents are required to collect mail at designated group mailbox locations, long distances from their homes.

Why should we have to debate this topic in this House when Canada Post has a clear, specific mandate: to provide proper mail service across Canada?

Unfortunately, in the past, the members of this House have frequently had to play the role of watchdog to ensure that Canada Post carries out this mandate.

In 1993, when I was elected to represent my riding, an epic battle was under way in Saint-Clément de Rivière-du-Loup to maintain mail service. The 1993 election led to a moratorium, because the Conservatives wanted to close the rural post offices. Under pressure from members of Parliament, the Liberal government of the day granted a moratorium. We had waged a fierce battle, and today, mail service is available in Saint-Clément in the building where it was provided before the post office closed. The community no longer has a post office, but service is still available at that location.

Today, Canada Post seems to be waging a second offensive to try to reduce service. I have some concrete examples from my riding.

First, I visited all the sites in Berthier-sur-Mer, along with the person in charge of the rural mail, Marcel Bilodeau, who has been doing this job for 44 years and whom I salute. This man knows what he is talking about. Some areas are more dangerous, and the mail service has to be properly organized.

Caution is required, because when safety problems arise, Canada Post takes the opportunity to say that it is going to stop rural mail service and will group services together, which often causes problems.

An initiative was introduced in Berthier-sur-Mer; we will be following it closely and we hope that the result will be satisfactory. The same kind of thing was done in Montmagny.

On June 6, 2006, the Mayor of Montmagny, Jean-Guy Desrosiers, wrote to the Canada Post Corporation and to myself. In the southern part of the town of Montmagny, the Canada Post Corporation wanted to consolidate postal services using group mailboxes in a location that made no sense. People who have visited Montmagny know that it is a beautiful town. In winter, however, the wind is very strong and conditions are very harsh. The place where the group mailboxes were to be installed was unacceptable. The Canada Post Society needed to be reminded of its responsibilities. Users should not be the victims in the current debate over the safety of mailbox locations. There must be ways found to ensure safety.

The people who work for Canada Post in rural areas have had to engage in monumental debate and ultimately they have unionized. The Bloc supported their efforts and the results they achieved were proper. Now they have a collective avenue for making their views known. At the same time, we have to ensure that this does not end up reducing the quality and quantity of services.

People at Canada Post act as intermediaries for members of Parliament. They do some truly fine work. At La Pocatière, I had to step in in the same way. Canada Post wanted to install the group mailboxes on the property of a landowner who had not agreed to it. I stepped in and we fixed the situation. The mailboxes were installed somewhere else.

Today’s motion asks that Canada Post’s operations be monitored. We must not allow the privatization that was not agreed to before to be brought in indirectly. I hope that the motion will be given broad support in the House of Commons.

We are under a Conservative government now, and that is the very party that wanted to close the rural post offices. The Conservative government engaged in an offensive that, had it not been for the 1993 moratorium, would have closed the post offices in rural communities.

Today, that same government might be tempted to try to close rural post offices by indirect means and act on the Machiavellian proposal by Canada Post to reduce service, on the pretext of needing better safety. Given the problems, service will be reduced; postal service will no longer be available to certain addresses because it is not safe.

There needs to be an alternative so that one way or another these people can have adequate mail service. The motion before us currently says that people in our ridings do not feel safe. There is no guarantee that the decisions made by Canada Post will provide us with adequate and safe service.

It is important that we support this motion, that we follow through on this—in a parliamentary committee or with presentations from Canada Post—and that we take stock and propose and implement solutions in accordance with what the communities are asking for.

The mayor of Montmagny, the mayor of Berthier-sur-Mer and the people of our ridings have been writing to us and to Canada Post to maintain service in their region.

There needs to be a mechanism for this to be done appropriately and for Canada Post to maintain postal service. We have to make things happen. We have to do some brainstorming to come up with new and constructive ideas to ensure there is adequate service that will help preserve the current individual service.

For now, our salvation is that we can intervene with the Canada Post representative who then conducts verifications. This has resulted in corrective measures being taken. In my opinion, this service must be maintained. It would prevent Canada Post from making more mistakes, which often happens when it goes ahead with its initial plans.

Nonetheless, Canada Post has to be more proactive and assure us that its approach will guarantee the safety of those who provide postal service in rural areas, and will allow our citizens to receive adequate service. Ultimately, all this is for the benefit of our fellow citizens, but it also shows respect for the people who work at Canada Post.

Earlier I was talking about Marcel Bilodeau who has been at Canada Post for 44 years and Lise Lapointe, postmaster in Berthier-sur-Mer, who has spent her career at Canada Post.

Examples like these can be found everywhere. But there are also cases where citizens are not receiving adequate service. Their levels of service are changing, and they do not know where the changes will end. Canada Post told them that, for security reasons, it cannot maintain rural mail services, but it did not provide an immediate solution. The worst part is that there is not enough consultation.

I would therefore invite the government to take the motion before us into consideration, to be proactive, to ask Canada Post to report on overall progress in this matter, and to avoid falling into the trap of blaming the union or the employees, whose demands are legitimate.

This is not a problem to be resolved just between Canada Post and the union. This is about the reality of living in these communities, and these communities must be involved in the process. Before making changes that might not work, we must ensure that the proposed solutions meet communities' needs. If we do that, we will have far fewer changes to make after the fact, and we will have better service. Together, we will aim to reduce the risk of accidents and ensure adequate postal service, while ensuring our fellow citizens are informed about the service they are getting.

Adequate postal services must be provided. We must be able to guarantee they will continue to be provided and will work well. I think that is what this motion is about, and that is why I will support it. I hope a majority of members of this House will support it.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support this motion and talk about the importance of the rural mail delivery system in my riding, especially in the southern part of my riding, the Comox Valley. This is the area where I grew up, a very rural area, where we had the experience of having our mail delivered every day by a rural mail carrier. It is something that I reflect on today, and I speak from the heart on this issue.

I have heard from Canada Post and it admits that its main mandate is to serve Canadians. In so doing, rural mail serves Canadians in areas where there may not be access to public transit or people with vehicles. It is important to maintain this service for these areas. Where I grew up, everyone had a mailbox on the side of the road. Everyone looked forward to the mail carrier passing by, when we would all go out and collect our mail.

As the times changed, transportation became better and cars became more plentiful as people were able to buy them. The rural mail system changed somewhat. People then accessed the smaller towns and villages. The mail service changed in that we were able to pick up our mail and packages at a more central location. That was still an inconvenience for people who relied on the rural mail being delivered. I am glad to see that it was maintained. Mail delivery is still maintained today in the area between Cumberland and Royston, which is a very rural area in my riding. I know that many of my constituents there still receive their mail every day by rural mail.

Also, with some of the changes, people got group mailboxes at the end of their road. It had become a safety issue for the mail carriers to stop at all the little mailboxes as more traffic came onto our rural roads. These group mailboxes are still accessible, but it is a bit of a hardship for people with disabilities and for seniors. Some other issues have arisen from that, but I know that Canada Post was working very hard to make sure there was safety for people accessing rural mail.

Another safety issue is the safety of workers. I know that the NDP had a private member's bill and worked very hard toward making sure that rural mail carriers were able to organize and to join unions. I am very proud of my party for the work it did on that issue. The NDP wanted to end the exploitation of workers that deliver our rural mail because we felt that was important and we wanted to maintain that service for individuals living in those rural areas.

What happens when people are able to join a union and have a say in their working conditions is that the working conditions generally improve. The workers who are delivering the mail know what the safety issues are. I think it is important to remember that just because there is a safety issue it does not mean that we should end the service. It means we should make it better. I think there are a lot of ways that we can work with those workers to improve mail service.

There are other issues affecting rural mail delivery. I know that in my area, as well as others, Canada Post started closing some of the smaller post offices in the smaller villages. People then were able to collect their mail at the local grocery store. It is a kind of creeping privatization of this service. I think it was a big concern to a lot of people because they saw a service disappearing. Also a concern was that the small grocery store was a small business in a very small town.

When larger grocery stores took their business away, the little stores closed and we lost part of our mail service. I do not want to see any more of that happen. I would support keeping rural mail services, improving them and ensuring they are safe for workers and for the people who pick up their mail.

Even with the advances in technology we still see an importance in having rural mail delivery. Some people say that they do not write letters any more or they do not send mail in the same way as they used to. Even with the Internet and faster communications I think people are still using the mail services. When we order things online, as I have done in the past and as others in the House probably have, those things still need to be shipped. When people live in rural areas they often have their packages delivered to the door by a rural mail carrier. It is important to maintain that service even in the face of the increase in technology and the availability of the Internet in many households.

There are other reasons as well. It is so nice on holidays, birthdays and special occasions to receive a card in the mail. I think it is something many people look forward to. Even in this day and age, we still look forward to those types of things. I know the mail system is much busier at Christmas time when all of us will be sending out cards to our constituents, friends and families. I know that everyone will be looking forward to receiving that mail but if people live in a rural area and they do not have access to mail delivery then it would not be as easy to get that.

There are many reasons for maintaining a system that is part of the traditional culture of rural Canada. I picture people on farms and in small communities going out to the mailbox to collect their mail and the importance of that for them so they do not have to go into town. In many rural communities, especially where I live on Vancouver Island, the transit system does not go out the very long back roads. It is just about impossible for someone, especially farmers whose jobs are at their homes and on their farms, to get into town on a daily basis to get their mail. It is important to have that mail brought to those people because it is just about impossible for them to get into town to get it.

There is also the issue of seniors. In my riding, many seniors still live in the rural areas and may not have the ability to drive into town or to drive at all. It is important for them to access their mail and to be able to put a piece of mail into the box and have it picked up so they do not need to go into town all the time.

It is important that we maintain this service. It is important for young families as well for seniors because young families are very busy people and may not have the ability to get into town, especially when there is a lack of transit.

I would support the initiative to maintain the rural postal system. It is important on a number of levels. It seems to be something that is important to Canada Post because, as it says, it is its mandate to serve Canadians and, in so doing, the rural mail system is an important service that must be maintained.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted the previous member mentioned people being happy to get birthday cards and gifts. Today, my partner, Melissa, is celebrating her birthday. She has received some lovely cards and gifts through the mail and she quite enjoyed that.

I want to congratulate the Liberal member for Oak Ridges—Markham for bringing forward this important motion to help protect and speak up for rural people and the services they receive. He said it very eloquently when he said that mail delivery was fundamental to our national identity.

During the last campaign, I went to a house in my riding on Rainbow Crescent in a subdivision called Crestview where the women talked extensively about bringing back the rural post office. She said that it was important and that a post office was not just a building but an institution in the community. She said that it helps create and strengthen the community and that it is a meeting place for people. People go every day, pick up their mail and talk to their friends. For retired people, it is perhaps one of the highlights of their day, one of the only days they get to meet and talk to people as they go to their post office, a number of which have now been closed.

This women was passionate about the rural post offices. She outlined how important they were as a showcase for the communities. When people travel from around the world to our communities, the first welcome they receive is often the post office because they are mailing cards home. The post office is their first interaction with Canadians in the local communities, which is why post offices are so important and why they should not be abandoned.

We might reflect today on how many people use the post office as that type of community-building, friendly institution, a gathering place that it once was. There are certainly Canadians, such as the lady I was talking about, who would like to have that back.

So people do not leave out the north, I would also like to talk about a specific aspect that is very important for the north related to rural mail that is not the same for the rest of Canada, and that is the food mail. This is a program that subsidizes by mail perishables and essential foods for the health of northerners. This food is flown in.

Northerners quite often have very high expenses. The price of food in the far north is so expensive that if these prices occurred in the south, there would be tens of thousands of personal bankruptcies. The prices are incredibly exorbitant. Just imagine how many young children would be deprived of nutritional foods if there were not this subsidy. It is very important that this subsidy continue and that it be expanded to ensure it covers the healthy foods. Otherwise, junk foods and whatever is the cheapest by bulk is what will be fed to these children and they will be very unhealthy.

The program cannot be taken advantage of by the retailers. The savings need to be passed on to the children and the families that are getting this food mail subsidy for essential nutritious foods for the far north, into places where one can only fly.

Before I get into the rural routes in more depth, it is important to stand up for rural Canadians. We certainly need to do this in Parliament because there are so few parliamentarians from rural areas that we need to ensure our voices are heard. I know that in our government we had started the rural secretariat and made some tremendous initiatives for rural people.

We also had the rural lens where every program and every initiative brought forward by government had to go through a rural lens. We will be looking forward to the government putting the initiatives it brings forward through that rural lens so rural people are always thought of and not discriminated against by laws. What I will be looking for, and the government can be prepared for questions, is the annual report that deputy ministers need to provide of how they have implemented the rural lens, and what initiatives they have taken in each of their departments, every federal department and institution, to help and to accommodate rural people to ensure their programs and services are the best possible.

I will now go over some of the problems of various rural routes. Not everyone is having trouble with rural routes or their rural post offices. For example, residents of Whitney, Ontario still have a rural post office but the Toronto-Dominion Bank will be closing in a couple of weeks. This is the only bank in the town. We need to stand up for rural Canadians to ensure they do not lose such services.

Fortunately, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport who is responsible for Canada Post have met with the head of Canada Post. During the first hour of debate on this motion, the member for Perth—Wellington said:

That is why the minister, as well as the Prime Minister, has directed Canada Post to maintain good quality service to all rural residents.

All rural residents who are listening may be well assured that the Prime Minister and the minister responsible for Canada Post have guaranteed that the service will be good. If rural residents do not receive good service, they should write to the Minister of Transport and the Prime Minister because they have guaranteed this service.

I want to talk about one aspect of this motion where more detail may be put in when it gets to committee. I would first like to give two quotes just to outline my concern. First, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said:

The elderly and people with disabilities who live in rural locations and are used to getting their mail delivered at home in their own mailboxes will have to leave home to get their mail.

I am now on the part of the motion relating to rural routes where mail drivers who had previously driven the mail to rural residents will no longer be doing it for safety reasons or whatever .

The second quote is from the proponent of the bill, the member for Oak Ridges—Markham, who said:

This stoppage in mail delivery has been particularly troublesome for a visually impaired customer who can no longer walk to the end of his driveway to get his mail. Another customer is physically disabled and it was not easy for him to retrieve his mail because his temporary mailbox was too high for him to reach. As well, as if it is not bad enough for the elderly, some of their temporary boxes are at ankle level. This presents a safety hazard in itself as they bend to get their mail.

I do not think there is anyone in the House who would agree with that kind of treatment being given to disabled or elderly people.

It is one thing if able-bodied, young or middle aged people are driving to work everyday and can pick up their mail at a box, but it is another thing if elderly or disabled people are faced with the huge burden of picking up their mail somewhere else. This could also be considered a danger to society. We just need to think about elderly people who live in rural Canada having to drive their vehicles onto an icy highway in order to get their pension cheques. Their vision might not be as good as it was when they were younger. Maybe when they are driving on that icy highway they cannot stop on the ice and they hit a speeding car coming from another direction.

Why would we force elderly people or disabled people to go out every day when in the past they did not have to? The dangers to themselves and others by having to pull onto these highways from rural side roads could be far more costly than having Canada Post make arrangements for the elderly and the disabled to have their mail delivered to their homes. As this motion progresses, I hope this particular aspect can be looked at.

I mentioned that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport had met with the head of Canada Post. We asked at that time to have a report of that meeting and the details of what was covered. We would very much like to have that report so we know progress is being made in improving mail service to rural Canadians.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate further in the debate on rural mail delivery. I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Oak Ridges—Markham, for joining with other members of the House in recognizing rural issues like mail delivery.

Back in April, an article in the Toronto Star was brought to my attention entitled “Rural Routes Uprooted”. It was at that time that Canada Post ceased rural mail delivery in Markham, so I recognize the ongoing interest the member has on this issue.

For many Canadians, particularly in rural Canada, their first and most visible daily reminder of the federal government is the post office. For some Canadians, certainly those in urban areas, mail almost seems like an anachronism. That is not so in rural Canada.

As hard as it is to believe, in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke constituents live in the shadow of Parliament Hill who have never had hard line phone service. In one area of my riding, I have been diligently working to get phone service for residents. We thought that people had an agreement to install a phone line after the residents had each made $1,000 deposit, but Bell Canada reneged at the last moment telling the disappointed residents to put the $1,000 deposit that had been collected toward satellite phones.

Large areas of my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke are out of range for cell phone service. Cell phones are a luxury for people in the city. While cell phones are a convenience for people in urban areas, any type of rural phone service is a necessity in many of the outlying regions of my riding.

The thought of high speed Internet or broadband is just a dream. People who have computers and use the Internet have dial up access. This usually requires having the expense of a second line as dial up lines tie up the lines for hours and that is if the local exchange can handle the additional line. Residents have told me that in some rural areas of Renfrew County, even if there are local phones, phone service is not available for new homes because there is no room for another customer on the local exchange.

As I hope other members can appreciate, rural mail delivery as a means of communication, is still very necessary in rural Canada. The issue of rural mail delivery is of great importance to my constituents in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and all Canadians living in rural Canada from coast to coast.

I remember growing up in a rural community in southwestern Ontario and have personally had firsthand experience at how essential rural mail delivery is as a lifeline to Canadians living in rural communities. Canada's new Conservative government is firmly committed to ensuring that the mailbox at the end of the driveway, a hallmark of rural life, continues to thrive and not become an endangered concept.

Today I would like to confirm this government's commitment to rural Canadians by echoing recent remarks made by the minister responsible for Canada Post in the House of Commons. He stated that “All Canadians from coast to coast to coast can be assured that this government remains strongly committed to ensuring results for rural Canada. We will ensure Canadians continue to receive quality rural mail service delivery right across this country”.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities have met with the president of Canada Post and have made the view clear that it is this new government's intent to ensure quality rural mail delivery is a priority and will be maintained. I am pleased to accept the support from Renfrew County that forwarded me the following motion. It stated:

That Canada Post be advised that residents and businesses of the rural areas in the County of Renfrew prefer to retain their existing individual mailboxes which continue to play an important role in providing an affordable postal service of the highest quality;

AND FURTHER THAT the council of the Corporation of the County of Renfrew requests that Canada Post review the standards for rural mailbox locations and establish realistic requirements;

AND FURTHER THAT Canada Post provide rural mail carriers with a flashing light and signage for their vehicles for increased visibility and safety;

AND FURTHER THAT given the Canada Post website indicates it is Canada Post's goal “to be a world leader in providing innovative physical and electronic delivery solutions, creating value for our customers, employees and all Canadians”, it is also important that its traditional values of dependability and service not be ignored.

I thank Renfrew County and I am pleased to put its motion on the official record. There can be no doubt that Canada's new government is supporting the spirit and intent of this motion and we will act on it.

In numerous rural communities across the country, wherever they may be, in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario or western Canada, the post office is the only form of federal government presence in these rural communities.

For over 100 years, before my province entered into Confederation, the people in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke have been getting mail delivered to their rural addresses. Many seniors, who have had mail delivered to their driveways for decades, consider rural mail delivery not only a right but a part of their citizenship.

We are told that the discontinuation of rural mail delivery in some areas is due to ergonomic and safety concerns. We understand these circumstances. We also understand that Canada Post is in the midst of labour negotiations with some of our country's most militant unions, but should we not weigh these circumstance against the greater good?

How do I explain to the constituent of mine who is a war veteran with 100% disability who has had mail delivered to his rural mailbox for all his life, but now he has to go pick up his mail at a location, and this location may be as far, as we have heard in some cases, as 50 kilometres from his house. Is it not a safety issue that elderly people might have to drive in icy conditions to pick up their mail at a location this far away?

It should also be said that the issue of ergonomic and safety concerns is a result of the lack of investment in critical infrastructure at Canada Post by the previous administration for over 13 years. The issue of discontinuing rural mail delivery is not one that suddenly developed after our new Conservative government took office. I remind my colleagues and the member for Oak Ridges—Markham, who has put forth this motion, that this problem is one of the many problems our new government has been asked to solve now that we are the Government of Canada.

An example of the eroding critical infrastructure at the post office is the fleet used to deliver rural mail. At present this fleet is made up of personal vehicles of the individuals delivering the mail, lacking the proper lighting and reflective signage.

The former government chose to simply ignore the needs of rural Canadians. It could have encouraged Canada Post to invest in a fleet of right hand vehicles that would have allowed the delivery person to deliver mail safely without any ergonomic discomfort, much like what has been done in other jurisdictions globally, such as the United States and Australia.

This week, could it have vehicles equipped with the proper reflective signage and lights to ensure other vehicles on the road could properly see and identify the vehicle, similar to the yellow school bus model? Had the Liberals been concerned with rural mail delivery, they would have looked for opportunities to work with provincial and municipal jurisdictions to ensure complementary legislation that would have been enacted across the country to ensure the safety of workers.

I would like to thank Murray and Bernice Liedtke, Doug and Donna, and Aaronn and Lawrence Marquardt, who live on Schutt Road near Palmers Rapids for bringing to my attention the recent problems they had when Canada Post stopped delivering their mail.

I can personally attest to the fact that I have been on Schutt Road and that it has several dangerous curves. Lumber trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles fly along that road. It is a miracle there have not been many fatalities on that road.

These customers are not looking for Canada Post management, blaming the unions, and the unions blaming the management. They just want their mail. Had it been a real concern for the former government, it would have looked at addressing these issues before they became the problem of today. Had the old government been concerned about rural mail delivery, it would have invested in a safer and more efficient postal regime, rather than shady sponsorship schemes and lavish spending at the top.

As the federal member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am pleased to accept the role as a strong voice for rural Canada. I, and our new Conservative government, will remain the voice of rural Canada because we do what we say. We put our words into action, we practise open federalism to achieve results, and we live within the realms of accountability and transparency.

As the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities have reiterated ample times, once again I want to let my colleague across the way know, who proposed this motion, that actions speak louder than words. It gives me great comfort to confirm that the Prime Minister has personally assured me of his commitment to rural Canadians.

Rural mail delivery is part of that commitment and I know that the Prime Minister, as a man of his word, will keep that promise as we have kept so many promises to the people of Canada already. We are extremely sensitive to the hardship endured by too many rural Canadians who are suddenly deprived of their rural mail delivery and we will act.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Motion No. 170 this morning on the issue of rural mail delivery.

My colleague, the hon. member for Oak Ridges—Markham, has been working very hard to ensure that Canadians living in rural areas are being provided with door to door delivery and I commend his efforts.

Last week the intergovernmental affairs minister said in an Ontario newspaper that the government would take all and any measures necessary to ensure that rural mail delivery continues. This is welcome news.

However, I am concerned that we have not yet heard from the transport minister on this very important issue. As the minister responsible for this issue of rural mail delivery, I find it disturbing that he is not championing this cause.

Furthermore, Canada Post continues to stress that it is developing new criteria that will determine whether mailboxes are safe or whether they can still receive service. According to Canada Post, rural boxes that are deemed unsafe will lose home delivery. In other words, while the government is saying one thing, Canada Post is saying something completely different.

A growing number of my constituents are being affected by the changes in service. One example involves a couple from a rural community, Powassan, in my riding who received several notices from Canada Post asking them to move their mailbox across the road from where it is currently located. The couple is reluctant to comply with the request because in addition to being seniors citizens, they are visually impaired and crossing the highway every day would put them at risk of being hit or given this risk, it would really make it difficult for them to get across and get back.

Imagine an 80-year-old going out to get his mail every day.

Going to the end of the lane to a highway is no problem, but having to cross the highway at age 80 is unacceptable.

In many other instances, no notice was given to rural citizens before their mail service was interrupted. Imagine going to the mailbox one morning and realizing that mail is no longer being delivered to the door. Sadly, this has become a reality for many Canadians living in rural areas. Rural citizens depend on door-to-door delivery every bit as much as their urban counterparts and, in many cases, even more so.

This is about providing a service to Canadians, and having Canadians receive mail. This is not about a matter of convenience for Canada Post. Eliminating something that is not easy or something that may be a little more expensive than the ordinary, should not be an option. It is very important that rural people receive service, especially one as essential as Canada Post, even if it costs a bit more.

Rural communities are already at a disadvantage in terms of high-speed access to Internet. Reduction and elimination of door-to-door delivery risks creating even greater isolation from the rest of the world. Many residents who have been accustomed to receiving home delivery for decades are inconvenienced by having to drive to get their mail.

Again, what we are talking about is not just going a short distance. People in communities in urban areas get in their cars and drive maybe three or five minutes to the closest post office to get their mail. People in rural Canada, in rural settings, have to drive sometimes half an hour or an hour to get their mail. To do that every day is very difficult. When we think about it, we have an aging population having to drive for that long a period.

There something else, as well. We talk about maximizing the cost efficiency and what it takes to deliver mail. When one person delivers mail, that person is in one vehicle, which is environmentally friendly. However, if we have 50 people leaving their homes daily and driving 20 minutes to an hour to pick up their mail, all of a sudden we are creating a carbon load. This is something we have to look at, as responsible Canadians and responsible global citizens.

I recognize the fact that unsafe working conditions exist for rural mail carriers. Furthermore, I believe it is imperative that Canada Post deal with these concerns in a quick and efficient manner.

The motion urges the minister to direct Canada Post to restore traditional rural route delivery and protect public safety. There are a number of ways of achieving these results. My colleagues have already listed many of these, but I will repeat them because they are important.

One is to have vehicles equipped with steering wheels on the opposite side. It sounds simple enough, and they exist. Why not have the right equipment for our workers?

Another way is to move problematic mailboxes to better locations. I talked about the elderly couple in Powassan. Moving the mailbox across the street is not the solution. Maybe moving it a bit over one way or another, or even raising it a bit, would allow this couple to have it on the right side and have it accessible.

Another way is to have two employees per vehicle. That is an expensive option, but it is one of the options we have to explore.

I understand that this has already been undertaken, but perhaps arrangements should be made to have some vehicles pull into a driveway. That might be an option as well.

Another way would be to have employees get out of their vehicles to put the mail in the box.

These things sound a little more expensive but, again, they are a small portion and they make a big difference.

One of the things mentioned, and I think it is very important, is to ensure all vehicles have reflective strips and lights. For years vehicles have not been up to par. They do not exactly have all the proper accoutrements to make them safe.

Another way is to ensure adequate training, such as manoeuvring that takes place when they are delivering mail, on how to get in and out. It sounds very simple, but given the right directions, that would make things a lot easier.

One thing that really concerns me about all of this is it seems to be more about Canada Post cutting costs than it is about delivering of service. When I think of Canada Post, I think of a service to rural Canadians, urban Canadians, to all Canadians. It is an essential service and it has to be maintained. We are not here to have services cut at the whim of Canada Post.

Today, I urge Canada Post and the government to promote and keep rural delivery to all Canadians, in all of Canada.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue we are debating today is of great importance to my constituents from Sarnia—Lambton, to rural Canadians from coast to coast and to all members of the House.

Let me start off with a story from my riding Sarnia—Lambton in southwestern Ontario, where some actions by Canada Post have been unfolding over the past few days, weeks and months.

On Friday, October 20, I had a notice faxed to my Ottawa office. It was a letter that had been sent to approximately 40 of my constituents, who reside in St. Clair township. This notice stated that their rural mail delivery was being discontinued and they would be receiving their mail at a community mailbox starting today, Monday, October 23.

The notice also went on to say that Canada Post planned to pursue the installation of a community mailbox as the overwhelming majority of surveys sent out in August stated a preference for a community mailbox located at the Courtright post office. The notice is closed by this statement: “We thank you for your assistance remedying the potential safety hazard for our driver”.

Nowhere in the notice did it refer to the petition that was signed by 38 of the 40 residents in protest to community mailboxes. Nowhere did it refer to the fact that the Courtright location was a preference over another location, which is even more inconvenient. Nowhere did this notice consider that of the 40 affected residents, several are elderly and some do not even drive. Nowhere does it mention the fact that I, the MP, had very serious concerns and had asked repeatedly to be consulted in an attempt to find a local solution that would be satisfactory to the residents, to Canada Post and to the municipality.

Finally, the notice refers to a potential safety issue, not a known one. Everyone involved in this unfortunate chain of events values the safety of workers and has no intention of causing undue stress or harm to any employees. This is precisely why the residents and the municipality are willing to work to find a solution that all can accept.

Canada Post tells us how it is always informing and working with local members of Parliament. In this case, I was not informed of this decision before it was implemented. There were no community consultations held in my riding explaining to my constituents why this was happening to their community. Also, the residents and I have asked for consultation every step of this arduous process.

There is no explanation why this problem is facing people who have been receiving their mail for decades, if not more than a century, in their rural mailbox at the end of their driveway. There are so many unanswered questions. Could Canada Post have moved the mailboxes to a safer location? Are the rural residents of Sarnia—Lambton less deserving of quality mail service than are other Canadians? Is the action of 40 residents, driving unnecessarily to a central location, environmentally friendly, good economics or safe practice? Has Canada Post considered using right-hand drive vehicles? Has Canada Post considered having the carrier drive with the traffic flow instead of against it?

I feel as though Canada Post made no serious effort to find a solution or engage my constituents in a dialogue. Rather, I feel it has taken a serious and a potentially very negative decision to cut services to the constituents of my riding. The same taxpayers, who are the owner shareholders of this Crown corporation, feel betrayed.

Let me assure all members of the House that we in the government are the voice of rural Canada. We are standing up for rural Canada and for all taxpayers across our great country. That is why I am very pleased to speak to the motion today and commend my colleague across for bringing it forward to this floor today.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that the government will continue to fight the good fight to ensure quality rural mail delivery is maintained for Canadians coast to coast to coast.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to once again rise in the House and debate this issue. Since we began the debate in the spring of the last session, we have heard from many more constituents whose mail has been stopped.

I would like to mention that constituents in my riding Oak Ridges—Markham experienced a stoppage in their rural mail delivery last January. Three routes in my riding were the first to be affected in the entire country. Their mail was stopped because of a road safety complaint lodged by Canada Post rural mail delivery carriers. That decision was subsequently supported by Human Resources and Social Development. That is why deliveries all over Canada have stopped.

Now almost all of my riding is affected, including Kettelby, Whitchurch-Stouffville, Gormley, Schomberg and routes out of the Unionville post office.

One of my constituents wrote and asked me:

--how much more dangerous is it to put umpteen cars on the road unnecessarily, in all kinds of weather? How safe is it for citizens to have to get out of their cars at the roadside location to retrieve their mail?

In fact, in total there are more than 6,600 rural suburban mail carriers delivering at some 840,000 points of mailbox deliveries across the country. More than 600 rural mail carriers have made health and safety complaints so far. Not a week goes by without several new complaints.

Almost 5,000 rural mailboxes in Canada do not receive mail delivery because of safety complaints lodged by rural mail carriers.

Rural mail delivery is as individual as we all are. When I drive in my riding, I see mailboxes made from milk containers, or hockey helmets or with the strangest faces on them. People take pride in what their rural mailboxes look like. People look forward to retrieving their mail each and every day.

Routes have now been affected in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, practically across the whole country. Stoppage of rural mail delivery has been an attack on rural Canadians. Rural Canada suffers from low population rates, migration to large centres and stagnant economies in some cases. Is it any wonder why rural residents in Oak Ridges—Markham see the delivery of rural mail as yet another attack on their unique way of life?

What are we looking for? Canadians want to see rural route mail delivery maintained and restored to affected customers. Canada Post has had 11 consecutive years of profits. It must dedicate the resources, human and financial, to ensure safe and reliable rural route mail delivery.

I thank all the members who have spoken on this very important issue for Canadians.

I see there is much support in the House and hopefully we will make sure that this comes to an end this week.

I assure my constituents and all rural Canadians that I will continue to do what I can to ensure that their rural mail delivery is restored and maintained.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for debate has expired.

Accordingly, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour will please say yea.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Yea.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Nay.

Rural Mail Delivery
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 25, 2006, at the end of government orders.