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This article was published 17/10/2014 (2403 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- First, Canada Post announced it was cutting door-to-door service, prompting fierce criticism in defence of the rights of the elderly, infirm and others. Now, it has turned to an American company to supply the new community mailboxes to replace door-to-door mail delivery over the next five years.
The Free Press has learned the Crown corporation chose the same cluster boxes used by the United States Postal Service for at least the first wave of cluster-box installations in 11 cities this fall.
The boxes are only licensed to be manufactured by three American companies. Canadian companies were not even invited to bid on the contract.
Canada Post awarded the contract to Florence Manufacturing in Manhattan, Kan. Canada Post will not say how much it is spending, how many boxes it is ordering from Florence or how long the contract is set to last.
'It's always disappointing. Why don't they buy Canadian?'‐ Denis Lemelin, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers
"Any costs associated with the conversion were factored into the plan, which estimates annual savings of $400 (million) to $500 million per year once fully implemented," said Jon Hamilton, a spokesman for Canada Post, in an email.
Hamilton said the Crown corporation chose the USPS cluster boxes based on a request for information (RFI) issued in 2013. "It not only has a successful track record, but held up to 80 per cent of the packets and parcels we deliver today based on shape and size, which was a big improvement from the previous models," Hamilton wrote. "It also has wider boxes that allow magazines and sensitive documents to lay flat, rather than be folded or rolled."
Once the box was picked, the three U.S. companies with the licence to make it were invited to bid on the contract. Florence won.
Denis Lemelin, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, was not surprised.
"It's always disappointing," said Lemelin.
"Why don't they buy Canadian?" The union was told the community boxes were costing about $800 each. NDP Canada Post critic Alexandre Boulerice was livid at the decision. He said a Quebec company, Rousseau Metal, which made community boxes for Canada Post in the past, was shut out of this new contract.
"They felt they didn't get a chance to bid," said Boulerice.
He also said the corporation's secrecy on this contract is alarming.
"Canada Post has lacked public consultations and transparency on this from the beginning," Boulerice said. "They are a Crown corporation and they are keeping their decisions in the dark."
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who is responsible for Canada Post, did not respond to a request for comment.
Canada Post has not confirmed it will use these specific boxes in all the neighbourhoods where it is eliminating door-to-door delivery. A decision on that is expected later this year. One of the issues is how to manage installing community mailboxes in denser urban neighbourhoods, where boulevards are not always available or big enough for the large community mailboxes that work well in suburbs.
Last June, Raitt told the NDP information on the contract was confidential.
Neither the RFI nor the actual tender for the contract are available online anymore, although Raitt denies Canada Post ever removed them.
Canada Post announced last December its five-year plan to eliminate door-to-door residential delivery. It will affect about five million households across Canada, including approximately 200,000 in Winnipeg.
Boulerice said unless Canada Post provides details of the costs of installing and maintaining the new boxes, no one can trust this is going to save money.
The first new community mailboxes are already in place, with 100,000 households in 11 communities being transferred over this fall.
That includes 12,500 homes in northern Winnipeg suburbs such as the Maples, West Kildonan and Garden City.