OTTAWA — Canada Post’s decision to quietly change almost 185,000 mailing addresses has elicited confusion and added costs for people across the country, but the Crown corporation seems to not be monitoring its rollout.
Under its Address Change Project, Canada Post has been shifting codified rural-route address to the street addresses that 911 operators require to dispatch emergency services.
But Canada Post has done little monitoring of the project's implementation, according to documents the Free Press obtained through access-to-information laws, which show 184,601 addresses have been reassigned since 2015.
That includes 12,171 points of call in Manitoba, largely rural route addresses such as: "Box 5, Group 8, RR4." The replacement addresses have street names and often come with new postal codes.
Residents get a letter with a few months notice about a looming change, followed by an update listing their new address. Canada Post provides free mail redirection for a year.
Residents in the RM of Taché previously told the Free Press about their addresses being switched to towns that don’t actually exist, such as Rosewood, a district near Dufresne.
Some 75 properties whose mail was addressed to Niverville are now designated as being in Ste. Agathe East, which is a section of the RM of Richot that locals have known only as Ste. Agathe.
Some bemoaned incurring the $10 fee to change their drivers’ licence, and businesses have had to update their billboards, business cards and vehicle decals.
As part of the effort, Canada Post is removing mailboxes at the end of driveways along provincial roads, although that was at the request of Manitoba officials who had safety concerns.
Elsewhere, municipalities have complained about the administrative cost of changing thousands of their records in order to bill residents for their property taxes.
Near Peterborough, Ont., residents have pushed to keep the historical names of areas that are now part of an amalgamated township.
The Free Press requested all analysis of the changes from 2015 until this fall, and received one page of talking points for media requests, and another detailing the number of address changes by province, which Canada Post had not publicly reported.
Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton noted that some of these changes have come at the request of municipalities, and that it’s helpful for homes and businesses to have a single address.
Some online retailers won’t accept orders that ship to post office boxes, he noted. It’s also easier for postal workers taking on new delivery routes that they’re not familiar with.
"It avoids confusion, helps with rotation and with things happening online; it makes it a lot easier for the customer," he said. "We understand that there are impacts, but the goal is to provide a good service."
Hamilton said Canada Post is intentionally rolling out the changes slowly, so communities have time to adjust, instead of a whole region grappling with numerous address changes.
"Modernizing the system is something we've been doing for years," he said.
Previously, the Crown corporation has argued that the new addresses will keep up with growing rural communities, and help customers locate shops and businesses on their smartphones.
The documents also show how the corporation goes about changing mailing addresses, which involves reaching out the municipality and local member of Parliament early on, and figuring out if the changes will impact delivery routes.
The office of Public Services Minister Anita Anand, who appoints Canada Post’s board of directors, did not receive any analysis of the rollout, saying that the Crown corporation oversees its own operational matters.