Corp Comm Connects

Newmarket likely dropping plans to restrict community mailbox installation
June 15, 2015
By Chris Simon

If Newmarket continues to fight the installation of community mailboxes by Canada Post, it will be engaging in an arm-wrestling match it likely cannot win, Regional Councillor John Taylor says.

After receiving advice from town staff Monday, it appears council will back down on its attempt to fight the switch from home delivery to community mailboxes.

A report on the subject was received by committee of the whole with no further direction given to staff.

This comes days after Canada Post's legal victory over the City of Hamilton.

Last week, an Ontario judge found that a Hamilton bylaw, which required Canada Post to obtain permits to install boxes on municipal land, did not apply to the Crown corporation.

"While there's a lot of frustration related to this issue ... if we pass a bylaw, we're going to get taken to court and I don't have a desire to get into an arm-wrestling match with the federal government," Taylor said. "I don't like my odds in any arm-wrestling match, but certainly that one. There's a very difficult case to be made. The federal government doesn't want this door to be open. There's a good chance we'll lose."

Recently, council had called for Transport Canada, which oversees Canada Post, to halt the erection of the mailboxes and engage in “full and meaningful” consultation with the municipality and residents.

Municipal staff were also tasked, at that time, with developing standards that would force Canada Post to apply for permits and pay fees that reflect the resources required by the town to install and maintain the mailboxes in established neighbourhoods. Under the plan, councillors wanted to take steps to align the municipality’s bylaws with Hamilton's rules that regulate the installation of equipment on roads.

However, Hamilton's bylaw was struck down partly because federal law trumps local bylaws, town legal services director Esther Armchuk said.

"The bylaw was invalid on a variety of different grounds," she said. "If there's a federal power to provide a service across Canada, a municipal bylaw has no effect to the extent that it tries to restrict, limit, or impact that federal power. You have to be careful when attempting a bylaw like this that you're not somehow encroaching on a federal power."

Councillor Joe Sponga says the mailboxes will be costly to the town.

"This is the last tool we have to slow down the implementation of the community mailboxes and give us a good look at where they're being installed," he said. "We're going to be the ones to pay to remove the snow and for additional sidewalks, curb cuts, maintenance and waste management. Whether we like it or not, we're going to be facing costs."

The decision may also have implications for Aurora, which is going through a similar process.

Earlier this year, Newmarket identified 19 proposed mailbox locations that could cause traffic, sight line or other safety issues. The town also asked Canada Post to extend its consultation period by 180 days at that time.

Canada Post says it has engaged in a thorough consultation process with Newmarket representatives.

The organization recently announced it would end home delivery of mail in Newmarket sometime this fall. Instead, residents will be asked to pick up bills, letters and flyers and many of their parcels, from the community boxes.

Roughly 200 could be erected in town.

"I haven't met anybody who wants them near their property because Canada Post is notorious for not cleaning up graffiti, snow and litter," Councillor Dave Kerwin said. "Some of the locations, from a traffic point of view, are just unsafe."

The switch is part of the service’s long-term action plan. Other changes include the introduction of a tiered pricing structure, the expansion of franchised offices, streamlining operations and addressing labour costs. Canada Post is expected to save about $700 million to $900 million per year once the plan is fully implemented - with the community mailbox conversion accounting for about $500 million of that.