“Snail mail” so irrelevant no one is even complaining
© Photo special to The Guardian
It has been over 350 years since P.E.I. has been part of Nova Scotia but, as far as Canada Post is concerned, the past is repeating itself.
Back then, Ile Saint Jean (as it was then called) was one of the last bastions of the French empire in North America. It was under the control of Ile Royale, now better known as Cape Breton, from 1713 to 1763. Since then, Islanders have been a separate political jurisdiction.
Islanders have resisted Maritime union and took a pass on Confederation for the first nine years until a large debt from building a railway forced Island politicians of the day to take a second look at the idea. Every time the Island has been left off a map or grouped in with another province, there is usually an uproar.
That is what makes the decision by Canada Post so unusual. It did come over the Christmas holidays so maybe people were otherwise occupied. However, it could also be that “snail mail” has become so irrelevant it just doesn’t matter.
The days of mail that was sent on P.E.I. bearing an Island postmark are soon to be in the same category as typewriters and record players. It is all part of a move by the Crown Corporation to try to survive in the age of email, social media and paperless billing.
Last year, the Crown Corporation switched from manual sorting of Island mail in Charlottetown to machine sorting in Halifax. The red mail boxes that had always been designated for Island mail and “all other destinations” are now the same.
Since the mail now all goes to Halifax, Canada Post maintains there is now no need to officially recognize P.E.I. as a separate province.
As part of the digital sorting process, the geographic postmark is being replaced by a code showing the mail is being handled by the automated sorter in the Nova Scotia capital
The only exception to the rule is if the sender asks to have a local postmark. This happens quite a bit during the summer, for example, when tourists ask for their mail to be postmarked from the Green Gables post office.
That post office is located in Cavendish — the home of Anne of Green Gable author Lucy Maud Montgomery and the setting for the fictional village of Avonlea portrayed in her novels.
There are also times when a postmark may be required — for example when a piece of mail has to be postmarked by a certain date and time. Canada Post is still prepared to provide that local postmark — at least for now.
The move to take away the Island’s provincial status is just one of a series of measures the Crown Corporation has implemented. The biggest is the phase-out of door-to-door mail delivery, where it still exists in the country, within five years. As well, the price to mail that letter and that takes longer to deliver will also go up to an even dollar.
While the elimination of the door-to-door service will likely save some money, the price increase will actually move Canada Post further towards extinction. The move has the biggest impact on businesses, which will now likely intensify their efforts to convince customers to convert to paperless billing.
Since new legislation passed recently by the federal government prohibits companies from charging extra for paper bills, most companies will likely go the route of providing discounts for those choosing email billing.
Losing more customers will likely mean more cost increases which will mean more lost customers until a level is reached where the service has become so irrelevant it can be eliminated with little outcry.
It is an approach that has worked before. When Canadian National wanted to get rid of rail service in P.E.I., it cut the frequency of the service and increased the price. When the number of users dropped drastically, the railway went to the federal regulator and said “nobody is using this service and we want to get rid of it.” Their request was granted with minimal opposition.
A few years ago, any suggestion Canada Post would no longer recognize mail originating in P.E.I. would have provoked a strong outcry. This time around, there is barely a whimper. Could it be the service has already become so irrelevant to most Islanders, it is simply not worth the effort of waging a campaign aimed at reversing the decision?
If the present trend continues, many of us could well be mailing ourselves a letter to show our grandchildren and great- grandchildren there was once something called a “post office” that delivered something we used to call “mail.”
By Andy Walker
A life-long resident of Prince Edward Island, Troy Media Syndicated Columnist Andy Walker has been a writer and commentator for over 30 years. www.troymedia.com