Back in November, I spent a day on the job with Canada Post letter carrier (sorry, delivery agent) Christine Murray in the west end of Ottawa. Just over a month later, Canada Post announced its plan to phase out home delivery, and eliminate 8,000 jobs. This has been a controversial decision. There is debate over the corporation’s true financial picture, its efforts to cut costs, and there is concern about theft from the community mailboxes that are supposed to take the place of letter carriers (sorry, delivery agents). Canada Post’s CEO also suggested that walking to get their mail will be good for the health of seniors.
Two of the most trenchant commentaries I’ve seen around these issues come from posties themselves: this column in Halifax’s The Coast, which argues “In exchange for profit and speed, we are losing the ability to make someone feel special. This world does not need more ways to make people feel isolated. While technology has vastly improved our lives in some ways, it has taken the humanity out of being a human.” And this essay, in The Walrus, way back in May 2012, by an undercover delivery agent: “Perhaps, in 2025, things will be even more streamlined: from the comfort of a hydrogen-powered hovercraft, the carrier will launch mail to boxes with some kind of precision bazooka… I’ll be out of the service by then, which is not to say I don’t care. I hope my shoes will need to be filled. The walk to each door puts a little humanness into the machine; there’s pride and even contentment in delivering with care. Every day, I have a chance to do something ordinary, perfectly.”