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Canada Post puts PO Box program on hold after hearing Whistler residents' concerns

Attention Whistler residents: Don't register for a PO Box number just yet.

After being inundated with concerns by residents, Canada Post announced on Tuesday afternoon it is putting the brakes on a program that would see most of Whistler's civic mailing addresses switched to PO Box numbers.

"In consideration of the feedback we received, Canada Post has decided to review the implementation of the decision so further discussion can take place," said Lillian Au, manager of media and communication affairs for Canada Post.

"The adjustment to mailing addresses will be put on hold, and we regret any inconvenience this may have caused to residents who have already registered for the address change."

She added Canada Post will provide more information on the program change "at a later date."

Canada Post's announcement comes as welcome news to the many Whistlerites who contacted the corporation last week when they first learned that anyone who collected mail from common, neighbourhood mailboxes would have to register for a PO Box number by June 29, 2009.
Among them was Chris Armstrong, who sent an e-mail to Canada Post saying he thought the change was ridiculous. Now, Armstrong's tone has changed substantially.

"I think it is great they listened to the concerns of the community and weighed them against what they thought was appropriate to do," he said. "It is great to see they actually responded to the input."

Doctor Cathy Zeglinski, who phoned Canada Post with her complaints and told Pique the plan was "ludicrous," said she also was encouraged by Tuesday's news.

"I think this is excellent," said the doctor from Northlands Medical Clinic.
"I think it does show that when people stand up with a voice for things they don't believe in, change can be effected... This is one step for the little guy."

Zeglinski added she e-mailed Canada Post once again on Monday night to remind them that with the 2010 Olympics are around the corner, and with the world watching Whistler the switch to PO Box addressing could easily become a "big media frenzy."

"I think they decided for public relations, this was probably not a good proposal," said Zeglinski.

"I think that is where we were able to make an impact so quickly."

According to Au, Canada Post had decided to change the address system because several mailboxes within Whistler sit idle year round. By getting residents to register once a year for a PO Box number at the local post office, the Crown corporation reasoned it could keep closer tabs on which mailboxes were actually active. Similar addressing is already used at Silver Star, near Vernon, and Sun Peaks, near Kamloops, she said.

But while Au said Canada Post had been working on the switch for a long time, Whistler residents only received notification about the program last week.

Among the many concerns raised by Whistler residents was the fact that the switch would put an undue burden on home-run businesses in already tough economic times, since business owners would have to update all their letterhead, stamping devices, cheques and business cards at their own expense.

Others worried that the program unfairly penalized second homeowners who might not hear about the change before the end of June.

On Monday, local Member of Parliament John Weston said he thought Canada Post could have communicated their rational more clearly.

"As a fellow Whistler resident, I share the concerns people are raising, and I want to get to the bottom of it for sure," Weston said.

"The letter failed to communicate properly what was going to happen and why."

Weston said he understood from Canada Post that of the 4,342 common mailboxes in Whistler, only about 1,000 or 1,200 of them were used year-round in Whistler.

Meanwhile, Whistler's mayor and council never took a position on the issue or collectively brought residents' concerns to Canada Post. In fact on Monday afternoon - before the program was postponed - Mayor Ken Melamed said he has not heard any concerns from the community.

After hearing about Canada Post's decision to stall the program, though, Melamed said: "This will give Canada Post time to have a dialogue with the community and obviously think about what the implications are to a decision like this."

"It didn't seem like they gave much though to the implications of the users of mailboxes, and now they have a chance to do so."