About 100 residents gathered in Bentley Monday to protest the loss of Canada Post services as of this Friday.
For years, Bentley residents could mail or pick up parcels from the Bentley IDA, which was contracted to offer the service after Bentley’s post office stopped handling it.
However, Bentley Mayor Greg Rathjen said the IDA owners were losing thousands annually offering the service and could not keep it up after 15 years. Parcel service stopped on May 18, and beginning Friday, other postal retail services such as buying stamps will stop.
He is doubtful any local businesses are in position to take on a money-losing postal contract.
If another taker for the business is not found, residents fear Canada Post will move Bentley’s parcel service to Lacombe permanently. Residents will still receive mail delivery to their postal boxes.
That will leave residents facing a nearly 50-km round trip to pick up parcels. For seniors who don’t drive, the inconvenience will be significant, he said.
The answer local residents say is for Canada Post to restore a full-service corporate post office in town. Rathjen said the loss of service will further hurt a community that has struggled through the economic downturn and has lost business because of the Hwy 12 bypass completed several years ago.
But there has been a lot going right as well. Unlike many small communities, the town has a full-time doctor, a dental clinic just opened and a specialty meat-cutting business has set up.
“We’ve got things happening now. We don’t need to lose a post office,” he said.
Rathjen is meeting with a Canada Post regional representative on Tuesday and hopes to find an alternative.
Rathjen said while residents are upset he believes a reasonable compromise can be found.
“Let’s not take the anger side. How can we turn this around?”
Monday’s turnout — Rathjen estimated almost one in 10 of Bentley’s 1,100 residents showed up for the rally — says a lot about the town, he said.
“I think this is great. This is what our community is about.”
Many residents came to the rally outside the town’s post office with placards and several times broke into chants of “Bentley Deserves Better.”
Carl Wine, who owns a commercial building on the town’s main street, said moving parcel service will be a hardship. He knows of an elderly woman, who no longer drives, and wonders how she will get her parcels.
“We don’t want to see the whole town to die.”
Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins called Bentley’s predicament a “terrible situation” in a statement released on Monday.
” Asking residents to drive 50 km to pick up or drop off parcels is ludicrous and violates (the) Canadian Postal Service Charter. We have seniors in Bentley who either don’t drive or are on a fixed income, it is unreasonable to make this request of them.”
Calkins said he has written Minister of Public Services and Procurement Carla Qualtrough calling on her to intervene.
Xan Moffat-Toews, a postmaster in Fairview, Alta., said keeping postal services is important to the health of communities.
If residents must travel elsewhere to get their parcels and use other postal services, sooner or later that’s where they buy gas, shop and take part in activities.
“I know how important (postal service) is to a small town,” said Moffat-Toews, who is president of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association for Alberta, Northwest Territories and Inuvit. The union represents rural Canada Post workers.