Bentley’s efforts to keep Canada Post counter service in town appear to have paid off.
More than 100 residents rallied last week to protest the loss of an outlet to buy stamps and other products and receive and mail parcels.
For many years, the local IDA pharmacy had run the service, but it had become a money loser and, without a better deal from Canada Post, pharmacy owners had to stop running it.
Parcel service was shifted to Lacombe in mid-May and remaining counter service was to have ended last Friday.
However, Canada Post and the IDA owners have worked out a temporary agreement to keep offering postal service on a month-to-month basis until a permanent solution can be found.
“The owners of the IDA were very gracious and willing to extend it another month to help us work this through and help us come up with a solution,” said Mayor Greg Rathjen, who has been heading lobbying efforts to save the service.
Rathjen said parcel service was to have resumed on Tuesday but got held up for a day or two by a last-minute glitch.
The mayor remains optimistic a long-term solution will be found, sparing local residents a nearly 50-km return trip to Lacombe to pick up parcels.
Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins has taken up their cause and has publicly called on the minister who oversees Canada Post to intervene.
Canada Post closed its corporate post office in Bentley as part of a cost-cutting move.
Rathjen said it is time to bring that back.
“We’re going to Ottawa on that one,” he said.
They may be in for a fight because Canada Post representatives have told the town the Crown corporation cannot legally re-establish a corporate office in a community where it was removed.
“They’ve said it’s not allowed, but we can’t find anywhere that it’s not allowed,” he said.
“They would rather not open this up because other people are going to want to do it.”
Rathjen estimates Canada Post has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars since it contracted out postal service in Bentley.
There was a time when contracting out service made sense in Bentley. However, with changing mailing habits, less-busy outlets can no longer make a go of it based on Canada Post rates, he said.
In bigger centres, where outlets have many more parcels and transactions the Canada Post model may still work.
“It just doesn’t work in a small town that’s struggling.”