Remote or not remote: that is the question for Canada Post and the federal government

  • Nov. 3, 2010 1:00 p.m.

It’s time for Ottawa to make a clear decision once and for all about whether Haida Gwaii is a remote community, Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha said at Monday night’s council meeting (Nov. 1). Right now, there is a mass of confusing policies, most of which do not work to the benefit of islanders. For example, she said, we are not considered remote enough to qualify for the full northern living allowance tax deduction, and when it comes to Employment Insurance we are lumped into the same region as the booming oil country of northeastern BC – yet Canada Post has been allowed to classify Haida Gwaii as fully remote and therefore not deserving of the same basic mail service as most other Canadian communities. According to the latest letter from Canada Post to MP Nathan Cullen, it is not feasible to fly mail to the islands even once a week. Canada Post director Tom Froggatt wrote to Mr. Cullen that the corporation does fly government services cheques to residents of Haida Gwaii, and will fly letter mail and courier items from Vancouver to the islands if there is a ferry delay of more than 24 hours and it’s not clear when the next sailing will be. (This would be an unusual situation because while BC Ferries often cancels sailings due to weather, it rarely if ever says it doesn’t know when the next sailing will be. Until the weather dictates otherwise, the next sailing is usually the next one on the schedule.) Mr. Froggatt said mail service to the islands is “very regular” in the summer when the ferry sails six days a week. Although he admitted the winter months are more difficult, he said Canada Post is still maintaining regular service levels. “At our meeting, you asked Canada Post to consider flying in the mail at least once weekly, to accommodate the delivery of medicine and cheques,” Mr. Froggatt wrote to Mr. Cullen. “We have reviewed this request from a national and local perspective. Canada Post will continue to monitor its delivery performance into the Haida Gwaii (sic) but unfortunately it is not feasible to fly mail over to the islands once weekly.” After reviewing the letter, Queen Charlotte council decided to write to Prime minister Stephen Harper asking whether the islands are considered a remote area or not.