Special delivery for the Southside…a new post office is on the way.
It was November, the Christmas rush, when everyone south of Francois Lake lost their local post office and had to trek to Burns Lake for all subsequent postal service, Takysie Lake Store provided some parcel receiving.
A breakthrough was announced by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach this past week’s regional district meeting.
“I have been working with director (Clint) Lambert on the Southbank post office situation and my understanding is they have a new postmaster in place there,” said Bachrach. “Clint has done some excellent work there with Canada Post making sure the new building gets renovated and they get their post office back up and running. It has taken too long, to be frank. I don’t think Canada Post took the issue as seriously as it should have.”
Lambert replied, “Thanks, Taylor, for keeping your foot in the door. If you hadn’t, it would have closed for good and we would just have boxes. Basically, it’s done. They are going to put their machine in there to do transactions, and everything’s finished. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks – they have to do some training and whatnot – we will have a post office on the Southside again. It has been a nightmare, but now everything is good.”
Bachrach marveled at how practical Lambert’s dedication was to the problem.
“Canada Post kept putting up all their bureaucratic requirements, and Clint just kept knocking them down. ‘If you need a wall put in, we’ll put in a wall. If you want another door, we’ll put in another door.’ It really speaks to the can-do attitude of rural places and just not being willing to take no for an answer, so congratulations, Clint and pass that on to the community.”
The heartiest congratulations perhaps belong to Sarah Mackay, the Southside resident who has agreed to take on the role of postmaster. Filling that vacancy was one of the biggest hurdles. Another was having a suitable location, but the Southside Economic Development Association offered to renovate some of their office space.
“We could not get any traction at all for the longest time,” Lambert told the Lakes District News. “They saw it as an opportunity to get out of having a post office in this community at all, but Taylor stuck his foot in the door and wouldn’t let it go, and we would not have this at all if it weren’t for him.”
Canada Post wouldn’t confirm the development. Spokesperson Valérie Chartrand responded that the resignation of the previous postal workers caused the Southbank site to be “temporarily closed while we worked on a permanent solution,” and that “Canada Post has made some progress in finding a new location and postmaster for the Southbank Post Office. However, as we are in the preliminary stages, we are not yet able to speak further about our plans.”
The issue may not be complete, even still. Many Southside residents live on the rural route system and there have been issues retaining drivers for those deliveries.
“We’re lucky if we ever get mail on our rural route,” Lambert said, from personal experience. “We had a temporary driver for awhile so we were getting service once a week.” Lambert knew this was perhaps less about Canada Post’s bureaucracy and more to do with the entire region’s labour pool challenges.
Chartrand acknowledged that, “We have been experiencing some staffing issues in the past, however, all our positions in Burns Lake are currently filled.”
It remains to be seen if rural mailboxes will be.