The people of the Cape Breton town of Florence, N.S., are known as fighters. When 600 men lost their jobs in a 1961 coal mine closure, the townsfolk protested so strongly that the company found new jobs for them at nearby Sydney Mines. Now, 26 years later, the people of Florence (population 3,000) are fighting once again—this time to
make sure that they do not lose their local post office. While Canada Post Corp. has neither confirmed nor denied that the office is one of hundreds of small postal outlets targeted for closure, even the rumor that it might be shut down was enough to spark a determined community campaign. Said county councillor Wesley Stubbert: “We intend to make one hell of a racket.”
Stormy: The campaign has included sending hundreds of protest letters to Canada Post and Harvie Andre, the minister responsible for the post office. About 1,500 signatures on a petition to Andre were gathered in general stores and at a stormy public meeting in the local firehall. The protesters also contacted Rural Dignity of Canada, the grassroots organization formed late last year to fight cutbacks in postal service in small towns across the country. Canada Post says that it has not yet tabulated how many post offices have already been closed—but it intends to phase out
hundreds more over the next decade.
For the protesters, the post office is more than just a place to buy stamps. As in many small towns and villages, it is a focal point of community life. Residents use the post office to exchange local gossip. And senior citizens—about half of Florence’s population is over 50—regularly congregate on the benches outside the wood frame building. If the
office closes, customers would likely have to travel eight kilometres to Sydney Mines to register letters and mail parcels. Said 83-year-old George Charlesworth: “To go there by taxi would cost $4 each way. That would be tough on a pensioner.”
For their part, Canada Post officials say only that Florence will receive 90 days’ notice if its post office is closed. And they say that their plan to close hundreds of the nation’s 1,700 rural post offices will save the Crown corporation almost $60 million over the next 10 years.
Still, many protesters in Florence seem optimistic that their campaign will succeed. Said Jeanie Campbell, a postal worker active in the protest movement: “For over 100 years we’ve had our postal service, and with the stroke of a pen they think they can take it away. But I don’t think the people are going to let them take it away.”
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.