01/24/2018 16:29 EST | Updated 01/25/2018 08:58 EST

Liberal Plan On Door-To-Door Mail Delivery Puts Spotlight On Campaign Pledges

Carla Qualtrough says you can't "put the toothpaste back in the tube."

Nathan Denette/CP
Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough walks through the mail room at the Canada Post Gateway location in Mississauga, Ont., on Jan. 24, 2018.

Did federal Liberals break a campaign promise to Canadians on door-to-door mail delivery?

The answer may depend on whether you hold more stock in what leaders say or what a party puts down on paper.

Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough announced Wednesday that, as part of reforms to Canada Post, Liberals will end an initiative from the previous Conservative government to convert 4.2 million addresses from home delivery to community mailboxes.

Though Tories said the plan would save hundreds of millions of dollars, Liberals put a freeze on conversions after winning government in 2015.

"Households currently receiving door-to-door delivery will continue to receive it," Qualtrough said. "We committed to do this in our platform and we're delivering on that promise."

However, Qualtrough confirmed the 840,000 households that have already seen their mail rerouted to community mailboxes since 2014 will not have home delivery restored.

Qualtrough said that rather than trying to "put the toothpaste back in the tube," the Liberals are taking a forward-looking approach.

"We're not going to reverse these decisions that were made by the former government," she said, citing the costs and logistics of, for instance, removing community boxes and re-establishing delivery routes.

A Liberal-stacked House of Commons committee recommended in December 2016 that Canada Post come up with a plan to reinstate home delivery for households that had been converted. Canada Post estimated it would cost $195 million, with ongoing costs of $90 million each year.

Grits pledged to 'save' home mail delivery

Still, Liberals say the announcement checks off a pledge made in the party's 2015 platform to "save" home mail delivery.

"We will stop Stephen Harper's plan to end door-to-door mail delivery in Canada and undertake a new review of Canada Post to make sure that it provides high-quality service at a reasonable price to Canadians, no matter where they live," the platform read.

Liberal Party of Canada 2015 Platform
The pledge on Canada Post made in the Liberals' 2015 election platform.

New Democrats explicitly pledged in their platform that they would not only stop the conversions to community mailboxes but "restore" home delivery to all households "where it has already been cut."

But during at least one stop on the campaign trail, Trudeau also suggested Liberals would "restore" door-to-door delivery.

The moment occurred during a Sept. 3, 2015 press conference with then-Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, whose strong feelings against the Harper government's changes to mail delivery compelled him to take a jackhammer to the foundation of a Canada Post community mailbox that summer.

Peter Ray/CP
Former Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre uses a jackhammer to destroy a concrete foundation laid for an unauthorized community mailbox at the entrance to Anse-a-l'Orme Nature Park on on Aug. 13, 2015.

Standing next to Coderre, Trudeau said in English that Liberals would "work to restore mail service to Canadians who expect it to be a proper service from their government and not a profit-making enterprise."

A little later, in French, Trudeau said: "As far as Canada Post, we commit to restore door-to-door home delivery."

Trudeau added that while people are evolving in the way they communicate through the mail, they "expect a certain level of service from their government, and a Liberal government will deliver this home delivery service."

The full 2015 press conference can be seen on the CPAC website.

Since 2015, the NDP has consistently pointed to those remarks as proof of how Trudeau told Canadians that Liberals would bring back home delivery for those households that lost it.

"Justin Trudeau promised Canadians that he would reestablish door-to-door delivery and once again he broke his promise," NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice told HuffPost Canada in an email. "Canadians are starting to question what Justin Trudeau's word is actually worth."

Mike Palecek, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), also told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday that Trudeau broke his promise.

Restoring home delivery means returning it to those who have lost it. And that is was said by the prime minister on the campaign trail.Mike Palecek, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers

"The prime minister was quite clear on the campaign trail where he promised to restore door-to-door delivery to those that lost it and that's not what's happened today," Palecek said.

The union president suggested there is only one interpretation of what it means to "restore" home delivery.

"Restoring home delivery means returning it to those who have lost it. And that is was said by the prime minister on the campaign trail."

The Liberal case is also complicated by a December 2015 exchange in the House between NDP MP Karine Trudel, a former CUPW activist, and then-public services minister Judy Foote.

Trudel asked Foote to confirm that community mailboxes would no longer be installed anywhere in the country.

"We have put a stop to that, which means that anyone who did have roadside mailboxes would get their door-to-door mail delivery resumed," Foote responded.

With files from The Canadian Press

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