The City of Salmon Arm recently informed residents that metered utility bills may be delayed due to the recent flood damage to B.C. highways. Though the bills were mailed out on Nov. 12, city staff explained Canada Post sends mail to the Lower Mainland for processing. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

The City of Salmon Arm recently informed residents that metered utility bills may be delayed due to the recent flood damage to B.C. highways. Though the bills were mailed out on Nov. 12, city staff explained Canada Post sends mail to the Lower Mainland for processing. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Opinion: Natural disaster emphasizes downside of centralization

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

For once I thought I’d get ahead of the Christmas-shopping-for-Vancouver-relatives game.

Yes, it’s still early(-ish), but procrastination is seldom your friend and, after all the comments I’ve heard from local retailers about shortages and shipping challenges, and accompanying advice that it would be wise to purchase gifts sooner than later, it seemed best to just get’er done.

And then something I’d never heard of, an “atmospheric river,” washed over the Lower Mainland and parts of the Thompson-Okanagan, leaving a swath of destruction unlike anything I’ve ever seen in B.C.

The timely arrival of Christmas gifts became a petty concern. However, with all of our major transportation routes in and out of the Lower Mainland essentially shut down due to the storm, it seemed like a lot of mail would be delayed, including things like bills, letters, etc. mailed in Salmon Arm to a Salmon Arm address. For example, the City of Salmon Arm’s utility bills. In a Nov. 23 post on its Facebook page, the city explained metered utility bills for water and sewer were mailed on Nov. 12. However, due to the highway closures, “there may be a delay in receiving your bill.”

Why is that? Most likely centralization. Several years back it was explained to me that mail dropped off at a post box in town, or at a private outlet, is delivered to the Lower Mainland where it’s sorted and then returned to Salmon Arm for delivery.

Read more: Salmon Arm waives penalty for late payment of metered utility bills due to mail delays

Read more: North Okanagan-Shuswap dairies, farmers grapple shortages, impact of highway closures

The topic of centralization came up in recent conversations I had with local dairy farmers who, for a couple of days, were having to dump their milk as the highway closures and flooding in the Fraser Valley meant they couldn’t get it to the Lower Mainland for processing. While that was happening, panicked shoppers were rapidly depleting dairy sections at local grocery stores.

Dairy farmer and Kamloops Okanagan Dairy Association chair Henry Bremer said historically, every little area in B.C. had its own plants for production. Then the highways got better and a lot of plants were closed, including plants Bremer said once operated in the North Okanagan.

“Like a lot of industries around Canada, they’ve gotten big or they’ve gotten small and the middle ground has been hollowed out and that’s sort of the size of milk plant that would be appropriate for here,” said Bremer.

I am by no means qualified to speak to the pros and cons of centralization. However, I cannot help but see absurdity in something being sent 500-plus kilometres away (adding to our carbon footprint in the process), to have it sorted or processed before being returned to its community of origin.

Despite amazing efforts underway to reopen our highways, Canada Post is still warning customers there may be delays in receiving items. Well, I suppose if gifts don’t make it to the Lower Mainland in time for Christmas, I can always send holiday wishes via Zoom.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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