Chris Ellis is waiting for his very important cheque in the mail.
Ellis is the owner of the Merville General Store, and says Canada Post owes him nearly $30,000 in unpaid rent.
“When you’ve got a contract and someone doesn’t oblige, that’s not right.”
The Canada Post operation has been within the store at 6635 N Island Highway for years – prior to Ellis purchasing the store – and has one unionized staff member employed by the Crown corporation.
He says the grandfathered lease expired in 2013, and he has been asking the corporation to sign a new lease since before the expiration date.
He alleges Canada Post stopped paying rent when the lease expired.
“They claimed they had a copy of the lease valid until 2021, but they’ve never been able to provide it. They finally confirmed to me it was just an internal email. I was bugging them for a long time to get things down on paper.”
Ellis wanted to keep the rent at $210/month, but in Aug. 2017, he sent Canada Post a letter asking for $9,000 he was owed and served them 30 days with a rent increase to $1,500.
He admits it was a huge jump but he was hoping the corporation would pay the funds owed. The notice stipulated Canada Post had to pay the rent increase, or if they chose not to, could no longer occupy the property.
Initially, neither option came to fruition, but a few months later, Ellis received a cheque for just under $7,000. By that time, he was charging the new rent increase, interest and a penalty. He adds there was no paperwork in place outside of the notice of rent increase.
A few days ago, Ellis received a call from Canada Post to alert him a new cheque was in the mail. He is uncertain of the amount.
He has since met with his lawyers to see what his options are to proceed with legal action.
“I’m not being greedy, I just want what’s owed to me. I’ve got a family to feed, I’ve got staff. It has dramatically affected my business. Financial institutions aren’t as friendly with credit; it’s cost my business several hundred thousand dollars in sales because my finances are tied up – I don’t have the inventory I normally would.”
While he wants the funds, Ellis says he does not want to see the post office leave. For residents in the Merville area, the closest parcel pickup without the location would be either Courtenay or Black Creek.
“I don’t think it is in Canada Post’s best interest to vacate the property – it would be more bad publicity than not paying rent.”
When contacted by The Record for an interview, Canada Post offered the following emailed statement: “We are working to resolve the situation. We have no other comment at this time.”