The owner of Comox Valley’s Merville General Store is claiming Canada Post owes nearly $30,000 in rent.
The small retail outlet has served the tiny community of Merville, B.C.—population 2,240 in the 2016 census—for almost 100 years. In addition to its Canada Post outlet, the general store offers groceries, alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets and a small restaurant, owner Chris Ellis told Global News.
Ellis t0ld Chek News Canada Post’s grandfathered lease agreement to operate in Merville General Store expired in 2013—more than 50 months ago—but Canada Post allegedly argued the agreement was valid until 2021. The original cost of rent was $1 a month, according to the March 3 Chek News story.
“They claimed they had a copy of the lease valid until 2021, but they’ve never been able to provide it,” Ellis told the Columbia Valley Pioneer in a March 6 online story. “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.”
‘NEVER PAID’ SINCE 2013
Ellis told Chek News the situation “steamrolled” after notifying the Crown corporation of the agreement’s expiration and his new plan to charge $210 a month.
“They just never paid—never paid—and I finally gave them a demand letter,” he told Chek News, adding he sent the letter last summer demanding $9,000 and warning of a rent increase to $1,500 a month.
Nearly half a year later, Canada Post allegedly offered a settlement of about $6,800—only one quarter of what Ellis said he was owed.
“Their statement from our accounting department is now just a hair under $30,000,” Ellis told Global News in a story published online on March 2. “It was very low, and at that time, the balance was over $20,000.”
Ellis has begun charging seven per cent interest as well as a $25 monthly penalty on top of the new monthly rent bill.
Ellis told the Columbia Valley Pioneer he was informed by Canada Post a new cheque is in the mail; however, he’s uncertain of the amount. Ellis has since met with his lawyers to determine his legal options.
BENEFIT TO THE COMMUNITY
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney said the Merville General Store benefits the Comox Valley community by having an on-site postal outlet.
“It’s a good benefit to the community,” she told the Columbia Valley Pioneer. “However, the sad part is that Canada Post has not been paying it’s rent, and so now I think the cost is up to $29,000 in arrears.”
In an email statement, Canada Post officials told the Columbia Valley Pioneer: “We are working to resolve the situation. We have no other comment at this time.”