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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Government plans to end postal strike; Air Canada strike resolved

   Canada column for Sunday, June 19/11


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government plans to legislate an end to the postal workers strike/lockout within days in one of two high-profile labor disputes.
   The other was a short-lived strike by Air Canada’s 3,800 sales and service agents and 600 call center workers who reached a tentative agreement with a nine-percent pay raise over four years.
   Labor Minister Lisa Raitt had threatened back-to-work legislation before the Air Canada strike ended on Friday in its third day.

   Escalating rotating strikes over two weeks prompted Canada Post to lock out the 48,000 postal workers while Raitt said the government is preparing to end that dispute.
   The post office and Canadian Union of Postal Workers have been unable to reach a negotiated settlement, “which is a great disappointment for us because of the effect it has on Canada and on the Canadian economy,” she said.
   Postal union president Denis Lemelin is opposed to an imposed solution and said the action by Canada Post to lock out workers was “irresponsible.”
   The government also had to intervene to end the last national postal strike in 1997.


   Vancouver’s mayor and police chief face some tough questions over rioting when the Canucks lost to Boston in the National Hockey League final playoff game.
   History repeated itself and critics say lessons weren’t learned after violence in 1994 when the Canucks then lost in game seven to the New York Rangers.
   Police Chief Jim Chu said “criminals and anarchists” caused the mayhem that resulted in millions of dollars in damage, dozens of stores looted, 15 cars overturned and burned, 150 people injured including nine police officers, and 100 arrests.
   He credited his officers for bringing the riot -- centered in a crowd of tens of thousands of people packed into the downtown -- under control within three hours.
   Mayor Gregor Robertson blamed the destruction on “organized hoodlums bent on creating chaos.”


   News in brief:
   - The International Monetary Fund is painting a rosy picture for Canada’s economy over the next two years, saying it will outperform most economically advanced countries. A report says Canada should have 2.9 percent growth this year and 2.6 percent next, even as the global economy slows.
   - The government plans to move ahead with a controversial bill to end “human smuggling.” Planned are toughened sanctions against ship owners and those smuggling people seeking refuge in Canada. Refugee advocates, faith groups and the Canadian Bar Association oppose the move, saying this will only punish genuine refugee claimants.
   - Betty Fox, mother of the late Canadian hero Terry Fox, has died in Vancouver. Her son died of cancer in 1981 after having to give up his Marathon of Hope run across Canada after 3,000 miles on one leg a year earlier. Annual Terry Fox Runs, held around the world, have raised $550 million for cancer research.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is lower at $1.0201 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback is worth 98.03 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.
   Canadian stock markets are lower with the Toronto exchange index at 12,820 points and the TSX Venture Exchange 1,893 points on Friday.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 4, 22, 25, 28 and 31; bonus 17. (June 11) 6, 7, 8, 9, 20 and 28; bonus 22. Lotto Max: (June 10) 8, 11, 12, 25, 28, 30 and 33; bonus 16.


   Regional briefs:
   - Dr. Philip Baker of the University of Alberta, accused of plagiarizing a graduation speech, has resigned as dean of the Faculty of Medicine. He will keep his faculty position after a leave of absence and has apologized over similarities to a speech by surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande at Stanford University.
   - More than 10,000 volunteers over the past two weekends have helped clean up after massive flooding that damaged 3,000 houses in southern Quebec. The Richelieu River is finally receding after flooding the region south of Montreal to the New York border.
   - British Royal newlyweds Prince William and bride Kate will take part in Canada Day activities on Parliament Hill on July 1. The nine-day Canadian visit for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will include Montreal, Quebec City, Charlottetown, Summerside, Yellowknife and Calgary.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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