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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Postal strike means brisk business for couriers, problems for businesses as rotating walkouts begin

   Canada column for Sunday, June 5/11


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Courier companies have called in extra staff while businesses fear the worst as Canada’s postal workers are on strike.
   So far, the 54,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers are holding rotating strikes, which started with Winnipeg on Friday and Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday, as they remain far apart on terms for a new contract.
   A continuing or national strike could cause “significant” harm to the cash flow of small businesses, said Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

   He estimated the daily cost of a strike at up to $250 for smaller businesses while charities are also concerned since most of their donations are received through the mail.
   Workers with the government-owned corporation said they will continue to deliver government assistance checks and pensions during the strike.
   This strike, the first in 14 years, won’t have the same impact as the 19 previous postal worker job actions since 1965 due to online banking, electronic payments and direct deposit for paychecks.
   Workers deliver 40-million items daily to 14-million addresses spread across Canada in a service area that’s the largest in the world.


   Canadians are being advised by the Bank of Canada that interest rates will likely begin rising later this year.
   As the central bank again held the line on further interest rate hikes after the last one a year ago, there are concerns over the still-fragile economic recovery.
  The bank left the key rate at 1 percent but said in a statement it would move rates “closer to their normal levels” if the recovery continues smoothly.
   Such increases “would need to be carefully considered,” it said before “some of the considerable monetary policy stimulus currently in place” is eventually withdrawn.


   News in brief:
   - Canada has its youngest-ever Speaker of the House of Commons, Conservative Member of Parliament Andrew Scheer. The 32-year-old from Saskatchewan won on a sixth ballot over New Democrat Denise Savoie and six other candidates for the coveted position. The election of the speaker was the first business for the recently re-elected Conservative government.
   - Instead of reforming Canada’s non-elected Senate it should be abolished, three provinces are telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia want the government-appointed Senate abolished, believing it is a partisan and ineffective body. Harper wants to impose limits on the length in office and allowing provinces to elect nominees he could appoint to the Senate.
   - Canadians can look forward to a warmer-than-usual summer, says Environment Canada. Right across Canada, temperatures will average "above normal" throughout June, July and August, the government weather agency said. It will be a relief from the cool, wet spring that was “like a big black cloud hanging over Canada,” said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist.


   Facts and figures:
   The Canadian dollar is slightly lower at $1.0223 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 97.82 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 13,472 points and the TSX Venture Exchange 2,049 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 18, 23, 27, 44, 46 and 47; bonus 29. (May 28) 11, 13, 17, 21, 43 and 49; bonus 5. Lotto Max: (May 27) 5, 9, 19, 20, 21, 28 and 30; bonus 36.


   Regional briefs:
   - Firefighters are hopeful that rain and cool temperatures will help in the battle against a raging forest fire that has forced about 1,200 people out of Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan. Crews were able to make “fire lines” by clearing trees and brush around the remote northern town. Last month, wildfires destroyed more than one-third of the town of Slave Lake, Alberta.
   - New Brunswick lobster fisherman say they’ve lost eight days of their short two-month fishing season due to poor weather. It’s not the only hardship they face this year as 80 percent of the catch is sold in the U.S. but consumers have cut back on buying high-end food items due to the slower economy.
   - Canada’s most expensive condominium penthouse has sold for $28 million at the new Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residence Toronto. For that price, the undisclosed buyer gets a 55th-floor, 9,038-square-foot downtown condo with a panoramic view of Toronto's skyline and Lake Ontario. Also, don’t forget the separate residence for household staff.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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