By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 27, 2011 - 0 Comments
Brian Topp considers the meaning of last week’s filibuster.
A majority government is in place, and it can ultimately get what it wants. But a real opposition, fighting on a real issue, can make things go very slowly indeed – so that Canadians can judge the issues, and see what Mr. Harper’s government is doing in the bright light of day … In a panel discussion about this matter a couple of days ago, a Conservative friend suggested that the current debate in Parliament shows the New Democrats have some “growing up to do.” In fact it is the Conservatives who have some growing up to do. They need to learn that having power is not a license to abuse it. And that the people of Canada elected 308 MPs, including a muscular Official Opposition that will work, within the rules of our democracy and long into the night, to shine a light on misjudgments and misgovernment.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 4:18 PM - 0 Comments
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 11:17 PM - 0 Comments
Earlier this evening, with the defeat of several proposed amendments, the House of Commons officially passed Bill C-6. In brief comments to reporters, the Prime Minister pronounced victory.
After a completely unnecessary delay, I’m nevertheless pleased that very soon Canadians will again have access to the postal services, particularly small business and charities, and of course, this is the only thing that Canadians ever really wanted. So congratulations to the Minister for her leadership in this … We know what side the public was on and I think today members of Parliament on the other side finally started to get that message.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 4:48 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberals have come forward with proposed amendments and the NDP will follow suit when the House moves into committee of the whole to continue debate. Government House leader Peter Van Loan met with NDP House leader Thomas Mulcair a short time ago to, I am told, discuss amendments and process.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 1:07 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after the clock passed midnight, a dozen Conservatives sang happy birthday to their colleague, David Sweet. His birthday had actually just passed—he was born on June 24, 1957—so the gesture was a bit belated. But perhaps owing to the pizza party the Prime Minister had apparently been hosting, the government side seemed a jovial bunch, eager to find fun wherever it could be found.
As luck would have it, they had all been summoned to the House of Commons at this late hour for a vote—specifically on an NDP-authored motion to delay moving forward with Bill C-6 for another six months. The official filibustering of this particular piece of particularly contentious legislation had commenced some 27 hours earlier. What began on Thursday was now moving into Saturday. Except that, so far as the reality within these four walls is measured, with the House having not yet adjourned for the day, this was still Thursday. Indeed, there in the middle of the room sat the four-sided calendar, reminding all who could see it that here they remained trapped in June 23. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 24, 2011 at 5:56 PM - 0 Comments
Talks between the Conservatives and New Democrats apparently resumed this afternoon, but there’s no report as yet of progress. Meanwhile, iPolitics has a delightfully abridged version of last night’s House debate.
Using advanced algebra, Meg Wilcox has figured out that this filibuster could go until next Saturday. Or into eternity.
By macleans.ca - Friday, June 24, 2011 at 3:42 PM - 0 Comments
But the bill “isn’t even close to being passed,” says Lisa Raitt
The Conservatives are ready to sit through the NDP’s filibuster of the back-to-work bill that would end the Canada Post strike “until the legislation passes,” Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told reporters today. The bill is still far from being approved in the House, she said, but the government won’t back down. Raitt also said the Conservatives would consider changes to the bill, though she added that her party had only engaged in “general discussions about principles” with the NDP, and hasn’t yet received specific amendment proposals from the opposition. New Democrat lawmakers oppose a clause in the back-to-work bill that sets annual wage raises at between 1.5 percent and 2 percent until 2014. All 103 NDP lawmakers have unlimited time to speak at every stage of debate on the bill, potentially delaying its adoption for days.
By John Geddes - Friday, June 24, 2011 at 2:13 PM - 0 Comments
Looking back at the Maclean’s story about the back-to-work legislation Jean Chretien’s Liberals imposed to end the 1997 postal strike, I think we might be able to guess at where Stephen Harper’s Tories got the idea of giving the postal workers less than Canada Post had last offered at the bargaining table:
Union officers were particularly irked by the wage settlement the government chose to impose as part of the back-to-work legislation (it breezed through the House of Commons in a single day last week, endorsed by a final vote of 198 to 56 with only Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party MPs opposed). Under the terms of the package, postal workers, whose base pay is now $17.41 an hour, will receive a 1.5-per-cent salary hike this coming February, another 1.75 per cent the following February and a final 1.9 per cent in February, 2000.
The imposed settlement is not only far distant from the 8.6-per-cent increase over two years CUPW was seeking, but is even marginally less than the offer Canada Post had on the bargaining table when talks finally collapsed. That called for annual increases over the next three years of 1.5, 1.75 and two per cent. What is more, management’s offer would have commenced last August. “It amounts to an average loss per worker of $991 over three years,” complained CUPW director of research Geoff Bickerton. “I can think of only one reason the government acted as it did – pure vindictiveness, payback time for the workers.”
For the record, the government denies the charge. Both Labor Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano, under repeated questioning in the Commons, continually described the settlement as “fair.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM - 0 Comments
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt emerged a short time ago to update everyone on the state of negotiations.
Hansard is officially updated through 8:30pm last night, but here is a transcript of Jack Layton’s epic speech (about 50 minutes from start to finish and coming in around 6,500 words). Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, June 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
Surviving on pizza, lemon-water and scotch
The opposition NDP is pulling out all the stops to delay the passage of the Conservatives’ Canada Post back-to-work legislation for as long as possible. At each stage of the debate, every single member of the NDP is rising to speak for 10 to 20 minutes. MPs are reportedly pulling all-nighters as the debate is expected to continue into the week end. Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae called the whole situation “shambolic,” saying the Conservatives could have simply accepted NDP amendments to the legislation that called for a “mediation/arbitration” process. The Globe and Mail reported on Friday that MPs are sleeping on office couches and surviving on pizza and lemon-water. The paper also reported that members of the Bloc Québecois broke out some scotch at some point early Friday morning. The NDP is alleging the government’s legislation is a slap in the face for striking workers since it will give them lower wage rates than Canada Post had originally offered. The Conservatives maintain the legislation necessary to reinstitute mail delivery in Canada, which they say is a vital service in the Canadian economy.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 24, 2011 at 12:11 AM - 0 Comments
With the NDP’s Matthew Kellway on his feet addressing the House, debate of Bill C-6 has now carried over into a new day, at least so far as the outside world is concerned. Mr. Kellway is not quite electric, but the discussion remains mostly on topic*.
Under the rules of debate, MPs are entitled to speak for 20 minutes, with another 10 minutes subsequently set aside for questions and comments from other members.The Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition are not so restricted and earlier tonight Jack Layton took about 50 minutes to say just about everything he could say about the subject at hand. We are now on our third Speaker of the evening (Andrew Scheer having ceded the chair to Bruce Stanton who has ceded the chair to Barry Devolin). The NDP is promising to propose amendments, but not quite yet.
*Spoke too soon. Michael Chong has risen on a point of order to note that members are not supposed to read their speeches from prepared texts and the House is now gripped with vaguely debating the principles, practicalities and conventions related to this point.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 3:46 PM - 0 Comments
The legislation includes wage increases for workers that are lower than what Canada Post included in its last offer to the union. During question period, Layton asked the prime minister to remove the section on wages from the bill and refer the matter to an arbitrator.
“The prime minister has rendered collective bargaining pointless in this country,” Layton told question period. “He’s signaling that if you can’t get what you want at the bargaining table, never mind, Ottawa will legislate it for you if you’re an employer. Why bother to bargain? It’s a terrible precedent.”
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 1:32 PM - 0 Comments
Bill to legislate end to Canada Post dispute could pass as early as Thursday
Labour activists rallied in downtown Toronto on Wednesday to protest the federal government’s move to legislate an end to the dispute between Canada Post and its locked-out workers. Hundreds of people have gathered at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas, one of the busiest in the city. Meanwhile, negotiations continue between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers after going late into the night on Tuesday. Parliamentarians are expected to vote on the Conservative back-to-work bill this Thursday. The legislation would force the union to accept a deal that’s worse than the one currently on offer from Canada Post management.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 3:43 PM - 108 Comments
I have regard and sympathy for postal workers. Their mission was once critical to the world, and they have a sense of duty and a code of professional ethics that reflects this. They also have enjoyed all of the security and privilege that comes with performing such a crucial task.
Today, the ideals (and the comforts) remain, but something has changed. The mail just isn’t critical to society anymore. In most cases, it’s an anachronism—overdue for obsolescence, economically and environmentally indefensible. The Canada Post lock-out will help nudge the obsolescence along
I still check my mailbox with great anticipation every day. Not for personal correspondence or periodicals—I get those online. Not for parcels—private couriers handle those. But as a freelancer and contractor, I still get paid through the mail, and that keeps me interested.
But why am I still paid by mail? Why is it taking so long for companies to put in place a direct-deposit system for non-employees? Why is it still so difficult for me to email payment to the people I hire? And why does the government still spend millions mailing out cheques for pension, social security, welfare and unemployment?
Everyone who deposits these cheques has a bank account, so their finances are already part of a digital network. The paper slip is just a note from one computer that tells another computer to change some data. The postal workers and the Canadians who cart these objects around are redundant, fleshy bottlenecks in the process. Why are we still locked into such a wildly expensive and inefficient system?
Entropy, I suspect, and a bizarre sense that removing the last physical artifact of money will somehow melt the brains of anyone over 45.
The Canada Post lock-out will help with the entropy. Organizations have trouble innovating from within, but can become surprisingly nimble when pressured externally. Nothing will force an overdue move to digital transfers like necessity. Then, once the sky fails to fall, what will remain is a much quicker and much cheaper system.
At that point, why will anyone go back to snail mail?
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 134 Comments
Andrew Coyne on why Canada’s postal service should open up to competition
The current strike at Canada Post (perhaps you hadn’t noticed: it started last week) presents a curious spectacle: an all-out struggle for control of a company whose main line of business—carrying bits of paper from one point to another—is rapidly disappearing.
It isn’t just email, which has reduced the letter to more or less the same function that telegrams once performed, something you send on formal occasions but otherwise wouldn’t think of using. Nearly everything that Canada Post once charged to carry is being vaporized. Cheques are giving way to electronic funds transfer; catalogues to online shopping; CDs, DVDs and books to iTunes, Netflix and Kindle.
And yet, notwithstanding a 17 per cent plunge in volume per address in the last five years, it still carries 11 billion pieces of mail a year. Some customers in particular—small businesses, charities, rural and elderly correspondents—remain dependent on “snail mail.” For them a strike is an inconvenience, and even if some take the opportunity to make the switch to electronic transmission—never to return—for many others the post office is their only choice.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 1:33 PM - 9 Comments
Labour minister announces plans to introduce back-to-work legislation
The federal government says it will introduce back-to-work legislation before the end of the week to end the labour dispute at Canada Post. The legislation will end Canada Post’s lockout of union workers and force an arbitrated settlement to the dispute. “They are unable to reach that agreement by themselves,” Raitt said, “even though they have had ample opportunity to do so and much support from this government and from Labour Canada.” Ottawa had also previously announced it would force a settlement between Air Canada and its striking workers before the two sides reached a tentative deal on Thursday.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 12:07 PM - 4 Comments
What the Canada Post lockout means for magazine delivery
While we continue to make our best effort to ensure timely delivery, the Canada Post lockout has caught everyone by surprise.
We are doing everything we can to ensure our readers receive their magazines by alternate delivery methods. Unfortunately we will not be able to reach all of our subscribers as quickly as we normally would. We will ensure, however, that your magazine will eventually reach you.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 1:06 PM - 0 Comments
Union calls Canada Post decision “irresponsible”
Canada Post called a nation-wide lockout on Tuesday, effectively shutting down all operations after 12 days of rotating strikes by its postal workers. The union representing the 50,000 locked out employees is slamming Canada Post, arguing the decision is “irresponsible.” Canada Post said it had no choice but to stop all services, citing rapidly declining revenues and an “inability to deliver mail on a timely and safe basis.” The Crown corporation claims to have already lost $100 million. In a statement, Canada Post said it believes a lockout is the best way to reach an agreement with its workers. Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt is considering tabling legislation that would force workers back to their posts. The minister is already moving on such legislation to force striking Air Canada employees back to work.
By macleans.ca - Monday, June 13, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 32 Comments
Crown corporation claims strikes have cost it $65 million
The rotating strikes by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have cost Canada Post about $65 million in revenue so far, according to a spokesman for the Crown corporation. Jon Hamilton warned union members on Monday that their job action may be accelerating the decline of Canada Post by pushing prospective and existing customers to look elsewhere for mail service. Earlier Monday morning, union president Denis Lemelin accused Canada Post of trying to provoke a general strike by cutting back mail service to three days a week, which Lemelin described as a “partial lock-out.” Lemelin also disputed Hamilton’s claims about the impact of the strike, saying the work stoppages don’t affect more than 30 per cent of the country on any given day.
By the editors - Friday, June 10, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 909 Comments
It is hard to imagine a more coddled, out-of-touch and overcompensated group than postal workers
Rain or snow or sleet or hail can’t disrupt the mail. But what rhymes with seven weeks of annual paid vacation, out-of-whack pay scales or infinitely bankable sick days?
While the rotating strike by workers at Canada Post has proven to be a hardship for many Canadian businesses, it is also shining necessary light on the massive disparity between postal employees and workers in the private sector. Outside of bureaucrats in France, it is hard to imagine a more coddled, out-of-touch and overcompensated group than postal workers.
Canada Post’s efforts to bring labour costs in line with common sense, modern technology and market rates should be supported regardless of the strike’s immediate implications. A successful conclusion to this strike might even spark a broader rationalization across all Crown corporations and government operations.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 1:46 PM - 25 Comments
Mail volume dropped by half since strike began last Thursday
Beginning on June 13, Canada Post will deliver mail in urban areas only 3 days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) as negotiations between the Crown corporation and union members remain deadlocked. Only urban dwellers, whose letters are delivered by carriers on foot, will be affected by the cutback, as rural Canadians usually drive their own cars to collect mail. According to Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton, mail volumes have decreased by half since the rotating strikes began last week, and customer confidence is dwindling as well. The corporation has made further concessions, offering the union a $7 maximum wage increase, more vacation time, and a defined benefit pension by age 60. The union—still displeased with the company’s allegedly dangerous modernization project—will continue its strike until further notice. 13 small communities in nine provinces were the latest to be affected by walkouts since the strike began last Thursday.
By macleans.ca - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 12:05 PM - 5 Comments
Workers say modernization program is a safety hazard
Postal workers rejected Canada Post’s contract proposals on Thursday, beginning a 24-hour rotating strike at midnight. Canadian Union of Postal Workers president, Denis Lemelin, held a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, citing Canada Post’s flawed modernization program as the strike’s catalyst. Its implementation, says Lemelin, has resulted in a 15 percent increase in worker injuries and poor customer service. Winnipeg’s workers were first to strike because the modernization program began there, and Hamilton’s will be the next. However, according to Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton, things at the post office are still “business as usual”.
By macleans.ca - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Google lets you pay with your cellphone; California mistakenly releases hundreds of violent inmates
Upper house repair
The Tories plan to overhaul the Senate by introducing a bill later this month that will put term limits on senators—as low as eight or 10 years—and allow provinces to elect members when positions open up. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have long talked about Senate reform, but their actions lately have been anything but democratic. Harper recently appointed to the Senate three Tory candidates who had failed to get elected to the House of Commons in the May election. Real Senate reform means more democracy, less hypocrisy.
The fast lane
The Canadian economic recovery is alive and well. The economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.9 per cent in the first quarter—double the rate in the U.S. The manufacturing sector also received a vote of confidence as Chrysler paid back $1.7 billion in loans to Ottawa, and Fiat’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, said this week his company is interested in buying Canada’s remaining shares in Chrysler. The bailout of Chrysler two years ago was widely criticized, but the automaker now appears to be back on the road to being a profitable, job-producing company.
In the name of hockey
In a show of hometown support, the Richmond, B.C.-based Boston Pizza will become “Vancouver Pizza” for the duration of the Stanley Cup playoffs. All restaurants will receive Vancouver Pizza banners to hang over their signage and Vancouver Pizza stickers for takeout containers. The strategy might play well outside B.C., too—a new Sportsnet poll shows 85 per cent of Canadian hockey followers are pulling for the team.
Pop till you drop
America’s knack for innovation keeps on giving. Google unveiled a mobile payment system called Google Wallet that allows shoppers to swipe their cellphones at registers to pay for purchases. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is rolling out touch-screen vending machines that offer customers a choice between more than 100 different pop flavours. The machines use ink-jet-like syrup mixers and send data about people’s preferences back to Coke headquarters. It’s never been a better time to be a consumer.
Yemen slipped closer to civil war as a ceasefire between government and opposition forces broke down. Fighting in the capital of Sanaa has led to over 100 deaths since President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to follow through on a pledge to resign. The government also bombed the city of Zinjibar after it was seized by Islamic militants. Saleh is accused of trying to curry favour with Western allies by exaggerating the militants’ connection to al-Qaeda, but there is little doubt the chaos raises dangerous instability. This is a black eye for the Arab Spring.
After nearly nine years locked inside the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Omar Khadr should be accustomed to dreary news. This week brought even more: his clemency claim has been denied. The Toronto native, who was captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 and convicted of killing an American soldier, will be transferred to a Canadian penitentiary later this year. The failed clemency bid effectively rubber-stamps the eight-year sentence he received at his recent trial, and eliminates any hope that he could apply for early parole before June 2013.
Mailing it in
The union representing 50,000 Canada Post employees is threatening to strike unless workers can keep banking sick days and get a roughly three per cent raise annually for the next four years. These demands come despite a 17 per cent drop in letter mail—not to mention that employees begin with seven weeks vacation, earn $24 an hour to start, and can retire as early as age 55. The timing of the strike also couldn’t be worse. In B.C., the long overdue HST referendum would have to be delayed because three million mail-in ballots wouldn’t reach voters.
To catch a criminal
California mistakenly released hundreds of violent inmates after being ordered to limit overcrowding in prisons. Over 450 inmates “with a high risk of violence” were let out on unsupervised parole. At least on the other side of the country, police caught a lucky break. In Maine, a man wanted on two warrants accidently “pocket-dialled” 911 while doing yardwork. He was promptly tracked down by officers.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 12:43 PM - 0 Comments
President, union counterpart and federal labour minister fail to reach a deal
A meeting of major players in the Canada Post negotiations proved fruitless Wednesday as contract talks, now surpassing seven months, failed to prevent a potential postal workers’ strike. Canadian Union of Postal Workers president, Denis Lemelin, rejected Canada Post’s offer, countering with a request of 3.3 percent wage increases in the first year and 2.75 percent in the next two-three years. Canada Post’s offer includes an improved pension plan, up to seven weeks vacation and job security. The organization says that a strike would hurt rural communities and seniors who rely on postal service for pension cheque delivery.
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 3:04 PM - 15 Comments
Postal workers in legal position to strike as of Thursday night
Workers at Canada Post are prepared to go on strike if they do not reach an agreement with their employer by Thursday night. The President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Denis Lemelin, said on Monday that the union’s urban members are prepared to go on strike, since it is their “only real bargaining lever with Canada Post.” He said the strike is related to the “major concessions” demanded by Canada Post, including a 22 per cent wage reduction for new employees and the elimination of a sick leave plan that’s been in place for over 40 years. A spokesperson for Canada Post told Postmedia News that the Crown corporation’s offer is “very fair.” The workers are legally allowed to strike as of Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.