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Post office restores normal delivery times as mediated talks fail

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Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press


Published Tuesday, December 18, 2018 11:33AM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, December 18, 2018 4:23PM EST

OTTAWA — The restoration of delivery service guarantees by Canada Post — three weeks after striking postal workers were forced back to work — proves the shipment backlogs Ottawa used to justify legislating an end to rotating walkouts were “fiction,” says the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

The Crown agency announced Tuesday it had caught up on most parcel delivery backlogs that had been created by the sporadic labour disruptions that began Oct. 22.

As a result, the corporation said its normal holiday service commitments were being restored across most of Canada, except the West Coast.

“With continued progress, we are now in a position to restore our normal holiday delivery service guarantees for much of the country,” Canada Post said in a statement.

“This means Canadians can expect normal holiday delivery timelines for parcels. The exception remains items headed to or departing Vancouver as backlogs there continue to cause additional delays.”

The announcement came as the mediation process aimed at bridging the impasse between the post office and its unionized employees came to an abrupt end.

The federal government legislated an end to job action by postal workers on Nov. 27 after Canada Post complained that a backlog of parcels had reached historic levels ahead of the crucial holiday shopping period.

At the time, Canada Post warned the backlog could take until the end of January to clear up.

The fact that service delivery guarantees are being restored just three weeks after back-to-work legislation was passed proves the parcel backlogs being claimed by Canada Post were an illusion, said CUPW national president Mike Palecek.

“The reports that we’ve been getting, and are still getting, is that our plants are not even operating at capacity,” Palecek said in an interview.

“We have places where (Canada Post) is offering members leave without pay to go home because they don’t have work. So I wouldn’t just question the backlog, I would say it was total fiction.”

Canada Post said it delivered about four million packages between last Friday and Monday of this week, and will likely be able to deliver items ordered online in time for Christmas.

It credited a lack of incoming packages — rather than a non-existent backlog — for the faster-than-expected pace of deliveries.

“Incoming holiday parcel volumes continue to be down over 2017, and significantly below projections for this year,” the agency said.

“As a result, our fully-enacted holiday delivery plans, which were built to deliver the projected double-digit parcel growth from online shopping this holiday season, continue to help our operations catch up.”

Still, the corporation warned, whether packages arrive before Christmas will also depend on where the parcels are coming from. Some shipments from outside Canada might only be delivered in early January.

During the walkouts, Canada Post requested that its foreign partners halt deliveries to Canada while job action was underway. That request was lifted after postal workers were legislated back to their jobs.

Under the back-to-work bill, a mediator-arbitrator was appointed to attempt reaching new collective agreements at Canada Post.

But a week of talks aided by former Canada Industrial Relations Board chair Elizabeth MacPherson were halted Tuesday with both sides too far apart to extend the negotiations for another seven days, as was an option under the legislation.

Palecek said there was no movement on the union’s key demands, which include health and safety concerns and calls for equality measures, during the talks.

A spokeswoman for Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said the government was “disappointed” the two sides were unable to reach negotiated agreements, but noted the bill sets out a path to bring the dispute to an end.

“The legislation outlines guiding principles for a new collective agreement, which will ensure that a fair and balanced deal is arbitrated for the parties,” Veronique Simard said in a statement.

MacPherson is now expected to begin a process in January that will result in arbitrated settlements being imposed on Canada Post and its 42,000 urban carriers and 8,000 rural and suburban employees.

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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