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Not too late for GM to change its mind and save Oshawa plant, union head says

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“I am committed to having General Motors change their mind,” Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, told a union rally Friday just days after GM rejected Unifor’s proposals to keep its plant in Oshawa, Ont., operational past 2019.

Unifor brought in thousands of members from across Ontario by bus for the rally on Windsor’s riverfront as part of its campaign to reverse GM’s decision. 

Dias said the rally was timed to coincide with a GM investor meeting.

“One thing I’m sure GM never told their investors is that in Canada, sales dropped 30 per cent in December 2018,” said Dias, comparing numbers to December 2017. 

“How can you support a company that isn’t supporting their Number One market?” Dias asked the crowd, to roars of agreement.

In a statement, GM said the company had analyzed the union’s proposals but rejected them because “they all would involve substantial incremental costs and a further deterioration of GM’s competitive position.”

The company announced it will close the Oshawa plant, along with four other U.S. plants, in November. The plant opened in 1918. 

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says by rejecting the union’s offer, GM has picked a fight with all of Canada. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

More than 2,500 employees in Oshawa will lose their jobs, but Unifor members said the trickle-down could affect 25,000 people.

Jackie Sovol, an employee at the Oshawa plant, said General Motors was “lying,” pointing to community businesses that would likely close their doors when the plant shuts down.

“General Motors doesn’t care about our community, they don’t care about Canada,” said Sovol, adding that with only two years seniority she wasn’t going to get more than “a box of tissues when I no longer have a job to support my family.”

According to automotive consultant Dennis DesRosiers, Unifor’s efforts won’t change GM’s decision, because keeping the plant open wouldn’t make the company competitive.

“At the root of General Motors’ problems, it’s they’re losing market share,” said DesRosiers.

Oshawa plant manager Greg Moffat called Unifor’s efforts a “fight against corporate greed.”

“Shame on you, General Motors,” said Moffat. “We’re going no where. Nobody’s exempt from corporate greed.”

DesRosiers said it’s unfortunate that thousands will lose their jobs, but the future of the auto industry lies in electric and autonomous vehicles — areas where GM said it will focus.

DesRosiers points to GM’s new research centre in Markham, Ont., where the company hired 500 people last year and plans to hire up to 1,000 technical engineers.

But the Oshawa plant wouldn’t be used to produce those electric vehicles, he said, because there isn’t enough demand to justify an electric vehicle plant.

Dias says the rally is part of a campaign to get GM to change its mind. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

“It’s too early for the plant, but it’s not too early to go after the intellectual jobs tied to developing electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing programs,” said DesRosiers.

“There’s thousands and thousands of those jobs, that’s what [Dias] should be going and pounding on the desk of GM, Detroit, about.”

At the rally, Dias said Unifor was “disgusted,” especially with GM CEO Mary Barra. 

“The message here today has to be if you want to sell here, you better build here,” said Dias, calling on Canadian politicians to show leadership. 

“We are demanding a meeting, we are demanding that the prime minister, the premier of Ontario and myself sit in a meeting organized by the prime minister and the premier, that we meet with CEO Barra and they tell them how disgusted they are with their decision,” said Dias.

Several Windsor politicians attended the rally, including NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens was not present. 

Dias said it isn’t too late for GM to change its mind, but time was running out.

“The window is closing for you to change your decision,” said Dias. “I’m suggesting you better listen carefully. You haven’t seen anything yet.”

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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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