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Canadian air traffic controllers send pizzas to U.S. counterparts working without pay

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Air traffic controllers from Atlantic Canada directed a fleet of special arrivals into the New York Air Traffic Control Centre on Friday night, as a gesture of solidarity and respect.

And each was covered in a layer of gooey melted cheese.

The Canadian Air Traffic Controller Association units in Gander, N.L., and Moncton, N.B., ordered pizzas for all of their colleagues at the control centre in New York, who have been working without pay since the partial U.S. government shutdown began on Dec. 22.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants $5.7 billion to build a border wall with Mexico, and says he won’t put through a bill to cover the cost of operating parts of the government until he gets it. The Democrats have put forward a funding bill, but don’t support the wall. 

“It’s been so overwhelmingly negative and it’s nice to see that there’s solidarity out there. There’s people out there who are just saying, ‘Hey, I work with you as a friend or a colleague and here’s a nice gesture of friendship, that we care,'” said David Lombardo, a former air traffic controller who lives in Long Island and runs a social media site for people in the industry.

He posted a notice to Reddit ​about the impending pizza arrival seen in the hallways of the New York control centre. 

“Aviation is a really tight-knit group of people, it’s like a family. And plus, it goes against the whole rhetoric here that we’re talking about because it’s an international boundary!”

Sometimes solidarity comes with a soft crust and a layer of melted cheese. (Dave Lombardo/Reddit)

Air traffic controllers provide essential services and are unable to suspend work or take any other job action during the government shutdown, he said. As a result, with no other government services running, they’re working without paycheques.

“They’re worried about their mortgages, their medical bills. It’s one thing to have a date set and say, ‘Hey you’re going to get your back pay in a week or two,’ but they have absolutely no idea when they’re going to get paid, And you can imagine that’s pretty disheartening and pretty scary for many people.”

A Canada-wide effort

The pizza-delivering task force from the Gander and Moncton crews is part of a national effort on behalf of Canadian air traffic controllers to show support for their American counterparts, said Peter Duffey, president of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association (CATCA). 

Duffey said local unions have been asking the national union what they could do to help since the U.S. government shutdown began. On Thursday evening, controllers in Edmonton had the idea to send pizzas across the border to controllers in Alaska.

It snowballed from there. As of Sunday morning, Canadian units have sent pizzas to 35 different units in the U.S.

“This is as grassroots as it gets, with our members just jumping on board this like crazy,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what my members are doing.”

‘We’re all taking care of the skies over North America’

Duffey echoed Lombardo’s sentiment that air traffic controllers keep each other close, even though they don’t work side-by-side and often only hear each other’s voices in headsets.

“We always stand together, especially with our American counterparts,” he said. “Our members just want to reach out to those people that they consider to be co-workers. We’re all taking care of the skies over North America.”

Canadian air traffic controllers have been sending pizzas to control towers and centres in the U.S. to show solidarity with their American colleagues, who are working for free. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The nature of the job also builds a strong bond, he said.

“We always say that we have to be 100 per cent correct, 100 per cent of the time, with zero room for error. That’s the nature of our job. To have somebody have to report to work with the added pressure of knowing they’re now into their second period of work with no paycheque, they don’t need that kind of added stress and pressure. We just want to send them a message that says, ‘Hey we’re with you, we stand with you, and we’re sorry that this is happening to you.'”

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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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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