Labor strife in Ontario has school teachers staging one-day strikes and border guards protesting at two of Canada’s busiest crossings.
Parents are scrambling to arrange care for their children as elementary teachers hold day-long walkouts across the province over a bill that imposes a contract with no pay increase for two years and outlaws strikes.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said the disruptions by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario were “regrettable” but the government won’t intervene unless the strikes last longer than a day.
“This strike action is about the government’s unprecedented interference in the right to collectively bargain – a legal right provided for all people under Ontario law,” said federation president Sam Hammond.
As well, high school teachers have withdrawn from all non-classroom work, including extracurricular sports and events such as holiday concerts.
This action has prompted thousands of students to walk out of class to protest, with most backing their teachers.
A walkout by some Customs and Immigration Union officers in a dispute over an order they wear name badges stalled traffic on Tuesday at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit and the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan.
Union officials said displaying their names could lead to “unnecessary” safety risks by criminals who could find them.
Canada will “fast track” people from 27 so-called safe countries who seek refugee status.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said this will assist in separating real refugee claims from the bogus ones.
The list includes 25 European Union countries, Croatia and the United States where refugee claims aren’t as likely and could be expanded.
Refugee seekers from those countries will have their claims processed within 45 days but will no longer get an automatic stay of deportation or be able to work if turned down while awaiting an appeal.
News in brief• A corruption investigation has led to the arrest of Michel Lavoie, the mayor of St-Remi, south of Montreal for fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust. Authorities said the arrest was in connection with construction projects allegedly built by close friends, relatives and business partners. Earlier Richard Marcotte, of Mascouche, Quebec was arrested for fraud, conspiracy, bribery and embezzlement while Gerald Tremblay quit as mayor of Montreal and Gilles Vaillancourt left his job as mayor of Laval in the ongoing inquiry.
• A Toronto woman plans legal action to try to get back her baby monkey found wandering outside an Ikea store last weekend. Yasmin Nakhuda, an attorney, said she’s concerned about her “pet” Darwin taken by authorities to live in a primate sanctuary. She was fined $240 for having an animal not allowed as a pet. The monkey, dressed in a custom-made shearling coat, captured worldwide attention after escaping from her parked car and eluding capture.
Facts and figures
Canada’s dollar has risen to $1.0137 in U.S. funds while the U.S. dollar returns 98.63 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.
Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index higher at 12,294 points and the TSX Venture index lower at 1,178 points on Friday.
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Regional briefs• Ontario doctors have approved a new deal with the provincial government that will trim health spending by $400 million as their payments are reduced by 0.5 percent. The pact through March 31, 2014, will modernize services and include money for house calls for seniors and high-need patients, “e-consultations” and fewer routine tests done on healthy patients.
• Mayor Mark Nikota of Hanna, Alberta said the decision to implement Canada’s first anti-bullying bylaw was not a “knee-jerk reaction” to the suicide of teenager Amanda Todd. The death of the 15-year-old girl from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia captured the attention of people around the world. Discussion about a bullying law started at the suggestion of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before Todd’s death, Nikota said.