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Locked out Canada Post unionized workers stand at the entrance to the main plant in Halifax on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. Canada Post has suspended urban mail operations across the country after 12 days of rotating strikes by its 48,000 unionized urban workers. (Andrew Vaughan/Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
Locked out Canada Post unionized workers stand at the entrance to the main plant in Halifax on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. Canada Post has suspended urban mail operations across the country after 12 days of rotating strikes by its 48,000 unionized urban workers. (Andrew Vaughan/Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Morning Buzz

Labour Minister weighs intervention as mail grinds to nationwide halt Add to ...

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt woke up to news that Canada Post locked out its 50,000 workers overnight and is now calling in her officials to find out why. She is also considering bringing in legislation to end the strike, depending on what she hears.

"It certainly puts a different spin on it," Ms. Raitt said in an interview Wednesday morning, referring to the fact the labour situation had escalated from rotating strikes to an across-the-board lock out.

"It's just the same as a strike whenever you take that most extraordinary measure. There is always a reason behind it and I will take that into consideration as the morning goes through."

Ms. Raitt told The Globe she might have to take measures similar to those enacted Tuesday regarding Air Canada, when she served notice the government is prepared to legislate an end to the airline strike.

"Yes. The trigger is it's a national work stoppage so I am going to look at it seriously," she said. "I want to see what the effect is still on the Canadian public and the economy."

The tricky issue with Canada Post now, she noted, is that the Canadian taxpayer is the shareholder. "So if Canada Post is losing that much revenue and money and they are worried about market share, I will talk to my colleagues that have responsibility for Canada Post on the matter."

Ms. Raitt said she did not move earlier on Canada Post because the rotating strikes did not seem to be profoundly affecting the public. The Air Canada strike, however, was a much different story.

Although, there was little travel disruption Tuesday - the first day of the strike - Ms. Raitt anticipated in a week or so there would be cancelled flights, congestion in the airports and a real effect on the economy.

"I can accept the fact that it did look like we moved quickly," she said. "But we did because the union told us that a strike is their way of putting pressure on management, which we all know, and they fully expect that after a few days management wouldn't be able to keep up with the work."

She noted there is a lag time, since the legislation would not pass until sometime next week. In addition, the House of Commons is to rise next Thursday, and with two opposition days, there is little time left to deal with this.

Both Air Canada and Canada Post are fighting over pensions. Ms. Raitt said the ideal scenario would be for all sides to figure this out themselves without government intervention. "Having Parliament have to decide anything with respect to your collective agreements is never the best solution at all," she said.

Ms. Raitt added, however, that "you cannot have the Canadian public captive to either wanting their mail or their air service while these guys figure out their pensions."

Painting Stornoway orange

Moving into a mansion in a tony Ottawa neighbourhood will not be too disruptive for NDP Leader Jack Layton and his wife, Toronto MP Olivia Chow. It's close enough to work on Parliament Hill for him to continue to ride his bike and there's a small vegetable garden where they can grow carrots - orange carrots, joked NDP spokeswoman Kathleen Monk.

On Wednesday, Mr. Layton and Ms. Chow will receive the keys to Stornoway, the Opposition Leader's official residence.

This is a big deal - not because the couple are moving on up from their small digs in Ottawa's Centretown neighbourhood but because of the symbolism it entails. Nearly all of the previous occupants of Stornoway have always been either Liberal or Conservative. (Preston Manning and Stockwell Day lived there when the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties were in opposition, but Lucien Bouchard never moved in when the Bloc sat across from the government.)

The most recent residents were Michael Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar. They had to move out after losing official party status in the May 2 election; Mr. Ignatieff also lost his own seat and the couple has moved back to Toronto.

In addition, Mr. Layton is receiving the keys just as he prepares to travel to Vancouver for the party's policy convention and its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Although it's an old rambling house in need of constant repair, the couple declined an offer from the National Capital Commission, which looks after the residence, to repaint the entire home. Instead they asked that the NCC do only what is required.

Ms. Monk says the two will move in over a number of days and will be fully settled in by the end of the month. "Both Mr. Layton and Ms. Chow are most excited at the prospect of inviting their mothers to stay at Stornoway," she added.

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