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Canada's businesses worry over strike by postal workers

Courier companies have called in extra staff, and businesses fear the worst as Canada's postal workers go on strike.

So far, the 54,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers are holding rotating strikes, which started with Winnipeg on Friday and Hamilton, Ontario, on Saturday, as they and Canada Post remain far apart on terms for a new contract.

A continuing or national strike could cause "significant" harm to the cash flow of small businesses, said Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

He estimated the daily cost of a strike at up to $250 for smaller businesses. Charities are also concerned because most of their donations are received through the mail.

Workers with the government-owned corporation said they will continue to deliver government assistance checks and pensions during the strike.

This strike, the first in 14 years, won't have the same impact as the 19 previous postal worker job actions since 1965 due to online banking, electronic payments and direct deposit for paychecks.

Workers deliver 40 million items daily to 14 million addresses spread across Canada in a service area that's one of the largest in the world.

Central bank signals rates likely to rise

Canadians are being advised by the Bank of Canada that interest rates will likely begin rising this year.

As the central bank again held the line on further interest rate hikes after the last one a year ago, there are concerns over the still-fragile economic recovery.

The bank left the key rate at 1 percent but said in a statement it would move rates "closer to their normal levels" if the recovery continues smoothly.

Such increases "would need to be carefully considered," it said, before "some of the considerable monetary policy stimulus currently in place" is eventually withdrawn.

News in brief

• Canada has its youngest-ever speaker of the House of Commons, Conservative Member of Parliament Andrew Scheer. The 32-year-old from Saskatchewan won on a sixth ballot over New Democrat Denise Savoie and six other candidates for the coveted position. The election of the speaker was the first business for the recently re-elected Conservative government.

• Instead of reforming Canada's nonelected Senate, abolish it, three provinces are telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia want the government-appointed Senate dissolved, saying it is a partisan and ineffective body. Harper wants to impose limits on the length in office and allow provinces to select nominees he could appoint to the Senate.

• Canadians can look forward to a warmer-than-usual summer, Environment Canada says. Across Canada, temperatures will average "above normal" throughout June, July and August, the government weather agency said. It will be a relief from the cool, wet spring that was "like a big black cloud hanging over Canada," said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist.

Facts and figures

The Canadian dollar is slightly lower at $1.0223 in U.S. funds, while the U.S. greenback returns 97.82 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent, and the prime lending rate is 3 percent.

Canadian stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,472 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 2,049 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 18, 23, 27, 44, 46 and 47; bonus 29. (May 28) 11, 13, 17, 21, 43 and 49; bonus 5. Lotto Max: (May 27) 5, 9, 19, 20, 21, 28 and 30; bonus 36.

Regional briefs

• Firefighters are hopeful that rain and cool temperatures will help in the battle against a raging forest fire that has forced about 1,200 people out of Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan. Crews were able to make "fire lines" by clearing trees and brush around the remote northern town. Last month, wildfires destroyed more than one-third of the town of Slave Lake, Alberta.

• New Brunswick lobster fishermen say they've lost eight days of their short two-month fishing season because of poor weather. It's not the only hardship they face this year: 80 percent of the catch is sold in the United States but consumers have cut back on buying high-end food items due to the slower economy.

• Canada's most expensive condominium penthouse has sold for $28 million at the new Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residence Toronto. For that price, the undisclosed buyer gets a 55th-floor, 9,038-square-foot downtown condo with a panoramic view of Toronto's skyline and Lake Ontario. Also, don't forget the separate residence for household staff.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Canada's businesses worry over strike by postal workers 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 8:37pm]

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