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Ontario seeks court order to end strike by teachers

The Ontario government is asking the courts to teach 126,000 illegally striking teachers a lesson by sending them back to class.

An injunction is being sought to end the illegal walkout that has closed elementary and high schools for 2.1-million students since Monday.

In a bitter battle over who controls the school system, politicians and teachers are lobbying for the public's support.

"Breaking the law is not a good example; let's put our children first," Premier Mike Harris says in TV ads.

The teachers suggest theirs is a democratic protest, not an illegal strike, over a contentious education reform bill that will cut costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and take powers away from local school boards.

The unions want Judge James MacPherson of the Ontario Court's General Division to reject the injunction request and suggest they might disobey the return-to-work order if it is approved.

Many parents have had to scramble to make alternative child-care arrangements, the costs of which Harris says will be reimbursed from teachers' unpaid salaries.

Thousands of school bus drivers, cafeteria workers and crossing guards have been laid off. Beaver Foods and Versa Services laid off 1,300 kitchen employees.

Meanwhile, Canadians could be without postal service in two weeks after attempts at conciliation failed to get negotiations moving.

Conciliation commissioner Marc Gravel gave up on the two feuding parties, but the post office and Canadian Union of Postal Workers agreed to resume talks on their own.

The union wants an 8 percent raise over 18 months and objects to plans to cut jobs to save $200-million (Canadian) a year.

Crisis forecast for independent Quebec

An "economic meltdown" is being predicted for Quebec should the mainly French-speaking province separate from Canada.

A study by federal economists Marcel Cote and Michel Demers warns of a banking crisis across Canada because Quebeckers would transfer $30-billion (Canadian) in savings and retirement funds out of the province.

They say 60 percent of Quebeckers would refuse to transfer to Quebec the income and business taxes they pay to the Canadian government.

As a result, Quebec would have a shortfall of $20-billion needed to pay federal employees and for pensions.

In brief

+ Career diplomat Stanley Gooch, 54, is Canada's new ambassador to Mexico, replacing the outspoken Marc Perron who lost the post after speaking out about widespread corruption in the country. Gooch was previously high commissioner to India.

+ Ceremonies were held in Quebec to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of independence firebrand Rene Levesque, premier from 1976 to 1985. A birch tree, symbolizing his tenacity in the evolution toward sovereignty, was planted at St-Michel cemetery by Parti Quebecois politicians and his widow Corinne Cote-Levesque.

Facts and figures

Canadian stock exchanges hung on for a rough ride as volatility on world markets shook the dollar.

The Toronto Stock Exchange 300 index was down Friday at 6,842 points but still up 15 percent for the year.

The dollar is at a two-year low of 71 U.S. cents while a U.S. dollar is worth $1.4084 Canadian before exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada key interest rate remains at 3.75 percent and the prime lending rate is 5.25 percent.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 1, 20, 23, 31, 34, 44; bonus 24. (Oct. 25) 1, 11, 22, 28, 30 and 43; bonus 6.

From the west

+ Angry shareholders have taken disgraced Bre-X Minerals Ltd. of Calgary to bankruptcy court to try to recoup some of the money lost in one of the world's largest gold mining frauds. Investors from Texas also have launched a class-action suit.

+ Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon says the fall session of the provincial legislature to open Nov. 27 will continue the policy of fiscal restraint while reforming health care and creating jobs.

+ Deaths include Alberta Sen. Walter Twinn, chief of the oil-rich Sawridge Cree band, of a heart attack at 63; and former British Columbia chief judge Nathan Nemetz of heart failure at 84.

+ Mayors of several British Columbia communities, including Vancouver, are trying to bar slot machines approved by the provincial government at charity casinos. Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen says allowing slot machines is a money grab by the province that will take funds out of local economies and create social problems.