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Canada's tentative postal accord postpones inevitable, business leaders say

A two-year tentative agreement that averts the threat of a nationwide postal strike does little but put off the inevitable, businesses leaders warn.

Canada Post and its 51,000 workers have agreed to a "peace treaty" that ends nine months of negotiations and assures businesses that the mail will go through — for now.

The government agency said the demands of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were too rich at a time of reduced mail volumes, pension shortfalls and an estimated $8 billion solvency deficit.

As well, the post office will have to confront lost business and a government review of its operations, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said.

The deal, while putting off some of the major issues for two years, "will be a relief for a lot of small business owners," said federation president Dan Kelly.

The threat of a strike forced them to look at alternatives in advance, he added.

A special mediator appointed by the government helped both sides reach the agreement that calls for an independent body to study the major issue of pay equity between city and rural letter carriers.

Home sales drop in Vancouver in August

Vancouver's overheated real estate market cooled off in the warmth of August as house sales fell by 26 percent compared with a year ago.

Even so, prices continued to climb as the "composite benchmark" for all residential properties was up 31.4 percent at $933,100, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said.

The latest figures come as the British Columbia government is implementing a 15 per-cent tax for foreign buyers in an effort to cool one of the hottest real estate markets in North America.

News in brief

• Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lashed out at China's human rights record during a weeklong visit there aimed at increasing trade and cultural relations. He told a business audience that Canada values good governance and free expression. "Canada encourages China to do more to promote and protect human rights," he said, adding: "In the global village, we all have stake in what happens here."

• Peter MacKay, a former cabinet minister from Nova Scotia, said he plans to decide "soon" whether to seek the leadership of the federal Conservative party. Considered a front-runner, MacKay didn't seek re-election last October. The leader, to be decided at a May 27 convention, will succeed former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

• Observers suggest Canada's economy could be headed for a rebound as the trade deficit narrowed in July to $2.5 billion. Economists were expecting a $3.25 billion deficit but exports grew and imports fell. Statistics Canada reported earlier the economy contracted at an annual pace of 1.6 percent in the second quarter due to weak exports and the devastation from the Alberta forest fires in May.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar is lower at 76.92 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.30 Canadian, before exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.

Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index up at 14,797 points while the TSX Venture index is lower at 804 points.

The average price for gas in Canada is $1.03 a liter or $3.91 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.

Lotto 6/49: (Aug. 31) 8, 10, 17, 36, 39 and 44; bonus 40. (Aug. 27) 3, 14, 16, 33, 47 and 48; bonus 29. Lotto Max: (Aug. 26) 3, 10, 17, 19, 26, 27 and 42; bonus 46.

Regional briefs

• Conservative Raymond Cho, a city councillor, was elected to the Ontario Legislature in a by-election to fill a vacancy. In Scarborough-Rouge River, he defeated Liberal government candidate Piragal Thiru. It's the third by-election win since Patrick Brown became provincial Conservative leader last year.

• Ryerson University in Toronto says its students, faculty and staff have unofficially broken the Guinness World Record for the most people blowing a chewing gum bubble simultaneously. There were 1,203 people taking part while the previous record was set in Spain by 737 people in 2014. Previous Ryerson challenges included the most people simultaneously yo-yoing, using paddle balls, the largest cowbell ensemble and the largest Soul Train-style dance.

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