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Trudeau faces the same choice as his father, whether to halt the strike at Canada Post

Click to play video: 'Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?' Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?
WATCH: Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy? – Nov 20, 2018

It’s been nearly a month since Canada Post workers began rotating strikes across the country, causing a backlog of undelivered parcels and mail during an impending holiday season.

And now Canada Post is saying without a labour deal in sight, Canadians can expect delays of parcel and mail well into January.

READ MORE: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January as rotating strikes continue

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously steered away from getting involved in federal labour disputes and has never tabled back-to-work legislation. But this could soon change, according to Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton University Sprott School of Business.

“I think it’s not only possible but probable that he will use it,” he said.

WATCH: Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?

Click to play video: 'Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?' Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?
Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy? – Nov 20, 2018
“Trudeau has said he is not going to do what Harper did [who tabled back-to-work legislation with Canada Post in 2011], but that is false. Every prime minister who was in for a period of time has used it.”
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WATCH: ‘We respect labour,’ Trudeau says during 2016 Canada Post lockout notice

Click to play video: '‘We respect labour’: Trudeau confident Canada Post agreement will be reached' ‘We respect labour’: Trudeau confident Canada Post agreement will be reached
‘We respect labour’: Trudeau confident Canada Post agreement will be reached – Jul 5, 2016

Global News asked the Office of the Prime Minister if Trudeau is going to impose a back-to-work order but a spokesperson said she could not comment.

Employment Minister Patty Hajdu told Global News that the government is willing to table legislation if negotiations don’t bear fruit.

“Our government has faith in the collective bargaining process. We believe that the best deals are reached at the bargaining table,” Hajdu said.

“For nearly a year, we have been supporting and encouraging both sides to reach a negotiated agreement. We provided conciliation officers, appointed mediators, and offered voluntary arbitration. Despite all of this, limited progress was made and we have exhausted our options.

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“We have re-appointed the special mediator to work with the parties to reach an agreement. We strongly encourage both sides to reach a deal and are prepared to table legislation if we do not see a resolution over the next few days – a step we do not take lightly.”

READ MORE: Despite rotating strikes, keep sending letters to Santa Canada Post tells parents

Stephen Harper, Jean Chretien, Brian Mulroney and even Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, all used legislation to end Canada Post labour disputes.

“If you look at every work bill at the federal level from 1950 to 2014, you see the Parliament of Canada has used this 34 times,” he said, adding that many of the cases involved the transportation and communication sector, such as Air Canada, CN Rail and Canada Post.

And a majority of the back-to-work legislation was introduced in the 1970s when Pierre Trudeau was in power, he said.

“Pierre Trudeau wins the prize for using this legislation the most, although he was in power longer. But that does not negate that he used it regularly when in office.”

Harper used it but the union fought back

The last time the federal government used back-to-work legislation with Canada Post was in 2011 under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

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His Conservative government passed the legislation after Canada Post locked out workers and suspended operations across the country following two weeks of rotating strikes.

At the time, Harper said the action was needed to protect a fragile economy.

READ MORE: Is it time to get rid of Canada Post?

However, the postal workers took the action to court. The union won the key legal case when an Ontario court found that legislation was unconstitutional.

“The criticism of Harper was that he did it too quickly; he didn’t wait long enough to see how it would play out like Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau did. Harper jumped on and used it right away,” Lee said.

Has Trudeau waited long enough?

On Monday, the Trudeau government signalled it is willing to give Canada Post a couple more days to settle the labour dispute with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), but the prime minister’s patience seems to be slowly wearing thin.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned his government would look at “all options” to end the rotating strikes if a resolution isn’t made soon.

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This comes after online auction giant eBay called on the federal government to legislate an end to the Canada Post contract dispute, warning that quick action is needed so retailers don’t lose out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

But the two sides remain at a crossroads, with CUPW demanding improvements to job security, an end to forced overtime and better health and safety measures. But Canada Post has said it has made a number of offers that include increased wages and better job security.

On Monday, Canada Post asked the union for a  “cooling-off” period until the end of January to allow for negotiations. But CUPW quickly rejected the offer.

WATCH: Labour minister jokes that Canada Post strike ‘feels like parenting sometimes’

Click to play video: 'Labour minister jokes that Canada Post strike ‘feels like parenting sometimes’' Labour minister jokes that Canada Post strike ‘feels like parenting sometimes’
Labour minister jokes that Canada Post strike ‘feels like parenting sometimes’ – Nov 19, 2018

When Ottawa has previously ended labour disputes, most of the time the reason was to limit damage to the economy

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“So if this plays out long enough, it could damage the economy,” Lee said. “I think he will intervene because of the national economy.

However, he said it’s important to note that Canada Post is not the essential service it was once. In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the crown corporation had a monopoly on letter delivery and there was no alternative, such as email.

“But today, with letter mail collapsing and parcel and e-commerce taking over, it changes things,” Lee said. “Parcels are not an essential service and Canada Post does not have a monopoly on them.”

Small businesses suffering

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) has repeatedly called for the Liberals to table back-to-work legislation, saying that the strike is causing disruptions to small businesses ahead of the holiday season.

“While a rotating strike may be less harmful than a general strike, it creates additional uncertainty for businesses at a critical time for many small firms,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a release, adding that businesses are being “left in the cold” by the strike.

“While many Canadians have become less reliant on the mail, it is still an important service for smaller businesses, who use Canada Post for shipping goods, sending invoices and receiving payments, especially from other businesses.”

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READ MORE: Liberals willing to use back-to-work legislation to end Canada Post strike if deal not reached

Two-thirds of CFIB businesses have been negatively impacted by the strike, Kelly said, citing a survey of CFIB members.

“Small firms call on Canada Post unions to move ahead with a deal to ensure the Corporation can once again become a reliable provider of delivery services at a reasonable cost,” Kelly said on Tuesday.

“If not, CFIB calls on government to pass back to work legislation by week’s end.”

WATCH: Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?

Click to play video: 'Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?' Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy?
Has the rotating Canada Post strikes put the holiday shopping season in jeopardy? – Nov 20, 2018

Kelly told Global News that he expects the Trudeau government will make good on its hints and go forward with back-to-work legislation.

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“I think they’ll do it just because Canadians certainly and small businesses have had enough,” he said.

“While the government has been incredibly generous to organized labour, they are also only less than a year away from an election, and as Canadians approach the holidays, this is going to become a bit of a raw nerve,” he added.

“My gut instinct is that the government is going to go forward with back-to-work legislation.”

— With files from Rahul Kalvapalle

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