Labour Minister Patricia Hajdu embellished a story about a poor, disabled man facing homelessness to justify back-to-work legislation ending a mail strike. Hajdu would not take questions on the anecdote. Staff confirmed Hajdu never met the man. Canada Post management and employees disputed the story.
Hajdu on November 22 said she’d heard from a man she identified only as Jack who faced eviction from his home due to delays in receiving his disability cheque. “We know that some of the most vulnerable in our country count on Canada Post for their cheques,” said Hajdu.
“These Canadians count on this money to scrape by, and they are put in very precarious positions by any delay, like Jack, who told me that as a person on Ontario disability any delay could mean a loss of housing for him. Many others rely on prompt payment to survive month to month,” said Hajdu.
The labour minister’s office confirmed Hajdu neither met nor spoke with Jack. Hajdu would not disclose the man’s last name, or when the two were in contact. “Jack contacted the Minister on social media to express his concerns about the delivery of his disability cheque,” said press secretary Véronique Simard. Asked to provide a redacted copy of the correspondence, Simard replied: “It’s an exchange of private messages. I apologize, but I can’t share them.”
Canada Post said cheques for disability, Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan, Guaranteed Income and Employment Insurance benefits were delivered under a longstanding agreement with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
“There is no delay,” said Jon Hamilton, spokesperson for the post office; “This has been the approach we’ve taken with CUPW for years without issue. This ensures people received their cheque at the right time and avoids confusion.”
Jack Story “Not Very Convincing”
“I don’t know who Jack is,” said Mike Palecek, national president of the Union of Postal Workers. “What I do know is we have an agreement with Canada Post that we deliver socio-economic cheques, whether they’re pension cheques or disability cheques, throughout any strike action. We’ve done that for decades.”
The post office in a directive How Delivery Will Take Place said monthly benefits cheques were pre-sorted by union volunteers for delivery on November 22, the same day Minister Hajdu told her Jack story in the Commons. “No cheques are to be sorted to the postal boxes or delivered to customers prior to Thursday, November 22,” said the directive.
“The cheques were sitting at all the plants across Canada last Monday and they refused to let us go out and deliver them,” said Daniel Weinkauf, a CUPW member in Ottawa. “They were sitting there, ready to be processed and to be taken out for delivery on Monday at a specific time.”
“We take pride in this,” said Weinkauf. “We are concerned that disabled Canadians actually get their cheques on time, and it’s a commitment that we do.”
Minister Hajdu recounted the Jack story as she introduced Bill C-89 An Act To Provide For The Resumption And Continuation Of Postal Services. The bill would force an end to 48-hour rotating strikes under threat of $100,000-a day fines against the union. “As far as fake news is concerned, it’s a possibility,” said Weinkauf.
“Jack may exist, but I fear it may have been a misleading example on the Minister’s part,” said CCF MP Erin Weir (Regina-Lewvan). “Emotive appeals can be politically effective, so maybe it’s a testament to the labour minister’s political skill. But I think it is quite strained as a justification for the legislation.”
“If the government had made the decision to bring in this legislation on good public policy grounds, I could understand they might try to justify it politically through emotive appeals, but when the Minister can’t answer a question as to whether the legislation is unconstitutional and instead tries to tell an anecdote about someone waiting for a cheque, it isn’t very convincing,” said MP Weir.
Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said rotating strikes were intended to avoid public hardship. “We don’t have a general strike,” said Yussuff. “There are great lengths the union has gone to, to ensure the public does not suffer a major disruption.”