POLITICS

Anyone But Harper, Says Postal Union President Mike Palecek

08/12/2015 08:09 EDT | Updated 08/12/2016 05:59 EDT

EDMONTON — The national president of the postal workers union says he's not telling anyone how to vote on Oct. 19 - just so long as it isn't for Conservative Stephen Harper.

Mike Palecek says his members plan to follow Harper around the country and get involved in local campaigns to remind voters of cuts to Canada Post that resulted last year in the end of door-to-door delivery in many Canadian cities.

Canada Post's move to community mailboxes is expected to save the corporation about $500 million per year to cope with what it says is a declining volume of mail in the digital age.

Palecek of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers says the cuts at Canada Post, which have included proposals to change the funding of the workers' pension plan, "are completely unjustified" because Canada Post "continues to make profits." Canada Post's pre-tax profit in 2014 was about $194 million.

"These cuts are completely unjustified. There's no reason for them to go ahead given the corporation continues to make profits," Palecek says.

The NDP have vowed to reverse the cuts, while the Liberals have promised a moratorium on any cuts at Canada Post while they study the future of the corporation.

Angry postal workers greeted Harper's arrival in Edmonton as part of a cross-country tour that comes four years after a nasty dispute between Canada Post and its workers led to rotating strikes, a lockout and ultimately back-to-work legislation.

Although the two sides eventually came to an agreement in 2012, the issue has lingered in the courts. The union's charter challenge to the legislation is scheduled to be heard later this fall.

The timing of the court case and the contract talks make the future of Canada Post an election issue, Palecek says.

"At this point were asking people to vote for home mail delivery," Palecek says.

"I'm not here to tell you who to vote for, but I am here to tell you that if Stephen Harper is re-elected, you're not going to have the same public postal service that you've been able to count on in the past."

A spokesman for the Conservative campaign dismissed the protest. Kory Teneycke says the protest was a "representation of union leadership, not the workers."

Dozens of protesters lined the sidewalk outside a manufacturing facility for oil fields equipment where the Conservative leader addressed a rally Wednesday evening. The speech took aim at the NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley, and lampooned Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for comments made earlier in the day that the Liberals wanted to grow the economy from the "heart outwards."

Harper said Notley, much like himself, shouldn't be blamed for the decline in oil prices because they were beyond government control. Harper, however, tried to link provincial tax increases to the federal NDP and argued Canadian voters shouldn't gamble on Tom Mulcair the same way Alberta voters have gambled on Notley.

Harper heads to Regina, Sask., Wednesday night as part of an aggressive travel schedule to hit key battlegrounds for the Tories, hoping to shore up support early in a long campaign where polls suggest a close three-way race between the major parties.

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