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Canadian autoworkers extend negotiations with Ford, delaying a possible strike



The union representing Canadian autoworkers at Ford has put its strike plans there on hold, keeping its more than 5,000 members on the job at three plants there for at least another day, and providing some good news for an industry dealing with unprecedented labor disruptions.

Lana Payne, president of the Canadian union Unifor, which represents workers at Ford as well as General Motors and Stellantis, told CNN Tuesday morning that the union had been prepared to strike at its midnight deadline Monday night, but that a “substantive offer came from Ford at minutes before [the] deadline.”

The union granted the 24-hour extension of its contract with Ford to 11:59 pm Tuesday, and then continued negotiations throughout the night, Payne said.

The union had told its members to be prepared to strike at midnight, but just before that deadline the union told members that talks were continuing and that workers on overnight shifts should stay on the job for now.


Midnight drama

As time ticked past that midnight deadline, it was unclear if a strike would still start at any time, or if an unexpected 11th-hour deal would be reached. Finally, just after 1:30 am ET, word came of the formal one-day extension of the deal.

While the extension was short of a deal and a strike is still possible, the extension was a rare piece of good labor relations news for an auto industry that is reluctant to meet workers’ demands at the bargaining table, it suggested that even when a union and management appear far part, that gap can be closed.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with Unifor to create a blueprint for the automotive industry that supports a vibrant and sustainable future in Canada,” Ford said in a statement.

The drama came four days after the United Auto Workers union had started a strike against Ford, GM and Stellantis, the automaker that makes vehicles under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler names,

Payne told members earlier Monday evening that the two unions were working closely with one another and that she had spoken with UAW President Shawn Fain earlier in the day.

In that recording for members earlier in the evening Payne said the two sides were still far apart.

“We have made progress in important areas,” she said in the 7:30 pm ET recording, but added, “we are not where we need to be on key priority issues.” The union had said besides wages, its major bargaining goals revolved around benefits, particularly pension benefits, as well as job protections as the auto industry plans its transition from traditional gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles.

Similar demands, different strategies

Ford is already grappling with a strike by more than 3,000 of its US employees that has shut down a major assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, since Friday. The UAW decided to go on strike at all unionized US automakers, the first time in its history that it had struck the traditional “Big Three” at the same time. But it decided to strike only one assembly plant at each company, having 12,700 members walk out while most of the 145,000 members at the companies remained on the job.

By contrast, Unifor announced if it goes on strike, it will strike all the Ford facilities where it represents members. But its members will continue to work at the Canadian plants of GM and Stellantis. The union had granted them contract extensions while it focused its negotiations on reaching the best possible deal with Ford.

The issues Unifor is negotiating mirror many of the same issues at the center of the strike by the UAW – a demand for higher wages, improved benefits including pensions, and job protections for workers whose jobs could be affected by the industry’s plan to convert from traditional autos to electric vehicles in coming years.

“As some of you will know from experience, a lot can happen in final hours of deadline bargaining,” Payne said in her earlier remarks. “But we know where we stand here. We need Ford to deliver more to meet our members expectations.”

Unlike the UAW, Unifor has not spelled out details of its negotiating demands, or what Ford is offering. But Ford, GM and Stellantis are all on the record saying that they have offered UAW members about 20% in raises over the life of the contract, including an immediate 10% raise.

The UAW, which began negotiations demanding an immediate 20% raise and raises totaling 40% over the following few years, has said that offer is not sufficient considering the record or near-record profits the automakers are reporting, and how much ground its members have lost due to past contract concessions and inflation that has outstripped salary gains in recent years.

US factories could be affected

A Canadian strike could be a bigger blow to Ford’s sales than the UAW strike, which is so far is limited to one factory in Michigan in the case of Ford.

The two V-8 engines made in Windsor are the only source of those popular engines used in the the F-150 pickup truck, Ford’s best-selling vehicle, and the Mustang sports car, so production of the V-8 versions of those vehicles at US plants is likely to be halted by the Canadian strike.

The Michigan plant being struck produces the Ford Ranger pickup and the Ford Bronco SUV, which had US sales of 83,000 in the first half of this year. By comparison the V-8 version of the F-series pickup had US sales of 75,000. The V-8 version of the Mustang, which makes up about half of sales of that model, came to another 13,000 vehicles, while the Edge and Nautilus that are only built at the plant in Canada had sales of nearly 60,000.

Ford traditionally had the best relations with its unions of any US automaker. It has not had a strike in its Canadian operations since 1990 and has not had a US strike since 1978.


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Canada's population added 1.15 million people since last year: StatsCan – CBC News



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Ottawa rolls out voluntary code of conduct for AI



The federal government is unfurling a voluntary code of conduct for generative AI as anxiety persists over its proliferation and pace of development.

Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced the code on Wednesday at the All In artificial intelligence conference in Montreal, where Canadian technology companies including OpenText and Cohere pledged to sign on.

The document lays out measures organizations can take when working in generative AI — the algorithmic engine behind chatbots such as ChatGPT, which can spit out anything from term papers to psychotherapy.

The government says the measures align with six key principles that include equity, transparency and human oversight.


Amid both excitement and angst over the seemingly boundless scale of AI advancement, the federal government in June tabled a bill outlining a general approach to AI guardrails and leaves details to a later date, saying it will come into force no sooner than 2025.

Artificial intelligence pioneer Yoshua Bengio, who has stated the legislation puts Canada on the right path even as progress remains too slow, says public fear still hangs over the sector and that more investment toward safety and standards is essential.

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‘We’re not there yet’: Metrolinx CEO won’t provide opening date for troubled Eglinton Crosstown LRT



Construction workers work on a construction site in a city. Cars and buses are seen in the background on the road.
The Eglinton LRT construction just west of Yonge Street on September 27, 2023. On Wednesday, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said he wouldn’t provide an updated opening date for the already-delayed project. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Metrolinx is refusing to provide an update on an opening date for the long-delayed Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, citing technical issues in the testing and commissioning phase that are continuously pushing the finish date further down the road.

“Any prediction of an opening date at this stage of the project will just be an estimate, and I’m not comfortable giving that,” said Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster.

“When I give you a date it must be something I believe in and we’re not there yet.”

Phil Taberner, the project’s vice president, says construction is “pretty much” complete except for a small section near Eglinton-Yonge.


He said testing and commissioning is considered a “high-risk” part of the project, and that they’re anticipating “faults and issues” that will take an “unpredictable” amount of time to rectify.

“We want the tests to be rigorous, and we want to identify these issues,” he said. “This then gives us the assurance that we’ve got a robust, safe and reliable railway.”

Metrolinx CEO ‘not comfortable’ providing new opening date for Eglinton Crosstown

“When I give you a date it must be something I believe in and we’re not there yet,” said Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster.

Verster says Metrolinx has a “really good idea” of the approximate opening date, even though he chose not to divulge it. The transit agency intends to give an update every two months, with the next one slated for November.

“Given the facts of what has caused the different delays. I am very excited about the Eglinton Crosstown. We are not that far away,” said Verster.

History of delays, legal disputes

The 25-stop, 19-kilometre line was last slated to be up and running in the fall of 2022, but construction has stretched on long past that.

The regional transit agency attributes some of the challenges behind the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic, repairs to the existing Yonge-Eglinton subway station, and the consortium of four companies, Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS), contracted by Ontario’s previous Liberal government to design and build the Crosstown.

A man speaks in the front of a room full of people. A presentation is loaded onto a screen behind him.
Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster gives an update on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT’s completion to a room full of reporters on September 27, 2023. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Work began on the Crosstown in 2011 and Metrolinx previously announced completion dates of 2020 and 2021.

The repeatedly delayed and over-budget project has been stymied amid reports of some 260 quality control issues, which Verster said is now down to 225.

It’s also faced legal threats from CST. In May, the consortium alleged that Metrolinx failed to retain an operator for the unfinished transit line. Verster confirmed Wednesday that the courts sided with Metrolinx and CTS has to follow the agreed path of arbitration.

The transit line, also known as Line 5, is expected to run along Eglinton Avenue from Mount Dennis in the west to Kennedy in the east.

Internal Metrolinx documents obtained by CBC Toronto last year show that the budget for the project has ballooned to nearly $13 billion, a figure that includes 30-year maintenance costs. That’s more than double the initial estimates.

Fire Metrolinx CEO, NDP says

Toronto-St. Paul’s Coun. Josh Matlow, who’s been critical of the project’s delays, is renewing his call for a public inquiry into Metrolinx’s handling of the project since it’s been more than a decade since work started.

“If Phil Verster is going to do a press conference, actually provide some information,” said Matlow.

“You have a duty and a responsibility to tell the public the truth and be accountable for the hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns, tax dollars and the years of delays that have hurt communities and devastated businesses.”

Susan Bazarte owns one such business. She’s been running Eglinton Fast Food Inc. for 14 years and has been operating for the entire duration of construction.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time,” said Bazarte. “I almost want to close.”

An Eglinton Crosstown test vehicle is loaded onto the tracks on Eglinton Avenue.
An Eglinton Crosstown test vehicle is loaded onto the tracks. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC)

Verster says he’s accountable for delays and is “doing everything possible” to get the project over the line.

On Wednesday, the Ontario NDP demanded action over to the LRT’s continued delay. Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden called for the newly appointed Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria to fire Verster.

Verster makes nearly $900,000 and is the fifth-highest paid public servant in the province, the party pointed out.

“Consumed by scandal, Ford’s Conservatives have lost control of the province’s transit agency and the vital Eglinton Crosstown,” he said. “It’s clear they can’t build transit projects in this province, and people are left waiting for transit that feels like it will never arrive.”


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