The Federal Court has ordered the Harper government to find a new arbitrator in a lingering dispute between Canada Post and its biggest union.
In a decision Wednesday, the court said arbitrator Guy Dufort's previous work for Canada Post and history as a Conservative candidate in Quebec casts doubt on his impartiality.
"In light of the unique context of labour relations and the special law, the court concludes that a reasonable and sensible person might worry that the arbitrator is biased because of these two reasons," says a summary of the decision.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had named Dufort to hear the case after retired judge Coulter Osborne quit the job amid concerns that he was not bilingual.
Though Dufort was on a list of potential arbitrators approved by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the union said they were unaware of the depth of his ties to the Conservatives and Canada Post and objected to his appointment as soon as they learned of the links.
The union says Dufort's Facebook page contained links to Conservative groups under the "activities and interests" section, and he was "friends" on the social networking site with both Raitt and Tory MP Steven Fletcher, the junior minister responsible for Canada Post. The links have since been removed.
Canada Post locked out some 50,000 of its employees last year after a series of rotating strikes by the union. The dispute ended with federal back-to-work legislation that forced workers to accept wages that amounted to less than Canada Post's last offer. Arbitration hearings to settle the dispute stalled again in May after the Federal Court agreed to hear the case.