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Unions reject O’Toole’s pro-worker rhetoric and campaign to prevent Conservative victory

OTTAWA – Despite Erin O’Toole’s attempts to portray himself as a working ally, the Conservative leader appears to remain public enemy number 1 when it comes to Canadian unions.

Some of the biggest unions are urging their members to vote for anyone other than the Conservatives.

Others are actively involved in urging their members to strategically vote in hotly contested ridings – either Liberal or NDP depending on the riding – to prevent the Conservatives from winning.

Still others, like United Steelworkers of Canada, strongly support the NDP.

But Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said he was not aware of any unions that supported the Conservatives.

The party itself did not respond when asked whether it had received union support.

This does not necessarily mean that O’Toole’s flattery has not attracted any member of the base of the unions, who have shown in the past that they do not vote en bloc or do not necessarily heed the advice of their leaders. trade unions.

In a bid to widen the Conservative tent, O’Toole signaled a change in the party’s approach to unions in a speech last fall, shortly after taking over the party leadership. In it, he stressed the need for unions to protect workers’ rights and lamented the decline in union membership.

But the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), for its part, is doing what it can to deter its members from falling into what it calls O’Toole’s “wolf in sheep’s clothing” bet. .

“Erin O’Toole comes across as a friend of the workers and a friend of the unions, but her background says something completely different,” Aylward said in an interview.

“This is why we are saying that Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives would be disastrous for Canada’s recovery from the pandemic.”

Aylward pointed out that O’Toole was a member of cabinet when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives cut 26,000 federal public service jobs in four years and carried out “blatant attacks” on workers’ rights, including imposing two controversial laws considered anti-union and which were repealed after the Liberals took power.

PSAC doesn’t tell its 215,000 members how to vote, but urges them to “sit down and think about the fact that they really have nothing to gain and everything to lose by voting Conservative,” said Aylward .

The union is targeting this message in specific ridings where the PSAC believes a Conservative incumbent can be defeated or a Conservative candidate can be prevented from winning. But he does not explicitly advise strategic voting.

Likewise, Canadian Labor Congress President Bea Bruske said O’Toole’s policies “don’t really resonate because they don’t deliver what we’re looking for.” The organization has produced a video reminding voters of what it calls O’Toole’s “dangerous” policies for workers.

While Bruske herself campaigns for some NDP candidates, she said the Canadian Labor Congress does not support any particular party because some of its member unions are constitutionally required to remain non-partisan. Rather, she said the organization urges workers to vote for candidates who “will stand up for the average worker, rather than big banks or corporate interests.”

He does not recommend strategic voting, Bruske added, arguing that the average voter does not have enough information about the dynamics in individual constituencies to know which party has the best way to prevent a Tory victory.

“I think people should vote for the way they want to vote,” she said.

Unifor, on the other hand, urges “100%” of its members to vote strategically to produce an “anything but conservative” outcome, said National President Jerry Dias.

“It’s a matter of strategic voting.”

Dias said Unifor has identified several dozen ridings where the Conservatives won with a margin of less than six percent of the vote in 2019. And it provides its members with detailed information on the dynamics of races in those ridings for their benefit. show which party is best placed to defeat them this time around.

“We’ve been doing this for years. I would like to think that we are sort of the masters in this area now,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 15, 2021.


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