'Vote strategically to defeat Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives'.
That's the somewhat surprising message being touted by Ontario's union leaders ahead of the June 12th provincial election.
It's surprising because in most provinces across the country, union leaders will support their respective New Democratic Party — no questions asked. The labour movement, after all, is an integral part of the NDP raison d'être.
In Ontario — in this election campaign — labour isn't staying on-script thanks to Hudak's 'tough on unions' talk and his pledge to eliminate 100,000 public sector jobs.
"The Ontario Federation of Labour views Tim Hudak's platform as the beginning of the destruction of the labour movement," Sid Ryan, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, told Yahoo Canada News.
"We therefore see this election as an existential battle for our future."
Ryan — whose organization's executive board is made up of 15 unions — is urging members to vote for incumbent NDP MPPs in addition to those NDP candidates that have a realistic chance of winning their riding.
But in ridings where the NDP are weak, Ryan says the vast majority of unions will support "the Liberal with the best chance of defeating the Hudak Tory."
"We refer to this as smart voting to ensure the survival of the Ontario labour movement," Ryan says.
"I will do everything in my power to ensure we do not lose the labour movement on my watch. Tim Hudak is the clear and present danger."
Ryan calls his strategy "smart voting."
Most others would call it "strategic voting."
The concept — under various iterations — was also touted during the 2008 and 2011 federal election campaigns as a means to defeat the Stephen Harper Conservatives.
Obviously it didn't work then and there's very little evidence of it working anywhere else.
But Gerry Kirk, the strategic voting advocate who ran the vote swapping website votepair.ca says did have some impact in some ridings in the 2011 federal election and can have an impact in the Ontario election.
"Traditionally, the left-leaning parties split the vote and the right-leaning party (Conservatives) come right up the middle, that's the only reason the federal Conservatives got a majority," he told Yahoo Canada.
"Our first-past-the-post system means it's about focusing on those few ridings where there is real competition between candidates, while the other ridings can be largely ignored," Kirk said.
Ontario's unions are working to identify specific ridings to see where their resources —with regard to time and money — can best be used to defeat a PC candidate.
They've also launched an ad campaign, via the Working Families coalition, to ensure that the 30 per cent of their 1 million members who voted for the Conservative party in past campaigns don't do it in 2014.
As Ryan said, the unions are fighting for their survival.
(Photo via Ontario Federation of Labour website)
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