‘We have stopped Hudak, Harper is next’, says union leader

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

With their 'StopHudak' campaign, the Ontario labour movement was instrumental in defeating the Progressive Conservatives in that province's provincial election.

According to the head of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan, they now have their sights set on Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Ryan penned an op-ed for Rabble.ca where he talks about how they executed their strategy, in Ontario to "drive down the number of union members who vote Conservative." (The OFL predicts that 30 per cent of their membership has, in the past, voted for the PCs).

Through the winter we organized 16 filled-to-capacity interactive workshops across the province for 10,000 local labour leaders from 52 unions.

Our campaign was run from a "war room" at the OFL, where we received reports from field organizers and tracked polling results from 55 key ridings, which narrowed to a few dozen swing ridings as the political picture became clearer.

Our affiliated unions mailed and telephoned their members; some raised money to pay for advertising. OFL activists were deployed to assist with key NDP campaigns in southwestern Ontario, downtown Toronto and Oshawa, and other affiliates urged their members to vote for NDP incumbents or the party best placed to prevent a Conservative victory in their local riding.

In an email exchange with Yahoo Canada News, Ryan notes that the preparations for a similar 'Stop Harper' campaign will begin after Labour Day.

"The [Canadian Labour Congress] will take the lead on the overall campaign with assistance from the Federations of Labour across the country," Ryan said.

"I suspect each province will mount a campaign similar to Ontario's StopHudak campaign. So from an Ontario standpoint our Stop Harper campaign will have many similarities to the recent provincial campaign but within the election parameters set out by Elections Canada.

"Ontario will be a major battleground and that's why it's so important that Labour mount an aggressive campaign."

[ Related: Ontario labour movement ‘sold their souls to the Liberals’ says union leader ]

The CLC's member groups will likely launch their own campaigns, as well, based on their specific beefs with the government.

"The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is campaigning against the drastic cuts to public postal service that were recently announced with the full backing of the Conservative federal government. Cuts to public services are definitely going to be an election issue," Aalya Ahmad, a spokesperson for CUPW, recently told Yahoo.

"We are working with our allies, including seniors' groups and organizations for people with disabilities, to keep cuts to postal service at the forefront of public awareness. As the election draws nearer, we will continue to speak out against these cuts and the government that is behind them."

And, in 2012, the Public Service Alliance of Canada — which is currently embroiled in a nasty public relations campaign against the Harper government about sick-leave benefits — added a 26 cent a month 'tax' to members' union dues to boost the union's war chest for political action campaigns.

The Harper Conservatives knows that the union onslaught is coming.

Here is an excerpt from their latest fundraising email to supporters:

"It is clear that our opponents are already preparing for the election in October 2015, and that they will attack us every chance they get. And when you factor in help from the big unions and special interest groups, we will probably be outspent, too."

The next federal election is tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2015.

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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