OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas’s unprecedented decision over the weekend to advise OPSEU members to vote NDP wraps up a month of unprecedented election activity for the union.
“True progressives must unite around the New Democrats,” said Thomas in a public statement following the Liberals’ concession that they can’t win. “We at OPSEU know all too well what’s at stake, but I’m urging the members of all other unions and voters who value our public services to vote for Andrea Horwath and the NDP, the only choice for progressive Ontarians.
“OPSEU is non-partisan and doesn’t judge political parties based on their labels. In this election we drafted our own platform called Vote Better so we can compare our priorities with what the parties are promising,” said Thomas.
“The heart of our platform is strong, properly funded public services and we have concluded the party that comes closest to that is the NDP.”
To ensure that members — and the public — knew about OPSEU’s Vote Better platform, the union staged a first-of-its-kind interactive public town hall. Called TalkOn, it featured panelists including Thomas, Toronto Sun Editor-in-Chief Adrienne Batra, and former Toronto MP Andrew Cash.
The town hall took place on the evening of May 8, and was broadcast live over the phone and also on the web and through social media as a “Facebook Live” event.
Altogether, more than 15,000 people tuned in to TalkON:
- 9,951 listened on their phones
- 6,034 were reached by the Facebook live stream
- 345 watched the English web broadcast and three watched the French broadcast.
“We were taking a bit of a risk, but it turned out even better than we hoped,” said Thomas afterwards. “People tuned in from across the province and they all heard our fundamental message: we can afford to invest in ourselves and in our community.
“I think that’s a part of the reason that the election is now shaping up the way it is. More and more people are saying that this time around, they’re going to Vote Better.”
Along with TalkON, OPSEU also staged a number of telephone town halls about the election, specifically for its members. Those events took place on May 29 and 31. Together, they drew an audience of more than 7,500.
“The response to our communications and outreach about this election has been excellent,” said Thomas. “I’m confident that on Thursday, a significant number of our 155,000 members will get to the polls and Vote Better.”