Thomas in the Star: Scheer’s election slogan undermines the Canadian way

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, speaking at Convention

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has written an op-ed for the Toronto Star about Scheer and his Conservative Party’s choice of election slogan, which only serves to undermine the Canadian way.

You can read it online here or view the full text below:

Scheer’s election slogan undermines the Canadian way

By Warren (Smokey) Thomas

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But let’s be real: we all do it, and with good reason. A book’s cover tells you a lot about the tone, ideals and values that you’ll find within. The same goes for a political party’s election slogan.

Judging by the slogan chosen by the Conservatives, they’re promising to dismantle the very foundations of what has always made Canada great. Life isn’t a competition. But by choosing “Time for you to get ahead” as their slogan, that’s how the Conservatives want you to see it.

It begs the question: get ahead of who?

Definitely not the rich — the Conservatives’ long, sorry history of lavishing tax cuts on the wealthy and the corporations they own makes that crystal clear. So if it’s not the rich, it must be the rest of us.

In other words, the Conservatives want you to look at your friends, your family and your neighbours as competitors to get ahead of. They want you to look at others as a threat to your own prosperity, happiness, and success. Has a party ever pitched a sadder, more cynical vision for the future of our country? Has the Conservative Party ever sunk lower?

“Time for you to get ahead” is like saying that if your neighbour’s house is on fire, go ahead and throw gas on the flames. You’d definitely get ahead of them then.

That’s not what our society was built on. When a neighbour is in need, our first impulse is to rush in to help, not capitalize on their need. This has been proven time and time again.

Just this week, a poll came out showing that a clear majority of Canadians have a positive view of socialism — we want less focus on individualism, not more. But a slogan like “Time for you to get ahead” appeals to people’s darker impulses, and threatens to undermine everything that makes Canada so Canadian.

The Conservatives haven’t always tried to pit us against each another. It wasn’t so long ago, for example, that Sir Adam Beck brought us together to build a public hydro system that provided a century of affordable power to all. Or that Bill Davis brought us together to build a public college system, the great equalizer. Even Mike Harris knew it was better to give a hand up than a handout.

But Andrew Scheer has turned his back on that history. Instead, he’s following the lead of “populist” politicians like Donald Trump and Doug Ford, who dismantle public services and abandon social responsibility by preaching “me” instead of “we.” Scheer could have chosen the slogan “Time for us to get ahead.” But he didn’t.

I’m going to judge Scheer’s book by its cover. For the sake of our country, I urge you to do the same.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas is president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.