Sometimes the best gift comes from the strangest placeâ€¦or more precisely, person. For the holiday season, Tory leader Tim Hudak offered up a gift of mammoth proportions.
Hudak and his spin doctors thought they would get some political mileage out of taking on "Ontario"s Union", OPSEU. The results were not what they expected.
It started when their new labour critic, a poor little rich kid by the name of McNaughton (I know, I said "who?" as well) sent me a letter which teetered between libelous and ridiculous. It contained PC dribble about transparency and accountability, accusing the labour movement of killing jobs while cavorting with organized crime. He demanded my immediate response to these idiotic and paranoid assertions.
I thought it wrong to reply to that spoiled little foot stomper. Instead I challenged his leader to publically debate the role of labour in building a fair and equitable Ontario. I wanted to engage Hudak in discussion about how our province could ensure a living wage for all unionized and non-unionized workers with full participation in a sustainable economy. I suggested conservative radio host John Tory as the moderator.
Then, a day or so later, when pressed by the media about why he had yet to engage in the debate, Tim Hudak, the man who says he is not afraid to take on union bosses, retreated from the challenge. He did this during an interview on Global TV's Focus Ontario. His response was revealing, and I quote his words, "I really had no talent in life except running my mouth. That's why I got into politics."
Wow. What an admission! That"s also not what Ontario needs right now. The last thing we need is a leader who admits that he is all talk and no substance. Ontario needs a leader with talent. To face today's challenges, heart and sophistication can go a long way.
But pulling away is the approach used by many Conservatives. We see this with Stephen Harper, who thanked former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright for his lessons on ethics in his hockey book forward. Then he threw Wright under the bus when that seemed the politically expedient thing to do. We see it in the man of a thousand apologies and skeletons, Rob Ford. Now, we see it with Tim Hudak.
These leaders are so married to pre-prepared talking points they don"t dare insert intelligence or a bit of humanity into the debate. Why? They fear letting people know just how shallow they are.
A couple weeks ago I was introduced on Focus Ontario as "plain talking" Smokey Thomas.
That"s an introduction I am proud of — nothing fancy, nothing over the top. I try to always use words from the heart. That will always be my "script" as your President.
My mom taught me it's always easier to remember the truth than repeat a lie. She taught me that people matter. She talked about the dignity of all working people. She said that everyone deserves respect. We should all also be able to gain access to a share of the wealth and opportunity in Ontario and Canada.
OPSEU members decide, every two years, whether they want me as their leader. That"s their choice in a democratic and inclusive union. To this point I have earned their support by not running off at the mouth. With challenges all around us, talk cannot replace action.
Mr. Hudak, take it from me, you will regret the day you came after working people to make political points with your shrinking and angry base. Your admission does indicate some things we can agree on; you have no talent; your limited capacity to understand is well-suited to the culture of your former employer, Walmart; and running your mouth does not qualify you to run the province.
You have showed this in the past and the people of Ontario will frequently be reminded of your talents (or lack thereof) in the coming months.
In closing, thank you to many members who called or wrote this past week to support the work we are doing and their pride in OPSEU.
I wish everyone a magnificent holiday season and a happy 2014.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas