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Dalton McGuinty’s election test

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Dear sisters and brothers:

I looked at my calendar today and it says that Ontario voters go to the polls in a provincial election on Oct. 6, 2011. That’s actually pretty soon. In two months we’ll being saying the election is “next year.”

What will that election be about?

I don’t have a crystal ball. Sometimes the unexpected happens. But unless something really unusual happens it’s a pretty good guess that public services and the economy are going to be top-of-mind issues for most voters.

Dalton McGuinty didn’t cause the global economic meltdown that’s hitting Ontario today, but two years from now you can bet that voters will be asking whether he helped or harmed the economic recovery – and whether he helped or harmed the province’s bottom line.

On public services, we all know that the demand for them goes up during a recession. How well Mr. McGuinty protects and sustains our public services is certain to be a key factor in his re-election. Or his defeat.

It’s a tough situation to be in. If he cuts public services, nobody is going to be happy about losing them. Plus, every dollar he takes out of public services is a dollar he takes out of the economy – and it hardly makes sense to spend millions on economic stimulus while cutting millions in public services.

How McGuinty approaches that $24.7 billion deficit will decide his political future. I am sure he’ll be tempted to try to take some of that money out of the pockets of public employees.

This is a risky approach. While OPSEU represents about 125,000 workers in the Ontario public sector, in total more than one million public sector workers have paycheques that are tied to the province. That’s a lot of voters.

Two years from now, a big chunk of those one million workers will be standing in a polling booth. I won’t be surprised if the big question we’ll all be asking is this: “When times were tough, did Dalton McGuinty treat public sector workers fairly?”

What Dalton does will determine our answer.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President

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