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United we stand: by-elections show us the power of politics

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The recent by-elections saw Ontarians reject Progressive Conservative proposals for austerity, reduced services and the introduction of American style labour laws. Four out of five ridings rejected the PCs. Their one win came in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. In that riding their candidate was a popular municipal politician.

It is time for that party to hit the reset button by considering policies that reduce income inequality, improve public services, address unemployment, and generally upgrade investments in our communities. They will never do this having adopted the views of the radical right instead.

They can never admit that labour rights are human rights. Their plans to kill union rights and membership rules are not Canadian. These policies have failed in American states where they've been adopted. By promoting these measures, Hudak attacks the middle class to benefit the wealthiest Ontarians, even though people most want to rebuild middle class prosperity.

Quality services provided by OPSEU members have in past been cut by PCs and Liberals alike. Ontarians signaled by their recent vote that it is time to end this approach to deficit reduction. Austerity will not lead to prosperity!

OPSEU is committed to a better future for Ontario. This requires greater engagement. It takes a lot to run for office. That is why our political activity levels must spike upwards. We are typical parts of the community. What does this mean for elections and political action? Recent research from Samara Research tells us how people stand on political action.

Action

% of adult population

Volunteer time for community work

55%

Volunteer time in an election

10%

Donate money to charity or non-profits

84%

Donate money to political candidates or party

10%

Member of a political party

10%

Blogged about a political matter

16%

Spoke out publically on a political issue

15%

Attended a protest

14%

When compared to others we are political "lightweights". We allow small numbers of activists to dominate our politics. Recent events at the federal level show some parties try to reduce, rather than increase, engagement. That federal vote was marked by "robot-calls" and other such tactics. Low engagement leaves us in the hands of a small group of insiders, even though their interests are not our interests. To win, we must overcome this obstacle.

We hear "every vote counts." That is true only if we vote! Political activism is the key. With it we join the group who truly influence Ontario life. If just a third of OPSEU members were active we could be decisive. If even one friend or family member joined in, we would have real power.

So, while we should be happy with the last by-elections, we must get politically involved like never before. The laws and policies to be debated in the future will shape our ability to act as a community and union. United we stand!

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President

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