Vote Better and TalkON: The rewards of our risks


Sometimes, playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do. It means you stagnate and lose your edge.

So when Eddy and I and the rest of your Executive Board sat down to decide what we were going to do during this election campaign, we decided we weren’t going to play it safe. We were going to push the envelope.

That’s how we came up with the idea of publishing our own election platform. We’re not a party and I’m not a candidate, but we have plenty to say about politics in this province. We deliver a broad variety of public services to millions of Ontarians day in and day out. We’re the experts in what works and what doesn’t work.

That’s why we created Vote Better, a comprehensive guide to the eight most important issues in this election. In stark contrast to Doug Ford’s lack of a platform, Vote Better is filled with practical and popular ideas about how we can actually make Ontario better for all Ontarians. It was created with input from members all across the union.

If you haven’t already had a look, I hope you will now. It’s at I also hope you’ll share it with your friends, co-workers, and neighbours. Publishing Vote Better wasn’t the only new thing we decided to try.

We also decided to do something different while promoting Vote Better.

That’s how we came up with TalkON, the high-tech town hall meeting we hosted in early May. We knew we wanted it to be like one of our telephone town halls. We’ve done lots of those, and they’re great. They’re just like a radio call-in show: informative, interactive, and entertaining. But we didn’t want to just play it safe—we wanted to try something new and exciting.

So we decided to open TalkON up to the public as well as to OPSEU members. And we decided to invite panelists who wouldn’t necessarily agree with everything I said— that’s how I ended up sitting next to Adrienne Batra, the Editor in Chief of the conservative-leaning Toronto Sun.

And finally, we decided we weren’t just going to broadcast the event over the phone. We brought in TV cameras and online broadcast equipment so people could watch a live feed on their computer or their phones.

When I walked into the venue, I thought I’d stepped into Mission Control. People huddled intensely over computer screens. Wires running everywhere. Lights. Cameras. And then: action. A lot could have gone wrong. We were taking a bit of a risk. But I think you’ll agree, it turned out even better than we hoped.

Thousands of people tuned in from across the province. Some were on the phone. Some were on the web. Some were on Facebook.

But no matter how they tuned in, they all heard our fundamental message: we can afford to invest in ourselves and in our community.

And 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.

I want every OPSEU member to get out and vote. Our voices could make the difference in ensuring a better Ontario for our children.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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