September 6, 2012 will go down in history as a turning point in Ontario politics. It also marks a turning point for the movement to defend working people and the middle class from relentless right wing attacks. We promised this change and delivered by mobilizing our members.
As a result, the political leader who built a reputation on trust, decency and hard work prevailed. The NDP led by Andrea Horwath, and local NDP candidate Catherine Fife, went to first place from last in the Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W) by-election. This was a huge shift given that the riding had been Tory for over 20 years.
When the OPSEU Executive Board was first briefed by our Central Political Action Committee (CPAC), most knew the task ahead was huge. The Board understood the potential towards good or bad for union members was even greater. It was a chance to make a difference, by backing a candidate and party that supports the interests of OPSEU members.
With President Smokey Thomas’s call to mobilize, the support of the Board and scores of OPSEU volunteers, we delivered the message that the politics of division just isn’t good enough. Communities across Ontario deserve more. Working people deserve more. We all need change. We need homes, jobs and hope for a brighter future. That is why K-W chose Andrea Horwath, Catherine Fife and the NDP on September 6.
Through the campaign period I was shocked by the actions of the Liberals and Tories. They resorted to attacks on teachers, collective bargaining and working people. Dalton McGuinty as tough guy? Give me a break. Even Dwight Duncan was missing in action during the by-election campaign. Morally, intellectually and ideologically bankrupt, they became yesterday’s news. Like the federal Liberals, Quebec Liberals and soon the BC Liberals, their sense of entitlement and deceptions have killed their party brand. They are the masters of their own demise. Fellas, it’s time you both moved on.
What about the Conservatives? Tim Hudak and cohorts just keep droning on about “Union Bosses”. He accuses unions of buying the election. What bosses? What an amateur!
No Tim. What electors didn’t buy were your tantrums and lies about workers and unions killing the economy. You are an excellent leader for a party that only talks in “sound bites”. No substance. No policy. The voters in K-W spoke to your kind of leadership when they said: “no chance.”
Here is my prediction. You'll soon have another chance to sharpen your skills at campaigning, given that Christine Elliott, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s wife, is waiting to take your job as Ontario’s PC Leader.
Current public policy is based on the actions of men like Hudak and McGuinty. Their policies give banks and corporations a break by shifting the burden of the deficit onto regular people. It’s not coincidence that the pain of ordinary people is not shared by banks and corporations. Just read the financial pages of most papers for proof.
But times are now changing. We are all in this together and through joint action we can reclaim our share of prosperity. Folks are becoming aware that Liberal and PC actions have created a system rigged against us. Hudak and McGuinty simply cannot be trusted.
So what can we expect? First, we can expect the right wingers to double their attacks on working people and the unions that represent them. Hudak and Federal Tory MP Pierre Poilievre are talking about ending the Rand formula on which current labour laws are based. If they move on this we will meet the challenge and fight. It will be a fight like no other.
Second, expect draconian responses from government and employers during collective bargaining. Liberals and Tories will support each other in the attack on bargaining rights. The political shift they now feel is making them mad. We know that when cowards get mad, they turn to bully tactics. Again, we can handle it. If they move we will meet them head on. For OPSEU, this is not new territory.
Third and most important is that the leadership and strength of OPSEU and other Unions will keep growing. We will adapt and build to better meet the right wing attacks. As in K-W, we will have both the facts and the public on our side. Bill Clinton gave us the reason that the right wing will fail in his speech at the Democratic National Convention… “There’s one word why their plans don’t work: arithmetic.”
All of this will mean a busy and exciting period leading up to the 2013 provincial budget next spring. With the continued minority government, either the “Conservatiberals” will team up — or there will be a general election. If an election does take place, Ontario will have the chance to elect a Premier for all of the people, not just one who has allowed his pals to benefit.
We are union members. We are proud of the work we do. Our beliefs are simple. What we wish for ourselves, we wish for all people.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU