We aren’t a shy bunch at Unifor - and that was certainly proved true during last month’s federal election.
In fact, we did exactly what we said we’d do - play an active role in ensuring that Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives never form government and never get the chance to turn the clock back on progressive policies this country needs.
We reached out to our members in key ridings across Canada, making sure they were aware of what was at stake in the election if the Conservatives won.
Scheer tried to portray himself as standing up for ordinary Canadians, but his plans for Canada would have hurt most workers.
He had no real plan to address the cost of living crisis, would have cut key services such education and support for the most vulnerable Canadians, introduce American-style healthcare, and his climate plan would only make things worse.
Scheer also failed to address well-founded concerns about how his socially conservative views on same-sex marriage and reproductive rights would influence any government he led.
In the face of all that, Unifor could not stand idly by. We needed to act.
Besides talking to our own members, we also invested in advertising to get our message out to a wider audience, including television, newspaper and online ads that were the most innovative and creative we have ever produced.
Lisa Raitt, the defeated Conservative MP for Milton, blamed such third-party advertising for the Conservatives losing, saying, “a constant barrage” of ads about Scheer and Ontario Premier Doug Ford helped turn the tide against Conservatives.
“If you drove on any commuting highway in the GTA, you heard three, four, five times an hour different advertisement regarding Andrew Scheer or Doug Ford or whomever saying Conservatives are bad, and that took a toll,” Raitt told CTV News.
It sure did, and that was the point.
The fact is, the Conservatives were defeated in 72 per cent of the 69 ridings we targeted.
At the start of this election, I pledged that Unifor would spend every dime of the money we were allowed to spend under federal election spending rules, and we did. Other unions did not and, quite frankly, that baffles me.
Unifor, like all unions, has a constitutional right to participate in elections. More than that, we have a responsibility to play a role whenever Canadians are going to the polls, whether federally, provincially or locally.
I’m always astounded by those in the labour movement who lecture about progressive politics and then fail to deliver when the chips are down. Talk is cheap but actions speak volumes, and elections are a time to take action.
Bargaining good contracts for our members is Unifor’s primary focus, of course, but so much of what determines the quality of life for our members and all workers is decided away from the bargaining table.
Legislation around health and safety, workers’ rights to organize, recognition of the rights and needs of precarious workers, minimum wages and more have a direct impact on their working lives.
Beyond that, issues such as universal day care, Pharmacare, same sex marriage, reproductive rights, affordable education and other social issues are fundamental to their quality of life and must be a priority for all unions if we are to fight for working Canadians.
Unifor is proud of the role we played in this election.
We spoke out on behalf of our members, working people in every sector of the economy. Their rights, their livelihood and the security of their families were at risk
Lisa Raitt and other Conservatives might want to blame third party advertising for their loss, but the fact is that the advertising worked because it exposed that the Conservative party and it‘s leader were not there for working Canadians – both in the workplace and at home.
All we did was point that out, and it found an audience.
So, damn right we spoke out.
Damn right it made a difference
And damn right we’ll do it again.