By Chris Gosse
Canada’s biggest construction union, the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LiUNA) recently held their Canadian Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland. There, the union decided to endorse Liberal candidate Seamus O’Regan in the next federal election. O’Regan presented on his party’s labour policies and their intention to campaign against the Harper government’s anti-union bills, in particular bill’s C-377 and C-525.
After the presentation O’Regan’s evident lack of knowledge about labour matters was quite apparent. It was also captured on tape during an interview with NTV. When confronted by reporters he was unable to answer any questions about the federal government’s long list of anti-union legislation. O’Regan is running in a riding (St. John’s South) currently held by NDP MP Ryan Cleary, who is very informed about working people’s issues. Cleary is a far stronger candidate when it comes to helping constituents oppose Harper’s anti-labour agenda. So why has LiUNA not supported the traditional party of labour?
Provincially the Liberals in BC and Ontario have been as anti-union as the federal Conservatives, with back to work legislation being used by these governments to bring an end to strikes by teachers and other workers. Sure, the Liberals have traditionally advanced progressive social policies like public health care, the Canada Pension Plan, Canada Student Loans and the Canada Assistance Plan. Of course, the CCF, and then the NDP, under the leadership of Tommy Douglas, worked to advance many of these policies, pressuring the Liberals to jump on board. Even Pierre Trudeau was responsible for a number of important, progressive developments. But will we see his son, Justin, walking the picket lines like his father in Asbestos, Quebec? Today’s Trudeau has a Cadillac view on policy and absolutely no clear direction when it comes to labour issues. This was magnified by O’Regan’s interview and lack of knowledge about certain pieces of federal legislation.
What might help explain LiUNA’s endorsement of a Liberal candidate is that party’s stance on pipelines, which could benefit the construction union’s membership across Canada if these projects go ahead. Meanwhile the NDP appears to offer less support. LiUNA’s decision follows the lead of other union flip-flopers, like Buzz Hargrove’s switch from NDP to Liberal supporter. Hargrove, of course, endorsed strategic voting, which involves voting for a candidate who has the best chance of beating the candidate you don’t want. Remember that this strategy helped get Mike Harris’s Conservative Government a second majority government in Ontario, and I don’t believe there was a net benefit to working class families there at the time. Our former premier, Danny Williams also said ABC, anything but conservative, which prevented the Conservatives from gaining any seats on the island. But I still believe it is better to vote for something instead of against someone.
I will vote for the party that has an agenda to implement social justice for working class people. I know it isn’t Stephen Harper with his anti-worker legislation. Is Justin ready? Ask Seamus.
Chris Gosse is an HD technician and member of ILA Local 1953M in St. John’s, NFLD.