Doug Ford and Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives won their second majority government on Thursday, June 2. While Ford celebrated the victory, many labour organizers began to strategize for the years ahead.
“It wasn’t the outcome we wanted in labour,” said JP Hornick, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) in an interview with rabble.ca. “From my perspective, my first reaction was, ‘Okay, the work we have to do now is holding the government accountable.’”
Most unions did not support Ford leading up to the election, according to an op-ed written by leaders of three large Ontario labour organizations.
“Make no mistake about it — the majority of unions and workers support Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP in this election,” the op-ed reads.
Fred Hahn, the president of the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said he would have preferred a different result but he was happy the Ontario New Democrats did better in some ridings than expected.
“There were predictions about the outcome for the New Democratic Party. They predicted that some very strong advocates would not be re-elected but they were,” Hahn said. “So it’s a pretty mixed bag of emotions.”
While CUPE and OPSEU are disappointed with the election results, there are some unions that backed Doug Ford while he was campaigning. The Residential Construction Council of Ontario, which provides admin services for builders associations, endorsed Ford along with unions such as the IBEW CCO and LiUNA.
Concerns over future cuts to public services
Hahn said that CUPE Ontario is concerned about the future because the Progressive Conservatives have been intent on privatizing the public health care system.
“They [the Progressive Conservatives] handed over huge chunks of the public health response to for-profit corporations like Shoppers Drug Mart,” Hahn said.
Privatization is not only a concern for CUPE. Hornick said that eight people from OPSEU ran for the Ontario NDP on a platform that is dedicated to strengthening public services, support workers’ rights and fight the privatization of healthcare and education.
Despite the election garnering results that some were hoping for, both Hornick and Hahn emphasized that labour’s organizing work must continue outside of election time.
“The conversations have to keep going no matter who is in political office,” Hornick said. “A majority Conservative government can be pressured to back off of bad decisions when there is a groundswell of opposition by the people.”
Hornick encouraged people to get organized. They shared their personal motto, “if you don’t like the news, go out and make your own.”
Hornick said that OPSEU members are ready and willing to join hands with other Ontarians who want to see change. They encouraged people to reach out to their local or their labour union to get involved in resisting the Ford government.
“It starts today in building towards the next election. In labour, we need to start behaving like we are never out of bargaining and as citizens we have to behave like we are never out of elections,” Hornick said. “The challenges that face us can definitely be overcome.”
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