With less than four days to go until Ontario's municipal elections, undecided voters may be looking for guidance. Several unions and labour organizations are supporting mayoral, city council, and school district candidates.
Some Labour District Councils have also published lists of endorsements, highlighting candidates who support environmental and economic sustainability, local economic stimulus, better social services, and workers' rights. Endorsements often entail more than just a seal of approval. In many cases, unions or area labour councils will donate time, and staff to their preferred candidates.
The Toronto and York Region Labour Council started a year prior to the election, reaching out to new candidates, incumbents, and even recruiting some candidates to ensure that there was diversity in the upcoming election.
"We have a pretty rigorous interview process," said Labour Council President John Cartwright. "It includes both public and private sector unions and covers not just issues of privitization and outsourcing but also environmental leadership, investment, transit, as well as asking current incumbents what they have taken away from office."
Cartwright explains that the Toronto and York Region Labour Council's member unions may disagree over candidate choices. "Our member unions come at it with different sets of priorities,” said Cartwright, and some unions will take the list as is, or will add candidates that they want to see represented.
The Labour Council then publishes a list of endorsements and most of their member unions pass on endorsed names to their members. Unlike most other cities in Ontario, the City of Toronto barrs corporations or trade unions from donating to city council candidates, but a number of unions will recruit volunteers to work on the campaigns of their endorsed members.
CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn explains that CUPE's endorsement process is an example of "democracy from the bottom up," where members collaborate with other unions and Labour Councils to interview and select candidates based on their local concerns.
This year there are several CUPE members running for positions across Ontario. "They don't get an automatic endorsement," said Hahn, but if they pass muster, they will get a donation.
Yet according to Hahn, the most significant contribution the union can make in any election is to have their members out in the communities talking to members about issues that matter.
"The lion's share of the resources we spend is on the ground," said Hahn. "We release members so that they can talk to other members about why voting matters and encouraging them to go vote."
These conversations help people see the connections between "what they experience in their daily lives" and what politicians are offering, said Hahn, and this work is especially important considering Ontario's dismal voter turnout records.
In the 2010 municipal elections less than 50 per cent of the province's voters cast a ballot. In the most recent provincial election, that trend was slightly reversed, with a 52 per cent voter turnout. Hahn suggests mobilizing voters and giving them the tools to assess their candidates is more important than endorsing candidates.
If you're a progressive who's still on the fence, check if your union or local district labour council has made any endorsements.
The Hamilton and District Labour Council created a working group consisting of both public and private sector unions to evaluate candidates in a ward-by-ward process. According to their website, the major focus in the upcoming municipal elections will be jobs with fair and living wages, a sustainable approach to economic development that maintains public services, emphasizes community involvement and social inclusion. It endorses Brian McHattie for mayor and several councillor candidates.
The Ottawa District Labour Council has not endorsed any mayoral candidates, but its list of endorsed city councillor and school trustee candidates can be found here.
The Peterborough District Labour Council has endorsed a young progressive candidate, Maryam Monsef for mayor, and several other progressive candidates for surrounding mayoral townships and city council positions.
According to Net News Ledger, the Thunder Bay Labour Council has endorsed Mayoral incumbent Keith Hobbs, but CUPE endorsed former CBC journalist Shane Judge. Both CUPE and the Labour Council have endorsed Iain Angus and Norm Sponchia for the "At-Large" category and Paul Pugh for McKellar Ward. The larger list of endorsments is available here.
The Toronto and York Region Labour Council has made a huge effort to mobilize voters through their "Our City Matters" campaign. With a focus on transit, equity, poverty reduction, and social services, the Labour Council has published a list of their endorsements for City Councillor in most, but not all wards, and some school trustees. The Labour Council has also endorsed Olivia Chow for mayor.
Based on candidates' voting records on labour issues, including privatizations and outsourcing, the Labour Council has also developed a labour scorecard rating for all city council incumbents. Scorecards are also available for city council voting records on transit, environmental, and arts and culture issues.
Happy voting everybody!
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