OTTAWA – Despite Erin O’Toole’s efforts to portray herself as a workers’ ally, the Conservative leader remains Public Enemy No. 1 as far as Canadian labor unions are concerned.

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Some of the biggest unions are urging their members to vote for someone other than the Conservatives.

Others are actively urging their members to vote strategically in a close fight – either on a ride basis for the Liberals or the NDP – to prevent conservatives from winning.

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Still others, such as United Steelworkers Canada, are outright supporting the NDP.

But Chris Aylward, the national president of the Canadian Public Service Coalition, said he was unaware of any union that supported the Conservatives.

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When asked whether it had got any Sangh support, the party itself did not respond.

This does not necessarily mean that O’Toole’s faults have not attracted any rank-and-file union members who have shown in the past that they do not vote as a bloc or necessarily within their union. Heed the advice of leaders.

To broaden the conservative tent, O’Toole signaled a change in the party’s approach to organized labor in a speech, shortly after taking over the leadership. In this he stressed the need for unions to protect the rights of workers and lamented the decline in union membership.

But the Public Service Coalition of Canada (PSAC), for one, is doing what it can to prevent its members from falling for O’Toole’s “wolf in sheep’s clothing” gamble.

“Erin O’Toole comes across as a friend to workers and a friend to unions, but her track record says something different,” Aylward said in an interview.

“That’s why we’re saying that Erin O’Toole’s stereotypes will be disastrous for Canada’s recovery from the pandemic.”

Aylward reported that O’Toole was a member of the cabinet when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives cut 26,000 federal public service jobs in four years and engaged in “blatant attacks” on workers’ rights, including enacting two controversial laws. , which were seen as anti-Union and which were repealed after the Liberals came to power.

PSAC doesn’t tell its 215,000 members how to vote, but it is urging them to “sit down and think about the fact that they really have nothing to gain and everything by voting Conservatives.” Have to lose,” Aylward said.

The union is targeting that message at the specific riding where PSAC thinks a Conservative incumbent can be defeated or a Conservative candidate can be prevented from winning. But it is clearly not advising strategic voting.

Similarly, Canadian Labor Congress President B Bruske said O’Toole’s policies “don’t really resonate because they don’t deliver what we’re looking for.” The organization produced a video reminding voters what it calls O’Toole’s “dangerous” policies for workers.

While Bruske himself has been campaigning for some NDP candidates, he said the Canadian Labor Congress does not support any specific party, as some of its member unions are constitutionally required to remain nonpartisan. Rather, she said the organization is urging workers to vote for candidates who are “going to stand up for the average worker rather than the big banks or corporate interests.”

It does not recommend strategic voting, Bruske said, arguing that the average voter doesn’t have enough information on the dynamic in individual riding to know which party has the best shot at preventing a Conservative victory.

“I think people should vote the way they want to,” she said.

Unifor, by contrast, is “100 percent” urging its members to vote strategically to produce results “anything but conservative,” said national president Jerry Dias.

“It’s all about strategic voting.”

Dias said Unifor has identified several dozen ridings where the Conservatives won by a margin of less than six percent of the vote in 2019. This time in the best position to defeat them.

“We’ve been doing it for years. I think we’re kind of masters at it by now,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 15, 2021.