Who’s taking sides? ‘Conservatives are dangerous,’ Canadian Labour Congress says

‘We’re not endorsing anyone specifically, right?’ says national labour lobby’s president

Although the Canadian Labour Congress doesn’t formally endorse any particular political party during elections, the national trade union lobby group makes no secret of its colossal disdain for Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, and what the CLC claims is his “record of letting down workers.”

A focus on issues

“We’re not endorsing anyone specifically, right?” CLC president Bea Bruske said during a phone interview on Labour Day weekend with Newsfirst Multimedia.

“Because, of course, we represent many different unions that have many different thoughts on these particular issues. And so, what we really want to always focus on is the issues. And really the issues are that we have significant problems in our country that affect workers, that affect our communities.

Pandemic’s election impact

“We know from the last 18 months that the pandemic has really laid bare some of those existing inequalities that labour has been talking about for a long time. And so, we have things we want the parties to address and we want workers who are voting to think about when they mark their ballots.”

Still, the CLC’s head acknowledged that the Ottawa-based lobby group has historically maintained close links to the left-wing NDP, much more than any other party.

Building connections

But at the same time, she downplayed the CLC’s relationship to the Liberals, in spite of the Trudeau government’s appointment this past summer of the CLC’s immediate past president to the Senate.

“No matter what party is governing, we need to have a relationship with that party, right?” said Bruske. “And so, what that means is that when they make decisions that we believe are the best course of action for workers, we would support that.

“When their decisions are not in the best direction for workers, we’re going to speak to that, as well. And so, you know, we need to be able to have that open door kind of connection with anyone who is forming the government.”

Conservatives ‘dangerous’

That said, there’s no doubt how the CLC feels about the Conservatives and their leader. “Our message to hard-working people is simple: Conservatives are dangerous for working Canadians – don’t risk our future on Erin O’Toole,” Bruske said, holding nothing back in a media release earlier this month.

“We have seen his rhetoric around supporting working people,” added Bruske, who became the CLC’s new president in June, succeeding Hassan Yussuff who was appointed to the Senate that same month by the Trudeau government.

“But when you look at his record, you start seeing the real O’Toole. While he clearly will now say anything for votes, the fact is Erin O’Toole is a former Bay St. lawyer for giant corporations. And it shows.

Taking aim at O’Toole

“Sadly, Mr. O’Toole cannot be counted on to stand up for workers. This election, he’s proposing policies that fail to protect workers’ pensions during commercial bankruptcies and start privatizing EI and public pensions. And during the pandemic, while Alberta premier Jason Kenney made it easier to bust unions and attacked nurses, Erin O’Toole was silent.”

Bruske and the CLC contend that O’Toole’s anti-worker record includes: Voting against extending emergency pandemic help for workers; saying the government should have given less to working families and more to businesses instead; proposing a law making it easier for corporations to walk away from pension obligations; voting to make it harder for workers to refuse dangerous work; and supporting trade deals that lost Canada thousands of manufacturing jobs.

An historic election

Bruske suggested that after 18 months of working people facing unprecedented health and economic challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, the outcome of election 2021 could be historical.

Bruske downplayed the CLC’s relationship to the Liberals, in spite of the Trudeau government’s appointment this past summer of the CLC’s immediate past president to the Senate

“The pandemic and economic crisis laid bare the inequality in our society,” she said.

“Many families are struggling to afford housing and essentials like food and medicine. The stakes are high in this election. Canada’s unions are urging Canadians to support candidates who are putting working families at the centre of their recovery plans.”