Published: April 23, 2018, Toronto Sun (Mark Bonokoski)
When the largest construction union in the country descends upon Queen’s Park to protest the ruling party of Premier Kathleen Wynne — and they cheer on Doug Ford — it is spelling the end of days for the Liberals.
For the last 15 years, the Liberals have gone to the polls with the province’s unions confidently in their back pocket.
But those days appear to be diminishing.
The unions are wizening up.
If there is one group of hard-working Canadians relying on the promises of politicians coming true when it comes to infrastructure spending, the building of much-needed affordable housing and expanding urban transit routes, it’s the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA).
Its members are the ones who put the proverbial shovels in the ground.
They are the blue-collar workers.
And they are proud to be called “labourers.”
“We want Ford,” they chanted. “We want Ford.” And out he came.
From somewhere within the Queen’s Park legislature, Kathleen Wynne was likely looking for a dark corner in which to hide.
Her union friends were no longer friends to be taken for granted.
They had turned on her because she had turned on them.
Buried deep in the provincial budget were changes to the Labour Relations Act which, if passed, would remove the bargaining rights of thousands of LiUNA workers and void parts of a province-wide collective agreement that has been in place since 1970, the year before Bill Davis was elected premier.
What it would do, essentially, is yank concrete-form carpenters out of LiUNA and into another union, an entirely backroom deal that was not preceded by consultation or agreement.
It was purely an arbitrary move by the Liberals to grease the carpenters’ union, beef up its members, and essentially buy their votes.
LiUNA vice-president, Joseph Mancinelli, said in the lead-up to the rally that the clandestine move by the Liberals “smells of favouritism” and was so embedded in the budget that none of the Liberal MPPs the union contacted even knew of its existence.
“We’re not sure why the Carpenters’ Union is the recipient of this level of favouritism,” said Mancinelli. “We don’t know why this happened.”
Steven Del Duca is in the Liberal cabinet as Wynne’s Economic Development Minister.
In a previous life, he was:
— A deejay at a gentlemen’s club?
— A McDonald’s clown?
— The director of public affairs and government relations for the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario
There was no doubt a pile of Liberals in cahoots in order to change the legislation in order to curry the favour of the carpenters’ union, the offending bit being described as Schedule 14. And that would be the premier, herself, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and, of course, Del Duca.
It is no wonder, therefore, Doug Ford was cheered on by members.
The Wynne Liberals had tried to pull a fast one on them by hiding an amendment favouring the carpenters’ union so deep in the budget that it had to basically stink before it got noticed.
As Ford tweeted, “What a crowd outside of Queen’s Park today for the @LiunaCanada rally. The days of Kathleen Wynne’s backroom deals are done. It is time to start respecting the taxpayer, respecting the people. An Ontario PC government will be for the people!”
With the largest construction union in Canada relegating the Liberals to the political dumpster, the Liberal war room must be in shellshock.
If another union follows suit, watch for more Liberals choosing not to run.
All for health and personal reasons, of course.
It’s the most convenient go-to excuse.