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CUPE Ontario members came out in record numbers to volunteer in community based campaigns for the federal election all across Ontario. Their hard work paid off with Labour-friendly NDP candidates re-elected in cities including Hamilton, Ottawa, Windsor, Toronto and London and a number of newly elected NDP MPs in Welland and all across Northern Ontario.
The membership of CUPE Ontario gets it, said CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan. Our members know there is a direct link between electoral politics at every level that not only impacts what happens in our communities, but also at the bargaining table and with our jobs. We’re so proud that we’re building a political culture that activates our members to respond to electoral politics.
“A big thanks goes to all the members who volunteered in this Federal Election, ” Ryan continues. “Our membership activism in NDP campaigns across Ontario stopped the Harper Conservatives from reaching a majority and that is a major success.”
However, the overall results of the election means there are some real challenges ahead for our union. With another Conservative minority under Harper, our future work is clear. Given that Harper’s right wing policies negatively affect all other levels of government, we need to ramp up our anti-privatization campaigns and continue to be involved politically at the provincial and municipal level. We cannot let Harper’s privatization agenda erode public services, added Ryan.
Major issues important to all Canadians, and to CUPE members in particular, received very little airing in this election campaign. There was not enough discussion about health care or post-secondary education, the need for infrastructure investment along with a host of other big-ticket items. Canadians want elections to be about the issues that matter to them, and the lack of debate on these issues is likely the reason for the record low voter turn-out overall.
The election results also clearly demonstrate why CUPE Ontario took such a strong position in favour of changing the electoral system to one based on proportional representation in the last provincial election. This system, which many other countries have implemented, more clearly reflects the democratic will of the voters than the current first past the post system. Ryan said that it is unacceptable that a party can win a share of the popular vote and not have that support reflected in the seats they ultimately hold in the resulting Parliament.
If we had a fair electoral system with proportional representation, Canadians would have a much weakened Conservative Caucus and a much stronger representation from the other parties which would more accurately reflect the popular vote. CUPE must keep shining a light on this issue for our membership, and continue to work with community partners, to campaign for real electoral reform.