Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Jun 7, 2011

Can Working Families Buy Provincial Election

If you haven't seen them yet, you will. Political attack ads that paint Tim Hudak and the Ontario PC Party as being opposed to all that is good in Ontario.

The message of these ads is clear - only Dalton McGuinty will continue to give so-called Working Families what they need.... And if that doesn't sound like the battle cry of a special interest group, I don't know what is.

And who's paying the millions of dollars to produce and air these political attack ads?

Working Families.....

The tag lines on the ads tell us that they are being paid for by ....Working Families. Most will assume that this organization is made up of the typical, hard working families in their neighborhood. 

But who is this Working Families group really?

According to their website, “Working Families” is a not for profit organization made up of the following unions:

Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Canadian Auto Workers, Ontario Nurses Association, Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 128, The Millwrights, The Painters District Council Local 46, Ontario Pipe Trades Council, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and last but not least, the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council.

So, it's not your typical working families at all. It's a collective of unions, whose bosses have decided that they will pool their financial resources to launch a stealth political media campaign with the sole purpose of re-electing Dalton McGuinty.

In other words, this organization is really a front for the Liberal Party of Ontario, but escapes the scrutiny and financial restrictions of political parties. Some questions you might want to ask:

1) Why not be truthful and declare who is really behind these political ads?

Perhaps it's because the union leaders behind this campaign know, that the integrity of their message would be questioned if people knew the true source of their message. And they're betting that few would bother to dig deep enough, to discover who is behind these political messages.

2) Why would this group of unions want to ensure that Dalton McGuinty is re-elected?

Because Dalton McGuinty sold out to every demand made by these unions since becoming Premier in 2003. From unaffordable public sector wage settlements, to legislative changes such as the elimination of secret ballots for union certification votes, it's clear who's controlling the agenda. 

3) How will the unions associated with this “Working Families” group pay for this multi-million dollar political campaign?

Individual members of these unions will have no choice but to pay up. For example, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), a member of the Working Families group, recently announced to its members that they would have to pay an additional $60 levy to fund this upcoming political action campaign. Based on a membership of 45,000, this will generate almost

$3 million for an ad campaign to support Dalton McGuinty's re-election and specifically attack Tim Hudak and PC candidates. And that's from just one union associated with this group.

4) How do front line teachers and members of other unions associated with the Working Families group feel about being forced to contribute to a political campaign with which they may well disagree?

In the wake of the OECTA announcement, I have had many calls from teachers who resent being forced to make what amounts to forced political contributions.

To the credit of York Region OECTA delegates, according to the April 1st President's Newsletter, York delegates were not convinced it was necessary. Still, the resolution passed, and all York Region teachers who are members of this union will be forced to fund this campaign.  

And just this past week, it was revealed that Ontario's Catholic teachers are being surveyed by their association to see if they would be willing to take time out of classroom duties in September to work for a union-endorsed candidate. The SpeakforChildren.ca survey asks teachers if they are a member of a political party, and if so which one. Interesting that OECTA President James Ryan confirmed that there are no PC Candidates on their list of endorsed candidates.

5) How does OECTA justify forcing its members to fund political attack ads?

In a March 23, 2010 letter, OECTA President, James Ryan states that the election of a Conservative government under Tim Hudak would "threaten the common good, particularly education". In the same letter, Mr. Ryan makes a number of statements about the policies of the PC Party that he claims are a threat to public education. None of the policies referenced by Mr. Ryan are in the PC platform. The full document known as [changebook] is available at www.changebook.ca

I believe Mr. Ryan is as out of touch with the real working families of our province, as is Dalton McGuinty.

First, unionized or not, people don't want to be, and should not be forced to support any political agenda against their will. A 2008 Nanos Research survey showed that 78 per cent of unionized workers disagreed with having their dues used to fund advertising campaigns that oppose political parties - precisely like the campaign being funded by the teachers' union.

Second, to assume that just because someone belongs to a union, they support or oppose a particular party, is equally out of touch. There's a reason that Oshawa, the largest auto town in Ontario, with the largest local of the Canadian Auto Workers union, has voted solidly Conservative since 1995.

Union members make their own decisions when it comes to the ballot box and vote based on what they believe is best for them and their families. That's why the PCs [changebook] commits to "paycheque protection" to allow union members to opt out of supporting political causes through their dues.

Will Working Families be able to buy a provincial government?

I know that the real working families of Aurora and Newmarket will make their own decisions about who to trust when it comes to leadership for our province. And I'm confident that Ontarians will base their voting decisions on what they believe is right and in the best interest of their family, their community and their province.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice. Please feel free to contact me through my website at www.frankklees.com or by calling 905 750 0019.