Proof builds on Liberals' relationship with unions

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak met with the Sun's editorial board in Toronto, Ont., on June 6, 2014....

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak met with the Sun's editorial board in Toronto, Ont., on June 6, 2014. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)

Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:37 AM ET

The propaganda letters of fear just keep on coming.

First there was one to Ontario firefighters, dated May 27, written by Harold Schaitberger, head of the International Association of Fire Fighters out of Washington, suggesting PC Leader Tim Hudak will wreak all kinds of havoc similar to what the “malicious Tea Party governments” have done in the United States.

While that one calls Hudak nothing short of the devil incarnate, it does not urge Ontario firefighters to pick the NDP or Liberals on June 12. I’m guessing that singling out the Kathleen Wynne government might have been a little too close for comfort considering newly retired Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) president Mark McKinnon is heavily involved with the Liberal party, even sitting on its executive five years ago.

But a June 1 letter from Tony Iannuzzi, executive secretary-treasurer of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, to members leaves little room for doubt that the Liberals are this union’s party of choice and that Hudak’s Conservatives will, as Iannuzzi’s letter puts it, inflict “another era of cuts and chaos” on Ontario.

How they will do so, Iannuzzi doesn’t say, but he makes it clear he believes Wynne when she claims the Liberals will invest “more than $130 billion in public infrastructure” over the next 10 years, “creating even more well-paying jobs” for the union’s members.

To help members cast their vote, the letter gives Nikki Holland as the contact person in the union’s political action office. This is the same Holland who sits on the Ontario Liberal Party executive council as secretary. The connections don’t surprise me considering Steven Del Duca, Liberal MPP and the party mouthpiece on the gas plants committee, jumped directly as director of public affairs for the same union to win the Vaughan seat vacated by party fixer Greg Sorbara in fall 2012. It’s just how blatant the union is about them.

Iannuzzi dismissed questions of Holland’s apparent conflict of interest, indicating by e-mail that the union “encourages all of its’ members and staff to be politically aware and politically active in their respective communities.” As for the letter itself, Iannuzzi indicates that they reviewed all party platforms and shared their “conclusions about which platform was best” for their members.

That nothwithstanding, this is yet more proof that the relationship between the Liberal party and Ontario’s unions is not just cosy. It’s disgracefully incestuous.

That’s what drives Catherine Swift, outgoing chairman of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, absolutely crazy.

She’s so incensed with the “B.S. being put out by the union” about the PC platform — using our tax dollars to try to brainwash the masses — and the cozy ties of unions to the Liberal party, she has created a volunteer group called Working Canadians.

The intent of her group is to shed more light on the “lies and dishonesty” of Working Families Inc., a coalition of union groups that has been around since 2003 and has far more to do with keeping their pay and perks intact than protecting any families, let alone hardworking ones.

In addition to sending out letters to their members, Swift says Working Families has been “bombarding the airwaves” with messages about how this “evil” person — Hudak — is going to wreck everyone’s lives.

Their message has had a “significant” impact because the average person doesn’t drill down on issues and know “we’re in fiscal trouble,” she said.

Swift recently took a look at what she calls the “direct payoff” to the Working Families unions in the form of general grants given to them by their Liberal friends over the past 10 years and found a total figure of $83 million, including $6.8 million handed directly to a political action fund set up by a union representing plumbers and pipefitters.

Her findings show that the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) got $11.3 million, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) some $6.9 million and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) got $4.6 million over 10 years.

According to spokesmen with ETFO and OECTA, the funds have been used for professional development that enhance teaching and classroom learning, particularly in the area of literacy and numeracy instruction, kindergarten programming and bullying prevention.

But as Swift points out, the $83 million only relates to “direct cheques” written to these unions. There are also policy decisions the Liberals have made that cater to union interests like the controversial College of Trades, what she calls nothing more than a “tax” on Ontario tradespeople.

Let’s not forget as well how Wynne reopened the contracts with OSSTF and ETFO last spring to buy labour peace (and votes). Education sector sources told the Toronto Sun last fall that those deals, plus the me-too clauses that would automatically be handed to the other three teachers unions, likely cost an extra $500 million.

“It’s disgusting what’s going on here … it’s weakening our economy,” says Swift. “We really need to get away from this payola system.”

But Patrick Dillon, the union honcho behind Working Families who was also instrumental in the creation of the College of Trades, insists that the problem with the Conservative agenda is that they campaign on what they can “do TO people and not FOR people.”

He boasts that when Hudak makes “rash comments” about the 100,000 people he’s going to lay off, that makes fundraising for his Working Families Coalition “pretty easy.”

Hudak has actually said he’d reduce most of those jobs through attrition, by contracting out some jobs and by getting rid of useless middle management bureaucracies like Drive Clean — and that cuts won’t impact on the front lines. But we wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of Dillon’s brainwashing efforts.

The PC leader told a Sun editorial board Friday there are 19 unions running attack ads against him at the moment and they’re doing that because “they’re running the province right now” — right into bankruptcy.

“There’s no doubt the public sector unions will do whatever they can to keep the sweet deal going that they have,” he said. “It’s not working for taxpayers and I would argue it’s not working for their members.

“What they’re (Working Families) trying to do with these ads is elect a legislature of the compliant who will bend to their demands for higher wages, benefits and pensions.”

 


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