One of the more notable aspects of the otherwise sleepy Ontario provincial election has been the endorsements announced by labour unions.
While it was once typical to see the NDP dominate on this front, incumbent Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario Progressive Conservative party is elbowing in.
This past week, the PCs sent out a release celebrating how the thumbs up they received from the Ontario Pipe Trades Council brings to six the number of unions that have endorsed their re-election. (Others include the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers).
While the NDP still got the nod from the much more activist Ontario Federation of Labour as well as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, there’s no spinning this trendline as positive for them. None of the six unions endorsing the Ontario PCs this time around did so during the last election in 2018.
A lot of this support can be explained by specific Ontario policies on the file that labour minister Monte McNaughton has focused on this past term. But it’s also part of a broader phenomenon of the progressive left becoming out-of-touch with the working-class and blue collar voters who used to form a significant chunk of their voter base.
This isn’t a phenomenon specific to Ontario either. It’s currently a big focus for American political strategists – both those on the right who want to woo over even more blue collar votes and Democrats who want to get back some of that common man’s touch that Bill Clinton was known for.
“The Left has lost the white working class – and is bleeding working class people of color at a rate no one expected,” writes Jason Nichols, senior lecturer in the African-American Studies department at the University of Maryland College Park, in a recent Newsweek op-ed.
Nichols says vaccine mandates and pandemic school closures have played a role in this voter migration. He argues that while there are no quick fixes to this lagging support for progressives “it is very possible to address specific racial justice issues and simultaneously address the issues of working people of all backgrounds.”
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While there are some progressive activists and politicians who seem to want to make almost everything about race (and gender and sexuality), often in an acrimonious way, it could just be that during these challenging economic times voters of all backgrounds are more interested in coming together to find solutions than being pushed further apart by identity politics.
This battle is now playing out in real time in the Ohio Senate race that pits relative newcomer Republican J.D. Vance against longstanding Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan.
As a recent Washington Post story explains: “[Ryan] will try to separate himself from those aspects of the Democratic Party that have alienated working-class voters. Beyond the issue of crime and funding the police, he will highlight problems on the border and the issue of immigration. He will run hard against China and free trade pacts generally.”
The emphasis on “woke” politics in left-leaning circles has clearly seen them increasingly move away from the everyday reality of voters of all backgrounds. They’re now being punished in the polls and ballot box because of it.
If your primary motivations as a voter are identity politics and climate alarmism, the left still has a lot to offer you. But if you’re more focused on the cost of living, jobs, infrastructure and good schools, the advantage now goes to right-leaning politicians. As the economic situation worsens, this will only prove more so.
The big question in the months and years ahead is whether progressives will realize they’re out of touch and course correct, or choose to stay on the same path.
Check out the Postmedia podcast Full Comment with Anthony Furey — where you’ll find engaging feature conversations with interesting Canadians, including recent episodes with Conservative leadership candidates Pierre Poilievre, Leslyn Lewis and Roman Baber.
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