Doug Ford and the PC Party are picking up another endorsement from a significant construction trade union.
The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers is giving Ford its full support, saying that he understands the need to have more people in the skilled trades and to get things built in Ontario.
“I’m proud to lend my support to Doug Ford and the Ontario PCs,” said Arnie Stadnick, international vice president of the union.
It’s not something I ever expected to see in my lifetime, and I say that as someone whose late father was a boilermaker. My earliest political memories are of the NDP orange signs on the front lawn of our house and those of other tradesmen that filled our neighbourhood on Hamilton’s east mountain.
The idea of a union like the Boilermakers, or LiUNA before them, endorsing a PC government in Ontario would have been unthinkable. Things have changed, though, and the NDP isn’t the party of labour or skilled trades any longer.
In the recent past, the Boilermakers not only opposed PC Party policies, they donated to groups like the Working Families Coalition to help get Liberal governments elected. That coalition has fallen apart without the support of unions in the building trades — many now see the Liberals and NDP as standing in the way of approving projects that get their members working.
Stadnick’s statement said that Doug Ford and the PC Party are “the best choice to address the province’s labour shortage by getting more people into the skilled trades.”
In a statement, Ford said that he’s honoured to have the support and remains committed to rebuilding the skilled trades sector.
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There is no chance that Ford or his party will be getting endorsed by the teachers’ unions or any labour group representing civil servants, but the people who work with their hands, who work outside and as Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says, “shower at the end of the day, not the start,” are looking at the PC government and liking what they see.
Much of the credit for this shift has to go to McNaughton who has won over many in the construction sector with what Stadnick calls his “open door policy.” McNaughton has been able to win over skeptical union leaders by simply listening to their concerns.
He hasn’t brought in radical labour policy that would be reminiscent of the NDP; he just stopped picking fights and started taking concerns seriously. That, and the government’s general support for building infrastructure, is why the PCs received the endorsement.
“Doug Ford, Monte McNaughton and the Ontario PCs understand the benefits of ensuring that the province not only maintains, but continually improves upon a supply chain that is largely serviced from within the province,” Stadnick said.
The Boilermakers aren’t the biggest union, just a few thousand members across the province, but their support is symbolic. It’s also not likely to be the last construction union to endorse the Ford government.
McNaughton has made no secret that he wants to make sure blue-collar workers see the PC Party as their natural political home. To accomplish that would be a sea change in provincial politics.
Conservative leaning parties elsewhere have tried to make that shift of blue-collar workers into their fold with varying levels of success.
Whether this support from construction unions grows or sticks around beyond this election remains to be seen. What is clear is that for the time being, the people who work on the front lines of building up Ontario see the Ford government as the best option for getting things built.
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