Ah, the pleasant sound of furious backpedalling. Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, after a considerable amount of flipping and flopping during which time he even had a PC candidate booted for opposing his extremist anti-labour line, has finally abandoned his grand plan to give Ontario workers the right to work for less. Or so he says: “If we’re elected, we’re not going to do it. We won’t touch the Rand formula.”
Hudak had been running into a lot of discontent with his proposal to abolish Rand, including from his own party faithful. At the Ontario Progressive Conservative convention last Fall, a “right to work (for less)” policy was only narrowly approved. Meanwhile, it seems that the voters haven’t been particularly keen on his agenda.
“My own party,” said Hudak, “raised these measures as an option for Ontario, and when I talk to employers, to workers, some of them tell me that they do want right-to-work laws in Ontario, but not very many.” Losing the recent Niagara Falls by-election might well have been the last straw. Hence an embarrassing climb-down for a fellow who has made his anti-labour obsessions the focus of two years of campaigning.
But keep in mind that Hudak reportedly said the policy is not right at this time—a bit of a warning flag there, I think. And pay close attention to this as well: “Only 15 per cent of the private sector is unionized in Ontario [so] this right-to- work issue just doesn’t have the scope of power to fix the issues for the 100 per cent of manufacturing jobs threatened in Ontario.” No mention here of the public sector at all, where the unionization rate is around 70%—and this omission is no accident.
Hudak has a plan for the Ontario public service: wholesale privatization. He wants to force union workers to compete with non-union companies, with their inferior wages and benefits, to keep their jobs. This isn’t “right-to-work” legislation, but it would have exactly the same result: a race to the bottom of the wages and benefits barrel, with unions being an early casualty.
Hudak’s public change of heart is only an illusion, in other words—there is no change of direction. And we know that he is far from the only politician in the country with those self-same intentions. This is no time for any of us to let down our guard, if we want a better vision of Canada to prevail.