Saturday, October 31, 2020

On implausible impersonators

Other commentators have taken note of Erin O'Toole's attempt to co-opt the language of labour unions in an effort to portray himself as less hostile than his predecessors.

There's certainly reason to be concerned about this being yet another area where right-wing leaders pretend to be sympathetic on fundamental issues while planning to do as much damage as possible if given the chance. But in assessing how credible voters should find O'Toole's pitch, let's note that his attacks on unions aren't even limited to what would be expected from a garden-variety Con MP.

It's true, as others have noted, that O'Toole voted in favour of the Cons' attacks on labour rights in bills C-377 and C-525. But it's particularly worth noting that he did so gratuitously in at least the former case: while five Con MPs voting against intrusions into union operations in the third-reading vote which passed C-377, O'Toole wasn't one of them.

Moreover, one can tell what O'Toole really thinks about unions from what he's chosen to say beyond the limitations on a single-bill vote.

On that front, he's dismissed as "not sincere" advocacy and activism on behalf of veterans based solely on the fact that union support was involved. 

He went out of his way to fight the the legislation which ultimately repealed C-377 and C-525.

And in launching his leadership campaign, he's brought out the "union boss" trope (aimed at Unifor's Jerry Dias) as part of his fund-raising efforts.

So O'Toole's idea of an acceptable union is one with no leadership, no role in advocating for people in the community at large, and needless barriers in its way if it tries to get certified or represent its members. 

Needless to say, solidarity on those stunted terms would do nothing but further enrich the O'Toole class of elites and corporate owners. And there should be a teaching opportunity in contrasting O'Toole's impoverished idea of labour against what unions can actually accomplish.

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