TORONTO - It’s hard to score goals if you’re sitting on the bench. Even if you are fortunate enough to get playing time, the opposition puts its elbows up to ensure you don’t become a threat. Situation normal.
Even so, Steven Del Duca’s selection as Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) must have produced the shortest political honeymoon on record. The Labourers International Union of North America (LIUNA), head- quartered in Washington D.C., used social media to launch a scathing invective the nature of which is usually associated with language employed by scorned lovers.
Del Duca has work to do. LIUNA used to be a stalwart of the OLP and is a darling of some erstwhile Federal Liberal MPs. Its role in the construction industry of the GTHA is undisputed.
LIUNA claims 75,000 members in Ontario, over 60,000 in Local 183 alone. It has a sizeable pension fund and is a builder/investor in projects located in Ontario and beyond - as far away as Turkey. Its motto is “Feel the Power”.
LIUNA was aggrieved that a labour measure hidden in the bowels of the last Liberal Omnibus Budget Bill in 2018 might erode its territorial rights to some government procurement contracts in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. In the interests of balanced reporting, the Corriere looked into the issue.
Without judging the merits of the Bill or the number of union members affected, the timing stunk – only a few inhabitants of la-la-land in the former Premier’s office expected that the Budget Bill would survive the election in June, 2018.
LIUNA stuck to its claim that the manoeuvre was deliberately designed to advantage its rival, the numerically smaller Carpenters Union – Local 27. Mr. Del Duca, a protégé of former MPP Greg Sorbara, had worked as its Government Relations advisor prior to jumping into the political fray himself, some 10 years ago. In a display of its motto, it ordered its workers o™ their jobs sites by the thousands to rally in protest before the Legislature and to offer their support to Doug Ford, now Premier, and to the candidate who opposed and went on to defeat Del Duca in the election. His was a fate shared by all but six other Liberals in Ontario. Ironically, Del Duca’s infrastructure initiatives (highway extensions, railway stations, hospitals, schools) benefited members of LIUNA most directly.
Premier Ford did not cancel any of them - even as he cancelled other Liberal measures in the Omnibus Bill, including construction specific entities like the College of Trades.
The skies are no longer as bright for Ford’s government as they ap- peared in 2018, yet LIUNA’s leaders chose to personalize and publicize their antipathy for Del Duca and the Provincial branch of the Liberal Party on which they rely. Tweets coming out of the Canadian President’s o ce claimed that Carpenter’s Local 27 had now effectively become the OLP.
The race for top spot relied heavily on grassroots organization that saw Del Duca’s team gather close to 60% of signed members.
If LIUNA’s lament reflects reality, then it suggests an inevitable conclusion that Local 27 outhus- tled Local 183. I don’t think either claim can withstand the test of scrutiny. Nonetheless, Del Duca is not the only one who needs to reach out and repair.
Someone in the communications branch of LIUNA may wish to restructure messages of organizational strength that begin with a subtext: “we’ve got the power but the other guy skated us off the ice”.
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