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                                       Right To Work And Doug Ford:

                   Tim Hudak Clears The Decks Before Election 

  By Susanna Kelley

 Tim Hudak's withdrawal of Right To Work as a centrepiece of his party's campaign platform is the smartest move he could have made going into the expected spring election.

 Ending up with a situation where Doug Ford will neither run for the Tories nor be  involved in the campaign, and having Ford still speak well of the party, is the PC leader's second smartest.

Mr. Hudak's moves, professionally and surgically executed within 24 hours at week's end, were no accident.

Rather, what we saw was the leader clearing the decks of two vote-alienating issues prior to the expected spring election.

After almost two years of going down a radical right-wing political path that was scaring even his own caucus, Mr. Hudak deep-sixed the ferociously divisive and politically dangerous Right To Work policy.

In a speech to the Toronto Regional Board of Trade, Mr. Hudak clearly repudiated the same policy he'd been publicly backing.

He was clear.

"If we're elected, we're not going to do it - we're not going to change the so-called Rand Formula."

The PC leader said neither employers nor employees wanted "Right To Work".

"When I talk to employers, and to workers, some of them tell me they want right to work laws. But not many."

And contradicting his previous position that "right to work" laws would bring jobs to Ontario, Mr. Hudak now says they wouldn’t.

"After all, only 15 per cent of private sector workers in Ontario are unionized today. Most of them aren't getting ahead, but neither are the 85 per cent that are non-union."

"This "right to work" issue just doesn't have the scope of the power to fix the issues that are threatening 100 per cent of the manufacturing jobs in Ontario," Mr. Hudak said.

(One note: Before Mr. Hudak did a U-turn on the policy, he continued to misrepresent current labour laws, saying Right To Work would make union membership optional.

"The (Right To Work) arguments make sense - why should anyone be forced to join a union they don't support?"

In fact, as has been pointed out to his party many times, the Rand Formula has never made union membership mandatory.

It has made the paying of dues mandatory if a person accepts the wages and benefit bargained for him/her by the union. Justice Rand said in 1946 that his compromise ruling would prevent what labour calls "free riding.")

There were just too many opposed to the policy to keep it.

Mr. Hudak was also facing a very unhappy caucus, worried about their re-election should the party go ahead with Right To Work as a central campaign plank.

Others in the party, including PC icon and former Ontario Premier Bill Davis, were concerned about Mr. Hudak moving too far right.

On top of all that, Mr. Hudak had managed to unite the entire labour movement of the province against his party, including the Ontario Provincial Police Association, which usually supports the Tories. Union members would undoubtedly have poured much time and effort into defeating him at the polls, as their backs were to the wall with their very existence under threat from Mr. Hudak.

Those elements were too much to fight along with the Liberals and the NDP.

On the second issue, Doug Ford, Mr. Hudak and Conservative officials spoke to him last week and obviously persuaded him to step away from his previously stated ambition to run for the PCs this election.

Whatever they said to him - and it must have had a lot of potency - it worked beautifully.

Not only did Mr. Ford step back from running, he spoke respectfully of Mr. Hudak and the party to reporters.

Then, in a move that privately delighted many PCs, he promised neither he nor his brother, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, would be working for the PCs in this election.

Those were amazing statements to elicit from two brothers who are loud, angry and vociferous about anyone who stands in the way of their ambitions.

When it comes to Right To Work and the Fords, some in his own party say Mr. Hudak has moved too late, that the damage has been done and the party has lost badly needed supporters.

But smart leaders know that the public is quite forgiving to politicians who admit a mistake and climb down on an unpopular policy.

What it doesn't forgive is those who barge ahead even though they know it is against the wishes of the voters.

Those are the leaders that fail come election time.

And although recent polls have shown the PCs pulling slightly ahead, the party's vote is very concentrated, making vote pile-ups common. The Tories need to widen their support, not narrowcast to their own base.

It has been the NDP that has reaped the benefit of swing voters angry with the scandal-plagued Liberals in four of the last seven by-elections.  That party is on a roll.

Both the Liberals and the NDP say despite Mr. Hudak's turnaround, the PCs are still the party that will slash and burn. 

But for now, Mr. Hudak's climb-downs have taken several powerful political grenades - the "scary anti-union boogeyman with a hidden agenda" and "the leader who associates with a family involved in crack cocaine, heroin and gun-toting criminals" - out of the opposition parties' cache of election weapons.

And that can't but help the Tories come voting day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : February 24, 2014

View all of Susanna Kelley's columns
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