Conservatives Need Union Support

November 1st, 2016 | J. Hodgson
conservative union support

Conservatives and unions have traditionally been hostile toward one another. This needs to change if the Conservative Party is to build a new coalition in the post-Harper era. Here is a four-point outline for Conservatives to rethink their anti-union bias.

#1. Union power is fading

Union jobs have been on the decline for about forty years. There’s a variety of reasons for this that I won’t address in this piece, but the reality of the decline is unlikely to stop. This has created desperation in union circles. So when Conservatives vilify unions, the response is likely to be far more strident and defensive. Conservatives need to dial down the anti-union rhetoric. Unions aren’t what they used to be and elevating them with heavy handed tactics only increases hostility.

Rather than vilify, Conservatives need to reach out. By acknowledging the positive elements of unions, the Conservative party will position itself as an ally rather than an antagonist. Make no mistake though...the union officials will still despise Conservatives...but their hatred will be undermined by Conservative actions and their members will get the message.

Why does this matter?

#2. Union members aren’t all leftists

Many union members hate their unions. Many union members are natural allies of everything conservatives stand for. Every office has the zany leftist and every job site has the kooky Communist, but most union positions are filled with very normal people with common-sense principles and traditional values. Many of these folks have a healthy skepticism of big business and see the NDP as the party of the little guy. Conservatives can easily steal these NDP votes, by jettisoning their country club image and appealing more aggressively to the workers rather than the management.

How do you do this?

#3. Appeal to the interests of labour

This is a very anti-Harper approach, but it’s necessary in order to succeed in areas that need success. By supporting workers and focusing on their contributions, the Conservative Party can build partnerships for economic action against the anti-development forces of the "New Left". This is how Christy Clark won the 2013 BC election. NDP leader Adrian Dix flip-flopped on the Kinder Morgan pipeline and lost the blue collar vote. By courting the New Left at the expense of the union folks, the NDP lost the election and sent traditional centre-left NDP voters into the arms of Clark’s Liberals. This should be the master-plan for the Conservative Party of Canada.


#4. The New Left is dangerous to the Old Left and Conservatives

In the old days, unions used to fight big business for a larger share of the economic pie. The really ambitious left-wingers wanted nationalization of industry, but most realistic leaders just wanted a fair deal. The big primary and secondary industries in Canada...the mines, mills, factories and plants across the nation, were perpetual tug-of-wars between business and labour. Ultimately, however, there was no question as to whether or not any of this should even exist in the first place.

That’s the debate within the New Left. Should any of it exist? Should we just shut it all down (in order to stop global warming)?

The New Left is so unreasonable, unrealistic and dangerous to our well-being that Conservatives promoting capitalism and free markets and business have now become natural allies of the old left, promoting labour, unions and workers rights.

At least we all agree that economic development is a good thing.

The New Left doesn’t.

Put aside the old divides. The 21st century has new demands and challenges that are much different from the Thatcher/Reagan era of conservatism. Stop the union attacks. Broaden the conservative coalition by going after the union vote...especially the blue-collar industry-union vote. By building relationships, making some concessions and veering toward some populist (although perhaps not orthodoxly conservative) policies, the Conservatives can easily mobilize another voter wing for 2019.

Have you voted yet? Vote in the Conservative Leadership tracker here.