Here’s what Conservative leadership hopefuls have to say about labour

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March feature for This Magazine


Kevin O’Leary, the Boston-based former CBC personality said that if he were ever elected, he would make unions illegal. He is one of 14 people running to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.

This was presumably before he had a plan to enter politics. He has since told the Toronto Star that he didn’t really mean that. He’d negotiate with unions, not outlaw them.

Whether or not O’Leary was lying then, lying now, or has honestly had a change of heart about unions hardly matters. The Conservatives have had a hostile relationship with organized labour and it’s unlikely to change, regardless of who is elected.

Among the 14 candidates, there is a troubling convergence of policy and ideas. This is most evident when the candidates talk about the economy.

“The economy” is many things. It’s industry: resource extraction, construction, retail, agrifood, and banks. It’s health care and education. It’s public infrastructure, public service, the arts, and telecommunications. In capitalism, the economy is everything: from our access to food and shelter, to our individual sense of meaning and self-identity.

The economy is certainly a favoured discussion topic among right-wing politicians. But workers? Not so much.


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