On the same day last week when the Ontario legislature closed up shop for the summer, across town unions and social justice groups were plotting strategy for the next provincial election. The meeting at Ontario Federation of Labour HQ involved "The People's Charter," a draft wish list -- including a $12.50 minimum wage, 35-hour workweek and 18,400 units of government-funded housing a year -- the final version of which will be presented to candidates who will be asked to pledge their support for the platform.
Before the last provincial election, all the talk was about "strategic voting," backing the Liberal or NDPer with the best chance of beating the Tory candidate. When the People's Charter process began, there were signs that it would turn into Strategic Voting 2. But times have changed.
"I'm less concerned about the label of the various people who occupy seats at Queen's Park and more concerned that whoever is there will acknowledge the issues that have been set out (in the document)," says housing activist Michael Shapcott.
Adds OFL political education director Ross McClellan, who took part in last week's meeting, "Strategic voting isn't going to happen this time. Some of the impetus to defeat the Tories at all costs is gone, and the other reality is that the Liberals have not adopted a very progressive platform, unlike David Peterson in 1985."
Of course, McClellan is an NDP warhorse like OFL president Wayne Samuelson, so you might expect them to say that. Still, Samuelson says his partisan loyalties don't necessarily put him in any conflict of interest.
"I don't think it's a problem yet. I recognize it could be. I've been upfront with people. Everyone knows my politics. But ultimately the NDP is going to have to deal with what we come up with." (Party leader Howard Hampton has been campaigning for a $7.50 minimum wage.)
Says one non-partisan activist on the possibility that the party loyalties of others could warp the project, "If this doesn't go the way we want it to, then we'll be very vocal."