Steelworkers Got Active to Help Elect NDP in Manitoba Election
WINNIPEG, MB - Last week's NDP victory in the Manitoba election was also a victory for District 3's political action program and its Steelworkers Vote campaign. The union saw a high level of membership support for the NDP and an increase in rank and file activity in ridings around the province.
Premier Gary Doer led the party to an unprecedented third consecutive majority, winning 36 of 57 seats, up one seat from last election. The NDP captured 48 per cent of the popular vote while the Conservatives and Liberals took 38 and 12 per cent respectively.
"We congratulate Gary Doer and the Manitoba NDP on their historic victory," says District 3 Director Steve Hunt. "The election win is an inspiration to Steelworkers all over Western Canada."
Hunt also commends USW area councils and local unions that worked to get the vote out. Steelworker volunteers worked strategically in various areas where the union's membership in concentrated.
Those areas included Winnipeg (with 31 ridings), Thompson, The Pas, Selkirk, Flin Flon and two ridings in Brandon. Key coordinators included Les Ellsworth and Gloria Jacobs in Thompson; Chuck Woods, Joyce Delaronde-Cable and Marcel Kozak in Flin Flon; Chris Parlow in The Pas; David Zirk in Winnipeg/Selkirk; Dave Sauer in Winnipeg; Ed Hinsburg and Cory Szczepanski in Brandon; and Brandon's Liz Elliot who worked in the south of the province and in Winnipeg.
During the campaign the union ran a voter identification program and encouraged volunteers to take part in the Steelworkers Vote Campaign. USW workplaces were leafleted with the campaign materials and voter canvassing took place.
As examples of campaign activities, NDP candidate Steve Ashton (incumbent Minister of Intergovernmental affairs and Minister Responsible for Emergency Measures) greeted USW members at the CVRD Inco Thompson plant gate. In Flin Flon, incumbent MLA Gerrard Jennison was plant gating outside the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting operation. And in The Pas Local 1-324, incumbent Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Rosann Wowchuck was invited to tour the Louisiana Pacific oriented strandboard plant in Minitonas.
On E-Day Steve Hunt sent a voice mail to identified supporters, encouraging them to cast their ballots, while union members were out in the field, reminding the membership to vote.
"Our members know that Doer and the NDP have made progress for working families," says Hunt. "Their record in office speaks for itself."
The government has cut waiting times for health care services. Manitobans get cardiac by-pass surgery faster than in any other province.
Among the NDP's other many achievements since taking office in 1999 are the creation of 6,500 jobs per year, increasing the minimum wage by 33 per cent, cutting child poverty by one-third, lowering child care costs, hydro rates, car insurance and gasoline taxes and the cutting and freezing of tuition fees.
"It was great to see our members take a lot of interest and participate in the election," says Lisa Blanchette, the USW's national political action coordinator. "There is a good core group of activists in the province which can help expand our activities for the next federal election."
District 3 staff rep Scott Lunny says the Manitoba campaign was an opportunity to bring experienced and novice Steelworkers campaigners together.
"It was a campaign that helped further sow the seeds of political activism in the province," he adds. "Our district's political action program is making advances and is increasingly able to respond to campaigns on provincial and federal scenes."
The Pas Local 1-324 president Chris Parlow, who attended a debriefing session here after the victory said it all: "During this election, our members felt they were part of something. They gained some insight into the role that workers play in getting the right people elected – people who understand their issues and stand up for them."
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