Working families scored big wins in Canada’s federal elections on Monday – and the IBEW held an especially important seat in Winnipeg’s Elmwood-Transcona riding.
|Blaikie addresses attendees of the First District Progress Meeting in Vancouver in August. Paul Dolsen, executive assistant to the First District Vice President, is to Blaikie’s right. Matthew Wayland, the IBEW’s governmental affairs director in Canada, is to his left.
That’s where Winnipeg, Manitoba, Local 2085 member Daniel Blaikie was re-elected to the House of Commons. Blaikie, 35, a New Democratic Party MP and the only IBEW member in Parliament, beat Conservative Party challenger Lawrence Toet by 8 percent in a race that was expected to be much tighter.
“He’s a star in the making,” Local 2085 Business Manager Russell Shewchuk said. “I firmly believe that one day he will be the leader of the NDP Party, and I’ve told him that on several occasions.
“If anyone meets Daniel personally, they can tell immediately he’s a great person. He’s very articulate. He’s an electrician by trade with several [university] degrees. He gets up and speaks out on issues [during Parliament sessions] probably more than any other MP in the opposition.”
International President Lonnie R. Stephenson congratulated Blaikie on the win.
“It’s important to have a seat at the table, and I’m confident Daniel Blaikie will continue to be a fierce advocate for trade unions and all of labour,” Stephenson said. “He’s shown it’s possible to defend the interests of working families while also addressing other important threats to his constituents’ well-being. Our brothers and sisters throughout Canada will be well served by him in the years to come.”
First District Vice President Thomas Reid noted that Blaikie has been “a proud union member who has always supported his IBEW brothers and sisters.”
“He has spoken at several of our district progress meetings, including when we met in Vancouver this past August,” Reid added. “Our members worked hard, volunteering countless hours to help him get elected in 2015 and 2019, and we are pleased his constituents in Elmwood-Transcona sent him back to Parliament. We look forward to working with him for years to come.”
Toet was the incumbent in 2015 when Blaikie beat him by just 61 votes, the closest race in that year’s federal election. That and the expectation the NDP would struggle in this year’s election had some observers thinking Blaikie was in for a close race.
|Blaikie, second from right, is a New Democratic Party MP stands with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to his right. They are joined by First District Vice President Thomas Reid, far left, and Wayland.
Election night was tough for the NDP nationally. The party lost 15 seats overall and will have just 24 members when Parliament returns to Ottawa. But that didn’t trickle down to Blaikie, who said he won because the residents of Elwood-Transcona – a primarily working-class riding on Winnipeg’s northeast side – saw that he was responding to their needs.
“Gratitude is the main feeling,” Blaikie told the CBC.
The ruling Liberal Party lost its majority but still won the most seats, meaning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will remain in office but now must call on opposition parties for support in getting legislation passed. That will give Blaikie an even more important role, Shewchuk said.
“We have an NDP party that can prop up the Liberals on tougher issues where they will need the support,” he said.
Blaikie’s win was part of a strategy employed by the IBEW and other unions in Canada that urged members to vote for the best candidates, regardless of party, to avoid a Conservative takeover.
Under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservatives passed major legislation that harmed unions and working families during their nearly 10 years in power.The Conservatives were voted out when the Liberals won a majority in 2015. Andrew Scheer, the Conservatives’ current leader, is farther to the right than Harper on some issues and Canadian union leaders thought another Conservative majority would prove disastrous.
Trudeau’s government has followed through on most of the promises it made four years ago to strengthen unions and organized labour. Blaikie and other NDP members now will be needed to help build on that success.
“Dan understands that business, the environment and jobs go hand-in-hand in this country,” Shewchuk said. “We have to build on that now.”