LILLEY: Poilievre a threat to Jagmeet Singh's NDP


Le vote des cols bleus canadiens pourrait très bien aller au PCC

I spotted an interesting headline the other day describing how the federal NDP has a plan to stop Pierre Poilievre from stealing the votes of union workers. The NDP should be worried because Poilievre’s presence as Conservative leader could hurt the New Democrats in more ways than one.


Not only is Poilievre pitching to blue collar workers, the NDP has to worry about the Liberals trying to steal, or “borrow” their voters to stop a Poilievre Conservative government. It happens every election when the Conservatives are a real threat, the pitch comes in that if “progressive voters” don’t unify behind the Liberals, the Conservative barbarians will come storming over the hills.

The tactic worked well for Justin Trudeau in the 2019 election when the Liberals went from a majority to a minority. It didn’t work as well in the 2021 vote but it’s likely to come back the next time we head to the polls.

The main threat to the NDP though might be the idea that blue collar, often unionized workers, see more in what the Conservatives have on offer that what the NDP puts forward. At this point, the NDP is dismissing that idea as being a real threat.

“I know the Conservatives will want to try to dress up in blue collar, but they have really always been on the side of big, wealthy corporations. So that’s the contrast that we’re going to draw and what we’re going to remind people of,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s chief of staff Jennifer Howard told the Toronto Star last week.

That statement ignores history both recent and distant.

The blue party’s history with blue collar voters

It was Sir John A. Macdonald who actually introduced and passed the bill to allow workers to unionize following a strike by print workers in Toronto. The strike and move to allow the unions were opposed by George Brown, the founder of the Liberal Party of Canada and the publisher of The Globe and Mail.

It was also a Conservative who established Labour Day in Canada when Prime Minister John Thompson issued a proclamation in July 1894. There have been plenty of examples since where conservative parties have done better for workers than Liberals or New Democrats.

Maybe Howard missed this, but Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives under Doug Ford just won a second, and bigger majority, while taking the endorsements of several trade unions. Ontario’s New Democrats lost nine seats between the 2018 and 2022 elections as well as roughly 800,000 votes.

Not all of those would be blue collar workers who shifted their vote but they did lose key ridings. Under a worker friendly but still very conservative labour policy led by Ford’s labour minister Monte McNaughton, the PC’s have shifted loyalty and votes.

Ford’s PCs won in NDP strongholds like Windsor, Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Timmins.

Poilievre isn’t the same man as Ford, but if he can connect with blue collar workers like Ford did, it could be a game changer politically. When he speaks of making it easier for workers to get ahead, to buy a home, to put food on the table, to allow key infrastructure projects to go ahead, Poilievre is speaking directly to working class people.

The federal NDP, like their Ontario counterparts, have become the party of no, the party that doesn’t believe in building the infrastructure projects that so many blue collar, unionized workers rely on. They have become the party of public sector unions – federal bureaucrats, teachers, health workers but not skilled trades workers.

If Poilievre can swing those workers, or enough of them, to his side while the Liberals convince the public sector workers and social justice warriors to vote red to stop Poilievre, the NDP could be decimated.

How the fight between Poilievre and Trudeau would play out remains to be seen.