One might think so after hearing Hargrove speak at last week’s Ontario Economic Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The union leader heaped praise on McGuinty for helping out the auto industry and for maintaining good relations with labour in the province. He drew a contrast between McGuinty’s approach and that of Premier Gordon Campbell in British Columbia, scene of a bitter wildcat teachers’ strike.
“The approach you are taking causes you to stand out,” said Hargrove in thanking McGuinty for his speech to the summit. “I am absolutely honoured to thank you today.”
Asked afterward whether this should be interpreted as an endorsement of McGuinty and the Liberals, Hargrove said: “I’m not backing anybody at this point. It’s too early. Ask me later.”
The CAW traditionally supports the New Democrats, but the relationship between the union and the NDP has been rocky since the social contract was imposed on the province by Bob Rae’s government in the early 1990s.
In the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, the CAW contributed financially to the NDP, but Hargrove urged his members and other trade unionists to “vote strategically” by backing the candidate with the best chance of unseating the Conservatives. In most ridings, of course, this approach benefited the Liberal candidate.
Hargrove’s praise of McGuinty last week suggests he might go even further in 2007 and explicitly support the Liberals in the election campaign.
It helps, of course, that he personally loathes Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton and has long lambasted him as not left wing enough.
Hampton, who despises Hargrove, warned Buzz should be careful of who he makes a political bedfellow.