New or­ga­ni­za­tion vows to be heard

Work­ing On­tario Women hopes to avoid a Trumpian out­come in next year’s vote

Toronto Star - - CANADA - ROBERT BENZIE QUEEN’S PARK BU­REAU CHIEF

Call it the WOW fac­tor.

A well-fi­nanced, new or­ga­ni­za­tion called Work­ing On­tario Women (WOW) is set to launch a new ad blitz to pre­vent a Trumpian out­come in next June’s On­tario elec­tion.

Bankrolled by the pow­er­ful Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union, which has two mil­lion mem­bers in North Amer­ica and has sup­ported the gov­ern­ing Lib­er­als in the past, WOW will be ad­ver­tis­ing on tele­vi­sion and on­line in the com­ing days.

It ap­pears to be mod­elled on, but sep­a­rate from, the Work­ing Fam­i­lies coali­tion of unions that has helped swing the past four On­tario elec­tions to the Lib­er­als with ads at­tack­ing the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives.

While cam­paign fi­nanc­ing rules im­posed in the wake of a Star probe have placed spend­ing lim­its on so­called third-party groups such as Work­ing Fam­i­lies, new or­ga­ni­za­tions such as WOW are spring­ing up.

“What hap­pened in the States was the cat­a­lyst re­ally for putting to­gether this or­ga­ni­za­tion,” said WOW’s Me­gan Lo­rius, re­fer­ring to Don­ald Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“That is a great cau­tion­ary tale and (I hope) that peo­ple are pay­ing at­ten­tion in Canada,” Lo­rius said Thurs­day. “We don’t want to be com­pla­cent our­selves; we can get into our own bub­ble and think, ‘Oh, it won’t hap­pen to us.’ We don’t want to make that same mis­take here.”

To that end, WOW’s ads will urge vot­ers to vote for pro­gres­sive can­di­dates who “el­e­vate women’s is­sues and ad­vo­cate for women’s rights.”

Lo­rius said the non-par­ti­san group is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about pro­tect­ing a wo­man’s right to choose (whether to carry a baby to term), even though all the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties sup­port abor­tion rights.

“Women un­der­stand what the po­ten­tial is for los­ing some rights in the next elec­tion,” said Lo­rius.

That has resur­faced as an On­tario po­lit­i­cal is­sue be­cause when Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Pa­trick Brown was a Con­ser­va­tive MP in 2012, he voted in favour of a mo­tion to re­open the abor­tion de­bate.

Although Brown ac­tively courted so­cial con­ser­va­tives dur­ing his suc­cess­ful 2015 cam­paign for the Tory lead­er­ship, he has since changed his stance and is now pro-choice.

To un­der­score that, the Con­ser­va­tives will not al­low any such di­vi­sive so­cial is­sues to be de­bated at their pol­icy con­ven­tion in Toronto on Nov. 25.

“Any pol­icy that at­tempts to limit a wo­man’s right to choose or the abil­ity of same-sex cou­ples to marry are off lim­its. Pe­riod,” said Brown, in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press ear­lier this week.

Lib­eral Deputy Premier Deb Matthews warned vot­ers should be wary.

“You can’t run from your record,” Matthews said of Brown’s past votes in the Com­mons op­pos­ing abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage.

The anti-abor­tion group Cam­paign Life Coali­tion ex­pressed out­rage that so­cial is­sues will not be up for dis­cus­sion at the PC con­fer­ence next month.

“How can eco­nomic con­ser­va­tives, demo­cratic con­ser­va­tives or any mem­ber of the vot­ing pub­lic, for that mat­ter, trust a man so will­ing to cheat his own mem­ber­ship out of a fair vote?” said Jack Fon­seca, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s po­lit­i­cal strate­gist. “Just imag­ine how cor­rupt he could be­come with the power of the premier­ship.”

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