Evraz workers swinging from NDP to Conservatives over pipelines | Regina Leader-Post
Mike Day is the kind of New Democrat who keeps pro-pipeline bumper stickers stacked up on his desk.
Needless to say, he’s not having an easy time this election campaign.
“I kind of look at it as, we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t,” Day said.
That’s because he feels forced to choose between his job and his values. He’s not the only one at Evraz’s Regina steel mill feeling “torn every which way,” as he puts it. Day is president of United Steelworkers 5890, whose roughly 1,050 members are worried the party of labour could put them out of work.
“This time, our local does not feel we can support the federal NDP,” said Day.
It wasn’t always this way. Day said USW 5890 actively supported the federal NDP in 2015, sending members to campaign for Erin Weir in Regina—Lewvan.
He called Weir a “friend of steel.”
But Weir isn’t running this time, and the local is officially sitting out the campaign. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has come out against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and said he wouldn’t impose pipelines on provinces who don’t want them — something that sounds to many like a veto for Quebec and B.C.
Evraz workers make pipe, and management has warned that the end of Trans Mountain would force layoffs in Regina. Each member is left to resolve the tension between their class and their industry on their own, and Day thinks he knows which way they’re leaning.
“The membership might be a toss-up between the Liberals and the Conservatives right now,” he said. “The Conservative voice is a lot louder than the Liberal voice. They’re more boisterous.”
There are “vocal right wingers” in the local. But now even lifelong NDPers are jumping ship, according to Day. If he had to hazard a guess — based on meetings, conversations and social media posts — he’d put the Conservative majority as high as 85 per cent.
It could make a difference in Regina ridings, especially Weir’s former seat of Regina—Lewvan. Day thinks Weir did a “tremendous job” standing up for steel workers, but then he was booted from the party over harassment allegations and barred from running again under the NDP banner.
Now Weir sees a party that looks different from the one he joined.
“I do think that the federal NDP leadership’s opposition to any and all proposed pipelines is a challenge in Regina—Lewvan and across the province,” Weir told the Leader-Post in a recent interview.
He said it puts local candidates in “a tough position.”
“I think that steel workers at Evraz would like to vote for a pro-labour party,” said Weir. “But at the same time they would of course like to vote for a representative who is going to advocate for their jobs and for their industry.”
The man who’s now trying to hold Regina—Lewvan for the NDP said he’ll do precisely that. Jigar Patel boasted about the party’s plan for green jobs and what it will do to support workers in the energy sector.
“I always believe the climate change plan helps Canadian workers, no matter what, and our plan will create more than 300,000 good jobs in all communities,” said the candidate.
But Patel wouldn’t commit to voting against his party if it ever got the chance to block the Trans Mountain expansion. He argued that the NDP “is not against the expansion of anything” and that “existing jobs will be safe.”
Day doesn’t believe it. Singh’s comments seem clear. He’s called on Trudeau to “abandon” the expansion.
“That’s our job, that’s the majority of our work, and we know where the federal party stands on that,” Day said, accusing Singh of “actively campaigning against our jobs.”
The federal party has tilted “way too far to the left” on environmental issues by Day’s standards, to the point where he feels it’s leaving behind the working class.
“It’s a strict attack on well-paying jobs that do a lot for the economy,” he said.
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The choices feel impossible. Day believes Evraz steelworkers got a hearing from the Liberals. Justin Trudeau, Regina—Wascana MP Ralph Goodale and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland have all visited the Regina mill. But Day wasn’t always happy with how they dealt with U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs. He isn’t so sure about the carbon tax.
Worst of all, he fears a Liberal minority would rely on the NDP and the Greens — putting pipeline expansion at risk.
As for the Conservatives, Day told them just how he feels. He recently got a visit from Conservative candidate Michael Kram. They agreed on pipelines, but little else.
“I said, I can’t in good conscience put your sign on my lawn,” Day recalls.
He believes he’d be fighting a Conservative government “every step of the way” on issues like workers rights and health and safety.
“We’ve got the Conservatives, who are fully for the pipelines and everything we do as a job, but then we know where they stand on the working class — attacking workers any chance they get,” he explained.
But Day isn’t ruling either party out. He’s met with Goodale frequently, and has requested a meeting with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
He might not take a lawn sign, but he’s keeping the door open.
This content was originally published here.