Federal party leaders focus on wooing union heartland for Labour Day 

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hold court in Hamilton, Ont

click to enlarge THE CANADIAN PRESS/CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV - NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh makes an announcement in Toronto on Monday, September 2, 2019
  • THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
  • NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh makes an announcement in Toronto on Monday, September 2, 2019

OTTAWA — Wooing workers in Canada's union heartland was the focus for federal party leaders this Labour Day.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh were all headed to Hamilton, Ont.

Trudeau participated in the annual Labour Day parade there, while Singh will catch up with the participants when they wrap up their march at the annual Labour Day picnic.

Scheer is expected later in the day at the Labour Day classic football game between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger Cats.

Hamilton has a long-standing connection to Canada's union movement as the historic epicentre of the steel industry and related businesses. It was there in the 1870s that workers first agitated for the government to legislate shorter work days, an effort that eventually led to the first national union, albeit a short lived one.

Hamilton is also home to five federal ridings: the Liberals hold two, the NDP two and the Conservatives one, with the vote bouncing between all three parties in recent elections.

The riding of Hamilton Centre is expected to be closely fought between the NDP and the Liberals this election. David Christopherson, the NDP MP who has represented the area for over a decade, has retired, leaving his seat vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the NDP are hoping to take the riding of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek away from the Liberals by counting on support from steelworkers who have complained about their treatment at the hands of the current local Liberal MP.

Singh made a pitch to union workers Monday, promising that if his party forms government, they'd bring in legislation to end the ability of companies to replace striking workers with temporary employment. He also promised to immediately raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and ensure better protections for contract workers.

"This is what you get when you get a New Democrat," Singh said during an event Monday morning in Toronto before he headed to Hamilton. "You get someone on your side."

Singh was joining Labour Day events in Hamilton at the invitation of the local labour council, while Trudeau was invited by the local chapter of the Labourers International Union of North America, which represents construction workers, among other industries.

Trudeau was to march with union members, but an altercation at the start of the parade held them back and a decision was made to have Trudeau join further along.

In his statement for Labour Day, Trudeau noted his government's efforts to improve the lives of workers, pointing to money spent on skills training and legislation to protect collective bargaining rights, among other things.

Canadian workers are the backbone of the country's success, he said.

"We will always stand up for workers and their families, and make sure they have the support they need to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow."

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