From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Sun Dec 24 06:36:52 2000
Ontario NDP leader goes on offensive against CAW president Hargrove
CP, 21 December 2000
TORONTO (CP) -- The ongoing feud between one of Canada's most powerful union figures and the ailing political party that once drew its life force from organized labour is raging again in Ontario. But this time, Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton wasn't waiting for Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove to fire the first volley.
Hargrove -- a longtime supporter of the NDP who in recent years has become one of its most vociferous critics -- has "no credibility" and isn't worth worrying about, Hampton said Thursday. "At every opportunity he either tries to embarrass, to criticize or to undermine," Hampton told a news conference to mark the end of the Ontario legislature's fall sitting.
Hampton even compared Hargrove's political tactics to those of Tom Long, a veteran Ontario Conservative backroom strategist who ran for the Canadian Alliance leadership earlier this year. Long was trying to recruit supporters away from the Tories for his new political cause, and Hargrove is trying to do the same thing to the NDP, said Hampton.
"Someone who looks for every opportunity to attack you, to embarrass you, to undermine you is not somebody you should be listening to," he said. "New Democrats should be spending more time talking to the real people out there about real issues."
Bad blood has been brewing between Hargrove and the NDP ever since early 1999, when the union leader began to publicly speculate about strategic voting in an effort to oust Ontario's Conservative government. The idea was to encourage voters to support whichever candidate had the best chance of defeating the incumbent Tory, regardless of their political stripe.
But the effort failed, and the New Democrats were reduced to just nine seats in Ontario, forced to negotiate a deal with the Liberals and Tories in order to retain official party status.
After the federal NDP was reduced to just 13 seats in the November election, earning its lowest share of the popular vote in decades, Hargrove trained his sights on leader Alexa McDonough.
He urged the party to return to its leftist roots and consider a new name and new leader.
McDonough has defended her performance and will leave the leadership question up to the membership at a conference next fall. Hampton's unprovoked attack Thursday seemed to come as a moderate surprise to Hargrove, who dismissed it as the ravings of a distant political cousin.
"Quite frankly, he's part of the problem," Hargrove said. "Howard knows we're in a crisis, but he doesn't want to admit it." The party needs to find a way to rebuild itself with new ideas that excite members and voters alike in order to claw its way back to credibility, he said.
The "traditional constituency" has no interest in "watered down" NDP policies any more. "We've got to get back to the old ways get back to recognizing who we are and who we represent. We have a lack of leadership and a lack of vision, at the provincial level and the federal level as well."
Hampton suggested Thursday that Hargrove is angling for a career in politics, but the union leader heartily dismissed the idea.
"I've been so clear on this: I have no interest in running as federal or provincial leader or to be a member of the federal or provincial (parties)." Hargrove has been a member of the party for 35 years and "has no plans to change," he added.