When Unifor throws bouquets at Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, the prime minister refers to the largest private sector union’s president Jerry Dias as his friend.
But when pressed on appointing Unifor to the panel meting out $600 million in tax breaks to legacy media – for which Unifor represents some 12,000 workers – the labour organization is merely one of “a range of voices that represent different interests.”
Responding to criticism during Wednesday’s question period from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh over ratifying the renegotiated NAFTA – rather than “working with progressives” in the U.S. House of Representatives to improve the trade pact – Trudeau recited praise from various union brass.
“And of course our friend Jerry Dias at Unifor said this is a much better deal than the deal that was signed 24 years ago,” said Trudeau.
Seizing upon the PM’s remarks, Conservative MPs broke out into a brief “Jerry! Jerry!” chant while their House Leader Candice Bergen trotted out the party’s talking points.
“This shows how far the Liberal government will try to stack the deck before the next election,” Bergen said.
Dias and Unifor have made no secret of their disdain for federal Conservatives – on social media Dias has self-identified on Twitter as “the resistance” to Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and his party’s federal election ambitions.
And despite being among eight special interest groups chosen to appoint members to a panel that will decide which ‘Qualified Canadian Journalism Organizations’ receive tax breaks, the union claims on Facebook it “is patently and unequivocally false … that Unifor is somehow responsible how federal funds will be allocated”.
While Deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt asked that Trudeau remove Unifor because “it’s not an appropriate appointment to a panel that makes decisions on who gets journalistic money”, the prime minister attempted to frame Unifor’s inclusion as payback to Raitt’s party.
“To follow the Conservatives’ logic, anyone who has been attacked and mistreated by the Conservatives shouldn’t have a voice,” said Trudeau. “The fact that the Conservatives for many, many years unfairly attacked organized labour, attacked unions across the country is now something they’re complaining about.”
Throughout the prime minister’s tenure he has been prone to obfuscate via creative terminology; for example referring to illegal migration as ‘irregular’ and homegrown ISIS terrorists as ‘foreign travellers’.
During Wednesday’s question period Trudeau added a few more questionable references to his growing catalogue, describing news outlets who take federal tax breaks as “independent” and Unifor as pals when delivering praise, but just one of “a range of voices that represent different interests within the media” when picking benefactors of his government’s largesse.
Other entities asked to nominate one member to the federal panel also include News Media Canada, the Association de la presse francophone, the Quebec Community Newspaper Association, National Ethnic Press, Media Council of Canada, Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, Unifor and the Fédération nationale des communications.