Hamilton mayoral contender Horwath adds big labour endorsement


Published September 7, 2022 at 4:29 pm

Andrea Horwath

Andrea Horwath has collected an endorsement from a vaunted labour leader in the Hamilton mayoralty contest.

Horwath, who joined the race six weeks ago after resigning as the Ontario New Democratic Party leader and as Hamilton Centre’s provincial representative, has yet to announce a campaign platform. But her campaign has announced that she been endorsed by Patrick Dillon. Dillon spent 25 years as the business manager and secretary-treasurer of the influential Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario before his recent retirement.

“I have witnessed firsthand her tireless commitment to public service,” Dillon said in a statement released by the andrea4hamilton campaign to select Hamilton media outlets. “Whether as a city councillor, an MPP, or as Leader of the (Ontario) NDP, Andrea has never tired when it comes to fighting for the well-being of those she represents.

“… After 57 mayors, it’s time that Hamilton elected a woman for the first time — not just any woman, but someone who has the competence, strength and integrity to lead our great city,” Dillon added. “I know Andrea is all those things and more… (she) always comes to the table with bold ideas and creative solutions reached through collaboration and consultation,” Dillon added.

Hamilton is the second-largest census metropolitan area in Canada (after Vancouver) that has never had a woman serve as mayor. Calgary, Mississauga and Montréal are among the major cities where the top elected official is a woman.

The size of the retirement gala for Dillon might give a general idea of his clout in the building and construction trades. A party for him at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto in December 2021, per Daily Commercial News, drew a guest list of 700. It including Horwath, Ontario PC Party Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Ontario Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rocco Rossi and Hamilton-area federal cabinet minister Filomena Tassi.

“I am so thrilled and proud to receive this endorsement from Pat,” Horwath stated.

Horwath jumped into the mayor’s race on July 26. There are nine candidates on the ballot. Former mayor and member of Parliament Bob Bratina and former Hamilton chamber of commerce CEO Keanin Loomis were two of the first major candidates to join a race which officially includes former taxi drivers’ union head Ejaz Butt. Jim Davis, Paul Fromm, Solomon Ikhuiwu, Hermiz Ishaya and Michael Pattison.

Dillon was an top executive with the International Brother of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and was commissioner of the Hamilton Harbour Commission. He was also on the boards of an area health council and a local United Way chapter.

In the early 2010s, Torstar identified Dillon as “the force behind” the Working Families coalition, which rallied some of the biggest unions in the province to fund anti-Ontario PC Party third-party ads. After the Ontario Liberals were voted out of office, and into non-party status in 2018 (where they remain), Working Families’ ability to be an election influencer was curtailed.

In 2021, Premier Doug Ford used the notwithstanding clause — Section 33, the rarely-used Charter tool that allows legislatures to override portions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — in order to restore rules on third-party ad spending. That move was made days after Ontario Superior Court judge rejected the rules as unconstitutional.

A Western University political science professor, Cristine de Clercy, told CBC Toronto at that time that Ford’s Section 33 use had freedom-of-expression ramifications for “all the people and groups who are not actual political parties.”

There was no seat-count fallout for Ford and the Ontario PCs this spring, though. While voter turnout was a record-low 43.5 per cent, the Ontario PCs won 83 of 125 seats in Queen’s Park under the first-past-the-post system. The NDP formed official opposition after winning 31 seats. That was nine fewer than in 2018, which remains their best tally since the unexpected Bob Rae majority in 1990.

Fifty-four days passed between the election and Horwath publicly announcing she would resign as an MPP and run for mayor. In the interim, there was a seemingly coy “my heart is always in Hamilton” pronouncement in a statement congratulating outgoing Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

Horwath got her start in politics being thrice being elected the Ward 2 city councillor. She became an MPP in 2004, and led the Ontario NDP through four election campaigns.

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