NUPGE's 13th Leadership School: "Strategically taking the fight to them"

Thinking strategically during challenging times was a central theme of NUPGE's 2011 Leadership Development School.

Keene (26 August 2011) - The participants in the 13th annual Leadership Development School of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) have proven the depth and wealth of experience and expertise that exists within the union and the broader labour movement.

School participants tackled the challenging week-long course by engaging in debate about a range of issues facing unions today. The school was held August 20-26 at the Elmhirst's Resort on the north shore of Rice Lake, just outside Peterborough.

This year, 30 senior elected officers and staff from NUPGE and its Component unions attended. Included in the group were two participants and presenters from international unions – UNIONS New South Wales (AUS) and UNISON (U.K.).

Strong leadership through difficult times

Every year, the school's core focus are lectures by Elaine Bernard, executive director of the Trade Union Program at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. During a series of six seminars, participants focus on two central themes: leadership, organizational change and strategic choices for union leaders.

Presentations by James Clancy, NUPGE National President and Larry Brown, National Secretary-Treasurer as well as James Laxer, one of Canada’s leading progressive political thinkers, examined the most recent economic crisis and the important role that government and public services must play in ensuring a sustainable recovery.

The continuing economic downturn and the country's slow recovery demonstrates exactly how and why we must work together to preserve the caring fabric of our country. As NUPGE's major campaign, All Together Now!, has demonstrated over the last year, this is best articulated through our support for public services, paid for through the public tax system, to directly impact and improve the equality of citizens.

Clancy concentrated on three major challenges facing our members:

  • the need to take the fight to those who wish to dismantle our country and the values it exists;
  • the need to reach and involve every member of our union; and
  • to force the labour movement to get on board to promote and defend quality public services, public sector jobs on the basis of a fair tax agenda.

"On every level, at every opportunity labour needs to be proactive, saying no to concessionary bargaining, cuts to services and to the argument that a rich country like Canada cannot afford to provide quality public services," Clancy told participants. "We need to link the public to the providers of the services we rely on, linking their interests to our interests, because they are connected." 

James Laxer, Professor, Political Science, York University
Libby Davies, NDP Deputy Leader, MP Vancouver East, James Clancy, National NUPGE President, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, NDP MP Scarborough-Rouge River
Armine Yalnizyan, CCPA Senior Economist Paul Champ, Senior Partner, Champ & Associates


Other presenters included:

  • Elaine Mejia, Senior Program Associate, Demos, a U.S.-based institute that promotes the value of public services;
  • Duncan Cameron, adjunct professor, Political Science, Simon Fraser University; and
  • Ian Capstick, owner/operator MediaStyle

The group also heard from NDP Opposition health critic Libby Davies and education critic Rathika Sitsabaiesan concerning the upcoming federal / provincial negotiations for renewed federal transfer payment agreements for health, education and social services. Their presentation struck an emotional chord with the students as they honoured the late-Jack Layton. They committed to celebrate his legacy by campaigning to ensure Canadians recognize the importance of ongoing significant investment in these important public services.

Graduate numbers continue to climb

Clancy noted that over the past 13 years there have been over 300 graduates of the Leadership Development School.

"The last several years have been a great struggle for our members due to the continuing economic recovery and the frontal attacks on workers,” Clancy said.

“Our union leaders must have the tools to understand and strategically respond to new opportunities and deal with mounting challenges. This school is intended to help facilitate this process. I am continually impressed by the thoughtfulness and commitment of our participants. Our union benefits from the intelligence and energy of these trade unionists who play a leadership role in the National Union and our Components.”


Front row: James Clancy (NUPGE), Libby Davies (NDP), Rathika Sitsabaiesan (NDP), Deb Duffy (NUPGE)

Second row: Sandi Blancher (OPSEU), Debra Critchley (BCGEU), Mary Cory (OPSEU), Derek Fudge (NUPGE), Kim Elliott (, Peter Roberts (MGEU)

Third Row: Duncan Cameron, Kim Nordmarken (SGEU), Sylvie Guimond (NBUPPE), Troy Warren (PEIUPSE)

Fourth row: Jackie Currah (SGEU), Patsy Harmston (BCGEU), Jean-Marie Pelletier (NBUPPE), Blair Weeks (PEIUPSE), Gwen Merritt (OPSEU)

Fifth Row: Lynn Bueckert (BCGEU), Geraldine Ryan (OPSEU), Pam Doig (OPSEU), Lorie Hill (SGEU), Sara Labelle (OPSEU)

Sixth row: Laurel Jackson (HSAA), Donna Farquharson (HSAA), Paul Doughty (UNIONS NSW), Joanna Cain (UNISON)

Back row: Paul Finch (BCGEU), David Lawrence (NSGEU), Rick Wiseman (NSGEU), Patrick Sander (SGEU), Colin Ghostkeeper (MGEU)


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE