Union School: Interview with NCR Executive Committee member, Greg McGillis, on campaigning against the Conservatives in Ottawa West Nepean

with Franck Binard

Question: Hi Greg, I know that you have a strong background in politics, and that background was recently leveraged in the October 19 election. Did you always want to be a political creature?
I was a professional freelance musician. I also worked by contract. I played for about five years in Montreal in various venues. That was how I earned a living. My mother started me on music lessons when I was a kid. My family had a lot of musicians, and I tried out a lot of instruments. Originally, I was focused on accordion. My mother used to say that if you can play the accordion, you can play any other instrument, and that turned out to be true. In parallel, my family was also very politically active. I was involved in politics from the age of 12. By the time I went to study music at McGill, I had been involved in eight campaigns. Somehow, I didn’t see politics as a career. It was more of a hobby, something you do after you’ve finished your day job… and so I kept on doing something else for a living. Not just music, but after that, teaching, which was my second career.
Question: How did you originally get involved in the union movement?
We had always been involved in Liberal politics. Liberal values seemed natural to me. In 1990, the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) recruited me on their executive, and a couple of years later, I became President. I thought then, as I still do, that advocating for social issues was a duty for anyone who had the necessary skills and potential to do. When the Mike Harris struggle began, I had connections both to the Liberals and to the teacher’s union. At the time, they had the common goal of defeating the Mike Harris government, and they rallied around that. I was in a perfect place to work with both groups.
Question: How did you come to the fight against the Harper’s government?
Rallying around the Harper government, which were essentially the same people – I even saw the same staffers – was like a flashback. They were trying to do the same thing, and they were using the same methods. There was no question I had to get involved… and so, I applied the experience I had acquired with that to this – I was already involved, when I called Larry. He knew about me, from my previous offices. I told him what I was planning to do at the time… and that’s how we campaigned together… and I guess we won, at least this time.
I don’t want to do it a third time though!