01/20/2015 03:43 EST | Updated 03/22/2015 05:59 EDT

Denis Lebel, Harper's Quebec Lieutenant, Dares Union To Run Against Tories

MONTREAL - Quebec's largest labour group should get its members to run in the federal election campaign if it wants to rid the province of the Tories, says Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant.

The Quebec Federation of Labour has said it will do everything it can to prevent the Conservatives from winning seats in the province during the scheduled fall election.

Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel responded Tuesday by saying unions shouldn't be fighting governments.

"If there is going to be a movement (to rid Quebec of the Tories) then the unions should tell their members they'll take their dues and invest millions to fight a government," he said.

"Unions exist to defend the rights of their members."

Lebel said their objective should not be to block a political party from winning seats during an election.

The Quebec labour federation has also promised to work with other union groups across Canada to forge a policy of voting strategically against the Tories in this year's election.

Lebel said if union leaders want to play politics they should run for office.

The federation's secretary-general, Serge Cadieux, told The Canadian Press that Lebel's comments are "backwards."

By the minister's logic, Cadieux said, the only people who can be political are politicians or those who aspire to be.

"I reject that idea," he said, adding that civil society has a role to play in the political arena.

Cadieux said numerous social advocacy groups and unions are against the Conservatives' policies.

He added that his federation's bylaws state his role is to "conduct political actions."

Lebel denied his government's policies are anti-worker.

He said the Tories have reduced the tax burden on all Canadians and recently increased cash payments and tax credits to families.

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