Skip to main content

AMAPCEO remembers past-President Gary Gannage

Publish date: Monday, March 07, 2022 update

Gary Gannage, 1951–2022

AMAPCEO leadership, staff, and members are mourning the loss of Gary Gannage, who served as the union’s president for nearly 20 years. Gannage passed away suddenly on Saturday.

Gannage was a founding member of AMAPCEO and elected the union’s second President in 1995. He was re-elected a further nine times before he retired in 2014. He was also a life-long public servant in the Ontario Public Service, with financial, administrative, and policy roles in the then-Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care, Community and Social Services, Finance, Management Board, and Treasury Board.

Dave Bulmer, who succeeded Gannage as President, remembers him fondly.

“Gary was a man of quick wit and intellect,” Bulmer says. “He had an endearing charm about him that was disarming and an innate ability to problem solve.”

“He was genuinely interested in people and their lives,” Bulmer says. “He had a positive impact on thousands of people’s livelihoods over his career.”

“I’ll miss him.”

The union’s Chief Operating Officer and Director of Labour Relations Services, Rob Smalley, joined the staff three years after Gannage was elected. The two worked together closely on many labour relations issues.

“He moved the yardstick on several important union issues during his tenure. He was extremely proud of AMAPCEO’s professionalism and our unique collaborative problem-solving approach to labour relations,” Smalley says. 

Under his leadership, AMAPCEO grew from a single bargaining unit of approximately 4,600 members to seven units together totalling more than 11,000 members. He successfully led recognition disputes that saw hundreds of previously excluded employees receive union protections and entitlements. Gannage played a key role in convincing the OPS Employer to modernize its outdated job classification system to bring more fairness to AMAPCEO members.

“AMAPCEO members had many wins while Gary was President,” Smalley says. “Through thick and thin, he always worked hard on behalf of members.”

During his final address to the union’s Annual Delegates’ Conference as President, Gannage had a few words of advice for AMAPCEO activists:

“First, I want to remind each and all of them, to keep in mind why we are here. We are here to represent the interests of our members. That is a privilege and a duty that will often mean personal sacrifice. It is our duty to put the interests of the members first.

Second, to keep in mind that our duty is to operate in the interests of the whole—the collective of our membership—not just in the narrow interests of ourselves, or our immediate peers. Your jobs as leaders in the Association are to see the bigger picture.

Third, I want to caution this Association to be wary of the risks of factionalism. Our historical strength, our future success, will be dependent on our ability to act with a unified voice, as a collective. We cannot lose sight of that.”

A full copy of Gannage’s final address to the Conference is available below.

Gannage was active outside of the labour movement, as well, and his commitment to making the world a more just place didn’t fade after his retirement. He lent a hand to many political campaigns and important causes across the city.

“One cold, rainy night, I attended a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at a Christchurch mosque, and there was Gary,” one community activist remembers. “This was long after he retired. He always showed up.”

A proud father to Nathan and Aubrey, Gannage was 70.

President’s Opening Remarks to the 2014 Annual Delegates’ Conference

Gary Gannage, President, AMAPCEO

Friday, November 29, 2014  |  Sheraton Centre Hotel, Toronto

Good morning everyone. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to AMAPCEO’s 20th Annual Delegates Conference and my 19th—and final ADC—as your President.

I want to start out by welcoming all 230 delegates here today, as well as our observers, and retirees. Over the next two days, this conference has important work to do. We have a budget to review, we have committee reports to consider, resolutions to debate, and, of course, elections to be held tomorrow.

I want to take a moment to reflect on AMAPCEO’s history—both some recent history, and some of our early years.

Since our last convention, I am proud to say that in the OPS unit, we’ve not only negotiated a strong new collective agreement —one that builds on our long term goals of strong job security and an equitable job evaluation and classification system—but also corrects some of the injustices of the 2012 agreement—most notably, by maintaining our time-off provisions and protecting the value of COC days by turning them into vacation; in fact, getting some credits back; restoring sick leave, protecting paramedical benefits and resisting massive, punitive changes to LTIP.

I was as frustrated and outraged as delegates were by the dishonesty, games-playing, and unfairness of the Employer’s behaviour in the 2012, round, and I’m proud that we were successful in returning to the table, with a united front, and negotiating a fair deal this past year.

That would not have been possible without the incredible efforts of our activists in organizing the largest mobilization in AMAPCEO’s history.

Through the ups and downs of this round of bargaining – the long pause we took during the spring provincial election, the long, hot days of summer, the strength of our mobilization effort—including our historic “Solidarity Pact” with OPSEU, PEGO, and ALOC—made this deal possible.

I particularly want to thank the activists—supported by our incredible professional AMAPCEO staff team—who worked through countless lunch hours and dedicated so much of their time and energy to this campaign. Thank you! Let’s give them a well-deserved round of applause.

Reflecting back on my time at AMAPCEO, I’ve served under 5 premiers, from all 3 political parties. I’ve served through the recession and the social contract of the early 1990s, through the boom years, and the financial collapse of 2008.

When we started out as AMAPCEO, our ambitions were not huge. Our goal was to represent employees through the social contract process who had previously been excluded from collective bargaining.

And, when it came to the possibility that those same people would get access to a bargaining agent, our goal was to make sure they had a choice in who represented them.

In some ways, some of our thinking wasn’t too much more sophisticated than “not-OPSEU”.

Over those first few months and years, we all developed a stronger sense of what an AMAPCEO approach to being a union or association would mean:

  • We would be honest, and forthright, with our members.
  • We would take a problem-solving approach to labour relations.
  • We would be member-driven, and democratic.
  • We would be non-partisan and unaffiliated.
  • We would focus our time and energy on representing the interests of our members.

In recent years, some of those core values have been challenged. It hasn’t been easy to take a problem-solving approach to labour relations when our OPS Employer was fundamentally dishonest, or when the Premier’s office was interfering in our negotiations by reneging on previously made commitments.

I think we’ve come to terms with the fact that having a problem-solving approach to labour relations does not mean an unwillingness to take collective action—up to and including job action—if necessary.

Last year, after careful deliberation, the Delegates voted to affiliate with the Canadian Labour Congress. This was obviously a departure from of the approach taken through much our history, but one that I had concluded needed to be changed as a necessary step in the context of the modern Canadian labour movement. And thankfully, the Delegates agreed. Over the past year, we have been working to put that direction into action. That process was stalled—I hope temporarily—as a result of the internal politics at the CLC when they were in the throws of a Presidential election this past spring. I have spoken with Hassan Yussuff, the new CLC President, and other labour leaders on a number of occasions about our membership, and I am optimistic that we will be approved for affiliation within the coming months.

And, AMAPCEO has been challenged to think about who we represent.

Some of us have joked for a long time now that in reality, the only accurate letters in our name are the “AAPE”. So much of our name isn’t really accurate. Association of Administrative and Professional Employees. Mostly in Ontario – and some other places, too.

As much as others like to say so, our members are not managers. That’s simply an anachronism.

Whether through divestments, like at Public Health Ontario, or Health Quality Ontario, or the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, or through successful organizing drives like at the Racing Commission and the Ontario Arts Council, we no longer exclusively represent employees of the crown.

The reality is, what defines our Association is that we represent a type of employee that’s not otherwise well-represented by unions in this country. That is, professional, office and “knowledge” workers. And in fact, we do that better than anyone else.

As AMAPCEO proceeds into the next 20 years, I think this is a key point for this Delegates' Conference to keep in mind.

Over the next years, Delegates will need to think carefully about our future, and how we stay true to our founding principles while adjusting to the realities of the Canadian labour environment.

This is a question that I think unions and associations across the country are asking themselves right now—both in the public sector, and in the private sector.

Our colleagues in PIPSC are dealing with this head on—in part because their membership is facing a bit of an existential crisis.

When the Harper government attacks and muzzles scientists, that organization has no choice but to respond. For the first time, they will be directly engaging in partisan politics in the next federal election. That is something that is unprecedented for PIPSC.

Other organizations across the country are looking at mergers, at new campaigns, at new ways to secure themselves and their members for the future.

AMAPCEO started out as a bit of a rump. And we have grown, even through years of cutbacks in the OPS—as OPSEU was losing members through divestments, cuts, and layoffs. But we can’t take security in that. As government mandates shift, our membership, the strength of our organization, will be subject to shifting directions too, not to mention fiscal realities.

The crisis of 2008 was averted—when the Employer tried to forcibly merge OPSEU and AMAPCEO. But another threat of that sort could easily come again.
So, to my mind, as Delegates plan for the future—as my successor plans for the future, and as our new Executive Director plans for the future—we need to be looking to build from our strength.

Our strength is in representing professional workers, who either wouldn’t otherwise have access to a union, or wouldn’t otherwise want it.

Our strength is in representing a membership that wants fairness at work, and wants representation from an organization that understands the challenges that they face in their type of work; An organization that understands, for example, that the right to refuse unsafe work might look different in the environment of an office or professional worker than in the industrial or manufacturing sector.

Our strength is in representing a membership that wants to be part of a democratic and accountable organization, where the resources of the organization are devoted to addressing the present and future needs of the membership.

I think that is true whether we are talking about representing members directly in the public service, or in agencies, or anywhere else in the broader public sector or in professional work environments.

AMAPCEO has something to offer. We have a track record of representing professional employees well, of delivering excellent collective agreements, and of doing so using a problem-solving approach to labour relations.

As I prepare to leave this office, I know that AMAPCEO will continue face attacks from governments and self-interested groups that want to undermine the public service and the rights to free collective bargaining in Canada. While this government, in its current form, has signalled its desire for labour peace, we would be foolish to let our guards down.

Whether in the form of the next Bill 115, the far-reaching legislation that cut into the rights of bargaining in the education sector, or the next iteration Bill C-377, the federal government’s “disclosure” law—really an attack on this government’s political enemies—or the assault our OPS collective agreement has come under at the bargaining table in round after round, or the continued trash talking of public sector employees, our rights and collective agreement provisions, we are all under attack.

Bill 115 has been repealed – for now. And C-377 died in the Senate—for now. And Tim Hudak and Dalton McGuinty are no longer calling the shots in their respective parties. But when you look at the cast of potential successors to Tim Hudak—whether Doug Ford—a true friend to workers, if I ever saw one—or Vic Fedeli, or Lisa Macleod, it’s certainly not time for us to let our guards down.

I am extremely proud of the Association we have built, together, and that I have had the honour to lead.

There have been a few particularly proud moments for me, over the years, and I’d like to share a few of those with you.

Having been present when AMAPCEO received voluntary recognition, in 1995, will be a moment I never forget. As was the signing of our first collective agreement two years later.

I was never as moved, or as proud of our members as I was in 2008, when they stood up so strongly, and so forcefully, and organically, to push back the Employer’s scheme to force us into OPSEU.

I am proud of having pursued the Job Evaluation project for more than a decade, and having succeeded in seeing it implemented in the last collective agreement. This was by no means a straightforward or easy process. There is still work to do and fixes to be made…and they will be made. But in the end, warts and all, it was about achieving fairness and equity for our members. I think this is something that members will appreciate and benefit from in the years to come.

I felt buoyed this past year as we went into the toughest part of our OPS bargaining to have the strength of an unprecedented 94% strike vote. That is something that many people thought we could never achieve. I know that a mandate like that made a tremendous difference in our strength at the table. I was equally gratified that our new collective agreement was ratified with such an overwhelming margin. Remember those two numbers from 2014: 94% and 97%.

I want to acknowledge the hard work, the dedication and the time-commitment given to all of us by our bargaining teams representing members across the Association: this year was active at many tables, the OPS, Public Health Ontario, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, Ontario Racing Commission and Health Quality Ontario. The Ontario arts Council is still bargaining. How about a round of applause for all of these folks.

In my time as President, I’ve had the privilege—and sometimes, the burden—of having been part of some of the critical public policy issues of the past 20 years.

Relatively few people know that, under the freeze provisions, as we were negotiating our first collective agreement, we had the right to disclosure beyond what we do today—of all government initiatives—and not only that, we had the right to comment directly to cabinet on those initiatives. This lasted through the first couple of years of the Harris government. I know that the submissions that AMAPCEO made under those provisions were taken seriously by Mr. Harris, and his cabinet colleagues.

Sadly, one of the instances where we did comment was around privatization and deregulation of water services. Had our cautions been taken to heart, I believe the tragedy in Walkerton could have been avoided.

Another issue we as an Association have been speaking about for years is the use of consultants—particularly in the IT sector. This is an issue we’ve raised at the bargaining table, we raised with the Drummond Commission, and we have spoken publicly about. Not only are consultants too often performing work that should properly be done by our members—by public servants—they are doing so at an enormous cost to the public purse. The Auditor General looked at this issue, due to the concerns that AMAPCEO had directly raised.

I’m particularly proud of having had a hand directly in shaping one of the most critical pieces of legislation to affect employment in Ontario in the past 20 years—that’s Bill 180. Bill 180, as I’m sure you know, deals with harassment and bullying in the workplace.

This is a piece of legislation that AMAPCEO made extensive submissions on, and it’s one that our members care deeply about. I know that our input on that bill is directly reflected in the legislation, and we were recognized for it in the Legislature.

And we were personally thanked in the legislature by Gerry Phillips, Chair of Management Board for taking the leadership which culminated in the whistleblowing protections of the Public Service Act.

I feel confident, as I prepare to leave AMAPCEO, in the strength of its foundations.

Over the past two years, we have shown the enormous capacity of our activist base, and I feel confident that it will only be strengthened and nurtured in the coming years.

I feel confident in the strength of each of our collective agreements.

I feel confident in the financial health of the organization—with healthy reserves, strong financial planning and accountability, and an impressive labour disruption fund.

I feel confident in our hardworking and professional staff team and their leadership under our new Executive Director, Anthony Pizzino and our staff directors.

And, I feel confident, as delegates elect a new President and new Board members, that there are strong candidates who will have the capacity to lead the Association into the future.

I’d like to close with a few words of advice, to our next President, to our Board members, and to all AMAPCEO delegates and activists.

First, I want to remind each and all of them, to keep in mind why we are here. We are here to represent the interests of our members. That is a privilege and a duty that will often mean personal sacrifice. It is our duty to put the interests of the members first.

Second, to keep in mind that our duty is to operate in the interests of the whole – the collective of our membership—not just in the narrow interests of ourselves, or our immediate peers. Your jobs as leaders in the Association are to see the bigger picture.

Third, I want to caution this Association to be wary of the risks of factionalism. Our historical strength, our future success, will be dependent on our ability to act with a unified voice, as a collective. We cannot lose sight of that.

Finally—a piece of advice in particular to our next President: don’t be afraid to lead. Don’t be afraid to take a principled position on an issue, and stick with it. If the membership is not immediately with you on something, a part of your job is to bring them along. Do not be afraid to challenge the membership, or the Board, or Chapter Chairs to take on difficult ideas, or to act on principle when it matters.

With that, I am looking forward to the next phase of my life and to taking on new challenges—both personally, and professionally.

Thank you so much to you, Delegates—and to all of our members—for having put your faith in me over the past 20 years. It has truly been an honour to serve you.

Thank you.

More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Ontario Health (Quality Unit); Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).