I hated doing it this way, but if I wanted to make sure that all candidates got a chance to share on Politico, it need a, shall we say, less personal touch.
So here is what I hope will be the first of four candidate questionnaires from the non-mainstream party candidates thanks to Communist Party candidate Drew Garvie.
1. Why did you put your name forward to run for Member of Parliament of Guelph in this election?
I think it’s important to have a voice that puts forward the idea of fundamental change while keeping in mind the immediate dangers faced by people living in Canada. None of the major parties even claim to speak for working-people in Canada, let alone act in their interests. The Communist Party of Canada sees working peoples’ interests as being fundamentally opposed to big monopoly capital that controls our economy and to a great extent, our governments.
I hope to bring to the political discourse the big questions. Why can’t we adopt meaningful environmental regulation and shutdown the Tar Sands? Why can’t we eliminate poverty instead of continuing with policies that increase the “growing gap” between super rich and the rest of us? Where’s the people’s billion dollar bailouts? Why do we spend more and more on the military and prisons each year while our Medicare system is being privatized? The answer is that the federal government is only concerned with answering to Bay Street. This systemic analysis is too often lacking during elections. And it’s these ideas that convince people that it’s not enough to vote for their rulers every four or five years. We’re not simply saying “vote Communist” and your problems will be over. We’re saying that we need to get organized, get united and hit the streets to roll back this corporate control.
2. There’s been a lot of debate about the “necessity” of this election. What do you think, was it important to go to the polls this spring?
There’s an immediate need to kick out the Harper Tories. During their two minority terms in office, the Harper Conservatives have attempted to disguise their aims and “soften” their image, concealing their full reactionary agenda from the people. But we’ve seen enough of their right wing program to leave no doubt where they’ll go if they get a majority. Over the past five years, they have:
- attacked jobs, wages, pensions and living standards for working people;
- enmeshed Canada even further in an immoral and unwinnable war in Afghanistan, and have now involved us in another dangerous conflict in Libya;
- slashed corporate and wealth taxes for their rich buddies in Big Oil and on Bay Street;
- wildly increased spending on the military and prison construction, while cutting funds to social programs, housing, and Aboriginal peoples; and
- turned Canada into an environmental pariah, obstructing meaningful international treaties on climate change and gutting environmental programs and standards at home.
They have distinguished themselves as the most arrogant, dictatorial and secretive government in Canadian history.
At a time when our economy is still mired in deep crisis, the real Tory agenda is to further drive down wages, impose longer hours and harsher working conditions, smash unions, privatize public assets, and gut universal Medicare. Kicking out Harper is a critical first step in taking our country in a new, peaceful, democratic, sovereign and socially progressive direction.
3. What are your opinions of the Harper Government? Their successes, their failures.
It depends on your class perspective. For example, if I was the CEO of a major oil corporation that is now free to exploit our natural resources, I’d be happy with Harper’s sabotaging international climate negotiations and the move he made to get his unelected senate to squash the recent climate change bill. I’d be happy with the over one billion dollar subsidy he just gave my industry and the six billion dollars worth of corporate tax cuts he included in the budget. I’d be very happy that he has ignored the demands of indigenous people whose communities are being poisoned. For a select few the Harper government has been very successful. If you are a CEO of a major oil corporation I encourage you to vote for the Harper Conservatives. It’s in your interest.
4. Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues.
a. The Economy/Economic Recovery
The sell-out of manufacturing and secondary industry has been a disaster for Canada’s economy and sovereignty. Corporations will gladly take tax breaks and bailouts, but they will also move jobs out of Canada if it’s good for their bottom line. Foreign ownership and plant shutdowns are destroying auto and steel, the heart of a strong value-added manufacturing sector. Adopt urgent measures to expand employment, raise wages and increase purchasing power, such as publicly-owned steel, auto and mining industries, a Canadian car, a merchant marine, and stronger machine tool, ship-building, agricultural implement and household appliance industries.
Limit and reduce foreign ownership. Use tariff, currency exchange and other trade controls, plus legislation with teeth including fines or public takeover, to protect jobs and prevent plant closures. We need to legislate a two-year notice of layoffs. Stop corporate giveaways. Increase employer-paid severance pay and retraining, and strengthen bankruptcy laws to guarantee protection for wages and pensions.
While overall employment numbers have returned to pre-recession levels, full-time jobs remain below the former peak, and the number of part-time workers has grown. It also should be noted that unemployment figures do not count those that have understandably given up the search for decent work, so there are many more unemployed that slip below the radar. We need an economy that serves people and is sustainable, or what good is it?
Medicare was set up to remove the financial barrier for access to health care. Despite propaganda to the contrary, Medicare is neither in crisis nor unsustainable. Since 1975 the cost of public health care has remained relatively stable at between four and five per cent of the GDP. Medicare spending comprises the same proportion of provincial revenues 20 years ago, but tax cuts have eaten away public budgets.
No U.S.-style two-tiered health care! Strengthen and enforce the Canada Health Act; block provincial privatisation attacks on Medicare, and commit to a major reinvestment in the system. Halt and reverse the spread of private, for-profit clinics. Scrap the Drug Patent Act (which guarantees mega-profits for the big drug companies, and high costs for health care), and build a publicly-owned pharmaceutical sector. Expand Medicare to include eye, dental, pharmacare and long-term care. Stop the “war on drugs”; treat addiction as a medical problem, not a criminal act.
We spend twenty billion dollars each year on the military, and this funding is set to increase under Harper. With that amount of money we could abolish tuition for every undergraduate university student in Canada four times over.
Increase federal support for universal, quality public education at all levels; rollback and eliminate tuition fees for post-secondary education. Stop the drive to ‘corporatize’ education, and protect free speech on campuses. Shift from loans to grants for student assistance. Significantly increase funding and access to training and apprenticeship programs. Build better schools and colleges, not more prisons and “boot camps.”
d. The Environment
Adopt emergency legislation to slash greenhouse gas emissions, and support reparations to countries affected by capitalist-driven climate change. Invest heavily to create jobs through renewable energy and conservation programs, and phase out coal-fired plants and terminate reliance on nuclear energy. Substantially expand urban mass transit, and eliminate fares by subsidizing the $3 billion in annual fare collections. Legislate stringent vehicle emission controls. Fund high-speed rail as a better alternative to highways and airlines. Ban “biofuels” derived from feed grains. Impose heavy fines and jail terms against polluters and destructive corporate practices, such as clear-cutting, in-ocean fish farming, and deep-sea draggers. Ban industrial development in parks.
Block new development of the Alberta tar sands, and close these operations within five years, with jobs guaranteed for workers in more sustainable industries at equivalent wages. Compensate the Aboriginal peoples and communities affected by the tar sands. No to the Enbridge and Mackenzie Valley pipelines, and to oil and gas exploration and shipping on the west coast. Put a moratorium on the exploration and development of shale gas resources in Quebec.
e. Parliamentary Integrity/Transparency
Signs that the Harper Tories are undermining the authority of the House of Commons over the Prime Minister’s office: the anti-democratic prorogations in 2008 and 2009; the constant criticism of any form of coalition government; the refusal to allow Parliamentary Committees to see uncensored documents; attacks on the Chief Electoral Officer, the Access to Information Commissioner, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer; the tendency to announce economic and budgetary statements outside parliament; and the refusal to allow political staffers to appear before parliamentary committees. So the immediate struggle in terms of democracy is kick the Harper Tories out!
But there are other reforms that would help expand democracy. Enact mixed-member proportional representation and the right to recall MPs. Guarantee equal treatment for all registered political parties. Amend the Broadcast Act to give equal time to all parties, so that voters can make informed choices. Lower the voting age to 16. Conduct comprehensive enumeration before every election. Remove restrictions on the right of unions to donate to political parties; enforce the ban on corporate donations. Members of Parliament should receive the average workers’ wages and benefits.
5. Is there another issue that you’d like to highlight in this campaign? Something that you’ve been hearing about while campaigning, perhaps?
I think Canada’s involvement in Libya has been sadly absent from the public debate due to the fact that there has been no solid anti-war voice from any party in parliament or the Greens. The NATO powers were doing business with Ghadaffi right up until they saw a chance to not only buy his oil but to control it. There is a lot of talk about “humanitarian” intervention but bombing populations in order to save them has proven deadly as recently as NATO’s crimes in Yugoslavia. Canadians shouldn’t be fooled. What about a “no-fly zone” over Gaza? The Harper government unconditionally supported Israel’s massacre of over 1400 civilians there in 2009. We support a political negotiated solution to the Libya crisis.
We need an independent Canadian foreign policy of peace and disarmament. Canada out of Afghanistan NOW, not in 2014! Demand immediate NATO withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, and oppose any new military aggression. No war with Iran or North Korea! Respect international law – reject imperialist policies of “regime change” and nuclear first-strike. Oppose the weaponization of space and militarization of the Arctic. Support the global abolition of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction; get out of the NATO and NORAD military alliances. Make Canada a ‘safe haven’ for war resisters – no deportations! Scrap the F-35 and warship purchases – reduce the military budget by 75%. Convert military to civilian jobs – end military exports from Canada. Strengthen our historic friendship and trade with Cuba and expand relations with developing countries. Oppose Israeli apartheid – support a just peace in the Middle East based on total withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the formation of an independent, viable Palestinian state. Cancel Third World debts.
6. What is your message to the voters of Guelph?
Well obviously, vote Communist!
Unemployment, growing inequality, discrimination and environment destruction are not new they are inherent features of the crisis ridden system of capitalism. But at this crucial moment, the Conservative party the preferred party of monopoly capital is the most dangerous threat to peace, democracy, and workers’ rights. They must go… now!
The Liberals under Michael Ignatieff present themselves as the alternative. But despite their criticism of the Conservatives, it was the Liberals who began slashing corporate taxes and increasing military spending. In reality, the Liberals also stand for pro corporate policies, especially on the economy, militarism, and the ‘law & order’ agenda. While the Tories are the worst threat to Canada, defeating one big business party in favour of another one is not a solution.
Instead, many working people will consider voting for the NDP, the Bloc Québecois, or the Greens. But while these parties occasionally advance progressive policies, they refuse to challenge the domination of big capital (the banks and large transnationals), or to take a consistent, principled stand against the wars in Afghanistan and Libya.
Dumping the Tories and working to build a powerful and broad People’s Coalition of the working class and its allies outside of Parliament can begin to achieve real gains. This is the way to begin moving Canada in a new direction, taking power out of the hands of the transnational corporations.
The struggle for a people’s agenda, bringing together labour, the social justice movements, and all other democratic forces, will strengthen the labour & people’s mass fightback and help set the stage to elect a majority to Parliament which will stand up for peace, jobs, democracy, sovereignty, and environmental sustainability. The election of MPs genuinely committed to democratic and progressive reform especially Communists, the most consistent fighters for working class interests will be a crucial part of this strategy to win fundamental social change.
Another world is possible! Another Canada is possible! We can move towards these goals by uniting the labour and people’s movements around a genuine alternative program that puts the interests of the peoples of Canada first, rather than those of the monopolies and big banks.
In this election, voting Communist is the strongest message you can send against capitalist globalization and imperialist war. Your vote for a Communist candidate will help make the voice of working people heard in Parliament and open the door for a people’s majority which can be the basis of a movement to build socialism. Yes, our undemocratic FPTP system means that you have a two party race in ridings like Guelph. But, politicians pay attention to the “wasted votes” and where they’re going. Voting Communist sends a message to those in power that you want real change.
Our goal is a socialist Canada, in which resources and economic wealth are socially owned and democratically controlled by the working people, not private capitalists. When you go to the polls, get off the treadmill of right wing politics. Vote for fundamental change and then join us in the streets to create this change!