Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Communist Party candidate Shona Bracken, Toronto Danforth
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process? Why did you choose to run in this constituency?
- First of all, I’m a keen supporter of the “people’s agenda” put forward by our Party, and participating in this election is a very good way to publicize and to win more supporters for the policies we advance. As a youth activist, I am particularly concerned about education and other social issues relevant to youth and students – issues like rolling back and eliminating tuition, ending the ‘corporatization’ of our campuses, and lowering the voting age to 16. Toronto-Danforth is a predominantly working class, culturally diverse community and what is why I volunteered to carry our party flag in this riding.
What prior political experience do you have? What skills and insight can you bring to office, from other non-political positions you may have held?
- I am one of the youngest candidates (from any of the political parties) running in this election anywhere in the province. Naturally, then, I lack political experience. What I lack in experience however, is more than made up by my enthusiasm and fresh approach to the big social and economic issues facing Ontario today, and into the future. I am completing an under-graduate program in Sociology at Glendon College of York University. I have an elected position on my Students’ Union as the Director of External Affairs, and also serve on the executive of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.
Which of your competitors do you expect to pose the biggest challenge to your candidacy? Why? What makes you the most desirable of all candidates running in the riding?
- Peter Tabuns, the incumbent MPP representing the NDP in the legislature, is obviously the odds-on favourite to win re-election. His party however has continued to water-down its reformist policies in an attempt to ensconce itself into the political ‘mainstream’. The NDP has long since abandoned a principled anti-capitalist or socialist program, and that’s why I think it is important to put forward a Communist alternative.
What do you feel are the three most important issues to voters in your riding? Are these the same top three issues that are most important to you? What would you do to address these issues?
- It’s hard to reduce everything down to three – there are so many vital issues facing us. But you asked, so here goes:
- Job & Economic Justice – to reverse the de-industrialization of Ontario, secure more well-paid, unionized jobs, and raise the minimum wage to $15/hour.
- A future for youth – We need to make education a right, not a privilege. Student debt is out of control and Ontario has the second highest tuition fees in the country. First year student are entering Ontario universities with never-before-seen tuition levels. Ultimately, a comprehensive funding formula needs to be put in place to make higher education free, and public schools need the necessary resources to prepare students for higher education, regardless of whether or not they live in a wealthy neighbourhood.
- Peace & Disarmament – I think this really is a provincial issue… we need a legislature at Queen’s Park that’s willing to tell Ottawa to “Get out of Afghanistan Now!”; to cut military spending by 50%; and to ban military recruitment from our schools and campuses.
What should be the first order of business in the 39th Legislative Assembly?
- To immediately raise the minimum wage, and immediately increase social assistance and OSDP rates above the poverty line.
Are the property taxes in your riding at a fair level for the amount of services received in the municipality?
- We believe that residential property taxes should be restricted to cover only municipal services, police, fire, etc., and not include education, healthcare, housing, transit and so on. These costs should be uploaded to senior levels of government. This would allow for a 75% cut in property taxes to homeowners and tenants.
How can the province lead the way in stimulating job creation?
- There are many ways to create meaningful employment – expanding public healthcare, a universal system of affordable, publicly-run childcare, environmental services, reforestation, etc. But there must also be an emergency program to rescue manufacturing jobs in Ontario through public investment and by introducing plant closure legislation that has real teeth. Reducing the workweek to 32 hours with no loss in take-home pay would also generate hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
What are your views on the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) referendum?
- I will be voting “YES” to MMP. I am in favour of full proportional representation, one without minimum thresholds. However, this is an important first step towards a more comprehensive electoral reform – away from the undemocratic ‘first-past-the-post’ system.
Of the decisions made by Ontario's 38th Legislative Assembly, which was the most beneficial to your this electoral district? To the province as a whole? Which was least beneficial, or even harmful, to your this riding? To the province as a whole?
- This is a complicated question – I think that the increase in funding for both health and public education were probably the most important accomplishments of the McGuinty government in trying to reverse the extreme damage wrought by the previous Harris Conservative government to these vital services. On the other hand, McGuinty and the Liberals have continued to concede to the pressures to privatize healthcare through the expansion of P3 hospitals (under another name); they have also failed to introduce a comprehensive needs-based funding formula for our schools.
You are running as a candidate for the Communist Party. A lot of people say that Communism is a dead idea or fear that a Communist government would implement some sort of repressive dictatorship. What do you say to this?
- Actually, the ideas of socialism are making a comeback in countries all around the world, as more and more working people feel the impact of spreading poverty and increasing social disparity as a result of neo-liberalism and so-called “globalization” policies. Look at what is happening in Venezuela, in Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries in Latin America. Even in European Communist Parties like the Greek and Portuguese CPs are growing again.
- As to our own Party, we have a long history of fighting for workers rights, for peace, and for extending democracy. There has been a long legacy of anti-communist propaganda that has coloured people’s perceptions of our Party and of socialism in general. I invite people to see where we actually stand, by visiting our website at http://www.communist-party.ca.
The Communist Party is unlikely to win any seats in the election. Why did you decide to run for a small party rather than be involved with one of the major parties?
- I think the most important question in politics, as in life itself, is being true to one’s own principles, and acting with complete integrity. It is sad that self-serving and corrupt individuals have sullied political life so much, that people are rightfully skeptical about politicians in general. But the Communist Party really is a party of a different type. We are frank and upfront. What-you-see-is-what-you-get. I am running to bring our issues to the forefront, and hopefully to build the workers’ and people’s movements in the process.