Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Communist Party candidate Stuart Ryan, Ottawa Centre
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process? Why did you choose to run in this constituency?
- I have been involved in the political process for over 40 years, in terms of organizing over political issues such as opposing the Wars in Vietnam and now the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I see the elections, if that is what you mean as the political process, as a way to express our political views to the electorate so that they can pass judgment and see that the various issues we raise are related in that the capitalist system and the neo-liberal agenda take away the rights of workers, woman, aboriginals and people in general.
- I run in Ottawa Centre because I have lived in the riding since 1979 and I know the issues that concern the people who live in the riding. It has a progressive history and is open to socialist ideas.
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 have run for office in my Steelworker union in Windsor in the 1970s and in my Autoworker union now. I work for a CUPE union at Carleton University in Ottawa. I think I can bring my organizing skills in the labour movement, the anti-war movement and in the Central American solidarity movement to Queen’s Park and in building a base within Ottawa Centre to fight for a people’s agenda.
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?
- I think the biggest challenge to my candidacy is the feeling that people feel they have to vote NDP in order to win the riding, or to prevent a victory by the Liberal or Conservative party. This is a product of the first-past-the-post-voting system. I have had many people say that our ideas are good, and that I have been a good campaigner, but because they feel voting for the Communist Party might jeopardise the NDP. I think I would be the most desirable candidate because we have the best policies and that I would work very hard to make sure they are pushed for in the legislature.
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?
- The three biggest issues in this riding are the crisis in public education; the increasing debtload of students because of tuition hikes; and the inability of municipal government to fund the social services downloaded by the Harris government form the province to the cities in 1997. They are my most important issues.
- Re public education: Our Party will commit to spending $20 billion for a quality public secular school system in French and English for primary and secondary education.
- We would commit to a comparable investment in public post-secondary education while reducing tuition by 50% now, and then eliminate it when the funding is adequate to provide the education for all who qualify for post-secondary education.
- We would give municipalities secure funding through provincial grants and the ability to tax corporations. This would wean them off the property tax, which we would reduce by 75%, along with the scrapping of the market value assessment taxation scheme. We would give 50% of the gas tax for mass transit such as the O-train in Ottawa that would travel both east and west and north and south. We would upload to the province the funding of health, education, transit and welfare.
What should be the first order of business in the 39th Legislative Assembly?
- The first order of business schould be the drafting of the legislation to implement Mixed Member Proportional Representation, following its victory in the October 10 referendum.
Are the property taxes in your riding at a fair level for the amount of services received in the municipality?
- The property tax situation in the province is in chaos. Home owners are seeing property taxes increase as the value in their neighbourhoods go up while the property tax of businesses are diminished by a comparable amount. The net increase in revenue to the municipality coming from the residential tax increases is zero. Outraged taxpayers are blaming the municipal officials and are taking it out by voting for right-wing candidates who promise not to raise taxes (In Ottawa the slogan was “zero means zero”. The same candidate is now the mayor, and is backing a two per cent increase and campaigning to have the municipal financing system revamped.
- The property tax system discriminates against tenants as they pay for the extra taxes landlords pay through higher rents.
How can the province lead the way in stimulating job creation?
- The province should take action to save the manufacturing jobs leaving the province by insisting that raw materials be processed in Ontario rather being shipped raw out of the country. It should pass legislation to establish public tribunals so that corporations who are closing profitable factories, such as Hershey’s in Smith Falls and GM in Oshawa would have to justify their closing. Failure to do so would lead to the province taking over the closed business. Our Party would invest in mass transit and produce 100,000 units of social housing.
What are your views on the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) referendum?
- I support MMP and will be voting for it. No longer will we have to choose between the lesser of two evils, and end up with the same mess. The last two governments in Ontario are proof positive of the problem. You will be able to vote for what you believe in and see it reflected in the legislature.
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?
- The only thing that was good for Ottawa Centre was the tuition freeze for two years. That was negated by the new tuition scheme that will raise tuition 25-35% over four years.
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?
- Communism is not a dead idea; we see revolutionary parties win in Venezuela and trying to bring socialism in by democratic means. This was tried in Chile in the 1970s but was overthrown by the CIA and the Chilean military. What will succeed is that the working class and its allies will demand socialism; it was the insistence of the Venezuelan people that stopped the coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002. The system that they will bring will be democratic, as it will be the will of the people that it be so.
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?
- This is a good question, but if you want to bring about real change, you must be part of a party that calls for it. Our Party calls for socialism, public ownership of the means of production under democratic control. Working for a party like the NDP and the Greens would make you feel that you might get things done, but those parties will disappoint you - look at the record of the Bob Rae NDP government in Ontario that opened public sector collective agreements to attack benefits in order to save $2 billion from its deficit.