Communist Party of Canada Leader Liz Rowley visited Kamloops on Saturday afternoon, meeting with supporters and coffee drinkers at The Vic in downtown Kamloops.
She is the fifth federal party leader to visit the city, with Justin Trudeau (Liberal), Andrew Scheer (Conservative), Elizabeth May (Green) and Maxime Bernier (People’s Party) preceding her.
Rowley said her party has a lot to offer working people and made her case that now is the time to look to her party’s offerings ahead of the Oct. 21 federal election.
“What socialism means is that the working people are in the driver’s seat,” she told KTW. “They’re the ones who make the decisions of what Canada would look like. We want to see fundamental changes that will enable working people to make those decisions.”
The party’s platform, which is detailed on its website (votecommunist.com) prioritizes job creation and living standards, halting climate change and a foreign policy based on peace, disarmament and respecting foreign sovereignty.
The plan also includes nationalizing natural resources, keeping industrial jobs in Canada and emphasizing public ownership wherever possible.
The Communist Party of Canada was formed in 1921 and peaked in popularity in 1945, receiving 112,000 votes for its 68 candidates running under the banner of the Labor-Progressive Party, a necessity since the Communist Party was officially banned at the time.
In the 2015 federal election, the party ran 26 candidates and received about 4,400 votes.
This year, the party has 30 candidates running, including Kamloops’ Peter Kerek and six others in B.C.
Rowley conceded the party might not pick up any seats, but said she has seen more support leading up the election and plans to work with other groups to carry out the party’s platform regardless of the election’s outcome, as it has in the past.
She said she would like to see a majority government be denied to both the Liberals and the Conservatives, with a “large progressive bloc,” including the Communists, if any are elected, supporting another party to implement some of the points in the people’s agenda.
“But we may not be elected in this election. That’s possible. If we had proportional representation, we would be electing people and securing more candidates,” she said.
Rowley joined the party in 1967 and, at age 23, was the party’s youngest candidate in the 1972 federal election and a student at the University of Alberta at the time, advocating for women’s reproductive rights and an end to the Vietnam War.
She later moved up through party ranks in Ontario, serving as a party organizer and provincial organizer, sitting on its central executive committee since 1978 and being Ontario leader of the party since 1988.
She was elected national party leader in 2016.
Behind the “communist” part of the party’s name is a tumultuous history, with many associating communism and socialism with failed states of the past.
“I would say there is a real drive, and I’ve seen it in Canada particularly during this election, to make ‘socialism’ a dirty word, to try to convince people that socialist governments or left-wing governments are anti-democratic or dictatorial, but I don’t think that many Canadians are buying it anymore,” she said.
A recent Forum Research poll published in August found that 58 per cent of the 1,733 Canadian voters surveyed held a positive view of socialism.
But is there a model government or country Rowley’s party would follow if it were to come into power?
“No. I don’t think so,” she said.
Rowley listed Cuba, Vietnam and China as communist countries Canadians might be familiar with, but noted “none of them were an advanced capitalist countries when they transitioned to socialism.”
“We live in an advanced capitalist country. We’re not short on technology. Canada, in a way, is ripe for socialism, because capitalism has reached the pinnacle of what it is able to develop to,” she said
Rowley said with so many just $200 or less away from insolvency, referring to a January 2019 poll showing 46 per cent of Canadians are at such a point, some may be looking for alternatives to the major parties.
“Some people are thinking, ‘Capitalism isn’t working for me, I’m going to look elsewhere,’ and they’re coming to us,” she said.