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On January 9, two weeks before voting day, People's Voice interviewed Communist Party of Canada leader Miguel Figueroa in Vancouver during his cross-country election tour.
People's Voice: As January 23 comes closer, how would you characterize the election campaign to date?
Miguel Figueroa: Overall, the campaign has had a certain surreal quality. Nothing is as it appears, and truth and "openness" are in short supply. The Liberals under Paul Martin have been trying to reinvent themselves as a progressive, even marginally "left- leaning" party in a desperate bid to hold onto power. They would have voters see their party as the "saviour" of public health care, and as staunch patriots, willing to stand up to Washington to protect Canadian sovereignty.
Of course, this is so much rubbish. Their record over the past dozen years - and Paul Martin's in particular - shows how wedded the Liberals have been to neoliberal policies, and to economic integration and political collaboration with U.S. imperialism.
But first prize for "most extreme makeover" must go to Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. Their image handlers have managed to package the Tory message as "mainstream" and non‑threatening. They have cynically misrepresented their positions on Medicare, education, Canada‑US relations, among many others, to obscure and conceal their reactionary, pro‑imperialist agenda from the people. They have managed to gag their more imprudent, red‑neck backbenchers from spewing racist, ant‑women, Christian fundamentalist diatribes. And they have focussed their fire on a handful of so‑called "wedge issues" such as Liberal corruption, gun crime, and the need for "change in Ottawa."
Unfortunately, the latest polls appear to indicate that the Conservatives' grand deception strategy is working, and may even result in a Tory minority, or worse still, a majority government.
PV: This turn puts a whole new complexion on the campaign, doesn't it? What would a Conservative government mean for working people?
Figueroa: After January 23rd, the battle against big business attacks, neoliberal government policy, and for democratic rights, social justice and peace will once again revert to the extra-parliamentary arena, back to the struggle in the workplace, and back into the streets of our country. The critical question here is the political terrain on which we will conduct that struggle.
We should be absolutely clear: the election of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives would be a major setback for the working class in Canada and would seriously complicate the fightback of labour and the people's forces. Even a minority Tory government would move quickly to accelerate the dismantling and privatization of the health care system and other social programs and services. They would speed up economic integration and structural "harmonization" with the U.S., and tie Canada even closer to Washington's aggressive imperialist drive global domination.
Not least, a Tory government would exacerbate the constitutional crisis, strengthening the pro-sovereigntist forces in Quebec, and bringing the country closer to fragmentation.
Therefore, the possibility of a Conservative victory constitutes the main danger for the working class and its allies today, for women, Aboriginal peoples, for youth and seniors, for New Canadians and oppressed minorities, and for all those concerned about peace and social justice issues here and around the world.
PV: Does that mean voters should cast their ballots "strategically" to prevent a Tory election victory?
Figueroa: No. We don't think that voting Liberal to stop the Tories is the answer. This is where we part company with Buzz Hargrove and other advocates of "strategic voting." Working people need to break with both parties of big business, and to elect the largest block of progressive MPs possible. That said, we also feel it's crucial that the labour movement and the Left and progressive forces use the remaining days of this campaign to warn the people of this main danger, to expose the real Tory agenda, and show how punishing the Liberals by voting Conservative would be like "hopping out of the frying pan and into the fire."
PV: What about the campaign of Jack Layton and the New Democrats?
Figueroa: To describe the NDP's campaign as disappointing would be extremely charitable. Layton and his party had an excellent opportunity to sharply differentiate itself from the pro‑corporate, right‑wing policies of both the Liberals and Tories. They could have presented themselves as a serious alternative - even in a limited, reformist sense - to the parties of big business. But they have failed miserably to do so.
Instead, they have made a number of policy retreats on key issues such as the proliferation of private health clinics. On tax policy, they have been completely silent about increasing corporate tax rates. They have come out in support of the chauvinist Clarity Act, the main aim of which is to deny Quebec's right to self-determination. And most recently, they have pandered to the right populist press to "get tough" on gun violence and youth crime. They even toyed briefly with the idea of NDP cooperation with a Conservative minority government, although they thought better about it later and dropped any reference to that.
Much like they did in the pivotal 1988 election, they have concluded, from a narrow partisan point of view, that the Liberals are their main enemy, and that a Harper victory would be an acceptable, even welcome, outcome so long as it also resulted in some additional NDP seats.
PV: Many people find this campaign extremely frustrating, since some of the most important issues facing the country are being studiously avoided by the leading parties.
Figueroa: And rightly so. It is indeed a sad commentary on the state of our "democratic process" that such vital questions as Canada's deepening military occupation of Afghanistan, and its role on the overthrow of the Aristide government in Haiti are being completely ignored. Little if anything is being discussed about extricating Canada from the NAFTA straight‑jacket, and stopping the sell‑out of Canadian sovereignty. Nothing about the need for swift action to stop the fleecing of the Canadian public by Big Oil, which is amassing obscene profits. Nothing about the spread of poverty and homelessness amidst the rapid accumulation of wealth. Of course, this is only a partial list.
The Communist Party and our candidates are doing everything possible to raise these issues, and connect them to the deepening crisis of capitalism and the need for a revolutionary alternative, and for socialism.
PV: What are the objectives and expectations of the Communist Party in this election?
Figueroa: We have no illusions about what is achievable, given the polarized conditions and the backward, undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. We have limited resources, and we face a lack of media exposure, although there has been some improvement on this front. So we are not anticipating any substantial breakthrough. Of course, we will fight for every vote, because a Communist vote is the most class conscious expression a worker or other progressive‑minded person can make at the ballot‑box.
Our primary objective is to bring our ideas and our "people's alternative" to as many working people as we can, to bring them closer to our Party. We want to win new readers for our press and new members for the Young Communist League, and to welcome new, fresh forces into our ranks. From this perspective, we are very enthusiastic. Our website has received over 1.6 million hits since the beginning of the campaign, and we are being flooded with requests for more information and with membership applications. A lot of credit must go to our candidates across the country, who are doing a superb job of presenting our platform in a militant, popular way. Our candidates are being very well received in the local media and at all‑candidate forums and meetings.
So we are very encouraged by this response. It shows that we are taking important steps towards the day when a larger Communist Party will elect MPs and play a major role at the Parliamentary level.
IN AN EFFORT to stampede voters into the Tory camp, a huge fear‑mongering campaign has been launched on the issues of guns and youth violence. Doubling sentences for possession of a weapon, reverse onus bail hearings, and most recently the NDP's proposal to try 16 year olds in adult courts for possession of a weapon. And, oh yes, the Liberals and NDP think last year's spate of shootings might be connected to the economic and social policies of previous governments. That would be previous Liberal and Tory federal governments, and the Liberal, Tory and NDP provincial governments which have all participated in one way or another in the systematic dismantling of Canada's social safety net.
In fact, all around the capitalist world, neo‑liberal austerity policies, combined with vast privatization, mass layoffs, unemployment and under‑employment, have created a huge pool of permanently poor and marginalized citizens, many of them of youth with no future and no stake in the capitalist system. They also have little affinity or solidarity with the working class and organized labour. They are angry, and they are the focus of right‑wing political movements, union‑busting bosses, and gangs.
It's the weakness of organized labour, the left and progressive forces that have allowed neo‑liberal policies to prevail for 25 years in Canada. A generation has grown up under these conditions, and the results are predictable.
Dubbed "(Mike) Harris' Children," today's angry youth are the child victims of mass lay‑offs, job losses, the theft of the Employment Insurance funds, and a 22% cut to Ontario's social assistance payments in 1995 that left families reeling. These are the kids who never had enough to eat, whose families did midnight flits to dodge landlords. These are the kids pushed out of school at age 16, the targets of "zero tolerance" policies that led to exclusions and expulsions, and finally a 30% student dropout rate in 2005 across Ontario (and much higher in the inner cities and among Black and Aboriginal youth). These are the young people with no high school diplomas, no trades or training, no access to post-secondary education, jobs, or affordable housing. No future. This is the real life of hundreds of thousands of young people who grew up under right‑wing governments in Ontario and across Canada.
A fighting labour movement could win over many of these young people, to fight for a better world, for economic and social justice, for peace and disarmament, for socialism.
But a leaderless labour movement, treading water, leaves the door open for right‑wing forces to move in and organize the worst of them against working people.
In France last fall, the spark that caused weeks of rioting was the death of two young teens, were electrocuted in a hydro plant next to their poor housing block after been pursued there by police. Much of the damage was to the homes and neighbourhoods of the rioters, as pent‑up anger exploded into fury and destruction.
A similar future is predictable in Canada, if immediate steps are not taken to scrap neo-liberal policies and create real opportunities and hope. This is the direction that the Communist Party fights for: Immediate and massive public investment into heath, education, housing, and child care. Immediate measures to raise the minimum wage, lower and eliminate tuition fees, expand apprenticeships, and create meaningful, well‑paid and secure jobs. Immediate measures to introduce a guaranteed annual income, to raise social assistance rates above the poverty line, to eliminate taxes on incomes under $35,000, and to restore EI eligibility and payments to cover all unemployed. Immediate measures to ban racial profiling, to rescind zero tolerance laws in public education, to restore staff, programs and services cut from schools. Public, civilian control over police forces, and restoration of equity and anti‑racism programs.
It is sad indeed that the NDP, trolling for votes from frightened middle‑class Liberal voters, has adopted a right‑wing get-tough line that will see 16 year olds land in adult jails (both public and privately run), starting their apprenticeships as skilled criminals.
The get‑tough policies of Tories, Liberals and now the NDP will create the conditions for the more growth of criminal activity in Canada, as happened in the US.
The increasing accessibility of guns in Canada is a result of our proximity to the US, the source of the vast majority of illegal weapons in our country. Why should we participate in new plans for Canada's "deep integration" with the US, when the "benefits" to date include guns, pornography, and bans on Canadian softwood lumber, beef, steel and potatoes, not to mention plant closure and massive job losses in the auto sector and manufacturing.
Canada should beef up its sovereignty and its borders, by getting out of the Free trade deals, blocking guns at the border, and becoming less dependent on dehumanizing and often violent US mass‑produced culture.
Instead, the new government should invest heavily in the CBC, NFB and democratic culture in English‑speaking Canada and Quebec. Further, the CPC calls for public investments in sports programs and facilities accessible to working class kids in communities across Canada.
This is the way to deal with the growing use of guns as the weapons of choice in Toronto now. Despite the recent tragic events, the statistics show that most forms of crime have fallen every year since 1993, relative to population growth.
Let's keep it that way. On January 23, say no
to the criminalization of youth by the Big Business parties. Say no to
the Tory attempt to stampede voters to the right. Vote for a new
direction. Put people first. Vote Communist.
THE MANITOBA GOVERNMENT is helping to subvert Canada's public medicare system. The Doer government says that it opposes a new private clinic operating in violation of the Canada Health Act, but it has so far failed to close it down. And very regrettably, it is privatizing payroll and accounting jobs for Winnipeg's hospitals and personal care homes.
Such half‑hearted opposition and betrayal is inexcusable when right‑wing governments across Canada are ready to end universal public medicare. The Doer government must put up a better fight, advance realistic policies to defeat the attack on public health care, and expose the narrow, selfish interests of the U.S. and Canadian corporations which will benefit from dismantling medicare.
This is the time to hold firm, to unite active, broad and strong movements to defend public health care, and to use all available means to build that struggle. The Manitoba NDP government owes at least this to the millions of workers who would suffer and die under a gutted medicare system.
The vast majority of Canadians want to preserve universal medicare. But the four largest political parties in the current federal election campaign are acting as if health care faced no great crisis. There is some unease expressed especially by the NDP that Canada's health care system is facing a major attack. However, the usual promises offered by all these parties undermine any sense of urgency, such as better federal‑provincial relations or more health care funding.
The real situation is that the corporate ruling class has delivered several deadly blows to public health care. Perhaps the most important is last summer's dangerous Supreme Court Chaoulli ruling that allows provinces to defy the Canada Health Act and to privatize heath care. The ruling ends any meaningful role for Ottawa in the country's public health care system, reminding us that courts are an ultimate weapon of the ruling class.
But there's more: free trade makes privatization irreversible; British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia and now Manitoba are allowing private clinics to subvert the Canada Health Act; and Alberta and Quebec will probably abandon medicare entirely after the federal election.
We have to remember that right‑wing governments and rotten free trade treaties and court decisions can all be swept away in a serious struggle to preserve medicare. That will take a struggle by movements involving millions of people; it will involve the depth and commitment to the struggle needed to win medicare in the first place.
No political party can achieve or has achieved that kind of victory by itself, and the decisive struggle will happen outside of Parliament. If a right‑wing Parliament in Ottawa won't protect medicare from free trade, we will have to change the government.
If an antique British colonial constitution prevents Ottawa from cracking down on right‑wing, anti‑medicare provincial governments, then we will have to change the constitution. The 1941 constitutional amendment allowing Ottawa to administer Unemployment Insurance, a result of the famous On‑to‑Ottawa trek, is an example of this kind of reform.
(Darrell Rankin is the Manitoba leader of the
Communist Party, and the Communist candidate in Winnipeg North.)
JANUARY 5 - It's getting busy in the Toronto‑Centre CPC campaign. After drafting a press release late last night, I was woken by an early morning phone call. "This is Drey," said a young woman's voice, "from the University of Toronto radio station. Can we do an interview?" Plus, tomorrow night a series of free TV slots begins.
Of course, we haven't topped Scott Gilbert in Guelph yet. He's got seven articles about the Communist campaign in local newspapers. One story reported he received the largest applause at a high school debate; today we learned that 30% of a TV studio audience voted him the winner of the Rogers televised debate. He came second to the Conservatives, well ahead of the Liberals and NDP.
The red gloves are off, and a lot of folks are very interested in our message. Especially young people.
2006 will be another "year of the crisis" for youth across Canada. There isn't enough money, we're told, for basic repairs in many high schools. At the same time, corporations are making record mega‑profits, the military budget just got its biggest raise in two decades, and an $81 million super jail for youth is under construction in Brampton.
Talking on the U of T radio today, I spoke about how young workers in Canada have more education than their parents - but lower wages. Student debt is at record highs. And the youth unemployment rate has never dropped below 11% since the mid‑1970s.
This rate is even higher for visible minority youth, especially black youth. Why? Capitalism is racist to the core. And these oppressions - racism and unemployment - are a key part of the "gun violence" issue, much more so than rap music or so‑called short prison sentences.
We can stop this crisis. Raise the minimum wage to $12/hour. Lower the voting age to 16. Abolish tuition. Shift from loans to grants. If the claim that students make more is really true, they can pay for education through higher taxes. Not a debt sentence.
We've also been doing outreach through the internet. In my email today, I found a short questionnaire from Toronto Star "blogger" Marc Weisblott. A "blog" is a public diary, published on the web.
Marc: how did you connect with the Communist Party in the first place?
Johan: I connected with the CP as a student activist in the Peace movement. This was between the imperialist intervention in Kosovo and the war in Iraq, and I was living in a small town in the north - Prince George, BC. That town, where I grew up, is facing major crisis. The land is incredibly resource‑rich. Yet with soft‑wood lumber and other capitalist globalization issues all you see are boarded‑up store fronts. The First Nations people suffer brutal poverty comparable to what I've seen in the third‑world.
The more active I became the more I saw that the root cause of what I was fighting was capitalism. I joined the Communist Party when I decided to make a commitment to fighting for fundamental change leading towards a socialist Canada. That was about three years ago, and now I'm living in Toronto.
Marc: What was your motivation to run in this election?
Johan: I ran in Davenport last election. It was a tremendous experience. I met far more people who were interested in the Party than I could imagine. Our programme got a very strong positive response from working people.
Of course, some debates we were excluded from, but often the response was: "You've got the best policy. I won't vote for you, but I agree with you." We are the only people talking about getting out of NAFTA, NATO, NORAD; about the nationalization of oil an and gas, or corporate welfare bums - that used to be a big issue for the NDP, but not any more; and about a socialist alternative. So of course I had to run again.
This is a riding with some of Canada's richest - like Thompson, the 15th richest man in the world - and the poorest. Take Regent Park. Seven in ten live in poverty there. The plight of Canadian living standards is the real scandal of this election. I'm going to be out there talking about it.
Marc: how do you feel about the race going on in the riding and Bill Graham's appeal?
Johan: This is one‑horse race. With Rosedale, the Liberals are a shoo‑in. That means "strategic voting," which is fundamentally anti‑democratic, isn't on the table. If you want to use your vote effectively, you should use it to send a clear message for real change, and I say voting Communist is the best way to do that.
As to Graham, well, this isn't a personalized campaign. The issues are the party policies, and in the case of his party, they are happy prisoners of big business. Graham himself comes across as Mr. Nice Guy, but he's the boss of killers. His job is to be a helper in armed violence, making the world safer for US corporations and the Canadian companies that do business in the US Empire. As to the Conservatives - Steven Harper is the face of George Bush in Canada. So anti‑militarism, that Canada needs to peruse an independent foreign policy of Peace and disarmament, is an important issue we are raising here.
And on Friday, our first debate, I get to meet
IN THE SECOND HALF of the current election campaign, the Liberals have suddenly noticed that the Bloc Quebecois could become a force with clout across Canada, if the Tories win a minority government backed up by Bloc MPs in Parliament.
Suddenly the Liberals - and the NDP ‑ have become very interested in the national question. Some astounding things have been said, such as "Quebec will get everything" because the Tories and BQ will "give Quebec everything," facilitating separation and fueling the yes vote in the next Quebec referendum.
The NDP has gone so far as to endorse the Clarity Act, which essentially allows the federal government to use military force if Quebec voters opt for independence.
The truth is that the use of force to violate the expressed democratic will of the people of Quebec could lead to civil war, as it has in Europe and elsewhere. Jack Layton's call for respect means nothing if it does not even include respect for the rights of Quebecois/es to national self‑determination - to choose whether they will live in Canada, and under what conditions; or whether they will separate from Canada.
Layton's position has bred deep resentment among workers and others in Quebec, in the same way that Stephen Harper's support for reopening same-sex marriage and reproductive rights legislation has bred deep anger among women and supporters of LGBT equality rights.
In the case of the Clarity Act, this effort to curtail important social rights is extended to denial of national rights, the right to self‑determination, including the right to secede.
None of the Big Business parties are prepared to recognize that Quebec is a nation within Canada. All, it now seems, are prepared to use force to prevent Quebec from leaving Canada. Such threats are guaranteed to stoke the separatist movement. As in a marriage, the use of force by one partner is no enticement to stay in a violent, unequal, and involuntary relationship.
As in a marriage, where divorce is an option of last resort, the enticement to stay is not force, but concessions by both leading to a new partnership that is equal and voluntary. In short, the ability to leave is also the precondition for staying.
A new referendum on Quebec separation seems likely within the next few years. That means a serious alternative other than force must be put before Quebec.
The Communist Party calls for recognition of the right of nations to self‑determination in a new Constitution, together with the convening of a Constituent Assembly to negotiate the terms of a new, equal and voluntary partnership of Aboriginal Peoples, Quebec, and English-speaking Canada.
The CLC and the labour movement in Canada know that Quebec is a nation, with the right to determine its own future, and the CLC and QFL have set up the structures necessary to reflect this fact of life, within the House of Labour. Canadian unity can only be achieved on the basis of such equality, with the free agreement of all parties.
The Communist Party also calls for rescinding the Clarity Act, which is an obstacle to equality and to the free agreement of all those parties concerned.
As well as a new constitutional deal, the CPC calls for action to protect the common interests of working people in all nations, by strengthening Canada's sovereignty and independence against the predatory attacks of US imperialism. United in an equal voluntary partnership, we stand. Divided we fall. Getting rid of the Clarity Act will remove a significant division. Let's do it now.
The anti‑war organization Ceasefire.ca has circulated a list of questions for political parties and candidates in the Jan. 23 election. The Communist Party of Canada's Peace and Disarmament Commission, headed by Winnipeg North candidate Darrell Rankin, has prepared answers to the questions.
"Both the Liberals and Conservatives want to tie Canada more closely to the dangerous foreign policy of the Bush Administration," says Rankin. "We urge voters to challenge the `major parties' on these crucial issues, and to take account of their answers when you go to the polls."
Here are the Ceasefire.ca questions and the CPC responses:
1. Missile defence lobbyists continue to urge the government to re‑open talks with the United States to join their flawed, expensive and dangerous system. If elected, will you ensure that Canada does not participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence system?
The Communist Party's response: The CPC has joined with other peace forces across Canada to campaign against any Canadian involvement in so‑called "missile defence," which is basically a U.S. imperialist strategy to dominate the world relying on weapons in space. The federal government should end any form of cooperation with this dangerous scheme, and pull out of all military alliances with the U.S.
2. According to the United Nations, Canada is only the 36th highest contributor of soldiers for UN‑led peacekeeping missions, on par with Peru and Guatemala. Meanwhile we are about to send more than 2,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight under U.S. and NATO command. If elected, will your party commit to returning Canada to our former position as one of the world's top 10 contributors of soldiers to UN‑led peacekeeping missions?
CPC: We demand an immediate withdrawal of US and UK forces from Iraq, and oppose any new military aggression. Instead of assisting U.S. aggression by sending Canadian forces to occupy Afghanistan, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia, Canada should adopt an independent foreign policy of peace and disarmament. Any involvement in UN‑led peacekeeping must be based on respect for international law, and reject imperialist policies of "humanitarian" intervention, "regime change" and "pre‑emptive" aggression.
3. Global military spending has grown to more than one trillion dollars per year, and half of that is being spent by the United States alone. Like the U.S., Canada is increasing its military spending and we are already the fourteenth highest in the world, seventh highest in NATO. This spending is being used to make our military more compatible with U.S. military forces ‑ not UN peacekeeping. If elected, will your party redirect planned military spending increases to support UN peacekeeping and other important security measures, such as improved health care, environmental protection and foreign aid?
CPC: In keeping with our longstanding positions, the Communist Party calls for a 50% reduction of the current annual military budget of about $12 billion, using the savings to convert military to civilian jobs. Both the Liberals and Tories plan major new military spending increases, funds which should instead be used to tackle poverty and environmental degradation at home. Canada's current spending on overseas military operations is about $1.1 billion, of which just $34 million (three percent!) is spent on UN‑led peacekeeping operations, while most goes to support U.S. occupations. Global security would be enhanced by diverting those funds to emergency assistance and foreign aid.
4. The international arms industry, like military spending, is growing rapidly. Canadian corporations are profiting from the arms race, making our country the sixth highest exporter of arms in the world in 2004, surpassing even China. If elected, will you tighten Canada's arms export controls, end public subsidies to corporations for weapons production, and ensure that public dollars, such as Canada Pension Plan funds, are not invested with arms producers?
CPC: Canada should ban all exports of weapons to countries which engage in military aggression. No public funds should be used to subsidize wealthy corporations which produce weapons and munitions for export, such as Bombardier which is heavily involved in the new SkyTrain line in Vancouver. Urgent measures are necessary to divest CPP funds from arms producers.
5. In October 2005 Canada was about to introduce an important proposal at the United Nations, along with six other nations, to start new negotiations aimed at reducing nuclear weapons and preventing the weaponization of space. But when the Bush administration signalled its disfavour, Canada withdrew its support, sabotaging the entire proposal. If elected, will you ensure that Canada leads the way for nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in space, starting by reintroducing the proposal for new UN disarmament talks in 2006?
CPC: The Bush Administration's dangerous rejection of international arms limitation treaties threatens to make the global arms race spiral out of control. Canada must take the initiative to launch a new round of UN disarmament talks, with the goal of abolishing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction held by all countries.
(Further information is available at the
This winter, Canadians face steep cost increases to heat their homes and drive their vehicles, while shareholders in the big energy monopolies rake in windfall profits. As the federal election campaign moved into high gear, Communist Party of Canada leader Miguel Figueroa, a candidate in Toronto's Davenport riding, has called for immediate action to protect working people from the impact of the energy crisis.
In a January 3 statement, Figueroa said that the Communist Party candidates will demand "immediate measures such as a cap on energy prices, especially for home heating; emergency assistance to truckers facing huge increases in operating costs; and a substantial `windfall profit tax' on large oil and gas companies." The Communists are also calling for the full nationalization of the oil and energy industries.
The world's oil giants have reaped huge gains from rising oil prices following the US/UK illegal aggression against Iraq. Exxon Mobil Corp., which owns Imperial Oil in Canada, reported third-quarter 2005 profits totalling $9.92 billion US, shattering its own previous industry record of $8.42 billion US set in the fourth quarter of 2004. Imperial Oil racked up profits of $659 million Cdn during the third quarter of 2005, up from $544 million Cdn a year earlier. Calgary‑based PetroCanada, which was sold off to private investors years ago, reported third‑quarter 2005 net income of $614 million, up from $410 million in the July‑September 2004 period.
"Almost half of Canadians now support public ownership of the oil and gas industry," points out Figueroa. "We have advocated this policy for decades as an essential step to save Canadian sovereignty and independence. Last fall, our Party warned that as the price of oil skyrockets, the Athabasca oil sands, as well as other oil and natural gas deposits, become increasingly valuable. These assets must not be left in the hands of the transnationals and the provincial governments. Canada's natural energy resources are the common wealth of the Canadian people as a whole. Many countries around the world - such as Mexico and Venezuela - have nationalized this crucial energy resource. Bolivia is now moving to do the same, and so should Canada."
In this election, the CPC is calling for reversal of the privatisation of PetroCanada, prevention of energy sellouts such as the takeover of Terasen by Texas-based Kinder Morgan, and measures to block the privatization of public energy and hydro utilities.
"Canadian resources should be used to build strong and sustainable industries which can be the cornerstone of the economy," says Figueroa. "Revenues from public ownership of the oil and gas industry could allow made-in-Canada policies such as a massive expansion of public transit systems coupled with lower fares, and greatly increased funding for publicly-owned alternative, renewable energy sources, making Canada a world leader in reduction of ozone-depleting gases and hydrocarbons."
To achieve these goals, Figueroa stressed, "Canada must break out of pro‑corporate trade deals. The NAFTA agreement, which prevents Canada from reducing oil exports to the United States or from setting lower domestic prices, must be abrogated immediately. At this critical moment, failure to bring energy resources under public ownership could spell the end of any meaningful degree of Canadian sovereignty and independence."