With three main opposition parties in this federal election battling to take apiece out of the Conservative pie, newly confirmed Marxist-Leninist Party candidate Alastair Haythornthwaite is, like his fellow 70 candidates across the country, taking a decidedly non-aggressive stance to the campaign.
“The reason I agreed to run is I’m very much opposed to the wars we’re participating in the Middle East,” says Haythornthwaite, who is running in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding. His party’s platform calls for Canada’s withdrawal from international defence bodies NATO and NORAD. “We’ve been party to the smashing of three states: Libya, Iraq and Syria.”
Not unlike the mainstream parties over the years that have fought to take out the standing government, Marxist-Leninists also favour democratic renewal, a term Haythornthwaite defines as getting back to a place where government involves its citizens more in the decision-making process.
“I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone that our whole political system needs to be overhauled,” he says. “In this country it’s a question of who makes the decisions and who reaps the benefits, and at this point I don’t think it’s the majority. I think people who are going to be affected by a decision are the ones who deserve to be involved.”
He sees Canada as falling under a great deal of outside pressure from the U.S. and from corporations looking to cash in on this country’s natural resources, a situation he says leads more to “made-on-Wall Street solutions” than decisions made in Canada’s best interest.
From a campaign standpoint, he doesn’t expect that getting started well after most of his opponents will affect his opportunity to get his party’s message out there.
Haythornthwaite was not on the list when the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association and Dogwood Initiative assembled their South Island ridings candidate debate series on environmental issues. He made sure he was at last Thursday’s event in Langford, lining up at the microphone to ask questions of the three candidates in attendance from the NDP, Liberal and Green parties.
All three agreed that Canada isn’t playing the same international role it has in past. Green candidate Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, who has family members in the military, lamented having grown up with Canada as peacekeepers and moving into a key humanitarian role. “Somehow we’ve become warmongers,” she said.
A relatively recent retiree from a career as a journeyman machinist, self-described lifelong Communist Haythornthwaite, 63, has lived on the Island since 1978. With more time on his hands, he says, taking on a political campaign is to him like working on another project. He acknowledges being an underdog in this race, but plans to offer people a true left-wing perspective on the issues.
“I think everyone in Canada recognizes that the path we’re on right now is not going to work out for us, either in the short term or the long run,” he says, calling the Stephen Harper “austerity program” a failure that has seen Canada become beholden to vested interests.
“Whatever happens, I’m sure we’ll get a good candidate elected out of this riding.”