Canadian Communists warn of Conservative election victory
Communist Party of Canada leader Elizabeth Rowley is sounding the alarm of a possible Conservative Party victory in the country's federal election now underway. Her party says a minority government, combined with action outside parliament, is the best outcome given the circumstances. | Photo via CPC

TORONTO—As of press time, past the halfway point in Canada’s federal election campaign, the Conservative Party has surged to hold a slim, but definite lead over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. This raises the very real possibility of a victory for the Conservatives’ leader, Erin O’Toole.

For Communist Party of Canada leader Elizabeth Rowley, this is the dangerous result of working peoples’ anger being manipulated by O’Toole’s clever use of right-wing populism.

“The Tories have deliberately targeted working people in this election—the same way that Trump did in the U.S. The message is similar: ‘Workers are hurting, the Liberals and their fat cat friends are responsible for their pain, Conservatives know this and will put things right for workers when elected.’

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, called an election thinking his party could leverage its management of the COVID-19 crisis for political gain. Polls consistently show a lead for the Conservative Party and its right-wing leader, Erin O’Toole, center, however. The social-democratic NDP is led by Jagmeet Singh, right, and will likely continue in its position as the third-place party. | The Canadian Press via AP

“This is right-wing populism that aims to take advantage of the enormous anger that has built up across the country at the Liberals for their massive corporate bailouts and direct handouts to Air Canada, Bombardier, and the oil and gas multinationals.”

Rowley notes that, at the same time as the government was handing billions to corporations, “seven million workers lost their jobs last year, ran through their savings, incurred enormous and even insurmountable debts, and significant numbers lost their homes, faced eviction, or are living with family or on the streets.”

So far during the pandemic, 26,000 people in Canada have died from COVID-19, at least 80% of whom died in private, for-profit long-term care homes. Millions of workers still do not have paid sick days, and the country has witnessed inequitable vaccine rollouts, premature lifting of restrictions to facilitate corporate profit, and school re-openings that have left unvaccinated students and staff vulnerable to new variants. “Working people,” says Rowley, “do have a lot to be angry and bitter about.”

She points to news from Statistics Canada that the economy is not recovering from the capitalist crisis and actually contracted last spring and again in July. “One million workers are out of work right now—and will be out of CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) benefits and Employment Insurance top-ups next month. Add on an election that was stage-managed by the Liberals to secure a majority government until 2025, and it’s clear why voters are furious and why the Liberals are in such deep trouble.”

It is also clear that there is a far-right campaign of anti-vaxxers, racists, and misogynists working hard to stampede voters to the right. Rowley and the Communist Party are warning of this very dangerous development, which seems to be strongly connected with Maxime Bernier’s racist People’s Party and, to a lesser extent, the Conservatives.

Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are parties of big business who will not bring about the progressive and fundamental change so urgently needed, the Communist Party argues. However, Rowley insists that the Conservatives pose “the greatest danger with their militarist, pro-war, and pro-NATO policies; their refusal to recognize climate change; and their determination to impose austerity policies the likes of which Canadians have never seen before, according to (former Conservative Prime Minister) Stephen Harper.”

She notes that Harper has been attacking government spending on CERB, EI, and benefits to workers and small businesses and demanding that the $381 billion deficit accrued be slashed immediately. “Harper is pushing for the same measures imposed on Greece by the EU and the German banks which included massive job losses and slashed wages, pensions, social programs, and public services along with widespread privatization, deregulation, and corporate tax cuts and attacks on labor, democratic, and civil rights. This is the austerity agenda that the Tories are campaigning on to big business, but hiding from the public.”

Communists, labor, and social activists, and other progressives are working to expose the dangers of the Conservative agenda. On childcare, the Tories oppose a pan-Canadian childcare system and threaten to replace the Liberals’ funding plan with a completely insufficient tax credit system. Their convention in March denied that climate change was real. O’Toole has also stated that he will only support limited gun control on a small number of specific assault weapons.

The Conservatives promise jobs and rising living standards to workers, but this does not square with the austerity agenda of cuts and privatization which they have pledged to their corporate backers. In terms of foreign policy, Rowley describes the Conservatives as “warmongers and hawks that march in lock-step with NATO and U.S. foreign policy—including on Cuba.”

She warns that working-class voters are “starting to get the smell of the real Tory agenda in this election and that they won’t be fooled by O’Toole.”

As for Liberal promises, it seems that voters simply don’t believe they will deliver. The evidence supports this doubt—the Liberals have yet to come through on their 30-year-old promise of a country-wide childcare program and have countless undelivered promises and obligations to Indigenous peoples and nations.

Minority government best for workers—but only with mobilization

In this context, the latest polls suggest a minority government is the likely outcome of this election. The Communist Party views this as the best outcome given the circumstances.

“A progressive majority is not in the cards,” says Rowley, “and therefore shackling the hands of a right-wing government to prevent it from acting unilaterally and electing as many progressive candidates as possible, including Communists, to act as a block inside Parliament is the next best option.

“A minority government that is dogged by a strong progressive bloc could result in some positive legislation as well. But this requires the labor and democratic movements to mobilize and work with progressives inside Parliament to put pressure on the government to act on urgent issues like climate change, peace and disarmament, job creation, a quality public childcare system, wages and pensions, and enacting the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry.”

Clearly, this requires a much bigger commitment from the social-democratic NDP in the first place, but also the Greens and parts of the Bloc Québecois party to fight for these policies and to work together with the Communist Party and with a mobilized labor and people’s movement.

“But this is what the times call for,” Rowley insists. “It’s evidenced by the crisis in the economy and healthcare, the climate crisis, by the growing threat of war and militarism, and by the growth of a very dangerous and mobilized far-right movement in Canada.”

The message is a consistent one for the Communist Party of Canada. The party says it brings to the table a commitment to build a powerful “People’s Coalition” that can unite the progressive forces in and out of Parliament for progressive and democratic advance and for the fundamental changes needed to curb corporate power in order to achieve those advances. Rowley says the Communist Party is a working-class party whose interests are inseparable from those of working people in Canada.

“This is particularly important as more than 1 million unemployed and many more precariously employed and living on credit and the edge of disaster are facing into a very difficult winter with no government supports and increasing hardship, new waves of COVID, and growing uncertainty about the future.”

The Communist Party of Canada says that, no matter the outcome of the election, it will take action both inside and outside Parliament to pressure the government to meet people’s needs. Here, CPC members participate in a solidarity with Cuba action outside the U.S. Consulate in Toronto in July 2021. | C.J. Atkins / People’s World

Whatever the outcome, an extra-parliamentary fight will be critical

A minority government might be the better outcome for workers, but for capital, a minority is unsatisfactory. Corporations want a majority government that will act decisively to download responsibility for the $380 billion deficit onto the working class. Rowley says it is clear that this election is not going to settle much.

“The working class didn’t create this crisis and mustn’t pay for it. This is a capitalist crisis created by the insatiable drive to increase corporate profits.” She points out that, indeed, corporations have made enormous profits throughout the last 18 months. “Statistics Canada has just reported $1.54 billion in corporate profits—an 18.1% increase—in the first quarter of 2021. This is on top of the billions in corporate handouts through CEWS, LEEFF, and direct handouts such as the $5.9 billion given to Air Canada this summer—plus undisclosed amounts to the oil and gas multinationals.”

After this election, the struggle will continue to escalate as working people fight for their jobs, their living standards, their rights, and their future. Critical to this will be the fight to build a People’s Coalition that can unite the left and progressive forces inside Parliament and outside of it to counter the coming attacks from corporations and government as well as to achieve real gains for working people.

People’s Voice


People’s Voice
People’s Voice

Canada's leading socialist newspaper, in the tradition of The Worker, Canadian Tribune, and Pacific Tribune.