As was the case in the 2019 federal election, Campbell River resident and Marxist-Leninist Party candidate Carla Neal will be on the ballot for the North Island-Powell River riding this election.
Neal said she loves elections, but believes Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s decision to call a snap election was unnecessary.
“He knew that we were in a fourth wave of COVID when he called the election, and he did it anyway,” said Neal. “What I hope to do is allow or insist on more input by the people in what the government does. The government is not listening to the people; the election call is a perfect example.”
Not to be confused with the Communist Party of Canada, the Marxist-Leninist Party is a separate entity running two candidates on Vancouver Island and three in Metro Vancouver, as well as 31 others across Canada. The party proposes what Neal calls radical “democratic renewal.”
“People come to power and not parties,” said Neal of her party’s ideology. “What’s important is ideas, and not just what the leader dictates is important to the people. We need communication that goes from the people to our representatives.”
Neal said Canada’s democracy currently operates on that basis in theory, but not in practice.
At its core, Marxism-Leninism is a theory that espouses revolutionary struggle as the primary means by which to obtain power on behalf of poor and working-class people. That means for parties like Neal’s, fighting elections is just one aspect of its political work.
“The electoral element is probably the smaller part, because that only happens when the election is called and during the election campaign,” said Neal. “However, most of our work is done between elections.”
Neal said she and other Marxist-Leninist Party members have recently been involved with campaigns to keep local hospitals open, and solidarity campaigns with the people of Palestine.
Related to that latter issue, Neal said she believes international affairs are not being given enough attention during this election.
“The theory is that people don’t vote based on international actions,” said Neal. “I do”
Neal said her other priorities include protecting old-growth forests, supporting the labour movement and fighting climate change.
In the last election, Neal received a meagre 48 votes. Asked why she thinks people should vote for her despite her extremely slim chances of winning, Neal noted that even some mainstream parties (such as the Liberals and Greens) have failed to come close to winning the riding in recent elections, but people still vote for them anyway.
“The reason you vote for somebody when they’re not going to win anyway is to register your vote; it’s the only time the people get any direct say at all,” said Neal.
As Neal sees it, all the major parties govern in the same way.
“They always have; why would they change?” she said, also noting that Trudeau promised the 2015 federal election would be the last one fought under the current first-past-the-post voting system.
“Well, that just evaporated, and suddenly you don’t even hear about it from the Green Party, about how [Trudeau] broke that promise,” she added.
Neal addresses misconceptions
Regarding her own party, Neal believes there are widespread misconceptions across North America about communism. In particular, said Neal, negative associations with the ideology of the Soviet Union and the legacy of United States senator Joe McCarthy’s attacks on suspected communists during the 1950s can make it hard to persuade people to vote for her.
“The way that I approach [people who are adverse to communism] is to start talking about an issue we may agree on; I try to take my lead from them to see what their issues are,” explained Neal. “The Marxist-Leninist Party is not Russian, it’s not Chinese.”
Neal added that she does admire the communist government in Cuba: “I love their health care system.”
Above all else, Neal said she was inspired to get involved with politics through the peace movement.
“I grew up with the Vietnam War, and it just always seemed like a bad idea to me,” said Neal. “And the same thing with Afghanistan, and Iraq.”
2021 North Island-Powell River riding federal election candidates:
Rachel Blaney (NDP)
Shelley Downey (Conservative)
Stacey Gastis (Maverick)
Jennifer Grenz (Liberal)
Paul Macnight (PPC)
Carla Neal (Marxist-Leninist)
Jessica Wegg (Green)