A new independent candidate in the May provincial election is presenting a concept of socialist utopia that is bound to broaden and enliven the polarized political debate.
Eden Haythornthwaite, who is preparing to file her nomination papers after announcing her candidacy in the Cowichan Valley riding last week, says the focus of her campaign is on the need for genuine democracy. She is the sixth candidate to declare her intentions.
Anyone who chooses to be an independent candidate likely has a passion for politics, and Haythornthwaite, 65, comes from a household where political theories and ideals were common topics around the dinner table. Her late husband Alastair ran under the Marxist-Leninist banner in the 2015 federal election. Haythornthwaite herself has left her mark on public life. A mother of five children, she served as the School District 79 school board chair in 2012. That was the year the board was fired by the education minister for submitting a deficit budget rather than a balanced one, contravening the School Act (the same thing happened to the Vancouver School Board last October).
So it’s no surprise that she’s advocating “fully funded public services,” such as more spending on health and education in B.C. She’s calling for the province to fund lifelong education: free daycare, trades and university tuition. Most people are not getting what they need, she says. “People have been asking for their rights for a long time. They’re being told we can’t afford everything.” To fund this, she is calling for an overhaul of the tax code including the removal of sales tax and an increase in contributions from the high-income sector.
She wants to see “democratically directed public ownership of all natural resources and the industries which spring from them as well as the banking, transportation, communication and insurance sectors.” People may argue that being a Crown corporation hasn’t helped ICBC. Yet there is a widely-held opinion that BC Ferries, once a Crown corporation and now an independent enterprise, should be more closely aligned with the ministry of transportation.
For inspiration, she looked at the current and past examples of socialism, such as the successful regime in Bolivia right now, and the American union leader Eugene Debs, who became an Indiana senator and ran for U.S. president five times, the last in 1920 while in jail. Another inspiration for Haythornthwaite is the 1945 election manifesto of Britain’s Labour Party, which called for nationalizing railroads, fuel and power industries such as coal mines. Labour defeated Churchill with these promises and launched the modern healthcare system three years later.
Broadening the political conversation during the campaign is her reason for running as a candidate. “My campaign is not a condemnation of the other parties,” she said. “We don’t have enough voices. We would like to do something other than fundraise before elections and then go back to sleep.”