For the first time in its 95-year history, the Communist Party of Canada has a woman as its central leader. Liz Rowley was elected to the position by the CPC’s Central Committee, at a meeting in Toronto on the Jan. 30-31 weekend. The change of leadership follows the resignation of Miguel Figueroa, who stepped down for health reasons after serving in this office for 23 years.
Liz Rowley is well-known across Canada for her many years of activity in the Communist Party and in a wide range of people’s movements. Born in British Columbia in 1949, she joined the CPC in 1967. As a student at the University of Alberta, she was the Party’s youngest candidate in the 1972 federal election, speaking out strongly for women’s reproductive rights and an end to the Vietnam War while running in the riding of Edmonton Strathcona.
She has been a Party organizer in Ontario since 1973, apprenticing as a typesetter in Windsor before becoming Provincial Organizer in 1975, International Women’s Year. She has been a member of the Central Executive Committee since 1978. Living in Hamilton during the 1980s, she was deeply involved in many labour struggles to defend jobs, living standards, labour rights, women’s equality, social programs and Canadian sovereignty. While campaigning to ban the Ku Klux Klan, Rowley’s apartment was destroyed by arson. During the year long Stelco strike in 1981 she married a steelworker. She is now the proud mother of two adult children.
Moving to Toronto after being elected as Ontario leader of the Party in 1988, Rowley became a powerful grassroots spokesperson in the “Days of Action” fightback against brutal cutbacks imposed by the Mike Harris Tories, and was elected a Public School Trustee in East York. She has been an outspoken participant in many battles for the rights and interests of working people in Ontario, around such issues as defence of public education, for public auto insurance, the fight against plant closures, for peace and anti-racism, proportional representation, and much more. Along with Miguel Figueroa, she was instrumental in the membership struggle to block attempts to dissolve the CPC during the early 1990s.
Born in Montreal in 1952, Miguel Figueroa joined the CPC in 1977 a national field organizer for National Union of Students. In 1978, he became the party’s Greater Vancouver organizer, and from 1986 to 1992 he was the Party’s Atlantic region leader. Starting in the late 1980s, he and Rowley were key figures in the struggle to save the CPC. At the Party’s 30th Central Convention in December 1992, Figueroa was elected as its new leader. Over the last 23 years, Miguel Figueroa led the Communist Party through the landmark Figueroa case, eight federal election campaigns, and speaking across the country. He was also a prominent figure at the annual International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, representing the CPC many times.
The 38th Central Convention of the CPC will be held May 21-23 in Toronto. The Convention will feature a tribute to Miguel Figueroa as a highlight of the weekend’s agenda.
Over the coming months, Liz Rowley will meet with CPC members and supporters across the country. She will also speak at a series of public forums and events as party of the CPC’s campaign to block ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-country corporate pact signed by Canada last week in Auckland, New Zealand.
Create Jobs and Increase Wages!
Make full employment and full-time jobs a top priority.
- Develop and implement a comprehensive “Jobs First” strategy based on massive public investments to increase value-added jobs in manufacturing and secondary industry, to rebuild & upgrade Canada’s public and municipal infrastructure, to strengthen social programs and environmental protection, and to build affordable housing.
Raise the wages of workers.
- The real value of wages have stagnated or fallen over the past 25 years while labour productivity has grown almost 40%
- Raise the minimum wage to $20/hour; ban “two-tier wages” for new hires.
- Legislate a 32-hour work week with no loss in take-home pay and no loss in service to the public. Ban compulsory overtime, and legislate minimum four weeks annual paid vacations.
Guarantee decent benefits for all
- Guarantee decent benefits for all, including part-time, home-based and contract workers.
- Dedicate the entire EI fund to jobless workers – set EI benefits at 90% of previous earnings for all workers through periods of unemployment, and include coverage for first-time job seekers.
- Enact a fair wage policy and full pay and employment equity for women workers.
- Act to combat poverty, especially among Aboriginal peoples, new immigrants, women, youth, seniors and persons with disabilities.
- Ban “workfare” and introduce a liveable guaranteed, annual income.
- Protect and expand the universal public pension system, including substantially higher CPP benefits.
- Enact early voluntary retirement at the age of 60.
- Re-establish and expand funding to provinces earmarked for health, education, social housing and welfare, and enhance all-Canada standards, while ensuring that Quebec retains control and administration of its own programs.
- Establish a publicly financed and administered system of universal, quality, affordable childcare with Canada-wide standards.
Peace and Disarmament
- Adopt an independent Canadian foreign policy of peace and disarmament, and for environmental sustainability.
- Immediately end Canadian participation in the war in Iraq and Syria, and the internal conflict in Ukraine, and oppose any new military aggression.
- Respect international law, including the sovereignty of all states – reject imperialist policies of “regime change” and nuclear first-strike.
- Oppose the weaponization of space and militarization of the Arctic.
- Support the global abolition of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
- Get out of the NATO and Norad alliances. Scrap the planned purchase of fighters and warships, and reduce the military budget by 75%.
- Convert military to civilian jobs – end military exports from Canada. Oppose Israeli apartheid – support a just peace in the Middle East based on total withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the formation of an independent, viable Palestinian state.
- Cancel Third World debts.
Nationalize Energy and Natural Resources
- Adopt a People’s Energy Plan, including public ownership and democratic control of all energy and natural resource extraction, production and distribution.
- Freeze and reduce energy exports.
- Expand shared power flows among provinces through an East-West power and energy grid.
- Block new development of the Alberta tar sands, and close these operations within five years, with jobs guaranteed for workers in more sustainable industries at equivalent wages.
- Compensate the Aboriginal peoples and communities affected by the tar sands.
- No to the Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Keystone XL, Line 9 and Energy East pipelines, and to oil and gas exploration and shipping on the west coast.
- Put a moratorium on the exploration and development of shale gas resources.
Public Ownership & Democratic Control
- Keep public assets and services out of the hands of profiteers.
- Reverse the privatization and contracting-out of public programs, services and energy utilities.
- Stop P3s (Public-Private Partnerships).
- Put the banking and insurance system under public ownership and democratic control.
- Halt attempts to privatize Canada Post – restore home mail delivery services.
- Reverse the privatization of Air Canada, PetroCanada and CN Rail.
- Ban exports of fresh water.
- Restore funding for the CBC, and increase public support for the arts and Canadian culture.
Keep Industrial Jobs in Canada
- End the sell-out of manufacturing and secondary industry and strengthen the value-added manufacturing sector.
- Expand employment in industry by nationalizing the steel and auto industries, building a Canadian car, and expanding rapid transit production.
- Promote stronger machine tool, ship-building, agricultural implement and household appliance industries.
- Use tariff, currency exchange and other trade controls, plus plant closure legislation with teeth (including fines or public takeover), to protect jobs.
- Legislate a two-year notice of layoffs.
- Increase employer-paid severance pay and retraining, and strengthen bankruptcy laws to guarantee protection for wages and pensions.
Expand Public Healthcare
- Stop and reverse the sharpening attack on our public health system and universal Medicare.
- Uphold the Canada Health Act, and close private, for-profit clinics and labs.
- Expand the public Medicare system to include universal pharmacare, dental and eye care, and long-term care, home and continuing care.
- Nationalize the pharmaceutical industry.
Tax the Greedy, Not the Needy
- Enact progressive tax reform based on ability to pay!
- Double the corporate tax rate, and impose taxes on 100% of capital gains.
- End tax loopholes and shelters; collect deferred corporate taxes and jail corporate tax evaders.
- Eliminate taxes on incomes under $35,000/yr.
- Abolish the regressive HST and provincial sales taxes.
- Impose wealth and inheritance taxes on estates over $1 Million.
- Scrap the Tories’ income-splitting plan, which primarily benefits the wealthy, and pressures women to stay at home.
Global Environmental Justice – Act to Halt Climate Change
- Adopt emergency legislation to slash greenhouse gas emissions, and support reparations to countries affected by capitalist-driven climate change.
- Invest heavily to create jobs through renewable energy and conservation programs, and phase out coal-fired plants and terminate reliance on nuclear energy.
- Substantially expand urban mass transit, and eliminate bus and transit fares.
- Legislate stringent vehicle emission controls.
- Fund high-speed rail as a better alternative to highways and airlines.
- Ban “biofuels” derived from feed grains.
- Impose heavy fines and jail terms against polluters and destructive corporate practices, such as clear-cutting, in-ocean fish farming, and deep-sea draggers.
- Ban industrial development in parks.
Fair Trade & Sovereignty, not Capitalist “Globalization”
- Get out of NAFTA and other pro-corporate ‘trade’ pacts.
- Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement (CETA), the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and other capitalist investment pacts which supersede and undermine locally-determined government policies and powers.
- Stop and reverse the expansion of U.S. and other transnational control over key sectors of the domestic economy.
End “Security State” Laws
- Stop the drive to a ‘police state’ in Canada – repeal C-51 and all other undemocratic and repressive “anti-terrorism” legislation.
- Abolish secret detention without trial, “national security” certificates and the no-fly list.
- Rescind the “border security declaration” which allows U.S. troops to enter Canada during “emergencies.” No to “preventive arrest” laws.
- Ban racial profiling by the RCMP, provincial and local police.
- Defend the right to free speech and dissent. Stop government spying, police violence and agents provocateurs, and the use of the courts to repress civil and democratic rights.
- Strengthen parliamentary oversight of the armed forces and civilian control of the RCMP.
- Disband CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).
- Defend and expand on-line privacy rights. Strengthen and enforce punishments for police wrong-doing. Ban the use of tasers.
Justice for Aboriginal peoples, Acadians and Québec
- Recognize the national rights of Aboriginal peoples and Québec to self-determination, up to and including secession. Draft and adopt a new, democratic constitution based on an equal and voluntary partnership of the Aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit), Québec, the Acadian people, and English-speaking Canada.
- Rescind the “Clarity” Act. Abolish the Senate. Remove vestiges of colonialism from all federal legislation; act now for just settlement of land claims, including natural resource-sharing agreements, without extinguishment of inherent Aboriginal title.
- Implement the recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
- Take emergency action to improve living conditions, employment, health and housing of Aboriginal peoples, and immediately end the racist and discriminatory cap on educational and health funding for treaty First Nations.
- Support the demand by Aboriginal peoples for a full Public Inquiry into the tragedy of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls across Canada.
Full Gender Equality NOW
- Reverse the Harper attacks on women’s equality programs.
- Close the wage gap – legislate full pay and employment equity.
- Guarantee accessible and publicly funded abortion and reproductive rights services in every province and territory.
- Establish a publicly financed and administered system of universal, quality, affordable childcare with Canada-wide standards.
- Increase wages for child care workers.
- Protect women’s right to EI maternity coverage; expand parental benefits to 52 weeks.
- Fund equality-seeking women’s groups.
- End all forms of violence against women and provide adequate funding for crisis centres and transition houses.
- Repeal Harper’s new prostitution law (Bill C-36).
Fight Racism, Sexism and Homophobia
- Oppose all forms of racism and discrimination.
- Strengthen and enforce affirmative action and employment equity programs for Aboriginal peoples, racialized communities and persons with disabilities.
- Ban all discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
- Guarantee the rights of Aboriginal peoples and people with disabilities for equal access to social, medical and educational facilities and services.
- Strengthen laws and enforcement against hate crimes and neo-fascist groups, and prosecute war criminals living in Canada.
A Democratic Immigration Policy
- No one is illegal; stop deportations of immigrants and refugees, and reverse cuts to legal aid.
- End Harper’s two-tier citizenship policy.
- Repeal the racist quota system which discriminates against immigrants from developing countries.
- Stop criminalizing refugees entering Canada.
- Full redress for Chinese head-tax payers and their families.
- Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the “Live-in Caregiver” Program, and provide a clear and accessible path to permanent residency and citizenship for all foreign and migrant workers in Canada.
A Future for Youth – Education for All
- Increase federal support for universal, quality public education at all levels.
- Rollback and eliminate tuition fees for post-secondary education.
- Stop the drive to ‘corporatize’ education, and protect free speech on campuses.
- Shift from loans to grants for student assistance.
- Significantly increase funding and access to training and apprenticeship programs.
- Build better schools and colleges, not more prisons and “boot camps.”
- Reject attempts to criminalize youth; reduce the age of consent to 14.
A Bill of Rights for Labour
- Enshrine in the constitution the right of workers to organize, strike and bargain collectively, and to take collective political action.
- Ban strike-breaking and scabbing.
- Strengthen labour standards; block anti-labour “right-to-work” laws.
- Place farm workers, domestic workers, and migrant workers under federal jurisdiction with full labour standards and the right to organize and bargain collectively.
- Legislate a minimum of four weeks annual paid vacations.
- Guarantee benefits for part-time, home-based and contract workers.
Housing is a Basic Human Right
- Take emergency action to build 1 million units of affordable social housing over next 4 years!
- Create direct and spin off jobs, while building new social, cooperative and non-profit housing for sale or rent.
- Establish federal-provincial-municipal land banks.
- Ban evictions, mortgage foreclosures and utility cut‑offs due to unemployment.
- Support demands for meaningful rent controls.
Make Every Vote Count
- Enact mixed-member proportional representation and the right to recall MPs.
- Guarantee equal treatment for all registered political parties.
- Scrap Harper’s (Un)Fair Elections Act. Amend the Broadcast Act to give equal time to all parties, so that voters can make informed choices.
- Lower the voting age to 16.
- Conduct comprehensive enumeration before every election, and strengthen legal action against all forms of voter suppression.
- Dramatically cut spending limits for political parties.
- Remove restrictions on the right of unions to donate to political parties; enforce the ban on corporate donations.
- Members of Parliament to receive the average workers’ wages and benefits.
Support Family Farms – Defend Canada’s Food Sovereignty
- Ensure Canada’s food sovereignty through policies that benefit family farms and fishers, including income supports – no more bankruptcies!
- Restore the Canadian Wheat Board elected by prairie farmers, and re-establish single-desk grain sales.
- Reduce rail freight rates.
- Curb the power of agro-industrial monopolies; set price controls to reduce the cost of farm inputs.
- Increase food safety inspections. Set price controls on staple foods for Northern communities.
- Support organic farming; reduce the use of antibiotics, fertilizers, pesticides, and other potentially harmful farm inputs, and ban “terminator” seeds in Canada.
- Require labelling of genetically-modified food products, and reduce the scale of the GMO food system.
A New Deal for Cities
- Give constitutional status and wealth taxing powers to municipalities.
- Return 50% of gas and road user taxes to cities.
- Increase core funding for capital and operating costs of expanded mass urban transit.
- Rebuild crumbling municipal and provincial infrastructure.
- Reverse “downloading” which forces cities to pay for social programs.
- Re-establish low-interest loans to cities and towns.