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August 4, 2010

Courtneidge running for NDP in Ottawa

The Canadian Charger

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John Courtneidge is the New Democratic Party candidate for Parliament in the Ottawa-Orleans riding.

For the interview for this article he arranged to meet The Canadian Charger at a café, La Tierra, a workers’ co-op in Gatineau. 

The meeting place is important in this case, as it serves to illustrate his deep commitment to co-operatives and the co-operative movement.  It is his conviction that worker-controlled co-operatives are the key solution to our economic and social problems.

Courtneidge is a Ph.D. chemist who has worked as a researcher at the National Research Council.  He has also worked as an organizer and writer.  Courtneidge has taught and farmed, and he served as a town councillor in Hertford, England.  

His wide range of interests includes activism with the Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network and with Transport Action Canada, formerly Transport 2000.  Transport Action Canada is concerned with promoting public transit, safety in travel, energy efficiency, environmental protection, and related issues.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives engaged him to produce “Readings in Co-operative Socialism”, in which he outlined his ideas for a basic restructuring of society, with the new society based on worker co-operatives. 

That is, he favors the Cooperative Commonwealth, as in the old Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the predecessor to the NDP.

It is his position that this new society would abolish rent, land ownership, interest, money, and hierarchy. 

He wants to see money only “as a mechanism for discretionary purchases”, while an expanded co-operative arrangement would cover a wider range of goods and services to meet needs. 

To replace taxes, income would be distributed in a much narrower range than now and there would be a guaranteed income.  In England, he was active in the Labour Party, where he was firmly against the policies of Tony Blair.

When asked about his concerns with the Harper Tories, he said that Harper is driven by fear. 

The reaction of Harper to the G20 demonstrations is one example of that fear.  However, fear also permeates his economic understanding. 

Harper and those that think like him believe that, unless international corporations come to Canada, there will be no work.  To avoid this perceived threat, the Tories provide “tax giveaways” and engage in repression of the disadvantaged. 

By contrast, he urged that it is human needs that create human work.  “Harper,” he said, “does not understand what human needs are because he is not a socialist.”

Because of his global perspective of the social question, he did not focus on more specific shortcomings of the Harper Conservatives. 

He did, however, speak of the ongoing story of Western Canada discontent.  Westerners, he observed, have seen themselves as exploited by “the East”, through the tax system.  Hence, Alberta saw the rise of Social Credit and Saskatchewan the CCF.  Yet, “Most taxpayers fail to recognize why they are being taxed.  It is to maintain the status quo.”

When asked about the controversy surrounding Libby Davies’ comments on the Israel/Palestine conflict, he felt that he would need to learn more about the situation. 

However, as a Quaker and a pacifist he had definite views on the conflict itself.  On the one hand, it is wrong for rockets to be fired from Gaza into Israel, he observed, but on the other hand the killing of Rachel Corrie was “an outrage.” 

Furthermore, he returned to his comment about Harper and applied it to Israel—acting in fear.  Then, he turned again to his view that land ownership should be abolished.  He saw that as a solution to the dispute between Israel and Palestine over land.

It is clear that Courtneidge is very much an idealist.  Whether his views are also practical, especially in the here and now, we leave to the reader and the voter.

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