When Barbara Biley ran for a seat in the B.C. legislature in 2009, she garnered her highest tally of votes ever, nearly double her best federal showing.
However, at 0.41 per cent of the vote, compared to 0.25, neither result was likely to force her to choose between elected office and her day job.
Biley, a health care worker at St. Joseph’s General Hospital, is a familiar face on the campaign trail, having run federally in 2006 (0.15 per cent) and in 2004 (0.13 per cent).
Those dismal poll results for the, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada candidate are generally not mirrored in the response she elicits at all candidates’ meetings though. Her comments are often appreciated by many in the audience who seem to appreciate the added depth Biley adds to often formulaic debates.
Biley says there’s a good reason for the disconnect.
“People don’t vote for me because I’m not going to win. What we have been trained to do is vote on the basis of who is going to win. We no longer vote on the basis of liking this or that party and what they stand for.”
Voters, she said, are being urged to vote strategically, to keep Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from gaining a majority. However, Biley sees this as a false choice.
“Strategic voting has to start with the parties. If the parties were to decide their mission in life is to make sure the Harper government doesn’t get a majority, they would look at each riding and see who could win it and then get behind that one candidate. They won’t do that.”
Biley said she runs not to win, but to make people think.
“I do this because it is extremely important that the political issues facing the Canadian people find a voice in the election. To not even have the voice of the working class would be even worse than the situation we have now.”
Biley became involved with politics when she was a student at the University of British Columbia in the 1960s.
“It was the time of all the turmoil and the upsurge of the student movement in the U.S. and Canada. I met the Internationalists at UBC, which was at that time an anti-imperialist organization promoting the revolutionary concept that people ought to think for themselves.”
The organization, she said, gave rise to the Communist Party of Canada, Marxist -Leninist, of which Biley was a founding member.
Between elections, Biley walks her talk, serving as a member of the executive of Comox local of the Hospital Employees’ Union, as a member of Comox Valley Peace Group, Comox Valley Friends of Cuba and the Campbell River and Courtenay District Labour Council.
Biley said she has a few top issues she wants to raise.
“First, we need to stop wrecking of our manufacturing and resource industries and social programs. You can’t have a strong economy without manufacturing, and it is being systematically destroyed.”
The main point she wants to make however, involves the need for democratic renewal.
“All of us are marginalized. We have no say whatsoever. We have no say in the topics discussed, the policies implemented and we can’t do a damn thing if the people we elect don’t do what they said they would do.
“We need to put an end to the cartel system where the only competition is between the major parties to see who is going to run the state on behalf of the biggest corporations.”
This disconnect between democratic ideals and practice, she said, is well known, but seldom mentioned.
“That’s why I get support at these meetings,” she said. “I say what’s not to be said. It’s like I’m telling a dirty secret.”