To say Clara Sorrenti has her work cut out for her would be a drastic understatement.
Sorrenti is running as the Communist Party candidate in the London North Centre riding, which is up for grabs now that Liberal MPP and health minister Deb Matthews is not seeking re-election.
It’s a tight race for the big four parties (Green, Liberal, NDP, PC) – fresh faces all except for former Conservative Party of Canada candidate Susan Truppe under the Progressive Conservative banner. But for candidates perennially stuck in the ‘other category’ like Sorrenti, getting noticed has been a tough run.
LondonFuse spoke to Sorrenti during a pop-in session she was hosting at the East Village Arts Collective (EVAC) on Dundas May 28. It’s a venue that lends itself well to the grassroots nature of the Communist movement.
On entering the place, it’s impossible not to notice the bookshelf filled with Communist literature. Directly across the room on the facing wall, Communist Party posters dominate the space. Add to that a visit from party leader Dave McKee, and the scene was ripe for political discourse.
Earlier that day, Sorrenti had been invited to sit in with the other candidates for a talk on CBC Radio. Unfortunately, she had to decline as she was already at EVAC, talking policy with the drop-in crowd.
It was a tough one to turn down, as she had been passed up for many debates in favour of the big four parties. Not to be deterred, she has called out her opponents on social media for being left out.
However, it’s frustrating, she said, to be excluded from many debates when other candidates skip them entirely.
A former New Democrat volunteer, Sorrenti became disillusioned with the part when, in 2013, they decided to drop references to socialism from their party literature.
That intentional shift to attract centrist voters left her no choice but to seek out a party whose values still aligned with her own.
But where do the communists stand? And why should London vote Communist?
“I think London is particularly a city that could benefit greatly from the Communist platform – especially our health policies,” she said. “The situation is a lot worse than even our politicians are willing to tell us.”
But what is the Communist plan?
For starters, reopening closed hospitals and adding services like chiropractic and physiotherapy to OHIP – services that were once included but eventually dropped.
Other notable party policies include:
Implementing 24-hour child care.
Doing away with provincial sales tax, and income taxes on anyone earning less than $40,000 a year.
It also includes shifting the tax burden to corporations and the very wealthy.
These points have been resonating on the doorstep, where the reaction has been far better than Sorrenti expected.
Reason being, “well… we’re communists,” as she puts it.
Small but mighty
Sorrenti and fellow London West Communist candidate Mike Lewis are two of just 12 Communist candidates running in the province this year, and the first to run in London in more than two decades. Half of them are first-time and most of them younger.
It’s a sign of a larger movement that Communist Party leader Dave McKee says is helped by candidates like Sorrenti.
“She’s been extremely energetic in her campaign,” he said. “As a young person, she has a lot of ideas on outreach… she helps us to make sure we’re speaking to that particular section of the working class, as well as an older demographic.”
However, there are some policy angles that will be hard for Londoners to swallow. Defence is a good example. The party supports pulling out of military operations and disarmament – a tough sell for a city where defence is a major manufacturing employer.
Slow but steady
Still, the political climate in London is shifting albeit slowly.
Even though the Communists are becoming more popular than ever in London, it’s still all but certain they will not secure a seat here.
But, as Sorrenti will tell you – a one-sided fight is still worth fighting.
“I think everything starts somewhere,” she said. “Everything starts small and gets bigger.”
The election takes place June 7. Check out our 30 Days to Vote series for information on your riding, your candidates and your local polling stations.