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Back in April the powers-that-be within the NDP stepped in, at the last minute, to block the potential candidacy of Jacob Kearey-Moreland in the Ontario riding of Simcoe North.

This move on the part of the party was particularly Orwellian in this case — a fact which I wrote about at the time — and part of a broader pattern within both the NDP and mainstream party politics generally. The fixation on tightly scripted messaging and narrow appeals to certain groups of voters has been a major part of the overall shift of our political discourse to the right and away from constructive, but possibly controversial, solutions to the broad array of very serious problems facing us in Canada and globally.

Unlike many pushed out or blocked by the NDP, Kearey-Moreland decided to run in the election anyway and has been campaigning hard and working to get his message out in spite of all of the very real obstacles that are placed in the path of those who seek office but are not doing so under the banner of one of the major parties.

I reached out to Jacob to discuss these challenges, what he hopes to add to the discussion, his experience with the NDP and his interesting vision of what he calls “Cooperative Interdependence.”

On the masthead of your Facebook page it says that people should vote for you “for co-operative interdependence.” What do you mean by the term “Cooperative Interdependence?”

We live in complex, interdependent networks. Cooperative Interdependence I think better describes our shared state of existence and points to a new approach to politics, one that is based on respect and SOILidarity — ecological and social unity. Our campaign is about acknowledging our commonalities, and promoting cooperation among all people and parties within and beyond this election to address basic human needs by rejuvenating the commons. As I am not representing a political party or any other private or corporate interest, I am often labelled as an “independent” candidate. I have rejected this label in public and on the ballot, as it implies that I am by myself, on my own on the fringe. While we are all individuals in society, I prefer to emphasize and pay respect to our interdependence and interconnection, and to act cooperatively to further our shared needs, values and visions.

What do you feel are the biggest issues facing Canada and Simcoe North that need to be addressed in this election?

The biggest issue by far is the collapse and closure of the commons, as a result of free market fundamentalism i.e. capitalism and the privatization of everything. Whether it is our democratic commons, or our social and ecological commons, the living systems in which we live and depend, are experiencing a radical state of decline, resulting in unprecedented, interconnected and growing global crises.

Practically speaking people need access to housing that is clean, safe, adequate and available, and especially youth shelter and housing for seniors. I know what it’s like to be a young person growing up and working in Simcoe North, and moving away in search of education and opportunity. I’d like to live and grow in this community. After years of engaging the community in critical discourse to determine priorities and to find common cause, I am convinced the challenges to our economic, ecological, and social problems can be addressed by focusing on core human life needs — starting specifically with healthy food access via regenerative local food production, clean water systems, ecological and cooperative energy projects, and other cooperative enterprises that address diverse community needs.

Are there any issues specific to Simcoe North that you feel need to be on the agenda? 

Poverty, lack of living wage jobs and affordable housing are major challenges for people in Simcoe North, especially for young people, many of whom, my peers, are struggling to afford rent and are moving away from their families and communities looking for opportunities else where.

How do you feel that as an independent, not affiliated with any of the “mainstream” political parties, you are able to tackle and confront these issues in ways their candidates cannot? In other words, what has motivated you to run despite the obstacles faced by independent candidates? 

Because I am not representing a political party, or any other private or corporate interest, I do not possess any of the negative baggage associated with politics as usual. Given a third of the electorate did not vote in the last federal election, locally, and many voted reluctantly against their least favorite option, people are willing to engage me on the streets as an equal, someone who truly cares and represents the community. People are tired of partisan politics, which is divisive and combative, yet are still passionate and concerned about many issues. Our campaign is providing those people with an additional choice that is real and refreshing, something they can take ownership over and be a part of.

You were originally planning to run for the NDP nomination in the riding, but at the last moment, after you had been campaigning for weeks, the party told you you were not going to be allowed to. Can you tell us about that and why they, in your opinion, did that? 

Their given reason for disqualifying me was because I had not disclosed a private campaign organizing facebook group, in which the description noted I was rallying supporters from all parties and no parties to cooperate and support my NDP campaign. After I was approved to seek the nomination I made the group public so supporters could find and join the group and campaign. During the vetting process I had agreed to not promote the Leadnow.ca “vote together” or “Cooperate for Canada” campaign, or other strategic voting initiatives (other than strategically voting NDP, of course) which encourages progressive voters to vote for the best positioned candidate to defeat the Conservatives in swing ridings. Given several members of the local Green Party had requested me to represent them, and they even desired to not run a candidate against me, the federal NDP was afraid that my campaign would disrupt or undermine their national campaign for a majority government. Their facebook spy “Fred Checkers” then found the group and accused me of ‘secretly promoting cooperation’ and being untrustworthy and therefore disqualified me and disenfranchised the membership hours before the nomination meeting, following that they denied me a fair appeal and a majority of members walked out, many now supporting my campaign.

What do you think this experience of yours says about the NDP specifically as well as the nature of how scripted “mainstream” politics in Canada is generally?

Many long time and new NDP members were surprised to learn that the nomination process was neither open, fair or democratic, and were shocked to learn of the growing concentration of power at the top of the NDP, something traditionally associated with the Liberal and Conservative parties. People are feeling increasingly powerless with the rise of these multi-million dollar political machines. Personally, once I accepted my role as a nomination contestant, I found myself self-censuring as the pressure of representing a political party is dehumanizing, as one must curate a particular public image that is electable and attractive to the “average voter” which is not the same as the average person in society. I found the experience alienating and uncomfortable. As a partisan, one must place the interests of the political party above the interests of the individual and the society at large.

You seem to want the community to be directly involved in the evolution of your campaign. How are you trying to engage the community and why is this process important to you? 

I have a cardboard sign that says Vote Jacob. I stand on popular intersections in my community at all hours of the day and night, in the sun and rain, engaging with people from all ages and backgrounds. I spend a lot of time talking with people who are either not allowed to vote (youth under 18), or unlikely to vote, youth under 35, homeless populations, others living on the streets. We hold campaign meetings and strategy discussions in public, encouraging potlucks and food sharing, live music and a festive friendly atmosphere. I have a Facebook group, page and Twitter which I use to keep the community up to date about my public appearances, news and public events. I was active in the Occupy movement, especially Occupy Gardens, and believe in the power of popular people’s assemblies, (Gardeners Assemblies/”GA’s”) organizing in circles, where everyone is equal and has a say in the direct actions of the group. The idea is to educate and empower the community, to the point where ordinary people feel confident in one day running and representing themselves through their active participation in decision making processes, the new economy and society. I am imagining 100 “Cooperative Interdependents” on the ballot in Simcoe North in the next election.

You are also, at age 26, the youngest candidate running in Simcoe North. How do you think this effects your perspectives on the issues and are there any advantages or disadvantages to it?

All the other candidates are at least twice my age, some close to three times my age. I am the only one who will actually live with the long term consequences of decisions being debated and determined today. I represent the 21st century, having lived most of my life to date in this century, I am uniquely qualified to address the major challenges of this century, given close to half the world’s population is under 25. We are experiencing multifaceted global crisis’, that require “glocal” responses — that is , local actions, coordinated at a global scale. I live my life online and off, in massive collaborative communities that span the globe involving millions of people. I am a proponent of open source technology and organizing, using the power of mass participation and collaboration to drive innovation and social change. During the last federal election I initiated a project called Youth Vote Canada and this time around have joined with the new Canadian Youth Vote Alliance, to promote the youth vote and more importantly youth participation. As a youth, I can connect directly with the demographic least likely to vote — the youth — so that is a considerable advantage, especially winning them over at a young age. We have the most to gain and lose. It is our future we are talking about.

What do you hope your campaign will accomplish in the community and how do you hope it will influence the overall debate? 

We have already accomplished so much, in particular inspiring hope in democracy, raising awareness about how and when to vote, building community, directing people to other progressive local initiatives, raising critical issues that are rarely spoken of in public circles, and challenging established political parties and the electorate by presenting a compelling, creative and refreshing alternative to support and vote for. The last federal election I rejected the partisanship and predicted the outcome of the election in a letter to the editor published in the first week of the election. The editors said at that time, it raised the level of the debate and then offered me a weekly column which I wrote for about 200 weeks in a row, until it was suspended when I became a nomination contestant for the NDP in March. I have already generated front page news and editorials, and people around the riding and beyond are talking and engaging in the political process. This is more of a movement than a campaign, and after the election I will continue to be a strong voice for the people, promoting people to find their own voices and to hold the powerful to account while demonstrating another way, which I like to call Cooperative Interdependence.

To find more information about the Jacob Kearey-Moreland campaign you can visit his website: www.votejacob.ca. You can contact them via email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-325-1261. The campaign also has a Facebook page and is on Twitter.

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