John Recker, a Libertarian candidate in the Toronto-Danforth federal by-election, wants to offer an alternative to the mainstream Canadian political parties. New to the libertarian philosophy, Recker is promoting a “just and voluntary society.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called a federal by-election in the Toronto-Danforth riding for Mar. 12. The seat has been vacant in the House of Commons since the death of former New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton on Aug. 22, 2011.
The NDP selected Craig Scott, an Osgoode Hall Law School professor, as the man to recapture the seat. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has nominated Andrew Keyes, a communications consultant who ran in 2007. The Green Party selected Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu and the Libertarian Party has John Christopher Recker, a former provincial candidate, on the ballot. The Canadian Action Party will run with Christopher Porter, a political activist.
DigitalJournal.com spoke with the Libertarian candidate to gather his stances, opinions and general viewpoint of the upcoming by-election, important political philosophical matter and issues facing the country today.
Who is John Recker?
Many libertarians will recognize the line, “Who is John Galt?” immediately because it is the first line published in Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged.” So, who is John Recker?
Recker, a 32-year-old jack of all trades, is relatively new to the libertarian philosophy, but believes the party is committed to a “just and voluntary society, free of the violence inherent in large governments.”
Studying psychology and sociology at the University of Windsor, Recker became involved in the St. Leonard’s Society and various other community organizations. Upon settling down in Toronto’s Danforth area for six years, Recker has worked as a carpenter, chef and a mason, but returned to his passion: working in the community.
He now works as a halfway house case manager and also works at an addiction recovery community house.
Why run for politics?
Whenever experts discuss politics, there is a sense that many voters in Canada, and in other Western democracies, that they are dissatisfied with the choices (some suggest that a system of compulsory voting should be implemented).
Recker is one of those individuals. He feels that all of the major political parties are “singing the same song, albeit in slightly different keys.” This did not deter him, though. Recker made the decision to run for politics and represent change in this by-election.
“I'm relatively new to libertarianism. Until just before the last federal general election, I was politically homeless,” said Recker. “I had held more socialist views growing up due to its positions on social issues, but I came to recognize the coercion inherent in large governments and the logic of Austrian economics. For me, libertarianism represents a mix of social and economic freedom and responsibility that is offered by no other party.”
Although the Toronto-Danforth federal electoral district has never been represented by a right-leaning (or north-leaning) MP, Recker believes the “traditional left-right dichotomy to be misleading” because libertarians share much of the same goals as the left-leaning parties.
“While Libertarians support reducing barriers to freedom in many sectors, the goal of this is to bolster social liberties and well-being,” explained Recker.
“For example, we'd like to see a huge reduction in wasteful spending and much reduced size of government, but we're also against the government legislating morality. Libertarians also support stiff penalties for those who violate the rights of others, whether they be individuals, corporations or governments.”
There is also a misconception on the left that libertarians, or even right-leaning individuals, want the corporations to reign free, but Recker notes that libertarians want to hold the leaders of large corporations accountable for their actions, such as banking, government and environment.
“It's hard to deny that there is a lack of accountability across the board. Though we differ on the means, I think libertarians have a lot in common with left-leaning thought in terms of its goals,” added Recker.
The campaign and the issues
Recker spoke in jest about libertarians being viewed as promoting the interests of big business and elitists, but that would not be evident in the party’s political donations, although the Libertarian Party does having a “growing network of support.”
Since his opponents follow the mantra of “friends in high places,” Recker’s campaign approach will be grassroots by presenting a strong message, providing the facts and correcting the notion that the government has the solutions to all of our problems.
“Small business in Canada has taken it on the chin for too long and is starting come to us because of the stifling interference in a variety of markets,” said Recker. “There's also the average citizen who works hard, and deserves to offer their children a voluntary and prosperous community we can all be proud of. Canadians are demanding more than a growing government with diminishing returns.”
What about the issues? Recker’s primary issues in this campaign are social justice, accountability and social services.
Utilizing his education in criminology, Recker wants to end the criminalization of addiction, mental illness and poverty. He also wants to implement measures that would change the criminal justice system by using an “evidence-based approach” to corrections. The present policy of tough on crime has created a monstrosity of costs and ineffectiveness.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” Those are the words of Recker when he talks accountability. We should, says Recker, hold high-level officials in both government and corporations to high standards, and they should also be held accountable for the problems they create.
In other words, similar to the Occupy Wall Street message, do not allow powerful individuals to hide behind their organizations when messes are made and scandals engulf the front-page of the daily newspaper.
“Because political influence can be bought, it is very unlikely that legislation will compel corporations to act morally,” noted Recker. “Only punishing irresponsible leaders directly can provide the necessary deterrent, and prevent corporations from engaging in the crony capitalism and back-room deals we see today.”
Recker believes strongly in social services, but not through government. Instead, he wants to take a non-governmental and not-for-profit method because they have “the best rate of return on helping end-users.”
These are the social service items to eliminate: bureaucracy, wasteful central planning and a one-size-fits-all program.
What would a Libertarian MP introduce as legislation?
Libertarians believe in as limited a government as possible. A Libertarian MP would introduce legislation that would enhance innovative and voluntary means to address the growing issues of the day. Also, legislation would focus on repealing present laws instead of adding “to the plethora of ineffective laws.”
“With this in mind, some of the first pieces of legislation I would introduce would limit the prosecution of victimless crimes, protect individual rights, and empower individuals to make their communities more peaceful, voluntary and prosperous.”
If anyone has followed the United States Republican primaries they would realize that libertarian-leaning Texas Congressman Ron Paul has been the only candidate to denounce Keynesian economics – an economic philosophy of John Maynard Keynes that promotes government intervention in the economy.
Well, Recker feels the same as Dr. Paul.
He believes bailouts and Keynesianism are “unquestionable” to the Bank of Canada head Mark Carney and his fellow central bankers. Despite the outrage by taxpayers over bailouts, the present state of politicians, argues Recker, “find comfort in preserving the status quo.”
“If Carney was truly worried about excessive debt, he wouldn’t fear a correction and continue giving away money for almost nothing with record low interest rates,” explained Recker. “It’s the equivalent of leaving out hard liquor in the presence of an alcoholic and then chastising him for giving in to temptation.”
Former NDP leader Jack Layton
“Jack was a good man with an unquestionable passion for our community and our nation. We may have disagreed on the means of furthering Canada's greatness, but Jack had many very noble goals.”
Information about Toronto-Danforth
The federal electoral district, which was established in 1976 as Broadview-Greenwood, is located in the province of Ontario. The riding sits in the eastern part of downtown Toronto and consists of a number of ethnicities, including Chinese, Greek and Muslim.
There are approximately 103,000 residents with close to 75,000 electors.
The riding’s first MP was Bob Rae for the NDP, followed by Lynn McDonald (NDP), Dennis Mills (Liberal) and Jack Layton (NDP).