John McEwen is a veteran of the Canadian Forces and is currently running as a political candidate with the New Democratic Party of Canada.
What was your role in the military?
I joined as a teenager in 1965 and was placed in the Air Force to study electronics and later got to be “Electrical Technician Air” . Essentially I was taught to fix busted planes. I was posted to Comox BC, Trenton ON (twice) Gander NFLD and Shearwater NS. The air frames I worked on were CF 101, T33, Boeing 707, C130, Sea Kings, and SAR equip. I also spent a short stint with PPCLI in Penhold AB. The most interesting time was at sea on board HMCS Saguenay and at Air Transport Command out of Trenton (12 years). The time at ATC took me on C130’s all over the world in support of every mission that CF was involved in. The most meaningful was spent with the SAR squadron in NFLD. I felt I was doing something important there. After 25 years in Ref Force I tried retirement for a few years. It didn’t seem to fit me or I into civilian workplace. I did return to school and finished a the requirements for a Bsc in Chemistry and Environmental Science. I was approached by DND to get involved with an army cadet corp that they were thinking of closing in Cobourg ON unless someone could be found to take over. I did and spent the next 12 years having a blast training teenagers and worked it into a full time career. Now I am gran dad to about 400 young'uns. They are spread throughout the country, some in CF, some in policing, but all great kids.
What made you decide to enter politics?
At my age and stage of life, all I want to focus on is fixing this place. I have spent all of my life serving in one capacity or another and that is what floats my boat. I’m too old and broken to do much else other than politics. Two bad knees, one separated shoulder and atria fibrillation tell me I can’t do PT with teenagers anymore but still want to serve. I floated the idea to a number of people and they were very encouraging. At my age, it is time to speak truth to the tribe.Do you find that your career in the military helpful to your cause or do you think it makes it more difficult? The military and the travel gave me a perspective on the world that many don’t have. Every meeting I attended in military revolved around 2 basic questions. What is the problem and does this fix it? That kind of straight ahead thinking has always done well for me. Travelling all over the world and staying in local inns etc also forced me to immerse myself in different cultures and at times depend on them for security, etc. That experience developed my ability to read people and their motives. I pay little attention to what people say and much more on what they do. It is difficult because my second career in military I was always in command and what I said had to happen, happened. Now I only have moral suasion and I find it frustrating at times. Once I was asked by a soldier why I had staff meetings and my answer was to hear others’ ideas, mock them and tell everybody what was going to happen. I always had at least one person, RSM or Lt. whose opinion I trusted and if I couldn't convince them that what I wanted to do was good idea it didn't happen. Now I have convince and sell everybody in the room and many have their own agenda that they want to be THE AGENDA. Sometimes the “Captain” comes back and things go south for me. I always think my opinion matters and sometimes it doesn't to civilians.
What made you decide to join the NDP?
I used to be PC but never really paid any attention to policy, etc being too busy dealing with raising a family and bringing the Soviet Union to its’ knees. Thank God, couple of Americans gave me hand with the second one though. When I took the uniform off for the last time in 2011, I started paying attention to what was going on around me. I looked back over my life and my kids’ life and I noticed some significant changes had occurred. Mostly in the opportunities my grandsons are presented with and the ones I could pick from. My daughter had paid off her student loan in her thirties and was trying to raise 3 boys after a divorce and life was difficult. My son was okay; he followed me into a career in military and in fact is a Lt. Col. In the infantry. He was CO of 48th for 4 years so he is doing all right. My contact with military cadets and the struggles they had getting started in life we harder than what I faced. Often they came to me with questions about what to do and the best answer I could give many of them was “join the Navy, Its’ good at making tradespeople.” My reading of economic recent history led me to conclude that the trouble started about 35 years ago with all the free traders having their own way. Good jobs were flowing out of the country, Both PC and Liberal government. only came up with more free trade and austerity budgets. Trickle down economics and a rising tide lifts all boats thinking was destroying the middle class in Canada and US. I looked at the policy of the NDP for the first time under Tom Mulcair and found much that got me excited. One example is their idea that not a log should leave Canada but lumber should. We should build refineries here and process it here. Another is that the federal government should have a “Buy Canada” policy. The feds should lead the way in fostering good jobs here not worrying that Donald Trump has enough money. There is much else in environment etc but nothing in their policy book offended me. The others did. One area of concern was the knee jerk reaction the NDP used to have to the Israeli-Palestine problem. Tom Mulcair’s wife’s family are Holocaust survivors and he has brought a much more even handed policy to that question, and I like the guy.
Are you enjoying the leadership race?
It’s steep learning curve for me at this time in my life but I always enjoyed a challenge.
What is your platform?
Big picture my platform is in the NDP policy book and it is available on line. Locally we have had a PC MP for the last 8 years and he was elected after 30 years as a cop and is not running again. I think I bring 3 things to the campaign that the NDP hasn't had before. 1. a connection to youth. I have spent the last 12 years as youth worker for the army and loved it and these kids. The average age of my supporters is 22.2. I am a son of Northumberland. My grandparents settled her on the lake and my mother went to the same high school I did and my grandsons are attending. My family is involved in every aspect of the local economy. It consists of farmers, plumbers, electricians, soldiers, nurses, etc.3. A strong connection to the military. My life connects to a deep river running here. We like to elect vets. I have an endorsement from one of the most popular mayors, he used to be Lt. Delanty. Another old friend was Mayor for nearly 10 years was Maj. Angus Read he unfortunately has joined the White Brigade. As I said Rick Norlock became our MP after 30 years in cop uniform. I am simply the NDP version. Locally we need to get some agri business going. Local produce being canned locally for instance. IT jobs should be located here and service to seniors will be one of the drivers for employment going forward. Day care spaces, minimum wage, strengthening the unions etc. all come into play. Essentially collaboration with government, labor and business partners to get something happening.
How do you personally see Canada in the world economy over the next decade?
It’s do well if you count the number of rich people, it’ll do poorly when you consider the disparity of income between the top and the bottom. So if it isn’t working for the majority of Canadians then it fails and it is on the road to failing.
What is your "pet issue"?
Stupid environmental decision by NIMBY groups and misuse of military assets and budgets. Both are two complex to discuss here but there is always a better way.
How do you feel Canadian citizens could best contribute to society over the next few years?
Canadian society, get involved in politics. When only 50% of the voters show up than the 15% hooked to the gravy train get everything their way. That is what I see happening now. I think a little civil disobedience would go a long way. Our laws put the wrong kids in jail and let rich thieves holiday on their yachts. I would rather lose in an election where 75% of the voters turned out than win in one where 40% turned out. In the world, do a better job of protecting people displaced by conflicts. I think are assets are better deployed providing security to those who are getting away from the insanity, that and dealing with any who try to follow them into the promised land of our refugee area. Again I have a comprehensive idea of what we should be doing “over there”, that doesn’t fit with any model the Liberals or PC have.Would you like to see more party interchange/cooperation?Yes but we need to have grownups in the room capable of negotiating with each other and set up a system where it needs to happen and failure results in recall, re-election.
What should we know about John McEwen?
Not much, ask my kids. I’m pretty boring unless something has pissed me off.
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