Naomi Klein (right) with Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow at the Leap Manifesto launch last week.
Anyone watching last week’s federal election debate in search of signs of leadership on climate action was likely feeling dejected.
Instead of rallying Canadians around the global shift to renewables, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau chided the PM for failing to get pipelines built.
“When opposition leaders compete over who would do a better job building tar sands pipelines, we need #TheLeap,” tweeted Naomi Klein from the sidelines.
The renowned author and activist is hoping to shake up the status quo with a bold blueprint for change, The Leap Manifesto. It’s a call to turn the current climate and oil crises into a historic opportunity, a chance to transform Canada’s economy into a kinder, cleaner one.
Backed by 60 leaders from the environmental, indigenous, labour, -migrant and food justice movements, Leap calls Canada’s record on climate change “a crime against humanity’s future.” And it reminds us that “small steps will no longer get us where we need to go” to prevent catastrophic global warming. “So we need to leap.”
The Leap certainly landed with a big bang in the middle of the federal election campaign.
The Globe and Mail was quick to dismiss the manifesto as Marxist “madness,” a “utopian” lefty document drafted by the “nationalize-the-banks camp” of the NDP’s “not-so-distant past.” That camp, it charged in an editorial, is making trouble for Mulcair, who’s trying to steer the party on a more centrist course. Some conservative political critics, particularly at the Post and Sun, have taken to describing it as the #Tommunist Manifesto.
Sure, there are plenty of card-carrying NDPers among the signatories, but there are also Liberals, Greens and the odd Conservative, like former PC MPP and Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry, all feeling that “the future we want is not on the ballot this election,” says Klein.
The policy statement (see sidebar) makes 15 ambitious demands, including 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035, a decarbonized economy by 2050, as well as an end to trade deals that interfere with our ability to rebuild local economies and regulate corporations.
Revolutionary, yes, compared to the current government’s gut-and-pillage record on the environment and neo-liberal economic agenda, but it’s not all that radical. Many of leap’s policy planks are what climate scientists have been arguing is needed to stem the global warming tide. Euro-countries were actually pushing to de-carbonize the G7 by 2050 as well, but the Harper government (and Japan) lobbied to defer that deadline to 2100. The document also calls for more cash for transit, high-speed rail and local, ecological farming, as well as national childcare and home retrofit programs.
“We live in a historic moment, one that demands audacity, ambition and courage,” says Klein, who was flanked at last week’s launch by a panel of activist leaders and artists, including David Suzuki, former Ontario NDP leader and UN special envoy Stephen Lewis, actor and indigenous activist Tantoo Cardinal, singer Sarah Harmer and the Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow.
Are their demands as pie-in-the-sky as pundits say? Not if you look at climate initiatives happening around the globe. So far, eight countries and 55 cities, including Vancouver, have pledged to go 100 per cent renewable. Oil-producing Norway is already there.
Earlier this year, a study published by 60 climate scholars mapped out just how the 2035 renewables target is not just doable in Canada – it’s critical. Besides, we’re not that far off that mark, with two-thirds of our electricity now coming from hydro.
If we need more role models, Scotland is tackling energy conservation with a national retrofit program. Germany is moving from corporate-owned energy production to decentralized, community-owned green power.
Can we afford the plan? The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has costed it out and says, in short, yes.
The CCPA’s Seth Klein notes that we’re already spending billions on infrastructure. Case in point, BC is about to spend $3 billion to replace a tunnel with a bridge so that ships carrying U.S. coal can get up the Fraser River. He says The Leap “is about shifting where we spend our infrastructure spending.”
Among the other economic levers mapped out to pay for the leap: an end to fossil fuel subsidies, a return to 2006 levels of corporate income tax, a tax on financial transactions on Bay Street (the way the EU will be taxing them by 2016) and a national carbon tax like BC’s.
The bigger question is how to translate the platform into action on Parliament Hill.
Avi Lewis, who directed This Changes Everything, the documentary based on his wife, Klein’s, book of the same title (opening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox October 9), says the manifesto is hoping to “fill the inspiration gap” between the political class and the people. And the best way to get politicians on board is to build public support for the cause.
“We’re not lobbyists,” Lewis says. “We’re building power behind this vision.”
After a Toronto International Film Festival screening of his doc last week, Lewis told the audience the manifesto isn’t just a petition. “We hope people will use it to organize, to put their candidates on the spot in the election and build campaigns.”
Back at The Leap launch, Council of Canadians’ Barlow says the group’s 72 chapters are poised to hit the ground running. “The manifesto,” she says, “gives them the tools to say in this election, ‘The time is now for this. This is the vision. You must speak to this. You cannot ignore this.’”
Suzuki is hoping the document convinces politicians that “we cannot talk about being economic stewards of the future if we don’t consider the economic implications of climate change.”
Stephen Lewis says he plans to take the manifesto global and circulate the declaration at the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Paris in December. “It gives everyone a sense that there is a vision out there that can transform this country again into a leader in the world,” he says.
So far, The Leap has drawn 20,000 signatories, including high-profile celebs like Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Rachel McAdams.
“Our hope,” says Klein, “is by the time we have a new government, there will be hundreds of thousands of signatures. That says this is what we want to do, this is the path forward.”
The Leap Manifesto: A Call For A Canada Based On Caring For The Earth And One Another. Here are its five core demands.
Respect for all We can start by acknowledging the poverty and inequality faced by the original caretakers of this land and fully implementing the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples. And by welcoming refugees and migrant workers, -“recognizing Canada’s contributions to military conflicts and climate change.”
A clean, green economy A future powered by community-controlled, democratically run, 100 per cent renewable energy. “There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future.”
Kiss bad trade deals goodbye End all trade deals that interfere with our attempt to rebuild local economies and regulate corporations. Develop localized, ecologically based agro systems to better absorb shocks in global supply and produce healthier and more affordable food.
Make polluters pay The economic philosophy that has underpinned government decisions for the last decade is “a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth,” says the Manifesto, and it’s been particularly damaging to low-carbon sectors like education and health care. All the money we need to pay for the Leap is already there if we axe fossil fuel subsidies, tax carbon and cut military spending.
No more first past the post Move toward a political system where every vote counts and corporate money is removed from election campaigns.