Time for letters to all editors, and tons of tweets

November 2016

Dear Editor: On November 11, reflecting on the monumental sacrifices that Canadian soldiers made over the past hundred years, I couldn't help but think how desperately we have failed them. What would they be saying, now that we - in the face of massive and still growing scientific evidence - are stumbling so badly in making our own sacrifices to fight climate change? 

This was - and to a large extent still is – a winnable war, but we've too often excused our foot dragging by pleading helplessness or 'far too great an economic cost' to go green, and fast. In war, it's mainly the young who are thrown in harm's way. That's also true when it comes to man-made climate change, with one key difference - who's our enemy? The cartoon character Pogo hit the nail on the head back on the first Earth Day back in 1971: 'We have met the enemy and he is us'…particularly rich and powerful fossil fuel companies that have paid immense sums to deny climate change and buy U.S. politicians for decades, severely retarding forward movement on renewable energy.  

Time is getting short to stop runaway global warming, yet we have all the tools - right now! - needed to move past fossil fuels and get our good ol' planet Earth back on a sustainable track. What's still missing is the political will. Prior to last year's election, Justin Trudeau's Liberals were full of way overdue promises for Canadian climate action, but they're now falling back to a more politically acceptable but treacherous middle ground.

Nature always bats last, and so far Mr. Trudeau's weak carbon tax proposals and probable thumbs up to more pipelines will fall far short of what's needed to put the brakes on the worst impacts of climate change. And even more important, since the election of Donald Trump, it's critical for Mr. Trudeau to show world leadership on an issue he so proudly proclaimed at the Paris climate talks and the United Nations. ('Canada is back. We're here to help.')   

Will we finally live up to the example of Canadian soldiers sacrificing their lives so we could continue experiencing a free, safe and stable world? Or will children, grandkids and all our descendants bitterly and rightly resent us for our lack of gumption when we had the chance to make a difference? It's our choice...and their fate. 

The Leap Manifesto: I can't express how amazing this is...

....so you'll just have to read it all yourself (below and at this link) then sign the manifesto, and share it with everyone you know who is concerned about the sorry state of our Canada in 2015, especially on climate and poverty. Then, please send this link to everybody you know. This is a day for celebration, and just the beginning of a whole new chance for Canada to leap back into the forefront of leadership on climate action, human rights, and decency.  

Thank you Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis and everyone striving to make Canada once again a place we can be proud of...


We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.

These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.

Canada is not this place today— but it could be.

We could live in a country powered entirely by truly just renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.

This leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land. Indigenous communities have been at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity. We can bolster this role, and reset our relationship, byfully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Small steps will no longer get us to where we need to go. So we need to leap”. Moved by the treaties that form the legal basis of this country and bind us to share the land “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow,” we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land. Technological breakthroughs have brought this dream within reach. The latest research shows it is feasible for Canada to get 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades[1]; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy[2].

We demand that this shift begin now.

There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.

The time for energy democracy has come: we believe not just in changes to our energy sources, but that wherever possible communities should collectively control these new energy systems.

As an alternative to the profit-gouging of private companies and the remote bureaucracy of some centralized state ones, we can create innovative ownership structures: democratically run, paying living wages and keeping much-needed revenue in communities. And Indigenous Peoples should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects. So should communities currently dealing with heavy health impacts of polluting industrial activity.

Power generated this way will not merely light our homes but redistribute wealth, deepen our democracy, strengthen our economy and start to heal the wounds that date back to this country’s founding.

A leap to a non-polluting economy creates countless openings for similar multiple “wins.” We wanta universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves.High-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.

And since we know this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Moving to a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply – as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.

We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects. Rebalancing the scales of justice, we should ensure immigration status and full protection for all workers. Recognizing Canada’s contributions to military conflicts and climate change — primary drivers of the global refugee crisis — we must welcome refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.

Shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits also means expanding the sectors of our economy that are already low carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest mediaFollowing on Quebec’s lead, a national childcare program is long past due. All this work, much of it performed by women, is the glue that builds humane, resilient communities – and we will need our communities to be as strong as possible in the face of the rocky future we have already locked in.

Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income. Pioneered in Manitoba in the 1970’s, this sturdy safety net could help ensure that no one is forced to take work that threatens their children’s tomorrow, just to feed those children today.

We declare that “austerity” – which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations – is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.

How we can pay for all of this? Read “We Can Afford The Leap” by Bruce Campbell, Seth Klein, and Marc Lee

The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. Like an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending. All of these are based on a simple “polluter pays” principle and hold enormous promise.

One thing is clear: public scarcity in times of unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis, designed to extinguish our dreams before they have a chance to be born.

Those dreams go well beyond this document. “We call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation”. We call for town hall meetings across the country where residents can gather to democratically define what a genuine leap to the next economy means in their communities.

Inevitably, this bottom-up revival will lead to a renewal of democracy at every level of government, working swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.

This is a great deal to take on all at once, but such are the times in which we live.

The drop in oil prices has temporarily relieved the pressure to dig up fossil fuels as rapidly as high-risk technologies will allow. This pause in frenetic expansion should not be viewed as a crisis, but as a gift.

It has given us a rare moment to look at what we have become – and decide to change.

And so we call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. This is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.

Now is the time for boldness.

now is the time to leap.


[1]Sustainable Canada Dialogues. (2015). Acting on climate change: Solutions from Canadian scholars. Montreal, QC: McGill University

[2]Jacobson, M., et al. Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials. Energy Policy 39:3 (2011)

Go Blue Jays (and Eliz May!)

Happy Labour Day weekend!  This is my first blog post ever, so a big hello (actually, it's my best chance for a dress rehearsal since I have exactly 0 - yep, that's zero! – followers so far :)  

Yesterday (September 5), the Toronto Star ran a wry little story about federal political party leaders NOT being welcome at any more Toronto Blue Jays' games this season. Why? Because the three games attended recently by Canada's male party leaders were all lost by the BJs, who are otherwise making a terrific run attempting to win their first American League pennant in 22 years. 

So, in a letter to the Star editor, here was my suggestion:  

Dear Editor: Re Federal Party Leaders Blamed for Blue Jays Bad Luck (Sat. Sept 5)

Maybe this is just a guy thing. I think the BJs should risk it by inviting Elizabeth May to attend a game, since she's apparently not considered a real party leader by the boys' club still running politics in Canada. And if they win that one, she'd probably have enough cachet to be invited to all the other leaders' debates taking place without her, and asked to toss the first pitch at the World Series opener in TO come October. Go Jays!

Tongue-in-cheek (well, sort of :) letters to the editor aside, I think it's terrible that the Globe and Mail (with partners Google and CPAC), the Munk Debates and others are leaving the Green Party leader out of the picture, especially as she knows far more about climate change (including its colossal economic impacts) than any of the others, and Canadians need to hear her perspective. (If you missed the Maclean's debate in early August, which did include Ms May, you can catch it on YouTube here.)

Even if you can't stomach frightening environmental and social justice scenarios about how climate change will affect your kids and grandchildren, you might consider looking at a big US bank's assessment of the economic costs. In a report released earlier this month, Citibank says - this is huge! - that not acting on climate change will have a $44 trillion negative impact on the worldwide economy by 2060. The much more palatable news is that taking action to cut carbon pollution and slow global warming will result in 'a positive return on investment'. 

There you go. Aside from all the other compelling reasons to act on climate, turns out it makes huge economic sense too, and Citibank isn't the first corporation or biz organization to say so. Big question though: Will the Globe and Mail have the courage to put climate squarely up front as perhaps the biggest economic issue of our time at its leaders' debate on the economy September 17 ?

Here's a suggestion for action: Email Globe and Mail Editor David Walmsley (dwalmsley@globeandmail.com), asking the Globe and its partners to include Elizabeth May in the Sept 17 debate. If you need more fodder for your email, Maclean's offers Five Non-Partisan Reasons Elizabeth May belongs in all the debates, including this one:  "No one can call BS or challenge her colleagues’ performance with more authority than May, a crucial skill, given the fact that climate change, greenhouse gas emissions targets, the state of the oil sands and pipeline construction/approvals are hot-button election issues. One example last Thursday {August 6}: May’s relentless, ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to get Thomas Mulcair to nail down his position on Kinder Morgan." 

Cheers, Liz

PS. If and when you do read this, please know all comments will be most welcome...unless - and until - climate denier trolls start to swarm all over the page.