What a difference a year can make. One year ago today Canadians went to the polls, electing a new Conservative government with 36.2% of the vote, the smallest percentage ever won by a first-place party. (The Green Party, as you know, earned 4.5%, which, in a fair electoral system, would mean 14 seats.)
In that election, the environment (also known as “that thing that keeps us alive”) was not an issue that the media or the status quo parties took seriously. It did not play a significant role in any of the televised leaders’ debates, and the winning party didn’t even mention the climate crisis in their election platform once.
Today, the environment is the number one or two issue of importance to Canadians in opinion polls, features prominently in daily news stories and opinion pieces (almost to the point of exhaustion), and Stephen Harper reportedly owns a copy of An Inconvenient Truth.
Last year, it was hard to imagine our archaic electoral system being reformed any time soon. Today, Ontario has the chance to do so as soon as October, which would likely reverberate throughout the country.
Last year, people could still get away with pretending that environmentalism was bad for business. Today, CEOs of some of the largest (and most energy intensive) corporations in America are urging George W. Bush to take action on climate change, which he referred to as a “serious challenge” in his State of the Union address just a few hours ago.
The next federal election could be in less than two months. (I wish our MPs were more willing to work with each other, but here we are.) Let’s make sure we think very carefully about where we want to go from here. Let’s not settle for second best, or the lesser of any evils.
Unlike most reasonable Canadians, I’m looking forward to the next election. If we make the right choices over the next twelve months, just imagine how much better things can be one year from today.
As you’ve likely gathered, I’ve been away for a week. Out of the country, actually. This morning, the radio kindly informed me that, while I was gone, the Conservative party made a series of announcements and declared themselves “green.” (Clever of them to wait until I wasn’t looking to spring this stuff. Not sure how they got their hands on my travel plans, but I’ll find out.)
“Good,” I thought. Then, I looked into the details. “#$@%,” I thought.
Turns out, there were two main announcements. The first announcement came on Wednesday, with a $230-million investment in “clean energy” research. (Those of you keeping score at home will note that that amounts to 16% of the $1.4-billion of our tax dollars that go to the oil and gas industry which, by the way, really doesn’t need it.) This sounds like a great idea at first, until you realize that the Conservatives have defined “clean” as “coal and oil.” I’m not going to dignify that with any further analysis.
The second announcement regarded energy rebates for home retrofits. Again, a good idea that has been masterfully neutered. With the Conservative plan, all you have to do is pay for an energy audit ($200-$300), then pay for the renovations to your home (say, $1000 and upwards), then apply and wait for your rebate while you hold off the credit card company. Somehow, I don’t predict long line ups for this one. Better than nothing, but not much help to people who don’t have thousands of dollars lying around, or who don’t own their homes.
The really amazing thing about these two plans is that one year ago when “Canada’s Newest Government Ever!” took power, better versions of both these ideas already existed, and were then promptly eliminated. In fact, Stephen Harper’s government has frozen or killed more than a dozen climate-change programs since they took office, including the EnerGuide program.
Of course, those programs were also not enough, and saw Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions rise by 24% through to 2004, and more since then. If these ideas are “green,” it’s because they’re really old and stuff has started growing on them. It’s past time for more than positioning, Harper.
I’m very excited by the possibility of serving again as your candidate in Toronto Centre. I’m proud of what we accomplished in the last election, and I’m encouraged by the knowledge that we can doÂ even better in the next.
In the next election we will no longer be debating whether or not there is a need for action. We’ve won that battle. Now, we must convince voters that our solutions are the best for Toronto Centre, the country, and the planet. In fact, I believe that the Green Party is currently the only party that can succeed in solving the various environmental crisis we face, because we are the only party that’s willing to look at them holistically.
In the next election we will need a fulltime candidate, a fulltime campaign manager, an office, and a dedicated team of volunteers. Not only will I campaign fulltime on your behalf, over the past several months I have been assembling a fantastic team, including database managers, web administrators, communications experts, and a fulltime campaign manager, Becky Smit, who in the last election achieved the highest result in all of Toronto.
I’ve also enjoyed building strong relationships with community leaders all over our riding. Several of those leaders who organized local debates in the last election are now supporting my candidacy in one way or another.
If you have any questions between now and the nomination meeting, please contact me. I have limited access to email this week, but am looking forward to hearing from you and will get back to you as soon as I can.
By the way, you’re more than welcome at the nomination meeting whether you’re a member or not. Even if you just want to find out more about the party, this is a great opportunity to do so. The meeting is on Wednesday January 24th, 7pm, at 110 Lombard St. See you there!
In 1988, over 300 scientists and policy-makers from 46 different countries and organizations came together to discuss the crisis of climate change in Toronto. It was called “The Toronto Conference,” and their final statement began with the following sentence.
Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment, whose ultimate consequence could be second only to a global nuclear war.
This week, thousands of birds fell from the sky in Australia, dead. As of now, we don’t yet know why.
In Green politics, there’s something called the precautionary principal. Basically, it states that if there’s a chance that a series of actions could, for example, shut down our life support systems, we should maybe not take those actions until we’re sure they’re safe (as opposed to conducting business as usual until there’s absolute proof that business as usual is destructive). In other words, even if things ain’t exactly clear, it’s still worth stopping, listening, and looking around.
Bird deaths can’t help but remind me of the proverbial canary in the mineshaft. Problem is, unlike miners, we don’t have anywhere to run to once we notice the canary has stopped breathing.
For what it’s worth.