Thursday, September 28, 2006

Exciting Times

Yes, exciting times, on both the political and personal front.

Yesterday, Elizabeth May presented the Green Party's Green Plan, aka GP2. It's an excellent, detailed document that's been getting a lot of attention. I encourage you to check it out (PDF).

Tomorrow, I'm moving. (Yes, still within in Toronto Centre.) So uh, if you don't hear from me for a few days, that's why.

It's also why I can't take any time to explain why our Green Plan Squared is so great. Instead, I'll leave you with some highlights, as compiled by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins:
"The notion that any 'new' tax will be opposed, even if it is clear that the overall family tax burden will go down, is based on the idea that the Canadian public is not very bright. The Green Party believes the opposite."

"The Green Party will not rely solely on tax-shifting. While getting the prices right is the single most significant step, regulations and consumer-friendly programmes will also be needed to shift Canadian society to a low-carbon future. "

"The Green Party will introduce appliance standards to ban electricity guzzlers from the marketplace,"

"We will act to reduce emissions and prepare for the 'new normal' of a destabilized climate. These are not, as often presented, mutually exclusive goals. We need both and we needed them yesterday."

"Canadians will not be tricked into thinking 'cleaner air' can be delivered while fossil fuel use continues unabated."

"When it comes to our fresh water, the Green Party's message is clear: Keep it. Conserve it. Protect it."

"The professional union representing civil servants has also noted that the careerist ambitions of the new civil service culture do not serve the public interest as well as an esprit de corps and expertise within scientifically grounded departments."

And finally, the number of times the phrase "no new law is required" appears.
I'll post again as soon as I can. Oh, and if you know me, please call me and help me move this weekend.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Secret Meetings and Democracy Don't Mix

If there had been a high-level meeting two weeks ago, in Canada, between government and business leaders from our country, the U.S., and Mexico, you'd think you'd have heard about it.

Of course, you'd think that our government would have let the media know about such a meeting. Failing that, you'd think that they'd at least acknowledge that there was such a meeting when asked, and give us some idea of what was discussed.

You'd think that, because you're a reasonable person. And maybe because you have some distant memory of a new government promising to be transparent and accountable.

Well, unfortunately, said meeting did take place, under the banner of the North American Forum. "But Chris," you'd say, "surely this wasn't really a high-level meeting."

Not sure how to break this to you, but according to a list obtained by Mel Hurtig with the Council of Canadians, the attendees included:

From Canada
  • Hon. Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, Government of Canada
  • Mr. Bill Elliott, Associate Deputy Minister, Public Safety
  • Hon. Gordon O'Connor, Minister of Defense, Government of Canada
  • Mr. Ward Elcock, Deputy Minister of National Defence
  • Mr. Peter M. Boehm, Assistant Deputy Minister, North America, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
  • Mr. V. Peter Harder, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Hon. Greg Melchin, Minister of Energy, Government of Alberta
  • General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff
  • Col. Peter Atkinson, Special Advisor to Chief of Defence Staff
  • Rear Adm Roger Girouard, Commander Joint Task Force Pacific, Cdn Forces
  • Hon. Anne McLellan, Senior Counsel, Bennett Jones
  • Hon. Perrin Beatty, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
  • Mr. Thomas d'Aquino, Canadian Council of Chief Executives
  • Mr. Richard L. George, Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Dr. Roger Gibbins, Canada West Foundation
  • Mr. James K. Gray, Canada West Foundation
  • Ms.Sharon Murphy, Chevron Canada
From the United States
  • Sec. Donald R. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, US Department of Defense
  • Sec. Ryan Henry, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
  • Lt. Gen. Gene Renuart, USAF Senior Military Assist. to Sec. Rumsfeld
  • Mr. Eric Ruff, , Department of Defense Press Secretary
  • Dr. James Schlesinger, Former Sec. Of Energy & Defense
  • Sec. Clay Sell, Deputy Secretary of Energy, US Dept. of Energy
  • Dr. Thomas A. Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
  • Maj. Gen. Mark A Volcheff, Director, Plans, Policy & Strategy, NORAD-NORTHCOM
  • Ms. Deborah Bolton, Political Advisor to Commander, US Northcom
  • Admiral Tim Keating, Commander, US Northern Command
  • Mr. George Nethercutt, Chairman, US Section of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, US – Canada (Security)
  • Mr. Ron T. Covais, President, The Americas, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Mr. Bill Irwin , Manager - International Government Affairs; Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron Corporation
  • Mr. R. James Woolsey, Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
From Mexico
  • Silvia Hernández , Former Senator and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on North America
  • Fernando Chico Pardo , CEO, Promecap
  • Juan Gallardo , , CEO, Grupo GEUSA
  • Gerónimo Gutiérrez , Deputy Foreign Minister for North America
  • Luis de la Calle , Consultant. Former Deputy Minister of Economy
  • Eduardo Medina Mora , Secretary of Public Security
  • Carlos Heredia , State Government of Michoacán
  • Manuel Arango , CEO, Grupo Concord
  • Juan Camilo Mouriño, General Coordinator of President Elect's transition team
  • Ernesto Cordero, Coordinator for Public Policy Issues Ambassadors/Consul General
  • Mr. Carlos de Icaza, , Ambassador of Mexico to the United States
  • Ms. Maria Teresa Garcia Segovia de Madero, Ambassador of Mexico to Canada
This was a secret, high-level meeting. The agenda had the heading "Continental Prosperity in the New Security Environment." The purpose of the meeting was to further the deep integration of our country with the United States.

I've previously suggested that this Conservative government doesn't seem to know what the word transparency means. I'm becoming increasingly concerned they may also need a crash course in democracy.

When asked about the meeting, Day's office has been "telling journalists that it cannot comment on the minister's private meeting and that journalists should understand this." Those silly journalists. (Of course, Day's been pretty immature this week. )

To understand more about the details of this meeting and its serious implications, I highly recommend Maude Barlow's piece in the Toronto Star, as well as this report from WorldNetDaily. Unfortunately, with some small exceptions, the meeting remains largely unreported by the media to this day.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Three Quick Things

This morning, The Toronto Star printed a column by Tom Axworthy with the headline "Stop bias against Green party."

This afternoon, I gave a speech at the Friends of Durika Conference and AGM. I was asked to speak as a former Green Party candidate.

This evening, I attended a taping of CBC's The Big Picture, which will be broadcast on CBC this Wednesday and again the following Sunday. The topic was global warming, and the two main guests were Bob Mills, the Conservative chair of the environment committee (woah...check out the colour scheme on his website), and Elizabeth May, who's impressing me more each day. She did great.

Now, I sleep.

Speech to the Friends of Durika Conference and AGM

For the record, the following is the text I roughly spoke from at today's Friends of Durika conference. It may or may not make a compelling blog entry, but this seemed like a good place to park it anyway.

I'm glad to hear, in Kim's introduction this afternoon, that we have something in common. You're crazy. Me too. I run for a political party that, we were told, was never going to be taken seriously. And I advocate solutions to our problems that, we are told, are unrealistic. People say we're crazy, and they tell us to "get real."

At the same time, I'm a little humbled to be here, and I'll tell you why. Earlier today I was speaking with a woman who was at the founding convention of the Green Party. (For the record, I wasn't there, and would have been in diapers if I was.) She's still involved, but her energy has become diverted to other organizations and action as well. In her words, "I got less political and more hands on." Of course, that's like you folks.

You got real. You're accomplishing real things and demonstrating that the solutions that people like us advocate to the many threats facing our species and our planet are realistic solutions. And though the process we discover that what's actually unrealistic is the path that we're on now.

Today I want to talk about how we make political rhetoric real. And specifically, I'm going to talk about what language we use to bring others to our side. Because that's part of my role as a politician: to speak to people in a way that they understand and that will ultimately cause them come to adopt my point of view. And I hope that's what I can contribute to the discussion today.

First want to start by giving you a brief primer on the Green Party of Canada, so that you know where I'm coming from and can see how much common ground we share.

By way of introducing you to the Green Party, I want to start with a bit of a disclaimer. And that is simply that I don't want to speak to you in a partisan way. That's possible, because in many ways, the Green Party is a non-partisan political party. Both our membership, and our policies, come from the other three major Canadian political parties. We say that we are neither left nor right, but out front.

But what, exactly, does that mean? In part, it means that instead of subscribing to a political ideology of left or right, we have adopted the six key values of the Global Green movement. Those values are:
  • Ecological Wisdom
  • Social Justice
  • Participatory Democracy
  • Non-Violence
  • Sustainability
  • Respect for Diversity
And I know that last one is very important for Durika as well, thinking of your work towards biodiversity.

Sometimes it's strange to speak to a group like this because, in some ways of course, I'm preaching to the choir. So I thought an interesting thing for us to talk about today would be: "how do we make the choir bigger?" Politics is about using language to persuade other people of your position, towards the goal of getting your ideas implemented. So let's look at the language we use.

Green is the new black. Green is sexy. A few years ago, books like Collapse and A Short History of Progress were national best sellers. Following our natural cultural progression, popularity in literature became popularity in film this year with the release of An Inconvenient Truth. Wired magazine, the bible of "the next big thing," put Al Gore on the cover and devoted a good chunk of the issue to neo-environmentalism. Last month The Toronto Star ran a feature story about several people who are discovering that environmental awareness is economically very valuable.

The Green Party is another gauge of public interest in this area. In just two elections The Green Party of Canada has gone from 0.8% of the vote to 4.5% of the vote, and in a recent poll we were at 10% nationally.

One of the ways we've done that is by adopting economic language to describe ecological problems and solutions. I wasn't surprised to see the same thing on the Friends of Durika website, where biodiversity is described as "natural capital." More about this later.

The downside, of course, is that much of the language used by corporations and politicians around issues of ecological wisdom has been greenwash: words on a page that don't materialize into real action. When a company like Shell can claim to be operating in a sustainable way, we have to question whether or not that word has now lost all meaning.

As an exercise, let's unpack this paragraph from the Friends of Durika website:

"Over the past fourteen years, they have created a sustainable community that is a true eco-village. Their energy source is alternative, their food organic and the organizational structure of the community is both democratic and consensus based. There is no religious affiliation nor do they subscribe to any particular political party."

Let's start with the word "sustainability." One of the major critics of the word is author Michael Crichton, who argues that because natural systems are always changing and evolving, that sustainability cannot be defined or shown to exist. Now, I don't agree with him. For example, when you build a suburb of Calgary or Toronto and start drawing down the water table faster than it fills up again, that's clearly not a very sustainable action. However, I think it demonstrates that the word has not been well defined. I suspect that most people don't have a very good understanding of what it means.

So let's attempt to define it. The best definition I've seen is from Mike Nickerson, one of the elders of The Green Party and the author of several books, including his most recent, "Life, Money and Illusion." Mike defines sustainability in the following way:

Well-being can be sustained when activities:

1. Use materials in continuous cycles.
2. Use continuously reliable sources of energy.
3. Come mainly from the qualities of being human (i.e. creativity, communication, coordination, appreciation, and spiritual and intellectual development.)

Long term well-being is diminished when activities:
1. Require continual inputs of non-renewable resources.
2. Use renewable resources faster than their rate of renewal.
3. Cause cumulative degradation of the environment.
4. Require resources in quantities that undermine other people's well-being.
5. Lead to the extinction of other life forms.

I think that's a pretty good definition, but it doesn't fit into a soundbite. Therefore, when I speak to people I take the first point, "use materials in continuous cycles," and focus on that language. We are the only species that creates waste. In nature, all waste is food. In the language of Ray Anderson, our economy is a linear "take-make-waste" economy. We need to transition to a cyclical economy, where materials move from cradle to cradle. We need to challenge economic indicators, like the GDP, which actually goes up in response to natural and other disasters.

The next phrase in that paragraph from the Friends of Durika website that jumped out at me was "their energy source is alternative." Of course, the question I'd ask is, "alternative to what?" Up until the lat sixties, 100% of Ontario's electricity mix was renewable. It was hydro generation, which is why we have this strange language relic in Ontario where we call all electricity "hydro." In the late sixties, however, we introduced "alternative" energy sources. You know, things like coal, and nuclear. Just forty years later, and now "hydro" is the alternative.

Next, "their food [is] organic." Here's a fun pop-quiz: what's the opposite of organic food? Ask most people in a supermarket, and they're going to say "normal." There's organic food, and then there's normal food. Well, we know that there's nothing normal about putting poisons (pesticides) on your food. Or about building an entire agricultural system around oil-based fertilizers.

And finally, Durika is referred to as an "eco-village." Over the past week I've been struggling a bit to explain to people what Durika is. It's a place where people understand that materials need to be used in continuous cycles. It's a place with natural energy, instead of the unnatural alternatives. It's a place where they grow normal food, not food with artificial chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers. Durika is a village first, and eco-village second. I know, of course, that it is a very special and extraordinary place, but it shouldn't be. It's just a place where, more or less, things are done right.

Thanks to your work, to the people of Durika, and to other communities like it, we are proving that there are realistic, wise solutions to the problems our communities and our planet are facing. And when you do that, when you take political ideas and turn them into real action, that's when you can look your biggest critics in the eye and say, "who's crazy now?"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Speaking at Friends of Durika Conference

This Sunday I'll be speaking at the Friends of Durika Educational Conference and Reunion.
The Friends of Durika (FOD) is a non profit organization that supports "‘Durika,"’ an intentional community in Costa Rica which serves as an international model for sustainable living. People visit this community from around the world in order to learn how to live more lightly on the planet. The goal of FOD is to provide financial support and encouragement for community initiatives and to help educate people everywhere about the importance of making earth-friendly lifestyle decisions. For more information on FOD, visit Information about Durika can be found at
I'll be attempting to apply some of the lessons of Durika to a Canadian context, with specific reference to what governments can do to enable and empower individuals and communities. A focus of the conference is on the synthesis of ecological health and social justice.

Date: Sunday, September 24th, 2006
Location: Hart House, University of Toronto (map)
Cost: $15
11:30-12 Registration, meet and greet, browsing booths
12-1 Durika (ecovillage) presentation
1-1:30 Durika Documentary
1:30-1:45 AGM
1:45-2:15 Speaker: Chris Tindal
2:30-3 Reunion, browsing booths

In The News Again

Well, the student news. ;-)
Ryerson graduate Chris Tindal was 24 when he ran as a Green Party candidate in last January'’s election. Tindal says the challenges of running in an election are the same regardless of age: finding time and money.

"You have no personal life for the duration of the campaign." During his campaign, Tindal said some days that began at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 1:30 a.m.
When Tindal ran in the federal election, he wanted to relate with voters, especially the youth. He says people respected him and listened to what he had to say in spite of his age. Out of the thousands of doors he knocked on, he only encountered one woman who made a rude comment about his age.

"She sort of laughed and said '‘Do you shave?'’ But she took the flier anyway. I think she was trying to be funny."
In other news (how's that for a transition?), today is International Car Free Day. Do you know where your councillor is?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Insert "Garbage" Pun Here

A company with a chronic deficit solves nothing by taking out a loan. Likewise, Toronto did not solve her garbage problem yesterday. Toronto's purchase of the deceptively-named Green Lane Environmental Ltd. (say, didn't we used to call those things garbage dumps?) is the purchase of a little more time, nothing else.

How much time? About twenty years. How much time has it taken us to find this dump? About twenty years. And the next one will take even longer.

We're the only species on this planet that makes true waste -- as in, something that doesn't go on to become food for something else. Looking at it that way, waste is economic inefficiency. Waste is lost profit. The only true solution to our waste problem is to eliminate waste altogether.

I know, sounds crazy, right? It's not. In the past three years alone, Toronto has reduced the number of trucks we send to Michigan from 143 a day to 80. (And no, we didn't just get bigger trucks.) We've done that by diverting recyclables and organics, and that's just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. The real magic happens when you start using materials in continuous cycles.

Take the beer store, for example. They get back and reuse 96% of the bottles they sell! Ontario's announcement that they'll start doing this with LCBO products as well is a huge step in the right direction. Just think, if hungover people have the wherewithal to return bottles, how much more could we do with the packaging of non-intoxicating products?!

The bottom line is that we need to stop subsidizing waste, and start making manufacturers responsible for their own products. Author Paul Hawken often writes about having three categories of waste:
  1. Consumables. Anything that can biodegrade completely and harmlessly. That includes clothes (assuming we stop putting other weird stuff in them) and food (assuming we stop spraying them with toxic pesticides).
  2. Products of service, like cars, TVs and refrigerators would be "leased" to the customer, ultimately to be returned to the manufacturer who would be responsible for the product's recycling or reuse.
  3. Unmarkatables. This is the nasty stuff, like radioactive isotopes, toxins, and chemicals that bioaccumulate (build-up) in your body. Manufacturers really shouldn't be producing these things at all, but if they do, they'll pay to have them stored in "parking lots" until they can figure out how to neutralize them.
So, you can either make products that are 100% biodegradable, figure out how to reuse the parts, or pay the government to store your waste for you.

Anyone who thinks waste reduction, and ultimately elimination, isn't realistic, should ask themselves one question. How realistic is the idea that we can just keep finding new dumps forever? (To say nothing of all the virgin materials we keep extracting unnecessarily.)

We need to start now, so that by the time this dump is full we won't have to go looking for another one. Let's not waste the next twenty years. (Ah ha! There's the pun I was looking for.)

ps. By the way, this new dump is located in some of Ontario's (and therefore, Toronto's) prime agricultural land. As our garbage starts to break down it will leach into the earth that grows our food. The phrase "don't shit where you eat" comes to mind.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Run for the Cure

I just got this email from my brother. I knew the friend Alex mentions below. He was one of those genuinely nice and fun guys who no one could ever dislike. Anyway, I wanted to share it with you.
i'm participating in a fundraiser for breast cancer on october 1st where i will be running 5k, imagining that i'm stomping on cancer with each stride. you might already know that i lost a really amazing friend last month to cancer, and while it wasn't breast cancer, a number of his friends are running together as a team called, 'the palligators' to support the canadian breast cancer foundation. it should also be noted that he is not the first person this group of friends has lost to cancer.

the point of this run is to raise money to research treatment, early detection and prevention in addition to supporting communities and families affected by breast cancer. so, having said that, i need your help reaching my personal fundraising goal of $500, and my team's fundraising goal of $3000. i've included a link in this e-mail which will take you to my donations page. you can do it online with your credit card and it's super quick and easy. you even get a tax receipt for your charitable donation. plus, i'll be eternally grateful.

Click here.

even if you can only donate $10, it will put me that much closer to my goal.

thanks in advance.

The First 2006 Toronto Mayoral Debate

I arrived about thirty minutes early for last night's debate, which was fortunate, since by the time things got going it was standing room only in the Innis College auditorium.

Of the currently thirty people running for Mayor of Toronto, only two were invited to participate in the debate: His Worship (we've got to get rid of that title) Mayor David Miller, and Councillor Jane Pitfield. I suppose the thinking was that they're currently the only two "serious candidates" running. Well, Jane may have tested that assumption.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think that everything Jane Pitfield says is crazy, nor do I agree with everything David Miller says or does. But good gosh, is she even listening to herself? Here are some of my personal highlights from last night:
  • Jane opposes the closing of streets for community events. She'd create a designated space in the city where all street fairs and community fairs are to take place. (I'm assuming we'd re-name "Taste of the Danforth" to "Taste of Designated Community Area 29.")
  • Jane helped create Car-Free Kensington. (Wait...what? Doesn't that involve closing streets?)
  • Jane knows homelessness is a big problem in this city because of "the look on tourists' faces." Also, we need to make homelessness illegal because it inconveniences business people. (Those honestly seemed to be her main concerns.)
  • New York fought homelessness AND was attacked on 9/11. So there.
  • Toronto should be creating local jobs. Also, we should buy our subway cars from China.
  • The city is spending too much money. Also, we need to spend more money.
  • Our surplus is way too high. Also, our debt is way too high.
  • Staff morale is very low and we need to do something about it. Also, staff are a waste of money and aren't working hard enough.
You can see why, by the end, I had a very hard time following her arguments. The most useful thing she contributed were some ideas on waste management, though if that's your issue, then Rod Muir is your candidate.

Where David disappointed was when he completely ignored a comment about the secret Gardiner Expressway report that he's refusing to make public. If you're going to be keeping reports a secret, the least you can do is explain why.

The highlight of the night, however, came after the debate, when three media outlets (CFRB 1010, 680 News, and The Toronto Star) interviewed me about what I thought of the candidates. "That's funny," I thought, "none of them ever interviewed me when I was a candidate."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

An Afternoon on the Toronto Islands

Claire and I spent this afternoon biking around the Toronto islands (specifically, Ward and Algonquin islands) taking part in CommunityAIR's Toronto Island House Tour. (CommunityAIR is a group that advocates against expansion of the Toronto Island Airport.)

Aside from being a fundraiser, the day was also meant to raise awareness that people who live on the island are, well, real people. We met extremely nice residents (thanks Baye, Doreen, Jennie, and Ken!) who welcomed us into their homes and offered us wine and food, ranging from brie to strawberries to lemon loaf to popcorn (pretty much my four favourite foods).

Houses on the island are only allowed to be two stories high, and can't have basements. The result is a series of pleasant and modest cottage-like buildings. At least two had fewer square feet than a one-bedroom downtown condo.

One of funniest aspects of the day was how everyone kept asking us if we were "on the list." As in, the list to get onto the island. (Hmmm...sounds like a movie, doesn't it?)

See, houses on the island aren't allowed to be sold at market rates, or to just anyone who wants them. There's a list (and a lottery system to get on said list) which gives you the opportunity to, when a house goes on sale, buy it for the price that the building (excluding the land) was assessed at several years ago, indexed only to inflation. The first person on the list gets first dibs, and if they don't want it the second person is asked, and so on. One house we saw was assessed at less than $90,000. Others couldn't have been much higher.

Almost everyone we talked to encouraged us to get on the list so that we could come "join them." There's a very strong sense of community. Children run and bike around in groups, relatively unattended. It's hard for them to escape I guess, and they seem to be the responsibility of everyone. Every Saturday morning a group of people bike over to the St. Lawrence Market togeather for groceries.

"You know what the secret is," asked Jennie? "No cars." That's why you know who your neighbours are. That's why children can play in the "street." That's why it's so quiet and calm. That's why the air is so clear. (The last two, of course, come with the exception of when planes are landing.)

Add that to reason number [I've-lost-count] why cities should be built around people and not cars. All the more reason to look forward to this Friday's International Car Free Day.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Economy, Environment, Health

Those are the three most important issues for Canadians, in that order, according to a poll released yesterday. The status-quo parties are still treating them as three separate issues, but we know better. You can't have a healthy economy without a healthy environment, and you can't have healthy Canadians on a sick planet.
"The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment." - Herman Daly, Former Senior Economist, World Bank
That's good news for the Green Party, because we're the only ones who can speak with credibility on all three of those issues, and how they relate to each other.
"The emergence of Stéphane Dion as the ecological conscience of the Liberal leadership campaign and the advent of Elizabeth May as leader of the Green Party, are blowing away the NDP's chances of portraying itself as the champion of the environment." Chantal Hébert, The Toronto Star, Sept. 13, 2006.
Our current economy is designed to use up our resources as quickly as possible. As long as we believe that "economic growth" can continue as it has for only the past millisecond of our existence, we will fail. We need to transform our economy.

Our environment is in trouble. A full two-thirds of the systems that support life on this planet are in decline. As long as environmental policies are focused exclusively on "spending money" on the environment and regulating against misaligned economic indicators, they will fail. We need to transform our outlook.

Our health system is sick. From childhood asthma in the young to a cancer epidemic in the increasingly young, costs of all kinds are rising. As long as we think we can fix our heath care system by increasing its funding in perpetuity, as we get sicker and sicker, we will fail. We need to transform the way we think about health.

Canadians are smart people, and have their priorities right. Now we've just got to vote like it.

Congratulations Frank!

Frank de Jong, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, earned an impressive 6.2% of the vote in yesterday's Parkdale-High Park by-election. The fact that this increase (up from 5.49 in the last federal election) happened in the face of such a tight "horse race" between the NDP and Liberal candidates makes it even more impressive.

It also happened in the face of some mildly amusing minor political interference. My friend Adriana and I were out "main-streeting" for Frank in the final week of the election when we almost got arrested (note: slight exaggeration is in effect) for, of all things, solicitation. (It's a funny story, ask me about it some time. Turns out not all Toronto police understand that political candidates are allowed by law to, you know, campaign. Like we live in some sort of democracy or something.)

Congratulations to Frank and everyone on his team (even Adriana and I, the trouble makers).

I want to also congratulate Cheri DiNovo on her win. Cheri's actually a friend of the family, and I wish her the best.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ironic News Story of the Day

Here's a good one. The headline reads "U.S. Forces In Iraq Want More Green: Frontline Commander Calls For Renewable Energy Sources To Reduce Risks."

I don't usually do this, but I'll just let that one sit without comment. (Of course, that doesn't mean you have to.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Day That Changed The World Forever

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of when I moved into my current apartment; my "box in the sky."

The next morning, I was listening to the radio while getting ready for class at Ryerson. I remember Andy Barrie becoming distracted at one point, and then explaining that he was watching television images of a plane that had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Having no TV, I decided to walk to Ryerson early to see this on the cafeteria TV. When I arrived, the image on the screen made no sense. I'd been picturing the damage of a small plane in one tower, but now both towers had been transformed into massive smoke stacks.

I didn't know what to make of it, and don't know how long I sat there before walking over to class. What I do remember is that by that point there was only one tower left. As our class entered the TV studio (our classroom -- we were television students), we greeted each other awkwardly. "Everyone's turned on a TV today, right?" Some of us hadn't seen each other all summer, but "good to see you" wasn't working today.

For the first -- hour? few hours? -- of class we watched Newsworld on two screens that had been wheeled in by the professors. When the second tower collapsed and Peter Mansbridge emphasized that these were live images, not a replay of the first tower falling, I was sure he'd made a mistake. I remember thinking, "if I saw this in a movie, I'd roll my eyes at how unrealistic it was."

I wanted to write about those next few days, weeks, and months, but I never did until now. I'd wanted to record all the little details, only some of which I remember: the sign on the now-out-of-business NYC Store on Yonge Street that said "closed due to pesky terrorist kids," the rumours that a plane was headed for Toronto, how many weeks past before I saw another TV commercial, the American flag network bugs that lasted for months.

I hold in my head the false choice between mourning the dead and lamenting what's been done in their name since. "With us or with the terrorists" also continues to be a false choice. I have nothing new or wise to say on this fifth anniversary.

Instead, I've tried to find some comfort in another anniversary. One hundred years ago today, Mahatma Gandhi began his non-violence movement, and helped to change the world forever. All I can say is, we could really use another Gandhi right about now.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hit Me With The Double Digits

Today, for what I'm pretty sure is the first time, the Green Party of Canada hit 10% in a national poll. This reflects positively on our message and our new leader. It reflects negatively on the status quo parties who are failing to offer leadership.

For your reference, in 1993 with only 6.88% of the popular vote, the NDP elected 9 MPs.

Over the coming months, as the Green Party launches a series of policy conferences across the country, expect to see our popularity and credibility continue to rise.

Can I get a yip yip?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Green Plan Schlock vs. Lovelock's Clock

You've probably heard that the Conservatives are currently developing their "Green Plan II" by focus group. Apparently someone told them that this "environment stuff" is really popular right now. (That's not a joke -- it is, and there are a number of indications that Harper's real number one priority is upgrading his government to a majority.)

Let's just ignore the fact that focus groups are no way to lead. Oh, and the fact that the government is paying for it instead of the Conservative party. (Really? Do I have to ignore that? Ok...)

I wish I held out hope that this plan will be much more than a greenwash, but I don't. And I'd be more specific if we were allowed to see the details, but we're not. All we know for sure is that polluters are going to have a big say, that regulations are most likely going to voluntary, and that the plan will focus on air pollution instead of climate change (aka, the biggest threat facing our country in the foreseeable future).

We also know that the plan could take five years to develop and come into effect. Now, I don't mean to be alarmist, but maybe they should read James Lovelock. The clock is ticking folks.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Globe Spins Around

Want to read something strange? Pick up a copy of today's Globe And Mail and check out the editorial titled The unwelcome landing of another U.S. penalty. The Globe is now "appalled" at how NAFTA is working (or, rather, not working) for our country:
Not again...What are the Americans doing? ... Canada cannot win ... This is appalling. Whatever happened to the consultations that NAFTA was supposed to foster? ... [This] is a terrible way to treat a neighbour.
Uh, yeah, ok. Except that earlier this week the Globe said that Elizabeth May was "off to a bad start" for making the "extreme" suggestion "that the North American free-trade agreement is not working." Instead, the Globe said, Elizabeth should be focusing on "real issues."

How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? Obviously, the only possible conclusion is that Elizabeth, myself, and at least three other letter writers have managed to sway the Globe's editorial board in less than a week. Good for us.

Maybe stage four will come sooner than we thought.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Hurray! We're Under Attack!

There are a number of stock quotes that Greens are fond of throwing around. For example, Gandhi's "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win," was often heard during the last election.

The Green Party of Canada was formed in the early 80s, so we spent a long time at stage one. It was only in the past two elections (2004 and 2006) that we graduated to stage two.

Now, with major newspaper editorials and other forms of attention, our actual policies are under serious attack for the first time. I didn't realize this until I felt what it was like to be in a party that people take seriously, but up until now most criticisms took the form of dismissal (eg, "they're a fringe party"). Now when people attack our ideas, they do it with a seriousness that was absent before.

Welcome to stage three everybody. Stage four isn't far away.