Monday, October 30, 2006

My Most Effective Sunday Ever

Yesterday morning, I helped distribute flyers for Adrian Heaps who's running for councillor in Scarborough Southwest (Ward 35). As it turns out, his son Toby and I did most of the actual running, from house to house, up and down driveways.

(Apparently, the muscles you use to run are very different from the ones you use to bike. Today I'm actually walking with a limp.)

Later that day, I made a quick-and-dirty website for The Lakeshore Local, a transit plan being proposed by Matthew Day, Etobicoke-Lakeshore (Ward 6) council candidate and a Green Party member.

I tell you this because I'm delighted to see that in today's Globe And Mail, these two men (who I'm not sure have even met, or are aware that I'm doing double duty for them) were featured in a piece called Two off-the-beaten-track solutions for city traffic.

As far as I can tell I'm the only common link between the two candidates, and therefore the main reason they're getting this kind of attention. Gentlemen, you're welcome.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Garth to Stay Independent...For Now

Just found out.

Fine. Your loss, Garth. I didn't want to go out with you anyway. You're right, we should just stay friends. I don't want to ruin this special thing we have. Besides, um, well, I've been meaning to tell you, there's someone else. She's really great, and I think she might be my first MP instead. So uh, no hard feelings?
"Well, there is some appeal (in joining the Green party)," Turner said.

"However right now, there is more appeal in trying to be an independent and seeing if that is going to work."
Good, I hope it does work. I just want you to be happy, really. And hey, if being on your own isn't what you thought it would be...I mean, if you get lonely...well, who knows how we'll both feel in the future.

Just know that you'll always have a special place in my heart.

(Special thanks to every girl I knew in high school for their help with this post.)

Three Updates: Garth Turner, Elizabeth May, Planet Earth

Today, three posts in one. I thought about splitting them up, but this seemed simpler. I recommend reading the whole thing, of course, but feel free to take it in pieces instead.

Garth Turner Update

According to this account by Lloyd Hilbert (via Jim Harris' blog), there is some pretty strong support in Garth's riding for the idea of him joining the Green Party:
At the end of the meeting he did a quick show of hands to get a judgment about what to do next.

He chose 5 options:

Stay as an Independent, Join the Liberals, Join the Greens, Negotiate a return to the Conservatives, Resign his position.

Based on a show of hands, the results were as follows:

Resign = 0
Join Liberals = 0
Go back to Conservatives = 4
Become Independent = 19
Join the Greens = 18
Those results confirm my earlier prediction. In fact, that support from his constituents to join the Green Party is even stronger than I thought it'd be. It's a very good sign.

To an earlier commenter's question about how I feel about the fact that Garth doesn't support Kyoto as-is, I'm not thrilled about it but I can deal. Kyoto is important because it's the only international framework we have for dealing with the climate crisis, and because Canada is now in the shameful position of being the only country to have signed the agreement and walked away. We have "cut and run," as Harper would put it, from an international contract.

That being said, Garth is still willing to work seriously to reduce emissions. In terms of representation in the house, that's better than nothing.

Elizabeth May Update

The race is on! Elizabeth has confirmed she'll run in the by-election for London North Centre. There are some compelling reasons why she could actually win this one. There's no doubt that it's going to be the biggest local campaign in the Green Party of Canada's history. We'll be organizing buses to run from Toronto to London on weekends to flood the riding with volunteers, and several people have already committed to move to London and volunteer for the duration of the campaign. If we pull this off, and Garth comes through, we'll have two MPs before the next general election. Everything's happening very quickly.

Planet Earth Update

Things are happening very quickly here too, but in a much more negative way. Yesterday the WWF released more chilling evidence (as if we needed any) that we're in serious trouble. Some highlights from their report (PDF):
  • Globally, we're now placing a demand on the Earth's resources that's approximately 25% more than the Earth can provide.
  • By current projections, we'll be using a full two-Earths worth of resources by 2050 (the same year Harper would like to get serious about the climate crisis).
  • Wildlife biodiversity has declined by a shocking 30% in the past 30 years.
  • The report predicts that "large-scale ecosystem collapse" is likely by the middle of the century.
What's even more upsetting and baffling is that, as of right now, I can't find this story on,, or If "large-scale ecosystem collapse" isn't big news, someone please tell me what is. (Oh wait, I think I've got it. I just took a quick poll. Number of Google News articles about the WWF report: 70. Number of articles about McKay's dog comment: 83. Number of articles about Madonna's adoption: 729.)

Per capita, Canada is the fourth worst culprit. Interestingly, the United States is second, with the United Arab Emirates taking first place. I was in the UAE almost two years ago, and just dug this up from an (admittedly overly-pretentious) letter I wrote home about something I saw while visiting a high-school in Abu Dhabi:
A display case labeled "Did You Know..." shares some interesting facts about how wasteful and disproportionately privileged America is (produces x amount of garbage, consumes y amount of the world's resources, throws out z percentage of the food they produce). It seems a little rich coming from a country where everyone drives an SUV, lives in a palace, eats mostly imported food, and owes their wealth to peddling dino-juice to the rest of the world. Then again, maybe I'm just bitter they forgot to mention how wasteful and privileged Canada is. We count too ya know.
I'm not particularly proud of the tone of the entry (I think I was trying to be funny), but you get the point. These students were being taught how bad the US is, when it turns out the UAE is even worse. And Canada's not far behind. All I'm saying is, if we're going to criticize the States, let's make sure we're also getting our own house in order.

Time For Action

All that is enough to be paralyzing, but think back to the first two updates. As our crisis worsens, our efforts to solve it also increase. Jared Diamond describes this phenomenon as a horse race between two animals that each continue to run faster. The most likely winner is not yet clear, but it's not too late to affect the race.

Last night I was at Bullfrog Power's one-year Birthday Bash. Bullfrog provides 100% renewable electricity to customers in Ontario, today. Right now! If you live in their service area and you want to take some action, becoming a customer of theirs is a good way to start.

Another great action would be donating to or otherwise helping with Elizabeth's campaign. We need to raise $80,000 to run a full campaign, and there's just a little more than a month before E-Day on November 27th. Jim Harris appears to be helping to direct donations and organize volunteers through the national party, so visit his blog for more information.

Lots to be done. Let's get to work.

Friday, October 20, 2006

What's He Gonna Do?

That's the question everyone's asking. And along with being quoted and linked in The Tyee, it's also contributed to a spike in this blog's visits over the past few days.

As you almost certainly know, I'm talking about Garth Turner, who is contemplating the opportunity to become Canada's first Green MP after being kicked out of the Conservative caucus two days ago.

Garth has basically two options: join another party or remain independent. The fact that he says he's "waiting for a new logo" leads me to believe that he may favour the former. If so, the NDP have said they don't want him, which leaves the Greens or the Liberals. Of those two options, I think he's leaning towards us. In his own words, "defecting to the Liberals would clearly be a big step for a guy with blue blood in his veins." On the other hand, the Green Party has many former Conservatives, and we were the second choice of more Conservative voters in the last election (a full 36%) than of voters for any other party.

Therefore, my best guess is that he'll either remain an independent or join the Greens. As for predicting anything more specific than that, I think the odds are split 50/50. What I can say is that he's considering it seriously, and has been speaking with both Elizabeth May and the local Green Party association in Halton, where I grew up.

His decision will probably come down to what his constituents want. That's where you can help. If you live in Halton, or know someone who does, please show up at one of Garth's town hall meetings this weekend and let him know you think he should make history.
Saturday October 21st, 2006 at 2:30 PM
Tansley Woods Library (in Community Centre)
1996 Itabashi Way, Burlington

Sunday October 22nd, 2006 at 4:00 PM
Ella Foote Hall
6611 Panton Road, Kilbride
I realize now that as this post draws to a close I haven't devoted any space to explaining why I think Garth should go Green. In short, it would do more to advance Canadian action on climate change than anything else that's in his power. He's said that "climate change is the greatest all-round threat this country faces," and that the decision he now has to make is how he can best serve his constituents.

Greens are a diverse group already, so Garth would fit right in even when he was sticking out. And with a threat as big as the climate crisis, there's no time to play partisan politics. I'll work with anyone who's willing and able to accomplish the goal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Elizabeth May, Lumberjack

Last night, Elizabeth May appeared on the Rick Mercer Report and cut down a tree. Good on her.

You can watch the clip here. I strongly encourage you to compare it to Rona Ambrose's previous performance.

I watched the show with some Green friends of mine, including a "deep green" who I was worried would object to the tree-cutting. As Elizabeth started in with the chain saw, I was sure my fears had been confirmed.

"Oh, why is she doing that," the deep green asked with anguish.

"The tree's already dead," someone else pointed-out helpfully.

"No," responded the deep green, "I mean why is she cutting straight? Where's the wedge!?!"

So, as it turns out, the segment was enjoyed by all.

"An Interesting Day"

That's how my new best friend Garth Turner described it.

In case you haven't heard, here's how things went down. Last night, Garth, the Conservative MP for Halton, made a blog post called "The stakes," where he talked about the seriousness of climate change and the need for action. The post could be interpreted to be more supportive of Green Party leader Elizabeth May than environment minister Rona Ambrose.

Today, Garth was kicked out of the Conservative caucus. (BTW, they didn't tell him about it. He found out on TV.)

I can't tell you how good it feels to belong to a party where I can today blog in support of Garth without fear of reprisal. The planet and good policy come before party politics, always.

Please consider offering Garth your verbal and, heck, financial support.

Monday, October 16, 2006

You Know You're In Trouble When...

...your name's Steven Harper and The Toronto Sun starts pointing out how backwards your policies are.

The column in question was brought to my attention by my blogging (and real-life) buddy Matt Ross. I could just send you to his blog and leave it at that, but instead I'm going to paraphrase him in a self-serving attempt to retain my readership. (Note to Jane Pitfield: paraphrasing with credit is one thing, plagiarizing is another.)

The columnist is Greg Weston, the column is Harper's double-talk. (See also doublespeak and doublethink.) While I commend you to the full piece, the summary is this: our government is now less transparent and accountable than it was before "The Accountability Act," to the point where if another sponsorship scandal happened today, we might not find out about it.
Fact: The proposed Accountability Act would add 12 new blanket exemptions and exclusions, almost doubling the current number of secrecy provisions preventing certain kinds of government documents from being released.

Fact: Draft audits and other evidence of wrongdoing exposed by whistleblowers could in future be sealed for up to 15 years.
I know I've already blogged about this issue a fair bit, but the precision of Weston's criticism is worth noting. And of course it's also notable because, well, The Sun should be Harper-friendly. And with friends like these...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

From today's Globe And Mail:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a page out of tough U.S. justice legislation yesterday by announcing that his government will introduce a three-strikes law to force repeat violent and sexual offenders to justify why they should not be locked away indefinitely.
Ah, so this is what Harper meant by "get tough on crime." Let's take a look at what this would mean.

First, it's a strike against that whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing we like to value. The accused would be responsible for proving that they're not a danger to society, instead of leaving that responsibility with the crown to prove that they are. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the presumption of innocence. (Just so everyone knows what a radical I am, I'm also a fan of habeas corpus.)

Some of you may not be convinced that that's a big problem, since we are talking about third-time offenders of violent and sexual crimes. Fine. So then, this plan would at least reduce crime, right?

Wrong. From the same article:
[The announcement] was resoundingly panned by justice experts who say similar measures south of the border have proved ineffective in reducing crime...The California law caused an increase in the state prison population of 17.7 per cent between 1993 and 2002 while the crime rate dropped more slowly than that of other states, such as New York, where there was no three-strikes law.
Oh, ok. So we'll have a bigger prison population, more crime than we would otherwise, and fewer liberties.

Also, according to both Harper and my rudimentary understanding of the fact that jails cost money, it'll cost more.

One other quote from the article really struck me, "Mr. Harper said his government is answering a call from Canadians who believe the country is not as safe as it once was." The key word there, of course, is believe, since crime is actually on the decline in Canada.

There was a telling moment in a recent Toronto municipal campaign town hall broadcast on CBC, when a reporter asked the council candidates to explain why they thought Canadians felt less safe, when in fact they were more safe. The candidates' answers were regrettably predictable; they didn't even understand the question. They just went on and on about how we have to get tough on crime, whatever that means, as politicians tend to do.

I think I've figured out where we got the idea that we shouldn't feel safe. And I think I know who benefits.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

This Is Getting Intense

Wait a second, the Conservative government's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to let them rise? Oh, but don't worry, they'll rise "more slowly." I'm thinking of sending Rona Ambrose a certain James Cameron film in the mail. Water entered the Titanic pretty slowly too.

This planned rise in emissions is due to the government's last minute announcement that, at the request of the oil industry (ok, they didn't actually admit that part), they're going to be using "intensity-based" targets. What that means is that overall emissions can go up, as long as emissions per production unit go down. For example, as long as the oil industry reduces the amount of emissions that are created by the extraction and refinement of each barrel of oil, they can go ahead and increase the total number of barrels they produce.

How does that help the fact that the earth is hotter than it's been in a million years? It doesn't.

(No, that wasn't hyperbole. I actually mean 1,000,000 years. It's not your fault if you didn't know that, it wasn't really headline news. Other stuff was more important I guess.)

Still, not everyone gets that this is a problem. Some continue to say things like, "reducing our emissions is, you know, really hard, so we shouldn't even try." Those of us in the choir need to keep reiterating to our skeptical coworkers and friends that reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is not a luxury. It's not an option. The best case scenario for failure is a serious decline in our quality of life and economy. The worst case is unthinkable.

The good news is, reason has the momentum. As Elizabeth May's Globe And Mail column pointed out in true Green style, the Clean Air Act has nothing to do with either clean air or action. The Conservative government thinks Canadians are too dumb to figure that out. We will prove them wrong.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Where Has Rona Been?

Out to lunch. With oil executives.

At least that's where Rona Ambrose, our environment minister, was two weeks ago instead of reacting to the environment commissioner's report. We've been hearing a lot from the Conservatives about how that report slams the Liberals, and very little about the fact that it also criticizes the Conservatives for being on the wrong path. As usual, the Conservatives are more interested in attacking others than putting forward their own ideas.

Since then, Rona testified at a Commons committee where she lied (or, in the least, betrayed her ignorance) by saying that the Liberals had spent money on stuff they hadn't. Then she tried to claim that comments made by Daphne Wysham from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington supported her government's opposition to Kyoto. Elizabeth May, who knows Daphne, thought, "hmm...that doesn't sound right," and called Daphne to confirm. Here was her response:
I am horrified that my statement criticizing the CDM has been interpreted by Canada's Environment Minister as justification for not living up to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. We absolutely need a vehicle for both curbing emissions in the North and providing resources for clean energy in the south. The CDM may be flawed, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater will set us back decades at a time when action to reduce greenhouse gases is urgently needed. Canada must not violate its legally binding Kyoto commitments.
I spent a lot of time packing this past month. I can think of at least one other person who should be sent to do the same.

UPDATE (October 12, 2006): More untruths from Rona.

Where Has Jim Been?


When Jim Harris stepped down as leader of the Green Party of Canada two months ago, he said he'd be moving from being in front of the cameras to the back room. Then Elizabeth May told him she didn't want us to have a back room, so he settled for kitchen cabinet.

True to his word, he's been keeping busy since then. (One spy even told me he took a shift answering the phones at the national office. That's dedication for you.)

Most recently, Jim has started a blog which you can follow here. It's worth reading -- Jim's very good at coming at old stories from new angles, and finding those clever twists and soundbites.

Where Have I Been?

Drowning in a sea of boxes. Sorry about that. Now, I'm slowly emerging from my hole.

But seriously, I stop blogging for two weeks and North Korea gets the bomb? I had no idea the ramifications would be so severe.

(Too soon?)