Naomi Klein-inspired 'Leap Manifesto' shakes up Canadian left
Canada: Leap Manifesto unites broad forces, builds climate justice campaigns“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.” —The Leap Manifesto by John Riddell April 3, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Climate and Capitalism -- Five hundred Toronto-area supporters crowded into a west-end school auditorium March 29 to support the Leap Manifesto, launched early this year in support of a rapid, “justice-based” energy transition to a renewable economy. The movement was launched in January 2016 to popularize the ideas of Naomi Klein’s influential book on climate change, This Changes Everything. Klein pointed to the need for a mass social movement addressing both the urgent need for climate action and an agenda for social justice. Participants at the rally represented a wide range of social movements, particularly in the city’s West End. Featured speakers included three members of parliament (two New Democratic Party, one Liberal), union leaders (postal and public sector workers), environmental groups (Greenpeace and 350.org), and Indigenous groups (Idle No More). The Leap Manifesto, with more than 34,000 signatories, calls for varied measures toward the goal of a society “caring for one another and caring for the planet.” The list is headed by respect for Indigenous people’s “inherent rights and title” to the land; immediate action for a 100% clean economy by 2050; and a halt to “infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future.” Other points highlight longstanding goals of the workers’ movement, such as investment in public infrastructure, “an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies,” a national childcare program, and expanded and affordable public transit. The Manifesto’s diverse goals are interlocking and mutually supportive, its supporters explain. Thus at the March 27 meeting, lead-off speaker Bianca Mugyenyi described achieving the target of 100% renewable electricity generation in 20 years as “a healing process from colonization.” Our calendar’s leap year itself is “a recognition that it’s easier to change our human systems than to alter the cycles of nature,” Mugyenyi said. Shifting her metaphor, she pointed out that bringing climate change under control requires “thinking big”: “Small steps are no longer enough. 2016 is our year to leap.” Mugyenyi stressed the need to hold Canada’s Liberal government, headed by Justin Trudeau, to the sweeping promises made when it was elected to act on climate change. “They are not connecting with our sense of the urgency of the moment,” she said. For example, the Liberals have promised $3.4 billion over three years for mass public transit, “which won’t even meet the outstanding transit repair budget in Toronto alone.” Mugyenyi noted that the Leap Manifesto has sparked interest in the social-democratic New Democratic Party. More than 20 NDP local constituency groups have called on the party to adopt the Manifesto. Megan Whitfield, president of Toronto’s postal workers, presented a program worked out together by her national union and Leap to convert the threatened Canadian postal service’s unequalled network of 6,800 retail outlets into centres of community service and community action on climate issues, as for example through the introduction of postal banking. When the government acts on its decision to cease sending cheques through the mail, she said, “this will provide a way to receive pension payments for all those who can’t get an account in a conventional bank.” Leap’s March 29 meeting in Toronto – the most effective held here on climate justice issues in several years – embraced an impressive range of activist forces that could lend support to the Leap/postal worker program and similar projects. Inevitably, a text aimed at encompassing such diverse viewpoints must be more limited in scope than the bold measures presented in Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. But to focus on the manifesto’s omissions would miss the point. The manifesto has proved its capacity to unite a broad range of social forces and to pose the challenge of climate justice within the mainstream organizations of Canadian working people. It is an eloquent contribution to the debate the Trudeau government is initiating on a national climate action plan. Moreover, public attitudes in Canada to climate-related issues are radicalizing, encouraging us to elaborate key issues that the Leap Manifesto touches on only briefly. For example, the Manifesto’s third point states, “There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future….” Prime examples of such projects are the oil industry’s unpopular projects to build pipelines across the country. Pipeline opponents include the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. They are taking their legal suit against Line 9, which runs from Sarnia to Montreal, to the Supreme Court. At the Toronto rally, climate activist Jesse McClaren appealed for donations to meet their legal costs. In response, Avi Lewis, a co-founder of the Leap effort and facilitator of the Toronto meeting, saluted the positive work of coalitions against pipelines and the importance of the Chippewa case. Referring to Naomi Klein’s chapter on pipeline activism, entitled “Blockadia,” Lewis continued, ”It is super clear that we have to stop the veins and arteries of the fossil-fuel economy.” Lewis called for an end to subsidies for the fossil fuels industry and highlighted a new Alberta-based website, “Iron and Earth,” established by tar sands workers committed “to incorporating more renewable energy projects into our work scope.” “The workers should be supported, not the corporations,” Lewis said. The March 27 Toronto rally shows that the Leap Manifesto has become an effective organizing tool that deserves support from all sectors of Canada’s climate justice movement. The pending debate on national climate policy should enable us to greatly expand support for the Manifesto and its goals. Ecosocialist John Riddell is a supporter of East End Against Line 9 and Toronto No Line 9 Network. His blog is here.
Climate justice movement shakes Canada’s New Democratic PartyBy Richard Fidler April 11, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Life on the Left -- In a stunning rebuff to the party establishment, delegates to the federal convention of the New Democratic Party, meeting in Edmonton, Alberta April 8-10, voted to reject Thomas Mulcair as their leader and to begin reorienting the party to become a leader in Canada’s climate justice movement. They voted overwhelmingly, in the face of vehement opposition by the NDP’s revered Alberta leader Premier Rachel Notley, to endorse the “Leap Manifesto,” a radical statement opposing Alberta’s tar sands petroleum industry and its associated pipelines and advocating a “great transition” in energy conversion — a leap — to “prevent catastrophic global warming.” The Manifesto denounces Canada’s record on climate change as “a crime against humanity’s future.” The convention vote was correctly interpreted as a “turn to the left” in the business media, which until now, like the NDP leaders, had ignored the Manifesto, first published in the midst of last year’s federal election campaign. “The leap,” says the Manifesto, “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.... “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; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy.” Among its demands, the Manifesto calls for “a universal program to build energy efficient homes... training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs,” a “far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system,” and an “end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies.” “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.” The Leap Manifesto has attracted broad interest (see above) and spawned some related campaigns among working people. An example is the bold campaign recently launched by Canada’s militant postal workers union to convert the post office to a “revolutionary green make-over” through such innovative measures as conversion of its vehicle fleet to 100% electricity, creation of vehicle charging stations at post offices, along with postal banking to provide financial services in under-served communities and low-cost credit for renewable energy installations. The convention met amidst widespread dissent over the NDP’s disastrous election result in last October’s federal election when the party, by appearing to be to the right of the victorious Liberals, turned a promising lead in the polls into a rout that demoted it to third-place standing in Parliament. Members’ anger was stoked by Mulcair’s failure, until the eve of the convention, to acknowledge his own responsibility for the setback. A “Campaign Review Report” by federal NDP officials, a narrowly conceived analysis that failed to placate party critics, added to the criticism. And the convention came on the heels of a disastrous showing in Saskatchewan’s provincial election and following the party’s previous loss of government in Nova Scotia, disappointing results in both British Columbia and Ontario, and with the prospect of the likely defeat next April 19 of Manitoba’s NDP government. The surprise election last May of an NDP government in Alberta is the sole exception in this pattern. But Premier Notley’s impassioned plea to federal convention delegates to support her government’s promotion of “pipelines to tidewater” for export of tar sands products left many cold. As did Thomas Mulcair when, in a last-minute attempt to save his job, he promised to endorse whatever program the convention adopted — even if it included opposition to the Energy East pipeline, which he has consistently supported. On a leadership review motion, only 48% supported Mulcair’s continued leadership of the party. The affiliated unions were divided; Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff had called on Mulcair to step down while some major union leaders publicly supported him. The forthcoming leadership campaign will be difficult. Mulcair, when all is said and done, was in NDP terms the best the party could come up with at this point. Fluently bilingual, excelling in the repartee of parliamentary debate, he was the leader this parliamentary party deserved in 2012, the party having become in 2011 the Official Opposition with a majority of its MPs newly elected in Quebec. None of the party MPs now being publicized in the corporate media as potential leadership contenders can come close to him in these respects — and none of them came out publicly in support of the Leap Manifesto. It was the Leap Manifesto that dominated the program debates from the outset of the Edmonton convention. An ad hoc grouping, “New Democrats for the Leap Manifesto,” formed in advance to agitate for making the Manifesto the major programmatic issue at the convention. Some two dozen constituency associations endorsed it in one form or another. In reaction, other New Democrats, led by former MPs Craig Scott (Toronto Danforth) and Libby Davies (Vancouver East), mobilized in support of a proposal to postpone a direct endorsement of the Manifesto pending a membership discussion and further debate at the next convention, in 2018. They worked closely with Avi Lewis, a co-author of the Manifesto, partner of ecology activist and author Naomi Klein, and a scion of past party leaders. The final resolution adopted at the convention praises the Manifesto as “a high-level statement of principles that speaks to the aspirations, history and values of the party.” But it stipulates that specific policies advocated in the Manifesto “can and should be debated and modified on their own merits and according to the needs of various communities and all parts of Canada.” Intended to placate NDP critics of the Manifesto in Alberta and elsewhere, this formulation leaves wiggle room for tar sands and pipeline advocates in the party to postpone meaningful action to end fossil fuel dependency. However, there is no denying that environmental activists and ecosocialists now have a major opening to further and deepen the debate on climate justice in as well as outside the NDP. An ecosocialist left might well develop within and around the NDP — a left with supporters qualitatively more rooted in their communities than the perennial Socialist Caucus that has long laboured for recognition and support in the party. (The Socialist Caucus sponsored no fewer than 29 resolutions for the Edmonton convention, not one of which cited the Leap Manifesto, although the Caucus inserted a one-page endorsement of the Manifesto in its convention pamphlet.) This is not the first time in the NDP’s history that the party has become a focus for attention and participation by social movement activists. In the late 1960s the Manifesto for an Independent and Socialist Canada (the “Waffle Manifesto”) expressed within the party the popular and youth radicalization stimulated in part by opposition to the Vietnam war. While the Waffle was later driven out of the party (under the aegis of Avi Lewis’s father Stephen), its candidate Jim Laxer came a close second to David Lewis (and far ahead of Ed Broadbent) on the fourth ballot in the 1971 contest for federal NDP leader. In 2001, the New Politics Initiative won the support of about 40% of delegates at an NDP federal convention. It reflected the radicalization then developing around the global justice, feminist, gay rights and environmental movement. Despite this promising beginning, the NPI was arbitrarily disbanded by its steering committee, without even a consultation with its members, when its leaders decided to support Jack Layton’s bid to become federal party leader. Will the Leap Manifesto suffer a similar fate in the NDP? That’s an open question at this point. All signs point, however, to deepening climate crisis and increasing consciousness among broad layers of the population of the need for radical anti-capitalist solutions. This consciousness is reflected in Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected albeit fragile victory in the British Labour Party leadership, and even in Bernie Sanders’ surprising support for his “socialist” advocacy in the U.S. Democratic party primaries. A strong ecosocialist presence in the coming NDP debates could anticipate similar responses (and, as the Edmonton convention shows, opposition) to radical anticapitalism if some of the major ideas sketched in the Leap Manifesto can be pursued in the direction of developing an explicit and radical strategy and program. Surely, ecosocialists have every interest in investigating and where possible pursuing this development in the months to come. Notes  See also “Canada’s post office could get a revolutionary green make-over,” The Guardian, March 9, 2016.  See also “Notley calls on NDP to support new pipelines, takes aim at Leap Manifesto,” The Globe and Mail, April 9, 2016.  See “NDP delegates divided on Mulcair ahead of leadership review,” The Globe and Mail, April 9, 2016.  Avi Lewis’s father is Stephen Lewis, a former leader of the Ontario NDP (and former United Nations ambassador for Brian Mulroney’s Tory government). David Lewis, a former federal NDP leader, was Avi Lewis’s grandfather.
Climate change emergency shakes Canada's corporate establishment and fractures the country's social democratic partyBy Roger Annis April 22, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A fracturing of Canada's social democratic party has opened as party members and much of its electoral base express their dissatisfaction with the conservative economic, social and environmental policies that predominate in the party's decision-making echelons. Dissension came to a head at the New Democratic Party's national convention in Edmonton, Alberta April 8 to 10. Party leader Tom Mulcair was rebuked in a confidence vote on his continued leadership, failing to reach even fifty per cent support of about 1700 delegates gathered. In the other key vote of the convention, a majority of delegates gave a supportive reception to a pro-environmental declaration called the Leap Manifesto. A majority of delegates voted to welcome the publication of the manifesto and organize discussions of it through various party bodies in the coming months. Though the convention did not formally adopt the manifesto, the vote was effectively a welcoming of the manifesto's call for action to confront the global warming emergency. Leap is a product of a lengthy consultation involving environmental activists, trade union and other social activists, and First Nations activists and representatives. Its lead authors include filmmaker Avi Lewis and author and activist Naomi Klein. They are married and live in Toronto. Tough election loss in October 2015 The backdrop to the fracturing registered at the NDP convention is the harsh electoral setback suffered by the party in the October 19, 2015 federal election. The NDP entered the election campaign neck and neck with the Liberal and Conservative parties, but ended up in its traditional third place. Expectations were very high in the election because the NDP made a breakthrough in the 2011 election, winning official opposition status. In Quebec, it won 58 of 75 seats. But in 2015, the party leadership opted to put 'balanced budget' dogma at the center of its election platform and was then outflanked on the left by the Liberals, who responded with a platform saying that economic times were difficult and if elected, it would run budget deficits in order to boost the national economy. The federal setback was preceded by electoral setbacks in a string of provinces, including in Nova Scotia in 2013, where the party lost the government after one term; in British Columbia, also in 2013, where polls had the party with a wide lead at the outset of an election yet it ending up losing badly; and in Ontario in 2014, where the party ran a conservative, 'no deficit' campaign later echoed by the 2015 federal campaign (my article on the 2014 loss in Ontariohere). Most recently, the NDP was trounced by the right-wing, incumbent party in the April 4, 2016 election in Saskatchewan, and it lost government in the April 19 election in Manitoba after 16 years of rule. The only bright spot in this dismal record was the party's victory in Alberta in May 2015. The NDP record contrasts with the successes of the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn, who handily won the leadership of the Labour Party in the UK following that party's electoral setback in 2014 under the moderate leader Ed Miliband, and the wildly popular campaign of Bernie Sanders in the United States for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. These two examples as well as others that could be cited challenge the claims of the NDP brass that left wing ideas are losing propositions in the electoral arena. The NDP will now enter a lengthy contest for a new national leader. Traditionally, a leadership contest is an opportunity for a mainstream political party to renew its standing with the electorate by projecting new faces and ideas. On the minds of many in the NDP is the success of Jeremy Corbyn. As a member of Parliament since 1983, he has been a tireless campaigner against economic austerity and a leading voice against war and militarism. But there is no Jeremy Corbyn waiting in the wings in the NDP today. The NDP has been drifting to the political right for many years, well before Tom Mulcair assumed the leadership in 2011. Views similar to those of Jeremy Corbyn are discouraged and downright quashed. For example, in the 2015 election, NDP candidates were ruthlessly screened for 'controversial' pronouncements in their past, particularly those expressing sympathy for the cause of the Palestinian people. The most talked-about potential replacement for Tom Mulcair in these early days is Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen. He backed Mulcair's unsuccessful bid to stay on as party leader. Cullen favours fossil fuel and other resource extraction projects provided they first obtain "social license", particularly from First Nations. This is hardly an original idea—the Liberal government in Ottawa is presently embarked upon precisely such a course as it prepares to bludgeon Canadians by approving of the two, 'oil and tar sands to tidewater' pipelines sought by the oil industry in Alberta—Trans Mountain pipeline to the Pacific coast, and Energy East to the Atlantic coast. The environmental challenge to the NDP The sympathetic reception to the Leap Manifesto by NDP convention delegates has provoked a storm of condemnation by Canada's petro-soaked political and economic establishment. A leading business columnist in the Globe and Mail daily, Barry McKenna, calls the Manifesto "a prescription for ruin". Globe columnist Lawrence Martin, a dyed in the wool liberal if ever there was one, describes the manifesto in these words: "It advocates that all oil be left in the ground and we bounce along happily on moonbeams and other rays." International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland told the House of Commons on April 12 that NDP supporters of Leap "want to shut down our natural resource industry" and don't want Canada to engage in world trade. A particularly foul attack graces the cover page of the weekly Maclean's magazine of April 25. It features a photo of Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis with orange-coloured backdrop (the NDP's colour) and the headline 'How to kill the NDP'. Some of the harshest condemnation of the Leap Manifesto is coming from the mainstream of the NDP itself. Speaking to reporters on April 11, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said her government “repudiates” the sections of the Leap document dealing with the oil and tar sands industry. “These ideas will never form any part of our policy,” she said. “They are naive, they are ill-informed and they are tone deaf.” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan called the manifesto's proponents "downtown Toronto dilettantes", a not-so subtle slighting of Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein. He told CBC News, ""I'm spitting angry. These downtown Toronto political dilettantes come to Alberta and track their garbage across our front lawn." The day after the NDP convention ended, McGowan told CBC Radio in Edmonton, "We had nothing to do with this nonsense [convention discussion of the Leap Manifesto]." He hinted at a split of the Alberta NDP from the federal party if the ideas of LEAP take further hold. In the neighbouring province of British Columbia, home to coal mining and expanding natural gas fracking, BC NDP leader John Horgan said "We won't proceed under any kind of manifesto in the next 12 months under my leadership." Robin Sears, an advisor to the NDP mainstream and a successful, corporate communications strategist, refers to supporters of Leap as "loony Leapers". Other officials of Canada's industrial unions are also hitting out against Leap. The building trades unions in British Columbia gave a hero's welcome to the labour minister of the notoriously anti-labour and pro-fossil fuel government of that province at their annual convention in early April. A respected leader of the BC NDP, Carole James, was invited to speak to the convention and as she mounted the stage to speak after the labour minister, she and her party were given a rebuke and dressing down by the convention chairperson. He was incensed that the party had recently sided with concern by First Nations and other environmentalists over a proposed gas fracking and liquefaction project on the northern BC coast. The slighting of the party came despite John Horgan's slam against Leap voiced a few days earlier, including saying he wants a "common front" with the Alberta NDP premier to oppose the manifesto. What Leap says The Leap Manifesto is a short document, just over 1,400 words. Its central theme is that social well-being and environmental protection are urgently needed and go hand in hand. The manifesto begins by explaining, "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… "We could live in a country powered entirely by 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... "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." The manifesto calls for solidarity with First Nations people. This is particularly timely because of the grim news coming from the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario. The community of some 2,000 people on the shore of Hudson Bay is dealing with an epidemic of attempted suicides by its young people and has declared a state of emergency. Attawapiskat hit the news several years ago as an epicenter of the decades-old housing and potable water crisis afflicting hundreds of First Nations communities in Canada. Leap calls for an end to austerity policies and says that social as well as environmental progress can be made by taxing the wealthy and cutting military spending. The document sets out a number of social/environmental objectives, including, "The latest research shows it is feasible for Canada to get 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades." Leap opposes large, new infrastructure projects related to expanded fossil fuel extraction and burning. This lead is extremely important for residents of British Columbia. The provincial and federal governments are rolling out the red carpet to foreign investors interested in creating a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in the northern, coastal region, fueled by expanded underground gas fracking in the province's northeast. The BC government is simultaneously steamrolling a massive hydroelectric dam proposal on the Peace River in the province's northeast, what would be the third such dam on the river. Much of the output of 'Site C' would power the LNG dreams as well as tar sands extraction in Alberta. Hitting back against detractors Co-authors of Leap and its supporters are hitting back against detractors. Avi Lewis wrote in an op-ed in the April 15 Globe and Mail:
Taken together, the policies in the Leap amount to what my father Stephen Lewis, in his NDP convention keynote address, called a 'Marshall Plan for employment'.
There will be no jobs if our planet is cooked. In fact, I heard Dias say almost those exact words at a union meeting not long ago. The people who live in both Calgary and Edmonton will be at serious risk if all the glaciers in the [Rocky Mountains] disappear. Notley understands this. So, why are they pandering to the climate change deniers and the media pundits who have always hated the NDP and unions?
• 'End capitalism's assault on the planet and the humans!' puts the finger squarely on who and what is responsible for the ecological emergency.
• 'Nationalize the energy industries under workers control' and 'Community control of energy production' point to the need to break the monopoly control of energy production of the capitalist conglomerates.
• 'Self-determination for Aboriginal peoples' places the environmental movement squarely on the side of those whose territories and historical rights are so often the victims of rampant, capitalist expansion.
• 'Decent, living incomes for all!' stresses that present-day society has more than enough means to provide comfortable and rewarding lives for all. Particularly important, as Leap argues, are measures to gainfully employ workers who are displaced from climate-wrecking industries.
• 'For socialism'.