The response from politicians and commentators to the Leap Manifesto, a policy proposal to government from Canadian civil society, has been surprising.
Much of the proposals contained in the manifesto flow from an acceptance of things we know to be true: that climate change is real and threatens our society and economy, that some groups of Canadians are more disadvantaged than others, and that dirty energy affects Indigenous communities on the frontlines of industrial sites foremost, to name a few.
Far from being an elite and far-fetched radical proposal, the Leap Manifesto, with its roots in the country’s diverse civil society and the latest scientific research, reveals the zeitgeist of how Canadians want to live and do business with one another.
The Leap Manifesto was drafted by 60 representatives from Canada’s Indigenous rights, racial and socio-economic justice, environmental, faith-based and labour movements. Groups including Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, No One is Illegal Vancouver and the Ontario Coalition against Poverty were at the forefront. These are not elitist groups, but groups whose constituents face immense vulnerabilities and are fighting for what most middle-class Canadians take for granted. In fact, some honest and difficult conversations about power and privilege within our movements were had during the drafting.
Neither is the manifesto “naive” and “ill-informed.” Proposals to address social inequality, such as a debate on a basic income, are already in play: Ontario has plans to pilot a guaranteed minimum income while the federal minister of families, children and social development also sees the suggestion as worthy of a serious conversation. In addition, support for Indigenous rights and Indigenous peoples’ role as caretakers of our environment is not “extremist.” Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (something most countries have already done) and he fought hard for Indigenous rights at the global climate talks in Paris last year.
Climate change may have once been a radical idea, but it’s now common sense, accepted by most Canadians and our governments. Mainstream scientists from Canada and around the world are clear: we must absolutely stop global warming at 2 degrees Celsius. This means we need to curb the greenhouse gases, like carbon, that contribute to warming.
Much of the opposition to the Leap Manifesto comes from the fact that it opposes any new fossil fuels resource extraction projects, including pipelines from the Alberta tar sands. But the truth is (as published in a scientific journal), that the oil of the tar sands has to stay in the ground if we are to meet the 2-degrees ceiling. Accepting the science as we must, the truth about pipelines isn’t so surprising. This is why the Leap Manifesto calls for a 100% transition to renewables, which science shows is possible for Canada and doable by 2050.
Another critique levelled at the manifesto is that transitioning off fossil fuels is unaffordable and will kill jobs. But there again, science and economic modelling are truly on our side. Research shows that a full transition toward renewable energy is not only feasible, but economically viable with the next 20-30 years. Globally, the transition to fossil fuels will actually result in the world saving money by 2050.
Renewables are already creating more jobs in Canada than the tar sands. Roughly $25 billion has been invested in Canada’s clean energy sector over the past five years, with job creation in the sector climbing 37% to 24,000 people — more than work in the tar sands (22,340). And, as oil prices continue to fall and weaken the oil economy, there is even a group of Alberta tar sands workers, Iron & Earth, committed to renewable energy projects and jobs that are good for workers, families, communities, economies, and the environment. In fact, a project by Stanford University showed that with a fully renewable energy mix, Canada could transition 500,000 fossil fuels jobs into clean energy jobs and add an additional 200,000 jobs … while also saving more than $100 billion in air pollution and stabilizing energy prices.
Just think about the revelation from the Panama Papers that 350 Canadians are potentially funneling money out of the public purse into tax havens. If everyone paid their fair share instead of cheating the system (including corporations that may have diverted as much as $7.8 to $20 billion per year to tax havens), can you imagine what we could do?
History shows that social activism has played a pivotal role in speeding up the pace of progress, from women’s and civil rights, to decolonization, to environmental justice.
At the most basic level, the Leap Manifesto is about catalyzing logical action to fix fairly obvious problems — the social cost and financial price tag of not acting on climate change and inequality will only get bigger the longer we do nothing.
Read the Leap Manifesto for yourself here.