Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Want Action? It's Time For You To Get Political

(originally posted at

These are tough times all around. Here in Sudbury, last week one of our mining giants, Xstrata (the Swiss-based owner of the former Falconbridge), announced the layoff of about 700 people, many of them with good paying mining jobs. For a community of 155,000 people, this was a devastating blow. But it was not a surprise. All told, about 1000 mining jobs have already disappeared from our community in the past...what? 4 months? Yikes!

Tough times all around. I read in the paper last week that scientists are now saying that the Nobel Prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which provided estimates of the pace of global warming, actually predicted a much slower pace for global warming than science is now expecting. What that means is that for those nations who are basing carbon policies on the IPCC science, those policies will likely not have the desired impact on global warming, and will need to be reassessed. And for those countries which have dithered and done nothing, like Canada, well....Yikes!

Yes. Times are tough all around. Given the challenges on all fronts which we find ourselves in the midst of, Canadians are looking around for real leadership on these very important issues of the day.

And we’re not finding any.

Oh, some are suggesting that Barack Obama will prove to be the man of vision who leads us out of these desperate times. Well, I hope so, because I hope that someone does...but I sincerely don’t expect that it will be the U.S. President. He’s got his own issues with a crippled economy, and a nation beholden to special interests trying to play catch-up on the environment. But, Obama has appointed a bevy of Bill Clinton-era administrators (from the same administration that contributed to the current messes we are in), and offered bail-outs to major corporations, many of whom have done their fair share to get us all into this mess in the first place. His double-edged econmic “stimulus” of throwing money to infrastructure projects while providing massive tax cuts has raised the U.S. deficit into the trillion-dollar a year range. I don’t even want to know that this will do to the U.S. debt; I’m afraid to find out.

But at least Obama appears to be leading. Oh, and at least he’s not George Bush.

But whither Canada?

Last week, Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced that Canada was prepared to do nothing on the “environmental file” which might damage the economy, and that we’ll wait for Obama to move forward first.

And that’s the kind of leadership we have been getting from the Harper Conservatives.
Now, look. I understand. Times are tough. And they are. But...

But we can’t bloody well sit around and do nothing and hope that things will get better. And we can’t keep doing the same old things which have led us to these crises either. Yet....that’s what we’re getting here in Canada.

There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this blog, you are either already in the Green Party, or you recognize that we really do need to start taking action on the climate change, because our days for action are, quite frankly, numbered, before that tipping point is reached. That’s wonderful. I’m glad you’re here. Sincerely.

You, like me, though, have probably been wondering just what it takes to motivate others to start paying attention to these issues. You’ve probably done a double-take or two when you’ve brought up Peak Oil in a conversation, only to be greeted by blank stares. We all want others to understand the issues. And to be as horrified as we ourselves are.

Because that understanding of the mess we’re in might actually lead others to start taking action. And by action, I’m not just talking about replacing old light-bulbs with the energy efficient kind, or biking to work a few times a week (although those things are really great, and we should all do more of that sort of stuff).

No. The Action we need to take is fundamentally a political action. If you are serious about the environment/economy/energy/social justice what-have-you, and you believe the time has come for leadership with vision, leading to action, you must become engaged politically. There really isn’t any other option.

And that’s the message that we need to start delivering to our friends, family and blank-faced colleagues. You and I know that action occurs as a result of a political process, and that’s why we ourselves have become political. Now, it’s time for us to convince others to do the same, to “get political” as well.

And that’s not the same as “playing politics”. “Politics” is a dirty word, but it’s fundamentally about horse-trading...usually for the explicit purpose of getting oneself re-elected, and sometimes about doing what’s good for local constituents (those who one has to face to get onself re-elected). Politics won’t get us out of this mess. It was playing politics which helped get us here in the first place. If we didn’t play politics, maybe we would have implemented Kyoto and at least have been partly on the way to doing something.

Getting political is a lot different than playing politics. At least for the Green Party. Yes, sure, like other political parties, we have an agenda, and we want to be able to influence decision-making at the highest level. But fundamentally our aspirations are different from those of the other main-stream parties. All parties say that they want to do what is good and right. Yet, so far, we haven’t been seeing a lot of that. The Green Party too, wants to do what is good and right. And to actually begin to address the issues which are important to Canadians, and which will become increasingly important over the next decade.

A politician once told me that if he stood up in front of a room and told the people there the truth about what needed to be done, they would never vote for him. I used to think that was just a funny story which had a large dollop of truth in it. No more. I can’t afford to keep thinking that way, and neither can you.

What separates the Green Party from the other parties is that we’re not afraid to tell Canadians the truth about the predicament we’re in, and what we need to start to do to get ourselves out of it. And that’s not just because we’re uniquely positioned to do so (having no one in parliament facing re-election), but because it’s fundamentally the right thing for us to be doing. Canadians aren’t idiots, regardless of what the other parties might want us to think.

And you and I go around every day and tell the truth to people. And some of them have even started listening to us. And a few of those have started to ask us “What can we do?”.

And we need to tell them that the answer lies in getting political. That the way to Action is through a political process. That at the next election there isn’t any other choice for them but to do what they can to get Greens elected. And I’m very serious about this. No other party is going to do a damn thing now. And we can’t afford to do nothing any longer.

If you care (and you do), you want action. If you want action, you need to get political. If you get political, you’ll see that action can only occur through one of the Canadian political parties out there, and that’s the Green Party, because all of the other parties fundamentally do not want to take action on these issues. Not even the NDP, led by Jack “Carbon Taxes Will Be The Death Of the Little Guy” Layton. Why is the Green Party the only political party which can be trusted? Because we have always told you the truth, and will continue to tell you the truth. You may not like to hear it, but we’re still going to tell it to you.

And the truth is we’re in the midst of some pretty tough times. Times which demand leadership in our government. And the truth is...we don’t have any. And the truth is we can’t afford to waste any more time. Because the truth is, we’re going to be in quite the pickle in the very near future if we don’t start taking action.

This is not the time to play politics. It’s time to get political.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

No Leadership in Ottawa. We Need Action, Not Abdication

(originally posted at

Just lovely. It is even more abundantly clear today that Harper's Conservatives just do not understand the most important issues facing the future of Canada. In an announcement today from Jim Prentice, Federal Minister responsible for the Environment, the Conservatives have decided that doing anything right now to help fix the environment is off the table, saying that it would negatively impact the economy. The old "jobs before environment" argument is trotted out yet again.

I'm getting sick and tired of this. The Conservatives don't understand, or don't want to understand, which amounts to the same thing. Climate change, rising energy prices, and a switch from a brown to green economy is fundamentally not about a trade-off between jobs and the envrionment. It is not about having to make a choice of one over the other. Yet here is Jim Prentice, arguably one of the more socially-progressive of Harper's dinosaurs, saying just that (see today's Toronto Star:

Not only are Harper and Prentice claiming that action on the environment needs to be placed on hold as a result of the economic slow-down, they are saying that they will not take any action until the United States comes up with its own plan. Not only does this tactic delay the government from having to do anything, it completely abdicates any leadership on this matter. This kind of the "follow-the-leader" mentality is not what we have elected our government to do. These people were voted in to make decisions, take actions, not abdicate their responsibilities in favour of putting off decision making until such a time when someone else has done the hard thinking.

And rest assured, when Obama does put his mind to looking at a cap and trade system, which is apparently what he's eyeing, when he writes the rules, guaranteed that the needs of Canada and Canadian industries are not going to be at the top of the list. Why in heavens name has our Conservative government abandoned any position on creating the rules in which our Canadian-based industries will have to operate in the future?!?! If anything, Harper should be showing leadership on this one issue, less Canadian industries get shafted.

Yes, I'm sure that Obama will be talking about an integrated cap and trade system, given the way our two economies are entwined. That's all well and fine, but if the Americans are dictating the terms, how can that possibly be good for Canada?

And say what you want about Obama and all of the good things that he's done already and the good things he's said he intends to do, at the end of the day much of what he is proposing to do for the environment is not the approach Canada will need to take. Instead of abdicating decision making on the environment until such a time as the U.S. comes to the table, Canada should be persuading and prodding, planting ideas, working with our U.S. partners on a cap and trade system to spur industry to make real reductions to green house gas emissions.

But a cap and trade system can only ever be a part of the solution. What about stimulating alternative energy development? There's no need to have to even pretend to wait for Obama to take action on that. Yet Harper and the Conservatives are abandoning alternative energy, taking away matching federal tax dollars for funding new alternative energy projects.

The crisis facing the world today isn't going to be solved by "either/or" thinking, which places jobs over the environment (as if the environment is somehow an issue which neatly fits into a single box), and it's certainly not going to be solved by more waiting and doing nothing. Yet that's the approach now being proposed by this government. We can no longer afford to let our leaders abdicate decision-making and action-taking. The cost to us and our children is going to be unbearably high. We have to act. We just have to act.

I know this is cliche, but write to your local media outlets, copy your MP's, post your letter to your blogs and email them to your friends. If there is enough of an outcry about the Conservative's abandoning doing anything for the environment until a "better time", maybe they can be forced to take action in the face of public opinion. If we make this an issue, they will listen. Harper is nothing if not motivated by public opinion, as we have seen recently.