The Leap Manifesto blows up Canadian politics: The story so far

Or at least a certain corner of Canadian politics. For some definitions of "blow up."

For those not followong Canadian politics, our more-or-less socialist party, The New Democratic Party, recently held a policy convention where they also held a leadership review vote. The current leader, Tom Mulcair, lost the vote and as a result the NDP will be spending the next two years or so looking for a new leader.

What's significant from our point of view here is why he lost the vote. While the results of the last Federal election certainly played a role, the more proximate cause was a battle of sorts between the pragmatists and the idealists within the party. Inspired by Bernie Sanders and his run at the Democratic nomination in the current round of presidential elections in the US, the idealists are looking for a firmer and more pronounced progressive platform compared to the more centrist platform in the last couple of election cycles.

To complicate matters, pigs flew and hell froze over last year and the current government of the Province of Alberta (i.e. the most conservative province, both large-C and small-c) is NDP. The premier of oil-sands-dependent Alberta is Rachel Notley and from her point of view, the Federal NDP embracing the anti-fossil Fuel Leap Manifesto makes it a lot harder for her and her government to maneuver in the long and medium term and hopefully shift Alberta's economy away from such radical dependence on oil and gas production.

Which brings us to The Leap Manifesto itself. Brainchild of activists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, it's a rather breathtaking document calling for a complete retooling of the Canadian economy. You can see the text below. It's quite breathtaking in the way it call for a complete do-over. Though when you look at it closely and get past the "demands" and manifestoiness of it all, its basically a fairly modest program for just doing what needs to be done to save the planet.

Personally, I'm still pondering exactly what I think of the situation. While it's obvious at a certain level that without the kind of action that the Manifesto recommends, we are doomed to suffer the consequences of a radically warming planet. We need to leave an awful lot of the oil that is currently in the ground right there where it belongs. On the other hand, it's also pretty obvious that actually getting climate agreements signed and concrete action taken isn't as easy as publishing a manifesto. Joining the worlds of idealistic activism with cold-hearted political calculation is never easy. Does something like the Leap Manifesto make that easier or harder? Does embracing the Manifesto sideline the NDP to the point where it can't make any practical difference or does it help them galvanize the true will of the people and build a newer more humane and environmentally responsible Canadian political culture?

The answers to those questions are above my pay grade.

The Leap Manifesto itself is here. Also worth reading is their document We Can Afford The Leap by Bruce Campbell, Seth Klein, and Marc Lee.

The text of the Manifesto follows.

We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory.

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.

These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.

Canada is not this place today— but it could be.

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. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

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.

So we need to leap.

This leap 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. We can bolster this role, and reset our relationship, by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Small steps will no longer get us to where we need to go. So we need to leap”. 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[1]; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy[2].

We demand that this shift begin now.

There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.

The time for energy democracy has come: we believe not just in changes to our energy sources, but that wherever possible communities should collectively control these new energy systems.
As an alternative to the profit-gouging of private companies and the remote bureaucracy of some centralized state ones, we can create innovative ownership structures: democratically run, paying living wages and keeping much-needed revenue in communities. And Indigenous Peoples should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects. So should communities currently dealing with heavy health impacts of polluting industrial activity.

Power generated this way will not merely light our homes but redistribute wealth, deepen our democracy, strengthen our economy and start to heal the wounds that date back to this country’s founding.

A leap to a non-polluting economy creates countless openings for similar multiple “wins.” We want a universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves. High-speed rail powered by renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.

And since we know this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Moving to a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply – as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.

We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects. 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.

Shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits also means expanding the sectors of our economy that are already low carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. Following on Quebec’s lead, a national childcare program is long past due. All this work, much of it performed by women, is the glue that builds humane, resilient communities – and we will need our communities to be as strong as possible in the face of the rocky future we have already locked in.

Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income. Pioneered in Manitoba in the 1970’s, this sturdy safety net could help ensure that no one is forced to take work that threatens their children’s tomorrow, just to feed those children today.

We declare that “austerity” – which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations – is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.

The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. Like an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending. All of these are based on a simple “polluter pays” principle and hold enormous promise.

One thing is clear: public scarcity in times of unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis, designed to extinguish our dreams before they have a chance to be born.

Those dreams go well beyond this document. “We call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation”. We call for town hall meetings across the country where residents can gather to democratically define what a genuine leap to the next economy means in their communities.

Inevitably, this bottom-up revival will lead to a renewal of democracy at every level of government, working swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.

This is a great deal to take on all at once, but such are the times in which we live.

The drop in oil prices has temporarily relieved the pressure to dig up fossil fuels as rapidly as high-risk technologies will allow. This pause in frenetic expansion should not be viewed as a crisis, but as a gift.

It has given us a rare moment to look at what we have become – and decide to change.
And so we call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. This is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.

Now is the time for boldness.

Now is the time to leap.


[1]Sustainable Canada Dialogues. (2015). Acting on climate change: Solutions from Canadian scholars. Montreal, QC: McGill University

[2]Jacobson, M., et al. Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials. Energy Policy 39:3 (2011)

Here's the story so far, from when the Manifesto was announced during the 2015 election until today. I'm including the full range of commentary here, positive, negative, from the left, right and the whole spectrum in between. I haven't tried to be comprehensive, especially with items from the 2015 election period.


Of course, this list isn't meant to be complete. However, if I've left out anything that's particularly worth noting, please let me know in the comments.


Update 2016.04.24. Numerous items added, bringing the story up to April 24th. Some stragglers added as well.


More like this

Disambiguation needed:

"we are doomed to suffer the consequences of a radically warming plan."

Might mean:
1) we are doomed to suffer the consequences of a radical [anti-global-]warming plan"
2) we are doomed to suffer the consequences of a radically warming planet

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 18 Apr 2016 #permalink

Or it could be "radically warming planet."

Thanks for catching the typo, which is now fixed.

I find it a rather grandiose and annoying piece of writing I cannot see anything particularly radical or that I'd disagree with. Climate change is the threat to civilization if not humanity and some reasonably decisive actions are called for.

BTW, don't buy property in Miami Fl unless you're a suba diver.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 19 Apr 2016 #permalink