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Parry Mudhar & Bradley Hughes

September 22, 2015

"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." -The Leap Manifesto

While NDP leader Mulcair is attacking Harper for not getting oil pipelines through the regulatory process fast enough and Green Party leader May proposes that Canada needs more oil refineries, there is an exciting new political project in Canada that takes climate change seriously.

The Leap Manifesto is a collaboration of many individuals and groups who put it together during a weekend conference earlier this year, and following the 10,000 strong March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate. The result is an exuberant proposal to take on the challenges we face and in facing them build a better future for us all. The subtitle says it all: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another

Climate justice

The Leap Manifesto is summarized by fifteen demands, and as it should, it starts with recognition of the First Nations with a call to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. As well, the Manifesto demands that  “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.

The demands also include starting the shift to clean energy immediately and aiming for 100 per cent renewables by 2050, training and resources for workers in carbon intensive industries for clean jobs, upgrading aging infrastructure to deal with our new extreme climate, a program to build energy efficient homes and retrofit existing ones, and building high speed rail and affordable transit.

The justice part of a just transition shines through the manifesto. Because so much of the work of caring for each other is unpaid work done by women the manifesto calls for a discussion on introducing a guaranteed annual income. Canada’s devotion to war and fossil fuels is creating refugees and the manifesto demands immigration status and full protection for all workers and calls on Canada to welcome refugees and migrants. Reducing military spending will simultaneously reduces Canada’s ability to continue its tradition of wars for resources and will help pay for the transition from fossil fuels that we so urgently need.  

Make the rich pay

The Manifesto outlines the ways we could pay for these demands and on the webpage includes a report by the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives (CCPA) with more details. The short version is that we can achieve the goals if we eliminate useless government spending. Eliminate the decades of tax cuts for the rich and corporations, eliminate subsidies to the oil and gas industries, and increasing the royalties that corporations pay when they make profit of natural resources.

In the CCPA report the authors discuss introducing a progressive carbon tax and increasing it to $200/tonne. The progressive part is that half of the income from the tax would go to low and middle income people, those who have made no profit from the climate crisis. The other half would go to fund the Leap Manifesto demands. This would be a huge improvement over the provincial carbon tax in BC that is at $30/tonne and does not go to green projects at all. Over all, the CCPA calculates that the revenue generating proposals in the Manifesto could bring in around $50 billion per year, and dramatically increase as the carbon tax increases.

Reform and revolution

These are fairly straightforward proposals to deal with the problems in our society that many people can see. The only thing that makes them radical or extreme is that they go against the common sense that the profits of the 1% should outweigh the needs of the rest of us. But that common sense is built into our every institution from the family, to schools, through our workplaces, and into every level of government. Unmasking the defense of profit woven throughout our society will be a big job.

The manifesto began as a press conference, and calls for town hall meetings to discuss what this leap will mean in every community. We will need more than this. The opposition to this will be fierce, and the propaganda organs of the 1% have already started. The Globe & Mail editorial was headlined, “Leap Manifesto gets poor marks for timing and content, otherwise fine.” A National Post columnist compares it to the records of Mao and Stalin and writes that it would require the sorts of living conditions found “in places like sub-Saharan Africa.”

If the Leap Manifesto gathers the support and organizing talent it deserves, from labour and community organizations across the country, we will see even more resistance from the corporate parties and the state itself. Its demands have already gone far beyond the NDP platform, and its set of demands would challenge whoever is elected next month. To mobilize enough people to overcome this opposition, as we organize and discuss, we will be able to see how little democracy we are allowed in our communities, and workplaces and schools. As we discuss how to increase that democracy in order to implement the Leap Manifesto, we will see that we can rely on each other, and it will become apparent how little we need our bosses and the whole apparatus that sustains the power of the 1%. Then the real challenges will begin.

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