Help shape a ‘Green New Deal’ for Canada

Join us July 16 in Carleton Place for a town hall meeting to help shape the vision for a Green New Deal for Canada. Carleton Place in the Carambeck gym (351 Bridge Street) on Tuesday, July 16 at 7 p.m.

What is a Green New Deal, you ask? This movement, started to deal with the current climate crisis that is threatening us and our planet, is now gathering momentum in the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, and now Canada because of the need to act NOW, because in 11 years it will be too late!

The idea of a Green New Deal is modelled on U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal during the 1930s Great Depression, which not only provided support for farmers, the unemployed, youth and the elderly, but also imposed new restrictions on the banking industry.  Under the New Deal the government created jobs by financing a major program of public works, hospitals, reforestation and flood control, and programs that enabled farmers to earn a fair price for their produce, and provide subsidies to them for adopting innovative methods to improve the productivity of their land.

The Green New Deal has adapted President Roosevelt’s economic strategies to focus on slashing emissions and protecting critical biodiversity.  It will mobilize our creativity and participation to implement renewable energy and resource-efficient programs, generating over a million jobs in the process.  The Green New Deal also includes strategies to remedy our current economic and social problems; for example, income inequality, racism, worker exploitation, social isolation, and lack of housing.  Underpinning the Green New Deal’s approach to tackling the climate crisis is the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Nations and their knowledge.

This Carleton Place event is one of many Green New Deal town halls being held in communities across the country this year. The conversation is being led from the ground up through these town halls, bringing together people from all walks of life to discuss our vision for a new economy. The input from these town halls will be used to inform a vision for a Green New Deal for all. MORE

On the road to Indigenous reconciliation, Doug Ford takes a detour

A First Nations dancer performs for the premiers and Indigenous leaders as they meet in Big River, First Nation, Sask. on July, 9, 2019. Except for Doug Ford, every other premier who had landed in Saskatoon for the annual Council of the Federation had the sense of occasion to attend the historic meeting held on a First Nations reserve, Martin Regg Cohn writes.

Bad enough that Doug Ford stood up Indigenous leaders at this week’s Saskatchewan summit with his fellow premiers.

What’s worse is how he has snubbed Indigenous people since winning power a year ago. Not merely slighting them on symbolism, but shortchanging them on substance.

Not just from the start, but non-stop.

Ford set the tone at his election night victory, again at his subsequent swearing-in ceremony, and indelibly in the Speech from the Throne outlining his agenda last summer: No greetings to Ontario’s Indigenous people, no acknowledgments to their land, no references to reconciliation.

And now, no time to give them face time.

Does it matter that Ford and Rickford don’t do land acknowledgments as others did and do (or that their offices can’t or won’t say)? Does the premier view them as mere tokenism?

Parsing the press lines issued by Ford’s Tories, you can see the public relations pattern: Never mind the acknowledgments, focus on the results.

“Real action,” insists the premier’s press secretary. “Meaningful action,” echoes the minister’s spokesperson.

But if “action” on Indigenous matters is what counts, let us consider the record of Ford’s Tories over the past year:

  • Reversed the previous government’s pledge, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to make Indigenous courses mandatory in high school.
  • Slashed millions of dollars from the Indigenous Culture Fund, with the Orwellian explanation that the cuts would allow the government “efficiently to maximize the impact of Indigenous culture support.”
  • Repealed the Far North Act on the grounds that it must reduce “red tape” and boost business, relegating Indigenous consultations to an afterthought.
  • Cut 15 per cent cut in overall funding for Indigenous affairs, to $74.4 million, with no new money to deal with claim settlements.

Regardless of whether words matter, numbers count for a great deal. MORE

 

Where’s the urgency in the NDP’s politics?

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Photo: Ontario NDP/Flickr
Photo: Ontario NDP/Flickr

How do you know it’s effectively over for a political institution like the NDP, despite lingering vital signs? The critical point is the emergence of a plausible replacement, in this case the Greens under Elizabeth May. They’re a presence in Ottawa and now rival the NDP in polls.

Till then you don’t want to imagine it. It’s like the CBC: you may not like it but it’s needed. With someone else filling that slot, even in a sharply different way, their departure becomes thinkable.

You start noticing what they’re not, and haven’t been for a while. At their start, in the Depression of the ’30s, as the CCF, they knew they had the answer to the questions the country was asking: How did we get into this mess and how do we get out? The answer was something like socialism or co-operation.

In recent years they don’t show that confidence — never mind what the specific answers might be. They’re more like: “We’re a grown-up party too and dammit, we deserve our turn.”

…But forget the past. What youth are most serious about is the present, in which they’re starting to drown. Urgency may be the socialism of today.

The Liberals speak well on, say, democratic reform, but did nothing about it when they had the chance. Same with climate catastrophe or ongoing water disaster in Attawapiskat, which roared back this week. A Liberal mouthpiece said they’d “be travelling up to the community as early as next week.'”

That’s their idea of speed — except when SNC-Lavalin’s involved. Then they become The Flash.

If there’s any future for the NDP (versus ENDP) it might be as the UDP: the Urgent Democratic Party. MORE

Fires and flooding: how B.C.’s forest policies collide with climate change

The province has prioritized timber sales over all else, but right now there is a chance to change that

Grand Forks flooding 2018
An aerial view of Grand Forks flooding, courtesy of Sergeant Mike Wicentowich, one of many RCMP officers dispatched in response to the flood. Interfor’s property can be seen centre left. Photo: Sergeant Mike Wicentowich

ritish Columbians have a complicated relationship with forests. Growing up, my favourite stand of old-growth trees was only accessible by a logging road. At the time, that barely seemed noteworthy: I knew forests held ecological value, and were also valued by local mills. But when the logging road became active again, and I started following empty trucks up and full trucks down, I began wondering whether those values were well balanced.

That tension still runs close to the heart of British Columbians. We promote our provincial identity as nature-lovers through old-growth forests on tourism ads. But in many ways, we never left the gold rush era of destructive, unsustainable industries that wreak havoc on the land. Meanwhile, the forest-based communities we cherish are increasingly at risk.

Forestry practices in B.C. have been criticized for a long time. Mill closures, forest fires and species extinction are all symptoms of disastrous forest policies and provincial government mismanagement. In today’s era of climate change, which is already having a measurable impact on forests, every bad policy is made worse.

Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, putting us on the frontlines of global climate change. But the time to “stop” climate change has passed. Now, we’re left bracing for the worst impacts of the climate emergency by adopting strategies to make our communities more resilient to increasing wildfires and devastating floods.

One of the most obvious strategies? Protecting the old-growth forests and intact forests — meaning landscapes not fragmented and degraded by industrial activity — still standing in BC.

Older, intact forests hold tremendous value to nearby communities by offering protection from the worst impacts of climate change. But not if we continue to clearcut one of our best defences. B.C.’s outdated forestry policies have undermined these values by prioritizing timber harvest over all else. It’s time to change that.

Old-growth forestry in the Nahmint Valley. Photo: TJ Watt / Ancient Forest Alliance

Resilient forests, resilient communities

Poor logging practices and industrial infrastructure threaten rural and urban communities alike. With provincial forest policy amendments underway, now is the time to make sure our communities get the conversation — and results — we need.

Until July 15, B.C. is seeking public input on key legislation, the Forest and Range Practices Act. A joint submission by 28 organizations puts climate change and landscape resiliency front and centre, defining resiliency as the “ability of an ecosystem to cope with disturbance or stress and rebuild itself without losing its defining characteristics.” MORE

 

Trudeau government accused of jeopardizing sex workers’ safety by refusing to amend Conservative legislation

Sex workers made their voices heard at the recent Red Umbrella march in Vancouver, which is held every year to promote safer working conditions in their industry.
Sex workers made their voices heard at the recent Red Umbrella march in Vancouver, which is held every year to promote safer working conditions in their industry.CHARLIE SMITH

At the seventh annual Red Umbrella march last month, Vancouver sex workers expressed exasperation over the federal Liberal government’s failure to take their safety concerns seriously.

This point was reinforced by several of their allies, who wanted to shine a spotlight on the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.

The law was passed by the former Conservative government nearly five years ago—on December 6, 2014.

Under section 286.2, anyone who receives a financial or material benefit through the sale of sexual services—apart from sex workers themselves—is liable to hefty prison sentences.

Section 286.4 outlaws the advertisement of sexual services.

The law also makes it illegal for anyone to buy sexual services.

According to Andrew Sorfleet, president of the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of B.C., Parliament has infringed on sex workers’ constitutional right to freedom of association.

And he’s upset that the Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has never amended this legislation in its nearly four years in power.

Andrew Sorfleet cannot charge dues for sex workers to belong to the Triple-X Solidarity Association of B.C. because of a law passed by the former Conservative government.
Andrew Sorfleet cannot charge dues for sex workers to belong to the Triple-X Solidarity Association of B.C. because of a law passed by the former Conservative government.
CHARLIE SMITH

“We are not allowed to collect money from sex workers and we are not allowed to collect money in order to promote their business in any way,” Sorfleet told the Straight at the event. “That’s what a professional association or union would be doing. We would be breaking the law.”

Sorfleet revealed that the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of B.C. has created a certification mark, which could be made available to members to indicate that they are part of the group.

“In order to do that, we have to collect dues,” he said. “All of those things are against the law. I cannot recruit members right now without putting them in legal jeopardy. That’s a problem for me.”

To reinforce his frustration, Sorfleet declared that he has “no hope in these Liberals”.

The federal NDP did not mention sex workers’ safety in its long list of promises that was released last month.

But the NDP candidate in North Burnaby–Seymour, Svend Robinson, has suggested that something can be done in this regard.

He told the Straight at the rally that the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act allows for a review by the Commons justice committee.

“We are not allowed to collect money from sex workers and we are not allowed to collect money in order to promote their business in any way,” Sorfleet told the Straight at the event. “That’s what a professional association or union would be doing. We would be breaking the law.”

Sorfleet revealed that the Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity Association of B.C. has created a certification mark, which could be made available to members to indicate that they are part of the group.

“In order to do that, we have to collect dues,” he said. “All of those things are against the law. I cannot recruit members right now without putting them in legal jeopardy. That’s a problem for me.”

To reinforce his frustration, Sorfleet declared that he has “no hope in these Liberals”. MORE

In a new human rights challenge, Ford government says workload, not gender, justifies midwife pay gap


Stock photo provided by the Association of Midwives

The Doug Ford government is challenging a landmark pay equity victory for Ontario midwives, saying the ruling “unreasonably” holds that the province discriminated against the profession on the basis of sex.

Midwives have long been fighting for equal pay, arguing they do the same job as physicians who deliver babies, but get a third less in compensation.

Their battle eventually led to a groundbreaking September 2018 Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario decision that found from 2005 to 2013, there is “sufficient evidence” to support a claim that Ontario’s health ministry had discriminated on the basis of gender in setting compensation.

The decision told the Ford government to negotiate with midwives to end the pay equity gap. To date, the Ford Tories have refused.

National Observer has now learned the government filed a Notice of Application on March 11, asking the tribunal for “a quashing” or stay of the decision, arguing it “unreasonably found that sex was a factor in ‘the compensation gap that has developed between midwives and (community health centre) physicians since 2005’ even though there was no direct evidence that sex was a factor in the differences in compensation between these two occupations.”

Midwifery requires a four-year bachelor of health sciences degree to start, where students are trained in reproductive science, physiology and women’s health. In 2017, Ontario midwives supported 24,066 births, or 16 per cent of all births in the province.

Midwives continue to deliver 15 per cent of babies born in Ontario, care for 12 to 14 per cent of pregnant women and are turning away clients because they can’t meet the demand, according to the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM), which plays an advocacy and support role for almost 1,000 midwives across the province, all of whom are female at present. (At least 40 per cent of people who wish to have a midwife go without, for lack of supply.) MORE

Why the CBC needs to hold a climate debate


Students of all ages and their supporters marched to the offices of Environment and Climate Change Canada in Vancouver on March 15, 2018, demanding stronger climate policies. Photo by Brenna Owen

On June 19, the Canadian government declared a climate emergency in Canada. But, if we’re in an emergency, why aren’t we acting like it?

The same government that declared the emergency is standing behind a climate plan that would ensure devastating global heating of 4 C or more. At the provincial level, premiers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario took the federal government’s inadequate carbon price to court, trying to weaken action further. And, all the while, the fossil fuel industry has been ramping up its plans to try to use the federal election to further gut climate action.

But it’s not just the government and big oil falling short of emergency-level action. Our public institutions, including the media, have a responsibility to respond to the climate emergency.

It’s past time we held them accountable.

With the federal election a mere four months away, the most important information for people to have is a clear sense of which federal parties have a real plan to tackle the climate crisis ⁠— and we need it before heading to the polls on October 21.

According to the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, it’s the public broadcaster’s role to make “itself available to get important information to Canadians in a timely fashion” in the event of national emergencies. That’s why the CBC should commit to hosting a federal leaders debate on climate change ahead of election day: to ensure people in Canada have important climate information in a critical, timely fashion.

In 2015, over the course of five federal leaders debates, there wasn’t a single serious conversation about climate action. The few times it did come up, the conversation didn’t give voters the information they needed to truly understand each party’s climate plan. With climate consistently landing near the top of the issues people are thinking about before heading to the polls this fall, we need a dedicated climate debate to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Hosting a leaders debate would also make it clear the CBC is taking climate change seriously. It was, after all, only a few weeks ago when Paul Hambleton, the CBC’s director of journalistic standards, argued using the words climate “crisis” and “emergency” might “sort of imply, you know, something more serious” is happening with climate change. The CBC faced a public backlash for the comments, with hundreds of tweets to the broadcaster, such as writer Derrick O’Keefe’s comment that the “CBC embarasses itself” and Elizabeth May’s comment that “the CBC needs to get a briefing on #IPCC 1.5 degree C report.” The CBC was forced to affirm its commitment to reporting responsibly on climate change. They did so by quickly rolling out a special climate series as a direct response to people “asking the media to do a better job by providing more facts about what is happening and more coverage of possible solutions.”

There will, of course, be those who argue against the idea of a specific debate on climate change. Some won’t want it because they continue to downplay the importance — or existence — of a climate crisis. Others will argue it’s just one issue among many.

However, as demonstrated by the thousands of people who turned out to still-growing conversations about a made-in-Canada Green New Deal, people concerned about climate change refuse to see it as a single issue. That’s because it isn’t a single-issue crisis. MORE

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