A National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform

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Fair Vote Canada is pleased to announce a new website for Canadians to learn about our call for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform! You can view the site at:


A new poll by Angus Reid in partnership with Fair Vote Canada shows 84% support a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform – and 79% say the next government elected in October should move on it!

This included 82% of those who voted Liberal in the last federal election and 69% of those who voted Conservative. At least 76% of respondents in every age group and province agreed.

You can view the full poll results here:


“Canadians clearly support the idea of citizen involvement in the analysis of our electoral system”, said Demetre Eliopoulos, SVP and Managing Director of Public Affairs at Angus Reid Global. “When Canadians are introduced to the idea of a citizen’s assembly, their reaction is to espouse the idea and its implementation.”

The new website contains information about how citizens’ assemblies work and a growing list of endorsers.

“Canadians have become rightly cynical towards politicians on this issue,” says Réal Lavergne, President of Fair Vote Canada. “They want a process they can trust. A National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform delivers that.”

Citizens’ assemblies are unique because they are independent, free of political interference and truly representative of ordinary Canadians. Experience shows that citizens without a vested interest in the outcome are able to set aside partisan considerations and produce outcomes that best reflect the public interest.

Citizens’ assemblies have recently been held in Ireland, Australia, Belgium and France, and one is planned next year in Scotland.

What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

A citizens’ assembly is a body of citizens formed to deliberate on an important policy issue. 

Citizens’ assemblies are built on the belief that when given the knowledge, resources and time, citizens can find solutions to complex and challenging issues, including those where politicians have reached an impasse.

Citizens’ assemblies empower citizens to develop in-depth understanding of an issue and to submit their recommendations free of partisan interference and considerations. Recommendations emerging from such a process are likely to be seen as highly legitimate expressions of the popular will.

Why a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform?

1. To give citizens a leadership role in electoral reform. 2. Meaningful deliberation by a representative group of citizens, free of partisan interest. 3. To build a consensus that enhances public trust in any decision-making process.


Amazon just pledged to hit net zero climate emissions by 2040

The announcement comes ahead of what could be the world’s biggest climate-change protest today.

The news: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday pledged to build or buy enough renewable power to supply 80% of the company’s electricity needs by 2024 and 100% by 2030. By 2040, the retail giant plans to cut or offset the carbon emissions across all its operations.

The response: The plan was generally met with praise but, as ever, the devil is in the details. Some of it seems to amount to climate accounting: investing in solar and wind power elsewhere to offset the portion of fossil fuel generated electricity they’re actually using. The company’s own climate activist employee group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, trumpeted the pledge as a “huge win,” but said it didn’t go far enough.

Not alone: Google also got in on the act, pledging to invest more than $2 billion in new energy infrastructure like wind turbines and solar panels. Read the full story here. SOURCE

Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘You’re not trying hard enough. Sorry’

The Swedish environmentalist was one of several who spoke at a Senate climate crisis taskforce

Greta Thunberg attends a Senate climate change taskforce meeting in Washington DC. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

At a meeting of the Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, lawmakers praised a group of young activists for their leadership, their gumption and their display of wisdom far beyond their years. They then asked the teens for advice on how Congress might combat one of the most urgent and politically contentious threats confronting world leaders: climate change.

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who has galvanized young people across the world to strike for more action to combat the impact of global warming, politely reminded them that she was a student, not a scientist – or a senator.

“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” she said. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.

“If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”

In remarks meant for Congress as a whole, she said: “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

The audience laughed. Supporters broke into applause. Senator Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the Green New Deal and leads the Senate task force, was perhaps surprised by her bluntness. But he smiled.

Seated at the table with the teens were some of the most sympathetic and vocal supporters of bold action on climate change in Congress. But facing a Republican-controlled Senate and a hostile White House, the prospect of enacting reforms at the scale and scope called for by activists – and many scientists – is bleak. MORE


Vaping-Related Illnesses Climb As Federal Officials Reveal Criminal Investigation

The number of confirmed or probable cases has reached 530.

Image: © Getty Images)

People across the country continue to fall ill with mysterious lung diseases tied to vaping, and federal officials have revealed that they’ve opened a criminal investigation to search for the cause.

The number of confirmed or probable cases has reached 530 across 38 states and one territory, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s up from 380 patients reported last week. A confirmed or probable case is one that meets the CDC’s current case definition, or the specific criteria officials use to classify a vaping-related illness.

Seven people have reportedly died from these illnesses, which have struck men at a higher rate; about 75% of the patients are male. No one cause or set of causes has been linked to all of the cases, the CDC reported.

The investigation continues at both the state and federal level. Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that its Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) has been working in parallel to investigate the supply chain and identify what is making people sick.

Related: 4 Myths About E-Cigarettes

“In cases like this, we typically turn to [the] OCI,” said Mitch Zeller, the director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the FDA. “They have special investigative skills, and there are leads to track down.” However, the OCI is not pursuing any prosecution for personal use of any of these substances, he said.

Previously, the FDA found that many of the products used by the patients contained a contaminant commonly found in THC vaping products called vitamin E acetate. “We are seeing vitamin E acetate in some samples, but our laboratory analysis continues to show a mix of results,” he said. “There’s no one compound ingredient constituent including vitamin E acetate that is showing up in all of the samples.”

Many of the patients reported using numerous vaping products and substances, including a mix of nicotine and THC. MORE


Vapes need same restrictions as tobacco, medical groups tell federal parties

There’s an urgent need for vaping products to be given the same advertising and flavour restrictions as tobacco, a group of health organizations in Canada said in calling for immediate political action.

Some Flavored E-Cigarettes Contain Cancer-Causing Chemical

This isn’t extinction, it’s extermination: the people killing nature know what they’re doing

The climate strike must be a beginning and not an end. Warming won’t be stopped by symbolism

‘Schoolchildren have spurred a movement that’s growing in almost every nation. If they can do that, what else could be possible?’ Photograph: Don Arnold/Getty Images

During the carnage of the first world war, the poet Wilfred Owen revisited the biblical story in which God tests Abraham by commanding the sacrifice of Isaac, his son. In Genesis, Abraham dutifully prepares the lad for slaughter before God relents and tells him to offer a ram instead.

Owen’s bitter poem rewrites the ending:

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

The parable illustrates global warming just as well as war – except, with CO2 levels higher than at any other time in human history, it’s a planet rather than a continent now under the knife.

That’s what makes the climate strike so fitting: an international rebellion led by the young against generations of betrayal. We know that, as far back as the late 50s, researchers for the oil industry understood the effects of carbon on the atmosphere but did nothing about it.

In 1988 George HW Bush promised on the campaign trail to fight climate change. “I am an environmentalist,” he declared. “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect are forgetting about the White House effect.”

There was, of course, no White House effect.

In 1997 the world’s leaders signed the Kyoto protocol, with Bill Clinton declaring “a commitment from our generation to act in the interests of future generations”. More emissions have been released since that agreement than in all of previous history.

How petty, how small, how childish do those politicians with the temerity to attack Greta Thunberg look! She speaks for science, idealism and hope; they embody an ignorance or cynicism so deep as to constitute depravity.

The ecological disaster that confronts us today extends way beyond climate. Some scientists speak of the “sixth extinction event” – but, as Justin McBrien argued, that phrase isn’t accurate.

We might less euphemistically discuss a “first extermination event”. Nature is not dying so much as being killed, by people who know perfectly well what they’re doing.

The need for protests could not be more urgent – and, at last, they’re happening. The global strike provides a perfect antidote to the despair so many of us have felt for so long.

There’s a nightmarishness to the isolated experience of climate change: a sense of paralysis and horror at a world sleepwalking into disaster. By coming together on the streets, we shake that off, and we grasp something of our collective strength. MORE


A Strike for Our Children

Today we march for our community’s future, resilience and self-sufficiency. After all, other places have already made it happen.

A climate striker in Vancouver, March 2019. Photo by Jackie Dives.

[Editor’s note: Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk will be participating in a climate strike Sept 20 in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Here’s what he plans to say.]

We are protesting today out of love for our children, out of love for our community, and for all the wild things that support life.

Our challenge is a perilous one. Emissions from our energy spending have destabilized our climate. This carbon pollution is warming and acidifying the ocean, the cradle of life. Some models show carbon dioxide has a half-life of 10,000 years. That means that the climate crisis could last 10,000 years. Many of its effects are irreversible and not immediately “fixable.”

There is only one solution, and it’s radical and difficult: we must spend less energy.

But more than one crisis now knocks on our door. Many democracies are failing as their struggling economies increasingly serve the one per cent. Our technologies have become tools of surveillance and manipulation. Our ravenous consumption of things is driving the extinction of birds, mammals, insects and fish. And Indigenous people.

So where do we begin? Our politicians tell us that the problem is so grand that individually we can’t make a difference. And then they add that we can’t live without oil, and that if we don’t spend or sell it, someone in China will. And that is how the status quo breeds despair and inaction. Remember that despair and inaction have only one master: the status quo.

The first thing you can do as a citizen is ask every political candidate several questions. Do they understand the severity of the crisis? What are they proposing to do to reduce energy spending? Do they understand that reduced energy spending will radically slow down the economy? How will they help communities make tough decisions?

The next thing is vote. Vote only for those politicians or parties that acknowledge the seriousness of the emergency and its complexity.

Voting, however, is not enough. We must also focus on our local communities, because that is where we can make the greatest difference. And here we have two tasks: to prepare for the oncoming economic and political storms, and to build a hybrid economy less dependent on fossil fuels. MORE

Climate Summit: What’s at Stake for Canada and the World

What needs to happen in New York starting Monday.

Off target: The nations led by Trudeau and Trump, like most other signatories to the Paris agreement, are far behind in fulfilling their UN emissions reducing pledges. Photo via the White House Flickr.

As world leaders converge on New York City for the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, they enter what may be the most consequential week in climate politics since Donald Trump’s surprise election as president of the United States in 2016. Trump, of course, announced soon after taking office that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, the landmark treaty signed at the last big UN climate summit in 2015.

UN Secretary General António Guterres convened this week’s summit precisely because the United States and most other countries remain far from honouring their Paris pledges to reduce heat-trapping emissions enough to prevent catastrophic climate disruption. This includes Canada, whose inadequately slow progress Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand earlier this year described as “disturbing.”

The events of the coming days — including a global climate strike on Sept. 20 by the activists whose protests in the past year have pushed the term “climate emergency” into news reports around the world — may help answer a question that has loomed over humanity since Trump’s election: Can the rest of the world save itself from climate breakdown if the richest, most powerful nation on earth is pulling in the opposite direction?

And what happens if other developed countries elect fossil fuel-supporting leaders who have little interest in solving the crisis, as could be the case in Canada after the federal election this fall?

Signed in December 2015 by every government on earth except North Korea and Costa Rica, the Paris Agreement stands as the strongest achievement of climate diplomacy since governments first debated the issue at the UN “Earth Summit” in 1992. In a shock to climate insiders, the agreement not only committed signatory governments to limit temperature rise to the relatively less dangerous level of 2 degrees Celsius. It also obliged governments to keep temperature rise “well below” 2 C and, in a major victory for the most vulnerable countries, to strive for 1.5 C.

That half-degree may not sound like much, but it spells the difference between life and death for low-lying coastal nations such as Bangladesh and island states such as the Maldives — two of many places that, science says, would literally disappear beneath the waves with more than 1.5 C of warming.

The announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was big news, but also widely misunderstood. Despite Trump’s bluster, the U.S. withdrawal still has not happened. Precisely to guard against such capriciousness, the negotiators in Paris stipulated that every signatory was legally bound to remain in the agreement until four years after the treaty took effect, which would only happen after countries responsible for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. Thus, the Paris Agreement did not take effect until Nov. 4, 2016. That means the United States cannot leave until November 4, 2020 — which, not by accident, is one day after the U.S. 2020 presidential election. If Trump loses that election, his successor almost certainly would move to remain in the Paris Agreement.

Trump is not expected to attend this week’s summit; the U.S. delegation will instead be led by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal company lobbyist who is now the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. In keeping with Trump’s denial of climate science and his administration’s dismantling of environmental regulations and accelerating of fossil fuel development, Wheeler testified to the U.S. Senate last January that he would not call climate change “the greatest crisis” facing humanity.

Which highlights a question that may shape whether this summit turns out to be a success, a failure, or something in between: What role will the United States play? Will it be a spoiler, actively seeking to disrupt progress? Will it be a braggart claiming to, as Wheeler boasted (inaccurately) in that testimony, represent “the gold standard for environmental progress”? Or will it be more like the addled uncle at the family reunion whose babblings provoke eye-rolls and are ignored?

“Don’t bring a speech, bring a plan!” For months now, that’s what Secretary General Guterres has been telling heads of state and government. Instead of the endless blah-blah-blah heard at most UN meetings, Guterres wants this summit to be more like “show-and-tell,” a meeting where governments share concrete and replicable examples of how they are cutting emissions and boosting resilience to the climate impacts already unfolding. As such, the summit aims to address a glaring deficiency of the Paris Agreement. In part, because the agreement made emissions cuts voluntary, global emissions have continued to increase since 2015. MORE

Welcome to the US, Greta. With your help we can save the planet and ourselves

Even in such a divided and troubled country, there is hope. Between us we can beat the climate destroyers

Dear Greta,

Thank you for travelling across the Atlantic to north America to help us do the most important work in the world. There are those of us who welcome you and those who do not because you have landed in two places, a place being born and a place dying, noisily, violently, with as much damage as possible.

It has always been two places, since the earliest Europeans arrived in places where Native people already lived, and pretended they were new and gave them the wrong names. You can tell the history of the United States – which are not very united now – as the history of Sojourner Truth, the heroine who helped liberate the enslaved, as that of the slaveowners and defenders of slavery, as a place of visionary environmental voices such as Rachel Carson and the corporate powers and profiteers she fought and exposed.

Right now the US is the country of Donald Trump and of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of climate destroyers and climate protectors. Sometimes the Truths and the Carsons have won. I believe it is more than possible for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal to win, for the spirit of generosity and inclusion and the protection of nature to win – but that depends on what we do now. Which is why I’m so grateful that you have arrived to galvanize us with your clarity of vision and passionate commitment. 

Not long ago I talked to a powerful climate organizer who began her work when she was only a little older than you, and she told me that her hope right now is that people recognize that this is a moment of great possibility, of openings and momentum, and a growing alarm and commitment to what the changing climate requires of us. Something has changed, thanks to you and to the young people who have brought new urgency and vision to the climate movement. Many people have become concerned and awake for the first time, and the conversation we need to have is opening up. People are ready for change, or some of us are. This is what’s being born in the US and around the world: not only new energy systems, but new social systems with more room for the voices of those who are not white or male or straight or neurotypical.

The old energy system was about centralized control and the malevolent power of Gazprom and BP, Shell and Chevron, and the governments warped into serving them rather than humanity. The new system must not only be about localized energy, but democratized decision-making, about the rights of nature and the rights of the vulnerable and the future, over profit.

Some of this is already here: not only the larger groups you’re surely heard of – the Sunrise Movement350.org, the Sierra ClubRainforest Action Network – but countless local and tribal groups that have arisen to stop this pipeline or that coal port or these fracking projects, to protect this forest or this mountain or these waters. They are not visible the way the United Nations or the US Congress or European Union is, but their work matters, and perhaps we will build a lot of this transition out from below – but we need the big policy agendas set from above as well.

Everywhere I see remarkable things happening. No matter how much you see of this big country, this huge continent, there is more than you can see. I hope you have a chance to see some of the beauty of the American landscapes, from rainforests to deserts; there is also beauty in the passionate commitment around the country. Coalminers in Kentucky have been blocking a coal train track for a month, because their bankrupt company stiffed them on wages, and coalminers elsewhere recently spoke to this newspaper about their clarity that coal is over and that the Green New Deal and its jobs are welcome. The gigantic coal-burning, sky-polluting Navajo Generating Station in Arizona will shut down later this year, and, Scientific American reported, “Its average annual emissions over that period are roughly equivalent to what 3.3 million passenger cars would pump into the atmosphere in a single year. The Navajo Generating Station isn’t alone. It’s among a new wave of super-polluters headed for the scrap heap,” including giant plants in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.” Last year, US coal plants with annual emissions of 83 million tonnes of carbon were shut down.

Several states – California, New York, Hawaii, New Mexico – have made commitments to 100% renewable electricity in the near future, and while the federal government tries to push us backward, many states lean forward. This summer Texas began to get more energy from wind than from coal. Iowa in the midwest now gets 37% of its electricity from wind, not because of idealism alone, but pragmatism: wind is cheaper. Science magazine reported last month, “Solar plus batteries is now cheaper than fossil power,” and a Connecticut newspaper recently announced that Chubb, the largest commercial insurer in the USA, will stop insuring coal plants and coal mining.

Worldwide, we are in the midst of an energy revolution that dwarfs the industrial revolution: human beings will for the first time not use fire, will not release carbon into the sky, to get most of our energy. We will inevitably transition away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, and the question is only when. If we do it swiftly, we minimize damage to the climate; if we wait, we maximize it. The damage is here, and it’s not only destroying nature, it’s killing us. When the California town of Paradise burned down last November, at least 86 people burned to death or choked on smoke; millions suffered from the smoke that spread across the region. Heat deaths are up in the south-west, where 235 people died in Arizona alone from this cause during 2017.

But we also know that there are so many uncounted deaths from poisonous fossil fuels. We know that many of the refugees on the USA’s southern border are climate refugees, driven out of their homes in Central America by the failure of agriculture from unpredictable and violent weather, heat, and drought. We know that Alaska was this month for the first time ice-free all along its coast, and the hot dry weather inland led to horrific wildfires. “Starting on the fourth of July and lasting multiple days, temperatures across Alaska were 20 to 30 degrees above average in some locations,” reported National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To be a climate activist anywhere on Earth now is to stand at a crossroads: heaven on one side and hell on the other. Heaven because the transition we need to make and are making – just not big enough or fast enough – is not only an power-generation revolution, but a decentralization of political power, a shift away from the big energy companies who used governments to make wars and make profits for them, a shift away from the poisonousness of fossil fuel. Hell because the destruction of what it took nature millions of years to create – the exquisite balance of ecosystems, of bird migration in harmony with seasons, of symbioses between species, of the great Himalayan and Andean glaciers whose waters feed so many people, of rainforests and temperate forests – is hideous as well as terrifying. The Amazon is burning because of one rightwing leader and a system that rewards agricultural products but not forest protection, even though we need rainforests more than we need the soybeans and beef raised on the land stolen from the rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants.

I’ve mentioned a bit of what is going on in my troubled, complicated country, the US, but of course these are global conflicts and global situations, and the solutions are advancing almost everywhere, because they are good solutions to terrible problems.

You have come to help us choose the former over the latter, and more of us thank you than you will ever be able to see or hear. More than that, we’re with you, trying to realize the goals that the climate demands of us, to make a sustainable world for those who are young now, those yet to come, and for the beauty of the world that is still with us. SOURCE