Tens of thousands sign petition demanding CBC host climate debate

Protesters, joined by faith leaders and members of Extinction Rebellion Toronto, took over the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets in downtown Toronto on June 10 as part of a demonstration to declare a climate crisis. Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn

A group of activists in Toronto say they’ll deliver a petition with more than 45,000 signatures to the CBC Friday morning, asking the broadcaster to host a federal leader’s debate on climate change ahead of the October federal election.

The petition was organized by four advocacy groups: Leadnow.ca and North99, along with the climate-change-focused 350 Canada and OurTime, which recently made headlines with a campaign for a Canadian Green New Deal. In a statement, LeadNow said the CBC has a responsibility as a public broadcaster to “provide a platform about this unprecedented national emergency so voters can clearly see where leaders stand on climate and what they’re prepared to do about it.”

“We look to political leaders to lead on serious issues like climate change, but there’s so much misinformation and confusion,” said Amara Possian, Canada Campaigns Manager with 350.org. “A federal leaders’ debate focused on climate change and a made-in-Canada Green New Deal will give voters much-needed clarity on which parties have the best strategy to tackle the climate crisis head on.”

The environment has emerged as the top election issue for Canadians, found a study released Thursday by the Digital Democracy Project.

In the statement, the advocacy groups pointed to wildfires in Western Canada, heat waves in the east and north, shorelines that are disappearing as sea levels rise and severe floods — all extreme events that are becoming more frequent due to the climate emergency.

CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said the public broadcaster recognizes how important climate change is, and that will be reflected in its election coverage.

A group of activists plan to deliver a petition with over 45,000 signatures to CBC headquarters in Toronto Friday, demanding the broadcaster hold a federal leaders’ debate on the climate emergency. Story by @EmmaMci #cdnpoli

“As I’m sure you are aware, CBC News has covered climate change extensively, and we will continue to do so,” Thompson said in an emailed statement. “As to whether or not there will be a debate specifically about climate change, that question is best asked of the Leaders’ Debates Commission.”

The commission is an independent organization established by the federal government earlier this year to co-ordinate two leaders’ debates before federal elections. The CBC is one of a group of media organizations appointed by the commission to produce and stream the debates, as part of the Canadian Debate Production Partnership.

Canada’s ‘Green New Deal’ could change the game ahead of the elections

Jagmeet Singh in Toronto on Sept. 7, 2018. (Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty Images for eOne)

The Green New Deal, a plan to decarbonize the economy while ushering in a greater level of social and economic justice, has become a key policy debate in the United States, with major segments of the Democratic Party, including some presidential candidates, endorsing the plan to varying degrees. The goal of the plan isn’t just to cut fossil fuel consumption but also to do so while investing in jobs, education, infrastructure, health care and a wide array of programs designed to challenge the status quo.

In Canada, the GND has sparked great interest among progressives, who are looking for a plan that will help avoid climate catastrophe while not leaving behind the working class and marginalized populations. A few years ago, a document called the Leap Manifesto was drafted by a group of Canadian environmentalists. Though it had some of the elements of current progressive plans, it failed to capture the national imagination and was viewed as insufficiently concerned with reforms beyond decarbonization.

But things are different now. Today, the youth, both around the world and in Canada, have made climate justice a prevailing issue. Climate science, too, has made it ever clearer just how short a window we have to reduce our carbon footprint. And, crucially, the GND has offered Canadians framing and language that are more acceptable than those of the Leap.

Canada’s political outlook is also different than it was a couple years ago. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals — who ran on an aura of progressivism — have left many environmental activists disappointed by missing emission targets and buying a multibillion-dollar pipeline. In part because of this, the Green Party is polling at unprecedented numbers and recently won a second seat in the House of Commons for the first time in party history, with projections giving them a few more in October’s general election. In this context, it is clear that green issues are motivating voters like never before.

This is where Jagmeet Singh and his New Democratic Party come in. Canada’s party of the social democratic left is polling below its 2015 election results and, while still poised to finish with the third-most seats in Parliament, is seeing the Greens polling closer than ever before. Not to be outdone, the NDP has released a bold plan that would act as a GND for Canada.

Not only does it commit to green objectives such ending fossil fuel subsidies, setting emissions targets, banning single-use plastics and incentivizing electric vehicles, but it also commits to a national retrofitting program that will affect all housing stock in Canada by 2050 and will help create an estimated 300,000 jobs. The plan also includes working with municipalities to build free electric public transit by 2030.  MORE

The Canadian Green New Deal and migrant justice

Image: kai kalhh/Pixabay

The Canadian Green New Deal movement is picking up steam, as prominent activists join forces with over 80 organizations to demand radical change.

On June 11, Indigenous lawyer Pam Palmater and journalist Naomi Klein were two of the speakers at a Green New Deal town hall in Toronto. More town halls are planned in the next few weeks, with an open invitation to organize events to anyone committed to building the movement.

Instead of implementing temperate solutions such as the carbon tax, the Canadian Green New Deal calls for an economy that redistributes wealth and resources to benefit the vast majority of the population while drastically reducing emissions.

That translates into transformative action on “systems of transit, energy, housing, agriculture, and public services” as well as addressing migrant justice.

“The migrant labour piece needs to be central in that,” says Karen Cocq, an organizer with the labour-advocacy group Fight for $15 and Fairness.

Alongside multiple unions such as CUPE, the Green New Deal coalition includes labour advocacy groups including Migrant Rights Alliance for Change.

Cocq emphasizes solidarity with Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad who have been displaced due to corporate extractivism, leading to disruption and forced migration. MORE

Inside the Race to Unify Progressives Behind a Canadian Green New Deal

The Pact for a Green New Deal in Canada, which was launched in May by civil society, Indigenous and environmental groups across the country, explicitly rejects moving cautiously to address the climate emergency

This election is ‘a huge opportunity to change the future of the country,’ says Nayeli Jimenez, a Vancouver-based climate organizer. Photo by Dexter McMillan for The Tyee.

Here is one worst-case climate change scenario for Canada’s upcoming federal election: The Liberals, NDP and Greens offer emissions-fighting plans that are difficult for the average voter to distinguish from one another, leading to a fractured, confused and unmotivated climate vote, while the Conservatives rile up a base unified by its single-minded opposition to climate policy.

“The great fear is that two or three parties compete over the same progressive voters and a consolidated Conservative party basically just walks up the middle and grabs a majority,” Kai Nagata, communications director for the B.C.-based Dogwood Initiative, told The Tyee.

This new federal government immediately scraps Canada’s carbon price, as Tory leader Andrew Scheer has promised. The Conservatives, which have yet to announce any plan replacing that policy, then go to work with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford to dismantle any environmental limits on oilsands production and fossil fuel consumption. At a time when we desperately need to be cutting greenhouse gas emissions, they go into overdrive instead.

For the next four years Canada continues to warm twice as fast as the rest of the world, smashing new records for destructive wildfires, flooding and Arctic sea ice loss. And as the global economy shifts away from fossil fuels, the hundreds of thousands of families who depend on the oilsands teeter ever more precariously on the brink of economic catastrophe — with no plan to assist them if and when demand for Alberta’s high-cost bitumen disappears.

Canada’s climate left is trying to conjure up the grassroots progressive energy that in the U.S. has turned the Green New Deal into one of the most electrifying issues of the 2020 presidential election.

By Oct. 20, activists hope to overcome internal divisions and unify behind a made-in-Canada Green New Deal; push leaders like the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh into unapologetically aggressive positions on climate change; and elect enough politicians prepared to address the crisis that we end up with a progressive minority coalition able and ready to transform Canada’s economy. MORE


Young Canadians launch website tracking climate commitments of federal parties