‘This 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.’
This text is an abridged version of a declaration launched in Toronto on Tuesday and first published in the Globe and Mail. The writing of The Leap Manifesto was initiated in the spring of 2015 at a two-day meeting in Toronto attended by representatives from Canada’s Indigenous rights, social and food justice, environmental, faith-based and labour movements. To read the statement in full and to become a signatory visit leapmanifesto.org.
We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the opportunities of this transition are designed to 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.
Canada is not this place today – but it can be.
The time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer suffice.
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 by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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 to get 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable resources within two decades. 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. 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 has come for energy democracy: We believe not just in changes to our energy sources, but that wherever possible communities should collectively control these new energy systems. 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 also 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 can create countless other multiple “wins.” We want training and resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to participate in the clean-energy economy. 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.
Since this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so 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.
Shifting to an economy in balance with the Earth’s limits also means expanding the economic sectors that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. Following on Quebec’s lead, a national child-care 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.
We declare that “austerity” – which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors such as education and health care, 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. Such as 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 manifesto. 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 toward 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. 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.