Is the Leap Manifesto at risk of easy reversal?

2016-06-04

in Canada, Economics, Law, PhD thesis, Politics, The environment

Today, Toronto350.org hosted a teach-in in preparation for the climate change consultations which the Trudeau government has asked MPs to hold.

Avi Lewis — co-creator of the Leap Manifesto — was on the panel. The question which I submitted through the commendable system of written cards (to avoid tedious speeches from the self-important audience members) wasn’t posed to the panel, but I did ask Mr. Lewis about it after.

Specifically, I raised the issue of progressive climate change policies being adopted by one government and removed or reversed by the next. How can we enact policies that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change and avoid being reversed when new governments take power, especially right-wing ones?

Mr. Lewis said that the climate movement doesn’t have an answer to this question.

He began by describing how the right wing in North America has been effective at creating mechanisms to lock in its own policies. Specifically, he cited the network of right-wing think tanks and multilateral trade agreements that constrain the policy options of future left-leaning governments. To this could be added some of Sylvia Bashevkin’s analysis of how centre-left governments like those of Clinton and Chretien adopted much of the thought of their right-wing predecessors.

I went on to contrast two potential approaches to success, the hope that a coalition of leftist forces can work together to achieve all of their objectives (which seemed the underlying logic of today’s event, and much other climate change organizing) and the approach embodied by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), in which they are strictly non-partisan and seek to become a trusted source of climate information for members of all political parties and adherents to all mainstream ideologies.

Mr. Lewis said that he saw little point in the CCL approach, in part because parties like the Republicans in the U.S. are so unreceptive. He also thought this approach has been tried unsuccessfully by the climate movement already, whereas major pressure from a left-wing coalition was novel and might be able to drive change in a government like Trudeau’s.

I remain skeptical about the idea that a coalition of the centre-to-far-left can achieve durable success on climate change. These are critical years in terms of blocking big new infrastructure projects, but solving climate change will ultimately require decades of belt-tightening and sacrifice. Conservatives need to be on board if we’re going to succeed, and tying climate change mitigation too tightly to other elements of the left-wing agenda could impede that. Hence my anxiety about non-strategic linkages with laudable but not critically connected causes, from LGBTQ rights to minimum wage policy to the conduct of police forces.

The big exception in my view is solidarity with indigenous peoples. Around the world, they are absolutely central to the process of shutting down fossil fuel development. In Canada, where the Trudeau government remains either clueless or in denial, they may also be the only ones with the legal power to stop the construction of fossil fuel production and transportation infrastructure that we will all regret.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

. June 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm
Milan June 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Another very different approach to preventing catastrophic climate change is to enact technocratic solutions which people barely notice. The plausibility of this is sharply diminished by the political power of the fossil fuel industry combined with how politicians tend to be both scientifically ignorant and driven by short-term economic issues rather than any matter of long-term importance.

Milan June 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm
. June 4, 2016 at 6:52 pm
. June 4, 2016 at 9:06 pm
alena June 5, 2016 at 12:11 am

Avi and Klein stand firmly behind the evil of the neo-liberal economic systems around the world. Their approach is towards small, sustainable and community based development. The world is so complex now and it is hard to know what would work best to create a wave of support for the climate change movement. Although people now agree that it exists, really only the large fossil fuel companies and other extractors can put an end to further exploration and exploitation. Indigenous people have stood their ground on protecting the earth, but corporations will not stop unless it is no longer profitable. I do feel excited about the future role of our native people and the role model they can become to our society in relation to the environment.

. September 18, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Avi Lewis rules out run for NDP leadership, says Leap Manifesto still ‘going strong’

Filmmaker says Leap Manifesto could expand into a larger political platform

. October 7, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Sorry, pundits of Canada. The Leap will bring us together
Avi Lewis

It’s time to speak some truth about this controversial document. In fact, the Leap Manifesto came out of a meeting (yes, held in Toronto) that brought together dozens of social-movement activists from six provinces: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta. It is a consensus statement – literally written by committee – that reflects a common vision from across a spectrum of different causes.

That meeting was attended by First Nations living downstream from the tar sands and leaders from some of the biggest trade unions in Canada. There were refugee advocates, anti-poverty activists, and environmentalists of many stripes (yes, there is a huge range.)

While much has been said about the Leap Manifesto’s controversial call for no new fossil-fuel infrastructure, the other 14 demands in the document reflect a strong progressive consensus in Canada. The need for a green energy revolution, massive reinvestment in health, education and child care, big spending on transit and housing and respecting indigenous land rights – these may be framed with urgency in the Leap Manifesto, but they are hardly controversial.

What makes the Leap different is that it connects the dots, showing how all these demands are integral to a fair and ambitious response to climate change. It’s not a list – it’s a story.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: