In this video, addressing the Prime Minister's Youth Council, Justin Trudeau responds to the question of what exactly he wants out of a national youth policy: "Well the fact is, as I've said to you, and I know the team has said to you, we want you to tell me what Canada needs to have as a national youth policy." Well last week these passionate young Canadians advised the Prime Minister on a very important issue.
"More than a dozen current and former members of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council are calling on Justin Trudeau to halt the federal government’s announced $4.5-billion buyout of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan", reports CTV News. “The decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline project calls into question your commitment to young Canadians,” the letter says. “It is youth who will be disproportionately affected by the devastating consequences of a warming world, and yet you did not sufficiently consult before taking a decision that has profound and irreversible consequences for youth in Canada and around the world.”
The letter asks the prime minister to cancel the buyout, promise not to escalate violence or use militarized police forces to confront protesters and to hold a special open session with young Canadians on the buyout and energy issues more broadly.
“We are asking you to be the leader you were entrusted to be: honourable, ethical and courageous enough to act accordingly,” the letter says. “Choose a path of fiscal prudence, social and cultural healing, and sustainable growth for Canada, and you will begin to write a future that young people will be proud to read about.”
Now, I'm an old guy. I've entered my seventh decade on this pale blue dot. And while life was never easy, I consider myself blessed by the fruits of civilization. I'm part of the generation that did more than any other generation in history to jeopardize the future. Always seeking new perspectives, I asked a young man, whom I met at the picnic today, what mattered most to him. First on his list was Electoral Reform because, in his words, "we can't solve the problems of our times, if we elect governments that don't represent us." And second was Climate Change because "I want to raise children in a world that offers them a future."
These are legitimate and pressing concerns shared by many who are troubled by the news out of Ontario that the false majority of Doug Ford's Conservatives are already busy rolling back the clock and shutting down that province's future. As Mike Schreiner stated in his first speech as a Green MPP in Queen's Park, "This sends a clear message to business, in Ontario and around the world, that the new government is thumbing its nose at the $7 trillion clean economy. It's like putting a big sign at the border that says Ontario is closed for business."
But Ford is not just unraveling the limited climate action Ontario had in place but has joined forces with Saskatchewan to threaten the federal government with law suits if it tries to implement a national carbon tax. Some say this is the beginning of the end for Trudeau's "Rachel needs a pipeline" strategy and some, like Andrew Coyne, think it could be a good thing. If, as many have suggested, the legal challenge fails, it would force the federal government to impose a national and uniformly structured carbon tax across the country. Alarmingly, Coyne suggests that the Liberals would use the carbon taxes to lower corporate taxation instead of returning it to the citizens as our proposed Fee and Dividend plan would do.
While these false majority governments negotiate our collective future on behalf of the minority of voters that elected them, Julie Gelfand, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in the Auditor General's office, is about to release an unprecedented comprehensive report. It clearly lays out how we will not even come close to meeting our Paris targets. This in-depth look at that report in The Walrus is well worth the read just as an official primer on the urgency of this crisis.
"In the post-truth world that we are living in," Gelfand is quoted, "I would argue that our audits are as close to the truth as you can get." It talks about how Climate Change is already threatening 1.7 million households directly and the overarching responsibility governments have to act decisively. "Only governments can put the policy instruments in place, be they carrots or sticks, to meet our international emission-reduction targets."
Perhaps that is why Elizabeth asked these rhetorical questions in The Hill Times last week: "Why is there no federal program to help business, homeowners and institutions— basically anyone with a roof—install solar panels? Where are the innovations to develop stored water systems for renewable energy storage across Canada? Why do we continue to act as though we have all the time in the world?"
She points out that the risk is that we will emit such large volumes of greenhouse gases that we will set in motion a chain reaction in which higher temperatures propel other events that, in turn, increase global warming. These “positive feedback loops”—things like melting Arctic ice allowing the ocean to warm so much faster, thus melting more ice; or tinder dry forests catching fire and releasing vast quantities of greenhouse gases—are what is really terrifying.
"Overshooting the Paris target of holding global average temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees C," Elizabeth writes, "is not a 'safe' landing place for a new global average temperature, but it is far safer. It will (we hope) allow the low lying island states to remain above the water line and the ice over the North Pole to remain in place—at least in winter, she writes. Current estimates see only a five per cent chance the world will meet the 1.5 degree target. And the window of opportunity to meet it will close in the next 5 to 10 years. So we should be using every policy lever available to massively reduce emissions."
So why are we buying a pipeline? Perhaps because Kinder Morgan, the Enron derivative that it is, is far more adept at scheming a win than our conflicted governments. "Kinder Morgan cut creative deals with lenders and oil producers to shield itself from massive write-downs," Reuters reports. "Kinder Morgan’s leverage in the deal stemmed in part from careful risk management in earlier negotiations with the 13 oil producers who reserved capacity in the proposed line. The shippers agreed to cover about 80 percent of Kinder Morgan’s capital costs – even if the second pipeline never gets built, the contracts show." The shippers promised to pay those costs through tolls on shipments through the existing, past it's due date, pipeline.
But in her short presentation at the picnic yesterday, Elizabeth shared what she learned at a briefing with a senior Department of Finance official last week. "We have not yet purchased this 65 year old pipeline. We are on the verge of buying it. According to finance Canada it will be "some time in Q3, a September type time-frame." The nebulosity apparently stems from the third of the three things that have to happen before the close of the sale. In addition to Kinder Morgan shareholders and our competition act, the sale must also get the green light from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States by passing a national security review.
While our Federal Government is scrambling to justify this reckless deal and Kinder Morgan is musing about what to do with all that cash, a recent poll shows that one in six Canadians is struggling with finances. Angus Reid said the finding — that those experiencing poverty are the most likely to say they are losing ground from the previous generation — suggests "that the self-perpetuating nature of economic class is alive and well in Canada." When asked how they view the prospects of their children, Canadians were "almost uniformly pessimistic," according to Angus Reid.
It's this kind of dysfunctional governance, created by power politics, that has so many citizens looking for alternatives. Last week we saw another one of those alternatives, this time in Canada. In a by-election in Manitoba this young woman made a mark. Her fabulous video which, sadly, only got released the day before the election, received 9,000 views in 24 hours on Facebook. Nonetheless, Françoise beat out the Conservatives and came in a respectable third.
We owe it to ourselves, candidates like Françoise and the young people I met at the picnic, to never give up. We can provide the resources and support to spread hope, through videos like this, across the land. It is this kind of heartfelt message that inspires us to champion the cause for a sustainable, just and prosperous future for all.
Have a wonderful Sunday,
"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015
This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues. And if you are on twitter please join in on this hashtag.