Greens, Climate and Sanity (June 28, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning! Welcome to Summer!

The Green Party leadership race is now well underway with ten candidates. The first debate was co-hosted by former Green leaders, Jim Harris and me and sponsored by Fair Vote Canada, and included some French. 

There will also be debates with a French broadcaster, details in the works. If you missed the English language debates on TVO, here are the links.

As a group, this is one strong field of diverse contenders. Veteran political debates host Steve Paikan moderated. Having decided ten was unwieldy, TVO split the debate into two groups of five. I really enjoyed Steve Paikan’s reflection on the very different leadership races - the Greens and the Conservatives. Paikan noted how vicious the Conservative front-runners were to each other, contrasted with the civility of Greens:

“The events might not have featured a lot of the fireworks of a typical leaders’ debate. But viewers were introduced to some serious, sober-minded people, all of them with a variety of interesting life experiences, who clearly understand the herculean task at hand — replacing a seasoned, iconic parliamentarian, in May, and leading the party to an electoral breakthrough that heretofore has eluded it.” 

It has led me to think a lot about the differences between Greens in politics and other parties. I am trying (and maybe failing) to do a good job at succession. Most parties’ leadership transition ends up a bloodied battleground – the Chretien Martin wars, Mulroney to Kim Campbell, Mulcair to Singh. I hope to be re-elected and work alongside the next leader in parliament. Yet another reason why I will not be endorsing anyone. Good relations are essential. Historical examples of collaborative succession are hard to find. In fact, the only model I can recall was Alexa McDonough passing the torch to Jack Layton. Maybe something to do with women leaders? (Fingers crossed I can do it as well as Alexa!)

Increasingly, through this pandemic, it is the Green package of prescriptions that is gaining momentum and support. If you missed it have a look at this extraordinary letter from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney published as a full page in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. In it he calls for an “Agenda for Canadian Greatness” and then lists much of what is in our plan “Reimagining our Future.” It’s not perfect mind you, (he mentions we need pipelines for prosperity), but who could have imagined Mulroney calling for “priority examination” of guaranteed livable income, full indigenous justice, responding to the “realities of climate change,” “a national commitment to the eradication of systemic racism and anti-semitism in Canada,” among other measures. I really liked his closing tag line “Incrementalism builds increments. Bold initiatives build nations.”

We really have no time for incrementalism in moving to climate solutions. As the head of the International Energy Agency noted this week, the decisions in the next six months will determine whether we hold to 1.5 degrees or not. 

It is the post-pandemic stimulus spending by governments around the world that will determine if pollution levels “bounce back” in order to restart the economy. 

Very encouraging news was the vote in Halifax to adopt a serious climate plan. 75% reductions by 2030! Congratulations to Green councilor and shadow cabinet member, Richard Zurawski. We are in a perilous place. The climate emergency is worsening, as the Arctic experiences unprecedented heat waves and the global concentration of greenhouse gases continues to rise, even as emission levels dropped due to the pandemic. It is these concentrations that really matter as once they go up, they do not drop down. Over the next 100 years at least, this new 417 ppm is now the floor. Amounts of pollution can rise and fall, but concentrations reflect all the work of natural systems, green leafy things pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. The “netted out” new concentration becomes a new “normal.” 

With both the COVID and climate emergency, we are also in times of deep political risk. The threat of fascism has not been this high in decades. Last week, I lost a dear friend to COVID19, likely due to the horrors of the anti-indigenous and anti-science policies of Brazil’s horrific leader Jair Bolsonaro. Chief Paiakan of the Kayapo died of COVID19. We had become friends in years of struggle to protect the Amazon and stop the dam on the Xingu River. He had a huge impact on my life and of many friends who were inspired by Paiakan’s leadership.

South of the border, Trump is becoming increasingly unhinged. I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise as he declared, “If the Democrats gain power, then the rioters will be in charge and no one will be safe and no one will have control”; He is already warning that if he loses the election it can only have been due to electoral fraud. We have a very dangerous neighbour, as my friend Ziya Tong warns in the Toronto Star.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing we can hang onto was the assessment from John Ibbitson; that we now have a “unique competitive advantage of being the only major developed, English-speaking country that hasn’t gone crazy.”

And in that, we should all be grateful. Reach out – phone a friend, zoom into a webinar, share a sensible, science-based article, get together at six feet and recommit to a strong recovery that moves the world to justice, equity and survival.

Virtual hugs!


This didn’t really fit in today’s letter, but like a kid who got a good report card, I wanted to be sure you saw this on the Green MP attendance record in pandemic parliament. We were the best; Conservatives the worst.  Way to go team! Thanks to Paul Manly and Jenica Atwin!

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