Good Sunday Morning!
Let’s start with some good news. The fantastic climate campaigners at University of Victoria scored a major win on February 2nd .
Divest UVic and the UVSS succeeded, after an eight-year fight, in getting the University of Victoria to remove fossil fuel investments from the $256 million Working Capital Fund, effective immediately. This is a partial victory as the university also has $440 million in its Long Term Endowment Fund of which approximately $40 million is invested in fossil fuels. But it’s a victory! I am so impressed with the work of Emily Lowan and all the UVic divestment community. UVic now joins Concordia University, the University of British Columbia, Guelph University and Lakehead University – although those universities have committed to full divestment.
While young people have made a huge impact in university-based divestment campaigns, our own government uses public funds to support fossil fuels. In 2009, Stephen Harper was the first prime minister to pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies. In the 2015 election, the Liberals made it one of their splashy climate pledges. Yet subsidies to fossil fuels keep increasing. This year Canada tied with Saudi Arabia for the world’s worst record – and those figures do not even include the $17 billion for the TMX pipeline. Canada, Saudi Arabia named ‘worst performers’ in report on fossil fuel funding | National Observer
So it was certainly more good news to see U.S. President Joe Biden sign an executive order this week, canceling all fossil fuel subsidies under the control of the executive branch. Ending all US fossil fuel subsidies, as he has pledged to do, will require more work through the Congress. When asked about Biden’s action to end all fossil fuel subsidies, Justin Trudeau replied that he was “pleased to see the U.S. follow our lead in banning fossil fuel subsidies.” That was – even for Trudeau – a statement of breath-taking hypocrisy. . When it comes to fossil fuel subsidies and GHG emissions, Liberals don't know up from down - YouTube
Following the fossil fuel money also leads us to Canada’s big banks. Our major five commercial banks have financed over $610 billion in fossil fuel projects since 2016 alone. Banking on disaster, they have invested in violating indigenous rights in Coastal Gas Link, the Line 3 pipeline, and the Dakota Access pipeline. RBC alone as ploughed over $178 billion into fossil fuels, the most of any Canadian bank and the fifth most globally. A national youth-led campaign to demand the banks stop putting our money into bad projects was launched recently. Grassroots National Protest Demands RBC & Other Banks Stop Funding Fossil Fuels (newswire.ca)
It is hard not to really hate the banks. Their profits have remained strong through the pandemic, yet they are putting the squeeze on many companies across Canada. This threatens the survival of many small and even quite large businesses. Many across Canada are rallying around our coach line bus companies- a sector very much at risk. Here on Vancouver Island, we are fighting to save Wilson’s Bus Lines, while Greens in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick fight for Maritimes Bus. Wilson’s is not going to be able to keep service going in the popular route to Tofino without emergency help. While the New Brunswick government put some of the federal funds it received in the Safe Restart plan into helping protect some Maritime Bus routes in that province, the BC government seems deaf to public demands. Please contact Rob Fleming (now transport minister) and sign this petition: https://www.change.org/SaveTofinoBus
The only NGO to really focus on banks is Democracy Watch. Here is their recent campaign to pressure governments to properly tax the large commercial banks. https://democracywatch.ca/95000-call-on-finance-minister-freeland-to-make-the-big-banks-help-more-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-and-after/
It is galling that when we are all being asked to make sacrifices for the public good in a pandemic, the banks are willing to undermine our economic recovery by forcing otherwise strong companies into bankruptcy. We will need our buses and a whole network of ground transportation options, including improved VIA Rail service, in our post-COVID recovery.
As I wrote last week, recovery seems a bit farther away due to the arrival of more infectious variants. On Monday, on behalf of our Green Caucus, Paul Manly asked for an emergency debate on the arrival of the variants. Request for emergency debate on the spread of COVID-19 variants - YouTube . We were disappointed that while last week the cancellation of Keystone was seen to be an emergency, our request was rejected.
As the variants spread, we are slower than many countries in getting our population vaccinated. The larger opposition parties have been quick to attack the federal government for incompetence.
The government continues to say we will have six million doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines by end of March. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile, three other vaccines, AstraZeneca, Jansenn and Novavax, are undergoing review by Health Canada. I remain hopeful that the people who want vaccines will be able to get them soon. I do not want to see these issues dealt with in a predictable knee-jerk partisan fashion.
Still, questions abound. Why did we not start sooner building our capacity to manufacture vaccines in Canada? Did we really lose precious time in dealing with a China-based Sinovac in the early days of the pandemic? When this is over, a more thorough review of the scientific capacity of the Public Health Agency and of Health Canada will be a priority. Provincial governments will have to answer for their decisions. For example, it is startling how much worse COVID has been in Quebec. https://ipolitics.ca/2021/02/04/as-vaccinations-lag-and-variants-spread-quebecs-reopening-is-reckless/
For now, we have to observe strict protocols. So turn your attention to positive campaigning from home. Sign those petitions. Join zoom chats. Write letters to the editor – on climate – saving our buses – stopping logging our ancient forests! Reach out to each other by phone and zoom chat. This could be lasting a while longer.
Stay safe! Be well!
And an appeal for a great Green….
Former Leadership contestant Judy N Green needs help to cover her remaining campaign expenses. Judy’s campaign is short roughly $3000. If you can help, please reach out at [email protected] or send a cheque made out to “Financial Agent for Judy N Green” to:
Box 151, Lawrencetown, NS, B0S 1M0.