Spearheaded by Naomi Klein, campaign proposing plan for fully sustainable energy economy over next 20 years is backed by over 100 prominent Canadians
by Jessica Murphy
September 15, 2015
Author Naomi Klein, third from right, speaks during news conference to launch the Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another on Tuesday. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters
In the middle of a national election campaign, Canadian artists and activists are calling for shift in the country’s economy to a sustainable system weaned off fossil fuels.
The Leap Manifesto – a wide-ranging document signed by more than 100 prominent progressive Canadians – lays out an ambitious plan to end fossil fuel subsidies, increase income taxes on corporations and the wealthy, cut military spending and implement a progressive carbon tax.
Signatories include actors Donald Sutherland, Rachel McAdams, and Ellen Page; musicians Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Alanis Morissette; and writers William Gibson and Michael Ondaatje, along with major environmental groups and labour unions.
“We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory,” the manifesto states. Calling Canada’s record on climate change “a crime against humanity’s future”, it urges a rapid shift over the next two decades to a fully sustainable energy economy.
Activist and author Naomi Klein, who helped spearhead the document, launched the manifesto at a news conference Tuesday in Toronto, flanked by a handful of fellow signatories.
Klein said the current situation in Canada is critical but argued that there are tools and policies available to address the issues.
“Small steps won’t get us there. We have to move on multiple fronts at once,” Klein said.
“My crisis isn’t bigger than your crisis. They’re interconnected, they’re overlapping and we can come up with solutions that solve multiple problems at once.”
Klein said she’s confident that federal political leaders, campaigning in advance of the 19 October election, will be forced to address the manifesto as it gains prominence at the grassroots level.
“Since many of our leaders are too busy watching the polls to grasp the urgency, or even the potential, of this transformation, leadership is coming from outside of electoral politics,” she said.
Tuesday’s launch was accompanied by a major social media push by its celebrity backers and other supporters.
Organisers say the ultimate goal is to have thousands of Canadians sign on to the economic and environmental manifesto, putting pressure on whichever political party forms the next government to take direct and immediate action.
Supporters come from all – though overwhelmingly progressive – political backgrounds, and Klein maintained the manifesto was a non-partisan document.
Still, political rivals made hay on social media of the fact that a number of signatories are backers of the left-leaning New Democrats (NDP), including politicians like former Ontario provincial NDP leader Stephen Lewis, artists like film-maker Sarah Polley, and trade union members like Canadian Union of Public Employees president Paul Moist.
The NDP has shifted towards the centre since becoming the official federal opposition in 2011, embracing economic free trade and promising to maintain a balanced federal budget.
In contrast, the manifesto calls for a rejection of austerity measures it says have had a negative impact on “low-carbon sectors; like education and healthcare”. It also urges an end to trade deals “that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects”.
The manifesto was released on the sidelines of the Toronto international film festival, where the documentary This Changes Everything is being screened. It was produced by Klein’s husband, film-maker Avi Lewis, and is based on her most recent book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate.