When the Leap Manifesto was published one month before Canada’s October 19 federal election, it temporarily derailed the campaign of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, journalist and filmmaker Avi Lewis recalled in a telephone interview.
“In the electoral moment, the manifesto was seized on by the right-wing corporate press and used as a dagger to stick in Mulcair’s back,” Lewis told the Georgia Straight.
The manifesto—a call for urgent government action on climate change and a shift away from fossil fuels—was endorsed by high-profile Canadians such as Leonard Cohen and David Suzuki as well as a number of NDP candidates and the party’s union backers. It was subsequently used against Mulcair in arguments that his party was too left-wing to form a government.
A National Post headline described it as nothing less than a “plan to overthrow capitalism”. A Globe and Mail editorial warned that it, “if taken seriously, would pretty much put an end to every [energy] project ever—pipelines, windmills and solar-panel farms included”.
Despite those attacks, the document hasn’t gone away and many people are taking it seriously. On November 5, the Leap Manifesto will be at the centre of an outdoor rally taking place in downtown Vancouver at Jack Poole Plaza beginning at 12 p.m.
“The first responses were very dismissive,” Lewis said. “But we have a policy agenda now, which has survived that initial onslaught and is gathering momentum in this postelection moment.”
Lewis will be there alongside the event’s main speaker, Naomi Klein, plus a number of other notable attendees and musical guests.
Two days earlier, on November 3, Lewis and Klein’s latest documentary, This Changes Everything, is scheduled to be released on iTunes. And all week, some 3,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) will be in Vancouver for the group’s annual convention. That gathering has allowed Leap rally organizers to predict that hundreds or even thousands of people will gather for Klein’s speech in Coal Harbour.
Lewis acknowledged that an important question is how Canada can pay for the renewable-energy infrastructure and public-transit projects for which the manifesto calls.
“We anticipated that question, took it very seriously, and gave it a serious, deep policy response,” he said.
That came in the form of a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) paper titled “We can afford the leap”. In a telephone interview, one of the document’s coauthors, CCPA senior economist Marc Lee, said the money is available and can be accessed with progressive government policies.
“We need a revenue source like a carbon tax,” he told the Straight. “So we’re increasing the taxes paid on the bad stuff now, using that revenue to plow into green infrastructure and other climate-action measures.”
According to the CCPA paper, abolishing fossil-fuel subsidies would save Canada’s federal government $350 million annually. It also suggests the country could end “special tax treatment for capital gains income” to recoup $7.5 billion per year, return the corporate tax rate to where it stood in 2006 to earn $6 billion per year, and implement a new federal upper-income tax bracket for incomes over $250,000 for revenue worth $3.5 billion per year.
Finally, the paper outlines how Canada should implement a national carbon tax. It suggests it start at $30 per tonne, which would result in earnings of $16 billion per year. That could eventually be increased to as high as $200 per tonne for federal tax earnings of more than $80 billion per year, though that rate would have to phase in slowly and over the long term, Lee noted.
“The manifesto itself is rhetoric and talking about a vision,” he said. “The piece we did was to say that vision is empirically supported.…Based on the research that we have done over recent years, we think there is a good economic case to be had for it.”
Lee said he believes it is possible for Canada to shift to 100 percent renewable energy within 20 years. He described that goal as ambitious but not unrealistic with the right leadership. Lee added that the election of a majority Liberal government may serve as an “opening” on that front.
“The adults are in the room again and you can actually have a conversation and talk about how Canada can do its part on the global stage and meet its climate obligations,” Lee said. “But I am a bit wary about what we’re ultimately going to get.”
Roseanne Moran, a CUPE communications representative and organizer of the November 5 rally, told the Straight that the goals outlined in the Leap Manifesto can happen without sacrificing jobs.
“That’s why we signed on to it,” she said. “We think it is the right route to sustainable jobs, sustainable communities, and protecting the environment. We don’t think there has to be a tradeoff between good jobs and protecting the environment for the future.”