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It is possible for Canadians to choose to save the planet and create more jobs when they vote in the upcoming election for a new government, a prominent author says.
Author Naomi Klein on Tuesday released a political agenda that urges the next federal government to wean Canada off fossil fuels in as little as 35 years and, in the process, upend the capitalist system on which the economy is based.
More than 100 actors, musicians, labour union leaders, aboriginal leaders, environmentalists and other activists have signed the document, called the "leap manifesto."
Environmentalist David Suzuki, former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis, Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull, Canadian Union of Public Employees president Paul Moist and Greenpeace campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo were among 15 speakers who read the manifesto aloud at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday.
Dr. Suzuki added that the document will provide a direction for climate-change policy.
"For decades now, we got involved in very divisive debates," he said. "In my province [British Columbia], it was logging or the economy, spotted owls or workers in the forest. It's always as if you need to make a choice, one or the other. What this document does is it provides us with a vision and a path to get to that vision."
Tuesday's release of the manifesto comes just days after the debut of the documentary over the weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival based on Ms. Klein's latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
Ms. Klein described the document as a "coherent, science-based agenda."
The manifesto starts with the premise that Canada's record on climate change is "a crime against humanity's future," and says the country needs to make the leap from fossil fuel dependence to getting 100 per cent of its power from renewable resources – a feat it maintains is feasible within two decades.
This means adopting an "iron law" of energy development – "If you wouldn't want it in your backyard, then it doesn't belong in anyone's backyard" – to be applied equally to pipelines, hydraulic fracturing, increased oil tanker traffic and Canadian-owned mining projects abroad.
The document says this process would transform the capitalist system into an economy that is in balance with the earth's limits, and in which jobs are designed to eliminate racial and gender inequality, agriculture is far more localized and ecologically based, and low-carbon sectors, such as care-giving, childcare, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media, flourish.
The signatories declare a belief in "energy democracy," in which energy sources are controlled by communities rather than "profit-gouging" private companies and call for an end to "all corporate trade deals" that interfere with attempts to build local economies and regulate corporations.
"What we are unequivocally saying with this document is that we won't leave our country's future and indeed the fate of the planet, our common home, to the politicians," Ms. Klein said.
A backgrounder to the manifesto released on Tuesday called "We can afford the leap" by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests ways to finance the green and social investment proposed in the manifesto.
Seth Klein, one of the authors of the backgrounder, said it is feasible to shift spending from traditional infrastructure to "new" infrastructure.
"As a country, we already spend billions on infrastructure every year, but we spend it accommodating cars and facilitating the extraction and export of fossil fuels," he said. "David [Suzuki] and I come from British Columbia. We're about to spend $3-billion to replace a bridge so that ships carrying U.S. thermal coal can get up the Fraser River."
It recommends diverting the funds used for fossil fuel extraction (roads, bridges and energy infrastructure) to green energy and social infrastructure – health care, education, social housing and childcare.
The backgrounder says that by introducing a national carbon tax at $200 per tonne, for example, more than $80-billion can be raised.
Ms. Klein said she wrote a draft of the manifesto and presented it to 60 labour activists and environmental executives last May in Toronto. From there, a working team was created to re-write it based on continuous feedback from other individuals and groups.
"The finished draft bears no resemblance to the first draft, which I think speaks to the fact that this was a genuinely collective process," Ms. Klein said.
She said the manifesto is a way to put pressure on a potential coalition government, which, based on recent polls, is a likely outcome of the Oct. 19 federal election.
"Having an outside pressure from Canadians saying: 'This is the direction we want you to take the country,' has potential to be particularly powerful, because a coalition government is going to be searching for its mandate to some degree or another."
She stressed the urgent need for Canadians to sign the manifesto and to take action against climate change.
"We cannot have a political class in this country floundering around for another four or five years," she said. "We just don't have the time."
Other manifesto signatories include actors Ellen Page, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Polley, Pamela Anderson and Donald Sutherland, singers Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young, Gord Downie, Sarah Harmer and Leonard Cohen, novelists Michael Ondaatje and Joseph Boyden, anti-free trade activist Maude Barlow, artist Robert Bateman and film director Patricia Rozema.
With a report from the Canadian Press
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Greenpeace campaigner Keith Stewart read the manifesto aloud.