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We’re on Patreon

The Green Economy Heroes podcast is free, but making it isn’t. The guests and I contribute our time for free, but I do have to pay the recording engineer and hosting fees. Please help us keep the podcast going, by becoming a patron at https://www.patreon.com/GreenEconomyHeroes.

Dianne Saxe Green Economy Heroes podcast
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Climate animations

If you want to see excellent, short and amusing climate animations, Katharine Hayhoe has made 60 available for free: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi6RkdaEqgRVKi3AzidF4ow

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Do not rollback the carbon price

To those arguing for a rollback of the carbon price, this is why I strongly disagree:

1. Steady predictable increases in the carbon price, as scheduled, are essential to its effectiveness and to investors’ ability to plan.

2. Those who oppose strong action on the climate crisis always have a reason to delay. When oil prices are high, they say people can’t afford a carbon price on top. In many ways, the easiest time to have a carbon price is when oil prices are lower than expected.

3. Government is spending a huge amount of money now, building up debt that will have to be paid back by today’s young people. They are the ones whose lives are going to be most severely affected by the increasing instability of our climate driven by global heating and fossil fuel use. They deserve strong action to transition to a green economy, with cleaner air, better air quality, better public health, and a better chance of surviving the climate crisis.

4. We now know that those with compromised immune systems are much more vulnerable to the pandemic. In the same way, those with compromised ecosystems will be much more vulnerable to the climate crisis, which is still gathering steam. This month, we have already broken last year’s record-breaking peak of CO2 in the atmosphere, and its still going up. In much of the world, the Economist calls this “The year without a winter”. Have we already forgotten the fires in Australia? And the floods all over the world?

5. Rebuilding after a catastrophe like the pandemic gives us a precious opportunity to build back better and cleaner, with much less use of fossil fuels, rather than rebuilding old industries and other old patterns that are destroying the natural systems on which our lives depend.

6. Canada’s oil and gas industry creates a huge amount of climate pollution for every single job, while exploring for and producing some of the dirtiest oil in the world. Many more jobs can be produced for the same amount of investment, with large social benefits, by focussing on energy efficiency retrofits of buildings, clean transportation, and clean sources of energy. Most of the oil sands resource should be left in the ground until it can be used without causing more climate pollution. 

7. Alberta has some of the best wind resource in the world, and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan have the best solar resource of anywhere in Canada. They can and should continue to be our energy powerhouse, but taxpayers should not bail out oil and gas.

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Some updates

Dear friends,

As you may have noticed, I’m giving even more climate talks now than I did as the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, with no staff to help me. The public response is amazing, thank you – see some comments in the Testimonials.

Lost my voice two weeks ago and have given at least 11 talks since then plus many media interviews and meetings. So I only occasionally manage to update this webpage, but got some new events posted today.

Also, if I’m slow in responding to tweets, emails, etc.: I am doing as much as I can. Feel free to keep trying until you reach me. November is a very busy month; December may be quieter.
Thank you very much to everyone for your support and kind words. I could not keep going without them.

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Youth Climate Action Summit is a go for Sept. 22

What: Youth Climate Action Summit

When: Sunday, September 22, 2019 from 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Where: Friends Meeting House, 60 Lowther Avenue, Toronto (near St. George Station)

Who should attend?  Young climate leaders (approximately ages 16-22), whether you’re an experienced leader or just starting to think about organizing in your school or community.

Why should you attend? To get inspired, to build your skills, and to build your network.

More than ever, youth in Canada are raising their voices to bring awareness to the climate crisis. But how can young people get their voices listened to in the halls of power? Join us in Toronto to develop your skills as a climate activist and advocate in youth community.

Register now at YouthClimateActionSummit.eventbrite.ca.

We’ll start with an opening panel. Youth will then choose between workshops on embodied personal leadership (Satya Robinson and Jon Love),  Civil disobedience and the law (Marlys Edwardh), How climate impacts health and how to talk about it (Jan Kasperski), Ask me about climate science (Prof. William Gough) and How to talk effectively to government and media (Don Huff, President of ECO Strategy). Followed by a rousing conclusion and a solutions fair.

Thank you so much to everyone who volunteered to help, and to our generous sponsors, Indigo and Bullfrog!

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Youth climate action summit

Do you have a skill that young climate leaders need? Are you willing to teach it in a free 90 minute workshop?

Together with Climate Fast and the Sandbox Project, The Children’s Advocate, Irwin Elman, and I are organizing a Youth Climate Action Summit the afternoon of Sunday, September 22 in mid Toronto as part of Climate Week. The summit will offer support and skills training to Ontario‘s young climate leaders.

If you would like to offer a workshop, please send a paragraph describing who you are and what you would teach to merayner@sandboxproject.ca. The climate strikers will choose which workshops they would like to have. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you. #climatecrisis

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Why is Elections Canada preventing environmental charities from telling the truth about the climate crisis during this fall’s election, where it is a critical issue?

Why is Elections Canada preventing environmental charities from telling the truth about the climate crisis during this fall’s election, where it is a critical issue?

Elections Canada’s job is to run elections that are fair and trustworthy, so that the government chosen will have a legitimate right to govern.  But Elections Canada is reducing the trust Canadians can have in this fall’s election by improperly silencing public outreach by environmental charities.

The October 21 election will be Canada’s first under a new version of the Canada Elections Act. The Act was amended in December, to “improve Canadians’ trust and confidence in Canada’s electoral system”, and to prohibit foreign entities from spending to influence elections. After the blatant foreign interference in the 2016 US federal election, there were good reasons for Canada to take precautions. 

The problem is this. Elections Canada is muzzling public outreach by charities about the climate crisis, just when it is more urgent than ever for the public to understand it.

How are they doing that? Under Canadian law, charities are allowed a certain amount of “political activities” but cannot engage in “partisan activities”. The Canada Elections Act clearly defines the difference, a difference that Elections Canada is ignoring.

Partisan activities” (which charities cannot do, whether an election is on or not) are about parties and candidates, not about public policy. This is clearly defined in the Canada Elections Act. For example:

section 349: partisan activity means an activity, including canvassing door-to-door, making telephone calls to electors and organizing rallies, that is carried out by a third party — a person or group other than a political party that is registered under an Act of a province — and that promotes or opposes a registered party or eligible party or the election of a potential candidate, nomination contestant, candidate or leader of a registered party or eligible party, otherwise than by taking a position on an issue with which any such party or person is associated. It does not include election advertising… 

In contrast, “political activities” (which charities can do, whether an election is on or not) are about public policy. This includes policy advocacy or communications aimed at changing hearts and minds with respect to a cause (such as poverty or the climate crisis) and its causes and remedies. These activities make a valuable contribution to public policy development in Canada. In the landmark case, Canada Without Poverty v. AG Canada, 2018 ONSC 4147 (CanLII), the Superior Court of Ontario recognized the “imperative that charities fully engage, not minimally engage, in various forms of public advocacy.” Policy advocacy is protected by the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of expression, and is essential to achieving many charitable purposes. For example, poverty, like the climate crisis, cannot be solved by individual action alone. Giving someone a handout, or an LED bulb, will never be enough without broader government action.

During an election, election advertising (which is specifically excluded from “partisan activities”, see s. 349) is a type of political activity that charities and other third parties are permitted to do. This includes adsthat take a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated. If they spend more than $500,charities must register and report to Elections Canada about their paid “election advertising”. The cost and administrative burden of this registration and recordkeeping discourages some charities, but there is a legitimate public purpose for it.

What’s new and dangerous is this: because Max Bernier and his party are climate deniers, Elections Canada now insists that factual assertions about climate science and policy are “partisan”. If we get a Flat Earth party, will gravity and the shape of the world become “partisan”? Would an anti-vaxxer party make medical science “partisan”?

This is nonsense, and directly contrary to the explicit definitions in the Canada Elections Act. But Canada’s charities are hypersensitive to any accusation of being “partisan”, because so many of them were harassed and exhausted by the 60 “Political Activity Audits” that Stephen Harper launched in 2012. Harper had Revenue Canada spend millions of dollars of public funds to put (especially) environmental charities under the microscope, perhaps in the hope of blunting their opposition to oil pipelines. The years of exhaustive audits scared off donors but found nothing of importance. (One anti-poverty group lost its charitable registration but won in court, which ruled that the revocation of their charitable registration for “political activities” (trying to pressure governments to take action on poverty) was a breach of their Charter right to freedom of expression.[i]The “political activities” restriction on charitable activities was entirely revoked December 31, 2018.)

I wrote this article because two charities told me that Elections Canada specifically warned them that factual assertions about climate were “partisan.” They tell me that this warning was given both orally and in a webinar. The Canadian Press reported the same assertion. Elections Canada now denies it had ever suggested that factual assertions about climate are partisan, although there is no explicit disavowal in the Chief Electoral Officer’s public statement. The Chief Electoral Officer should clearly state, in writing, that paid advertising and other communications to the public are not “partisan activities” or “partisan advertising.”

The difference between “partisan” and “political” may not be obvious to the average person, but it is not new, and should not be hard for Elections Canada to tell apart. As the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, I was also required to be non-partisan (i.e. not supporting or opposed to any political party or candidates), but not neutral on public policy or public outreach. It was not hard to see the difference.

Elections Canada’s unwarranted insistence that climate science and policy are “partisan” is already damaging this election. At least one place of worship has pulled out of hosting an all-candidates’ environmental debate. Leading environmental charities, like Environmental Defence, have decided they can’t take the chance and have bowed out of paid public outreach on climate until after the election. With provincial governments, like Ontario, nowhere to be found on the climate crisis, that leaves climate deniers free to peddle statements that are misleading or false, while muzzling those who devote their lives to what is accurate. How can the public make an informed choice when the most trustworthy sources of (non-partisan) information are silenced?

This is an outrage.

This article was first published on The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/why-is-elections-canada-stopping-charities-from-talking-about-the-climate-crisis-122114


[i]Until December 31, 2018, charities were required to monitor and provide a quantitative reporting of all their political activities to Revenue Canada, to prove that they were not spending more than 10% of their funds on political activities. This 10% limit was ruled unconstitutional in Canada Without Poverty v. AG Canada, 2018 ONSC 4147 (CanLII)

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100 Environmental Debates Oct. 7

On October 7th, 2019, 100 all-candidate Debates on the Environment will be taking place in ridings across the country. These debates, which are being hosted by local organizations and leaders across sectors, offer a non-partisan forum to bring voters together in their communities to hear candidates’ best policy ideas for the environment. All major parties are invited. RSVP or get involved to show our elected leaders that the environment is a priority that no party can ignore.

Coordinated, issue-based, environmental debates have never been held on this scale in Canada. If successful, they will generate enough attention to impact voter and party priorities. 

Organizers represent a wide range of sectors, including faith-based groups, secondary and post-secondary institutions, youth-led groups, physicians, businesses and community groups, with the coordinating support of GreenPAC, Canada’s non-partisan organization to build environmental leadership in politics. 

Debates will be streamed on Facebook Live and collectively shared after debate day so voter’s can hold elected leaders accountable to their commitments.

Each debate will include 4 common questions on critical environmental topics: climate change, water, wilderness conservation and toxics/pollution.

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Horrifying human rights report should shame Ontario government

Horrifying UN Human Rights Council report delivered June 28 on the impact of our #ClimateEmergency: “We have reached a point where the best-case outcome is widespread #death and suffering by the end of this century, and the worst-case puts humanity on the brink of #extinction.” Para. 59 That’s during the lifetime of today’s children.

“States, politicians, and corporations have consistently used bad economic arguments to stall climate action. Various governments have argued that it would alter markets, threaten economic growth, harm citizens’ way of life, and kill jobs. This is a cynical and short-sighted approach.” Para. 38

Sound familiar? If this doesn’t make you furious, why not? How much worse do we want it to get before we do something?

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No, Ontario hasn’t already done enough

A reader writes: “Is everyone as confused as I am?
Is it true that Ontario is doing better than the ‘rest of Canada’ since 2005? Emissions down 22%?”

Dear faithful reader,

Thank you so much for asking. Ontario is a big emitter, and has done one important thing right. We have a long way to go.

2005 is a convenient baseline for this claim, because Ontario’s climate pollution was its very worst in 2005. Strong action by the Liberal government (including many policies that the current government has cancelled) did bring it down by 22%, while emissions grew substantially in Alberta. 

Why?