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What we need is a giant leap forward

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Just when I thought I couldn't bear one more word of politics after listening to a revolting panel of so-called political strategists on my favourite radio show The Current, I was revived by a smart, diverse, powerful group of people reading the Leap Manifesto in downtown Toronto. 

I participated in the process of writing the Leap Manifesto last Spring after a pan-Canadian gathering of activists called by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, where we discussed and struggled to create a diverse, cross-sectoral group to bring together the issues of climate change and social justice. I've been hearing about the importance of doing that for a long time but this time it seemed like it might actually happen. Most important was the leadership role Indigenous activists from every part of the country.

The Jobs, Justice Climate march in early July was the first product of that collaboration. The launch of The Leap Manifesto this morning took it to a whole other level. The document itself is bold, poetic and visionary. Avi's film This Changes Everything, which I saw at TIFF,  takes it a step further by beautifully showing us how ordinary people around the globe are standing up to climate destruction and taking their future into their hands. The film argues that we have to change the story and The Leap begins to do that:

"We could live in a country powered entirely by truly just renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one anther and caring for the planet could be the economy's fastest growing sectors....We know that the time for this transition is short.. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.  We need to leap.”

Yes! "And the leap begins by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land." Indeed. And then my favourite part:

"We declare that 'austerity' -- which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and health care while starving public transit and reckless energy privatizations is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth." 

I guess it's no surprise that I love this manifesto but what's amazing is who else loves it. Just launched this morning an extraordinary array of organizations and individuals including celebrities like Leonard Cohen who almost never sign anything have signed on already.

After the moving reading of the document for the TV cameras, Naomi asked the media not to focus on partisan questions by saying: "The Leap Manifesto is not supporting any of the political parties. No matter who the next government is, they will need to be pressured to take the Leap."  By the time of the election, we hope to have enough signatures that no government can ignore it. 

As usual Stephen Lewis took it to the next level: "In 10 days' time the UN will debate development goals.  The Leap Manifesto will be circulated among all the countries of the UN and will influence the debate....If I may be parochial without being political, whoever gets elected on October 19, this manifesto provides an agenda that allows Canada to become a leader in the world once again."

Paul Moist, President of CUPE, said it would be circulated to all the leaders of public sector unions around the Globe in preparation of the Climate Conference in Paris.   Maude Barlow said it was already in the hands of her members who would circulate it across Canada in every community.

What became clear this morning in the release of The Leap is that this document gives us a simple, easy to understand, visionary statement of the world we want and some steps on how we will get there.  It is not about one issue or another, it is about how we can save the planet from catastrophe while ensuring that those who have been most hurt by the colonization and exploitation of the past centuries will be lifted up in the process. It's what we've been waiting for. 

Poet George Elliott Clarke put it best:  "This is an apocalyptic moment. All you have to do is watch TV or go online to know that. The Leap Manifesto is a giant leap for humanity." 

This morning it felt like that was possible.  The Leap makes a start at talking about how all this would be achieved The panel itself was diverse representing the most important social movements in Canada today, and multiple generations of activists and artists. The Leap Manifesto is issued not only in English and French but in multiple languages including Indigenous languages, which I for one have never seen before. 

Yolen Bollo Kamara said "Black Lives Matter is so proud to be here. Such an amazing coalition of people are here to talk about these issues.  We are coming from different communities and have different spheres of influence.  We can spread the word everywhere."



Not only a vision, The Leap Manifesto begins to talk about how it might be achieved:

"We want a universal program to build energy-efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest-income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves. High-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country -- in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us."

The question of how all of would be financed was taken care of with an excellent document called We Can Afford the Leap  by the CCPA.  Lawyer Clayton Ruby also answered: "If I buy a tube of toothpaste, I pay a transaction tax but if I am a billionaire and I buy shares I don't pay a transaction tax." There's lots of money if we have the political will to tax it.

As David Suzuki said, "The climate and the economy are treated by the media as separate issues.  The climate is a massive economic issue."

Of course not all the questions are answered but The Leap Manifesto takes us to the level we need to be on and provides a vision of uniting a wide variety of issues under a common platform. This extraordinary achievement goes mostly to Naomi Klein and her vision in This Changes Everything and especially to her leadership in making sure that it happens. 

Judy Rebick? We should be so lucky. rabble.ca is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep Judy's stories coming.

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