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Rachel Notely, the NDP Premier of Alberta, is pro-pipeline and fought against her party's passage of a resolution to consider fighting for a 100% renewable economy in Canada. (Photo: Codie McLachlan/Canadian Press)

Canada's Progressive Party to Consider Radical 'Leap' to Green Economy

In wake of massive job losses from oil price crash, NDP launches nationwide debates about Naomi Klein's call to swiftly transition Canada to a green economy

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Canada's leftist New Democratic Party on Sunday passed a resolution to "recognize and support" the Leap Manifesto, a campaign launched in 2015 by Naomi Klein and over 200 interested parties, included Indigenous rights, labor, and social justice groups, calling on Canada's leaders to transition the country to 100% renewable energy.

"The manifesto calls for dramatic change, urging a swift transition away from fossil fuels, a rejection of new pipelines, and an upending of the capitalist system on which the economy is based," as the Globe and Mail writes.

"Climate scientists have told us this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer suffice," the manifesto reads. "So we need to leap."

The NDP resolution is not an adoption of the manifesto itself; instead, the party's resolution will launch a series of district-level debates about the manifesto across Canada.

"The NDP resolution was passed at a [party] convention in Alberta," write members of Leap Manifesto organizing team in a press statement. "It was the result of a difficult debate underscored by very real fears and anxieties after 75,000 workers have been laid off by the oil and gas industry since the oil price crash. The Leap Manifesto is a roadmap to create a massive number of jobs in low-carbon sectors and the next renewable economy."

The organizers quoted a particular section of the manifesto that describes and calls for the creation of green economy jobs:

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.

The organizers also directed interested parties to read their argument showing how shedding Canada's reliance on fossil fuels would be a boon to the country's economy.

Such arguments appeared to fall on deaf ears among members of the NDP party in Alberta, who were not pleased with the passage of the resolution and feared it would damage them politically in the largely conservative, pro-oil heart of Canada's tar sands industry.

"I'm spitting angry," said Alberta labor leader Gil McGowan to the CBC. "These downtown Toronto political dilettantes come to Alberta and track their garbage across our front lawn."

Alberta's NDP Premier Rachel Notley "spoke out against the manifesto during the weekend," the CBC reported. A member of Alberta's far-right Wildrose party called the resolution "radical" in an interview with the broadcaster, while McGowan described it as a "poison pill."

Naomi Klein highlighted Notley's changing tune since her 2015 election, when she promised to scale back support for oil and gas pipelines.

Outside of Alberta, however, over two dozen local NDP chapters drafted their own resolutions calling on the national party to adopt the manifesto, the Globe and Mail reported.

And despite the fervent opposition from the party's Albertan contingent, the resolution narrowly passed.

NDP party members in Alberta are so unhappy with the resolution that on Monday some stated that they are considering splitting from the federal branch of the party. Notley told the Calgary Sun that she will not leave the federal party but said she believed the manifesto was "naive," "ill-informed," and "tone-deaf."

The passage of the resolution was celebrated, however, by party members around Canada and on social media by environmentalists and social justice activists worldwide.

The Leap Manifesto organizers were heartened by the NDP's resolution, but also reminded supporters that there is still much work to be done:

We do not yet have emission reduction plans that are in line with the temperature targets the Trudeau government championed in the Paris Accord. We continue to allow our country to be divided over ugly pipeline battles — the infrastructure of the past — rather than moving as rapidly as possible to a fully renewable economy, with all the good jobs that would go along with it. First Nations communities continue to be confronted with high-risk and polluting infrastructure projects on their land, without their consent.

With the new budget the government has reneged on its campaign promise to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. And they recently signed the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the first step towards implementing a trade deal that would open Canada’s government to legal challenges from corporations threatened by climate action.

Despite making strides in welcoming refugees fleeing war in Syria, we are alarmed by the federal government’s continued practice of draconian detentions and deportation of migrants. And though there is much political talk of “reconciliation” with First Nations, Indigenous nations still face scandalous inequities and lack of recognition of their rights.

The Leap Manifesto currently has over 35,000 signatories and invites supporters to join the movement.

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