RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Excerpt: "Among other crimes, Stephen Harper shredded environmental protections, re-fashioned our country as a petro-state, and made us climate criminals on the world stage. Now after the ugliest decade in recent Canadian memory, he is gone at last. So why are we not breathing more easily?"

Canada's new prime minister Justin Trudeau. (photo: Jim Young/Reuters)
Canada's new prime minister Justin Trudeau. (photo: Jim Young/Reuters)

The False Prophet Trudeau

By Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, The Daily Beast

25 October 15


Many environmentalists rejoiced when Stephen Harper’s government was thrown out of office in Canada. But Justin Trudeau is no savior.

ur inboxes runneth over with congratulations from American friends. “Pleasure to be able to look north without wincing,” “we’re all thrilled to have regained our sensible neighbors to the north,” “Goodbye Stephen ‘Keystone XL’ Harper.”  And then there was this from England: “you now officially have the hottest Prime Minister EVER!”

Like us, our friends tend to spend a lot of time thinking about climate change, so you can understand their euphoria. Among other crimes, Stephen Harper shredded environmental protections, re-fashioned our country as a petro-state, and made us climate criminals on the world stage. Now after the ugliest decade in recent Canadian memory, he is gone at last.

So why are we not breathing more easily?

Perhaps it’s because of a few things we learned about our new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, during the election—details that didn’t exactly make national news south of the border.

Trudeau consistently lambasted Harper for failing to sell the Obama Administration on Keystone XL. His campaign co-chair was caught advising oil industry execs on how to win quick approval from the new government for the biggest proposed tar sands pipeline in Canada. And Trudeau himself waved off questions about specific emissions cuts by saying, “what we need is not ambitious political targets.”

Granted, there are also some potentially positive signs from our new PM: his promise to run deficits for three years as he spends billions on infrastructure could, if executed with real imagination and integrity, start Canada on the road to a post-carbon economy. And under Trudeau, Canada is less likely to be a belligerent, obstructionist force at the UN climate talks in Paris next month.

But that just puts Trudeau in the same camp as most heads of state heading to Paris—and it hardly deserves to be described “leadership.” The fact is that politicians, because of their need for approval (both personal and political) consistently cling to the fantasy of an “all of the above” energy policy, which essentially means saying yes to more renewables, but refusing to say a clear “no” to opening up new fossil fuel frontiers.

So while Barack Obama makes climate his great legacy, with EPA regulations on coal plant emissions and fuel efficiency standards, he continues to authorize a historic gush of domestic gas and oil production. Angela Merkel presides over an impressive energy transition towards renewables, but has done little to curtail coal. Even California Governor Jerry Brown, despite recently signing one of the world’s strongest clean energy targets into law, can’t bring himself to say no to fracking—even in the middle of a devastating drought. None of this will get our emissions down quickly enough to avert further climate disaster.

But that does not mean that the world is without visionary climate leadership—on the contrary. In the five years it took to make our documentary, This Changes Everything, we met with and learned from scores of climate leaders, people willing to say “no” to dirty infrastructure no matter what economic enticements were on offer, while actively building the post-carbon future, right now. We found these figures not in houses of government, but embedded in communities that are on the frontlines of both fossil fuel extraction and climate impacts. And what they showed us has filled us with hope.

In the United States, thanks to powerful new coalitions of indigenous, rancher and urban communities from the Powder River Basin to the Pacific Northwest, a vast new export network of coal mines, railroads and export terminals has been stalled for years.

Thanks to a parallel movement north of the border, led by First Nations from Alberta’s tar sands region to the British Columbia coast, not a single new major pipeline has broken ground. And in a number of those Indigenous communities, solar projects are sprouting like sunflowers.

Thanks to the fossil fuel divestment movement, institutions representing $2.6 trillion in capital have pledged to pull out of fossil fuels, and the global investment community is inexorably moving towards renewables.

And thanks to courageous anti-coal movements in India and surging protests against pollution in China, those governments are being pushed to embrace stronger climate policies—and consequently, our narrative about these major developing economies is changing. It’s clear in the Global North, we can no longer use China and India as an excuse to let ourselves off the hook.

But these victories are not enough. People power can stop big dirty projects and start small clean ones. But for a true transition—on the scale and with the urgency that climate science demands—we need policies.  Big, bold, ambitious policies that can transform our economies on a deadline. And we need them at every level of government, from municipal to national to international.

To get there, throwing out fossil fuel-addicted governments won’t be enough. Even electing progressive leaders won’t be enough. It will take a combination of electoral change and pressure (as well as vision) from below to disperse the smog of Big Carbon’s influence that shrouds our political systems.

And that means we need policies that will galvanize huge numbers of people—people who see direct benefits in advocating such transformative change. That’s the only way we will build the massive constituencies necessary to exert sufficient pressure on governments.

All of this is why, in anticipation of our recent change in government, we helped launch The Leap Manifesto in Canada. Written and endorsed by a broad spectrum of social movements—from First Nations and green groups, migrant rights and anti-poverty campaigners, big labor and small business—The Leap is a set of policy demands that could get us off fossil fuels and shift us to an economy based on caring for the earth and each other. It’s a vision of our country that we think has mass appeal.

It calls for massive new public investments in low-carbon housing and transit, no new fossil fuel infrastructure, a shift to 100% renewable energy for electricity in two decades (which dozens of Canadian experts have said is entirely doable) and a totally clean economy by 2050.

In demanding that we respond to the climate crisis in a way that benefits the majority, the Leap Manifesto re-defines the whole concept of green jobs. They’re not just guys with hardhats putting up wind turbines: they’re the backbone of the entire existing low-carbon economy. Health care, education, daycare, long-term care, the arts and public interest media are all low-carbon activities that need to be re-funded and revived after decades of neglect and endless cuts.

Most importantly, the Leap Manifesto calls for justice in the way we transition off fossil fuels.  In other words, the communities who had the worst deal in the extractive, polluting economy should be first in line for the clean jobs and renewed social support of the next, clean economy. That means implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and respecting treaty rights. That means welcoming many more migrants and refugees to our privileged shores, acknowledging Canada’s role in the wars, trade deals and climate crisis that are collectively driving people from their lands around the world. It means a coherent policy approach that addresses multiple crises at the same time.

Granted, this is not the kind of platform that emerges from the narrow box of what mainstream politicians consider pragmatic. And that’s a good thing, because we don’t need more tweaks to a broken status quo. We need to expand what is possible, stretch our political imagination, speak to the deepest aspirations of citizens, and offer a truly inspiring vision of the kind of countries we want to live in.

And it seems that many others agree. We were stunned by the outpouring of support when the manifesto was launched. Almost thirty thousand signatures, and a star-studded initial signatories list, including Canadian celebrities (people—it’s not an oxymoron!) from Leonard Cohen and Neil Young to Ellen Page and Donald Sutherland. People started asking us for Leap lawn signs. Most satisfyingly, right wing pundits went crazy. Former media baron Conrad Black wrote three columns about our modest proposal, which was also excoriated in editorials in our national newspapers—both of which went on to endorse Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, proving just how out of step the establishment is with the public at large.

And that was really the point. The manifesto has highlighted the inspiration gap between what is on offer in elections, and the deep change so many of us know is required in the face of multiple overlapping crises. It was a clear rejection of the shortcomings of a system that encourages us to wake up, vote, and go back to sleep. To wait for saviors.

So by all means, admire our new Prime Minister in his shirtless, boxing-gloved glory. We are grateful to be rid of the most destructive government in modern memory. And we will not be churlish—we’ll endeavor to enjoy our Obama Lite moment.

But we are also determined to learn from your experience. We remember what happened when progressives de-mobilized after Obama was elected and we won’t make the same mistake. Instead, a huge and growing movement of Canadians is determined to give our young prime minister the best gift any new government can receive: relentless pressure from below. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+39 # Activista 2015-10-25 12:13
... good analysis ... but " a vast new export network of coal mines, railroads and export terminals has been stalled for years."
see daily trains with like hundred of rail cars carrying crude oil to Everett/Seattle for export (China) - from East to West - this oil exploration in the USA is NOT for domestic consumption, but for profit.
+32 # Activista 2015-10-25 12:21
"We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities."
we need a change ..
+14 # rradiof 2015-10-25 13:48
I agree whole-heartedly with the content, but I thought I was going to read a critique of Monsieur Trudeau. Instead, I got an infomercial for Naomi's documentary, which I recommend to everyone. Over and out.
+6 # kalpal 2015-10-25 14:27
Any chance he will be allowed to prove himself? Nah, why wait before condemning him?
0 # goodsensecynic 2015-10-31 11:15
Anyone who has followed Trudeau-the-You nger's brief career will know that he is what he is - a "Liberal" by name and a "liberal" by nature. That means that he will campaign from the left and govern from the right.

Mr. Trudeau's positions are wholly acceptable to the corporate power structure, while softly progressive-sou nding and reassuring to voters who are vaguely pro-environment , pro-equity and pro-peace and freedom.

Mr. Trudeau is the soft side of the coinage of social control. He is capitalism with a human face.

In many respects he reminds me of Mr. Obama in his earlier, fresher years ... full of that "hopey-changey- thingie" (which was, as I recall, Sarah bin-Palin's one and only clever line).
+38 # lorenbliss 2015-10-25 14:33
Good analysis -- except for the fact Ms. Klein and Mr. Lewis make a grave and profoundly misleading error in their last paragraph:

"We remember what happened when progressives de-mobilized after Obama was elected and we won’t make the same mistake."

USian progressives did not "demobilize" after the election of Obama the Orator in 2008. We were instead silenced, first by shock, then by brute force.

The shock was inflicted by the Orator's instantaneous, pre-inaugural shape-shift into Barack the Betrayer and our dawning realization "change we can believe in" was the most brazen Big Lie in U.S. presidential history. The Betrayer's use of brute force followed our effort to re-mobilize as the Occupy Movement -- the chief lesson of which is that what we in the U.S. knew as "democracy" is as dead as John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Let us sincerely hope Canada's young Mr. Trudeau does not plan to follow in the tactical and strategic footsteps of the most self-servingly malicious habitual liar ever to occupy the White House -- worse even than Richard Milhous Nixon.

(Not even Nixon was so Orwellian as to label food-stamp cutbacks a means of "making sure children don't go hungry." But that's precisely what Barack the Big Liar did, for which see )
+1 # Jump Off Joe 2015-10-25 14:44
I'm curious what the Leap Manifesto's ideas are for "low carbon transportation" . Will they endorse second rate ideas e.g. buses, light rail, and "hybrid" autos, or will they look at computerized, driverless, electric vehicles (a good solution, but only second best, following PRT, Persnal Rapid Transportation?)

Hell, I'll even be impressed if they are able to start restoring those old-fashioned, but pretty darn low carbon, electric streetcars/trol ley-cars, along with zoning laws requiring "transportation oriented development".

By the way, so-called "hybrid cars" are NOT hybrid unless they are plugin hybrids. Other "hybrids" are powered exclusively by gas or diesel, so the term "hybrid" is a mere marketing ploy.
+5 # djnova50 2015-10-25 17:02
Joe, technically a hybrid is called a hybrid because it has both an ICE and an electric motor. There are different types of hybrids, the serial hybrid and the parallel hybrid. In essence,the Prius is a parallel hybrid. I drive a 2005 Prius. When I first got it, I was using tricks to maximize the mileage. Now, I just drive it. It's nice to only get gas once a month and put in less than 9 gallons at a time.
0 # Jump Off Joe 2015-10-26 04:13
Thanks, djnova; I'm aware of how they work. But thanks for edifying me; I've always considered hybrids as having two or more fuel sources. If hybrid only means a vehicle has multiple engine/motor types, then standard railroad trains are being pulled by hybrid locomotives :) and I suppose my 1956 Ford was a hybrid since it has an ICE and a battery. The battery could power the vehicle-albeit slowly-using the starter motor. Same for my 1949 Plymouth, 1961 Ford, 1952 Chevy, and 1969 Toyota. After that, the dumb cars' starter motors were disabled when the clutch pedal wasn't on the floor. This makes it impossible to drive a car out of deep water with the starter motor when the ICE won't run due to wet distributor, coil, etc.

But it saves us from ourselves...
+23 # elizabethblock 2015-10-25 15:09
We in Canada are delighted at the end of Harper; the election really was a referendum on him. But now we have to get to work, letting our new government know what we want.
Never forget that progressive politicians - and there are progressive Liberal MPs - need to know that their constituents support them. They need ammunition to take into caucus to argue their case against the regressive Liberals.
+27 # reiverpacific 2015-10-25 15:09
The best way to get renewables on the front burner and polluting sources on the back then off, is to elect the First Nations peoples of both countries to the EPA and Canada's equivalent.
They've know about this spiral of destruction since the Wasicu invaded their lands -they didn't recognize ownership as such but stewardship-.
You might get some sustainable results then!
But that would require a measure of honesty and self-appraisal from "Western" politicians that they're not ready for yet, or maybe until it's too late, as in the Cree Prophesy (and yes, I repeat myself): "Only after the last TREE has been cut down, only after the last RIVER has been poisoned, only after the last FISH has been caught, only THEN will you discover that MONEY cannot be eaten".
This should be made into a huge banner and flown beside every nation's flag in Paris, and/or made into millions of pamphlets to be dropped en masse during the meeting.
+7 # Lucretius 2015-10-25 15:30
Ride on!
+10 # Lucretius 2015-10-25 15:29
As Ms. Klein herself points out in this article, it is "surging people's movements" and that have caused change in China and other countries. The same holds true for Canada, the US and every other country in the world.

The article is worthy as climate change is the top and only issue except for nuclear war on the agenda. And at least Trudeau is withdrawing from Syria. This allows people to concentrate more on climate change than anti-war efforts. So Trudeau is helping the movement be unified on this theme.

No candidate in the worldwide monied system can get into office without backers. But article is a siren call to pressue Trudeau now. So let's see if Canadians do so and continue growing their movement.

Hat's off to Native people's of Canada taking the lead.
0 # brando 2015-10-27 13:36
The most sensible perspective I've heard about climate. Freeman Dyson
+3 # Floe 2015-10-25 15:39
I don't see the point of changing policies when we remain in a Capitalistic, exploitation-re warding system. We have to at least build another system and not worry at all about this stupid one we're in now.
+15 # Jim Rocket 2015-10-25 15:42
There is much joy and relief here in the maybe-not-froze n-this-year north. Harper's ruthless, Machiavellian and successful ways have been unstoppable for 15 years. A lot of us didn't dare hope that the wheels would fall off his negative manipulation machine which is exactly what happened. The sane conservative voters woke up as well as everyone else and no one should be surprised that surrounding yourself with mediocre, nasty people would be unsustainable in the long run. Chomsky has said that demagogues are usually brought down by their own greed and if one should come along who was not personally greedy they could be very dangerous. Harper is such a person in that he's not in it for the money but he seems to be driven by a form of egomania.

Klein and Lewis are right to be wary, though. The Liberal Party is naturally pro-corporate and Trudeau was in favor of the Keystone XL. People will have to stay vigilant to keep them on track. Some great signs are that voter turnout was large, the youth vote is way up as well as the aboriginal vote. Several groups that coalesced around defeating Harper are realigning their goals to push for other things rather than just shut down.

I must say it does feel great to see a pair of mens shoes sticking out from under the house in munchkin land. Let's hope Bernie can achieve the same thing in the US.
0 # Jim Rocket 2015-10-25 16:07
If you're interested, here's an article on the aboriginal vote in the Canadian election:
+2 # keenon the truth 2015-10-25 21:55
Let's say a pair of grown-ups' shoes! Smile!
0 # brando 2015-10-27 13:34
Bernie Sanders voting record. LOOK IT UP.
After Obama you should all know talk is cheap. Find out how Bernie votes, let us know.
+5 # Dongi 2015-10-25 20:47
Canadian progressives are coming on strong. They are showing us here in the United States the way to recovery and reform. Granted that we have a lot of kooks in the Republican Pafrty to overcome with their murderous addiction to money but we can do it by working our butts off to elect Bernie. Save America and save the planet. Vote for Sanders.
-1 # brando 2015-10-27 13:33
Bernie Sanders voting record. LOOK IT UP.
After Obama you should all know talk is cheap. Find out how Bernie votes.
0 # RobertMStahl 2015-10-26 11:12
The Grand Unified Theory of Classical Physics, complete, 100% accurate, all based on physical LAWS (not that laws have mattered, lately, (ever? reality, then?)), or GUTCP. Then, there is the Suncell (TM) which would make news if the real story got out! It is almost all photo-voltaic with the discovery about the unique chemistry of dark matter, or hydrogen "going dark" that releases the same white light SIGNATURE as the white light of the Sun, mistaken for millions of degrees hotter than the sun's surface (actually, about the same). Again, it is the only discovery by mankind that supplies more than ample concentration of light to "fire up" the most advanced photo-voltaic transformers, or PVs that can convert high concentrations of light if supplied. Furthermore, the reaction of such a large burst of light from hydrogen reduces the size of the reaction, or its volume, so, it shrinks while emitting light for 5 milliseconds or so.. (easy peasy). Lastly, the reaction releases nothing but white light and is self propagating in this nano-dimension of application. That spells, c h e a p .
-1 # brando 2015-10-27 13:32
Bernie Sanders voting record. LOOK IT UP.
After Obama you should all know talk is cheap. Find out how Bernie votes.

The most sensible perspective I've heard about climate. Freeman Dyson

DO what you can. Save yourself some money, drive less walk / bike more, wear a sweater drink hot tea / water to keep warmer. You get the idea - conserve both energy and your cash!

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.