Thank you Stephen Lewis

To read the original article in the Toronto Star, click on the above image …

At the age of 77, Stephen Lewis describes himself as being “happily in his dotage,” a man free to bare his soul and dispense with diplomatic niceties.

He did just that in Charlottetown last Friday. The one-time lion of the left unleashed a withering roar over eight years of Stephen Harper government that deserves to be moved from the relatively tiny confines of the Confederation Centre of the Arts and into a larger forum.

Lewis focused on five fronts of perhaps irreversible decline in this country, five only, because time did not allow him to get into all the factors that “scar my soul.”

The former Ontario NDP leader, United Nations ambassador and lifelong human rights advocate took aim at the “pre-paleolithic Neanderthals” in office and their role in the decline of Parliament, the suppression of dissent, the plight of First Nations, their blinkered climate-change policy and our plummeting world status.

There is no secret of the left-wing perspective from which Lewis comes. He borrowed the title of his speech, A Socialist Takes Stock, from his father David who delivered a similar cri de coeur some 60 years ago.

When he surveys the political scene today, he says he runs the emotional gamut from “rage to rage.”

But he is not alone. He joins a line of political elders who are taking increasingly harsh stock of this government’s performance.

Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark has spoken out about foreign policy, former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin has been an outspoken critic of aboriginal policy and former ministers in the Brian Mulroney government emerged to condemn the watering down of environmental regulations.

Lewis told the Symons Lecture on the future of confederation:

  • Canada’s world standing is in free fall.
  • The Harper government’s contempt for Parliament and its traditions has degraded political life and fostered voter cynicism.
  • Its attitude to aboriginals is not paternalistic, it is racist.
  • Harper’s refusal to join the rest of the world and move toward renewable energy sources is endangering future generations and contributing to a looming planetary meltdown.
  • Civil society and the ideas it fosters have been slapped down and censored, subverting democratic norms.

“There is a radical ideological agenda gripping this country,” Lewis said, “but it’s not the environmentalists or the other targeted groups committed to the quest for social justice; it’s the political leadership.”

We are channelling the years of Richard Nixon’s enemies list, Lewis says, adding the former U.S. president was driven by paranoia, Harper is driven by malevolence.

Lewis compared the atmosphere in Ottawa to that of the Ontario legislature where he served for 15 years, the William Davis years.

There was a respect in that chamber, he said, and that was respect was fostered by the premier.

“Vitriolic nastiness in debate does not breed respect,” he said,

“nor does adolescent partisanship, nor do pieces of legislation of encyclopedic length that hide contentious issues, nor does the sudden emergence of frenzied TV attack ads, nor does the spectre of a Prime Minister’s Office exercising authoritarian control.”

The government’s refusal to hold an inquiry on missing and murdered aboriginal women, its refusal to compromise with aboriginal leadership on the funding gap on First Nations education and its environmental standing that has sunk so low that we are seen as an impediment to a climate change accord in Paris next year, are all being watched around the world, said Lewis.

“It is as though Canada had decided, like some mindless national curmudgeon, to be a permanent outlier on issues of minority rights and women’s rights,” Lewis said.

“It does us damage. It does us shame.”

Of the “redundant” tarsands, Lewis says he is “hyperventilating for the day, when some Canadian politician has the courage to say: Leave it in the ground.”

Is this merely an overheated attack on a government that shares none of Lewis’s principles? An angry journey into nostalgia?

“Somewhere in my soul,” Lewis says, “I cherish the possibility of a return to a vibrant democracy, where equality is the watchword, where people of different ideological conviction have respect for each other, where policy is debated rather than demeaned, where the great issues of the day are given thoughtful consideration, where Canada’s place on the world stage is seen as principled and laudatory, where human rights for all is the emblem of a decent civilized society.”

He will be ignored by those in office. But his words should be studied by any who seek to govern going forward.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Twitter:@nutgraf1

The Gig Is Up Mr. Agent Orange

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The Gig Is Up Mr. Agent Orange

The foghorn blares into my foggy noggin.  Clawing at the fingers of sleep, I roll to my belly as the first thoughts surface in droplets of resistance.  I don’t need to inch back the curtain as I already know intimately the wall of pea soup on the other side.  My Maritime heart girds her resentment closer into her belly cave.  

The utter polarity of ocean-side beauty and brilliance is the miasma of gloom in Saint John on mornings when the heavens descend.  The vaporous sulphur steam chugging brume from over the bridge while the refinery films a nebula of doom along Bayside.  All in the name of what?  Tradition?  A tearing, a ripping at the vulnerability of our natural resources? I taste it in the water congealed air, hanging heads of hatred in cancerous resignation.  My head aches.

The rape by big oil men leaves me feeling like I live in a perpetually hostile domestic situ.  However, there are no police to call for help as the gild is steeped high in pockets of synthetic suits just beyond the shields, flack jackets and guns.  These are the men of murky smiles, soft hands, cold hearts and pink, white bodies with course hair like the fresh young piglets on the farm where I grew up.  This is the realm where runts survive with monied coddling by the Bank of Canada.

The league of Monsanto hangmen in ties is fading in favour of durable hemp clothing and pitchforks. The sickening concert of destruction is kneeling into it’s final tear stained crescendo.  It’s just not sustainable.  The whole system has sprung leaks from its exfoliated ethics on the tide of a river drenched in glyphosate.  The gig is up Mr. Agent Orange!  The white sage is lit and you’re being smoked out!

You can take your cancers dripping the dirge of your intent and steal away like Nazi wolves in your private jets.  All is converging into your suppressive vaccine steeped agenda dripping with mercurial oil from leaking pipelines and fracking shale lines trickling poison chemical water to the ocean of my restored heart; all in the name of a worn out fiat currency.  The time has come “Little Man.”*

I see you run for yet another Starbucks coffee full of GMO pasteurized milk from the lymphatic pus of animals kept inside a milking saloon, ankle deep in their own excrement, their infected utters doused once again in antibiotics.  You’re just so full of pitiable stop-gap measures!  Is this the glory of humanity that you wring every dollar from?  How do you possibly sleep at night on your synthetic mattresses with your cold trophies beside you?  Your maniacal manacles pinioned to the marble halls of your loveless marriage because you sold her to China.

I pick up the feather of the Raven and hold it, turn it in the wind, the fringe tightly woven organically, fanning the sage in the abalone shell.  Where are my people?  I stand alone, as always, deliciously tarnished, but healthy in body, mind, and soul. The protective She-Bear in me ready to construct the walls of her off-grid sun and wind-breathing mini-fortress.  It is August and I’m standing in 5 foot tall stalks of industrial hemp.  Every single acre will feed 12 of you piglets for a year, the runts for two, without an ounce sprayed from your noxious hose of pesticides.

The sun burns off the fog.  It’s mid-day, now, on the east coast of Canada.  I will spend the afternoon constructing the final phase of my solar-run outdoor shower to cleanse away the last of the city’s grime from my soul.  The raven caws raw into the murderously blue sky as I pour another glass of raw goat’s milk while snacking on fresh shucked peas from my permie garden.  The buzz of rejuvenating bees sweet on the scent of white clover mixed with something else … ah … what is it?  Ah, yes, the culmination of one Canadian woman’s salvation.

Allyson McQuinn

August 12th, 2015


*”Listen Little Man” by Wilhelm Reich (


Clean Energy Beginning To Tip The Scales in Canada

Clean Energy Jobs Now Exceed Oilsands Jobs In Canada: Report

Posted: Updated:
Which industry employs more Canadians? The oilsands or clean energy?

Guess again.

Employment in Canada’s clean energy sector has jumped 37 per cent in the past five years, says a new report from the think tank Clean Energy Canada, and now exceeds employment in the oilsands.

There were 23,700 people directly employed by the clean energy industry in 2013, compared to 22,340 jobs in the oilsands, the report found. Those green jobs include people employed in clean power production, energy efficiency, biofuels and manufacturing of green energy technologies.

Those job gains were the result of about $25 billion in new investment over the past five years, the report said. It singled out Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia as the three provinces leading the way in clean energy investment.

The report said that the federal government has helped lay the groundwork for green energy, “but has done very little to build on it.”

The Canadian Press reports:

OTTAWA – Canadian investments in clean energy totalled $6.5 billion last year, a 45 per cent increase from 2012, according to a new study released Tuesday.

More than half the Canadian investment — $3.6 billion — went into wind power, with another $2.5 billion invested in the solar sector, says Clean Energy Canada, an advocacy and research organization.

The investment spike moved Canada up to seventh place among the Group of 20 industrialized nations, from 12th spot a year earlier.

“We hear a lot of talk about pipelines and the oil and gas sector,” Merran Smith, the director of Clean Energy Canada, said in an interview.

“What we don’t hear is that Canada’s actually gone from a boutique clean energy industry to really big business.”

Over the past five years, $24 billion has been invested in clean energy, and the sector now accounts for almost 24,000 direct jobs, a total that includes manufacturing but not construction employment.

The report comes as Canadian officials begin two weeks of meetings in Lima, Peru, on the United Nations framework convention on climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions are rising again in Canada, according to Environment Canada projections, and the country will not come close to meeting its 2020 international target for curbing emissions under the 2009 Copenhagen accord. The talks in Lima are part of negotiations for a post-2020 international agreement that is supposed to be completed next December.

The UN talks were given a jolt of adrenalin last month when the United States and China, the world’s two biggest emitters, announced a bilateral deal to curb emissions through 2030.

Both the Chinese and U.S. governments are investing heavily in renewables.

“There’s a clean energy transition underway globally already, and they’re backing their clean energy industries,” said Smith.

What makes the Canadian investment story more compelling is that it’s happening without much federal government interest.

Private sector financiers — many from abroad — and provincial governments are driving the investment boom.

Of the top five financiers of clean energy in Canada over the past five years, investing $3.44 billion among them, two are Japanese, two are German and just one is Canadian, says the study.

Clean Energy Canada would like to see a federal industrial policy, based on tax and research incentives, like the one that helped Canada’s aerospace and oil sands industries in their infancy.

“If the federal government got engaged we could be a real world leader in clean energy,” said Smith. “But the federal government is really missing in action.”

— Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press