The House

Naomi Klein has a message for Tom Mulcair: Keep the oilsands in the ground

Author Naomi Klein's Leap Manifesto, backed by celebrities and activists, calls for an end to the fossil fuel economy and a giant leap toward curbing carbon emissions.

Naomi Klein calls on politicians to put a moratorium on fossil fuel extraction

Naomi Klein says there is no political will, including from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, to act on curbing carbon emissions and preventing the most disastrous consequences of climate change. (Canadian Press)

Author and activist Naomi Klein says Canadian politicians need to take radical steps to end the development of the oilsands and immediately move toward a moratorium on fossil fuel extraction.

"We have to have the courage to say no to fossil fuels — and in a hurry — and at the same time say yes to what we want," Klein said in an interview with Chris Hall of CBC Radio's The House. She is calling for "a science-based response to climate change."

Klein is one of the signatories of the recently released Leap Manifesto — a bold document that calls for all of Canada's electricity to be generated from renewable sources in just 20 years and a fossil fuel-free economy by mid-century. It also has wider social goals such as a guaranteed annual income and universal child care. 

Some of those goals might overlap with what the NDP is pitching in this election campaign, but Klein said party leader Tom Mulcair shares the blame with other political leaders for ignoring the climate crisis. 

"I think the problem with political campaigns is that politicians don't like those hard choices.

"You have the opposition leaders [Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau] competing with one another over who will do a better job building tarsands pipelines," Klein said, calling it a sad state of affairs. 

"What is politically realistic in this moment, or what is considered politically realistic, is physically catastrophic," she said.

Some members of the NDP have voiced their concern with the current pace of oilsands development and pipeline construction including the NDP star candidate for the riding of Toronto Centre. 

"We saw this with Linda McQuaig, who dared to say a simple truth: a lot of people think we need to keep the vast majority of the tarsands in the ground. That [view] reflects a consensus among a great many climate scientists, yet she was pilloried just for saying the truth," she said. 

Klein says NDP candidate Linda McQuaig 'was pilloried for saying the truth' when she suggested the oilsands needed to be left in the ground if Canada was to meet its emission reduction targets. (@LindaMcQuaig/Twitter)

Klein said she hopes the manifesto will build a grassroots movement backed by celebrities, activists, artists and religious leaders to turn up the heat on politicians to act.

Some well-known names have already signed on to the manifesto, including David Suzuki, Alanis Morissette, Donald Sutherland and Gord Downie, among others.

"We are moving very slowly compared to countries [like Germany] where 30 per cent of their electricity comes from renewables," Klein said.

"What's missing is the political will, that political courage. It's not coming from the major political parties, we're trying to insert it into the spectrum of debate in Canada," she said. 

Klein insists that signatories of the Leap Manifesto, which has been derided by some as the "Tommunist Manifesto," linking Mulcair to its radical bent, are not tied to one political party. 

She said they simply want to exert pressure on the opposition parties — who she believes will form a coalition government after the election — to act on climate change. She hopes hundreds of thousands will sign on to the manifesto.

"If we get [signatures] this will be a real force in the political sphere and [we'll be able to say] 'this is what we want the coalition to champion.'"

The name of the manifesto does not refer to Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward, Klein said, but rather to the urgency of acting now to prevent catastrophic change to the environment.

"Our political system favours very, very small steps, and we call it leap because small steps are not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly."

"We're now on a deadline," Klein said. "We need to get our emissions pointing in the right direction by the end of this decade."