Vancouver rally warns of climate calamity

According to 350.org, there were over 5200 actions in 181 countries marking the October 24, International Day of Climate Action, making it the “most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history.” Reports are still coming in, but it appears that the largest Canadian action was in Vancouver.

By Roger Annis

VANCOUVER BC–Thousands of people held a march and rally here on October 24 to sound a warning about the consequences of climate change and demand action by federal and provincial governments. The event was part of an international day of action called to pressure the world’s national governments leading into an international climate change conference to take place in Copenhagen in December.

According to the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, similar rallies took place in some 150 communities across Canada. Vancouver’s was by far the largest. The Vancouver Sun reported 5,000 participants; a friend of this writer pegged the number at 2,500 to 3,000. In contrast, Toronto’s action numbered several hundred.

Most participants in Vancouver were young. Organizing for the rally took place in many educational institutions.

Climate debate heats up On the eve of the Vancouver rally, the weekly news and entertainment paper in Vancouver, Georgia Straight, published an article that is a hard-hitting condemnation of the climate-denial cabal that is driving Canadian government policy. It hits out against some of the local mouthpieces of the cabal, including the right-wing Fraser Institute think tank and the Canwest newspaper chain, Canada’s largest. The article is written by Straight editor Charlie Smith and can be read here.

The article notes the publication of an important new book by two Vancouver writers unmasking the climate denial industry, Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, by authors James Hoggan and writer Richard Littlemore (Greystone Books, $20).

After several years of praising the BC government for allegedly forward policy on climate change, environmental groups are now taking their distance. For more on this story, see Socialist Voice, http://www.socialistvoice.ca/?p=652. The praise stemmed from the government’s so-called carbon tax, introduced in early 2008. It levies a two cent per liter tax on gasoline that will eventually rise to ten cents.

Oil and gas drilling and production companies are exempt from the tax. They enjoy many other generous tax subsidies. Their operations are rapidly expanding in the north and southeast of the province. The government is also embarked on a multi-billion dollar spree to expand highways in the Vancouver region.

The financing of a just-opened, $2 billion rapid transit line from Vancouver airport to the downtown–the “Canada Line”–has imposed severe financial constraints on Vancouver region’s transit authority. Fares are rising sharply while desperately-needed services in surrounding suburbs, including a long-promised rapid transit line to the northeast, are on hold. The new line was conceived as a showpiece for the forthcoming 2010 Winter Olympic Games. It displaces a popular rapid bus system along the same route.

In the May, 2009 provincial election in British Columbia, the New Democratic Party staked its campaign on opposition to the new carbon tax, calling it a “gas tax.” The party waged an “axe the tax” campaign that reached out to right-wing, anti tax populism but failed miserably. The rightist Liberal Party was re-elected; voter turnout was the lowest in BC history.

The NDP says the answer to the global threat of climate change is “cap and trade” policies. These operate as licenses to pollute, allowing polluters to carry on with business as usual provided they purchase credits in economic enterprises that purport to reduce emissions in other parts of Canada or the world. The party has offered little information on how it would implement such policy and ensure real results. The provincial Liberal government also champions “cap and trade.”

Roger Annis is a union activist in Vancouver, Canada and an editor of Socialist Voice.

Posted in Canada & Quebec, Protests & Revolts
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