During the 2015 Federal Canadian election campaign, the New Democratic Party (NDP) released their Leap Manifesto which proposed a completely new direction for NDP aims and objectives. The Manifesto proposes decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming, thereby transforming the NDP party from Canada’s party of democratic socialist to Canada’s party of climate justice. This article will show that the Leap Manifesto and the expanding preoccupation with environmental issues in Canadian politics is not about a new direction in politics. Instead it is the propounding of a new religious belief system.
Politics is the use of power in society to enable individuals to resolve their differences with each other by preserving and amending the general rules of order under which they live. In well-functioning democracies, the specific resolution of differences occurs through both open, free elections and the judicial system. The Leap Manifesto is not about politics. Instead, the Manifesto is about dreams. It directly states that: “One thing is clear: public scarcity in times of unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis, designed to extinguish our dreams before they have a chance to be born. Those dreams go well beyond this document.” The dreams set out in the Manifesto put forward a dream or vision of the future with utopian overtones.
These utopian overtones are of a Canadian society where Canadians
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.
This connection of this dream vision to the resolution of differences between Canadians is remote.
So, what exactly is the Leap Manifesto? While the utopian overtones in the manifesto are certainly present, a utopian vision means an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. The individuals who developed the Manifesto did not envision the realization of their vision as something occurring in an imaginary future Canada. The Manifesto claims that that it is a practical political option for the future of Canadian society. Thus, it concludes by calling
on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. This is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.
Since the implementation of the vision or dream that the Manifesto puts forward is specifically identified as a “sacred duty” and it is not simply a utopian vision, it is a religious tract. A religious tract is a small pamphlet used for communicating religious convictions. These convictions are often eschatological or end-times visions / dreams about the culmination of human history. The dream or vision in the Leap Manifesto are best understood as the teachings or doctrines of a new religion with worship of the environment as the sacred duty of Canadian politicians, who are to become the apostles of a resurrected material environment.
Last month at a town-hall meeting in Peterborough the Prime Minister of Canada replied to a question by stating that: “You can’t make a choice between what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the economy.” Moreover, “We can’t shut down the oil sands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels. That is going to take time. And in the meantime, we have to manage that transition.” The political leader of no other oil producing country in the world has ever said that their country must phase out its oil resources. Shortly after a subsequent Cabinet meeting in Calgary the Prime Minister explained that in Peterborough he “misspoke.” In follow-up remarks he clarified that it was the time horizon of Canada’s oil phase-out that had been misunderstood. He made it very clear that phase-out was still the ultimate political objective, it would just take a little longer.
In line with the Leap Manifesto, the Prime Minister and his devout followers embrace the sacred duty to worship the environment by committing to a long-term phase out of Canada’s oil sands and reliance upon fossil fuels. However, it must be made clear that he did not misspeak about his ultimate political or environmental objectives. Instead, he misspoke by concealing a religious vision or dream in a political statement.