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Leap Manifesto Calls On Canada To Change, Well, Everything

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"We live in a historic moment, one that demands audacity, ambition and courage," activist and author Naomi Klein announced at the Toronto launch of the Leap Manifesto, a petition calling for the overhaul of Canada's economy.

"Many of our leaders are too busy watching the polls" to understand the "urgency" of climate change. So leadership is coming from "outside of electoral politics," she told media on Tuesday. The launch took place just down the road from where "This Changes Everything," a doc directed by her husband Avi Lewis and based on her book, had its world premiere at TIFF.

The manifesto was authored after a recent meeting of 60 activists with varying progressive priorities. Speakers from David Suzuki, Stephen Lewis and Maude Barlow to representatives from Black Lives Matter, Idle No More and the Anglican Church crowded behind the tables, representing the 50 organizations and 100 individual who signed on.

Leonard Cohen, who is often regarded as apolitical, is one high-profile signatory of the manifesto.

Anticipating criticism to come, Klein added that "if Canadians are going to move beyond the relentless messaging that we have to choose between jobs and climate action, we're going to need more than slogans, we're going to need specifics. This is our attempt to do that, to lay out a nuts and bolts policy agenda."

It is a sprawling work, one which goes well beyond an ambitious call for Canada to convert to 100 per cent clean energy within 35 years. Among its 15 demands, the manifesto calls for a basic annual income to eliminate poverty; renewable-powered high-speed rail to reduce car emissions; a "localized and ecology-based agricultural system"; and retrofitting low-income housing to increase energy efficiency — an initiative HuffPost reported on last week.

They're also calling on the Canadian government to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, end trade deals restricting local economic decisions, bring in more refugees, cut military spending, establish a national daycare program and raise taxes on the rich, corporations and carbon.

To bolster their argument, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have also released an accompanying study called "How Can We Afford the Leap?"

Though Stephen Lewis said the manifesto will be circulated at the upcoming UN meetings on sustainable development and climate change, the Canadian election also played a role the timing of its release.

"Whomever wins this campaign on October 19, this manifesto then becomes a singular agenda for Canada for ongoing debate and implementation," said Stephen Lewis. "It gives everyone a sense that there is a vision out there that can transform this country again into a leader in the world."

Not every political manifesto release gets the attention of outlets such as ET Canada to their press conference, but this one boasts considerable support from celebs like Cohen, Ellen Page, Arcade Fire, Feist, Rachel McAdams, Donald Sutherland and others.

"It's an entry point in for people who pay a lot of attention to celebrities that you otherwise might not have," explained David Suzuki. "It can backfire if celebrities act as if they know about everything there is about it. But what they do is offer their ability to attract press to let people like Naomi talk to the wide world. "

"Also they're people," Klein added, "and they're really freaked out about climate change and really grateful to be able to do something about it."

Following on Barlow's comments that "Canadians are well ahead of the political parties" on these issues, Klein admitted that "the future we want isn't on the ballot in this federal election."

She called on people to vote (without indicating who to support) but says she mostly considers the manifesto a tool to pressure whoever wins.

"Our hope is that by the time there is a new government, there will be hundreds of thousand of signatures that we can present to the government, whoever they are, that says 'this is what we want to do, this is the path forward.'"

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