No. 153 - Serving the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver
GREEN TAXES FOR A GREENER WORLD
We need a tax revolution.
Governments have always needed money to do their work, so they
ask us to contribute. "Pay up, or go to jail!" It’s
a tradition that’s as old as the first kings, queens, and
But it’s also very simplistic: give me a percentage of your
money, or (in cities) your property value.
The system has been designed for a good old-fashioned world, where
the gathering and spending of money was simply what people did.
Today, the world is a very different place, as our consumption
hastens our ecological collapse. "It's like being in a
huge car driving at a brick wall at 100 miles an hour and most
of the people in the car are arguing about where they want to sit." (David
The journey towards collapse continues every day, in the way we
travel, use energy, exploit the oceans, manage the forests, grow
our food, build our cities, and heat our homes.
None of this is reflected in our tax system, which continues as
if the world was still a rosy, child-like place where the only
goals are to earn, spend, and accumulate.
Tax-shifting is about waking up and doing the obvious, before
it is too late. It is about shifting our taxes so that they encourage
more sustainable behaviour, and discourage the habits that are
driving us towards the wall.
London, England, is a great example. The city was so congested
that it took forever to get anywhere. So the Mayor of London drew
a large ring around the city and brought in a congestion tax of £5
a day (since raised to £8), with exemptions for alternative
fuel vehicles, buses, taxis and motorcycles. The tax works like
a dream, reducing the traffic, while channeling the income into
So let’s get creative. Want to reduce the flow of garbage
to the landfill, to forestall the cost of expanding the landfill?
Charge a user fee of $1 per bin, and put the income into recycling
initiatives, as they are about to do in Seattle.
Want to encourage more affordable housing? This is such a problem,
it should be top of every municipal candidate’s list. Do
as they are doing in Langford, and require every developer to contribute
one affordable home for every ten homes built, or (for developments
under ten units) to give cash in lieu to an affordable housing
Want to encourage more green development? Increase the cost of
a building permit, and then reduce it for green building initiatives
and design aspects, and for heritage conservation.
Want to but the brakes on our use of fossil fuels? Impose a carbon
tax on our use of coal, oil and gas, and use the income to reduce
the general tax level. They may freak out about the idea in Alberta,
but even Paul Anderson, the CEO of Duke Energy, is calling for
a carbon tax.
Want to discourage the use of chemical pesticides, that lace the
landscape with poison and degrade the quality of our food? Impose
a pesticide fee, and use the income to help farmers shift to organic
Some of this is about fees, while some is a straight tax-shift,
such as the carbon tax, used to reduce general taxation.
In Winnipeg, in 2003, Mayor Glen Murray was elected to a second
term on the promise of "a new deal" based on a tax shift
that would have seen a 50% cut in the city’s property taxes,
bus fares reduced by half, user fees of $1 per bag for garbage,
a consumption tax of 5 cents a litre for gas, and a 1% increase
in sales tax.
The net effect would have increased the city’s revenues
by $120 million, with the additional funds being directed into
public transit, and renewing the crumbling urban infrastructure
(roads, sewers, etc). The agenda was blocked by the Manitoba government,
"In North America, we’re still living with the economic
architecture of the last century, but our cities are losing on
all fronts. Tax policy is central to making system changes, getting
people to change their behaviour", says Donna Morton, whose
Centre for Integral Economics (based here in Victoria) has been
a prime supporter of tax-shifting, and was instrumental in helping
to construct the Winnipeg new deal. (See www.integraleconomics.org)
"We have to radically rethink how our cities are run," Glen
Murray says, "to make them as productive, energy efficient,
environmentally and humanly friendly as possible, and to attract
the ‘creative class’".
It’s election time, so speak up, and ask your would-be leaders
if they will support this kind of agenda.
It’s not about paying more money: it’s about changing
the emphasis in what we pay to encourage more sustainable activities,
while discouraging the behaviours that are driving us to the wall.
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a youth art campaign linked to Kyoto. 10,000 drawings wanted,
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only solvent free dry cleaner
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We celebrate the achievements of our friends on Vancouver
Island who are working so hard to make this world a better
place; and succeeding.
- John Bergbusch and the team who are bringing Bee Creek
in Colwood (to Esquimalt Lagoon) back to life, which will see
coho and chum salmon return by 2008/9, after 25 years.
- The Salt Spring Island Conservancy, who raised $315,000
from island residents and businesses to realize their dream
of safeguarding 40 hectares of land at the top of Mount Erkine,
with help from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the BC Ministry
of Environment, and many other partners.
- Everyone who dreamed up and created the Salish Sea Mapping
Project, and the book Islands in the Salish Sea: A
Community Atlas (TouchWood, $44.95). A jewel!
- The City of Victoria, and Oak Bay, for bringing in stronger
tree protection by-laws. (At last!)
- Rick and Laurel Nathorst at Elite Earth-Friendly Dry Cleaners
(in Cook St), for being honoured with an Ethics in Action Award
for their completely non-toxic dry cleaning company .
- Christie Eng, founder of Shady Creek Ice Cream, here in
Victoria, who was honoured with an Ethics in Action Award for
her business that uses local fruits and all-natural ingredients
(no stabilizers or artificial flavourings), and pays full attention
to the social and environmental bottom lines.
- Betty Krawczyk, who has been given the Eugene Rogers Environment
Award for her efforts to protect BC’s forests, and stop
the big logging companies from increasing their control over
our public forests. Betty has spent more time in jail than
any other Canadian wilderness advocate.
"There are only two problems on Planet Earth. The
first is the sum total of all our social, ecological, and
other woes. The second is the belief that we cannot solve
them. It is the latter to which we should pay the greatest
BREAKING THE CHAINS
All over North America, chain stores are undermining local
businesses, destroying town centres, and turning living cultures
into lugubrious schlok. In response, a group of NGO leaders
is calling on ethically responsible
people across the world to "Break the Chains" of
self-destructive consumerism from Nov 13 to Dec 31 by boycotting
Wal-Mart and other big chain stores, fast food restaurants,
and corporate coffeehouses. "Hoping to generate the largest
impact possible, during the main shopping season of the year,
we call upon the global grassroots to Buy Local, Buy Organic
and Buy Fair Trade/Fair Made." They hope people
will organize local actions. www.organicconsumers.org/btc.htm.
LIFECYCLES DREAMS BIG
Here in Victoria, LifeCycles is expanding its Campaign to
Cultivate Local Food with an appeal for $8 million over 10
years (2004-2014), which will enable them (among other things)
to install 24 more school-food gardens in elementary schools;
teach 8,000 elementary and 700 high school students about food
and health; train 75 youth and 40 community members in agri-business
and green micro-enterprises, launching 60 start-up companies
with 250 new jobs; help 30 new farmers and growers to sell
over ¼ million pounds of organic produce a year; establish
a production-oriented training garden for new farmers; and
to build on their successful partnerships with Cuba and two
other Latin American countries, where they have established
composting facilities, community kitchens and a 14-acre organic
demo-farm in Cuba which has trained 2,250 farmers. Don’t
ever say folks in Victoria don’t have vision! See www.lifecyclesproject.ca
WAR IS DECLINING
Judging by the news we see on TV, the world is as full of
war and bloody conflict as ever. But our media often feeds
us a distorted picture of what is happening in the world. The
Human Security Centre, based at UBC in Vancouver, has just
produced Human Security Report: War and Peace in the 21st
Century, funded by 5 governments.
It shows that most forms of political violence have in fact
declined significantly since the end of the Cold War, and the
best explanation is the huge upsurge of conflict prevention,
resolution and peacebuilding activities that were spearheaded
by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Cold War.
The world is witnessing fewer wars, and those that do occur
are killing fewer people. Civil conflicts and human rights
abuses are also in decline.
There is a deep human progress towards greater cooperation
The fly in the balm is the ruling regime in the USA, which
wants to undermine the United Nations, and return to the empire-building
of the 19th century. It is all the more important
that we continue with our many efforts to build a peaceful
On November 11th, there’s a gathering with
speakers and music on "Navigating Towards a Peaceful World" (see
Green Diary) to reflect on war, and generate more strength
for our determination to end all war and violence. See www.humansecurityreport.info
The Pinch Group
Connecting your money with
This may surprise you: in October, UNESCO voted by 150:2 to
support a Canadian initiative to create an international convention
on cultural diversity. Only the US and Israel voted against
it. The Convention reaffirms the right of sovereign states
to "maintain, adopt and implement" policies that
protect and promote cultural expression, and make certain cultural
products exempt from free trade agreements.
The initiative started with Sheila Copps’ (Canada’s
then Heritage Minister) desire to protect Canadian magazines
from US pressure to swamp them with US content. She worked
with her counter-part in the French government, and this led
to a coalition between French and English speakers, and between
the federal and Quebec governments. The US tried hard to arm-twist
countries to oppose the convention, and then introduced 27
amendments to water it down, but it passed with no amendments.
Once it has been ratified by 30 countries, it will become a
binding international instrument.
Our municipal elections on November 19th are a
very important occasion, so do go to the all-candidate meetings,
find out about the candidates, and discuss them with your friends.
There are too many progressive candidates running in Victoria,
but if I were a Victoria resident, I’d vote for Pam Madoff,
Dean Fortin, Helen Hughes, Erik Kaye, Sonya Chandler, Philippe
Lucas, Chantal Brodeur, and Wayne Poohachoff. Then I’d
balance things by voting for Alan Lowe as Mayor.
In Saanich, I’ll vote for Ian Graeme, Vic Derman, Judy
Brownoff and Lana Popham. Charley Beresford for SD 61. In North
Saanich, Heather Goulet and Anny Scoones.
For the candidates’ views on sewage treatment, see www.victoriasewagealliance.org
Residential * Commercial * Indoor * Outdoor
Woodworking Flooring; Composters; Creative Storage
PESTICIDES USE BYLAW
The CRD has passed a Model Pesticide Use Bylaw for adoption
by local councils to prohibit the use of most pesticides, except
for various sensible exemptions.(www.crd.bc.ca/rte/pest/info_resources.htm).
It would have made far more sense to pass it for the whole
CRD, as we did for the no-smoking bylaw, but there you go.
The Pesticide Bylaw makes eminent sense: ask your election
candidates "Will you support the adoption of the new Pesticide
The lawn care industry is fighting to say how safe they are,
and threatening that we’ll soon be covered in weeds,
but the US Center for Disease Control found that 90% of the
people they tested carried a mixture of pesticides in their
bodies, many of which have been linked to cancer, birth defects
and neurological problems.
It is time to join the 69 other municipalities where pesticide
by laws have already been adopted, protecting some 11 million
Canadians against unwanted exposure to synthetic lawn and garden
pesticides. See www.panna.org
the Best Morṭgage Deals from Leading Lenders
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(In some rare, challenging situations, a broker/lender fee
THE HABITAT JAM
Are you an Internet junkie? And into sustainability? Then
mark December 1-3 in your Diary for the Habitat Jam, a 72 hour
Internet based collaboration that will provide action ideas
for the World Urban Forum 3, and help make our cities more
sustainable. "Your contribution is vital. Join the Habitat
JAM and be a catalyst of change. Let us, together, make this
planet a better place to live." Register now at www.habitatjam.com
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF WEB
Some sites that have passed
ACTION OF THE MONTH: THE START OF KYOTO 2
Climate change is increasing in urgency all the time, and
a hugely important event is coming up in Montreal in December
known as "COP-11". The world is about to embark on
discussions for Kyoto 2, that will begin when the current Kyoto
Treaty ends in 2012. The US wants to stop it all dead in its
tracks. Canada is in the chair, under Stephane Dion’s
leadership, and the word is, he’s doing a great job.
This is a critical time to keep the pressure on, and build
global agreement towards Kyoto 2.
Action: Please write to Paul Martin, with a copy to your
MP, urging him to support a bold, firm approach, and not give
in to US pressures. For MP’s email addresses, see www.parl.gc.ca.
The Rt Hon Paul Martin, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington
St, Ottawa K1A 0A2 email@example.com
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