Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Climate change protesters take message to House of Commons

Hats off to the more than 150 protesters who made their way into the visitors gallery in the House of Commons yesterday to protest the conservative and liberal parties decision to go to Copenhagen empty-handed. This is the kind of obstructionist approach which will ensure that no deal can be reached in these historic talks which are a follow-up to Kyoto. Shame on those MPs who sided with Big Energy instead of the people of Canada and the world.

Activist Jeh Custer after being roughed up by security

The daily back-and-forth, however, was overshadowed by the shouts and demands from a group of climate-change activists who had quietly taken over the north gallery. Their protest started as NDP Leader Jack Layton began asking his questions.

“Bill C-311,” shouted one protester. “Sign it, sign it, sign it,” the others responded. It was a well-orchestrated affair; as some protesters were dragged off by Commons security guards, others would pop up and start shouting again, drowning out Mr. Layton.

Bill C-311 is an NDP private-members bill that demands the government act on climate change at the upcoming Copenhagen conference. It has been delayed in committee by the Conservatives and some Liberals...

Six protesters were detained and have been barred from Parliament for a year.)
Apparently two were also injured as Parliament Hill security threw them out of the gallery.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

International Day of Climate Action

Today is International Day of Climate Action where groups and individuals around the world are supposed to take some action on the environment. There are plenty of actions and events listed for Ontario including Toronto, Ottawa, London, Hamilton, Peterborough, Sudbury, North Bay and Thunder Bay.

350.org is the main mover and shaker for this day of action.

Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. Learn more about 350 – what it means, where it came from, and how to get there.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Webconferencing used for new H&D advisor interviews

OPSEU's new webconference network got a good work out between October 13 and 20. As part of the union's commitment to our Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy, the union has long had member-volunteer advisors and investigators to assist other members with human rights issues. This work is co-ordinated by OPSEU's Equity Unit.

Being an advisor or investigator can be very tough work sometimes. Many cases stem from long-standing conflicts or issues resulting in the need to collect a lot of information. Some issues continue to fester even after a formal complaint is filed. It is often a very emotionally draining experience for the members involved and this impacts on those who are helping out.

So it's only natural that there's a turnover of our investigators and advisors. The union brings on new members to play these roles every year. I was approached several months ago by Libby Zeleke and Catherine Bowman from the Equity Unit about the feasibility of using webconferencing for the interviews (even before the network was officially up and running). I took on the challenge. In the end, I think it worked out quite well and saved a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions, time and money.

Dora Robinson (Region 3 Women's Committee, Libby Zeleke, OPSEU Equity Officer

Not that there weren't some technical glitches now and then with the audio, but for the most part, the
system performed as expected. Each day, applicants from a different region were interviewed. The project included 13 panelists (3 per day) and about two dozen applicants. The web conferences were support with help from the regional secretaries in 9 or 10 OPSEU offices and support staff at our head office. Thanks to those staff who made it possible.

Canada going to Copenhagen empty handed...

Liberals snub NDP climate-change bill
This is pretty shameful behavior on the part of the federal Liberals in my opinion. Just at the time when Canada needs to step up to the plate and show some leadership on this "file", the libs join the cons to help scuttle the Copenhagen talks.

Federal Liberals say they won't support the NDP in its effort to push a private member's climate-change bill through the House of Commons on Wednesday...

But New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said the delay would undermine efforts to have the bill passed into law before the Copenhagen summit in December.

Layton wants the bill's tougher greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to be in force when Canada sends delegates to the summit, where international leaders hope to forge a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the global greenhouse-gas treaty ratified by dozens of countries, including Canada.

The bill has passed through two readings in the House of Commons since it was introduced by NDP member of Parliament Bruce Hyer, receiving support from the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty, however, said the committee needs more time to study the implications of the bill.
More time? What about the implications of failure to reach a global climate change deal in Copenhagen? Big Energy must be grinning for cheek to cheek.

Climate change course - Train the trainer

On October 14 & 15, OPSEU's new course - Climate Change - It's a union issue - went through the train-the-trainer process so that members and staff from around the province can deliver the course to local leaders and members. I am pleased to report that the union's Regional Education Committees (there are seven) can now add this course to their quarterly weekend education program.

The course covers the causes and impacts of climate change with a strong focus on climate justice and actions that can be taken in our union, workplaces, communities and personal lives to make a difference.

In all, there were 4 members and 4 staff who attended this two day training session. On Day 1, Education Officer Kay Singh and I worked through the generic course with participants. Education Officer Barb Thomas provided support by tracking issues as they came up during the course. Our goal was not just to train the trainers, but to help take it from a "boiler-plate" to course that is more OPSEU- and Ontario-specific and in conformity with the general format of other OPSEU courses. It was a very interactive two days and there was a lot of positive energy and excellent ideas shared to tailor this to our union's needs.

Front row: Laurie Sabourin, Kay Singh, Rhonda Gibson
Back row: Peter McKenzie, Janet Heyman, Christopher Frampton, Greg McVeigh, Don Doucette, Gary Shaul
(photo by Barb Thomas, Marie Thomson from Region 1 was also in the training session)

On Day 2, the trainers were divided into pairs and assigned different parts of the curriculum to deliver themselves.

Brainstorming results

The generic course was developed by Jackie Larkin in 2008 working with staff and members of OPSEU, PSAC, CUPW, CUPE, Steelworkers, BCGEU, BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). It can be found here, on the CLC website. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with environmentalists from across the labour movement.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Planet in Focus opens tonight

The Planet in Focus film festival opens tonight. OPSEU is a proud festival sponsor. I hope to see a number of films including tonight's opener Finding Farley.

For a full festival program, check out their website.

Urgent: Bill C-311 - Climate Change Accountability Act

This just in from Karen Hawley at NUPGE.

Hi folks,
As members of Climate Action Network-Canada, NUPGE is in meetings with MPs this week - urging the Liberals to vote against the Conservative motion to delay the reading of this important climate bill.

This is an urgent matter. Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, risks not being passed before Copenhagen because the Liberals are playing politics. Canadians need to push the Liberals to do the right thing today.

There is a vote TODAY at 5:40pm on a Conservative motion to extend the bill's time in committee. If the Liberals support this motion to delay, the bill will not be voted on (or passed) before COP 15 in Copenhagen.

If the Liberals do not support the Conservative motion to delay, the bill will automatically go to the House of Commons for a vote, just before Copenhagen. If bill C 311 is passed in the House of Commons, the Conservative position on climate change will not be Canada's position internationally.

The NDP and the Bloc have been amazing at both working cooperatively with the other parties and pushing as hard as possible for C 311 to pass before Copenhagen.

The Liberals have already voted for this bill (or previous permutations) five times, most recently in April. This bill has been heavily debated, there have been hours upon hours of expert presentations and there are no amendments to the bill despite ongoing opportunities to amend - there is not a rational reason to delay this bill. We need to push the Liberals to do the right thing today.

In solidarity,


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tar sands: First hand account

I just came across this series of articles from last month on the rabble.ca blog. They're written accounts of blogger Emily Hunter's trip to the Alberta tar sands country in September. Fascinating stuff. Check it out.

"To see it even more, I took to the skies with a chartered plane. What I saw will be etched on my brain for the rest of my life. It looked like it was the year 2100 and the world had gone wrong, except that it was 2009 and right here in Canada. It was as far as the eye could see, an unrecognizable moonscape. Earth didn't exist here any longer..."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Beware of the serpents...

Now to the creepy crawly department. While not directly related to climate change, this is a story about consumerism applied to pets. It is about fragile wildlife habitats and how human activity can cause BIG trouble. It's a story that's captured my imagination since I first heard about it last year.

Florida Has Had It With These Non-Native Snakes!

Five giant invasive snake species — Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas — could endanger some of America's most important parks and wilderness areas if they are allowed to multiply, according to a report released on by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on Tuesday...

The snakes have escaped or been released into the wild by people who purchased them as pets when they were small and manageable.

The environment of south Florida has proven to be a favorable environment for the snakes to thrive and breed. It is estimated that tens of thousands or Burmese pythons now live throughout the Everglades, a wildlife refuge home to the Florida panther and other endangered species. The snakes are competing with native alligators, crocodiles and other predators...
They're not just competing. A mature Burmese python will eat alligators - although not always with great success. Just ponder this for a minute.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day on climate change

Who knew? I found on rabble.ca that today is Blog Action Day 09. The goal is to have as many blogs say something about climate change as possible. What can I say?

1) On October 14 and 15, I worked with education officers Kay Singh and Barb Thomas to deliver the train-the-trainer program for the climate change course which was developed last year with a number of other union partners. We had a great bunch with participants who will be able to deliver the course to local leaders and members in most parts of the province. The course covers the causes and impacts of climate change with a strong focus on climate justice actions that can be taken in our union, workplaces, communities and personal lives to make a difference. More to come on that soon.

2) Today was the second day of OPSEU's process to replenish our harassment and discrimination investigators and advisors. These are member volunteers who assist other members and the union with internal complaints. This year, the Equity Unit decided to try out webconferencing to reduce travel outside Toronto. Each day, applicants from a different region are being interviewed. The project includes 13 panelists (3 per day), about 25 applicants and help from the regional secretaries in 9 or 10 OPSEU offices and support staff at our head office.

While there have been some minor technical glitches, all interviews conducted so far have been successful. Libby Zeleke, OPSEU Equity Officer (working from head office) is co-ordinating the interview program. I'll report more fully next week once the interviews have been completed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bangkok Climate Change Talks wrap up

Part of the prelude to the Copenhagen climate change talks taking place in December is a series of working group meetings which are supposed to be doing the prep work for the big one. The Bangkok Climate Change Talks - held from September 28 to October 9, wrapped up last week.

Despite the official hype, it doesn't look like things are going that well. In fact, there was a walk-out by about 70 delegations when Canada "suggested replacing the Kyoto Protocol with an entirely new global-warming pact".

"The conversation, in our view, at the point in time was effectively over and the G77 left the room," Joanne Yawitch, a South African negotiator at the Bangkok talks, said in an interview...

The developing nations were perturbed that Canada and other industrial countries would consider copying parts Kyoto into a new treaty. "You can't do a cut and paste on a ratified treaty," Yawitch said.
Canada is doing its part to protect Big Energy but we're certainly not alone.

From the U.K. Guardian:
"The rift between rich and poor has intensified because rich countries have not put serious money on the table to help poor countries adapt to escalating impacts of climate change," said Oxfam's senior climate adviser, Antonio Hill. "The US has been silent on the scale of finance it will commit to."
The next set of talks are scheduled in Barcelona from November 2 to 6.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Web conferencing update

On Tuesday & Wednesday evenings this week, OPSEU conducted two focus groups using web conferencing. The purpose of the conferences was to get input into the OPSEU Census which is part of the convention-mandated Social Mapping Project. The first session went off without a hitch. The second session had a few glitches but overall achieved its objectives.

Beginning on October 13, OPSEU's equity unit will be conducting web conference interviews with members around the province who have expressed an interest in becoming OPSEU Harassment and Discrimination Advisors.

Other requests are beginning to come in for webconferences including the Retirees Division.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Good green jobs for all conference

Here's a copy of the email and letter that was sent to our Green Stewards network and Toronto area local presidents last week.


Dear Region 5 Green Stewards,

Last fall’s "Good Jobs for All" Summit was attended by over 1,000 people. Green economic development was identified as one key priority campaign area (along with EI reform and temp agencies). This led to the formation of a “green jobs” working group which has worked on a number of issues. With OPSEU’s support, we are organizing an innovative and exciting, one-day "Good green jobs for all" conference on November 7.

Please share this email with your local and regional networks.

Given the directions that both the tanking economy and the environment are headed, the time for a new approach to economic development and job creation is long overdue.

The Good Green Jobs for All conference will provide an opportunity for union, environmental and community leaders and activists to share information and strengthen the relationships needed to build the kind of vibrant and powerful movement required to help steer our economy in a more sustainable direction to ensure that "all boats are lifted".

Saturday, November 7

9:00 - 4:30

Allstream Building, CNE at the Princes Gate

(formerly the Automotive Building)


OPSEU will cover the $75 registration fee for members which includes lunch. There are two ways to register:

1) Download the registration form at www.goodjobsforall.ca) and mail or fax it to Labour Council, or

2) Send an email to afonseca@labourcouncil.ca containing the registration information.

In either case, be sure to make your first and second workshop selections and register as soon as you're sure you can attend.

In solidarity

Gary Shaul

Greening OPSEU

416-443-8888 x 8723

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