The Thursday Activist Reader is designed to be an online readers’ pick compilation of reading and discussion for a better world. You are invited to join in the discussion as well as in sending a list of one or more articles from your reading that you think would be informative and interesting to Comox Valley activists.


Streetfighting woman: inside the story of how cycling changed New York

As transport commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan faced down critics to transform New York with 400 miles of cycling routes, a bike share scheme and the remodelling of Times Square. Any city can do it, she tells Peter Walker

Stories about cycling of just about any kind always excite me, but stories about cities converting to a new understanding of what city transport is about get me quivering in my cleats.

Janette Sadik-Khan remains best known for the rapid rollout of around 400 miles of cycling routes during her six-and-a-half years in charge of the $2bn (£1.4bn) annual budget of New York City’s Department of Transportation, and the later opening of the Citi Bike cycle share scheme.

Urban transport is, Sadik-Khan argues, amid a “Copernican revolution” in which streets are remodelled around human beings, whether walking, cycling or on buses, rather than alone inside a speeding metal box.

Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolutionty residents don’t have a choice but to drive everywhere then our cities don’t stand a chance of surviving in this century. So we really do need to provide new choices for people to get around. We need to face the fact that the way our streets are designed has, in the past, made the decision for its resident

They’re seen as there for all time. The result is that you’ve got dangerous, congested, economically under-performing streets. That strikes at the heart of the liveability and competitiveness of a city.”


Here’s An Entirely Legitimate Exit Strategy On The Saudi Arms Deal

The claim by the Liberal Party that the $15-billion military export contract with human rights-pariah Saudi Arabia is immutable doesn’t hold water .

The deal with the Saudis represents the largest transfer of military goods in Canadian history, and the equipment is going to one of the worst human rights violators on the planet. This combination makes for the perfect test case of Trudeau’s promises of change, openness and principled government.

Only weeks ago, Global Affairs Canada seemed to veer from its irreversibility line when a spokesperson conceded that the department could consider suspending or cancelling existing permits, should relevant reports emerge. The point is, reports relevant to this deal emerge regularly.

On January 27, a leaked report of a United Nations-mandated panel revealed “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets “in violation of international humanitarian law” by the Saudi-led coalition in neighbouring Yemen.

On February 25, in a non-binding vote, the European Parliament overwhelmingly supported an arms embargo of Saudi Arabia.


Canada Revenue offered amnesty to wealthy KPMG clients in offshore tax ‘sham’

Federal authorities demanded secrecy in no-penalty, no-prosecution deal to high net worth Canadians

BTW KPMG are auditors for Coastal Community Credit Union!

The amnesty allows for “high net worth” clients of the accounting giant KPMG to be free from any future civil or criminal prosecution

Documents show that the scheme had attracted at least $130 million

The offer was made despite CRA uncovering the KPMG scheme, which had at least 26 wealthy clients each investing a minimum of $5 million using shell companies on the Isle of Man.

In 2013, the CRA obtained a judicial order demanding KPMG hand over the names of all the wealthy clients who set up shell companies in the Isle of Man, a small, self-governing territory in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.

KPMG Canada is fighting that decision in federal court.

The CRA alleges that the KPMG was creating  tax structures for wealthy Canadians that were,  in reality a “sham”  intended to deceive the /CRA.

It is alleged the accounting giant’s Offshore Company Structure intentionally deceived the federal government.  KPMG “targeted” wealthy Canadian residents worth at least $10 million. It offered them “confidentiality,” protection from creditors and the ability to receive money “free of tax.” In return, KPMG would take a 15 per cent cut of the taxes dodged. Successful KPMG sales agents and accountants were referred to as product “champions.”

They were given the incentive that they could collect 15 per cent of the taxes avoided.


Hey John Horgan, Lead Us to Leap

A new generation of social change activists are eager for bold leadership.

By Christine Boyle, Jessie Hemphill, Jess Housty, Eugene Kung and Edith MacHattie, 29 Feb 2016,

A wonderful letter to John Horgan about inspiring voters in a way that the Adrian Dix campaign didn’t.

We desperately want a new B.C. government. We cannot bear the thought of 20 years of the BC Liberals in office, eroding vital services, ignoring inequality, tokenizing indigenous communities through hollow engagement, allowing privatization to flourish, and procrastinating on the moral imperative for climate action. Instead, we want a government that makes possible the best that we are capable of together.

The recent Alberta and federal elections should be viewed as evidence that big, bold ideas can and do win elections. Beyond the usual suspects, a significant portion of the electorate is yearning for visionary change, and ready to mobilize and vote for it.

Lead us to leap. Otherwise, our next note will be a “Dear John” letter. You know the one we mean. The kind that starts, “Dear John, we really like you, and want to stay friends, but we’re leaving you.” This will look different for different people. For some it may mean switching to another party, or starting a new party. But for many underwhelmed activists, leaving simply means opting out of electoral politics, as so many in our generation have done.

What is the Leap Manifesto?

“Small steps will no longer get us to where we need to go. So we need to leap”. Moved by the treaties that form the legal basis of this country and bind us to share the land “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow,” we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land. Technological breakthroughs have brought this dream within reach. The latest research shows it is feasible for Canada to get 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades[1]; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy[2].

We demand that this shift begin now.

There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s

And here is John Horgan’s sorry reply—a slippery-toned, sleight of hand reply that shows no respect nor understanding of the offer before him.

John Horgan to Leapers: NDP Needs Your Help

Leader responds to open letter published on Tyee: ‘I know that part of my job is to inspire you.’

By John Horgan, 3 Mar 2016,



Condemn’ Canadians? What Would Dad Say, Justin?

Why gov’t slamming Israel boycotters hurts Palestinians, Canadians, even Israelis.

By Murray Dobbin, 4 Mar 2016,

Murray Dobbin presents an ominous view of Justin Trudeau’s commitment to human rights.

This we learned when Trudeau’s government chose to “condemn” any Canadian who supports a non-violent strategy of Boycott, Divestiture and Sanctions (BDS) until such time as Israel recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people.


“to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

Never mind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The resolution “makes it a thought crime to express an opinion,” as the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair (an ardent supporter of Israel by his own description) said. The NDP and the Bloc, joined by three Liberals, voted against the resolution.

It makes me feel like Stephen Harper still rules the day on this critical foreign policy issue. Indeed the resolution smacks of Harper’s declaration that criticism of Israel’s government is the “new anti-Semitism.”

Giving carte blanche to the actions of Israel’s increasingly extremist government simply reinforces its determination to never negotiate and to keep pushing the envelope, whether it’s building new settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza.

As stated by BDS movement leaders, Israel must: “End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall; Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194.”

The BDS campaign (which boycotts only goods made in the territory) was inspired by the successful boycott and sanctions campaign that finally brought an end to South African apartheid — a campaign, incidentally, given a major boost by none other than then prime minister Brian Mulroney.


Israel’s war on liberal democracy

It is quite rare for a day to pass without one inciting remark or another by politicians against Israel’s minority.


Clean disruption? Stanford group plans for 100% green-energy future

Green analysts say fossil-fuel industry could be obsolete by 2030 as clean energy takes over

An environmental research team from the prestigious Stanford University in California has calculated exactly how Canada can move away from fossil fuels, transitioning to a totally clean-energy future through existing technologies.

The Solutions Project has evaluated the wind, water and solar (WWS) potential for all 50 U.S. states and 139 countries around the world, including Canada, providing data on the costs and benefits for each nation.

After measuring Canada’s clean-energy resources, the Stanford team says Canada can reach this goal through the following breakdown:

  • 58 per cent wind.
  • 22 per cent solar.
  • 16 per cent hydro.
  • Two per cent wave.
  • Two per cent geothermal.


“I feel we know it’s technically and economically possible to transition the energy infrastructure, which is built primarily on fossil fuels and nuclear power, to entirely clean, reliable and safe renewable energy,” he says.

“In all sectors — electricity, transportation, heating and cooling, agriculture, forestry and fishing — we can transition all those sectors to clean, renewable energy at reasonable cost and make it reliable and make it secure for generations to come.”

Seba cites bankruptcies in in the coal industry as the “start of the end” for the non-renewable energy sector. According to Bloomberg Business, five major U.S. coal companies have filed for bankruptcy over the last two years.

There’s going to be a moment over the next five years where electric cars will be cheaper than the gasoline cars,” says Seba. “But, also, it’s going to be 10 times cheaper to charge on a per kilometre basis, and it’s also 10 to 100 times cheaper to maintain because the electric vehicle has one per cent of the moving parts.”