Jul 14

May 22, 2013 – Week #24

It was windy and rainy. I was by myself.

A few minutes after standing with my signs, a motorcyclist drove into the shipyard, pulled over and said to me, “Don’t you want me to have a job?”

I walked over to him and pointed to my sign “No Warships: Green Jobs” and replied, “Yes, I do. I want you to have a great job with a good salary and benefits but not building warships.”

A tall young guy walked out and looked a little bewildered at me.

“Hi,” I said to him, “Happy Wednesday against Warships.”

“Hi,” he replied and acted like he was no’t sure what direction to turn. He was wearing a suit and figured that he worked for Irving.

“How long have you worked for Irving?” I asked.

“Two days,” he replied.

I laughed and gave him my spiel, “I’m here protesting because I’m opposed to the federal government spending our taxes to build warships. It should be spent on building a green economy.”

“I see,” he said, smiled and walked away.

Quite a few cars were stopped at the red light in front of me.

I noticed a young woman in the passenger side of a car stopped in the furthest lane looking at me.

Then, she rolled down her window and shyly said to me “I agree with you.”

The light changed and the car drove off.

Her brave act of support made my day.

11 honks, 3 waves, 1 thumbs up, one “I agree with you” and 3 fingers.

Dedication: I am dedicating my protest to everyone involved in climate justice work around the world. There is an exacerbating climate crisis. On May 13, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that for the first time, they have monitored 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. See the graphs here.

Listen to Democracy Now’s coverage here: “Climate Tipping Point? Concentration of Carbon Dioxide Tops 400 ppm for First Time in Human History”

Evening, May 22 NS NDP “Women & Wine” & Warships?

I found out that there was a “Women & Wine” Fundraiser being held at Alexa McDonough’s condominium to raise money for female NDP candidates in the upcoming provincial election. In the past, I worked alongside many of these women, like Tanis Crosby, on early learning & childcare campaigns and feminist causes. I wanted to let them know that warships, which the NDP supports, are not good for women and children, so I decided to go down to protest with my signs outside the political shindig. As the NDP women party-goers walked by, I told them that I was opposed to Dexter giving a $260 million forgivable loan to Irving to upgrade the shipyard and flashed my sign “Women: Rise against Violence; Rise against Warships” – many of them looked irritated or embarrassed as they walked by me. I wondered how they could support Dexter and the Nova Scotia NDP when it has been such a terrible, militaristic, corporatist, anti-environment provincial government. Not one NDP woman has spoken out publicly to challenge Dexter on giving Irving a handout for warship construction. Not one NDP woman said those tax dollars should not go to Irving, but instead go to a publicly funded early learning & child care program, education, or affordable housing – not one NDP woman spoke out – not one.

Feb 25

February 20, 2013 – Week #11

It was cold, very windy, and pounding down freezing rain. I didn’t want to be outside protesting, but I made a commitment, so I had to stand outside the shipyard. I was alone today in this terrible weather. It made me think about extreme weather that will become more frequent with catastrophic global warming we are facing. Humanity is at critical juncture now.

I thought about the big climate justice rally organized by 350.org that was held a few days earlier in Washington D.C. On February 17, the largest climate protest in U.S. history was held outside the White House. Approximately 50,000 protesters gathered to tell President Obama to take action on climate change and to not allow the Keystone XL pipeline that would take Alberta tar sands oil to Texas refineries. Watch this Al Jazeera’s coverage of this important rally.

I believe we have a choice at this juncture that we are at: we are either going to spend our time and resources trying to live harmoniously on a sustainable planet or we are going to kill each other on a dying planet. Warships lead us on down the wrong path.

I got 5 honks and 1 finger.

Trip to Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s Office in New Glasgow and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong’s Office in Truro

I knew that Parliament was not sitting this week, so I expected that the Members of Parliament would be back in their ridings. It’s also budget time and the federal politicians are seeking economic input from their constituents. On Minister MacKay’s web site, he claims to be “inviting comments on how to further improve the effectiveness of government spending.” MP Armstrong wants to “engag[e] Canadians in discussions about their priorities and ideas for achieving the best use of taxpayers’ dollars in the lead-up to the 2013 budget.”

So, a good opportunity to visit Minister of Defence Peter MacKay at his office in New Glasgow and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong at his office in Truro!

I prepared and delivered open letters to Minister MacKay and MP Armstrong about my opposition to the $25 billion warships. My letters listed my economic priorities: education, the environment, health care, affordable housing, municipal infrastructure and First Nations’ communities. I also explained how our country could put more Canadians to work and strengthen our economy by greening it.I reminded them that our country’s national debt has increased to $606 billion and the annual deficit is now $26 billion. One way to reduce the national debt and the annual deficit is to not spend money on things that our country doesn’t need, like warships,and that are not priorities for Canadians. The letters are posted on my demilitarize.ca web site.

At Peter MacKay Office_2_sm

I drove up to New Glasgow with friends Allan and Dawn. It was great to have their company and their help with the signs. When we arrived in New Glasgow, three media people were waiting for us. After the media interviews, we went inside MacKay’s office. I talked with one of his staff members who told me that MacKay was out of the country. I presented her with my open letter and explained my opposition to the warship contract and my concern about military spending. I also reminded her that I was at the office three years ago to protest the F-35s and that I was proven right by the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Auditor-General and KMPG that the stealth fighters were a financial risk to taxpayers. I promised her that I would be right again about the warships – they would turn out to be an even bigger boondoggle. I also gave her copies of two petitions – one with the signatures of almost 500 Canadians who want the federal government to redirect military spending to tackle urgent environmental and social needs and the other one petition with the signatures of almost 300 Canadians who are opposed to the federal government spending money on new stealth fighters. After our meeting in the office, we went outside to protest along East River Road. I was so heartened to receive quite a few honks and waves (11 in total) and no negativity. People in New Glasgow understand that warships aren’t good for rural communities!


Then, we drove up to Truro to meet with Conservative MP Scott Armstrong. Armstrong was in his office at the time, but refused to come out to meet us briefly in the lobby. We were so pleased that a radio station showed up for an interview. Inside the office again, I presented our open letter to his assistant who seemed distracted and uninterested. We went back outside to the Willow Street sidewalk to protest for a while and I was happy to have a few more honks (7 honks and waves of support, no negativity. People in Truro get it!). We tried again to meet with Armstrong but he still would not meet us. Somebody leaving Armstrong’s office, asked about our signs and told us that she was a Reformer (former Reform Party member) and that Canada should have warships to protect its sovereignty in the Arctic. I told her that we don’t need warships and that we have international law and diplomacy under the UN to solve any sovereignty disputes. It is in fact what Canada is using right now to solve our dispute with Russia in the Arctic Ocean. She disparaged the UN. I figured that if she was a Reformer that she would also be a right-wing evangelical. So, as we were departing, I told her that I didn’t believe that Jesus would use warships.

At Scott Armstrong Office_1_sm

Feb 10

February 6, 2013 – Week #8

union-worker-thumb (1)Just as I arrived with my signs, a car drove up. The driver rolled down his window and asked me what I was doing there. I told him that I was protesting the $25 billion warship contract. He shook his head angrily, swore and drove off. Then more cars drove by giving me the finger. For the first time, a driver in a military uniform gave me the finger too. My weekly protest was not off to a good start.

Then, an hour later, just as I was about to pack up my signs and leave, a tall guy came and introduced himself to me.

“Hi, I’m Karl. I’m president of the union. They have been talking about you in there and I wanted to meet you and find out what you are doing,” he said smiling.

Karl Risser is the President of CAW/Marine Workers Federation Local 1.

I was so surprised and pleased to meet him. “Thanks for coming. I’ve wanted to meet you. I’ve been protesting the warship contract here every Wednesday for the last couple of months. I have a web site and a blog,” I replied. I told him that I have been opposed to the new warships since the federal government announced the Canada First Defence Strategy in 2008 and the plans to spend $490 billion on the military over the next 20 years.

Risser asked me why I was opposed to the warships. I told him that the country doesn’t need them – we are not going to be engaging in any naval combat and that our greatest security challenges are climate change and poverty. I was shocked that he readily agreed with me! He asked me what I think they should be building. I said all those construction workers and electricians in there could be building affordable housing, weatherizing homes and buildings, installing renewable energy technologies, expanding mass transit, and fixing municipal infrastructure. He agreed as well and then asked me, “What about ferries?” Yes, I said ferries! I hadn’t thought of that before. Risser said that the workers had  been talking about building ferries and light rail for years but those plans got shelved once the federal government announced the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy in 2010 (which comes out of the Canada First Defence Strategy).

Risser then told me some other interesting and important things:

  • There is a report that was done a while ago about the Irving Shipyard building ferries for the Atlantic Provinces and a high speed ferry in the Halifax Harbour.
  • He said that some of the provinces are leasing ferries from Germany instead of having them built in Canada.
  • When Prime Minister Harper came to Halifax to make an announcement about the shipbuilding program in January 2012, his staff asked that the union flags and banners be removed. Risser insisted that the guys keep their flags and banners visible during the press conference.
  • He believes that Prime Minister Harper does not really care about the shipyard workers and the union – the contract is really not about improving their employment situation.
  • He said the situation for workers at the shipyard isn’t that good but that Irving is doing alright.
  • He believes that the highest number of workers that will be needed will be 2500 workers by 2020, which is much lower than the federal and provincial governments predict.
  • He expects that Foreign Temporary Workers will be needed, will come from poor countries, and will be paid low, non-union wages.
  • He expects that the bulk of the jobs and money will go to Lockheed Martin (which is the biggest weapons manufacturer in the world!)  in the US for the technical systems for the warships.
  • He said that Lockheed Martin is at the shipyard all the time. In partnership with Lockheed Martin, the shipyard is currently working on retrofits for seven warships to help them last another 20 years. So, he doesn’t really think new warships are needed.
  • He expects that Ontario and Quebec will provide some of the steel, but that the major technical systems will be imported from the US by likely Lockheed Martin.
  • CAW supports green jobs and he agrees with me that a National Green Job Strategy would be good.
  • He knows about Germany’s national retrofit program and renewable energy progress. See the Green Economy Coalition web site.
  • He talked about the possibility of a merger between his union the CAW and another big national union that could lead to national general strikes someday and give labour more power.
  • His union – the CAW – is supporting the IDLE NO MORE movement and attended the solidarity march across the bridge two weeks ago.
  • He believes the warships are part of Harper’s militaristic agenda.
  • The only way Harper will change course is if Canadians push the government to change.
  • Risser said more people need to tell the Harper government that they don’t want warships for the federal government to stop the National Shipbuilding plan.
  • He asked me how we can wake up Canadians about Harper’s agenda.

I assured Risser that I’m not against the union and the workers. I want workers to have meaningful, good paying jobs and I want our province to be prosperous but that neither will happen with the warship contract. I said to him that I think the labour unions should have stood up to Harper and said tax dollars should not be wasted on warships because they aren’t a priority. We should be taking action on climate change and poverty not preparing for war. I told him about Van Jones’ Green for All program in the U.S. that puts people to work in the green economy and that there is great potential for this in Canada. More jobs could be created in a green economy than a war economy. I let him know that I have worked closely with union allies in the past on peace issues, such as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers on events and actions for Palestine. He replied at the end that he agreed with most of what I said.

Risser is a very friendly and down-to-earth person. I learned a lot and enjoyed speaking with him very much. We shook hands three times during our conversation.

Finally, my protest today was dedicated to Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person and helped launch the Alabama city bus strike in 1955. She was born on February 4, 1913. Parks said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

Watch this hour-long February 2013 radio documentary about her Rosa Park’s incredible rebellious life on Democracy Now!

Note: I have a special Valentine’s action for this week’s “Wednesday against Warships” protest that will take place from 12:00-1:00 p.m. on February 13 outside the shipyard. I will also be joining One Billion Rising, which is the Global Day of Action to Stop Violence against Women, on Valentine’s Day (V-Day) February 14 and will be protesting the warships from 4:00-5:00 p.m. I encourage you to join me on both days! See my web site for details: www.demilitarize.ca

I got 8 honks of support, 3 waves of support, 4 fingers, 3 thumbs down.