May 01

April 17, 2013 – Week #19

Boondoggle sign1

I was alone today. It was warmer but still windy.

As I walked toward the shipyard entrance, I could see two police cars blocking the entrance and police officers standing solemnly.

A CBC cameraman walked past me. The Canadian Broadcast Corporation is the country’s public broadcaster.

“What’s going on,” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

While I have protest the past few weeks, I have seen the CBC news truck drive by but it never stops to cover my protest, so I decided to ask him, “Why doesn’t the CBC ever cover my protest?”

He just walked by without answering. I watched him set up his camera by the fence. He can’t see anything going on, but he’s there filming while ignoring my protest.

For my protest, I brought a new sign “$25 billion + $14 billion = Boondoggle”.

Last week, the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report entitled Titanic Blunder: Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships on Course for Disaster. The report denounces the federal government’s plan to build the Arctic patrol ships, because it says the design is wrong and the objectives are wrong.

As I protest, I can easily see into the cars driving by on Barrington St. I watch drivers trying to read my signs. Today, two young male drivers enthusiastically honked in support. A city bus driver who regularly drives past me has started to honk and smile too.

Then, a young navy guy walked by and asked grinning, “Did you call in the bomb threat and make me late for work?”

“Do I look like a threat? I’m a peace activist.” I replied.

Later, a middle-aged man crossed the street in front of me.

“Happy Wednesdays against Warships,” I said.

“Happy Wednesday,” he countered. He was wearing Lockheed Martin clothing and walking toward the shipyard.

I couldn’t resist saying to him, “Oh, Lockheed Martin, is such a terrible company. The world’s largest weapons manufacturer.” I have seen the Lockheed Martin trucks drive by but I have never seen an employee of Lockheed Martin walk by until now.

He didn’t say anything back and kept walking.

This is a guarantee: Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the building of Canada’s new warships will definitely make it a boondoggle just like Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Zone warships in the U.S. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter estimated to cost over $45 billion is widely considered a boondoggle. In time, Nova Scotians, all Canadians, will realize that this warship strategy is a boondoggle too – guaranteed. Read this February 2013 report “Ships Leaking $37 Billion Reflect Eisenhower’s Warning” 

12 honks and waves, 2 fingers and 2 head shakes

Dedication: I’m dedicating my protest today to Sandra Finley, the Canadian who refused to fill our her census because of her opposition to Lockheed Martin’s involvement in our national census.


April 15, 2013 Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Today was the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS). The initiative started three years ago by the International Peace Bureau in Geneva. It is timed to coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s global military expenditure report and U.S. Tax Day.

Now, there are 25 countries participating and over 100 actions around the world. It is really inspiring to know that today people are standing together and calling for a shift in priorities – for government spending to meet human needs not buy weapons and fund war.

Global military spending is currently over $1.7 trillion. Last year, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, stated, “The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.” It would cost approximately $400 billion or 25% of what countries spend annually on their militaries to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Instead of spending on armies and weapons, we could eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and ensure every child can go to school.

Every year for GDAMS, the Halifax Peace Coalition and the Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace have organized a demonstration outside the library. We have tried to raise awareness about how much Canada spends on the military, but how little it spends on other federal programs such as Environment Canada, Aboriginal Affairs, Education and Overseas Development Assistance.

In 2012, the Canadian government spent $22 billion on the Department of National Defence and only $1 billion on Environment Canada. There has been a minimal cut to the current military budget, but the federal government has forecast it will spend over $20 billion annually for National Defence over the next three years. By contrast, Environment Canada’s budget will fall to $850 million in three years. As well, the government is still planning to spend approximately $25 billion for warships, $16 billion on fighter jets, and $1 billion on armed drones.

Canada is ranked 14th for highest military spending in the world, but our government is cutting environmental programs and employment insurance. In this country, there are 150,000 people homeless, 15% of children are living in poverty, and there is growing income inequality. Canadians must question whether so many of our tax dollars should be spent on National Defence and so little on the environment and social equality. The greatest human security challenges we are facing are climate change and poverty.

Approximately 30 people showed up today to our demonstration and helped us collect signatures and pass out leaflets. We set up jars on a table labeled with signs “Healthcare”, “Education,” “Women & Children,” “Environment”, “Arts & Culture,” and “Military”. We gave people a quarter and asked them where they would spend their federal money. Like last year, “Healthcare”, “Education,” and “Environment” were people’s top choices.

It is really crazy to me that the federal government with the support of all of the political parties launched a National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy to build warships. The federal government could have launched a National Green Economy Strategy or a National Early Learning & Childcare Strategy or a National Affordable Housing Strategy to help us tackle the climate and poverty crisis. The leaflet that we passed out had a line mentioned the $25 billion for warships. We passed out about 200 leaflets.

I was so glad that the Chronicle Herald came to cover our action. Later, I also did a radio interview with Rick Howe on FM 95.7. Read the Herald story about our demonstration here.

Dedication: Thanks to the International Peace Bureau for its leadership on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending and to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for producing its reports on military expenditures.


April 22, 2013 – Protest outside of MP Megan Leslie’s Office

Today was Earth Day, so I decided that I would go down to Member of Parliament Megan Leslie’s office in the Halifax north end to deliver an open letter and protest her support for the warships. Megan is the NDP’s Environment Critic and also the Co-Deputy Leader of the federal party.

Megan knows that we are facing catastrophic climate change and increasing poverty, but she and the NDP supported the federal government’s plan to spend $25 billion of our tax dollars for new warships that the country does not need.

I knew Megan would not be in her office today because Parliament is still sitting, so I just gave me letter to her Constituency Assistant Anne-Marie. I showed Anne-Marie the graphs and explained my opposition to the warships and let her know that I hoped Megan would reply. Read my open letter here.

I wanted to publicly challenge Megan’s commitment to the environment and to the poor with my open letter and action. In my letter, I asked her why new warships for the navy are a priority over green jobs, affordable housing and First Nations.

Then, I stood outside Megan’s office for one hour with my signs. There was a lot of foot traffic on Gottingen Street. I passed out my Fact Sheet on Military Spending and said to people walking by “Happy Earth Day! I’m here to call on the MP for Halifax to stop her support for $25 billion warships and instead invest our tax dollars in urgent action on climate change and poverty.”

Most people walking by agreed with me. Across the street, two women clapped in support. “Please tell Megan. No warships,” I called out to them.

Only two men walked by and disagreed with me. They had the same argument: our country needs a military for security, we need warships to protect us, and that the military is important for Nova Scotia’s economy. I rebutted that we could have a strong, green economy instead of a militarized economy and that the real human security comes from safe housing, clean water and air, education and health care.

At the end of my protest, a fellow by the name of Brian stopped to talk to me. He said to me that he felt that the NDP was the only party to support because they are the farthest on the left but he still didn’t think that they were far left enough. If there was a party really committed to peace, he explained, he would vote for it.

I said to him that none of the political parties lead, they follow. It is up to us to push the parties farther in the direction that we want.

5 waves and thumbs up. 2 men opposed.

Dedication: I thought about the rare politicians who speak truth to power: UK MP George Galloway and Iceland’s Parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Watch her interview on Democracy Now!

Earth Day

April 22, 2013 – Earth Day Rally

The sunny, pleasant weather brought out a great group for our Earth Day rally at 3:000 p.m. outside the shipyard. Brian, Sharon, Brian B., Alan, Charles, Kelly, Lucia and I stood for an hour with our signs and greeted everyone who walked by with a hearty “Happy Earth Day!”

At this time of the day, I noticed quite a few women drive by in their cars with kids in the back seat into the shipyard and dockyard. I thought that the must be driving in to pick up their husbands after work. I noticed the kids looking intently at our protest with a puzzled look on their faces as they read our signs.

At 3:30 p.m., the workers and the navy personnel streamed out.

A tall, thin middle-aged naval officer stood next time as he waited for the crosswalk. I hadn’t seen him before so I said, “Happy Earth Day. I protest here every Wednesday against the warships. You can go to my web site:”

“I don’t care,” he said flatly without looking at me and crossed the street.

A shipyard worker pulled up in his car, rolled down his window and said to me, “The warships are not just for war. They are for humanitarian aid too. Like in Haiti.”

“No,” I replied quickly. “There so much to say about Haiti. Please contact me and let’s meet for coffee to talk about Haiti.” I couldn’t say everything I wanted to about Haiti, because the driver was blocking traffic into the shipyard.

In 2004, Canada, France and the U.S. orchestrated a violent, military coup against the democratically elected government of Haiti and forced into exile the beloved president and priest of the poor, Jean Bertrand Aristide. The Canadian military’s shameful subjugation of Haiti in 2004 is not atoned by a half-empty Canadian warship after the earthquake in 2010. Warships are for war not for aid.

Canadians must learn the truth about our dishonourable involvement in Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere.

14 positive gestures and at least 5 negative gestures

Dedication: To Canadians Jean St. Vil and Roger Annis who have been stong voices for justice for Haiti. To the organizations Canada Haiti Action Network  and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Let Haiti Live!