Times editor Keith McNeill gets ready for a training ride with longtime North Thompson resident Jean Nelson recently. The pair plan to cycle from Toronto to Ottawa soon to promote a petition on global warming. Nelson was Mrs. Chatelaine in 1970 and the former chair of School District 26 (North Thompson).
Can your editor keep up with Jean Nelson on a bicycle?
That's the central question to be answered when Nelson and I cycle from Toronto to Ottawa May 23 – June 2.
Mind you, anyone who knows Jean and who knows me already knows the answer.
Jean might be an 80-year-old grandmother, but she's also remarkably fit.
She has competed in cycling at the BC Seniors Games for many years and consistently wins medals (although not all gold, as she modestly says). She also has completed several lengthy bike tours in places such as Iceland.
Your editor, on the other hand, spends way too much time behind a computer and in the office.
I haven't done much cycling for many years and I have never done a long bike trip.
Of course, there's also the question of promoting a global warming petition that your editor has posted online at Care2.
The petition calls for a Canada-wide referendum on carbon fee-and-dividend.
So far it has collected more than 28,000 names - not too bad, but far from the 400,000 target.
Carbon fee- and-dividend, for those interested, is a proposed method to control human-caused global warming.
A fee would be charged on fossil fuels at the wellhead, mine or point of import - similar to a carbon tax.
Unlike a tax, however, the money collected would not go into general government revenues. Instead, it would be distributed in equal and repeating dividends to everyone.
As stated on the petition, a Canada-wide fossil fuel fee set at the same level as B.C.'s carbon tax ($30 per tonne of carbon dioxide produced) would generate about $20 billion per year.
Assuming there are about 20 million adults in Canada, that would mean each person over age 18 would receive carbon dividends totalling close to $1,000 per year.
(The actual numbers, for the sticklers in the crowd, are $21 billion in fees, 24 million adults, and $875 in dividends annually).
We know carbon taxes work in reducing carbon dioxide production. A fossil fuel fee should work as well or better.
The carbon dividend would be an important step in reducing the economic inequality that is increasing in this country.
Those getting the lowest 10 per cent of income would collect 150 per cent more in carbon dividends than they would pay in fossil fuel fees.
In fact, two-thirds of Canadians would collect more or at least break even.
Those who would pay the most would be people with a lot of shares in fossil fuel companies and/or whose lifestyles include multiple homes, yachts and private jets.
"Why ask for a referendum?" is a question sometimes asked.
In my opinion, this question is altogether too important to be left to the politicians.
In Switzerland, the citizens have the right, through a petition with 100,000 signatures, to bring forward any important question to a national referendum – meaning the people get to vote on it.
Canada has about four times the population of Switzerland and so the online petition calls for 400,000 names.
We don't really expect to get that number and, even if we did, it would not be legally binding.
Still, it's a worthwhile goal and it does get the idea out there that we need more democracy, not less, if we are to solve the problems that face us.
Jean and I plan to start our trip from the Rouge Hill GO station northeast of Toronto on Saturday, May 23 (at 10 a.m., if you have any friends or relatives there who might want to see us off).
That day will see a relatively short ride to Oshawa.
May 24 - about 60 km to Coburg.
May 25 – Trenton.
May 26 – Napanee.
May 27 – Kingston.
May 28 – spend a day Kingston.
May 29 – Rideau Lakes, stay at historic Hotel Kenney.
May 30 – Smith Falls.
May 31 – Carleton Place.
June 1 – Ottawa.
At noon on June 2 we will meet Citizens Climate Lobby – Canada national manager Cathy Orlando at the Centennial Flame in front of the Parliament Buildings.
There we will give her six memory sticks containing the names on the petition as of that date.
Orlando then will pass them on to the leaders of the six parties in the House of Commons: Conservative, New Democrat, Liberal, Green, Bloc Quebecois and Force et Democratie.
If you want to add your name to the petition, the URL iswww.thepetitionsite.com/850/161/365/petition-for-a-referendum-on-carbon-fee-and-dividend-for-canada/ (or Google: Care2, petition, carbon fee, Canada).
Please get others to sign as well.
We may not save the world, but at least we intend to have fun trying.
Below: A cartoon by Clearwater resident Max Roy gives an opinion of a bike ride that Times editor Keith McNeill plans to make from Toronto to Ottawa May 23 - June 2. While in Toronto McNeill plans to pick up an award the newspaper won for first place in best editorial page from Canadian Community Newspapers Association.