SCAN Volume 9, Number 2, October 2007








Is it possible to act locally and have a big impact in the global fight against climate change? Ask that question to Sierra Club Canada national campaigns director Jean Langlois and you get an enthusiastic response: “Local activists can have a HUGE impact. Do you realize that approximately half of
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are under the control or influence of municipal governments?”

It is this realization that led to the creation of the Cool Cities campaign, an innovative campaign to address climate change by advocating practical action by municipal governments. Launched after months of preparation by a committee of SCC chapters and national office, the Canadian campaign is modelled closely on the US Cool Cities campaign developed by Sierra Club in the US in 2005. The campaign has expanded rapidly and already built momentum in Canada, with over 950 cool cities in North America.

The campaign works by empowering Sierra Club Canada local groups and volunteers to work with their local civil society to convince municipal governments to take a highly visible role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These are significant, quantifiable reductions in both the emissions from the municipality’s own operations and those over which it has jurisdiction. The Cool Cities campaign publicly congratulates the mayor and council for their leadership and pushes the city to administratively adopt a range of policies, bylaws and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs.

These solutions include:
• corporate (city) and residential energy efficiency and water conservation programs;
• increased fuel economy of city vehicle fleets;
• renewable energy production; and
• improvements to transit, waste management, and urban planning.

Public recognition and early success stories will be used to inspire other local campaigns and build momentum.

The Cool Cities campaign developed in the US by the Sierra Club has been a political success, and close collaboration between the two Clubs will facilitate efficient adaptation and roll out of the campaign in the Canadian context. Cool Cities leverages the strengths of Sierra Club Canada’s unique structure: national organization, chapters, local groups, and individual activists across the country. As an integral component of Sierra Club Canada’s Climate Change Campaign, Cool Cities will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, both practically and politically.

The campaign achieves more than the sum of its local campaigns. This is because local campaigns will not only be reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their local
community, but will also be building political momentum for action at all levels. By taking this coordinated approach across the entire club, we will truly be solving global
warming one community at a time.

A Message from the Vice-President

I’ve been thinking lately about democracy. And more importantly — what kind of democracy we want for our communities, our provinces, our nation and our organizations. In Alberta, 58 percent of the electorate chose not to vote in the provincial elections in March. Last year 80% of our Sierra Club Canada members
chose not to vote in our organizational board elections.

How do we reinvigorate democracy in our communities and in our progressive organizations?

In 2003 the Club moved to an elected National Board chosen by you the members. For an organization that prides itself on grassroots engagement at each level of the
organization, we thought that this model would better represent our interests of engagement. The Board remains fundamentally a body concerned with policy, governance and fundraising. In theory these operational practices help us achieve the success we desire on the issues.

I believe that you elect us not only to govern but to lead. I am interested in the potential of the National Board as a democratic entity. I am interested in having YOU the members set, define and become the agenda of the Club. That is after all, at the heart of our grassroots mandate. I see the opportunity for Sierra Club Canada to be a
community-based platform for individuals’ empowerment promoting tangible environmental solutions provincially and nationally and movement building. I already see it

The June Board elections are fast approaching. I urge you to consider the direction that Sierra Club Canada takes, and to elect people to the Board that will help move the organization in that direction.

We are facing a time of great change and great potential. But we need to choose our direction. So Sierra Club, what kind of democracy do you want? This summer we will host a national Grassroots Summit for our community from coast to coast to coast to come together, plan for the future and for us — the members — to lead our organization to new successes! Come to the Summit and please contribute to strategic planning through the members’ assessment.

Jeca Glor-Bell 

Message de la Vice-Présidente

Je réfléchissais récemment à la démocratie. Et plus précisément — je me demandais quelle sorte de démocratie nous désirons pour nos communautés, nos provinces, notre nation et nos organisations. En Alberta, 58% de l’électorat n’a pas voté lors des élections provinciales du mois de mars. L’année passée,
80% des membres du Sierra Club Canada ont choisi de ne pas voter dans nos élections pour le Conseil administratif (C.A.).

Comment pouvons-nous revigorez la démocratie dans nos communautés et dans nos organisations progressistes?

En 2003, Sierra Club est passé à un système dans lequel C.A. est élu par vous, les membres. Cette décision est en accord avec l’approche populiste qui est à la base notre organisation et reflète mieux vos intérêts. Le Conseil demeure fondamentalement une entité penchée sur la gouvernance, la gestion de politiques et les levées des fonds. Ces pratiques opérationnelles devraient nous aider à atteindre les succès environmentaux que nous poursuivons.

Je crois que vous élisez le C.A. non seulement pour gouverner mais aussi pour mener. Je m’intéresse au potentiel du C.A. national du Sierra Club d’être une entité démocratique et représentative. Je m’intéresse à ce que vous, les membres, formulez comme priorités pour le club; c’est votre contribution qui est au coeur de notre
mandat populiste. Je vois pour Sierra Club l’occasion de devenir un centre communautaire de formation qui engendre des solutions tangibles pour résoudre les problèmes environnementaux, un centre national de mobilisation et d’appui pour les groupes et les individus à travers le pays

L’élection du C.A. au mois de juin approche. Je vous encourage de considérer la direction que vous désirez pour le club et d’élire des directeurs qui avancerons ces priorités.

Nous sommes dans une époque de transformation et de grand potentiel pour le Canada et pour le club. Et c’est à nous de choisir notre direction. Alors, chers membres de Sierra Club, quel genre de démocratie désirez vous? Cet été, nous organisons une convention nationale, notre Sommet Grassroots. Cet évènement
va réunir nos membres d’à travers le pays pour diriger notre cap vers des nouveaux succès! Vous êtes invité. Aussi s’il vous plaît contribuez à la planification stratégique en remettant la consultation auprès des membres.

Dianne Pachal: Building Alberta’s Conservation Community for Three Decades

As Alberta Wilderness Director, Dianne is no stranger to the wild spaces of Wild Rose Country. Having spent her first ten years of life on a subsistence mixed farm in Manitoba, attending school in a one-room, one teacher school house serving eight grades, she moved to Calgary with her family where her father worked in the oil and gas sector and the first spare dollars were spent on camping equipment. She grew up in the Forestry Reserve and campgrounds of the province, taking school work along on weekend trips if necessary.

Dianne’s childhood experiences led her to complete a degree in environmental biology and set her on a three-decade long (and still going) journey to protect the
ecological integrity of Alberta.

She was the first employee of the province’s existing environmental groups, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter (before Sierra Club Canada became a separate organization from the US Club), Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA), Federation of Alberta Naturalists, National and Provincial Parks Association (now the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society), and the Great Divide Trail Association, where she was the Office of Environmental Coordinator. She managed the office and undertook collaborative research and campaigns for these organizations for ten years, laying the groundwork for strong environmental non-governmental organizations in Alberta. And for the other half of her work-day, she was the executive director for the AWA.

Her work today continues to bring people together to fight for the protection of spaces and species. Most recently, her efforts are to protect the southwestern corner of Alberta, north of Waterton and Glacier National Parks. This critical piece of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem is 1,040 square kilometres of breathtaking beauty and stunning ecological significance. Biologists predict that without this connecting corridor of intact habitat, the Waterton- Glacier populations of grizzly bears and some other large carnivores will eventually become extinct.

Dianne’s work to protect the Castle wilderness has made Andy Russell – I’tai sah kòp Park a not-so-far-off reality. There’s a vibrant groundswell of support from local residents, politicians and even words of encouragement from His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Phillip), to see park establishment once and for all, along with full restoration of its wilderness and watershed integrity.

While pushing the province to make the final moves to create the Andy Russell Park, she’s also working to get recovery plans in place for Alberta’s endangered
species and the protection of Bighorn Country, where the boreal meets the Rockies.

After three decades of organizational development and campaigning, Dianne is looking forward to the 30th anniversary of Sierra Club in Alberta and a time to build on our successes to ensure there’s a strong grassroots ability to fight future environmental battles.

When asked what keeps her motivated she quickly responds that it is people, and her connection with the land and its history. She recounts that she has walked
most of the Eastern Slopes of the province and adds that, “I’ve outlived two premiers, and I’ll retire when I’m out of ideas and energy, but then, environmentalists never
really retire.”

Katie Albright

Katie Albright is communications coordinator and webmaster with the National Office.

2008 Members’ Assessment

Sierra Club Canada is conducting a club-wide strategic planning exercise; this is your opportunity to shape our future direction. At the end of the summer, we will be holding a grassroots summit that will culminate in a strategic plan for the next few years. Since not all supporters will be able to attend, we are soliciting your input today.

Sierra Club Canada supporters often have a personal connection to our campaigns and a passion for what we represent. This survey will help determine what we do and how we do it for the next few years. We would like to know what you think, and what you want, in order to keep our grassroots strong, and to keep us as effective as possible.

It should take about 25-30 minutes to complete. The information you provide will help Sierra Club Canada, including its chapters and groups, make important strategic decisions on things such as campaign choices, communications strategies, and conservation policies.
Please complete your survey no later than midnight on May 30, 2008.

We appreciate your taking the time to respond. Thank you very much.

As a valued supporter of Sierra Club Canada, you have a voice..

How Canada can make a world of difference

the critical challenge of the 21st century is that human enterprise is degrading and contaminating the Earth’s natural systems beyond the limits of sustainability. Globally, the human footprint now exceeds the capacity of ecosystems to support our 6.6 billion people at a reasonable standard of living.

In March 2008, Sierra Club Canada joined with ten other prominent Canadian environmental groups to announce Tomorrow Today, a common agenda for action by the next federal government to address this challenge in Canada. It is modeled on a similar document, developed by environmental groups and presented to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in April 1989 as he started his second term of office.

A federal election could come soon, possibly in the spring 2008, possibly in the autumn, possibly in 2009. This election represents a defining opportunity to develop a
consensus among the federal political parties and Canadians that Canada can become a leader in environmental protection and sustainability.

Over the four years following that election, Canada must demonstrate a serious commitment to climate protection efforts and real vision in the stewardship of wilderness, waters and oceans. Canada must act quickly to detoxify the environment and air, and ensure healthy food and drinking water for all citizens. Canada must become a model for ideas and examples of innovative and sustainable environmental practices, as well as a nation other countries can work positively with to address globalscale problems like climate change.

Canada can make a world of difference by:


Strong emission reduction targets will give Canada’s climate efforts the focus and discipline needed to achieve success in reducing Canada’s still-rising greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government should commit to an absolute 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). The best way to send a signal about Canada’s seriousness in achieving these is to put a proper price on carbon — at least $30 a tonne now and $75 a tonne by 2020. Fuel-efficiency standards for personal vehicles need to be regulated to meet or exceed North American best practice. Runaway resource development, particularly in the tar sands, needs to be reigned in, and smart, innovative approaches to build a thriving healthy society.


Few places in the world can still boast our kinds of wild spaces — and wild species. Canada needs to move fast to secure this natural legacy by permanently protecting a minimum of 50% of our remaining wild areas. A national commitment is needed that would require that conservation planning, including designation of large
protected areas networks, precede any industrial development in still wild northern areas, including the Mackenzie Valley. The national parks system needs
to be completed by 2010 and a marine protected areas system in our three oceans and the Great Lakes by 2012. Canada needs to pick up the pace
on restoring endangered species to health by ensuring that all species listed before 2008 have effective recovery plans in place in 2009.


To help reduce the climate and environmental impact of what Canadians eat, we need to support local food networks that help Canadian farmers adopt conservation-based and organic farming practices, and we need to amend Canada’s Food Guide to provide information about the climate impacts of food choices. We need to let Canadians make smart food choices with mandatory labeling policies that include information on nutrition, country of origin, fairtrade practices, organic standards and genetic modification content. Finally, the federal government must conserve water resources and protect drinking water through a Canada-wide strategy that includes water-efficiency standards for appliances, enhanced prohibitions on bulk water exports, and binding drinking water and wastewater standards.


With thousands of new chemicals being developed every year, the federal government needs a much better handle on what these substances are doing to our air and water — and our health. It needs to change the climate around toxics regulation to put the onus on companies to prove new products or substances are safe rather than relying on overstretched government regulators to prove they are unsafe. And it should immediately require the use of safer substitutes when there is evidence of potential harm. No Canadian should be asked to take a chance on the safety of things like baby bottles, children’s clothing or our food. Finally, the federal government needs to reduce smog through regulated national targets that lead to real reductions in emissions of harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter.

To read the full Tomorrow Today report and find how you can participate in setting a new environmental agenda for Canada visit Canada can make a world of difference.

Stephen Hazell  

The Last Word - TRAPPED by the Spin Machine

A cautionary tale on how the Conservative government brilliantly manipulated media coverage of its March 2008 announcement on regulating greenhouse gas
emissions from tar sands projects

The tale begins with the April 2007 announcement by environment minister John Baird of a proposed regulatory framework to reduce GHG emissions from industry. Sierra Club Canada and virtually all other environmental groups criticized it heavily arguing that the targets were too weak, that they were based on an emissions
intensity approach, (which means that absolution amounts of emissions would not necessarily decrease) and that the tar sands industry was actually being allowed to increase its emissions.

By early 2008, the government was still not prepared to get tough in reducing emissions from the tar sands industry even as public demand for tougher measures grew. As well, the tar sands and coal industries were lobbying hard for billions of federal dollars to subsidize carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology (which would bury carbon dioxide underground) — a tough sell given their huge profits.

What’s the government of our energy superpower tar nation to do? How to maintain the profitability of the tar sands industry, keep the Alberta government happy, and appear to be acting to reduce GHG emissions?

Here is the solution as we understand it now.

Phase one: announce that tar sands projects constructed in 2012 or later will be required to have CCS technology (and sweep under the rug the fact that no actual GHG reductions will be required until 2018).

Phase two: release the billions in subsidies that industry seeks once the public gets the idea that industry is being required to install CCS technology.

In March 2008 the federal spin doctors got to work and leaked a story of tough new requirements for CCS on tar sands projects to The Globe and Mail. Our national newspaper took the bait on Saturday March 8 and ran a Page 1 story above the fold with the headline “Tough new green plan targets oil sands.” Other newspapers and electronic media then reported the story on Sunday and Monday without having seen the details of the proposed regulatory framework.

The federal government got very good reviews and industry players and the Alberta government (who had been consulted in advance, unlike the environmental community) were surprisingly (if suspiciously) comfortable with the announcement.

As part of the spin strategy, Minister Baird and a senior Environment Canada official made calls that weekend to environmentalists to convince us sight unseen that the regulatory package was pretty good. By Monday morning I had done several media interviews relying on the Globe and Mail story and based on the erroneous notion that new tar sands projects built in 2012 or later would be required to have CCS technology incorporated into the project at that time.

This was not such a novel idea as Premier Gordon Campbell had announced a similar approach in 2007 when his government decided that no new coal-fired electricity generating plants would be built in British Columbia unless they are carbon-neutral (which means they would require CCS technology).

I had been trapped by the government’s spin machine.

Finally at 3PM on Monday March 11 the details of the regulatory framework were released — very late in the news cycle for that day and two days after the story broke. Under the regulations, the tar sands industry would not have to achieve actual reductions in emissions from CCS investments until 2018 — a full ten years from now!

Sierra Club Canada and other environmental groups issued media releases critical of the regulatory framework late Monday and early Tuesday, but by then we were yesterday’s news.

Score one for the federal spin doctors.

I believe that prevention of catastrophic climate change is a nonpartisan issue. To win this battle in Canada, Conservatives need to be signed up as well as Liberals, New Democrats, Greens and Blocquistes. Climate skeptics such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper must be convinced that action is urgently needed. I
cling (by my fingernails) to the belief that our governments care about building a sustainable economy and protecting Canada’s ecosystems, and not just about increasing the profits of multinational oil companies and vehicle manufacturers.

Furthermore, I don’t like being manipulated. The Conservative government’s spin job on regulating GHG emissions from tar sands companies makes me skeptical that the federal government is at all serious about tackling the most important issue facing humankind in this, the climate century.

Stephen Hazell
Executive Director

Sierra Club of/du Canada