Caring on with my attempted completes, today we have the Candidate Questionnaire from Karen Levenson, who, like in 2008, is running as the local representative of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada. In hearing her speak, one has to admire Levenson's passion on behalf of animals and animal issues, but make no mistake, her's is more than a one-issue party. Here's her questionnaire:
1. Why did you put your name forward to run for Member of Parliament of Guelph in this election?
I am running for the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada because no other political party considers animal protection issues or a broad scope of environmental issues as a priority in Canada, not during the election and not after it.
There is a dire need to end Canada’s money-losing, taxpayer funded, blood- spewing commercial hunt for baby seals; a need to end the abusive and environment destroying animal practices on factory farms; a need to end the slaughter of horses in Canada for human consumption, and a need to end the green-house gas emitting Alberta tar-sands. We are in dire need of a national water policy and a national food policy, both of which will have ramifications for animal abuse industries and factory farm practices.
I am running because, while all political parties have policies on health care, none link our environmental degradation and confined animal food production systems to increased sickness, hospitalization and deaths, although mounting scientific evidence demonstrate the inextricable links. I am running to get systemic environmental contamination and animal abuse issues out in the open, to educate the public and to influence the more mainstream candidates to talk about the environment and animals during and after the election.
2. There’s been a lot of debate about the “necessity” of this election. What do you think, was it important to go to the polls this spring?
Animal Alliance Environment Voters campaigns to elect candidates who will fight for effective animal and environmental protection policies. In this election, however, AAEV’s candidates are campaigning for something more crucial to the Canadian way of life: a government that respects the rule of law, the principles of democracy, and the values of most Canadians.
Little progress can be made on protecting the environment and animals, or on other issues that concern most Canadians, if our country is run by unethical politicians who maintain personal power by trafficking in secrecy, deceit, lawlessness, vendetta, favoritism, election rigging, and contempt of Parliament.
Among the world’s wealthy nations, Canada has one of the worst environmental and animal protection records. For Stephen Harper and his Conservatives, however, that’s not good enough. Harper is striving to be dead last. And even that, it seems, isn’t his ultimate goal. He is reducing the scope and effectiveness of the few, mostly ineffective animal and environmental protections that Canada still has, and he’s trying to undermine the environmental and animal protection policies of other nations.
Globally, Harper is sabotaging efforts to protect us from the most dangerous environmental threat humankind has ever faced—climate change. In Europe, Harper is spending over $10 million on a World Trade Organization challenge to force European countries to trade in the cruel and bloody spoils of the largest authorized marine mammal slaughter in the world: Canada’s money losing, environmentally destructive, commercial seal hunt. I believe this election is necessary
3. What are your opinions of the Harper Government? Their successes, their failures.
AAEV has worked on animal and environmental protection issues with most political parties. While fielding its own candidates, AAEV has also actively supported and opposed candidates of other parties. What’s important to AAEV is not party affiliation, but policies. Most parties have a mixed record on environmental and animal protection. What’s important politically is that on Election Day voters reward parties with good records protecting animals and the environment and punish those with bad ones.
Until now, all of our political partners and opponents have shared a fundamental value: a belief in ethical government that serves the interests of all their constituents; government founded on the rule of law; on openness and transparency; on reaching consensus between political friend and foe; on making our cities, provinces, and country better places for everyone. The exception is the Harper government.
Harper aides, advisors, Conservative Party colleagues, and Senators have either been charged with offences or are under active investigation by the RCMP. Harper Senators and fundraisers are charged with breaking Canada’s election laws. Critics of the Harper government’s treatment of veterans have had their personal, confidential medical records illegally accessed and distributed, and used in vendettas against them.
The Harper government has been found guilty by the Speaker of the House of Commons of not being truthful about the costs of fighter jets and jails. Harper has gagged government scientists and other public servants, preventing them from speaking openly and honestly to the Canadian people and the press.
Harper divides Canadians into friends to be rewarded and foes to be crushed. Under such a wilfully unethical and mean-spirited government, little progress is possible on protecting the environment and animals, or on most issues that affect the lives and livelihoods of most Canadians.
Under the Harper Government, Canada has had one of the worst animal and environmental protection records in the G20. Mr. Harper is not content, however, for Canada to have one of the worst animal and environmental protection records in the G20, he is determined that Canada will have the absolute worst record.
For instance, he is spending over $10 million taxpayers’ dollars to challenge the EU ban on seal products at the World Trade Organization and he has threatened to do the same with regard to our dirty tar-sands oil which the EU does not want. He has cut funding to new immigrant services, to child care services and to women’s organizations and, instead, he is spending tens of billions on fighter jets and prisons, even though there is no current threat to Canada by a foreign power, and even though the majority of Canadians do not approve of Canada’s role as an aggressive military force. Nor is Mr. Harper influenced by the fact that crime rates are decreasing in Canada. He wants to build prisons, when instead, he could be investing money into social programs, education and health care.
The most horrifying abuses of power, however, can be seen in the way Mr. Harper treats those who speak out against his policies or do not cow-tow to his iron thumb, dictatorial leadership. He has leaked the medical records of those who complained about his treatment of veterans and he has resorted to reputation-destroying smear campaigns on Richard Colvin, who alerted the government under Harper’s watch 79 times about the abuse to Afghan detainees, and on his own party nominated MP, Conservative Helena Guergis, with whom, for whatever reason, he found disfavour.
Mr. Harper could be investing in the building of nurturing, supportive and caring communities or in making Canada a more humane, environmentally sustainable and progressive society. Instead he is focused on killing machines and prisons.
We needed this election, because, I believe, Mr. Harper and his Conservatives thugs are not fit to lead a democratic country like Canada.
4. Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues.
a. The Economy/Economic Recovery
We are facing a crisis facing on our planet. Consumption of resources is rising rapidly, biodiversity is plummeting and just about every measure shows humans are affecting Earth on a vast scale. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.
Consuming less may be the single biggest thing you can do to save carbon emissions, and yet no one dares to mention it. Because if we did, it would threaten economic growth, the very thing that is causing the problem in the first place.
Questioning growth is deemed the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries. But question it we must. The myth of growth has failed us. It has failed the fragile ecological systems, degrading 60% of the world’s ecosystems on which we depend for survival. It has failed, to provide economic stability and secure people’s livelihoods.
Even for the richest material wealth adds little to happiness and is beginning to threaten the foundations of our wellbeing.
Prosperity transcends material concerns. It resides in the quality of our lives and in the health and happiness of our families. It is present in the strength of our relationships and our trust in the community. It is evidenced by our satisfaction at work and our sense of shared meaning and purpose. It hangs on our potential to participate fully in the life of society.
Prosperity consists in our ability to flourish as human beings – within the ecological limits of a finite planet. The challenge for our society is to the conditions under which this is possible. It is the most urgent task of our times.
Canadian taxpayers’ health care system is besieged by costly, debilitating, and life threatening illnesses unduly caused by poorly regulated industrial and agricultural practices that sacrifice the health of the many for the profits of a few. Because the health consequences are not immediate, we often don’t recognize the health threats. Physicians who warn us about the human health risks of toxic industries are routinely silenced by Health Canada.
For example, Alberta oil sands production is one of the world’s largest producers of disease inducing toxins that are linked to colon, prostrate and lung cancers, vascular damage, kidney failure, liver and skin damage, nerve damage, cognitive impairment, respiratory failure, and death and neurological impairment in foetuses, infants and children.
Industrialized farms are breeding grounds for virulent pandemic causing diseases, like avian flu and H1N1. The use of household chemicals can trigger changes in the sex of unborn children, switching boys into girls.
Stringent industry regulations and a timely transition to humane, innovative and green industries will protect people, food animals and the environment from the life-threatening effects of the agriculture, tar-sands and chemical industries.
We advocate for a national education policy that would include the teaching of compassion and humane treatment of humans and animals, as well as protection of the environment as core subjects starting at the elementary level and extending to post-graduate programs.
Canada’s education system fails to question our domination over and oppression of non-human animals and our exhaustion of natural resources. Key thinkers, such as Plato and Pythagorus, stressed that domination over animals and nature was the precursor to domination over other humans. Today social scientists recognize the direct link between the way we treat animals and the way we treat human animals. Domestic violence, climate change, extinction of species and environmental destruction, racism, sexism, and religious discrimination are just different varieties of oppression toward animals. Yet, these ideas are denied expression in most class rooms from elementary to graduate school.
Students who question dominant views of animal and environmental use are intimidated or pressured into conciliation and silence, in the same way that just a few generations ago, students who questioned racism and sexism were intimidated into silence.
Only a small minority of universities even have programs that address compassion toward humans and animals in their curriculum or question the over-consumption of natural resources. So, too, there is little acknowledgement of the damages such limited thinking and behaviours create, even though we daily face the consequences of such thinking – increasing domestic violence, climate change, extinction of species and environmental destruction.
An education system that encourages critical thinking about the exploitive nature of institutionalized and industrialized cruelty, and how we treat other humans, animals and the environment will help to create a more humane and compassionate society.
d. The Environment
We’re faced with the imminent end of cheap oil, and steadily rising commodity prices, the degradation of forests, lakes and soils. Some political parties advocate creating biofuels. We believe doing so is inefficient, since it requires tremendous amounts of land and would never be able to feed our energy needs. Moreover, the land used to grow crops for biofuel could be better used to feed people, and end poverty.
The AAEV Party believes in the need of weaning ourselves off our dependence on cars and long-distance transport for getting to work, and for delivering food and consumer goods. We advocate creating self-sustaining communities, that grow their own foods and make many of the consumer staples that the community needs. We support the use of high speed internet and Skype so that employees who do not have to be in a physical office building can work from home and attend meetings without having to drive to other locations as well as high speed rail, such as exists in France, China and Japan.
Canada’s food and water supplies are not safe. Our food and water policies are based on political gain, not on ensuring public health or environmental protection. Over 95% of the 650 million animals raised and slaughtered for food in Canada today are mass-produced on factory farms owned by just a few huge corporations built to maximize profit, not to protect jobs, human health, the environment or the animals they raise.
The vast majority of animal products we eat – meat, eggs, cheese, milk-- come from factory farms where animals live their short lives indoors, crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other cruel confinement systems, where they are mutilated, force-fed, drugged and genetically modified. Huge lagoons of untreated manure from pig and cow farms leach into our water supply, our soil and air. There are no laws that prevent cruelty to farm animals or environmental contamination of untreated waste.
Cheap food is not cheap when we realize factory farms diminish public health, increase medical costs, contaminate the environment, destroy property values and siphon off millions of our tax dollars in subsidies and puts people out of work.
A transition away from agriculture monopolies toward small, humane, bio-diverse, environmentally responsible farms will increase income and employment for farmers, improve living conditions for animals, protect public health, decrease medical costs, reduce the development and spread of virulent, life-threatening diseases and safeguard our environment.
e. Parliamentary Integrity/Transparency
The issue in this election is not “the economy, stupid”, as Harper hopes Canadians will wrongly believe. The economy has been doing fine, thanks to a minority government that forced Stephen Harper to admit there was a recession and implement economic measures that spared Canadians the worst of it.
The issue in this election—the issue AAEV candidates are campaigning on—is deposing the Harper regime and electing an ethical government.
The Harper Government has succeeded in being the only party in the history of Canada that has been found in contempt of Parliament. His caucus’ refusal to disclose the true costs of the fighter jets and prisons to Parliament is symptomatic of the Harper Government’s refusal to work with other parties, its secrecy, dishonesty and deceitfulness, its lawlessness and its disregard for the rule of law.
As a result, Canadians no longer have confidence in their federal government. Our government is a broken system that fails to put the interests of the public before the interests of partisan politics. Corrupt politicians create policies based on their own self- interests and connections with industry rather on what is just, humane, equitable and environmentally responsible.
While Harper ran on the platform of improving transparency and access information, our Access to Information bureaucracy and Conflict of Interest legislation are designed to obstruct the flow of information and to shield political parties, government departments and their industry connections from scrutiny.
It is our right as Canadians to ensure that our elected and appointed officials conduct themselves in a fiscally responsible, straightforward, and honest manner. We need strong and enforceable Access to Information and Conflict of Interest legislation that enables the public to gain information on the workings of our government and to hold government officials accountable when they are not working for the best interests of all Canadians.
5. Is there another issue that you’d like to highlight in this campaign? Something that you’ve been hearing about while campaigning, perhaps?
Social justice works to enhance the lives of the most impoverished and marginalized in society. But what about animals?
You might say: people are more important, we have to improve their conditions first.
I say: The same patterns of subjugation, repression and exploitation of workers exists in our factories and farms for both human and non-human animals. Can we not work to end the violence, marginalization, and victimization of both?
The exploitation of humans began with the advent of agriculture. We learned to subjugate, exploit and be violent toward other humans by the way we treated animals.
No doubt, we live in a society of great violence and suffering. A poverty of compassion allows the suffering of others to continue. Are our hearts not big enough to embrace the suffering of all?
Philosopher John Locke noted that the brutalization of non-human animals affected the humanity of human ones.
Kant wrote: "cruelty to animals is contrary to man's duty to himself, because it deadens in him the feeling of sympathy for their sufferings,” and thus it deadens man’s sympathy for the suffering of other humans. We cannot end exploitation and brutality, if we end it for some, and allow it for others.
Let’s end the suffering of both.
6. What is your message to the voters of Guelph?
Our relationship with animals sets the tone on how we view people of other nations, races, religions, sexes, lifestyles and abilities.
Human rights and animal rights are tied up together. Sexism, racism, and species-ism result from the dominant perception that one living being is better than another. Discrimination is based on the persecution, devaluation, repression, systematic imprisonment, enslavement and murder of innocent, sentient beings.
We have a profound moral obligation to show the same level of compassion for the suffering of peoples and animals who are victims of persecution, oppression, genocide, and state ordered killings. We must hold the same concern for their well-being as we show for our own.
We set an example to other nations when we use diplomacy instead of defense missiles, when we build eco-friendly infrastructure, sustainable and humane food production, and decrease animal agriculture and systemic animal abuse.
We set examples to other nations when we bring compassion, cooperation and respect to the nations we hope to uplift, when we share our expertise to build nurturing, caring communities, and when we leave our capitalist, consumptive values at home. We do it not for oil or economic exploitation but because it’s the humane and right thing to do.