Environment, human rights, democracy activists meet to ‘counter’ Conservatives

CALGARY – Unions and social groups will gather today in Calgary, where they say they plan to use the federal Conservative policy convention as a rallying point to defend democracy, the environment and human rights.

The so-called “counter-summit” to the Conservative event is being organized by Common Causes, an assembly of social movements dedicated to defending democracy, the environment and human rights.

Maude Barlow, the chairperson of the Council of Canadians, said she is concerned about the policies and the agenda that are being put forward by the Conservative party.

“We think this is an extreme agenda and this government doesn’t have the mandate for it,” Barlow said in an interview.

“We will be there to speak out against these policies and to put forward more progressive policies forward.”

The summit includes an event called, “Pros & Cons: Policies for People and the Planet,” billed by Barlow as an opportunity to learn about the potential impacts of proposed Conservative policies and present an alternative vision.

Participants include a number of prominent Tory nemeses: environmentalist David Suzuki, Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation and Paul Moist, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Barlow accused the Harper government of gutting environmental legislation, giving tax breaks to the energy sector and signing long-term trade deals she considers dangerous. She also accuses the government of lacking accountability, attacking unions and undermining universal health care.

“Canadians should be really concerned both with what’s happened and with what they’re looking at,” she said.

“I believe we’re looking at an extreme Conservative agenda that’s intended to put in place the Harper vision long after Stephen Harper is gone.”

Barlow also accused Harper and the Conservatives of misplacing their “moral compass” and predicted they won’t bounce back from the public outrage surrounding the Senate expenses scandal.

“It has compromised his reputation with his base and I think it’s done. I think the damage is too great and he won’t be able to climb out of it.”

A protest is also scheduled to take place Saturday outside the Conservative convention, she added.

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