Reflections on the #Morrice2019 campaign launch party
Last Thursday night was definitely a special evening: to have over 500 people join me, Elizabeth May, Mike Schreiner, and our whole team as we celebrated the launch of this campaign was poignant and inspiring.
It reminded me of another special night: the very first event Sustainable Waterloo Region ever hosted. It was just over ten years ago, in January 2009. After months of talking with people across our community about our dream of businesses becoming part of a local network for climate action, we brought people together for the first time. 200 people showed up in a blizzard.
And then, like now, the real success of the event wasn’t just in the turnout, but in the magnitude of the response from our community afterwards.
In the case of Sustainable Waterloo Region, that first event was the catalyst for all the ways our community came together to launch the first-ever Green Economy Hub a few months later. In the days and weeks that followed, the organization received its first coverage in The Record, corporate sponsors confirmed their support, we raised $200,000 in the midst of a recession, and business leaders gave us input on the rules for how businesses would later set their carbon targets. The organization would go on to work with dozens of companies that employed 14% of Waterloo Region’s workforce within just five years, and the approach has been replicated in six other communities in the years since.
Fast forward to last week. While I’m elated by what happened on Thursday night, this once again not only because of who showed up, but because of how enthusiastically people responded.
On Thursday, I shared with attendees that it’s time we be honest with ourselves. That despite the progress we’ve made over the past ten years, we need to listen to what scientists, Indigenous leaders, young people and economists are urgently telling us: we are living in a pivotal moment, and the status quo is insufficient. Almost half of Canadians are on the financial brink (BNN Bloomberg). Home ownership is out of reach for most in Kitchener, and we are living through a climate emergency of our own making. The cost of this crisis is projected to soar to anywhere from $21 - $91B per year by 2050 (National Roundtable on the Environment & the Economy) and we must cut our carbon in half in less than 12 years, if we are to sustain human life on this planet (IPCC).
In light of this, I said that we can be better. We can dream bigger. We can rise to meet the scale of the challenges we face.
As a community, we can bring to Ottawa ideas that reflect the time we’re living in: for example, an economic mobilization at the scale of a Green New Deal for Canada, which could include a shift to 100% renewables, high speed rail, universal access to affordable and energy efficient housing, and a guaranteed liveable income, in place of billions in fossil fuel subsidies and lost corporate tax revenue.
And I shared my offer to residents across Kitchener Centre: that we can choose hope over fear. That, together, we can build a campaign worthy of our neighbours’ support.
I closed by offering attendees this choice:
They could either wait until August, September, even October, and decide for themselves at that point whether we had built enough momentum to earn their support.
Or they could choose to be part of it now, with us, and contribute to the momentum we’re building together. I called this ‘active hope’.
The response? It was incredible. Minutes later, 32 people committed a combined $23,400 to our campaign, moving us to over 70% of our fundraising goal for fully engaging with residents across the riding over the coming months. 14 people offered to host informal kitchen conversations in their homes, 16 more offered to be part of the campaign team and 39 asked for lawn signs.
And that was just on the first night of the campaign. In the days that have followed, even more have come forward and offered to be part of our campaign.
All of them actively choosing hope over fear.
All of this which affirms for me: this really is our moment.
That across Kitchener Centre, we are ready to dream bigger. Just like we were ten years ago when so many rallied together to start Sustainable Waterloo Region.
Today, so many are ready to stand together again, to ensure we leave our kids a generational gift, instead of a generational debt.
And because of this, every day, we move closer to building a winning campaign in Kitchener Centre, and bringing big ideas to Ottawa.
152 days to go. Together I know we can do this.